Title: Some Cowboys Wear Ties
Character/s: Merlin, Gwaine, Arthur
Summary: Merlin is tasked with interviewing the Maverick of the business world.
Word Count: 2056
Author's Notes: Once again I have exceeded the drabble word limit.
Merlin had a dream when he was a kid. He wanted to be Clark Kent.
Clark Kent. Investigative reporter and if the Adventures of Lois and Clark was to believed, a Pulitzer prize-winning writer.
The biggest let down in Merlin’s adult life was that journalism wasn’t running into the bullpen and yelling “Stop the presses.” It wasn’t arguing with the editor. It wasn’t being kidnapped by evil masterminds and executing a daring escape.
It was competing with every other “writer” out there with a blog and pitching ideas to multiple editors over Skype and then chasing up invoices for months after the story was published.
Being a journalist sucked and Merlin found himself browsing Coursera to see if he can learn another skill that would actually result in a steady paycheque. Maybe C++ coding was for him?
He was grouching about exactly this when Gwaine placed a pint of beer in front of him in the hopes that he’d drink it instead of continuing his self-pity parade that was raining all over the pub’s atmosphere that night.
“I have a proposal for you,” he began as MErlin too a moment to sip his beer.
“I’m not having a threesome with you and the barmaid. She’s married tot he bouncer.”
“If that’s your only objection, I feel there’s a workaround. But no, sadly, I am not talking about taking Demelza home, even if Harry agrees to watch.”
Merlin rolled his eyes, but chose not to answer.
“You know I work at The Gherkin, right?” Gwaine was referring to the massive glass skyscraper in Aldgate that looked like and was referred to as the crunchy pickle. No one was really sure what, exactly, it was that Gwaine did there. “So, some new company moved in on the same floor as mine. Lots of whispers going around about how the owner is the son of some Peer with a history that goes back to the Plantagenets. Other whispers are that he and his old man had a massive fall out and the boy has gone off on his own, but in direct competition to the geyser.”
“Guess there’s no non-compete clause in the family bible,” Merlin smiled at his own joke as no one else seemed to think it was funny.
“Word has it, the press has been barred from our floor because they keep breaking into interview this prodigy.”
“Gwaine, I hope you reach the point before I reach the bottom of my pint.”
Gwaine simply motioned to Demelza for another round and continued to talk, much to Merlin’s consternation.
“So the other night, I see him at the Slug and Lettuce-”
“I know, but Kevin had closed the Goose for a private party and everything else was packed with fucking tourists. But anyway, so I see him at the Slug and Lettuce by himself, right? So I go over and introduce myself. Hi, I’m Gwaine, not a reporter, but I work next door to you. How you doing mate?”
“Did he tell you to stop hitting on him?”
“At first, but then we started chatting. And guess what?”
“You gave him a blowie in the bathroom?”
“Not for lack of trying, but no. He was complaining about the tabloids and how they kept wanting to ask him about his father and the fallout. None of them was asking about his business.”
“Poor little rich boy, innit?” Merlin smirked.
“Yes, but then I said to him that I have a mate, that would be you, is a serious journalist who publishes in serious papers and that you would love to do a profile interview piece of him.”
Merlin nearly dropped his glass, sitting there gaping like a fish out of water. “You what now?”
“I hooked you up!”
“But I don’t publish in serious papers! The last piece I wrote was for Men’s Health about how to properly trim your beard!”
“And it was a very helpful piece of advice. Come on Merls. I’m sure The Economist would jump at the chance. Heck, you could start a bidding war.”
“So you got him to agree?”
“He suggested it!”
Well, that put a different spin on the whole situation. Merlin’s mind began to whirl with possibilities and lists of people he had to email.
“Here’s his number,” Gwaine sent him a contact WhatsApp and then began to scroll through Twitter.
“No Tinder tonight?” Merlin couldn’t help himself.
“I’m out with you, so the lads and ladies will have to wait. Right, shots?”
It took Merlin two days and a stalker level amount of googling before he decided to contact Arthur Pendragon of Excalibur Consulting.
The initial conversation lasted less than a minute but Merlin had his appointment and armed with the three pages of research he was able to compile, headed out to the City for the interview.
There had been quite a few photos, mostly paparazzi shots, of Arthur online so Merlin spotted him easily when he arrived at the office. What the pictures didn’t prepare him for was the aura of pure power and magnetism Arthur exuded.
“Merlin Emrys, right?” Arthur held out his hand with a charming smile on his face.
It took some careful mental juggling, but Merlin was finally able to shake the proffered hand, lift his jaw from the ground and form words that sounded very much like: “Yes, I am. Nice to meet you.”
“Office or conference room?”
Merlin simply blinked and Arthur frowned slightly.
“For the interview? We’ll have fewer distractions in the conference room.”
Merlin nodded and followed Arthur down a passage and into the room with a large table, floor to ceiling windows and a wall of tv screens. An assistant appeared a few moments later carrying a tray of cookies and a teapot. He carefully placed them on a table next to the door and excused himself quietly.
Arthur took a seat in the middle of the long table and gestured to Merlin to sit across from him.
“So your friend tells me you get published in papers that aren’t tabloids. I must say that if you ask any questions about my father, I will cut this interview short.”
“I’m not here to talk about your father. But I am going to ask you about the past few years, just as a good starting point to give context to your business.”
Merlin pulled out his dictaphone and notes while Arthur got up and made them each a cup of tea which he then placed in front of Merlin before taking his seat. Merlin got a whiff of Arthur’s cologne and suppressed a shudder of delight that ran down his back. The man smelled delicious and Merlin had to remind himself that no matter how much he wanted to lick Arthur’s neck, this was a professional interview and he needed to remain impartial.
He cleared his throat noisily and shuffled his notes. “Ready to begin?”
Arthur nodded and leaned over to turn on the dictaphone.
“Right,” started Merlin. “Everyone knows your linage and your education. Oxford then Harvard before coming back here to take over the family business, which didn’t take so now you’ve launched Excalibur Consulting. So, can you tell me, what was the catalyst for starting your own business?”
“Assumptions,” Arthur answered succinctly.
“Assumptions? Such as?”
“Assumptions about everything. My future. What I wanted to do with my life instead of what was expected of me. The business world is full of underhanded deals and corruption. I didn’t want to work like that.”
“Are you alluding to the fact that your father’s company was allegedly involved on the wrong side of the Murdoch scandal?”
Arthur raised his eyebrows. “I was doing my post-graduate work at Harvard when the story broke, so I have no insight into what really happened. But it was more that I wanted to help people.”
“What was your post-grad studies then? Not business, from the sounds of it.”
“No, I earned a Masters in Socio-Economics. I want to help the man on the street who, through no fault of his own, have a fighting chance at having a better life. So Excalibur Consulting is a fostering program. We find entrepreneurs, students, scientists, doctors, anyone really who shows promise to really reach their potentials.”
“But you keep the intellectual rights to their work?”
Arthur smiled. “We buy in as partners to their work.”
“That’s a very dangerous tactic in this economy where most companies aren’t taking risks. Have you considered the danger in fostering talent only to have it not deliver?”
“That’s a very pessimistic view.”
“So where does this altruistic business view come from?”
Arthur leaned back and crossed his arms, pressing his thumbnail to his lower lip and lowering his eyebrows in thought.
They sat like that for a while before Arthur sat up and leaned his forearms on the table.
“You know I grew up with the best schooling available, but not everyone does. This is going to sound very condescending, but our butler has a son. We’re the same age and grew up together. He went to the local school and didn’t have money for uni. His family couldn’t afford the student loans as the interest rates are criminal. But he had this idea for a business. I had just received access to my trust fund and when I wanted to withdraw some of the money to seed his business deal, a table of old men who’d never worked a day in their lives tried to talk me out of it. I knew my friend my whole life and I believed in his idea, so I withdrew my entire trust and placed it with a different bank. I bought into his plan and now he’s closing in on the Forbes top two hundred list. I realised there were so many people like him who look like liabilities on paper due to circumstances out of their control and just needed the help without all the strings that banks attached to their loans. Hence the adopting and guidance of these talented people.”
Yeah, by the end of his monologue, Merlin had fallen in love with Arthur. His faith in people, his idealism and belief was so far from the general attitude that ran through the people who worked in the City.
There was no ring on Arthur’s finger, but Merlin knew it was bad form to ask if he was seeing anyone. He was trying to find a way to insert it into the conversation when Arthur abruptly change tack in answers.
“...and that’s where we came up with the idea to buy the land under a trust so that no one could use it except those who lived in the town. Tell me, Merlin, why did you become a journalist?”
“Superman,” Merlin blurted before he could stop himself.
Arthur laughed. “You wanted to be Superman?”
“No, I just wanted to expose bad guys and protect people, like Clark Kent.”
“So no spandex and cape for you?”
“Spandex is no one’s friend,” but it might just work for Arthur, Merlin thought.
“Indeed.” Arthur glanced at his wristwatch. “I don’t know about you, but I’m hungry. Shall we continue this over lunch?”
“As long as it’s not the Slug and Lettuce,” Merlin murmured to himself but nodded at Arthur’s suggestion.
“Excellent. Let me make a quick call and we’ll leave.”
The call had been to his housekeeper to put together a simple spread on Arthur’s penthouse rooftop garden.
After lunch and the interview, Arthur had invited Merlin to dinner.
Dinner led to dessert which led to dessert which led to breakfast.
It wasn’t until a month later when Merlin’s interview graced the cover of The Economist with a picture of Arthur looking dashing in his business suit without a jacket, only a waistcoat and his collar unbuttoned and his sleeves rolled up his forearms, that Merlin realised something important.
The headline read: The Maverick in the City!
“There you go,” he handed Arthur a pre-release issue of the magazine. “Now you’ll never be without a date.”
Arthur gave him a puzzled look. “But I already have a permanent date. Isn’t that the point of having a boyfriend?”
Arthur pointed at him. “Boyfriend.” He then pointed at himself. “Lucky man.”
Merlin nearly tripped in his haste to kiss his boyfriend.