Title: Another Miracle
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Leon
Summary: Arthur’s still got problems, but his fill-in P.A proves to be helpful after all.
Word Count: 968
Prompt: #61 Broken
Author's Notes:Thank you to inspired_being for the beta. This is a continuation of The Bus Stop, the first two chapters of which can be read on AO3 here.
The two men stared at each other across the desk. Arthur, dripping with coffee, and Merlin wearing a mulish expression.
"You can't talk to me like that," Arthur protested.
"Like what? Call you a royal prat, d’you mean? Well, it's true--you're being awfully rude," Merlin countered.
"Honestly, you are the worst P.A. ever." Arthur fumed. How dare Merlin insult him? Didn't he know who he was?
It did cross Merlin's mind that Arthur could get him fired in a heartbeat, but he still didn't back down. "I'm doing my best here. You can't insult people and call them idiots just because they make mistakes. Honestly, it was an accident and I'm sorry," Merlin offered.
Arthur sighed as his anger drained away. The man had a point. Arthur knew he was quick to temper. "How did you manage to spill the coffee? Are you naturally just a clumsy oaf?" Arthur asked with curiosity and a small laugh.
"Sort of, I guess. I did warn you I would screw up; something always goes wrong. At least now we're even for last night's mud on my trousers."
Seeing Arthur's anger abate, Merlin swallowed his own annoyance and continued, "Look, you said you had an important meeting this afternoon. Why don't you take off your shirt and tie? I'll take them to the cleaners downstairs and ask for a rush job."
It was a sensible idea, Arthur had to admit. "Just the shirt. I have a spare tie in my desk." He proceeded to remove the tie and began unbuttoning his shirt.
As Merlin watched, waiting for the shirt, Arthur felt self-conscious. He wasn't embarrassed about his body--he was fit and knew he was considered good-looking--but the office setting was all wrong. And in front of someone he was interested in but had barely met, it was awkward. He began to blush.
Merlin tried not to stare, but Arthur was so handsome; no, make that gorgeous. Broad shoulders with well-defined muscles. An expanse of golden skin with fine light brown hair scattered across his chest. Interesting, his face and neck were becoming redder--was he blushing? Merlin mentally chided himself for gawking; this was his boss, after all.
Merlin took the shirt from Arthur. "Back as quickly as I can. I'll shut the door and tell Gwen not to let anyone in."
Arthur was mopping the coffee out of his keyboard as he responded, "Good. You do that."
There was a sharp rap on the door, followed by "Arthur, I have to talk to you." It was Leon from Finance.
Arthur first thought of hiding under the desk in his still half-naked state. But that would be nearly as mortifying as being seen shirtless in his office. So he went with a bluff: "Not now, Leon, I'm busy."
"It's urgent, sir. About the Cranfield account and your meeting this afternoon."
Damn. He'd have to talk to Leon, and now. Too late to pretend he wasn't in the office, so he tried his only other option. "Can you call me on the phone instead?"
"Sir? It really would be better face-to-face--I have the numbers marked up that need correcting."
Arthur moved to the door. "Alright, but you have to promise not to laugh and never to tell anyone."
Leon solemnly stated, "You know I'd never betray your trust. I promise." With that assurance, Arthur cracked open the door and let Leon into the office. Leon's eyebrow rose as he took note of Arthur's state of undress.
"Before you get any odd ideas, my shirt is being laundered after that fool of a P.A. spilled coffee all over me."
"I see." Leon replied with a mostly straight face (only the corners of his mouth twitched a bit). "About the Cranfield cost analysis; let me review the changes."
It was after noon when Arthur's office door was flung open and he nearly jumped out of his chair. But it was only Merlin arriving with the cleaned shirt.
"Didn't you ever learn to knock when entering someone's office?" Arthur asked peevishly.
"Uh, yes...no...I guess I haven't had much occasion to enter people's offices. Sorry. Anyway, here's your shirt."
Arthur grabbed the shirt and put it on. He added his spare tie as he spoke, "I have a new crisis that's your fault: my computer is broken and I have to update the presentation before the meeting. See, it won't start up. It just says '301'," Arthur complained as he pointed at the display.
Merlin moved to Arthur's side of the desk, muttering, "And this is my fault, how?" Then louder, to Arthur, "You re-booted it?"
Arthur rolled his eyes. He'd heard the grumbled complaint. "Your fault that there was coffee in the keyboard, remember? And even I know enough that starting it up again is the first thing to try."
Merlin grinned--this would be easy to fix, saving Arthur from a disastrous meeting. "Okay, let’s try replacing the keyboard. I'll take the one off my desk and we'll see if that fixes it."
Arthur's difficulty with the office machines also meant he was lacking in computer skills beyond making charts, spreadsheets and reading and writing emails. So when Merlin was successful in getting the computer to boot up to the familiar screen with icons on it, Arthur thought it was another miracle. "How did you know that would work?" Arthur asked in amazement.
"I have some skills, you know. I learned a bit working after school at my uncle's computer repair shop."
"Well, it looks like magic to me," Arthur replied. Arthur turned his attention to the work to be done before the meeting. "I'll print out the pages and you swap them out for those in the booklets. We need to work fast, as we haven't much time."