Title: Sharing the Same Truth
Pairing/s: Pre-slash Arthur/Percival
Character/s: Percival, Arthur
Summary: Modern AU. Percival calls Arthur to make a playdate for the kids.
Word Count: 1037
Prompt: #347, "goals"
Author's Notes: Continuation of my story, Sharing the Same Truth, which is a story about widower Arthur and single dad Percival bonding over their young children.
Though Arthur leaned against the edge of the wall and stared out the window, he didn’t see the lights of London splayed in all their dismantled glory. He never did, no matter how often he stood in this spot. His thoughts were elsewhere, beyond the fetters night tried to impose. Sometimes, they rambled amongst work problems, trying to find solutions that had eluded him at the office. More often, they dwelled in the past, in memories that had somehow been invoked by daily incidents, nothing deliberate, certainly nothing planned, but real nonetheless and impossible to avoid when the fractures of his life collided with his solitude.
Tonight was different, though. The solidity of his phone against the palm of his hand drove away the ghosts.
When it rang, his shoulders jerked in surprise. He’d expected a text, not a call, but he answered it just the same.
“Hello?” His greeting was low and wary, in spite of seeing the name of the caller on the screen. He hadn’t spoken to Percival since the night of Gaius’s party, and while Arthur was the one who’d followed through on the playdate idea, he couldn’t help the doubts that always crept into his head when he faced another change.
“I thought ringing would be better than going back and forth.” Percival sounded tired, but the warmth in his voice was exactly how Arthur remembered. “Thank you for understanding about how busy I was.”
“You’re a doctor. I’d be more shocked if you weren’t busy.”
“I wasn’t sure you’d still be up. It’s kind of late.”
“Is it?” Arthur glanced automatically at the clock on the DVR. Almost eleven. He hadn’t even realized. “Oh. Sorry about that.”
“No need to apologize. I’m the one who called you.”
He had a feeling they could go back and forth like this all night if he didn’t curb it now. Pushing off the wall, he ambled back into the lounge and collapsed into the corner of the leather settee. “So are you still up for the playdate idea?”
“Absolutely. You have no idea how up I really am. Ben…well, it’s been tough for him. And seeing him smile around Lucy…god, you have no idea how good that felt.”
He wasn’t going to press. There could be any number of reasons Percival had adopted Ben, none of which were any of his business. He had to admit to being curious, though. Percival’s career notwithstanding, it was a major undertaking for a single gay man to permanently bring a small child into his life.
“Lucy can’t stop talking about her new friend,” he offered instead.
“She was all Ben would talk about for two days after the party. I didn’t mention the possibility of playdates, though. I didn’t want to get his hopes up in case it didn’t work out.”
“Then let’s make it happen for real.”
“Before we do…” Percival cleared his throat, then hesitated for another moment before continuing. “I know I’m potentially sabotaging this before it even gets off the ground, but I want us to be straight with each other from the start.”
A faint alarm pealed in the back of his head, but he ignored it. For the time being, anyway. “Of course.”
“I have specific…well, I guess you’d call them goals in mind for these playdates.”
“Ben’s a very anxious child.”
Arthur had gleaned that much from observing him at the party and Percival’s previous comments. “All right.”
“Because of that, daycare is a problem. I’ve been relying on Alice and Gaius, but I’m hoping to break away from that so they can actually enjoy his retirement together.”
“Makes sense.” It was also incredibly generous. Another reason to trust Percival.
“But I don’t have a partner to share parenting responsibilities with,” Percival continued. “And my job is very time-intensive. What Ben really needs is professional help, but his separation anxiety, combined with my work schedule, has made that impossible.”
The alarm rang louder. “You can’t be suggesting I take him.”
“No, of course not. I’m Ben’s father, not you. But I don’t see him interact with people like he did with Lucy very often. I need to reward that behavior as much as I can. The last thing he needs is for me to validate his fears. If I can do that enough with Lucy, my goal is to get Ben to a good enough place that therapy is possible.”
“Why can’t you take time off work to go with him?”
“I can in the beginning. But it’s not a long-term solution. My patients need me.”
“No offense, but so does your son.”
Percival sighed. “I know. It’s not that easy. My workload isn’t predictable. One day, I can be dealing with a simple bladder infection. The next, it could be renal failure. My point is, the better equipped I can get Ben before we start, the better the odds therapy will help.”
Arthur couldn’t fault his logic. “That’s why you keep referring to playdates in the plural.”
“Yes. And why I need to be at all of them. I don’t want a drop off and disappear arrangement.”
“I don’t see a problem with that.”
“I meant what I said about changing up my schedule as much as I could to make this work. But it would be on very short notice. Even same day. Are you sure that’s all right?”
Arthur closed his eyes, but all he saw was Lucy and Ben at the party. Holding hands. Giggling. Carefree.
The way kids are supposed to be.
“One hundred percent.”
Lucy needed friends as much as Ben needed her. She deserved to see the world through her innocence, not Arthur’s grief. He owed that to her.
He owed that to Gwen.
“You don’t know how glad I am to hear you say that,” Percival said. “I don’t have many friends outside of work. It’ll be good to be around someone who understands.”
“Yeah.” Because being around Percival had been oddly comfortable from the first. It might be a change, but for whatever reason, Arthur was no longer afraid of it. “I could use a friend who gets it.”
It looked like they both had goals with this arrangement.