Title: At Arthur's Side
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Uther, Hunith (mentioned)
Summary: The next morning, Merlin attempts to calm Arthur down before they meet Uther for breakfast.
Warnings: None (except for some mild innuendo)
Word Count: 883
Author's Notes: This is part 3 of my series, Part of the Family, and follows Cause for Concern and Just Right Together. This scene ends somewhat abruptly, but I will continue it next week.
As Merlin and Arthur started the long walk to Uther's hotel, Arthur turned to him with a nervous smile. Merlin wanted to do his best to gain Uther's approval; however, supporting Arthur emotionally was the only thing that Merlin really cared about, and he planned to do everything he could to make that intention clear to both Arthur and Uther.
Merlin's hair was still damp from the shower. In the stiff wind, strands hit the skin of his face, and he shivered. He took Arthur's hand, not only to seek warmth but also to offer comfort. Arthur tucked both their hands into the pocket of his long overcoat.
They walked in silence toward Uther's hotel. Although Arthur rarely spoke about his father, Merlin knew a lot about him. He was stern and traditional, and his expectations for his son had always been extremely high.
In contrast, Merlin's own mother, Hunith, was very kind and accepting. She was the sort of person who never let anyone leave her house until their stomach was far too full, and when she wished a guest goodbye, she piled them down with leftovers to enjoy later.
Merlin found himself looking forward to introducing her to Arthur, although he knew the experience might be a bit overwhelming for someone who had very little concept of what it meant to have a loving parent.
Today, Merlin was wearing modestly-cut black jeans, a purple tunic, and a red neckerchief, under a black leather jacket.
When Arthur saw him, he cleared his throat. "You look very nice," he said, and Merlin could see a flash of desire in Arthur's eyes. "That outfit is more than acceptable for a casual breakfast, but if he wants to go to dinner at a posher place, I'm afraid you might need to borrow some of my things."
Merlin laughed. "Your clothes would be far too big for me, love. But I have a few button-down shirts and ties tucked away in the back of my closet," he said.
Arthur's eyebrows rose. "You do? Why do you never wear them?"
"I do when I'm trying to look professional. I just thought this breakfast was casual," Merlin replied, with a shrug.
"It is," Arthur conceded. "I'm glad to hear I won't have to take you shopping after all. I doubt you'd enjoy getting something altered, with all the pins and prodding." He shuddered.
Merlin smacked him playfully. "Arthur, I am not your charity case. In fact, when we both finish our degrees, I suspect my compensation may be rather more generous than yours," he said. “Not that I could ever compete with your family money, of course. But still, I can pay my own way. You know that.”
Arthur's expression grew mischievous. "So you don't want to let me dress you up, then? It could be fun," he said, grinning wickedly.
"I never said that," Merlin said. "I'd simply prefer it if we kept those activities to our bedroom, not to public dressing rooms."
It was a long walk to the city centre from Merlin's bedsit, but before too long, they were on the street that housed Uther's hotel. Expensive hotels and cafés lined the street. There was no diner or kebab stand anywhere in sight. Arthur clutched Merlin's hand more tightly, in an attempt at reassurance, Merlin guessed. But really, Merlin wasn't concerned about anything that might occur today, unless something happened to upset Arthur.
"There he is," Arthur whispered. He didn't remove Merlin's hand from his coat pocket.
Merlin took Uther in as they drew closer. He was standing under the awning of the grandest hotel, with his arms crossed across his front. He was handsome, for a man his age, with close-cropped grey hair and a grey suit under an overcoat which matched Arthur's.
Merlin waved his free hand in greeting. Uther nodded and smiled at them.
"Good morning, Arthur. And you must be Merlin," he said. He extended his hand; Merlin removed his hand from Arthur's pocket to shake it. Uther's grip was warm and strong.
"It's very nice to meet you, Mr. Pendragon. Arthur's told me a lot about you," Merlin said.
"I'm afraid to say that he has not granted me the same courtesy," Uther said to Arthur, who blushed and looked down. "I thank you for being on time today, Arthur."
Arthur nodded, still not meeting Uther's eyes. "Of course, Father."
"My hotel serves breakfast, but Arthur informed me that you prefer a less formal dining experience, Merlin," Uther said. "The concierge recommended a café on the next street that I believe we will all enjoy."
"Thank you, Mr. Pendragon. That will be fine," Merlin said.
As they began their walk towards the café, with Uther leading the way, Merlin took Arthur's hand again. Arthur was trembling. Merlin stopped for a moment to pull Arthur into a proper hug. He kissed Arthur's cheek and stroked his hair, but Arthur still didn't seem calm.
Uther turned around. "Young love is such a precious thing," he said, smiling.
Arthur met Merlin's eyes, and the shock and fear Merlin saw there lanced his heart with pain. "It's okay," he whispered into Arthur's ear. "It's going to be fine. You'll see."
Uther began walking again. Merlin clasped Arthur's hand and continued to follow Uther.