Title: Sharing the Same Truth
Pairing: Pre-slash Arthur/Percival
Summary: Modern AU. Percival decides to arrange playdates with Arthur's daughter.
Word Count: 1033
Prompt: #215, "handle with care"
Author's note: So I hadn't really intended to add onto last week's drabble, but when I saw this week's prompt, I realized this was exactly how Percival dealt with his son and in extension, how he would have to deal with Arthur. I have to continue this story now.
In the sullen silence of the hallway, the sound of his key turning in his flat door was merely another throb at the base of Percival’s neck. As far as bad work days went, this rated amongst the worst. He’d had not one, but two families to provide with bad news, both children not even old enough to go to school yet, one of the boys with even less hope that he’d ever make it there at all. Percival stayed long past his regular hours, chasing down specialists at the Royal Marsden in hopes of getting both toddlers into the Oak Centre as soon as possible, when all he wanted to do was get home, grab Ben, and never let him go.
The light was dim as he let himself in, the low volume from the telly welcoming him into the lounge. Alice looked up from where she sat in the corner of the couch, her finger slipping into the thick hardcover that sat on her lap to mark her page.
“From the look of you, I don’t think the Bolognese in the microwave is going to do the trick,” she said. “Should I go get that Balvenie you like to pretend you don’t have?”
A drink would help him block out the memories of those mothers trying not to cry, but as tempting as it was, he wanted to see Ben more. “I’d fall asleep in my food if I did that.” He nodded toward the bedrooms. “He go down all right?”
Her hesitation was damning. “He was a bit distracted this evening. It’s been a while since you’ve worked so late, but we worked it out in the end.”
And now he had even more guilt to shoulder, though this he’d expected. “Thank you for staying. I’ll make it up to you and Gaius, I promise.”
“Oh, no need for that.” With her book tucked into her arm, Alice rose and patted him on the chest. “We’d do anything for you and Ben. You know that.”
He did, and he was grateful every day for their friendship. Gaius might have started out as a professional mentor, but he and Alice had quickly assumed more parental roles in his life, filling in the gaps he tried to forget about. They’d been through his disastrous break-up with Gwaine, and his decision to go on with Ben’s adoption anyway. Sometimes he wondered where he and Ben would be today if it weren’t for them, but then that led to darker places he wanted to leave behind so he turned his focus forward and all the possibilities they had yet to explore.
Like playdates with Lucy Pendragon. One of the many messages he hadn’t been able to get back to today had come from Arthur, reminding him of their meeting at Gaius’s retirement party.
“Don’t worry about tomorrow,” he said as he walked her to the door. “I’ve got it covered.”
Alice hesitated on the threshold. “But I thought Ben hated the crèche at hospital.”
“Which is why we’re going to start looking at other options. Now that Gaius is home more, it’s not fair of me to monopolize your time.”
“No arguing. We both knew this day would come. Now go. And tell Gaius I said hi.”
She left, grumbling the entire way, but Percival felt better once he was alone. Gaius deserved to enjoy his retirement, and it was more than time for Ben to start socializing with other children. The hospital crèche had been a disaster, but Lucy Pendragon proved Ben just needed to be surrounded by the right people to come out of his shell. It was simply a matter of finding them.
Pulling out his phone, he typed in a text to Arthur as he headed for Ben’s room.
Sorry, got your message but busy day. Would love to talk about playdates. Call me when u have chance.
An answering text came through as he grasped Ben’s doorknob.
You free now?
Percival’s brows shot up. That was sooner than expected. No reason to delay it, though.
Ben was sound asleep, his duvet kicked to the bottom of the bed as he lay diagonally across the mattress. There was little Percival could do about the way Ben slept, but he could still cover him up, at least until Ben pushed it off again in five minutes.
But Percival couldn’t walk out straight away. Crouching at the side of the bed, he tilted his head to gaze better at his son’s face. He loved watching Ben sleep. It was one of the few times he looked completely at peace. From the moment he’d first met Ben, all he’d wanted was to wipe away all the pain and fear that seemed to plague the toddler. Ben was four now, and while he’d overcome a lot in the past two years, much of his social anxiety remained.
Yet another reason to bring Lucy into his life on a more regular basis.
The one side effect to that, however, was spending more time with Arthur. While he’d been cordial enough at the party, Arthur wore his grief like armor. It was in the slump of his shoulders as he’d watched Lucy dance alone, how he’d barely eaten a bite in spite of taking Lucy up to the buffet two more times. The few times he’d laughed had only been when Percival had drawn it out of him with carefully timed jokes, and he only seemed to smile when his gaze settled on his daughter.
Percival had little doubt they could get along well enough to make the playdates work for the kids, but Arthur needed more than that. He needed a friend who wasn’t a constant reminder of his loss, who’d understand that walls couldn’t come down overnight.
For that matter, the same could be said for Percival. He wasn’t so blind not to see how he’d turned his life into two things—work and Ben. A new friend like Arthur could be the start to finding a good balance again.
He didn’t bother with another text. As soon as he was out of earshot of Ben’s room, he rang Arthur’s phone.