Merlin leans his hands against the dresser, eyes down and closed, forehead creased as he feels his magic flow and burst inside him.
When he opens his eyes to look at himself in the mirror, he sees the light-brown hair on his head switch back to its original colour, morphing slowly, and the eyes that look a hazel color change to an intense gold and quickly fade once again to their natural blue. His head buzzes with exertion and he sighs, listening to his client finishing zipping himself up before standing from the bed.
Merlin turns when he hears footsteps as the man approaches, folding in four the picture of the bloke Merlin just magicked himself into before he takes his wallet out. “Your money,” he tells him dryly, handing him a wad of bills. Merlin presses the heel of his palm to the middle of his forehead to attempt to calm the piercing pain in his skull that is becoming stronger with each transformation. He’s already done this eleven times today, but that’s good, that’s loads of money, and tomorrow is his day off. So thinking about that, he nods and takes the notes. There’s only one client left for today, after all.
“That was quite impressive, by the way, I’ll definitely recommend you to my mates,” the man adds as he opens door and makes his way out of the room without a backwards glance.
Merlin closes it behind the man and takes a deep breath, touching the necklace his mum gave him and he always wears, because it serves to remind him everything he is. But he doesn’t have even a minute to recover before someone is knocking on his door again.
He pushes it open to find Freya there. “Your last client is here,” she says with a sympathetic face.
“Let him in,” Merlin replies after a breath, sneaking inside the bathroom for a second after that. He gives his weak magic and aching body a quiet moment of rest, but as soon as he hears some rustling about the room he has to come out. He can’t make anyone wait.
His client is already there, sitting silently on the bed, but upon listening to the hinges of the door cracking he pushes to his feet and swirls around to look at him. Merlin gathers he’s a businessman because he looks elegant and handsome clad in a black suit, his tie perfectly done around his neck. As Merlin eyes him more closely he catches intriguing blue eyes watching him back beneath a curtain of blonde fringe. At least it’s not going to be such a hard work, this one, Merlin muses.
The man looks him up and down without a hint of shame and with a surprised face before returning his eyes to Merlin’s. “You’re Merlin?”
“Um.” Merlin frowns slightly at the question. “Yeah.” He steps closer, massaging his neck. “Shall we start? I need a name and a picture, a drawing of sorts, or some personal object to be able to turn into that person.”
The man shakes his head, pulling his wallet out of his back pocket. “That won't be necessary."
Merlin stares for a moment, dropping his hand from the nape of his neck. "Sorry?"
The man explains himself by saying in a low voice, "Why would I need you to turn into someone else—” He draws closer as he speaks, staring straight into Merlin’s eyes, like he hasn’t stop doing since Merlin appeared into the room. “When I fancy you just fine like this?”
Merlin is so thrown he’s left speechless. He doesn't understand, no one has ever asked him that. If he’s known amongst all hookers it’s because of his special ability, not because of his physique. He has no charm at all, no appeal, people order him to become someone else because he’s never enough, so he doesn’t understand this man.
"If I'm here’s because I want to forget about someone, not because I want to remember them. I don't want you to have to forget about yourself in the process, too. I want you, just like this, just like you are.” He pauses for a beat, then adds. “I saw your picture on the website and—” The man shrugs one shoulder, shaking his head slightly. “But I wasn’t expecting you looking even better in the flesh.”
Merlin stares for a long moment, coherence all gone. His mind is completely blank and he’s sure his magic has short circuited as well. All he can muster to say is, “I don’t do this.”
The man narrows his eyes at him lightly, but his lips turn up in a soundless smile. Merlin’s eyes widen a fraction at the gesture and he inhales a breath as he watches the man grab more notes from his wallet. “I’ll pay you twice the price for a night with you.”
Merlin shakes his head vigorously, taking a step backwards. “It’s not about money, sir—”
“Arthur,” The man interrupts him. “It’s Arthur.”
“Alright,” Merlin replies. “So it isn’t a money thing, Arthur.”
“Then what is it about?” Arthur asks, now really looking a bit taken aback.
Merlin looks away, and takes a moment before answering. “I’m just not used to people touching me, alright? Touching my real body, I mean. It’s always someone else’s.”
Arthur looks relieved at Merlin’s answer. He moves a step forward again. “Look, let’s just forget about the money, yeah? I’ll leave my wallet there on your dresser and you can take all the money you want at the end of the night, but I really want you. I think you’re sexy and, if you let me, I want to help you feel good and comfortable about your own body.”
Merlin stares at this stranger before him. This is someone who seems to have liked him just by seeing him on a picture and has come to meet him because of that. Someone that’s insisting on spending the night with him, and seems fetching and genuine enough, and Merlin thinks he’s probably never going to have a better offer. This man isn’t one of those people that are either scared of his magic or take advantage of him. This man here, Arthur, is offering him what no one else has offered him before, he’s granting him the chance to be himself and let someone else appreciate him for what he is. No masks, no magic, no transformations. Just himself. Because this time, as he looks into the deepness of Arthur’s eyes, and watches that sparkle of hope and want in his eyes, it feels like he’s good enough for someone.
So in the end, he doesn't have much thinking to do. In the end it seems quite simple. “Alright,” he says, feeling his magic reaching over for Arthur, confirming the desire in him for Merlin as true. And when Arthur nods at him and slowly lays him down on the bed and doesn’t take his eyes off him, Merlin shoves all his fears away and gives his soul away to a man that’s willing to accept and appreciate him for who he truly is.