Title: Ourselves, Together
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Merlin and Arthur discuss the future.
Word Count: 983
Author's Notes: Part 6 of Part of the Family: Cause for Concern, Just Right Together, At Arthur's Side, The Donkey and the Mouse, Bravery. (There will be one more part after this one.)
When they got back to Arthur's flat, Merlin sat down on the sofa and beckoned to Arthur with both hands. Arthur went right to him.
"I'm sorry, Arthur," Merlin said gently. "I've always been supportive of you, of course. But I didn't understand how it was, not really. He makes so many decisions for you, and he doesn't seem to know that there's anything wrong with it."
"Yeah," Arthur said. Right now, he was simply relieved that his father was gone and that Merlin was here with him. In fact, with his head pillowed on Merlin's chest like this, Arthur knew he was likely to fall asleep.
But Merlin spoke again, still in the same soothing tone. "I don't know what you're thinking, but I have no real objection to his plans," he said.
"No real objection? Then there's something you do object to?" Arthur asked, not lifting his head.
"Yes," Merlin said. "I'm not sure how I feel about the idea of becoming part of the Pendragon family."
Arthur pulled out of Merlin's embrace. He knew all that talk about commitment had been absurd for two 21-year-old men, but to hear Merlin treat the idea so flippantly wasn't something he'd expected. Arthur did want them to be together forever, and Merlin had given every indication that he felt the same.
But it was no wonder that he'd changed his mind about Arthur today, that he agreed with Uther about Arthur's shortcomings. Arthur hid his face in his hands, ashamed.
He felt Merlin's fingertips brush his forearm. "Arthur?" Merlin said.
Arthur pulled his hands away from his face to speak, but he didn't meet Merlin's eyes. "I thought you wanted to be with me, but I understand."
"What? No, love. I was only saying—" Merlin said, then made a noise of frustration. He took both of Arthur's hands in his. Arthur wanted to pull away, but he didn't. "I always make jokes before I think them through. Here, look at me."
Arthur complied. Merlin's face was earnest and apologetic, and it comforted Arthur. Then Merlin kissed him, short, on the lips, which was even nicer.
"Arthur, I do want to be with you. I only meant that I don't want to become part of your father's empire," Merlin said. "You're worth more than that, just as I am. And don't you see? You and I, we already are a family. I know we're young, yes, but that's how I feel. I'm on your side, and you're on mine. That's what family means. It's about a lot more than blood or law."
Arthur nodded. Merlin's words helped, but he wasn't completely reassured.
"You don't agree with Uther, then?" Arthur asked.
"Agree with him about what? That we belong together? Yes, he's definitely right about that," Merlin said. "But he's wrong to behave as though you're never quite good enough."
Arthur looked down at where Merlin's hands were still clutching his. He didn't say anything.
"Arthur, I love you. You can be whatever sort of man you want to be, and you'll always be good enough for me," Merlin said. He stroked his thumbs across Arthur's palms. "I can't wait to find out who we become together."
Arthur looked back at Merlin, and Merlin gave him another short, sweet kiss.
Arthur cleared his throat. "So you will marry me someday, then? Become Merlin Pendragon?" he asked.
Merlin shook his head, but his face was radiating so much affection that Arthur didn't doubt him this time. "Yes, but no, absolutely not," Merlin said. "We should keep our own names."
"Oh, I see," Arthur said. "This was all about your amazingly wonderful last name."
"Yes, prat," Merlin said. He kissed Arthur again, and Arthur kissed back with vigor, pulling Merlin's body close against his. Sometimes, he felt he needed Merlin's touch more than he needed air. It was a long time before they pulled apart.
"I would take your name, if that's what you wanted," Arthur said softly. "It doesn't matter to me."
"No," Merlin said. "I'm sure it will confound Uther, but let's just be ourselves. Ourselves, together."
Arthur liked the sound of that very much.
Arthur woke up to Merlin stroking his hair away from his face.
"My pretty boy," Merlin whispered. "Such a pretty boy."
Arthur scrunched up his nose and pretended to glare up at Merlin, but he did love Merlin's terms of endearment, no matter how silly they sometimes were. Merlin ran both hands through Arthur's hair and kissed his forehead. Arthur sat up.
"Given some of the ideas Uther has put in this pretty head, I think it's time that you asked my mother for my hand in marriage," Merlin said.
"Your...hand? Are you serious?" Arthur said.
Merlin nodded, although Arthur could see his eyes twinkling. Arthur shook his head fondly.
"It's only fair," Merlin said. "I was a noble suitor, braving all manner of dangers in order to prove myself worthy to your father, the king."
"That isn't what happened at all," Arthur said, laughing. "You've read too many fairy tales."
Merlin nodded solemnly again. "You are most wise. Indeed, it is true that your wisdom is surpassed only by your great beauty. That's why I chose to devote myself to you, my love," he intoned.
"Idiot," Arthur said. He kissed Merlin's palm. Merlin laughed.
"Stop that, it tickles. You need a shave," Merlin said. Arthur extended his tongue and very delicately licked Merlin's palm. Merlin giggled, a proper little giggle that Arthur thought was adorable, and pushed Arthur's face away.
"I would like to meet her," Arthur said. "Is she coming to visit soon?"
"She'll be here for graduation, yeah. But I was thinking of taking the train next weekend. Would you like to come?" Merlin asked. He was smiling at Arthur hopefully.
Arthur nodded. "Yes. Do you think she'll like me?"
Merlin smiled. "I know she will."