Title: Gratification Delayed
Summary: Uther Pendragon temporarily puts his son’s and Merlin’s plans for a fun weekend on hold.
Prompt 183: Rendezvous
A/N: Part eight of my reincarnation series Merlin and Arthur Live Again. This is my second drabble for this prompt, so you might want to read that one before this one.
Arthur walked out of his father’s office to find Merlin seated on the floor, playing with someone’s young child. Arthur managed a small smile, but when Merlin looked up at him, Arthur’s frown returned. “Sorry, it seems Father had quite a bit on his mind, and since he hasn’t said much about my mother since her death, I didn’t see how I could get away. I’m sure you didn’t have minding a child as part of your weekend plans when you accepted my invitation.”
Merlin shrugged his shoulders. “This is your father’s secretary, Morgause’s, little girl. Morgause had to go upstairs to get something signed, so I said I’d watch Mithian and, honestly, I don’t mind that you were talking to your father. I know it hasn’t been easy for either of you since your mother died and I’m just glad he seems to be talking.”
Arthur sat down on the floor across from Merlin and motioned for him to roll him the ball he and Mithian had playing with. When it came to him, he rolled it to the now laughing little girl.
Ten minutes later, Arthur and Merlin got into the car, Arthur, deep in thought. He was exhausted and wanted nothing more than to bury himself in his bed and not go anywhere. He sighed as he turned and studied Merlin, who was checking his mobile, and wanted to weep. He had been happy earlier, ready for a weekend with Merlin.
Life had been stressful since his mother died and the fact that his father had refused to speak of her had made it difficult for Arthur to grieve properly, so the prospect of having Merlin come up and spend the weekend with him had given him something to hold on to and to look forward to, but now he couldn’t smile if he tried.
“He knew you were coming to see me this weekend, Merlin. I don’t know why he didn’t wait until you left,” but as soon as Arthur had said it, it was as if a light-bulb had gone off. He thought he understood and, perhaps for the first time since his mother’s death, he felt something akin to gratitude towards his father. “That’s not true. I know why he called me in today,” and Arthur felt his hands shaking as they gripped the steering wheel. “The day of the funeral, he told me not to ever let you go. My father, who could hardly stand to look at me when I told him I fancied men. He told me you were the best thing that ever happened to me and that if I let you go I’m a fool.” There was more, but Arthur couldn’t continue. Had he gone too far? He glanced towards Merlin, who was staring at his hands in his lap, and it was reassuring for Arthur to see that his hands weren’t the only ones shaking. His eyes fully back on the road, he shook his head. “This was meant to be a fun weekend, damn it, and now I’m exhausted. My father tends to do that when we talk. You’ll probably never want to come visit again.”
"Don't be so sure, Arthur. If you think this is going to keep me away, you’re wrong. I don’t care what we do. We could do nothing but talk about whatever you wanted to all weekend and that would be fine with me. I didn’t come here to swim. I didn’t come here to have fun. I came here to spend time with you.”
“What do you think about my father’s words to me?” Arthur asked, curious, and finally ready to know.
“What do you want me to say, Arthur?”
“The truth,” Arthur said as he roughly wiped at a tear that was about to fall.
“Okay, but not here. You’re upset and we’re in traffic. When we get to your house, I’ll tell you. The truth,” he added as an afterthought.
Neither said much as they sat in traffic; they used the radio as a buffer and sang along with the songs they knew. Arthur did manage a laugh when Merlin started singing along with a song by Mumford and Sons, shouting one particular line aloud.
Finally, thirty minutes later, they arrived at Arthur’s home. Arthur went to grab his bag, but Merlin shook his head.
“That can wait. Come with me,” and Merlin took Arthur’s hand in his and led him around the large house, opened the gate, then led him to the pool. He walked to the diving board and sat on it.
Arthur sat on the ground before him and closed his eyes, not sure if he was about to hear what he wanted to or what he dreaded.
“The truth is that your father is a wise man, Arthur Pendragon. And so is my mother. Your father isn’t the only parent who thinks we should be together. I want you in my life and I want to be in your life. My life hasn’t been the same since the day we moved. I’ve never gotten over you.” Then Merlin decided he’d said enough. “Your turn.”
“The last thing my mother said to me before she died was ‘Go to Merlin. He’ll help you.’ Not my dad. Not anyone else. You. She told me to go to you. I wanted to and nearly did, so many times, Merlin, but I couldn’t. Then you came to me. I can’t explain what seeing you that day did to me. I was beyond grief, but I knew the moment I saw you that it would be okay. I knew that as long as I had you, I could make it through the day.” Arthur then reached out and took Merlin’s hands in his, and then he let out a small laugh as he looked at Merlin. “This part isn’t going anything like I expected.”
Merlin stood and motioned for Arthur to follow him. “Come with me. I assure you that the next part of our rendezvous will go exactly as I expected.”