Title: The Email Order Bridegroom, Chapter 2
Pairing/s: None, yet
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Warnings: They're not marrying for love.
Word Count: 807
Prompt: Inevitable, 166
Author's Notes: This is Chapter 2 of The Email Order Bridegroom.
Merlin had been envisioning an industrial space with a privacy fence and security, so he was surprised when Arthur pulled into the driveway of a one story Spanish style house on a quiet mid-city street. From the tiled roof and blooming hot pink bougainvillea trailing up one side of the off white plaster front, the house looked quintessentially 1920’s Los Angeles. Merlin thought it looked like a house to raise a family in.
“It’s not perfect, but I needed to find somewhere close to work. Traffic in LA isn’t as bad as everyone says. It’s much, much worse,” Arthur said with a grimace as he unlocked the front door. The living room was just as pretty as the exterior. Hardwood floors, exposed beams, a fireplace surrounded by matte green tiles, large arched leaded glass windows with stained glass accents facing the quiet street all added to the room’s vintage appeal. The furnishings were an eclectic mix of modern and retro and the room looked lived in rather than staged by a decorator.
“It’s nice,” Merlin said once he took it all in. “It’s a lot cozier than I expected.”
“She’s got her quirks but you’ll get used to them. When the air conditioning fails or the water heater decides you don’t really need that hot shower after a twelve hour day it helps to chalk it up to ghosts,” Arthur laughed. “She’s pretty, but she needs work that I can’t seem to find time to tackle.”
They pulled Merlin’s luggage through the dining room and into a short hallway. “Why don’t you hire somebody to fix the electricity and plumbing if they’re a problem?”
“I like to get my hands dirty,” Arthur answered with a shrug, opening the door to a small bedroom. “This is one of the guest rooms. I thought you’d be more comfortable in here before the wedding.” Merlin looked around, admiring the continuation of gleaming hardwoods, arched windows and doorways. He pulled his suitcases over to the side of the full bed and collapsed on it with an approving groan. “Comfy.”
“There’s a Jack and Jill bathroom through here,” Arthur opened a door on a yellow and black tiled bathroom. Merlin got up to take a peek. It was either original to the house or a lovingly reproduced renovation. “This really wasn’t what I was expecting.”
Arthur raised one eyebrow, “And what were you expecting the busy construction company CEO to live in Merlin? An ultra modern mansion with stainless steel beams and corrugated metal accent walls?”
Merlin could feel the blush creeping up his chest and neck, “Well, actually, yeah. That’s what your company builds, so I assumed you’d live in one of Pendragon Construction’s Architectural Digest cover photo showcases. All polished concrete and incomprehensible, lethal looking sculptures. This place is their polar opposite.”
Arthur’s jaw tightened along with his shoulders, and Merlin tensed up in kind, realizing he’d hit a nerve.
“My father is the fan of modern but mainly because concrete and steel are durable and more cost efficient than what my tastes lean to,” Arthur offered stiffly. “I like beautiful things and preserving the craftsmanship that went into this house helps me unwind. Given my druthers, I’d be restoring these places instead of tearing them down and building giant industrial boxes.”
Merlin nodded in understanding, not really knowing what to say to move on from this obviously touchy subject. Fortunately, Arthur’s cell phone chose that moment to go off. He glanced at the screen and said, “Sorry, I have to take this. If you’d like a shower, there are towels in the right hand cabinet under the sink.”
When the hot water cut out while he was soaping up his hair. Merlin laughed and said “Hi, I’m Merlin” to Arthur’s ghost before rinsing off under the cold spray. He wrapped a towel around his waist when he realized he’d failed to bring fresh clothes into the bathroom and was startled to find Arthur standing in his room, pulling what looked to be Winter clothing out of the small closet. Merlin squeaked in surprise and Arthur spun around, arms full of jackets and sweaters.
“Sorry, I made To Do lists but inevitably, something slipped my mind.” Arthur’s eyes had started on Merlin’s face but they slid to his neck and bare chest before coming to rest on the low slung towel.
Merlin waved his hand in front of his face, “Eyes up here, mate,” and Arthur’s eyes snapped back up.
“Sorry,” he said again before returning to emptying the closet.
Merlin unzipped his largest bag and pulled out a pair of jeans and a t-shirt and slipped back into the bathroom to dress. He wiped the condensation off the mirror and gave himself a rueful smile, “I have a feeling this is going to be a very interesting year.”