Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Hunith
Summary: Arthur and Merlin visit Hunith.
Word Count: 996
Author's Notes: This is the 7th and last part of Part of the Family: Cause for Concern, Just Right Together, At Arthur's Side, The Donkey and the Mouse, Bravery, Ourselves, Together
Merlin took Arthur's hand as soon as they stepped off the train. The house was only a short walk away. The village was very small, and while the road barely had enough room for two cars to pass, there was a wide walking path next to it.
Arthur wondered what Merlin's mother would be like. Would she be as friendly as Merlin? He very much wanted her to approve of him, but he hadn't allowed his mind to wander too far beyond that, knowing that he would get very nervous if he overthought it.
Soon, they came upon a small stone cottage, with a disorder of bushes and plants in the front garden. When Merlin knocked on the door, it was opened by a short woman with a kind face.
"Merlin!" she exclaimed, clasping her hands together. "And you must be Arthur. Oh, come in, come in."
She moved aside, and Arthur followed Merlin into the house. She engulfed Merlin in a hug and stood on her tiptoes to kiss him.
Then she turned to Arthur. "It's a pleasure to meet you," he said, extending his hand.
She looked down and furrowed her brow at it, then moved into his space and wrapped her arms around him. Shocked, Arthur could do nothing but awkwardly hug back. He met Merlin's eyes above her head, and the surprise must have shown on his face.
"Ah, yes, she's a hugger," Merlin said, beaming at them. "He's not used to that, Mum."
She pulled away, but she left her hands on his forearms and looked up at his face, blinking. "Oh my, you're very handsome," she said, then cast a devilish look at her son. "You've really outdone yourself, haven't you?"
Merlin laughed. "Believe me, Mum, I know. Arthur, this is my mother, Hunith."
Arthur nodded, dazed. She squeezed his arms before she let go and turned away, heading for the small kitchen area to the left of the entryway.
"Come on, I'll make us some lunch," she said.
The cottage was even tinier than Arthur had guessed. The ceiling sloped from a centre peak, and only a loveseat, armchair, and coffee table sat in the living area. Arthur had always found it strange that Merlin didn't have a television, but he saw now that Merlin probably hadn't grown up with one. Lacy curtains were tied back at the small windows, letting in the bright midday sun. Overall, it reminded him a lot of Merlin's bedsit.
Merlin and Arthur followed Hunith to the kitchen, which was really more of a nook, and seated themselves at a small table tucked against the wall. A drawing of a kitten, which looked like it had been carefully cut out of a magazine, was tacked on the wall above the table. Arthur raised his eyebrows at it, involuntarily, then ducked his head to hide his expression.
Hunith appeared with tea and sandwiches, which she arranged carefully on the tiny table. She sat down and grinned at Arthur.
"I'm just so glad to meet you, Arthur," she said. "Merlin's told me a lot about you. I've wanted him to bring you here for so long."
"It's hard for us to get away, Mum, with our schedules," Merlin said.
"I know that, dear. I'm just glad you're finally here. Merlin tells me you study business, is that right, Arthur?" she asked.
"Yes. I plan to work for my father after graduation," Arthur replied.
"Is that what you want to do?" she asked.
It was unusual for anyone to ask Arthur how he felt about his future career. He gave her a quick, grateful smile.
"It is," he said. "I was unsure before, since Merlin doesn't yet know where he'll be studying next, but my father informed me last weekend that I can work at any branch of the company that I wish."
"How nice," she said, smiling.
"His father wants us to get married as soon as possible," Merlin said, shaking his head. He squeezed Arthur's knee below the table.
"Really? But you're so young," Hunith said, then clapped a hand over her mouth. "Oh, ignore me! I don't mean to put a damper on things. It just slipped out. I'll start working on my dress right away, don't you worry."
Unexpectedly, laughter bubbled up inside Arthur and escaped in a high-pitched giggle. Merlin laughed too.
"It's quite alright, Mum. Arthur and I feel the same way," Merlin said. "We do want to get married, but maybe not as quickly as Uther would like."
"He's a bit old-fashioned," Arthur added.
"You say that as though you're not," Merlin said, giving Arthur a playful side glance. "You pull out my chair in restaurants, Arthur."
Arthur frowned. "Should I stop doing that?" he said.
"Of course not," Merlin said, petting Arthur's leg. "I like it."
"He's handsome, and a romantic, too? I've changed my mind, boys. You should get married very soon. Merlin, you can't let this one slip away," Hunith said. She winked at Arthur.
"Don't worry. I never will," Merlin said.
He leaned towards Arthur and kissed him on the cheek. Arthur blushed.
"Well, Arthur, you should consider yourself part of our family, of course," Hunith said, her voice matter-of-fact. "You're more than welcome in my home. Now, eat up. I want to show you around the village this afternoon, perhaps get to know you a little better. Would you like that?"
Warmth spread through Arthur as he nodded shyly at Hunith. "Yes, thank you," he said.
Merlin was stroking Arthur's back softly, affectionate and reassuring as always. Arthur would never have dared to dream about any of what would come to pass when he asked out the stranger with the gentle smile. He had met the love of his life, someone who believed in him and in himself; amazingly, he had gained his father's approval; and now, he had been accepted into this kind woman's home and heart. He smiled at Merlin in happy contentment.