Pairing/s: Hunith/Balinor, Merlin/Will, Merlin/Arthur, Merlin/Percival
Summary: There are many types of love. Merlin experiences some of them on his way to finding the big one. (Pun intended.)
Warnings: Minor character death. Some homophobia.
Word Count: ~3100
Author's Notes: You gave me a lovely prompt, I hope I have done it some justice.
I'm having posting jitters and am currently convinced I've failed at everything. I blame everything on the cheesy title, it came to me and forced my hand. (Though I do love a bad pun.)
Disclaimer:Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.
1. Hunith Emrys and Bali Noor
The Noor family was famous in certain circles. To others they were quite unknown, but for environmentalist and animal lover Hunith Emrys they were stars. Where other girls her age had posters of pop-stars and actors on their walls, she had cut outs and posters from National Geographic and WWF. She followed their work and later their dark haired – and oh so handsome – son Bali who focused his work on the Komodo dragons in Indonesia.
She attended seminars and signed petitions, she made banners and posters and wore pins with slogans. At the age of 17 she fulfilled her dream of attending a WWF seminar in the US with Bali Noor as a guest speaker. Sparks flew, and caution flew as well. She later found she had brought back a very special souvenir. At first she cried in despair of becoming a mother. She had so much to see and so much to do. Bali always had a new project brewing, there were always a specimen to find or some area to explore. He didn't have time for a child as well. She put on a brave face and told no-one of her worries. But the little bundle was put into her arms and the scrunched up little face stopped wailing and locked his blue eyes with hers in wonder, and she found her priorities changing with each inhale of that lovely baby smell. The little one was not too fond of staying in his little bed. He wanted to be up and see things, heaven forbid he missed anything. Hunith had to laugh despite the challenges he brought her. She named him Merlin, for to her he was a product of nature's own magic and he flapped his little arms wildly when he wanted to come up. It looked like he was trying to fly.
William and Merlin had always been two of a kind since the first time they met. If you saw one then the other was not far behind. If you saw neither, you knew there would be trouble. Together they explored everything worth exploring. They pushed and pulled each other up in the tallest trees and steepest slopes. They poked at ant hills and dead animals. The rode bikes and went swimming. Will liked strawberry ice-cream, Merlin liked pistachio. Will liked Batman, Merlin liked Superman. Will liked football, Merlin liked reading. Will liked girls, Merlin did not. Together they were certain to discover everything the world had to offer. How could they not when they could divide it between them and share what they had learned?
Girls though... Girls were tricky. The older they got and the more Merlin learned, the less he saw the attraction. With his big ears and long limbs he was not their first pick anyway. Will was more fortunate there, and Merlin didn't mind. Even if Will was not a constant at his side any more, he still came running to share what he had discovered and get some sympathy when things didn't work out. In between everything they even had time for homework and plans for the future. No wonder the years flew by.
As college drew closer, Will began to wonder if it he had gotten it wrong, perhaps he was like Merlin. Perhaps that is why things didn't work out with Anna, or Meera. Or Leah.
As always, he shared this conundrum with Merlin and they decided to face it with the same enthusiasm and determination as any other challenge they had faced together. They discovered many new things they liked and many new things they didn't like. Though exhilarating and new, they find that their initial presumptions had been correct. William liked girls, Merlin liked boys.
Years later Merlin would think back and realize they were never meant to the other's happy ending, they were meant to be a happy beginning.
Merlin suspected that he must have missed a few information letters when he arrived at college. One surely said: “Merlin is a gay unicorn” and the other said “Arthur Penn is king, and should be worshipped as such”. Both would have explained a lot about this place.
College wasn't quite the freedom extravaganza Merlin had hoped for, but it wasn't too bad. He was on his own for the first time, but he was his mother's son after all. He'd manage. It's not like Will and he had ever turned away from a challenge – unless their mothers made them of course – and Will was new at his college too.
Perhaps Merlin had been better off if he had tried to keep his head down. It's not like he had turned up the first day wrapped in nothing but the rainbow flag or anything like that. But still someone found it necessary to hang pictures of unicorns and fairies on his locker door.
Arthur found that hilarious.
Arthur was a first class prat.
It seemed everybody instantly elevated Arthur Penn to their uncrowned king and idol. He was rude, dismissive, judgemental, built like a god and sadly that was the only aspect he was aware of. He was all smug grins and snide remarks. Golden hair and bright blue eyes. And Merlin had been given the honour of being His Highness' room-mate. Merlin really did try to keep his opinions to himself, but there was just so much a guy could take.
Merlin believed that things should be looked after and cared for. He read washing labels and wrote on both sides of the paper in his notebooks. Merlin mended tears in his clothes, leaving Arthur in stitches from laughing. Arthur threw all this clothes in one sack and had someone from the laundry down the street to come pick it up!
Well, it's safe to say that it didn't take long before Arthur was well-aware of his not so charming traits.
Strangely, Merlin was still alive despite this. This was mainly due to Arthur's friends, who never seemed to have any place better to be than in Merlin and Arthur's room, effectively foiling any murder attempts until the fury had calmed down again. Most were random people who came and went, but some were more constant. Arthur's best friend was Leon. Leon was a year ahead of them, he knew the lay of the land and had already found all the best places to go. He was surprisingly an alright guy. So it made sense to tag along with them until he got his own bearings, even if this meant hanging around Arthur's band of mindless followers.
Merlin liked the Knight's Tavern best, it had the best music, the best beer and the best bouncer;
Percy “The Wall” Williams. He was the main reason Merlin got away with... well, being Merlin. Any sight of trouble and Percy was there, twice the size of most the guests, always wearing a singlet to accentuate his big arms and broad chest and back. You'd be a fool to pick a fight with him, and hardly anyone did. He'd simply walk over, shoot his chin out and look at whoever had caught his attention. “Any trouble here?” he'd say and people would scattered like roaches from the light. This always made Merlin smile, because yes, Percy was big. A big, mushy teddy bear.
Percy was a small town kid like Merlin. He had a had left college to work, but hoped to get back in eventually. He had a soft, crooked smile. He didn't say much, but Merlin didn't mind. He was pleasant to be around and he always laughed more of Merlin's description of Arthur than he did of Arthur's descriptions of Merlin. Merlin often preferred to hang around by the entrance where Percy surveyed the people entering and getting their IDs checked, talking about this and that.
Percy was friends with Lance, a polite and loyal guy, and with Gwaine, a funloving player type you couldn't help but like. Lance was getting involved with Gwen, who was a childhood friend of Leon and therefore in Arthur's circle of Followers. Gwaine loved to lure Merlin into political arguments, usually leaving him head to head with Arthur. Merlin couldn't tell you quite when or why it happened, but suddenly they were all a group of friends. Leon would try to keep them out of trouble, Gwaine made sure they got in trouble anyway, while Lance and Percy were typically the ones to get them out of trouble.
Things were looking up and this was finally something worth writing home about.
Writing letters home was another hilarious thing Merlin. By hand. On paper. To his mother. Clearly keeping in touch with family was a foreign idea Arthur didn't get. Arthur was having one of his shirtless mornings, which didn't help. Merlin is certain Arthur enjoys his own reflection a liiittle bit too much.
“Are you telling her of your collection of unicorns?”
Merlin sighs, turning around, trying not to be too distracted by the amount of manly skin on display. He is only human after all.
“Of course not, why make her worry? She's travelling, having a good time. She can't do anything about it. Lance is trying to find who it is, so I can at least report them.”
“Why? It's just a bit of fun.” Arthur said, puzzled.
Merlin draws his breath and bites down on his anger. Sometimes the best way was to treat Arthur like a little child and explain things very, very slowly. Especially when Arthur managed to look like he is actually completely clueless.
“Oh yes, it is very funny. It's people like that who makes others too scared to come out. Why risk it when nobody does anything to stop it and people like you stand around laughing and cheering them on?”
Arthur still looked lost.
“Really?” Merlin asked, nor sure if he should laugh or cry. “Rainbows and fairies? Not getting it?”
And yes, that's the face of Arthur catching on. It's a look that makes Merlin's hearth ache a little bit. Arthur had a lot of people following his every move, but sometimes Arthur needed someone to guide him. Arthur slowly sits down on his bed.
“I though they were elves... 'cause of your ears. And you're all... nature... tree-hugger type.”
Merlin could only shake his head. Arthur's jaw was clenching and unclenching. Neither said anything. What was there to say? Should Merlin turn his back and get back to writing?
Arthur stood up, pulled a t-shirt over his head, grabbed his jacket and left.
Merlin woke up at 3 am from Arthur stumbling in, kicking into things. Merlin groaned in protest of having to wake up. Then he groaned again as Arthur dumped into Merlin's bed, pushing Merlin's drowsy shape aside to make room for himself under the covers.
“I thought it would be easier here, Merlin. Why can't it just be easy?”
That was a lot of Arthur very close, very fast. Had he been drinking? He would have just kicked him out, except he sounded so strange when he finally spoke. Mournful. Lonely?
“Remember when you told us about you and Will, Merlin? Me, my best mate and a stolen bottle of lube, you said.”
Merlin tried to laugh, Gwaine's drinking games were dangerous and very embarrassing.
“You looked... happy.” Arthur whispered.
“Um... It's a good memory.” Merlin said. “Weird, but...”
Arthur hums in reply and shifts, stretching out and leaning close to Merlin. His arm is flush against Merlin, his hand is making small twitching movements, like it wants to move. But it stays where it is. Merlin turns his head trying to see him in the dim light, trying to figure out what is going on and make sure he's reading this right.
Arthur's breath is warm against Merlin's neck. Arthur is only cautious when there's something important at stake. Like when he has an important paper due, and he makes Merlin read it so he knows he will get honest feedback. Or when he takes a moment to consider what Merlin has said, even if it goes against what Arthur was sure to be true. Out of all the people hanging around all the bloody time, Arthur still chose Merlin for this. It's sort of sweet.
“Did you steal any lube while you were out?”
Arthur laughs, his body shaking rather lovely against Merlin's.
“Bought some. Is that ok?”
Merlin smiles and says. “It'll do.”
Merlin sighed and stared into the mirror. He ran his hand through his hair, trying to make it behave for once. The crisp, black suit felt alien. Some sort of shadow creature had engulfed him, making his pale face paler, his eyes more hollow and darkened the circles underneath them even further. He adjusted the dark tie so it aided the starched collar in slowly choking him. If he didn't, his mother would fuss over it and she shouldn't have to today. She and Bali had barely reconnected, things were looking bright. And not this. Merlin wasn't a kid anymore, he could do this at least. A pack of paper tissues was in his pocket, Gwen had made sure. A grey handkerchief peaked out of his breast pocket. Apparently it was elegant, or so Gwen had said. His father had been a shorts and t-shirt-man, suits were only for fund-raising.
There's a soft knock on the door. His mother is waiting and it is time to go. They will have a private moment before people start arriving for the ceremony, then people will be streaming in. People Merlin didn't know, heck, he had only met his father face-to-face once. He couldn't imagine living like that, mostly outdoors on boats and in tents. But he had admired the enthusiasm and work ethics. In the end it was Bali's beloved Komodo dragons who killed him. He got bit and he hadn't gotten help in time. It was a risky life, a life Hunith hadn't wished for her little son.
Hunith cries quietly into her handkerchief. Merlin looks at the white coffin and the flowers. His father was in there. No longer jumping from island to island, chasing dragons. He had seemed a bit magical. Exotic. Merlin didn't feel like any of those things.
Then there is people everywhere and a lot of dark suits. There are speeches and amusing stories, thank-yous and goodbyes. Music and memories.
Earth is thrown on the white wood and pretty flowers, and the coffin is lowered. And then it is over.
The names are a blur, many people comes to shake Merlin and Hunith's hands and many voices says many kinds things. It's too much to take in. Finally he sees the only faces that mattered today. Will and his mother first. Good old Will. Then all his other friends, having come all this way just for him. Arthur had paid for their tickets, seemed having a real boyfriend had softened him a bit. Even Gwaine, who usually refused to take anything serious and normally fled from any kind of commitment, had come. It was strange to see him and Arthur together, but their hugs warmed him. Merlin had known that he and Arthur wouldn't end up together, he hadn't even been able to imagine them growing old together. One of them would have died fairly early from some stress-related illnesses. Or maybe Merlin would have chocked Arthur to death with a plastic bag from the laundry service. Or maybe Merlin would be accidentally crushed under a mountain of Arthur's discarded gadgets, which Merlin thought could be fixed and Arthur though he had thrown away. But at least he would have had someone until then. Even Will had a girlfriend now, Merlin was still alone.
Percy was the very last soul to come forward, he was not one to force his way through. It was strange for him too to see Arthur and Gwaine. Percy had never said, but Merlin could tell he had hoped for more with Gwaine. Oh, but look at him now. Percy in a suit! Merlin had to smile at that. Was there a special store for suit clad muscle men perhaps? Merlin reached out for him and sighed as strong arms wrapped around him. Percy gave the best hugs, the big silly teddy bear. It felt like he belonged there, wrapped up close in his arms. Merlin drew his breath and felt secure and content.
Suddenly it seemed so crystal clear. He didn't want to let go. He wanted Percy to hold on for dear life. He wanted Percy pressed against him. He wanted to peal off the clothes, run his hands all over his body and learn everything there was to know. He wanted to take shitty jobs so Percy would have time to finish his education. He wanted to fall asleep, snuggled close together on the sofa, too tired from the day to do much else. He wanted to sit old and wrinkly on the porch of their house with a cup of tea and a blanket over his knees, while Percy sat toothless next to him, sipping a protein potion and doing arm curls with his walker to pass the time. They'd be yelling at their grandchildren to stay off the road, because the passing hover cars were always speeding pass their yard. Shit... this was quite the revelation to have at a funeral. He pulled away from the hug, knowing he had to, or else he might have to explain that he got lost thinking about their grandchildren. That would be weird.
He managed a watery smile to Percy while his heart pounded wildly. Percy smiled his sweet, compassionate smile, clearly not aware of his ability to give life-changing hugs. He gave Merlin a comforting squeeze of the shoulder and started to move towards the others.
Merlin glanced over at his mother, who was talking with Will's mother. She looked up and signalled that they were about to leave too. He nodded, he would be there shortly. Will was waiting by the car, acting responsible and grown-up. He had changed a lot too. Weren't they kids just the other day?
Merlin looked down at the grave one last time. They would be back tomorrow. The grave would be covered and the stone would be in place, and they could bed the plants Hunith had chosen. She had lost someone she loved. Merlin had lost a father he had never really known, but now at last and too late he felt some connection to him.
“Perhaps we're not so different after all, dad.” Merlin said in a low voice. “You loved your dragons. And I think I love a bear.”