Warnings: not betaed, because of reasons
Word Count: 999
There he was again. Arthur stood at the window of his study, crossed his arms in front of his chest and watched. For more than a week, a tall bloke, maybe a bit younger than him, and his golden retriever showed up in his garden and played in the fallen leaves.
Usually, he had his staff chase intruders away, who mistook his garden for a public park. But there was something about the way the man handled his dog that made Arthur want to watch. He caught himself smiling when the dog excitedly brought a branch back that was a lot bigger than the twig the man had thrown for it. But of course, the bloke praised the dog, plucked a few of the leaves out of its longish fur and then threw another stick.
The stick landed in a huge pile of leaves and the dog jumped into it. Arthur could hear the following painful yelp from where he stood, behind the glass. The young man rushed over to his dog, who tried to limp towards him. Oh, the dog had hurt itself.
Before he knew it, Arthur was downstairs, ripped the glass doors to the patio open and jumped down the stairs.
“Is he alright?”
The man kneeled next to the dog and examined the hurt paw while the dog whimpered once in a while. “She.”
“Want to bring him inside? We can call a vet.” Arthur didn’t know what made him invite the stranger – who was nothing but a trespasser in the first place – and his animal inside and he had no idea if veterinarians came to people’s houses.
“Her. Gwen’s a she!” The bloke hadn’t looked at him and tried to coax the dog to get up. When it didn’t, he lifted her up. “Lead the way.”
Arthur rushed back into the house , ripped a blanket off the back of the couch and spread it by the fireplace. Even though the sun was out and it was a perfect autumn day, the nearing winter could already be felt in the air and Arthur had given order to light the fire before.
He watched the man setting the dog down and gently stroking its head. “It’s going to be alright, Gwen. Don’t worry. Stuff happens. I shouldn’t have thrown that stick in there.” Once again, he examined the paw and the dog squirmed.
“Want me to call a doctor?”
For the first time, the bloke looked up at him. “You could call us a taxi. Vets don’t make home visits.” As Arthur was still busy getting over how blue the man’s eyes were, he turned back to the dog. “Any other time, Gwen, any other time. You know we can’t afford that now.” He sat down next to the dog and pulled his beanie off his head and revealed a shock of black hair.
Arthur already got his jacket and his car keys. “I’ll bring you.”
The guy looked up again. “I…no. I can’t…you already let us in. Look, she’s already a lot better here by the fire. If you were kind enough to let us stay until the taxi arrives…”
“Nonsense. I want to know she’s alright.” Arthur had no idea what made him act that way. He didn’t care much about dogs and why he hadn’t the bloke removed from his premises in the first place was beyond him.
He carefully drove them while Merlin, as the guy had introduced himself, gave instructions from the back seat, where he sat with his dog. He sat in the waiting room for more than an hour while Merlin’s dog got an Xray and whatnot. Before Merlin could even argue, Arthur had paid the bill and they were back at the car.
“I’ll…,” Merlin started.
“How about…,” Arthur laughed as they spoke at the same time. “You first.”
“I’ll try to pay you back as soon as I can.”
“Don’t worry about that.”
“You can’t just pay the vet bill for a stranger’s dog just because you live close by the park and happen to witness the accident.”
Arthur chuckled. “The ‘park’ is the private property around my house. And I can be lucky if you don’t sue the hell out of me because the accident happened in one of my leaf piles.”
Merlin gaped. “Private…your…this…isn’t a park?”
Shaking his head, Arthur grinned. “No. You must be new here, people usually know that it’s part of Camelot Mansion.”
“Just moved here from Ealdor. So you’re some kind of Earl or Duke or something?”
Arthur would have been amused by the lack of knowledge this country boy showed, but just then a cold dog-nose nudged his hand. “Looks like your dog is sick of us standing here. How about we’ll have some dinner at my place and I’ll teach you about nobility in this area and who’s related to whom and how likely it is that I will be the King of England one day?”
“King…” Obviously, Merlin didn’t really know if Arthur was taking him on or not.
Before he answered, Arthur had already pulled his mobile out and phoned the house to ask for a light dinner for two and a healthy dinner for a golden retriever with some over-expanded ligaments in its paw.
Hours later, they were sitting on the couch, Merlin animatedly talking, using his hands to gesture and emphasize. Gwen was sleeping on the blanket in front of the fireplace, sometimes twitching as she dreamed her dog-dreams. Arthur didn’t really know what Merlin was talking about, he was too busy taking in the twinkling blue eyes, the black hair that looked perfect for burying yours hands in, the endearingly large ears and the way Merlin’s cheeks seemed to be glowing as he sipped his hot chocolate and peeked at him over the rim of his mug.
If the staff wondered how easily the usually withdrawn young Earl had let a stranger – and a commoner, too! – into his life, they didn’t let on.