Title: Finding Strength
Character/s: Arthur, Gwaine, Merlin
Summary: Sometimes it's the work of a moment for things to change, and sometimes it's just a moment that arises out of long work that finally makes things click.
Word Count: 909
Arthur and Merlin walk either side of Gwaine. The airport's still; it's small, mostly just company or private planes take off from here. Just a few staff getting ready for the day. Arthur pauses to greet the cleaner, and Merlin and Gwaine exchange grins and wait for him.
“My father won't be pleased to hear you have been back in the country,” Arthur tells Gwaine, catching up “you were supposed, once shipped off to France, to stay there.”
“I never do as I'm supposed. Anyway, how much more can I corrupt you? Bisexual, polyamorous, radical.”
“I just believe in the things you two tell me to believe in,” Arthur says. “Besides, I think he's more pissed off that I'm dating you two than any of the other stuff.”
“Oh yeah,” Gwaine says, “a trans man he couldn't fire due to what he called political correctness gone wrong, and someone genderfluid. We're quite the queer collective.”
Arthur stops at the gate to talk to security, then jerks his head and leads them both out onto the tarmac, to the waiting plane. The pilot comes over and Arthur shakes her hand.
“Viv,” Arthur says, “it's very good to see you. Would you do me a favour and not mention to my father that Mr. Connaught will be flying today? Just book the flight under my name and record the passengers as Mr Lance DuLac plus party, please. You will be compensated as usual.”
Viv smiles and gestures her small crew over. Arthur passes them Gwaine's suitcase and Gwaine gives over the rest of his luggage, only keeping his briefcase.
“In the plane, or out here?” Merlin asks.
“Inside,” Arthur says, already on the steps, ducking into the cabin.
Merlin and Gwaine follow, exchanging eye-rolls again. Merlin flops onto one of the couches and lets his hair down, redoing the ponytail then letting it out and redoing it again. Arthur stands in the aisle, facing away from the cabin. Gwaine sits beside Merlin and presses his knees together, his hands between them.
“Stop playing with your hair, Merlin, it looks fine,” Arthur says, turning sharply and glaring at Merlin.
Merlin copies Gwaine's pose and sticks his restless hands between eir knees. Ey and Gwaine exchange swift grins.
“Stop ganging up on me,” Arthur says.
“Stop being a prat,” Merlin says.
“Relax,” Gwaine says.
Arthur face darkens.
“Relax? No, I won't relax. I hate this. It's my father that causes this, and I cannot change it. Merlin, you should go with Gwaine, make a life for yourselves in France. I can... I can carry on here, in the business, and... things will be different, one day.”
“We're not running away to France together, leaving you to wait for your Dad to die. That's really not very healthy,” Merlin says, “you'll lose it. More than you already are doing, which, by the way, neither of us are happy about.”
Arthur sits on the couch perpendicular to Merlin and Gwaine, and subsides into silence. Merlin says eir goodbyes to Gwaine, eking out each touch, using quiet words, telling Gwaine everything ey can while ey has the chance. Gwaine presses his forehead to Merlin's and listens, eyes closed, memorising the words and tone and presses of hands and lips, so he can hold on to them over the coming months.
“I love you,” Merlin says, then pulls back and checks his watch, “Lance is going to arrive soon. We're running out of time.”
They sit in silence for a bit, looking away from each other, catching each others eyes only to look quickly back at the floor, the wall, the ceiling. They've done this a thousand times. None of them are good at goodbyes.
“I'm going to widen my search for the best bar in Paris,” Gwaine says, lightly, “I've already found this great little place for music. They have live blues, and there's this one singer there who's incredible. I've also found three markets, and a book shop you'd go gaga over, Merlin. It's brilliant.”
“Don't you want to be able to come home?” Merlin asks.
“Kind of, I guess. But, there's freedom for me, in Paris,” Gwaine says, shrugging, “no one knew me before. I can do what I like, too. I have a longer leash. I can play.”
Merlin nods. Ey understand that. Gwaine never likes to owe himself to anyone, or be responsible to anyone, or answer to anyone. No one controls Gwaine. Lance pokes his head into the cabin and smiles at them, body following.
“Good morning,” Lance says, settling himself on one of the seats, popping open his briefcase and pulling out work.
Lance's secretary boards a few moments later with coffee and a time-scale for take off. She sits herself in the other seat and puts in headphones, tapping away on an ipad. Next is Mordred, a member of Lance's team.
“We need to go,” Merlin says, getting to eir feet.
Arthur stays sat, staring straight ahead. Gwaine and Merlin look at him.
“Stay,” Arthur whispers, not looking away from the wall.
“I can't,” Gwaine says, “your father.”
“He doesn't control the world. He only, in regards to you, controls me. And that, only up till now. I will not give up anything more for him, nor for the company, nor for his rotten moralistic code. Stay.”