Title: New Beginnings
Pairing/s: Arthur/Merlin pre-slash
Character/s: Arthur, Morgana, Gwen, Merlin, Uther
Summary: Today was the day that he had to do it, had to go out and face the world. He had an appointment to keep.
Word Count: 1173 (oops!)
Prompt: 139 - Introduction
Author's Notes: This also fills my hc_bingo square 'nervous breakdown' - that's 24/25 done. Not betaed, sorry, and has been written in a bit of a rush so is probably packed full of errors. If you spot any glaring ones, please let me know.
It was Tuesday.
Arthur knew it was Tuesday because the reading on the front of his iPhone told him so. The little reminder that had popped up told him so too.
Today was the day that he had to do it, had to go out and face the world. He had an appointment to keep.
Last month he’d stopped making appointments. He’d stopped setting reminders. He’d stopped looking at his calendar that was always full of meetings and things he was supposed to have done already. He’d stopped going into the office early in the morning and not getting home until late at night. He’d stopped doing pretty much anything.
Stress, they’d said it was. Too much work and too little time off. No time to himself. Something had to give.
He could remember that last day. Standing in the boardroom, about to give a presentation to Pendragon Industries latest client, a Dutch firm who were likely to provide a lucrative contract. They could employ more staff, bring in a much higher annual turnover. His father had been telling him over and over how much it mattered, how he wasn’t to screw it up. For weeks he’d been going on about it.
Arthur never screwed anything up. He was the best, brought in more clients than anyone else. And still it was never good enough, Uther was never satisfied. In his eyes Arthur could always have done better.
Finally, Arthur had screwed up. He could still remember the faces of those important Dutch clients, all staring at him. Not one word of the carefully rehearsed presentation would come to him, and he’d just stood there, his hands shaking as he held the notes that suddenly made absolutely no sense at all. Leon had stepped in and taken over, whilst Morgana had led Arthur quickly out of the room. After that, he didn’t remember very much. His father had shouted, ranted, he had a vague recollection of that. And then Morgana had shouted back, both of them screaming at each other until it all blurred into one unintelligible sound, ringing in his ears. Perhaps he’d screamed too. He hadn’t seen Uther Pendragon since.
Funny that after all their sibling rivalry, a lifetime of it, Morgana had been the one to step up for him. She’d been at his flat every day, sitting with him, talking to him. He didn’t want to think about how he could have got through the past month without her. She’d arranged this for him, and he didn’t want to let her down.
There she was at the door, right on time, smiling at him far too brightly. It meant, he’d learned, that she was worried about him today. And he didn’t feel ready at all. It must have shown in his face, because she smiled even more brightly and added that they could go to that coffee shop he liked afterwards and have cake.
“I’m not a child, Morgana.”
But he knew that a few weeks ago, just getting to that quiet little coffee shop on the corner with her had been more than he could manage. The tablets were, perhaps, working after all. And Morgana actually looked quite pleased by the rebuttal.
“That sounds more like you,” she smiled, and it wasn’t so forced this time. “Come on, let’s do it.”
He let her drive, because he didn’t feel like making the effort and anyway she’d long since taken his keys away. Doctor’s orders, she’d said it was, because of the medication. But he wondered if she had just done it because she was afraid of what he might do. He sat there and let the world speed past him in a blur, because Morgana drove too fast and if he looked ahead he’d probably stamp down with his foot to hit invisible brakes whenever she got to a junction. He’d have driven just as fast, but it was different when you weren’t in control.
It was a small building in leafy grounds, not far from the hospital. If he liked it, Morgana had said, they could book him in for a little while. Or he could stay at home, and just come in for appointments. Just until he was feeling like himself again. Whatever he wanted. Whatever worked.
For now, he just followed his sister through the main door and over to the reception desk. The young woman there was bubbly and cheerful, welcoming, taking his name and offering them coffee. The doctor, she promised, would see them shortly.
He was losing his mind, of course. That was why his father couldn’t stand to go near him. That was why he was sitting in the waiting area of a very private and exclusive psychiatric clinic. That was why his sister wouldn’t leave his side. The doctor would see it and think he was just another one of those who couldn’t cope, another failure. He must see so many.
“I can’t do this,” he whispered to Morgana. “I can’t meet him. Can we go?”
She looked at him worriedly, taking his hand in hers. “Just go in, Arthur. I’ll be right here.”
“Come in with me.”
It was against the rules. Too often it was family members who caused this sort of thing, family who weren’t kind and supportive like his sister. The last thing anyone needed was to have them right there in the meeting with the doctor. But Morgana was supportive. He didn’t think that it would hurt.
“Arthur?” The receptionist was standing in front of them. “If you could come with me?”
“I’ll be right here waiting,” Morgana promised again. “Go with…” she paused, looking for a name badge. “Gwen. She’ll call me if you need me.”
Gwen smiled at him kindly, and offered her arm. “Dr Emrys is very good,” she assured him. “You’ll like him, everyone does.”
Arthur couldn’t imagine that he would. The last thing he needed was some crotchety old psychiatrist lecturing him about how he needed to get back to work and put his life in order. Reluctantly, he walked through the open door.
It wasn’t what he had expected. Dr Emrys was young, for one thing, dressed casually in a t-shirt and jeans, and Arthur wasn’t sure that shock of black hair had seen a comb that morning. His smile, as he stood up to greet Arthur, was blinding. God, he was attractive.
Arthur thought that smile could make him feel better all by itself.
“Hello. I’m Merlin.”
Merlin shook his hand and held it just a little too long, still smiling at Arthur. Arthur couldn’t help giving a small, hesitant smile back. It was infectious.
And there was something in the way that Merlin looked at him that took the very tiniest bit of everything bad that had settled in Arthur over the past months, lifted it up and let the faintest, barely noticeable sliver of hope start to find its way through.
And he thought that perhaps one day soon that might be true.