Title: Paved With Good Intentions
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Morgana, Lancelot, Mithian, Cenred
Summary: Morgana has an extra job for Merlin when they arrive in Los Angeles. He's not sure it's in his job description.
Word Count: 1703 (sorry)
Author's Notes: Written for camelot_drabble prompt 174 - 'intent', and also fills the 'fish out of water' square of my merlin_writers trope bingo (that's 16/25 done). With special thanks to Lian and Polo in Merlin chatzy, who were most helpful with Merlin's wardrobe.
This is the fifth part of the 'Impressions' series, which can all be found on A03 here.
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.
Here on A03
Paved With Good Intentions
Los Angeles was the first stop on their tour. It might be the City of Angels, but to Merlin the place felt vast and overwhelming as soon as they left the plane. Apparently it was the fifth busiest airport in the world, and Merlin could easily believe that just from the number of people he could see milling around. The arrival and departure boards were listing gates well into the hundreds. It was a long way from the tiny Welsh village of Ealdor, where he’d grown up.
“Chin up, Merlin,” Lance urged. “That outfit’s all about confidence and charisma.”
Merlin really liked Lance, most of the time. Now was not one of those times. The man was one of Pendragon’s most famous designers, and had come up with the completely bonkers idea of making Merlin wear one of his designs while they travelled through the airport. It was linen, so he had to avoid sitting down in case it creased, and he had to be careful not to spill anything on it so no food or drink. That was a pity, because he had been too scared during the flight to feel like eating much, and as soon as they landed he was starving.
The restrooms were apparently off limits too.
“Remember the time you came back soaked because you’d turned a tap on in the men’s room too hard?” Arthur reminded him. “Can’t risk it in that.”
“Maybe you should wear it instead,” Merlin grumbled. He hated the jacket and trousers already. They might be the best thing ever for the spring season, but he preferred his hoodie and jeans.
“It looks better on you,” Morgana assured him, earning herself a glare from her brother.
Merlin thought it would look better on any of them but him, although he appeared to be alone in that belief. He tried to hold his head up, and immediately stumbled over Gwen’s case.
“Careful, Merlin,” Morgana urged. “Arthur,” she waved a perfectly manicured hand at her brother. “Walk with Merlin and make sure he doesn’t trip over anything.”
“You ask the impossible,” Arthur told her, but moved to Merlin’s side anyway.
Having Arthur there didn’t help at all, it just made Merlin even clumsier. Arthur tended to have that effect on him. He tripped over nothing in particular almost immediately.
“Take his arm, Arthur,” Morgana advised.
Merlin wasn’t sure what Morgana’s intention was. Arthur’s sister always scared him a little, though Gwen seemed to think she was wonderful, and Gwen was rarely wrong about people. Now, though, Gwen was beaming at him happily, raising an eyebrow when Arthur took his arm as ordered.
“I’m the wrong person to be showing off Lance’s creations,” Merlin muttered.
“Oh no,” Arthur replied. “What Morgana wants, Morgana gets. Has she told you about the photoshoot yet?”
“What?” Merlin stopped dead in his tracks. “What photoshoot?”
“Keep up!” Morgana called back, stopping to wait for them.
“She got a message while we were in the air. Apparently one of the models for Lance’s line had to drop out at the last minute. You’ll be standing in.”
“But…” Merlin’s mouth opened and closed a few times but he couldn’t think of anything to say.
“You’ve done it before, you’ll be fine, Merlin,” Morgana assured him.
“No I haven’t! Arthur!”
Arthur just shrugged. “Nothing to do with me.”
“I work for you!”
“That’s true. Any other duties that might be so required I think it says in the JD, yes?”
“Good,” Morgana agreed. “That’s all settled. Come along now, or we’ll be late.”
It was fine for Morgana, Merlin thought sulkily as he followed in her wake. She oozed style effortlessly as she swept ahead of them into the VIP area of LAX (which, apparently, was the name of the airport and not a treatment for constipation). She probably posed for pictures every day.
“I was supposed to be taking my mum on holiday,” he grumbled. He thought Arthur did at least look a little bit guilty.
The Los Angeles hotel was every bit as luxurious as Gwen had promised him.
He had his own room, although it was right next door to Arthur’s suite. (“Close by in case he needs you,” Morgana had told him. Merlin was starting to see why Arthur got so annoyed with her so regularly.) It had a huge bathroom with a Jacuzzi bath, and a bedroom bigger than Merlin’s entire flat.
“Enjoy it,” Gwen warned. “I’m still having trouble finding you anywhere in the hotel for the Vegas leg of the trip.”
Merlin did enjoy it. The picture window had views all across the city. He took a few photos and a short video tour of the room, then uploaded it to a shared folder on Dropbox so that his mother could see. She’d been excited about him going, far more than he had been.
After he’d inhaled the burger he’d ordered from room service, he took advantage of the gigantic bathroom. He’d never had a Jacuzzi all to himself before. Perhaps he’d lost track of time…
He’d not expected Arthur to appear in the doorway. Actually, he’d not expected anyone to, he had thought it was a private room. Arthur had opened the bathroom door, stared, and then very quickly turned his back.
“We’ve been calling you. The concierge had to let me in. You’re late!” He didn’t look around, just called over his shoulder before he left. “Be in the lobby in five minutes, Merlin. Dressed, please. We don’t want to frighten the locals.”
Actually, it was Arthur who had looked frightened, Merlin thought as he hurriedly towelled himself dry and pulled on some clothes before running out to join his boss.
Arthur still seemed to be having trouble looking at him. “Don’t worry about it, Merlin. Come on, we’re late.”
It was strange, Arthur thought, that nobody seemed to know anything about the supposedly missing model.
They’d been at the photoshoot for the spring range for over an hour and not one single person had mentioned the unreliability of the person, the lack of professionalism, or any of the gossip that normally accompanied an absent model. He’d been to a lot of these things since taking over the company, and it was decidedly unusual.
“Lucky Merlin was able to step in,” he commented to the photographer.
“Huh?” the man, Cenred, Arthur thought he was called, just looked at him blankly.
“My assistant, Merlin. He’s standing in for your absent model.”
“There’s no absent model,” Cenred told him. “Just my usuals and that amateur you’ve brought with you. I’ll do my best, but if he ruins the shoot I’m not taking responsibility.”
Arthur decided he didn’t much like Cenred. He had long dark hair, even longer than Gwaine’s, and he was a bit too good-looking for Arthur’s liking. But at least the man had confirmed his suspicions. He wasn’t sure why Morgana had done it, because she seemed to like Merlin, and Merlin was going to hate doing this, but he knew that for whatever reason, she’d decided she wanted Merlin to stand around in their spring designs.
Merlin had gone off to get ready some time ago. His hair had been sticking up at angles, still wet from the bath… and Arthur definitely wasn’t thinking about Merlin in the jacuzzi. If only Morgana had gone in to find Merlin instead. But no, she’d insisted he went in.
Cenred gave a low whistle, grinning appreciatively at something behind Arthur. Arthur heard Merlin grumbling and complaining and, with a sinking feeling, he turned to look at his assistant.
Merlin was wearing one of the shirts from Lance’s range. A crisp, linen, light blue undershirt to be precise. He’d buttoned it right up, but Mithian was fussing around him, insisting on having some of the buttons undone.
The shirt appeared to be all that Merlin was wearing. It was long, and Arthur was grateful for that small mercy, but then so were Merlin’s legs, and they were nicely on display.
“There are no trousers,” Merlin pointed out. Because Arthur hadn’t noticed that for himself, no.
“It’s leisurewear,” Mithian told him.
“It’s going to sell it,” Cenred agreed. “Okay, British, over there, we’ll start with a few shots by the window.”
Merlin gave Arthur a look that clearly said ‘help me.’ There wasn’t a lot Arthur could do though. He tried to smile and nod reassuringly, but even he knew that was coming out as a sort of grimace.
“Someone give him a book and geek glasses,” Cenred ordered. “Sit up on the windowsill, British. One leg hanging down.”
“How does this show the shirt off?” Merlin grumbled as he complied.
“Looks good, looks good… okay, roll the sleeves up, let’s see your arms…”
“This isn’t that kind of shoot,” Arthur growled.
“Morgana!” Cenred yelled. There was really no need to yell, Arthur thought, given she was standing right there watching poor Merlin’s discomfort. “Get the jealous boyfriend out of here, you know the rules.”
“Arthur’s not my boyfriend!” Merlin squeaked. “He’s my boss!”
“I’m head of the company that’s paying you,” Arthur pointed out.
“Co-head,” Morgana reminded him. “Now hush and let Cenred work. Merlin, darling, bend over the counter there so we can get a good shot of the hemline… that’s it.”
The shirt rode up as he leaned over, and Arthur got a good view of the tight boxers underneath.
They had two weeks of this. Photoshoots and conferences and fashion shows… he just hoped she wasn’t going to make poor Merlin take to the catwalk as well. No, he’d fall over his own feet. Even Morgana wouldn’t do that to him.
“Stand up and stretch, like you’ve just got up. Don’t be shy, you look great. Sleepy… sexy… ah, perfect.”
There was a hell just for Arthur, and it was full of half-dressed Merlin, looking very much as if he’d just tumbled out of bed. Arthur knew he was never going to get the vision out of his head. The Jacuzzi memory was going to take a long time to fade as well.
And that, Arthur realised, was probably Morgana’s intention. He glared at her and she smiled back, smugly.