Rating: NC-17 (just to be on the safe side in future chapter, though nothing too big)
Pairing: Merthur, one-sided Lancelot/Arthur
Warning: Violence in future chapters, adult themes
Summary: Modern AU. When Merlin and his friends return to the institute after the holidays, a new boy has arrived. A shy, misterious blond guy with hidden issues and an easy smile that drives Merlin crazy. Soon Lancelot will show his interest for him, but can Merlin step aside and let his best friend go for who could be the love of Merlin's life? And can Merlin help this boy with whatever seems to be killing him inside? SLASH Merthur, one-sided Lancelot/Arthur
Disclaimer: I don't own any of this (except for the plot) and none of this has really happened (that I know off).
Arthur awoke to the feel of a hand caressing the hair on his forehead, and he immediately took comfort on the fact that he was not at home and that he was with someone who cared about him. The dull ache he felt in some places of his body, especially his face, and the nightmares that had come to him all night, had not let him forget for a moment what had happened the day before. And now, through his still closed eyelids, he could feel the morning sun, so he knew the day had come, and with him the need of finding a solution. God, how grateful he was of being with Merlin... Even after all night, he was still taking care of him, Arthur thought with a smile as he opened his eyes.
When it was not Merlin whom he saw sitting at the edge of the bed when he finally opened his eyes, he jumped and sat up, obviously startled. In his confusion, he needed a whole second to recognise Merlin's mother, and he sighed loudly to try and make his heart beat at normal speed again.
"Oh, sweetheart, I'm sorry I startled you" Hunith apologized, as lovingly as he was able, when she noticed she had scared him. "I just came to see how you were"
"I'm... okay" Arthur answered, his voice only a thread, as he rubbed his eyes to get the sleep out of them.
"You're not okay" she denied in a whisper, as she traced the outline of Arthur's face with her thumb, mentally cataloguing his injuries. "How could you be okay?"
Arthur felt so moved by the tender way in which Merlin's mother cared about him that all he wanted to do was to burst out crying and fall into her embrace. But he had cried enough the night before. The time for tears had passed. Now it was the time for decisions.
"What... is going to happen now?" Arthur asked.
"Why don't you come and have some breakfast first? Merlin is there and he is not happy with me: he came out when he woke up and was dying to see you ever since, but I didn't let him in again so he wouldn't wake you up" Hunith explained with a smile, and Arthur found himself responding to it with one of his own, such it was the warmth she gave off.
"Thank you, madam. For letting me stay the night" Arthur answered honestly, and she grabbed his hand to squeeze it.
"What did I tell you about calling me 'madam'?" she asked, totally ignoring Arthur's appraisal and getting him to chuckle. "Come on, let's get some breakfast into you"
"Morning" Arthur shyly said as he entered the living room.
"Arthur!" Merlin happily exclaimed as he saw his boyfriend, immediately getting up from his seat to lightly embrace him. "How are you feeling?"
"I'm good" he answered with a smile.
"Come and sit here on the table so you can eat something" Merlin gently pushed him towards the table and moved a chair a bit away from the table for him to sit, immediately sitting close to him in another chair so he could pamper and spoil him as much as he would let him.
"Hi, Arthur" Merlin's father, already on the table, immediately offered his hand for the boy to shake, more formal than his wife but equally kind. "I'm Balinor"
"Nice to meet you, sir" Arthur answered as politely as he was able, a bit overwhelmed of all the attentions being received.
"It's a pity I get to know you... under these circumstances"
"I know" Arthur answered with a sad sigh.
"But I'm glad to meet you anyway. Merlin won't stop talking about you"
"Won't he?" Arthur smiled tenderly as he turned to look at his boyfriend, who just returned the smile and shrugged his shoulders.
"Here you are, dear" Hunith told him kindly as she deposited a plate full of food in front of him. "You need to get your strength back"
"Thank you so much, Hunith. You're all being so good to me..."
"Oh, please" Hunith dismissed his appraisal once again. "I want to see that plate empty, okay?"
"Okay" Arthur promised with a grin.
"Mum makes the best breakfasts, you'll see" Merlin told him, resting his hand on Arthur's thigh, feeling the need of keeping the contact with him.
"What time is it?" Arthur asked as he started eating.
"About nine, I guess"
"What? We are late for the institute!"
"Ah, see, Merlin?" Balinor intervened with a chuckle, trying to keep a light atmosphere. "That's what I call being responsible. You should learn a thing or two from him"
"Very funny, dad" Merlin sarcastically replied.
"Arthur, we figured out it was for the best that you didn't go to the institute today" Balinor explained, turning serious once again. "We... we have to think what we are going to do first, and we... we didn't think you would like to go with all these bruises"
"Yeah, I guess you're right"
"Merlin was supposed to go, but there was no way we could convince him to leave without you, so..." Balinor said, looking sternly at his son, but Arthur could guess a tender feeling in his eyes.
"I'm sorry for all the inconvenience I'm causing. I shouldn't have come, but I really didn't know what to do"
"Arthur, don't apologize, please. None of this is your fault, and we are happy to help in anything we can. After all, you are our son's... what, exactly?"
"He's my boyfriend" Merlin affirmed proudly.
"There you are, then. We can't leave Merlin's boyfriend in the lurch"
"See? This is what you deserve" Merlin told him pointedly, once again squeezing his thigh, and Arthur picked up his hand to squeeze it appreciatingly.
"I don't even know what to say" Arthur confessed, too moved to find the words to express the gratitude he was feeling, so Merlin kissed his cheek comfortingly, eliciting a smile from him.
"You don't have to say anything, son" Balinor insisted. "But we have to decide what we want to do"
"Okay" Arthur nodded confidently, and Merlin noticed that the vulnerable and fearful Arthur of the night before had been buried deep in his sleep, and Arthur the survivor had taken his place, once again.
"You can stay here as long as necessary, but... we have to make a formal complaint against your father"
"A formal complaint?"
"Yes, otherwise it's like he hasn't done anything to the eyes of justice"
"I hadn't... I hadn't even thought about that. I don't know if I want to cause trouble for him"
"I understand, I know this is very hard, but I guess it's the only way you will not have to go back to him"
"I had never imagined it would end up like that" Arthur lamented, resting his face in his hands, and Merlin was there in an instant to stroke the back of his head in a comforting gesture.
"I'll go with you" Balinor offered.
"We both will" Merlin promised, and Arthur lifted his head to look at him, to find the courage he desperately needed to do what he had to do. And when he found it in Merlin's eyes, he nodded reluctantly. It was the only way.
"Okay then, it's decided. But finish your breakfast first or you'll never hear the end of it" Balinor joked lightly, gesturing with his head towards his wife, and both Arthur and Merlin appreciated his effort and gave him a small smile, before Arthur resumed eating, the pressure on his chest a little lighter now that a decision had been made.
"Where the hell are those two?" Lancelot asked, when the teacher arrived and there was still no sign of Arthur and Merlin.
"Maybe they're sick" Percival tried to find an answer for their absence.
"Both of them at the same time?"
"Well, if one of them catches a cold is pretty probable the other will too, ain't it?" Gwaine joked. "With all the kissing and everything"
"But they were fine yesterday" Lancelot insisted.
"I'm sure they just decided to be a bit crazy and skip the classes together for a day" Percival suggested.
"Skip the classes? Hello, have you just met Arthur?" Lancelot asked them, sarcastically.
"Arthur may responsible, but he's still a teenager in love. I'm sure they found something more interesting to invest their time" Gwaine answered.
"I don't know..." Lancelot hesitated. He knew what the other boys were saying was completely logical and possible, but he had a bad feeling something had happened. And besides, he was sure that if Arthur and Merlin had indeed decided to play hooky, Merlin would have texted him to explain. And he hadn't.
The class went on normally, Lancelot making an extra effort to write some good notes to lend them to Merlin and Arthur when they got back, when there was suddenly a knock on the door and the headmaster entered to whisper something to the teacher. Lancelot's heart leapt when he looked at the door and realised there were two policemen outside the classroom, having a certainness that something bad had happened and somehow it involved his friends.
"Lancelot" the teacher suddenly called him, getting his attention immediately. "Could you please accompany the headmaster for a second? He needs to have a word with you"
"Sure" Lancelot answered, his heart beating like crazy at all the horrible things he was imagining could have happened to his friends, and stood up to follow the headmaster. Before he went, he looked at Percival and Gwaine, and by their faces he could tell they were feeling as afraid as he was.
"Take a seat, Lancelot, please" the headmaster offered as they got to his office, pointing at the chair at the opposite side of his desk. Lancelot noticed he was being especially kind today, and that frightened even more than the fact that the two policemen were standing behind him.
"Has something happened, sir?" Lancelot asked, not being able to resist anymore.
"We were hoping you could help us with that" one of the policemen answered, and Lancelot immediately turned to the headmaster again.
"You see... I understand you are friends with Arthur Pendragon, aren't you?"
"Yes, I am. Is he alright?" Lancelot asked, more and more worried by the second.
"He ran away from his home yesterday and he's been disappeared since then"
"He ran away?" Lancelot was astounded at the news. "Why?"
"His father says Arthur hit him, so he must have been scared of the consequences and ran away"
"Arthur hit his father? That doesn't make any sense. If anything it would be..." Lancelot started, but then he realised he was talking too much and shut up. Too late, though, as one of the policemen approached him and bend over at his side so as not to look so threatening.
"If anything what?" he asked politely.
"I don't know" Lancelot shook his head in negation.
"What were you going to say?" the policeman insisted.
"I... I don't know" Lancelot repeated, not really knowing what to say.
"Look, I know it's difficult, but it's very important. If Arthur is your friend, you must do everything you can to help him"
Lancelot sighed, trying to win some time to think. He knew the policeman was right: he had to help Arthur. And he had to make them understand how Arthur would never hurt anyone, much less punch his father, if not for a good reason.
"He has never told me this, but I think his father batters him, or at least he's done it some time. So... I'm thinking it mustn't have been Arthur hitting his father, but the other way around"
"You mean... it has happened before?"
"I don't know... but I've seen him a couple of times sporting bruises he didn't know how to explain. And I know he doesn't get along with his father" Lancelot explained, hoping against hope he was not revealing too much information and Arthur wouldn't hate him for this.
"Arthur is best friends with Merlin Emrys, isn't he?" the headmaster caught his attention again. So that was why they wanted to talk to him: because they had wanted to talk to Merlin and he wasn't there, and the teachers knew Lancelot was the closest friend to them both. They wanted him to tell them Arthur was with Merlin, he knew now. But he was not going to. Besides, he didn't even know for sure, even if he had the strongest suspicion.
"His father seems to think Arthur is in some kind of relationship with another student. That's kind of why they fought" the headmaster told him, waiting for an answer from Lancelot.
"That's not any of my business" Lancelot answered, refusing to give any details about Merlin and Arthur's relationship. If they didn't know, he was not going to be the one to tell them. And it they knew... well, he confirming it wasn't going to change anything, was it?
"I understand. But Merlin hasn't been to school today either. Do you know anything about this?"
"No" he answered, completely honest this time.
"Son, if you know anything..."
"I don't, I swear. In fact, I was very surprised when both of them failed to come today"
"Was everything alright with them yesterday?"
"Yes, they were perfectly fine"
"Well, we have everything we need" the policeman who still had to say a word announced, and both of them left the office, followed by the headmaster, as Lancelot stayed, rooted to his place. What the hell had happened? Was Arthur okay? Was Merlin with him? He thought he was going to pass out from distress when he remembered he had his phone on his pocket. He obviously couldn't make a call, as the headmaster could return any time. But he could send a text message to Merlin, and try and get some information that would calm his nerves to at least be able to breathe easier.
He hoped Merlin would answer soon.
Merlin, what the hell is happening? The police is here, asking questions about Arthur, they say he's disappeared. Is he with you? And where are you?
"We have a problem" Merlin informed Arthur and his parents, once he had read Lancelot's message.
"What is it?" Arthur asked, intuition making him fear the worst.
"Lancelot says the police is at the institute asking questions about you"
"Oh my God" Arthur exclaimed, hiding his face behind his hands in a nervous gesture.
"Well, we knew this could happen, didn't we?" Balinor tried to remain calm for the sake of everybody.
"I have to go" Arthur announced all of a sudden, jumping from his chair, and would have made it out of the room if Merlin hadn't gently grabbed his arm to stop him.
"I don't know, anywhere, just... They can't find me here, or you'll all have trouble because of me"
"In that case... I'm going with you" Merlin promised, picking up Arthur's hand to pull him before he could protest.
"Boys, calm down" Balinor stood up too and moved to stand behind them, resting each one of his hands in one of the boys' shoulder. "No one is going anywhere. We'll wait for them here and explain everything to them and then we'll go on with our plans, okay? Let's not be foolish, there's too much at stake"
Merlin and Arthur looked at each other, as if mentally debating what to do.
"If you have any problems because of me..." Arthur told Balinor, and the latter squeezed his shoulder, sympathetically.
"We won't. And even if we did, it was our decision, okay? Now if you're finished having breakfast, you both go and get dressed. Come on" He gently pushed them, trying to give them something to do to take their minds off even if it was only for a second.
Once in the room, Arthur sat tiredly in the bed and once again covered his face with his hands, in a gesture that had become too frequent in the last hours.
"I should have never come here" Arthur whispered from behind his hands, but Merlin heard it all the same and rushed to him, sitting by his side and encircling him in a strong embrace, pushing Arthur's head on his own shoulder.
"I'm so glad you did. God knows where you would be if you hadn't..." Or in what condition, he added mentally, not wanting to think what would have happened if Arthur hadn't left his home the night before.
"But look at all the trouble I've caused... If my father called the police and now they are making questions in the institute, they'll figure out I'm here in a second!"
"It doesn't matter, it doesn't change a thing, my father already told you! We'll fill a complaint and everything we'll be alright"
"It won't be that easy... I just hope your parents won't have to pay for my mistake"
"How is this your mistake?" Merlin asked him in bewilderment.
"I knew this could happen, and I still came" Arthur insisted, not ready to stop blaming himself yet.
"You had nowhere else to go, so I don't want to hear again that it was a mistake, okay? It was the only thing you could do"
"No buts. It was the only thing you could do" Merlin repeated, accompanying his words with a kiss to Arthur's forehead for good measure. "And now let's get dressed. I'll lend you some clothes. They might look a bit funny on you, but I'm sure you'll be as gorgeous as ever" Merlin joked, and was delighted to elicit a small chuckle from Arthur.
"Sycophant" Arthur teased him.
"Yes, that's me. Anything to get one of those beautiful smiles of yours" Merlin joked back. "And now let me reply to Lancelot. I won't tell him anything, so he doesn't have to lie if they ask him too many questions, but he must be worried sick"
I can't talk, mate, just in case. You just... don't worry, okay?
Okay, that was not the answer he had been expecting, as it gave him no information at all. Not even if Arthur was there. But it was obvious he was, because Merlin hadn't been surprised at the fact that Arthur was disappeared nor he had made any questions about it.
At least it made him feel a little better. The police were only looking for Arthur, not Merlin, so it was not like they had disappeared together. And if Arthur was obviously with Merlin, it meant they both must be at Merlin's home. And they would be safe there.
Some voices took Lancelot out of his own thoughts, and he realised the headmaster had not completely closed the door behind him. A voice he didn't recognise was reproaching the others they had not yet found out anything, so Lancelot supposed that must be Arthur's father. He seemed pretty angry and very rude. Nothing like Arthur's voice, always so soft and kind. One of the policemen tried to calm him down, and they told him they could guess where his son was, and that they would be going there immediately. Lancelot hurried to send another message, wanting to warn his friends so they would be prepared.
I get it, mate. I think they're going to your home. Please, call me when it's safe and tell me.
"What does he say?" Arthur asked when he heard the beep while he put on a jumper Merlin had lend him, one that Merlin knew he loved and had given to him on purpose just to spoil him a little.
"He... he says they are coming over" Merlin confessed. "It's okay. Nothing is going to happen, okay?"
"How can you say that? A lot of things could happen: your parents could have problems, I could be made to..." Arthur started to enumerate, but Merlin stopped him with a finger to his lips.
"Do you trust me?" he asked him.
"It doesn't have anything to do with that"
"I asked if you trust me" Merlin repeated, picking up both Arthur's hands in his own ones.
"Yes" Arthur reluctantly answered, and Merlin took the chance to embrace him strongly to his chest.
"Then everything will be alright in the end. I promise" Merlin said, much more confident than he was really feeling, as he squeezed Arthur and kissed his neck. Things did have to go well. They wouldn't take it any other way.
Arthur and Merlin sat together in Merlin's bed, with the latter's arms around his boyfriend, in silence, just waiting and taking comfort in the presence of the other, until the doorbell rang. Merlin immediately felt Arthur's muscles tensing, and he squeezed him once more to show him his support before standing up and pulling Arthur's hand as they walked to the door of the room.
Merlin's parents were already at the door, and they looked at each other in silent agreement before answering.
"Is my son here?" Arthur's father rudely asked, as soon as the door was opened.
"And you are...?" Balinor asked him, kind if cheekily, wanting to show he was not afraid nor did he regret anything. The only thing he felt while looking at that man was repulse, and he would surely have closed the door to his face if he hadn't been accompanied by two policemen.
"Please, Mr. Pendragon. Let us do the questions" one of the policemen asked him, as he made to put himself in between the two men. "Mr. Emrys?"
"We would like to make a few questions, if you would be so kind"
Balinor hesitated for a second, but he understood that they needed to give a good impression, so it would not be wise to make it difficult. He reluctantly nodded and moved aside as an invitation for them to enter.
"Let's not beat about the bushes" Balinor politely demanded, once they were all in the living room. "What do you want?"
"We are looking for Mr. Pendragon's son. He disappeared last night and we think he might be here. Is he?"
"Yes, he is" Balinor answered in a confident voice, knowing there was no point in denying it. Merlin could feel Arthur trembling at that from the door of his bedroom where they were standing, and he hurried to press his chest against Arthur's back and encircle him with his arms in a supporting embrace.
"Okay, Mr. Pendragon is willing to forget about all this if Arthur comes back home with him and you don't stay in their way"
"And why would I stay in the way, Mr. Pendragon?" Balinor sarcastically asked. "Is there any reason why I should?"
"I don't know what Arthur has told you, but the truth is we fought and he punched me before running away. I am willing to forgive him, but he has to come back where he belongs, and not with some strangers"
"What?" Arthur whispered, not able to believe his father had the guts to say it had been him who had started the fight, and closed his eyes to control his tears as he felt Merlin's lips on his temple, giving him a sympathetic kiss.
"That's not what Arthur says" Balinor replied, still as politely as before but noticeable angrier.
"Of course not, he's a hell of a liar, just like his mother was"
"You leave my mother out of this!" Arthur yelled as he extricated himself from Merlin's embrace before he could react and made his way towards his father, as angry as he had ever seen him, until Balinor gently stopped him with a hand to his chest.
"Easy, Arthur" Balinor whispered to him, in an attempt of calming him down.
"You see now how impulsive he is? He should be glad I'm willing to forgive him in spite of the punch he gave me" Uther answered, while exaggeratedly rubbing the bruised area on his chin where Arthur's fist had impacted in his need to defend himself.
"Forgive him?" now it was Merlin's turn to get angry, as he arrived at Arthur's side. "He hurt you? How do you have the guts to say he hurt you? Look at him!" Merlin yelled at the policemen, gently grabbing Arthur's face to show them the bruises and lifting his jumper to show the bruises on his middle and back. "Where do you think these bruises come from?"
"Merlin, calm down now" Hunith asked her son, rubbing her hand across his shoulder, and he obeyed his mother, all the while holding Arthur's hand in his.
"Now you've seen why he came here last night, absolutely terrified and in pain" Balinor told the policemen, whose faces had changed dramatically to grave expressions.
"He still has to go back to his father" one of them stated, lowering his gaze down on shame.
"What? Have you not seen what that monster has done to his own son?" Balinor accused them. "I won't let Arthur go back to him!"
"If he stays here, you will be accused of kidnapping"
"That man beats him and I'm the one who's committing a crime? He stays here on his own accord"
"Yes, but he's under aged, and he's on his father's custody" the policemen explained, and it was clear to everyone in that room that at that moment he really hated his job.
"I don't know where my son got all those injuries, but I want him home so I can take care of him" Uther lied, but he could see he was not fooling anyone.
"Yes, he cares so much about him that Arthur left yesterday evening and he's called the police now" Merlin replied, but his father send him a glance that ordered him to shut up, so he did.
"I'm sorry, I really am, but I can do nothing about it" the policeman apologized. "As long as a judge doesn't remove his guardianship over his son, the boy has to go back to him"
"I can't believe this. You've seen what this man has done, you've seen the blows" Balinor insisted, blaming a system that forced a boy to go back to a father that had beaten him.
"I cannot let him go with him"
"I'll report you if I have to and you'll end up in jail" Uther threatened, infuriating Balinor even more.
"Just try, son of a bitch!" Balinor yelled, and Arthur understood they had finally reached a point of no return, and it was only in his hands to put an end to it.
"No, Mr. Emrys" Arthur stopped him. "I can't let anyone else get involved in this. I'll go with him"
"What? No way!" Merlin shouted, his heart going faster at the prospect of his boyfriend turning back to that madman.
"He's not going to do anything to me now, he's not an idiot" Arthur tried to convince his boyfriend he was going to be alright, even if he was not so sure himself.
"You can't go with him" Merlin pleaded.
"Merlin, there's no other way"
"Merlin, he's right" Balinor intervened, trying to help Arthur. "If we want to do things right, he has to go with him now"
"But dad, I can't believe..." Merlin protested, not being able to believe his father would surrender so easily, but his father didn't even let him finish.
"Merlin, we are not leaving him to his fate. We are fighting for him"
Merlin knew he had been outnumbered in this, and his heart broke at the lost battle. Arthur could easily read all the emotions in Merlin's eyes, and his heart went to him, but there was nothing he could do to avoid his pain.
"Thank you for everything, Mr. Emrys, Hunith" Arthur honestly appreciated their help, and wanted to let them know.
"Oh honey" Hunith lamented, embracing Arthur to her as if he was his own son. "Take good care of yourself. We'll get you out of there"
"Thanks" was all Arthur could answer, his voice only a thread caused by the knot forming on his throat.
"I mean it, Arthur. This is not over. We'll do everything in our hands" Balinor told him, strongly squeezing his shoulder, and Arthur just nodded before turning up to Merlin.
"Please, try not to worry too much" Arthur pleaded, cupping Merlin's cheeks with his hands. "I'll be alright"
"How can I be sure?" Merlin answered, his eyes rapidly filling with tears.
"Because it won't be long, remember?" Arthur answered, embracing Merlin strongly to comfort him as the latter sobbed silently. Arthur wanted to cry too, to burst out in tears and yell at the injustice of it, to punch the walls and kick the floor at the rage he was feeling, but he couldn't. He had to stay strong for Merlin. He had to be able to cross the door with dry eyes and a calm appearance, so Merlin didn't have to see how he was dying inside and how afraid he was. He had worried enough about him. He owed him that.
"Take care, you hear me?" Merlin ordered him, now he being the one cupping Arthur's face. "Do whatever you need to do to stay safe and... come back if you need us again"
Merlin captured Arthur's lips in an urgent and desperate kiss, not minding at all about the huge audience they had and then embraced him strongly once again until one of the policemen gently pushed Arthur towards the door, followed immediately by his father. The other policemen, though, stayed behind for a second, his face a mask of regret and disgust at the situation.
"We'll keep an eye on him" he promised and, with that, they were all gone. Suddenly, with Merlin's soft sobs as the only noise in it, the house felt almost as empty as their hearts.
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