Title: The Little Red Window
Warnings: m/m pairing
Hunith's soft hands covered her son's eyes.
"Merlin, are you ready to see our new home?"
Four year old Merlin nodded as best he could without dislodging Hunith's hands and ruining the surprise.
"Ok then, in three, two, one..." And then Hunith's hands were gone.
And Merlin could see their new house.
"It's called Ealdor cottage." Hunith smiled.
Hunith had been saving up so that they could move out of their dingy flat since Merlin was born. Their new home was a little cottage, with six rooms and a small fenced garden round the front, facing the road. The thing that caught young Merlin's attention most though, was the little red window that was at the front of the house. All the other windows had white painted frames, whilst just one, the furthest right window had a red painted frame that looked out over the front garden and road.
Merlin took his mother's hand and pulled her eagerly into the house to explore.
Merlin chose the little room with the little red window as his bedroom. It was the smallest room in the house, but Merlin didn't mind. All he cared about was that little red window. Hunith decided to position Merlin's bed directly below it, so he could stand on the bed to peer out to the garden and street outside.
It was through that little red window, two years later, that Merlin watched a hired moving van pull up to the house on the opposite side of the road. Two people got out of it. The first person was a very beautiful, thin, blonde woman who looked around the same age as Merlin's mum, if not a little older. The second person was a boy who looked around Merlin's age, if again, a little older. The boy was blonde and jumping up and down excitedly. He stopped however when he looked at the little red window, and at Merlin watching him through it. Merlin ducked from view immediately and raced to tell his mother that people were moving in next door.
"Merlin?" Hunith asked, knocking lightly on his bedroom door.
"I have people here to meet you, come on through."
Merlin did so, and followed his mum into the living room, to find the lady and boy he had seen moving in only a few hours before sitting on the sofa.
"Merlin, this is Igraine and Arthur. Arthur is seven, in the year above you at school."
The blonde boy, Arthur, grinned at Merlin toothily. "Hi Merlin. Can I see your room?" He asked, interestedly, hopping off of the sofa.
Merlin nodded and led Arthur away to his room.
"I like your window." Arthur commented as they went. "It's red. Red is my favourite colour you know."
Hunith and Igraine, and Merlin and Arthur soon became best friends and they were constantly visiting the eachother's houses and going on outings together. However, Merlin was always a little intimidated by Arthur, who was always more boyish than Merlin, and far more attention seeking. When Merlin was in his room doing homework, Arthur was outside throwing a tennis ball around. When Merlin was helping his mum to plant flowers in the window box under the little red window, Arthur was in his garden over the road practicing with a football.
Merlin had also not failed to notice the absence of Arthur's father, but he'd always been too shy to ask. Of course, Arthur didn't know anything about Merlin's absent father either. Until one day, when Merlin was eight, and Arthur was nine and Igraine knocked on Hunith and Merlin's door.
Merlin listened in as his mum spoke to her friend.
"Igraine what's wrong?"
"My mother's not well, she's been taken into hospital and I need to go and stay with her.
Would you mind keeping an eye on Arthur until his dad can pick him up and look after him for the weekend?"
Arthur then came walking into Merlin's room, eyes down, hands in pockets.
"I'm sorry about your gran." Merlin said.
Arthur just nodded, sniffed and then headed straight to Merlin's bed. He sat on it, looking out of the little red window to the road outside.
"Are you ok?" Merlin tried again.
Arthur just nodded.
"Do you want me to leave you alone for a bit?" Merlin asked, sensing Arthur needed some time
Arthur nodded. So Merlin left.
Three hours later however, Merlin was back and Arthur was still staring out of the window. He hadn't moved a muscle.
"Arthur?" Merlin asked.
Arthur glanced over when his name was said.
"What are you doing?"
"Waiting for my dad." Arthur replied, turning his gaze to back out of the window.
"Do you know how long he'll be?"
"No. But he won't be long. He told my mum that he'd come as soon as he could."
Merlin wrung his hands a little nervously, shifting from foot to foot, he'd never seen Arthur depressed like this: his friend was always so full of life and energy. Merlin didn't think he'd ever seen Arthur sit still for more than three seconds, let alone three hours.
"Do you want to wait with me? We could watch some TV or..."
Arthur shook his head. "He'll be here soon."
"Oh." Merlin shuffled some more. "Arthur, where does your dad live?"
"He lives two hours drive away. Back where me and my mum moved from. They fell out. They got divorced." This was the most Arthur had ever opened up to Merlin, so Merlin couldn't help
"How often do you see him?"
Arthur shrugged, watching a car drive past. "Not much anymore. When we first moved here it was every other weekend but now it's only once a month. Mum says he's busy at work."
"And what does he do?"
"He's the boss of this really big company." Arthur's eyes lit up as a big black car pulled up outside, but his face fell when a young woman got out the car and headed down the street. He looked so disappointed. "So he's probably held up at work. That's why he's not here yet."
"Ok. And what does your dad..."
"Merlin!" Arthur snapped, looking round suddenly. "I'm waiting for my dad and your annoying me! Don't you know what it's like when you haven't seen your dad in so long and you just can't wait to see him again?"
Merlin's eyes narrowed. "Yes." He said bitterly, making Arthur's eyes widen in surprise. "I know what it's like. I never knew my dad, and when I was little I used to sit by the door in our flat just waiting for the day he'd come back. He never did. I gave up on waiting. But I know what it's like."
Arthur's hardened mask softened and his lips twitched a little at the corners. "I'm sorry Merlin."
"S'ok." Merlin muttered.
"I'm not really in the mood to watch TV, but if you wanted to wait with me, that'd be nice."
Merlin smiled then, scrambling up onto the bed to sit next to Arthur, looking out of the little red window too; willing to wait with Arthur for as long as it took.
Five hours later, Hunith peered through Merlin's bedroom door to find Arthur asleep, leaning against the wall next to the window. Her son was asleep with his head in Arthur's lap. Their empty plates left over from the dinner she had made them were scattered around them.
She smiled, and softly made her way over to the bed. She carefully picked up the plates and set them aside. She then gently picked up Merlin and leant him against the pillows, and manoeuvred Arthur to lie down beside Merlin, and then covered them with a spare blanket from the end of the bed. She leant down to kiss Merlin's forehead and move Arthur's blonde hair from his eyes. "He'll be here soon Arthur, I'm sure." She whispered, before taking the plates and shutting the door behind her, leaving the two boys snuggled in Merlin's bed, still waiting by the little red window.
As it turned out, Arthur's father did arrive the following morning, and Arthur had been away for a week. When Igraine's mother got better, he returned, and he and Merlin became even firmer friends than before, beginning to talk to each other about their feelings as well as just their old shallower conversations.
When Merlin was sixteen and Arthur was seventeen, Merlin began to appreciate Arthur in ways that were more than just the feelings of friends.
He'd sometimes catch sight of Arthur across the street, practicing sport or sunbathing topless in the sun and he couldn't help himself. Arthur was tanned, blonde haloed and eyes as blue as the sky and Merlin was falling quickly in love with him.
He knew there was no hope though, Arthur had already had two girlfriends, Vivian and Sophia and now he was flirting with Gwen, the smartest and prettiest girl in school.
Merlin was startled out of his reverie when Arthur knocked on his window. Merlin opened the little red window, sighing heavily, but unable to keep the smile off of his lips and the fondness out of his voice "What now?"
"I was wondering if you could help me with my science homework again?"
"Arthur you can do your homework perfectly well by yourself, you just can't be bothered to do it."
"Well, kind of. Though you are so much better at it than me! Plus seen as though your in the year below me, you're getting a head start on your topics for next year."
"And the real reason you can't be bothered to do your homework?"
"I've got a rugby match this afternoon and I was thinking of inviting Gwen to come and watch, so I won't have time to do it myself."
Merlin couldn't help the disappointment that clouded his face. Arthur always took potential girlfriends to watch his sporting matches. It was how Merlin knew if Arthur truly liked someone in that way, he invited them to watch him play football, cricket or rugby. Merlin could safely say he had neither been invited or would ever be invited to a match.
Merlin swallowed, blinking back jealous tears. "Fine, bring it over and I'll do it for you."
Arthur grinned that heart-meltingly toothy smile and then rushed back across the road to his house.
"My dad's got remarried!" Arthur declared grumpily, three months after the Gwen rugby match catastrophe, as he barged into Merlin's room, and threw himself down dramatically on the bed.
Merlin finished dusting his shelves with a roll of his eye and turned around.
"Does that mean you had a good weekend at your dads or a bad one?"
"A bad one you idiot! My mum was supposed to be the only one for him and after they'd split
I'd both expected and even hoped that he'd become a miserable loner until he realised he couldn't live without her."
"And this proved your theory wrong?"
"Yes it proved my theory wrong."
"So, what's your new step mum like?"
"Annoyingly pretty. Though nowhere near as beautiful as our mums."
Merlin smiled to himself. Forget Gwen and all the other girls in school, the two women Arthur
idolised most in his life were Igraine and Hunith. Merlin turned back to the shelves to start putting his books back onto the clean shelves. "Why are you unhappy? You've basically now got three parents! You should pity us mere people with only one parent! Your step mum hasn't been mean to you has she?"
Merlin glanced round, worried at the answer, but Arthur only pouted, looking disgruntled. "No, nothing like that." He replied.
Merlin breathed a sigh of relief and turned back to his books. "Then what's bothering you?" Merlin asked, reaching up to the topmost shelf to place a book there.
"I have a new stepsister. She got to be bridesmaid at the wedding. I wasn't even told he was getting married let alone get invited."
Merlin frowned. "That's not fair! That your own dad didn't invite you, his only son, to his wedding!"
"Well you know my dad."
Merlin shuddered. He did know Uther. He remembered the first time he had met Mr Pendragon, it was the morning after the night that he and Arthur had waited up all night and Uther had turned up to retrieve his son. Merlin had watched as the strict, serious and utterly intimidating man marched purposefully up to the door. Uther had been terrifying and Merlin was still scared of Uther even now.
"He held it whilst me and my mum were on that weeks holiday in France last month. I don't care about missing the wedding, I mean we had a great time in France. But he still could have told me. You know you and your mum really should have come to France with us."
"It wasn't the best time to go. Maybe next time." Merlin said, reaching up with yet another book. "So what's your stepsister like?"
Arthur didn't reply.
Merlin turned around again to find Arthur staring at Merlin's hip bone, which had become visible when his t-shirt had ridden up when he'd been reaching for the highest shelf. Arthur shook his head slightly, looked away and swallowed. "What?"
Merlin sighed, not quite sure what had just happened, but choosing to ignore it. "What's your new stepsister like? Her name? Personality? Age?..."
"Her name's Morgana. She's around the same age as me, a few months older. She's in the same year as me at school. She's a bitch. She always beats me in arguments and yes, we have already argued. A lot. She's sensationally pretty and completely infuriating."
Merlin paused, before turning back round so that Arthur didn't see that same disappointment that always crept its way onto his face whenever he saw Arthur with Gwen, clouding his features. "She's pretty?"
"Yeah. The kind of girl you'd expect to be prom queen."
"Oh. And you had a bad weekend?" Merlin couldn't believe Arthur could have spent an entire
two days with a prom queen prospect and not have a great time.
"Yeah. Like I said, she's a bitch. And I always miss you when I'm away. Though one good thing
came out of this weekend!"
"And what was that?"
"My dad bought me a car when he found out I'd passed my driving test." And then Arthur was skipping out of the room, in the complete opposite mood than the one he was in when he entered the room. "It's red. As red as your window. My favourite colour. Want to see? Go for a drive?"
Merlin rushed after him immediately.
When Merlin was seventeen and Arthur was eighteen, everything changed.
Merlin was sitting on his bed reading, when he heard the sound of an overused accelerator and he knew Arthur was home. He looked out into the dark street to see Arthur storm up to his house and slam the door.
Merlin grabbed his phone.
What's wrong? He texted.
The reply was there in a matter of seconds. You're still up?
Yes, and even if I wasn't the sound of you arriving home would have woken me up. So what's wrong?
I'll come over.
It only then took a few minutes before there was a knocking at the little red window.
Merlin quickly opened it and he was face to face with Arthur. "What's wrong?" Merlin asked for the third time.
Arthur looked angry. "I've split up with Gwen."
"Because your good friend Lancelot from school seems to have been going out with her for some time too."
Arthur was glaring at Merlin, and Merlin stammered. "Well I didn't know anything about it!"
"Hmm. Anyway I split up with her. Obviously. I'm not some idiot she can two time!"
"Well I'm sorry Arthur."
"Yeah." Arthur said bitterly. "How's Will?" He asked, even more bitterly.
Will was Merlin's boyfriend; they'd been going out for a couple of months now. Arthur had been totally accepting when Merlin told him he was gay. Arthur was also totally jealous of the amount of time Will and Merlin spent together, Arthur didn't even try to hide the jealously in his eyes whenever Will was even mentioned.
Arthur nodded. "Good." He looked at his watch then sighed. "It's late. I'm off to bed now. Night Merlin."
The day Merlin split up with Will, two weeks later, Arthur was there immediately.
"He was jealous about the amount of time I spent with you. Basically he told me it was either you or him. And you can kind of guess my choice."
"Ouch. Sorry." Arthur's sorry voice was betrayed by the smile that lit up his face.
"It doesn't matter."
"I'm still sorry." Arthur pulled Merlin into a long hug. Merlin breathed in Arthur's scent and closed his eyes, wishing to stay like this forever.
"Hey Merlin?" Arthur whispered into his ear.
"You want to maybe come and watch my rugby game on Saturday?"
And Merlin broke away suddenly. "Wh...what?! You mean? You're asking...sure! Of course I can!"
Arthur smiled and pressed a kiss to Merlin's cheek, total honesty in his eyes when he
said "I'm glad. Meet me at my car on Saturday and we'll go."
Merlin went to sleep that night sensationally happy.
On Saturday night, Hunith was tidying up Merlin's room. She peered out of the window when she heard a car pull up outside. Merlin and Arthur got out of it and moved to stand next to the little red window.
Merlin was wearing Arthur's team jacket, looking perfectly at home in it. Arthur was grinning and they were talking outside of the window. Hunith couldn't quite make out the words because of the glass. But she could guess. Especially when Merlin nodded and Arthur looked happier than Hunith had ever seen the young Pendragon.
Arthur then hooked his fingers into the belt loops of Merlin's jean and tugged him gently forwards and they kissed.
Hunith smiled and then left them to it in private. It was about time.
One sunny morning, Merlin was planting petunias in the little red window's window box. Red petunias for Arthur, blue for him, pink for Hunith and white for Igraine, when he felt arms wrap around him from behind.
"Morning Merlin." Arthur said, kissing Merlin's neck.
"Morning Arthur." Merlin replied. He was happier now than he'd ever been before. It had been
a month since the day Arthur had asked him out after the rugby match. And that month had been the happiest of Merlin's life.
"Red petunias? My favourite colour."
"I know." Merlin smiled.
"I'm going to miss this."
Merlin spun round, panic in his eyes. "What?"
Arthur swallowed nervously. "My erm...my dad has bought me an apartment in the city for when I go to uni."
Merlin, who wasn't going to university and was instead getting a full time job as soon as he could leave school blinked. "You won't be living with your mum?"
"The apartments only a walk away to the university and my mum thinks it'll be good for developing my independence. But don't worry, I'll come and see you every day I promise..."
As it turned out, Arthur wasn't lying. Arthur made sure he saw Merlin everyday whilst he was at university. He also bought Merlin the biggest mountain of presents imaginable for his eighteenth birthday. Merlin had complained about Arthur buying him too many expensive things and that he didn't buy that much for Arthur's nineteenth birthday, but in reality he was ecstatic, like he was living in a fairytale. His life couldn't get any more perfect.
And then it came crashing down. Just like that.
"Where are we going?" Merlin asked his mum as they got into the car.
"It's a surprise."
"And I'm not allowed to drive why?"
"Because you don't know where the surprise is."
"Fine." Merlin sighed, rolling his eyes and his mum started the car and they drove into the
Two hours later, Arthur only stopped running when he reached the right corridor. He rounded the corner and stopped dead still, his eyes focusing on the lone quivering figure on the seats that lined the white, bland corridor. The figure looked up. Merlin was paler than normal and was trembling. His wrist was bandaged and he had stitches in one cheek. The bruising was already visible in the harsh light of the hospital corridor.
Arthur reached Merlin in several quick strides and bundled his boyfriend into his arms.
"Oh Merlin." Arthur whispered into Merlin's hair, "I'm so, so sorry!"
Merlin's sobs slowly became audible, his tears soaking the shoulder of Arthur's t-shirt.
"I'm sorry I wasn't here sooner." Arthur carried on, attempting to distract himself as well as his weeping boyfriend. "I came as soon as I heard. If they had just let me know sooner I would have been here the whole time."
"Arthur, she...she's gone." Merlin choked out, clutching onto Arthur's t-shirt like it was his lifeline. "There was nothing I could do. It all happened so fast and I...I didn't get to say goodbye." Merlin's tears started again in force.
"Shh, shh." Arthur hushed, tightening his arms around Merlin. "It's ok. You'll be ok." But he didn't sound very convincing seen as though he'd now started crying too.
Only hours ago he'd seen Hunith happy and smiling as she opened the little red window. He couldn't believe it was the last time he'd ever see her. It all seemed so surreal. But to Merlin, who had been in the same car, who had also been in the accident, it was only too real.
"My god Merlin." Arthur swallowed, pressing a kiss into Merlin's hair, "When the police called I thought...I thought I'd lost you too. I could never live without you."
Merlin sniffed, pulling away from Arthur slightly so he could brush the tears from Arthur's cheeks. "I'm sorry I scared you." He whispered.
"It's ok." Arthur lied. "Just don't ever nearly leave me again. I was so scared. I don't think I could handle life without you. So just don't ever leave me. Understand?"
Merlin nodded, tears beginning to well again. Arthur hushed him once more, gently and oh so gently, he rubbed his thumb across Merlin's cheek, careful to avoid the stitches and bruising to clear the tears from his lover's cheek, knowing that hundreds more tears will have graced Merlin's cheeks before the day was out.
Arthur let himself into the cottage and found Merlin in the kitchen, sitting at the table. His head was in his arms. He was crying again.
"Hey, hey baby what is it?" Arthur asked soothingly, squeezing Merlin's shaking shoulder.
Merlin spoke into his arms, making the words both muffled and incomprehensible.
"What?" Arthur asked. "Merlin? Come on, sit up and tell me." He gently pulled Merlin back.
Merlin's wrist was slowly getting better. He'd had the stitches taken out a few days before and the bruising was just beginning to clear.
Merlin's eyes were shining with tears as he held up a document. Arthur took it and skim read through it whilst Merlin explained.
"I knew we were strapped for cash. That's why me and mum both worked and only spent our earnings on the essentials, so that we could afford to pay the bills. But she hid from me what we actually owed, because she didn't want to upset me. She left me the house in her will, but she'd been receiving letters about our debts for months and that we were failing to pay our way with the house. I can't afford to keep it. I'll have to sell it." Merlin let the tears run unchecked down his face.
Arthur knelt down beside Merlin. "Merlin, listen to me." He turned Merlin's head so Merlin would look at him. "You're moving in with me. Ok? I've been planning to ask you to move into my apartment for months so now seems the best time to ask. Then if you really have to sell this place, we won't give you the distressing task of organising it. What I want you to do is go and stay with Lancelot for a bit whilst I get Gaius onto getting you the best price for this place ok? I'll sort everything. Promise."
"Ok Merlin. We're here."
"I still don't know why I need a blindfold on to see an apartment I've already seen."
"Well because it's now officially your home too."
"Arthur I've had the key to this apartment for a year."
"Yes, but you haven't lived in it with me before, as roommates a couple."
"I practically have."
"But this time it's literally."
"Merlin! I'm trying to be romantic! Help me out here! Give me a little credit!"
Merlin huffed, reaching a hand up to the blindfold. "Fine."
"Wait!" Arthur's touch stilled Merlin's hand. "Let me."
Merlin couldn't help smiling at how sweet Arthur was being about the whole moving thing. He'd organised everything, moving everything around whilst Merlin had stayed at Lancelot's and it was such a good job the Pendragon's had an estate agent such as Gaius as a close contact.
"Right then," Arthur began. "Merlin, are you ready to see our new home?"
Merlin swallowed. That's what Hunith had said all those years ago...
However, he still nodded.
"Ok then, in three, two, one..." And Arthur untied the blindfold and let it fall away from Merlin's blue eyes.
The first thing that those blue eyes saw was a cottage: A little cottage, Ealdor Cottage, with the little red window.
Merlin's eyes immediatly filled with tears. "I...I don't understand."
"When you told me you had to sell the house...well, I knew you couldn't live without it and to be honest, neither can I. So I sold my apartment and bought Ealdor Cottage from Gaius. I only didn't tell you because I wanted it to be a surprise, also I know you hate it when I buy things for you that you can't necessarily afford and..." Arthur's explanation was stopped by lips on his.
After what seemed like a lifetime they broke apart.
"Thank you! Thank you so so much!" Merlin whispered, the only emotion on his face being pure joy. Merlin ran a hand down Arthur's cheek "I can't believe you sold your apartment. I can't believe that you did this for me."
"How could I not?" Arthur smiled fondly, taking Merlin's hand from his cheek and entwined their fingers. "I adore this place and I know neither of us can live without it. Plus my mum lives right over the road. And of course, I need that little red window almost as much as you do. But most of all I did this because I love you Merlin Emrys."
Merlin grinned, pressing a lingering kiss to Arthur's smiling lips.
"Not as much as I love you Arthur Pendragon."
Merlin then allowed Arthur to lead him towards their home. The little cottage, with the little red window.