Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Gwaine
Summary: Sometimes he wondered if it was always going to be like this now. The silence, the palpable anger that didn’t quite reach the surface.
Warnings: Dark!Arthur, Domestic abuse, angst, mention of sexual violence
Word Count: 735
Prompt: 124 - Excuses
Author's Notes: This also fills my hc_bingo square 'Interrogation' - that's 5/25 done. Thanks to deinonychus_1 for the beta. I'm sorry, I have no idea where this came from.
“I’m home!” Merlin dropped his rucksack in the hallway and wandered on through to the living area of their flat.
There was no response for a few moments. Sometimes he wondered if it was always going to be like this now. The silence, the palpable anger that didn’t quite reach the surface. Not immediately anyway. They were still so solid, so perfect in public. There would be a look, perhaps, but Arthur would always wait until they were alone before he opened his mouth. Then the door closed on the outside world and it was just the two of them. And it would start.
“Where have you been?”
“I was at work. You know I was at work.” Merlin walked over to the kitchenette, looking for coffee. He needed something stronger, but that probably wasn’t the best idea.
“You don’t work with Gwaine any more.”
So, he had been watching from the window, seen the car that had dropped Merlin off. He must have been standing there for ages, waiting.
“He’s still a friend. He saw me at the bus stop. It was raining.” They were out of coffee. Belatedly Merlin remembered that he was supposed to have done the online shopping order that week. Arthur probably hadn’t noticed that yet. That would be later, when he started looking for faults. Merlin always seemed to have so many faults. It was a wonder that Arthur still loved him so much.
“It stopped raining nearly an hour ago. You finished work nearly two hours ago.”
“We went for a drink. I texted you, I told you we were going for a drink.” There was tea. Tea wasn’t the same. He filled the kettle. Soon enough it would start to boil.
“You said a friend.”
“He’s your ex. You know I don’t like you seeing him.”
Merlin knew. He knew what happened last time he’d run into Gwaine. That time he’d made the mistake of actually telling Arthur about it. He wouldn’t make that mistake again.
It had just been an hour or so in a cafe again this time, just catching up on news, but Arthur was never going to believe that.
“You know we split up a long time ago. You know it was by mutual consent. Sometimes, when it’s like that, you do stay friends. He was worried about me.”
That was the wrong thing to say, and he realised it as soon as it was out of his mouth. There was that flash of anger across Arthur’s face.
“Why the hell would he be worried about you? You’re with me now.”
And there it was, the undertone of anger, of possessiveness. Arthur would make the excuse later that it was love, that he couldn’t bear the thought of losing Merlin. But first there would be the shouting, the door slamming and the sulking. And then there would be the making up. Merlin was starting to dread the making up. It was supposed to be good, wasn’t it? Make-up sex was supposed to be the best thing. It didn’t feel like it when you were being held down and pounded into because your partner needed to feel that you were totally and completely theirs.
Sometimes Arthur left bruises. He didn’t mean to, he just held Merlin too tightly. Sometimes. It was because he cared too much, that was his excuse. He had to hold Merlin tightly in case Merlin slipped away.
“Well?” Arthur’s voice was more demanding now. Merlin knew he’d hesitated just a little too long. “Why would he be worried?”
“I don’t know,” Merlin told him, his voice almost a whisper. “I don’t know.”
And it was a lie because there was the fading bruise on his wrist which he hadn’t quite managed to cover up with his watchstrap. Gwaine had seen it and asked questions.
Tomorrow, Merlin knew, he’d be wearing one of those scarves, and a long-sleeved shirt even though it was summer now.
Perhaps he’d wait at a different bus stop. Perhaps he wouldn’t go to work at all, take a sickie. He looked at Arthur’s expression, and felt a chill run over him. It was darker than he had ever seen it. Perhaps Arthur wouldn’t ever let him out again. No, that was a stupid thought, of course he would.
Merlin ducked his head and concentrated on making tea. And waited.
The water started to boil.