Title: Terms and Conditions
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin,
Summary: Merlin's contract is up for renewal.
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: I'm late to the New Year - but Happy New Year!
“Yes?” Merlin looked over the top of his screen at Lancelot. His friend smiled at him.
“Boss is ready for you.”
Merlin nodded. He saved what he was working on and stood up, tucking his shirt in as he did so. Lancelot clapped him on the shoulder.
“You’ll be fine,” he said, “everyone loves your work, Arthur included.”
Merlin forced a smile and headed out of the office. This was one of the rare occasions that he hated it being so open: everyone knew where he was going and why. If he didn’t come back, they would know that as well.
It felt like a long walk to Arthur’s office. Merlin had been in there multiple times: Arthur had called him in more than once to discuss his work and any further ideas he had. Merlin had always wanted to be a graphic designer, and landing a job at Camelot Industries was a dream come true. This particular branch was one of the biggest gaming companies in the industry.
Arthur was a firm boss: he expected nothing less than their full commitment from his staff. But Merlin couldn’t fault him; not when he knew that Arthur worked harder than the rest of the them put together. It was one of the many things that Merlin admired about him.
He suddenly realised he was staring at Arthur’s door. He swallowed. His contract was up for renewal and he had no idea how the financial side of the business worked. He didn’t know if they had been making or losing money over the last year, yet it was that dark side of the business that would dictate whether he stayed or went.
Knocking, he waited until Arthur bid him to enter. Arthur smiled as he walked in, pushing out a chair with his foot. There were spreadsheets covering the desk but something caught Merlin’s eye as he sat down. One of his preliminary sketches based on a character idea he had was on Arthur’s desk.
“Is that mine?” he asked, nodded at it. Arthur raised an eyebrow.
“Technically everything you do here belongs to the company, which belongs to me. So, technically, it’s mine.”
“You know what I meant.”
When Merlin had first started, Arthur had intimidated him. But now he could see past the tough exterior and knew that answering back was an instant way to gain Arthur’s respect. He didn’t want pushovers working for him.
“It is a good concept.”
Merlin stared at the picture as Arthur pulled it out from under a pile of documents. He was certain he had left it on his own desk, not feeling ready to show anyone.
“How did you get it?”
He expected another of Arthur’s roundabout answers as the man claimed that everything in the building was his property.
To his surprise, Arthur blushed. Merlin’s lips instantly twitched as his brain – unhelpfully – informed him that Arthur was cuter than usual when he was flustered.
“I came to talk to you the other evening.”
“Why not just call me in like you usually do?”
Arthur didn’t normally even use a messenger – he just yelled Merlin’s name across the office until Merlin looked around, much to everyone’s amusement.
“It…” Arthur paused, clearing his throat. “It wasn’t work related.”
“What was it about?”
“It doesn’t matter. You weren’t there. I saw this on your desk and thought I would run it past the writers. See if they could work someone like this in.”
“And could they?” Merlin leant forward, eyes gleaming in excitement. He had started the character as a doodle on lunchtime, and had spent the last month refining it whenever he was on a break. Arthur grinned, clearly sensing his enthusiasm.
“Yes. But that’s not why I called you in. Your contract is up for renewal.”
“Oh.” Merlin sat back, disappointed. He always grew animated when discussing his work – it was why he had spent hours in Arthur’s office in the past as they spoke about potential ideas. It was the one time he came out of his shell.
“It should be straightforward,” Arthur said. He sat back in his chair, staring at Merlin. Unless Merlin was mistaken, Arthur looked nervous. Merlin’s heart thudded, certain he was about to be fired.
“There is just one snag.”
“What?” Merlin’s mouth was dry and his palms sweaty. He couldn’t lose this job!
“If I renew your contract and therefore remain as your boss, does that mean I have no chance of asking you out?”
Merlin stared at him. A peal of laughter burst from him before he could stop it. Arthur’s face instantly closed down.
“No, I-,” Merlin suppressed his mirth, trying to look serious. “I thought you were about to fire me.”
“I still can.”
Merlin knew Arthur was aiming for joking because he felt uncomfortable. Merlin lent forward.
“Why don’t you renew my contract, ask me and see what happens?”
He kept eye-contact as Arthur looked at him, a soft smile on his lips. Arthur blinked, then clicked something on his computer.
“Your contract is now renewed for another year,” he said. “So, Merlin… come out for a drink with me?”
“Well,” Merlin said, pretending to deliberate. “I think I can fit you into my hectic schedule.”
The tension left Arthur’s body in one whoosh of breath and he relaxed. Merlin winked.
“Yes. Of course I will. I thought it was against the rules to ask your boss out.”
Arthur rolled his eyes. “It is. I’m the one calling the shots here.”
“Idiot,” Merlin said, smirking as he stood up. He stretched out a hand towards his drawing. “If this is officially being commissioned, can I have it back?”
Arthur handed it over, his thumb brushing Merlin’s hand as he did so. This time, Merlin knew he was the one blushing.
Merlin nodded, trying not to obviously grin as he walked back towards his own work station.
An open-plan office was going to be worse than ever now.