Title: Call Me Arthur
Summary: Modern AU. Arthur gets a wrong text.
Word Count: 1536 (oops)
Prompt: #183, "rendezvous"
Author's note: So, it's more about a planned rendezvous, and then a suggested rendezvous rather than any actual real rendezvous, but this was turning into a much longer fic than I originally intended so I had to cut it off somewhere, right?
hope we're still on for Sat.
Arthur stared at the text, reading it over and over and over again as if that would change its structure and convey a different meaning. But no, each time it was exactly the same, and while he rather liked the optimistic tone of the message, it had one very distinct problem.
He had no idea who it was from.
The number was local to Warwick, but unidentified, leaving Arthur with the serious conundrum of what to do. He very much doubted the text was meant for him. He had no plans for Saturday except for his early shift at the gym, his usual hours so it couldn't be from someone he might've switched with. The logical conclusion was that someone had keyed in the wrong phone number, in which case his best bet was to simply ignore it.
A half hour later, his phone buzzed again.
lmk where to pick u up.
So much for pretending he'd never got the message in the first place. Whoever it was expected a response.
Sorry you have wrong number.
The next text came before he'd set down his phone.
Is this Leon?
Is this Leon's phone?
Arthur rolled his eyes. Who was this? No, it's my phone & I don't know who Leon is.
So who are u?
The question stumped him. What did it matter who he was? Clearly, the sender had made a mistake, so the obvious reaction should've been, "Oh, sorry about that, won't trouble you anymore," and then set off to find out what number should've been used instead of the one actually used.
"Oh, for fuck's sake," he muttered. His fingers flew across his keypad.
I'm the king of England, so unless you're the queen, stop texting me.
There. He looked at his phone in satisfaction. That should settle it.
He had barely read a paragraph in the text for his Law of Trusts module when a new sound came from his phone. The ring tone. Same number as the texts. He didn't trust that his anonymous texter would just let it go if he didn't pick up. After all, he or she hadn't let it go when he told them to bugger off on the texts, either.
He braced himself for the worst as he answered. "H'lo?"
"Hi." The bright feminine voice satisfied at least one question. "I'm looking for the king of England."
All the bravado he'd felt in the anonymity of the texts fled at how chirpy she sounded. What had he been thinking? He could've been talking to a pensioner old enough to be his nan. And certainly if his father ever heard how cavalier he'd been with a stranger, he'd never hear the end of it.
Of course, that relied on Uther actually acknowledging him long enough to discover what he'd done. Considering Arthur had spent most of his life in the care of others so his father didn't have to face the daily reminder of why he'd lost his wife, that was highly unlikely.
"Looks like you've found him," he replied. The best he could do, really. He had no idea why she might've called except to yell at him.
"You are not what I expected."
This, he could answer. "That's because you expected some bloke named Leon."
She laughed. It wasn't one of those high giggles he heard from so many other girls, the kind that made him grit his teeth and wish for an ice pick to drive into his brain to kill the sound, but rich and melodic instead. "I suppose I did think that maybe he was having me on. But honestly, this was the number he gave me, so I wasn't bothering you to be annoying or anything."
The more she said, the more he began to suspect this Leon had been the one to lead her astray, giving a different number than his own to get out of speaking to her again. Arthur actually began to feel a bit sorry for this mysterious girl, no matter how happy she sounded.
"You'll have to track him down some other way, then." Because that seemed too curt even to his ears, he added, "Sorry I can't be of any help."
"That's all right. I know where he works. We'll get it sorted."
But she wasn't hanging up. "I'm Gwen, by the way."
The polite thing was to respond in kind. "Arthur."
"Am I interrupting you at work?"
"No, I'm studying."
"Oh! You sounded older than that. Do you go to Warwick?"
Her assumption was more irritating than the call had been. "Yes, but how old did you think I was?" Maturity was one thing. It would serve him well once he graduated. People would take him seriously. But if he came across as stodgy on the phone, that was a step too far. He was not even twenty-one, for God's sake.
"Oh, I don't know. Thirty, maybe? You were pretty short with me about the texts."
"That's because you weren't believing me."
"I told you why."
"That's not my problem. And I'm sorry, but this Leon sounds like a right prat if he's not giving you the right number. Maybe you shouldn't bother him at work. You're likely better off anyway."
She laughed. "He's not a prat. He's just not that keen on technology."
"If you say so."
"Listen, Arthur, what're you doing on Saturday?"
The sudden change of topic made him pause. "Why?"
"Well, I was texting Leon because I needed a date for a department party I have to go to. Awful thing, really. If there was any way for me to get out of it, I would. But since I can't get a hold of Leon right away, I was thinking maybe you would like to go with me, instead."
He was as dumbfounded as he'd been when she first called. A date. She was asking him out. On a date. "You don't know me."
"I know you're funny."
Nobody had ever called him funny before. "I don't know you."
"That's what dates are for."
"We've never even met."
"We're talking, aren't we?"
"That's not the same."
"So let's meet in person. A coffee rendezvous. You name the time and place."
This conversation was going from weird to weirder with every passing second. "I don't think so."
"Because as far as you know, I could be a troll or a stalker or some kind of freak. I get it. It's okay. I probably would've already hung up if you'd tried the same with me." She sighed. "I just really don't want to go to this party, if you can't tell. I'm a little desperate for anything that's going to get me to stop thinking about it."
"Why's that?" As soon as the question popped out, Arthur chastised himself. He didn't know this girl. It didn't matter that he could feel the disquiet in her tone as she talked about the commitment she wanted out of.
"The department head is out for blood. Dr. Aredian is using the party as an excuse to decide who's getting culled. I was hoping not to embarrass myself."
"By asking out a stranger?"
"You don't have the power to completely wreck my future."
"No, I guess that's true." Though Dr. Aredian was in charge of the civil engineering program, his reputation filtered across courses and campus. Intimidating and chillingly dogged in what he thought was rooting out those he considered inferior. Unfortunately for his students, that was almost everybody. "You want someone to go with you that you trust, then."
"I had someone. Then I got you."
"Thanks," he said wryly.
"But you're right. That's why it seemed like fate when I ran into Leon again after all these years. Everybody always likes him. I thought if I went with him, I'd be relaxed and Dr. Aredian just might like him enough to think more highly of me."
So this Leon hadn't been a cad. That was one positive at least.
"Get the phone situation sorted out with him and take him along," Arthur said. "I'm sure it'll work out just like you hope."
"You know, when you say it like that, I actually believe you. Thank you, Arthur."
Unbidden, he smiled. Her gratitude felt genuine, though in all fairness, he got the impression everything about her was genuine. "You can't go wrong with royal advice."
"No, I suppose you can't," she laughed. "Goodbye, your majesty."
He set the phone aside feeling lighter than he'd answered, though it had likely been the oddest conversation of his life. As he dove back into his textbook, another text came through.
When you tell ur mates about this crazy girl who texted u, make me sound clever, k?
Arthur laughed. His fingers were flying over his keyboard almost immediately.
That would just be telling the truth.
Ah, ur a charmer.
So sayeth the king of England.
He leaned back in his chair, his thumb running along the edge of the phone. When he realized he was starting to talk himself out of sending one last message, he shook himself and keyed it in.
Call me Arthur.