Pairing/s: Arthur/Merlin, mentions of Uther/Igraine
Character/s: Merlin, Uther
Summary: Arthur sends Merlin on an errand to his father’s house (because he’s a coward). Merlin accepts (because he’s a doormat). Uther isn’t happy with either of them.
Warnings: Homophobia, past character death
Word Count: 934
Prompt: #54 Proposal
Author's Notes: It’s been a while, and I apologize for the quality of this thing. But I hope you’ll enjoy, anyway!
He felt intimidated even before the door opened. The mansion was huge, dark and looming. He had never liked coming here, and less so right now, given the circumstances.
Apprehension gripped him tighter when he noticed that the person who answered was Uther himself. That was—odd. Honestly, didn’t they hire people for that sort of thing, in a place like this?
He cleared his throat. Uther was giving him a steady look of displeasure that Merlin felt intimately familiar with.
‘I’m here to pick up some things,’ he explained, praying that his voice wouldn’t crack. ‘For Arthur.’
‘And Arthur couldn’t come himself?’ Uther said.
‘He didn’t feel like it,’ he said, and didn’t add, “because he’s a bloody coward”. ‘Will you let me in?’
The hall was – dark. Good place to shoot a period movie in, Merlin decided. The balcony was ideal for the pale heroine to stop and swoon at the sight of her one true love entering through the doorway – and then for him to gasp and run up the ornamental staircase, to take her into his arms and profess his undying devotion—
Or something like that, in any case. What it wasn’t, was a good place to raise a child in. Merlin felt chilled to the bone even standing here.
No wonder Arthur left.
‘He gave me a list,’ he said, out-loud, passing the immaculate white envelope to Uther.
‘You’re his errand boy, now?’ Uther asked, disinterested. He tore open the paper and skimmed through its content. Apparently looking at Merlin while he spoke was beneath his dignity.
‘I was promoted,’ Merlin said, deadpan.
The hall was in perpetual darkness, but the windows did let in some light. It shone on the picture hanging on the close wall – the only human touch of the interior design, Merlin felt, and took a few steps closer.
He didn’t know the woman but he recognized her instantly. Her blonde hair, startling blue eyes, and even the smile – they were all Arthur’s. She stood in a man’s embrace, and he was wearing such a look of radiant happiness that Merlin actually paused before his mind made the connection.
Uther. That was Uther, although about twenty years and a lifetime of pain prior to the man he was now.
Well, that wasn’t what he needed right now. He rather liked being angry at Uther Pendragon – for being a constant, stubborn presence in Arthur’s life, and a silent reminder that Arthur would never be good enough, popular enough, successful enough, no matter what he did and how much he tried.
Oh, and for that one time he called Merlin a gold-digging faggot, of course.
And that last fight they had with Arthur – it seemed that was all they did these days, shouting in private and making snide, passive-aggressive remarks while in the board room. It led to where they were right now, Merlin fetching stuff for Arthur because his wounded pride wouldn’t let him set foot in his childhood house before Uther apologized (which, by Merlin’s careful calculations, would happen approximately never).
He felt—pity. That was a terrible thing to feel towards a Pendragon man of any age.
‘How is he, by the way?’ asked Uther, still reading whatever-it-was. Arthur strictly forbade Merlin from asking any questions.
‘Still homosexual, thank you,’ Merlin replied cheerfully.
‘Shame,’ said Uther.
‘It really isn’t,’ Merlin said. Ah, the hatred was back. What a relief.
‘And is he—wait. You’re getting married?’
‘Not that I know of,’ he replied carefully. ‘Why?’
‘He’s asking for his mother’s ring. Oh,’ Uther read on a few more lines. ‘Apparently I wasn’t supposed to tell you that.’
‘Oh,’ said Merlin, in a very small voice.
For once, he had nothing to say.
Uther sent him off with a box packed with things Arthur had asked for and a stilted goodbye so cold and hostile Merlin still felt uneasy, safe in the confinement of his old car. He lowered the box carefully onto the passenger seat and stared at it.
And stared some more. His fingers itched.
Finally he gave up. He was, after all, just a man.
The box was full of things Merlin paid no attention to – he did feel horrible for invading Arthur’s privacy like that, but. He had to know.
He didn’t really have to look very far. The tiny velvet box was rather conspicuously there – and its presence was probably as much of a blessing as they were going to get. He picked it up, gingerly, and with way more care than he would handle a ticking bomb. The clasp clicked faintly when he tried to flick it open.
There it was. A white pillow and upon it, a ring.
It was, Merlin had to admit, exquisite. White gold, probably, decorated with a diamond flower. It shimmered and sparkled even in the sparse light available.
It was also, the practical side of Merlin’s brain noticed, meant for a woman and therefore inappropriate. And certainly way too small to fit on any of his fingers. But that voice was quickly silenced by other parts of Merlin’s brain, particularly the ones that had a tendency to sob at cheesy movies and made him write bad poetry back when he was still in high school.
He grinned like a maniac the entire way home.
(A few days later, when a certain proposal was made – let’s just say that if anything was feigned, it certainly wasn’t the sincerity of the answer. And the ring could be taken to a jeweller in any case.)