Hi all! I'm back! Did ya miss me? :P
I'm so glad you all liked the last chapter. Everyone seemed to especially love the brotherly moment, and I think I'll try adding in a few more of those to the story - mind you, with what's coming up, that may be a little difficult haha. We shall see ;) Thanks as always for your support, it means a huge deal to me.
Hunith was humming to herself as she placed the last glistening glass on the drying rack. She tugged her rubber gloves off with a satisfied nod and dropped them next to the slowly drying dishes. Observing the kitchen, she was just wondering if she should start vacuuming upstairs or not when the phone rang. There was admittedly a small sigh of relief - the divorce with Cenred may have left her with enough money for her to remain comfortably as a housewife, but that didn't mean she always enjoyed the cleaning part of it. Picking up the cordless phone hanging from the wall near the fridge, Hunith said with a smile "Pendragon residence."
"Hunith? That's Hunith, right?"
If she hadn't tensed so much in shock, Hunith would have dropped the phone. As it was, she simply found herself standing stock-still, staring at the wall in front of her without really seeing.
"Hello? Is there someone there?"
"Y - yes, sorry," Hunith finally stuttered out, all the while something inside screamed at her to hang up, now. "Is… is that you, Nimueh?"
"Thank god," Nimueh exclaimed with a tittering sort of laugh. "I had really hoped I hadn't gotten the wrong number."
"How… how did you get this number, Nimueh?"
There was another sort of stuttered laugh from the other end of the line. "Oh you know me, Hunith, I've always been resourceful."
"Yes… that is one word for it, I suppose," said Hunith unhappily. She knew all too well what Nimueh could do when she set her mind to it. Which only made her next question all the more hesitant. "Nimueh… why are you calling me?"
"Well isn't it obvious?" Nimueh asked, and her voice had snapped from happy to impatient in a second. Hunith closed her eyes in fear. Yes, it was all too obvious why Nimueh would have tracked down the Pendragon's number, however she had managed that. Still though, when Nimueh confirmed it, Hunith couldn't hold back the icy tendrils of fear rising from deep in her stomach. "I want to see my son."
Arthur read the caller id on his phone with a slight frown of confusion before answering. "Mom?"
"Arthur, thank god." Hunith sounded breathless and almost teary, and all of Arthur's senses immediately went on high alert. He was suddenly extra grateful to Mr Alator for letting him step out of class to take the call.
"Mom, what's wrong?"
Hunith ignored the question. "Have you seen Merlin? He won't answer his phone."
"Yeah, he left it at home," said Arthur who, if possible, tensed up further. "He was complaining about it at lunch. Why, what's happened?"
Again, Hunith didn't answer. Instead she said "listen Arthur, I want you and Merlin to come straight home today, okay honey? No dawdling."
"Um, I think Merlin was hanging out with his friends this afternoon - "
"No!" Arthur quickly felt taken aback. Hunith never yelled. Never. Obviously she realised this too, in the slight pause that followed, and when she continued her voice was apologetic. "No, just bring him home for me okay? Please?"
"Yeah, of course," said Arthur, his frown still firmly in place. Before he could ask again about what was going on, she said a quick 'thank you' and 'love you' before hanging up. Arthur stared back down at his mobile, confused and maybe just a little bit scared.
Merlin's smile when he saw Freya that afternoon after school was just a little bit shakier than usual. This was it. Today was the day.
"Hi Merlin," she said on seeing him, her dark hair framing her pretty face in uneven waves.
"Hey," he replied, rubbing the back of his head nervously. "Ready for the movie?"
Freya nodded enthusiastically. "I can't wait to laugh at the special effects."
Before Merlin could answer there was a sudden hand on his shoulder and he turned to see Arthur looking grim. "Umm… Can I help you?"
"You have to come home," Arthur said simply. "Mom called."
Merlin frowned and glanced back at Freya, who was looking disappointed. "I kind of had plans this afternoon."
"Yes thank you Merlin, I do realise that," Arthur said with a roll of his eyes. "They're not my orders, they're mom's."
"But - "
"Merlin." Arthur looked at him seriously. "Something's wrong. We need to go."
Obviously it was something serious. He couldn't just ignore his mom's request. Merlin looked back to Freya with an expression of sincere regret. "I'm really sorry about this."
Freya nodded with a smile, and while it wasn't as big as her last one, it was genuine and sympathetic. "It's alright. We can see it another time."
Merlin dug in his pocket until he found his crumpled ticket and passed it over to her. "Find Will, take him with you. I can't promise he'll keep quiet during it though."
Freya giggled. "I doubt we would have kept quiet anyway." She then turned serious. "I hope everything's okay with your mom."
Merlin nodded. "Thanks." With a final wave he began following Arthur the other way.
The two brothers walked in silence for a while, and Merlin observed how Arthur seemed a bit twitchy. "What's the big emergency?" he asked eventually.
Arthur let out a long breath through his nose. "I don't know. But mom sounded pretty freaked out."
Merlin looked down at the path in front of him. "So it's something bad."
"I would say so."
Merlin stubbed the ground with his toe as they walked. "We can't seem to catch a break lately, can we?"
Arthur didn't answer, and for another few minutes it was quiet. Finally the older boy asked "what were you and Freya doing this afternoon?"
It was Merlin's turn to sigh. "Nothing. Doesn't matter now."
Arthur looked sideways at him. "Ah."
Merlin glanced at his brother quickly. "Ah? What do you mean, ah?"
Arthur shook his head, an amused smile on his face. "Nothing."
"Didn't sound like nothing."
"I was just acknowledging, Merlin."
"No you weren't. There was something in that ah, now what was it?"
"I don't know what you're talking about."
Merlin glared at him for a moment longer before looking away with an annoyed growl. Finally, as they turned onto their street, Arthur said confidently "she would have said yes."
Merlin froze for a moment, staring at his brother. How had he known?
"Come on, Merlin," Arthur called from in front, "straight home, remember?"
Merlin hurried to catch up.
"Mom? Mom, we're home!"
The two boys didn't even make it to the stairs before Hunith was appearing from the lounge room. Her hair was mussed, her eyes were red, and she seemed to have more wrinkles than she had when they had left that morning. She quickly stepped forward and hugged first Arthur, than Merlin, holding onto him tightly as if worried he'd be swept away. "What's wrong, mom?" Merlin asked, his voice muffled.
Hunith let go as if just remembering herself. "Go into the dining room please honey, I'll be there in a minute."
Merlin, his brow furrowed in confusion, nodded and walked away while Hunith turned to Arthur. "Thanks for bringing him home, Arthur."
"It's not like we don't walk home together most days," Arthur pointed out with a nervous laugh. Hunith just nodded distractedly.
"Yes, yes. How about you go to your room for a while, okay?"
Arthur's eyebrows raised. "What?"
"Just go upstairs Arthur, please."
"Why? What's going on? Did Merlin do something?"
"No, no, nothing like that," Hunith reassured quickly, but she was starting to sound impatient. "Just please go wait in your room. Merlin and I just need to have a chat."
Hunith's smile was rather watery and unconvincing, and Arthur hated to argue with her at the best of times. With an unhappy nod he slowly walked up the stairs, watching as Hunith followed Merlin towards the dining room.
"Mom, what's wrong?" Merlin asked as she walked in and took the seat opposite him. His bag lay forgotten at his feet and he watched, concerned, as she clasped her shaky hands together. She seemed unable to look him in the eyes.
"Merlin, honey. You… I love you very much, you know. This whole family does. You are as much my child as Arthur and Morgana are, and… I love you so much."
"I know that," Merlin said gently, bringing one hand across the table to hold his mother's. Hunith just nodded before continuing.
"I want what is best for you. I have always wanted what is best for you, ever since you came to us. You were so small, so… so vulnerable." Hunith's voice was breaking and Merlin was growing increasingly afraid. While the topic of his adoption was not often brought up, it had never been due to any kind of aversion to the subject. It had always just seemed so inconsequential a subject - Merlin was part of the family, and that was what had always mattered. He didn't understand where Hunith was going with this or why it was making her so upset, but it could be nothing good. After a pause to try and contain herself, Hunith continued. "But you've grown so much, and I… I understand that you have your own opinion on things, and I respect that. There's going to be quite a bit of… upheaval over the next few weeks, and what you want is going to play a big part of it - your opinions are very important, and no matter what I or… anyone else wants for you, remember that you have a say, okay honey?"
"Mom, you're scaring me," Merlin admitted quietly. "Please, tell me what's going on."
A restrained sob escaped Hunith and she gripped his offered hand, again avoiding his eyes. "It's… it's your mother. Your birth mother. She contacted me today. She wants you back, Merlin."
Merlin stared, his hand going lax in her grip. His whole body froze, and he found himself speechless.
Little did he know, Arthur was stood just on the other side of the doorway, hidden out of sight, and he was just as at a loss for words.