Title: Behind the Prat
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Merlin gets to know Arthur a bit more.
Word Count: 890
Prompt: #62 Undeniable
Author's Notes:Thank you to inspired_being for the beta. This is a continuation of The Bus Stop, the first three chapters of which can be read on AO3 here. Editted since the late-arriving beta work revealed issues with tense and puncuation that I'm too embarrassed to leave here, uncorrected...:blushing:
Arthur would be finished with the presentation soon. Merlin was waiting in Arthur's office and nervous on his behalf. He distractedly checked Arthur's calendar for Monday. He was double booked twice; he'd have to ask Arthur which meetings to keep and which ones to reschedule.
Merlin allowed himself to daydream a bit. He put his feet up on Arthur's desk and leaned back in his chair. Arthur had said he wanted to get to know Merlin when he picked him up at the bus stop. Well, working for him was one way, but he wasn't sure if he'd ruined that with the coffee spill. And then he'd called Arthur rude and a prat. If he was lucky, they'd let him return to the mail room instead of firing him outright. Damn, Arthur was so stunning to look at with his strong jaw and full lips. Not to mention what Merlin had seen of his muscled torso. But what was underneath the irascible, bad-mannered surface? Was he more than good looks and an arrogant attitude?
"Merlin, what the hell are you doing? Or not doing rather. Get your feet off my desk." Arthur was back and definitely not in a good mood.
Merlin complied immediately and jumped up out of Arthur's chair, almost colliding with Arthur as he tried to dance around the desk. "Sorry. I was working on your calendar here since my computer has no keyboard. I just took a little break." Best to change the subject now. "How did the meeting go?”
"Cranfield wants more time to decide. He wasn't entirely convinced that keeping the local people employed instead of moving the work overseas makes good business sense, despite the marketing opportunities that it would bring, the productivity boost from the flexible work schedules and the work-at-home program. The financial numbers are there, but Cranfield's the type of man who relies on his gut to make decisions. I guess I didn't do enough to convince him." Arthur sighed and slumped in his chair.
Merlin saw the defeat in Arthur's body language and heard it in his voice. Ever the optimist, Merlin suggested, "But you said he asked for more time to decide, so he still may agree with your proposal, right?"
Arthur shrugged his shoulders in response. "I guess it's possible."
"Well, I read through the presentation, Arthur, and you really made your points well. You are supporting the existing employees, making sure they are treated fairly--like people, not property of the company. And you demonstrated how it would be good for Cranfield & Company too."
"Just great. As soon as you replace Cranfield as CEO, the deal will be wrapped up." Arthur managed a meager smile at the thought. "So what were you able to do with my calendar while I was gone?"
"Let me show you." Merlin pulled the mouse and keyboard to his side of the desk.
Merlin and Arthur worked for another hour before Arthur caught himself staring at Merlin while he made the updates on the computer. The lanky man had been running his hand through his hair as he tried to make sense of Sophia's cryptic notes. The raven locks were impossibly tousled now, revealing more of his electric blue eyes. Arthur wanted to run his finger along the sharp cheekbones and down to outline the pouty mouth. Then he'd like to kiss his way up Merlin's throat, sucking along his jaw until he reached the earlobe for a nibble. At this point, he'd forgotten how angry he had been at Merlin earlier for first his clumsiness and then his brash criticism.
"Arthur, are you listening to me? I asked if you have any idea who or what is M-D-R-D. You have a meeting next week and that is all it says. Some kind of doctor's appointment? Or a meeting with the R&D department?"
Arthur burst out laughing. "No, neither of those. That's a who; Mordred, from Internal Auditing. He'll be auditing my expense account at the specific request of my father. I'm very conscientious about what I claim, so I don't know why my father has requested this, unless it's just to annoy me."
"So your father annoys you, eh?" Merlin raised an eyebrow as he studied Arthur's face.
"Our relationship is, well, complicated. He's a stern and demanding man." Arthur wasn't meeting Merlin's eyes any more and his face was devoid of emotion. Clearly, it wasn't a subject he wanted to discuss further. But Merlin plowed on with more questions.
"So is that why you work late all the time? To impress your father?" Merlin enquired with a quizzical look.
Arthur sighed and closed his eyes briefly at the continued questions. "I've always worked extra hard at this job and every job I've had at Camelot Consulting. High expectations come with being the owner's son. From my father, yes, from other employees too, but most importantly, from myself. I have to prove to myself I can do the work without getting any special treatment because of who my father is," Arthur replied earnestly.
Given what he'd just learnt about Arthur, Merlin realized that there was, undeniably, a good and fair man hidden behind the quick-tempered rude exterior. Perhaps Arthur wouldn't fire him after all.