Title: Where the Heart Is
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Arthur comes out to his father. It doesn't go so well, but fortunately Merlin is there to pick up the pieces.
Warnings: Ignorance and bigotry/homophobia, shitty parenting
Word Count: 1000 words.
Prompt: 301 Heartbreak Month #3: Heartbreak.
Merlin was on his feet as soon as Arthur got home, the anxiety that had been building all day reaching crescendo as he caught sight of his boyfriend’s face. “How did it go?”
“Guess.” Arthur dropped his briefcase in the hallway, scrubbing both hands through his hair before loosening his tie and slipping off his jacket. His mouth was close and tight, tension in the set of his shoulders and the line of his back. A muscle ticked in his jaw. “He fucking laughed at me.”
Merlin felt his own stomach drop in sympathy. “Oh, shit. Arthur, I’m so sorry.”
Arthur shook his head, droplets of rainwater sprinkling the carpeted floor. It was raining out, as evidenced by the dark green dampness of his coat, the fine spray still clinging to his hair and eyelashes. Apparently, he had forgotten his umbrella.
“It doesn’t matter. I don’t care.”
“Uh huh.” That was a lie, but it was so obvious Merlin didn’t bother to call him out on it. “I’ve the kettle boiling, and a packet of biscuits just opened. Come through and have some tea.”
Surprisingly, that made Arthur’s mouth quirk. “That’s your answer to everything, huh?”
Merlin smiled. “You have to admit, it works.” He leaned in to kiss Arthur’s cheek, wrinkling his nose at the clammy skin. “Besides, you need something to warm you up before you catch your death.”
Arthur was uncharacteristically docile as Merlin led him through to the kitchen. Once seated, the proud line of his shoulders crumpled inwards, his chin coming to rest on one hand as if he could barely hold his head up, exhaustion and defeat in every line of his body. There were very few people who could make him feel that way, in Merlin’s experience, and only one who could conjure that particular look of self-hatred in his boyfriend’s tired blue eyes. Not for the first time, Merlin wondered whether Uther Pendragon realised just how much heartbreak he had put his son through over the years. If not, Merlin would be only too happy to enlighten him.
He finished pouring the tea and set his favourite mug in front of Arthur, the one that said Blow Me, I’m Hot. Arthur let out a half-hearted laugh and wrapped his hands around it, letting out a long, slow breath.
“Fuck,” he said.
“Very succinctly put.” Merlin slid into the seat opposite him with his own mug, the packet of biscuits placed equidistant between them. “What exactly did he say?”
“He said, and I quote, ‘I don’t care what fantasies that boy has been filling your head with, you’re not a bloody queer, so stop wasting my time with this nonsense.’” Arthur grimaced. “Apparently, there are plenty of nice girls he can introduce me to who will clear things right up.”
Merlin’s fingers tightened on his cup. “And you said…?”
“That he was a bigoted old bastard who had no idea what he was talking about,” Arthur said dully. “You can imagine how things went from there.”
Merlin winced at the thought, though he couldn’t help feeling a swell of pride in Arthur for standing up for himself like that. Uther could be quite terrifying when he wanted to be, and that was when he was being polite; Merlin had never seen him in one of his rages and had no desire to, not after everything Arthur had told him about his childhood.
“Well, you’re not wrong,” he offered, which provoked another tired half-smile. “He’s an ass.”
“He’s also my father,” Arthur said in a quiet voice. He stared into his cup, his expression far away. “There used to be a time when that was something I was proud of.”
Merlin sipped his tea, dragging the biscuit tray out of the packet with a rattle that seemed far too loud in the silence of the room. He had no idea what it was like to have a father, let alone one like Uther Pendragon, and he had no idea what he could say that would make it better. Rain was still battering against the windows, blotting out the London skyline, and he could see Arthur shivering slightly, although whether from cold or the lingering shock of his father’s callous attitude Merlin couldn’t tell. Without a word, he got up and pulled a blanket off the sofa, wrapping it around Arthur’s shoulders and leaning against him, adding his own warmth to the woollen embrace. He didn’t think he was imagining the way Arthur’s tension drained away almost at once, muscles softening as he relaxed into Merlin’s touch.
“I’m sorry your dad is such a dick,” Merlin said softly. He ran his fingers through Arthur’s hair, still damp, massaging the tender spot at the nape of his neck and scraping his fingernails through the short hairs there the way he knew Arthur liked. “I wish he wasn’t. But either way, I’m proud of you, and I love you no matter what. You know that, right?”
“I know.” Arthur reached up to tangle their fingers together, his hand warm now from the mug of tea. Merlin squeezed it tightly, wishing there were a way to transfer what he was feeling—the whole quiet immensity of it—through his skin into Arthur’s, to sink it so deep into his bones that he would never have to doubt whether he was loved, and loveable, again. “I love you, too.”
“Good.” Merlin pressed a kiss to the side of Arthur’s jaw, beneath his ear, mouthing his next words against the skin of his throat. “So you won’t mind bailing me out if I decide to strangle your father the next time I see him?”
That made Arthur laugh, sudden and surprised, and Merlin grinned.
“Knowing you, you’d fail spectacularly,” Arthur said, drawing back a little so that he could look into Merlin’s face. When he pouted, pretending offence, Arthur caught his chin, tilting Merlin’s mouth down to his for a gentle kiss. “But I like that you’re willing to try.”