Summary: Arthur's flight's cancelled and he's stuck at an airport in the middle of nowhere.
Word Count: 3350
Author's Notes: I started writing this ficlet when I, too, was stuck at an airport in Aruba and thought about what Merlin and Arthur would do! I hope you enjoy it, amarie_authiel. I didn't have enough time to give you everything you'd requested so I hope that me adding on 'art' will make up for it! Happy Holidays! - DIG
Disclaimer:Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.
Arthur roamed the halls of the tiny airport up and down looking for an empty seat that was next to a plug. He needed to charge his mobile. He needed to connect his laptop. He needed to get in touch with Gwen as soon as possible and get the heck out of Ealdor. Where in the bloody hell was Ealdor, anyway?
The only positive thing about his angry walk up and down the corridors of this tiny airport in the middle of nowhere was the fact that he got to look into the newspaper shop and check out the cute bloke that worked behind the counter. Arthur thought about walking into the shop and buying a coke so he could chat up the bloke, but what was the point of it, really? This was a middle of nowhere place and there was no way this bloke would entertain Arthur's flirting, if he was even gay, and in a place like that—was anyone would even be out?
Finally! A woman stood up and gathered her three children along with their luggage and walked towards the loo. This was Arthur's one and only chance. Her kids were all on their iPads and they were all plugged into the wall; with her out of the way, Arthur could plug in his phone and charge it up a bit. Until she came back, anyway, then if she wanted her seat back, Arthur would feel obliged to give it back to the woman and her kids.
The other advantage of this seat was the vantage view of the newspaper shop. Arthur quickly plugged in his mobile and turned it on. Five text messages from Gwen, three voicemails from Morgana and one very angry email from his father. Arthur called Gwen first.
As the phone rang, Arthur looked into the shop again and watched as the cute bloke spoke to his co-worker. The cute bloke, who Arthur liked to refer to as Big Ears, was turning red and it looked as though the woman that was talking to him wasn't actually talking, but scolding him. Arthur was too far to be able to hear what was happening, but he was certain that there was definitely some tension between the woman and Big Ears.
"Arthur?" Gwen voice was soothing and Arthur sighed with relief.
"Please tell me you have some good news for me, Guinevere."
"Unfortunately, I don't, Arthur," she said. "I looked into your flight but because of the weather, everything has been cancelled or delayed for twelve hours. I also tried to find you a room in a nearby inn, but they're all booked up. The car rental place is also shut down so you can't even drive out of there. It looks like that you're stuck there for the time being. Arthur, I'm so sorry!"
Gwen sounded like she was on the verge of tears and Arthur couldn't have that.
"It isn't your fault, Gwen," he said.
"I know. But I could have just said all the flights were booked and you didn't—"
"My father would have found another way for me to get to this business meeting. I just can't believe that I'm stuck at this airport on a layover and just—" Arthur sighed, trying not to get worked up about this again. "Well, the good news is that the meeting went well and we are going to merge with Citadel Designs and we'll be able to announce the merger by the New Year."
"That's great, Arthur. I'm sure Uther will be proud."
Arthur snorted. "Don't expect a Christmas miracle, Gwen," he said.
"Okay. What are you going to do now?"
"I don't know. I don't have much of a choice. I'll have to stay here until—"
"I'll keep calling the airline to get an update and get back to you as soon as I can book you on something and somewhere—"
"Gwen," Arthur said, calmly. "You're supposed to go out for your anniversary dinner with Lance, don't think I've forgot that. Don't worry too much about me. I'll manage. I don't want to ruin your night just because I'm—"
"Gwen. I'm serious."
She sighed into the phone as if Arthur was really twisting her arm. "Fine, but I will keep checking up on you."
"Well, as long as my mobile will have charge, I'll keep answering," he said.
"Be careful, Arthur."
"Have a good time tonight, Gwen," Arthur said and disconnected the call. He checked the battery life on his phone and it was up to three percent. When he looked up, the woman with the three children was back and was eyeing him. She didn't look terribly upset, just disappointed so Arthur stood up from the seat and gestured for her to come back and claim it. She smiled at him and made her way towards Arthur. Her three kids following.
"Do you mind if I keep my mobile plugged in for a few more minutes?" Arthur asked and she nodded.
As convenient as it was for Arthur to stay standing there with his mobile plugged in, and as well intentioned the woman seemed to be, her children were a whole new story. They each had their own iPads or tablets to play on and they had the volume turned up high. It was painful to just stay there and listen to these minions rattle on and Arthur was sure that if he heard Let it go one more time, he would actually kill himself.
As soon as the battery charge on his mobile hit ten percent, he unplugged his mobile and went to find a seat at the only bar at the airport.
The bar, The Rising Sun, wasn't as crowded as Arthur had feared, yet, they didn't have any electric plugs. Arthur ordered a stout and resisted the urge to browse through his phone; he needed to conserve the battery. Instead, he opted for the Kindle he'd packed and decided to re-read Horns, since the film was due to come out in the next year and he was sure that Morgana was going to drag him to the cinema. She also hated that Arthur read the books before they went to see a film and he couldn't think of a better reason to be more well-versed with the Joe Hill novel.
The bartender, whose name tag indicated was called Will, served Arthur his stout and walked away before Arthur could pay him. Arthur reckoned that people were more trustworthy in small towns. If this was Camelot City airport, the man would have demanded payment and tip before serving Arthur. At least now he knew that no one would bother him and he could rely on pub food for a while.
"Hey, Will." Arthur heard someone stand next to him and call the bartender.
"Oh hey, Merlin," Will, the bartender, answered. Arthur barely looked up from his Kindle.
"Can I get a shot before I've to get back—"
"Isn't she going to have a cow—"
"Come on, since when do you care?"
Will laughed. "I don't care, but if you get sacked, then I'll have to quit too, and you know my Da will have my head for it."
"I still don't understand why you have to always stick by me like that. I'm only trouble." The man that stood next to Arthur laughed and Will laughed along with him. Clearly they were really good friends and Arthur felt like he was intruding in a private moment, even if he'd got there first.
Will poured the man next Arthur a shot of Jameson that he quickly gulped. "Fucking 'ell," the man murmured. "That's what I'm talking about. You're the best, mate!"
Arthur finally looked up from the novel and grabbed the pint glass that was in front of him. He took a sip of the stout and gradually glanced at the man standing next to him. He couldn't believe his luck—it was Big Ears. Fuck, he had a sexy voice.
Arthur almost choked on his beer when Big Ears smiled at him. He gave the man a curt nod and returned to reading the Kindle, except, this time he didn't read a word on the page and felt Big Ears' gaze on him.
"You were watching me earlier," the man said. Arthur didn't respond because he wasn't sure if Big Ears was talking to him. The man leaned in closer to Arthur and placed his elbows at the bar. "I saw you looking."
Arthur looked up again and gave Big Ears, whose name he recalled as Merlin, a once-over. "It's kind of a small airport; there's nothing much to look at."
"Stuck here for the night?" Merlin asked ignoring Arthur's retort. Arthur nodded. "The airport is going to shut down at seven o'clock. Got plans after?"
Arthur shook his head. "The inn is full up and the car rental place is also closed."
Arthur started with the piercing noise and Merlin immediately stood up straight. "I've gotta go," he said and scurried away.
Arthur watched Merlin run off, mainly ogling his arse and when he returned his gaze back at the bar, Will, the bartender, was staring at him. "Friend of yours?" Arthur asked, as casually as he could.
Will nodded. "Best friend."
"Does he always just start chatting up strangers and want to know their plans?"
Will shook his head. "No. Must think you're cute or something."
Arthur suppressed a smile at that. So much for small-town-in-the-closet-hopeless scenario he had in his head.
As the other patrons of the bar started to leave after their boarding was announced, Arthur found himself alone at the bar. Almost everyone around him was gone. His flight still hadn't been announced and it seemed like everyone else that was supposed to be on the same plane as him had made other arrangements. He had no idea what he was going to do.
Arthur checked his mobile knowing fully well that Gwen wouldn't have anything for him, especially since he'd made her promise that she was going to go out for Lance for their anniversary. They'd got together on Christmas Eve and Arthur couldn't do that to his best friend and his assistant.
Arthur was about to order another drink from Will when he saw Will checking his own mobile and shaking his head. "Idiot," Will murmured. He looked up at Arthur and for some reason, Arthur just knew knew knew that Will had just received a message from Merlin and it was about him.
"Merlin wants to know if you want to come out with us tonight since you won't really have anywhere else to go." Will's tone was dry and it was as if he was just saying what Merlin had messaged him. "I reckon you don't really have a choice," he added. "Merlin's kind of set in his own ways and won't let it go," he added after that.
When Arthur didn't respond right away, Will rolled his eyes.
"Listen..." Will searched Arthur's face.
"Right, Arthur," he said and turned to pour Arthur another drink without him asking for it. "Merlin's my best friend and he's kind of an idiot, but he's also got a big heart. Sure he thinks you're hot, wait, don't tell him I told you that, but he also knows that you're stranded and even if you were a troll with a blue face and oozing blisters all over, he would have offered you a place for tonight."
Will shook his head and placed the stout in front of Arthur. "So what should I tell him?"
"What else did he say about me?" Arthur asked and picked up his drink. He took a long sip from it as he waited for Will to answer.
"It's destiny," Will said, matter-of-factly.
"What's destiny?" Arthur asked, confused.
"I don't know. He goes off about these things..."
"Fine," Arthur said.
"Fine?" Will asked, raising an eyebrow.
"I'd be honoured," Arthur replied. "That's very kind of you and your friend and you two really are doing me the biggest favour in the universe. So, yeah. That'll be brilliant."
"You rich and royalty types really get flustered so easily." Will smiled and took away Arthur's empty pint glass. "I'll tell him you shrugged and said okay."
Arthur laughed. "Are you suggesting I should play hard to get?" Will didn't answer and turned towards the till. "How much do I owe you?" Arthur asked after he noticed that all the businesses around them were starting to shut their lights off.
"The drinks are on the house," Will replied. "But don't forget to tip your bartender." He gave Arthur a grin and returned to his work.
Arthur opened his wallet and took out a fifty pound note. "Thank you," he said.
Will turned to look at Arthur's tip and his smile only grew bigger. He snatched the money off the counter and pocketed it. "Well, I like you better already than all of his other ex-boyfriends."
The bar phone rang and Arthur wasn't able to finish off his thought. Will looked like he was talking to his boss on the phone and he completely ignored Arthur. After he got off the phone, he counted the till up and someone stopped by his station to collect the bag of money and receipts; Arthur reckoned it was his manager.
"Merlin's shop is open for another half an hour so we can leave and he'll join us in a bit," Will said.
Arthur nodded and followed Will with his luggage in tow. They walked all the way to the end of the corridor and entered the "Employees Only" section. Then Will guided him toward the Employee Parking Garage and then opened the trunk of his car so Arthur could place his luggage in.
"I've got to pick up my girlfriend, too, so you mind sitting in the back? I reckon you're used to be chauffeured around, anyway."
Arthur shook his head. "No. I know how to drive a car and everything," he said rolling his eyes. "What I am also used to is sitting in the back seat because my mates want their girlfriends to sit up front." He winked at Will and opened the door behind the driver's seat.
Will didn't answer but Arthur was sure he knew what the man was probably thinking. They drove out of the garage onto the main motorway and for ten minutes neither one of them said anything. Eventually, Will pulled up in front of a small house. He honked twice.
"That's classy," Arthur muttered under his breath.
"Excuse me?" Will said.
"How long have you been seeing this girl?" Arthur asked.
"A few months," Will answered, sounding annoyed.
"I gave you a tip before. I'll give you another one. If you want to keep seeing her, why don't you walk up to the door. Ring the bell. Greet her like a proper gentleman?"
Will scoffed and stayed seated. Eventually, he unbuckled his belt and walked up to the door of the small house. It really was a very lovely house, Arthur thought. The garden was mostly covered in snow and it looked like a little winter wonderland.
He watched Will knock on the front door and a woman opened it looking surprised. She launched herself at Will and pulled him in, closing the door of the house behind them. Arthur chuckled to himself and wondered if Will was going to thank him for the huge favour he just did with his sage advice. He opened his mobile and sent a message to Gwen letting her know that the airport was shutting down and he was going to some bloke's house for a Christmas party. Gwen immediately wrote back telling him to be careful and keep his mobile charged.
A few minutes later, Will was heading back to the car with his arm wrapped around the girl's waist. They both looked deliriously in love and if Arthur wasn't used to being around a couple in love all the time (Gwen and Lance), he would have vomited with the sappiness of it.
Will opened the door for his girlfriend and she gave Arthur a huge grin as soon as she entered. "Hi, I'm Kara," she said.
"Hi, I'm Arthur," he said.
"Will." Will nodded, entering the car and closing the door. Kara giggled and slapped Will on the shoulder and Will started to drive away from the small house with the wintery garden.
"So Arthur, what brings you to Ealdor?"
"A supposed forty five minute layover, that's turned into twelve hours," Arthur replied dryly. "Sorry. I just—"
"I understand, it's Christmas," Kara said. "It must be hard being away from your family."
"It's not that. Not really, I mean—" Arthur hesitated. "Well. I'm not much for family. My mum died when I was born and my father and I aren't really close. I've got a half-sister but she's in the French Alps with her boyfriend. I've got my best friends— I just like being home for Christmas, even if it's just me and my Xbox."
"Nothing wrong with that," Will said, not taking his eyes off the road.
Arthur smiled at Kara again and looked out the window. He realised that they were going back to the airport. "Hey are we—"
"We've got to pick up Merlin. He should be done with the shop by now," Will said.
When Will had told him that Merlin was going to come by later, he hadn't realised that they were going to be in the same car. Not that it mattered, really. Or so he told himself. He didn't know why he was so nervous. He'd been the one who had noticed Merlin first and Merlin had only probably approached him because Arthur was probably being really obvious about the fact that he was eyeing Merlin. All of this was getting way too convoluted for Arthur, who was used to just have a very simple day-to-day life.
Will stopped the car outside the Employee Garage and they waited until Merlin came rushing out and all but ran into the car. "Oh Merlin! How many times have I told you to slow down?" Will yelled at his friend when he entered the car. Merlin hadn't even given Arthur a second glance.
"Mate, I needed to get the hell out of there. I just quit."
"You what?" Kara exclaimed.
"Yeah, just about done with this place so I'm done. I'm going to Uni in January, anyway." Merlin winked at Kara and then turned to grin at Arthur. "I see you decided to tag along after all."
"Not like I really had a choice," Arthur said, dryly. Then checked himself for a moment. "I mean, thanks for the invitation. I was rather stranded. Everything's closed for Christmas and—"
"No problem!" Merlin slapped Arthur back and then turned to tap on Kara's shoulder. "Kara did you get the thing I wanted?"
"You want that now?"
"Of course I want that now!"
"What thing?" Will asked.
Kara shook her head and gave a box to Merlin. Merlin opened it and dangled the thing above his head. Arthur turned to look at it and then shook his head, unable to suppress his smile.
"It's tradition," Kara said when Arthur eventually rolled his eyes at the plastic mistletoe that Merlin was holding.
"Come on, just a quick one," Will said, teasing; clearly encouraging Merlin's antics.
"Why do I feel like this is a trap?" Arthur asked. He hesitated for a moment and it wasn't until Merlin had leaned in just a bit, Arthur leaned in too and they kissed. A quick, soft, and slightly wet kiss.
"It's not a trap," Merlin said. "It's destiny." His grin was so wide that Arthur almost believed him. Almost. What did he know about destiny, anyway?
Later, Arthur found out that Merlin was starting his second year of university at none other than Camelot U, and they'd decided that they were going to keep in touch.
“There's nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be...” ― John Lennon
EDIT: THIS IS NOW A SERIES. READ PART TWO: BOYFRIENDS