Title: The Age Old Reason for Joy
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: The love that burst into his chest at the sight felt remarkably like heartbreak.
Word Count: 415
Prompt: Amnesty Post (#48: His)
Author's Notes: Follows on The First Noel, but can be read alone.
It had been nearly a year, but Arthur still had to pause, heart swelling unbearably, every time he came home and found Merlin waiting in the hallway, face shining with joy and arms full of an unfailingly giggling baby boy. Noel would squeal with delight and flail with chubby, grasping hands for his papa; Merlin would hand him off, using the exchange as an excuse for a sweet welcome home kiss.
It was disgustingly twee and everything Arthur had ever dreamed of.
So he couldn’t fight the slump of disappointment when he opened the door and only a dark, empty hallway greeted him. He resisted the urge to worry, because it wasn’t as if Merlin was there every single day, but it happened more often than not and it was always the brightest point of his day.
The house was still and peaceful, so although he called out a soft, “Merlin?” as he hung his jacket and toed off his shoes, he kept quiet after setting down his briefcase to wander down the hallway.
The kitchen was empty, as was the dining room. He found them, after checking Noel’s bedroom and the one he shared with Merlin to no effect, in what was ostensibly his study. His desk still sat against the wall beneath the only window, but the rest of the room had been overrun by colorful soft toys and squishy plastic nonsense covered in drool.
An overly large armchair nestled between two bookshelves in one corner, and in it slept a beautiful man with messy dark hair, prominent cheekbones, and even more prominent ears. A book of bright pictures and large words lay open on his lap; in the cradle of one arm, snuggled cozily against his chest, an equally beautiful infant—plump, rosy cheeks, the first wisps of fine blond hair—wheezed soft snores into his shirt.
The love that burst into his chest at the sight felt remarkably like heartbreak, welling up in his throat and stinging his eyes, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. He didn’t know how long he spent there, gaze lingering on his family—his husband, his child, his whole world—before Noel stirred in Merlin’s embrace. The boy caught sight of him in the doorway and all his innocent sleepiness fell away.
He started to wiggle and bounce, screaming, “Puh! Puh!” and Arthur swooped over to ease him out of Merlin’s hold even as his husband woke and smiled, drowsy but content, and yawned out, “Welcome home, love.”