Title: Well That Sucks
Summary: Arthur would be perfectly happy at work but for one thing...
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: Every single thing that Alby does is inspiring.
“Great work today class, but it’s time to put away the supplies. Neatly please!”
Arthur stood by the drying racks, acknowledging each student’s work with a grin, a nod, or a brief comment.
As the students filed out, he packed his bag and prepared to close the classroom and head to his meeting with the assistant principal. A very quiet student lingered near the doorway. Arthur could not remember ever hearing her voice.
“Celia! I’m glad you’re still here. I’ve been meaning to talk to you about all the constant chitchat in. Really, you’re going to have to at least control the volume.”
Celia cracked a small smile, and Arthur thought he heard a tiny giggle.
“Mr. P, I wanted to ask you something please.”
“Sure kiddo, what’s up?”
“I really like drawing. A lot, I guess. But no matter what, some things just don’t look right—like the legs are in the wrong places and stuff like that. My mom said I should ask you for some help?”
“You know what, Celia, I know just what that feels like, and I think maybe I can help you along. I would love to see your work. Why don’t you bring in some things you’ve been working on at home, and we’ll see what we can do.”
“Oh, thank you, Mr. P. Thanks so much. I’ll bring my stuff tomorrow. Thank you!” Celia beamed at him and left the room with a bounce in her step.
Glancing up at the clock and adjusting for the fact that the clock habitually ran twenty-seven minutes late, not matter how many times he filled out a repair report, Arthur quickly calculated the time, grabbed his bag and rushed from the room. Pissing off the AP who already seemed to hate him did not seem like the best of ideas.
The AP’s door was ajar. Arthur knocked anyway, and waited to be invited in.
Mr. Emrys had asked the faculty to call him Merlin more than once during the first staff meetings of the year. Still, Arthur was tentative about being so informal since Emrys, who seemed very warm with everyone: students, parent, and staff, was quite cool towards him.
“Sorry I’m late, Mr. Em…”
“Merlin… remember!” said the AP, waving Arthur towards a chair in front of his desk, while looking down at the papers on his desk. “I always check with new staff around this time of year. We like to know how things are going. Our goal is to have a happy school community. After all, if the teachers are happy, the students are going to reap the benefits!”
Arthur tried to catch Merlin’s eye, but the man steadfastly avoided him. He opened his mouth to say something very polite and political. Of course he was happy. His students were wonderful, and the school was generous with providing supplies and materials. His classroom was spacious and well-lit, and his colleagues were…well…happy! “Of course I’m happy,” replied Arthur.
Gazing towards the window, Merlin continued the interview, “Wonderful then! I’m glad to hear it,” said Merlin, checking off a box on the paper in front of him. He read the following questions from the form in front of him, “Is there anything you need? Is there anything that would make you happier to come to work each day?”
Arthur shook his head ‘no,’ but his mouth opened of its own accord. “Well, the one thing that does bother me is that I feel like you have taken a real dislike to me, and I have no idea what I might have done.” Arthur covered both his eyes with his hands and groaned, “Oh god, I can’t believe I said that.” He opened his eyes to see Merlin staring straight at him.
Mouth agape, Merlin looked distinctly unhappy and confused.
Arthur laughed, “I’m sorry, Merlin, but you don’t look very happy yourself.”
Merlin finally cracked a smile, and looked directly at Arthur, his face full of frank admiration.
Arthur pointed at Merlin, grinning, “That’s it! That’s what I needed to be completely happy here!”
Merlin smiled sheepishly.
“But why have you been so cold to me? Did I do something wrong?”
At that, Merlin looked Arthur right in the eye, blushing to the tips of his ears. He looked like he wanted to crawl under his desk. Finally he dropped his eyes and bit his bottom lip, but didn’t turn away. “No Arthur, quite the contrary.”
“I did something right?”
“Um, yeah, I guess you could say that.”
“But why…? Oh. OH! Oh! You like me?”
Merlin sighed, nodding his head. “Yeah, it would be harassment. You might think your job review depended on our personal interaction. It’s not appropriate for me to approach you that way.”
“Hmmm. Well that sucks,” said Arthur, rising to his feet and offering a hand to Merlin.
“It does?” asked Merlin, still gripping Arthur’s hand.
“Yes, it really, really does,” said Arthur grinning.
“Then why do you look so happy?”
“You know, I read the employee manual cover to cover, and there was nothing against employees dating, only an advisement that employees may not be approached by someone who is in a supervisory position to them.”
Arthur turned his hand in Merlin’s and interlaced their fingers. “So it seems to me, that it would be just fine for me to ask you out.”
“Oh,” said Merlin. “OH!”
“Yeah, exactly,” agreed Arthur, suddenly standing even closer. “I’m just heading home for some left-over lasagna. Sound good?” Arthur asked, tugging on Merlin’s hand.
“Sounds like a dream,” answered Merlin, as he hit the light switch.