Title: The Email Order Bridegroom, Chapter 15
Rating: This will be R eventually
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Arthur has a plan to stay in the United States. That plan is Merlin.
Warnings: None, really, unless there needs to be a warning for obliviousness and not talking about feelings.
Word Count: 1227
Author's Notes: This is a continuation of The Email Order Bridegroom which starts here.
Merlin goes online to map out and research places that he may want to stop on the way to Rascal’s. The Original Farmer’s Market is first but it’s late in the day and what little produce there is has been picked over. There are a seemingly infinite array of food stalls, though, so he peruses offerings of candy, crepes, felafel and specialty food shops. There’s even a wine and cheese bar and a 24 hour diner that looks straight out of the 1940’s. He makes a mental note to ask Arthur if it’s any good before heading south.
Six lanes of traffic whizz by, filling the air with noise and exhaust. There is a lot to see but Merlin finds himself getting a headache from the interminable honking and smell, so he heads down a quieter residential street running parallel to La Brea for several blocks before rejoining the chaos of rush hour.
His eye is caught by a children’s bookstore window display featuring a giant, detailed papier mache Max riding high in a parade of Wild Things. At the monsters’ feet are a foot tall Huckle the Cat and Lowly Worm in his apple car. Taped inside the window is a poster promoting a children’s theater group performing Pinocchio on stage in the store so Merlin puts their information into his phone to call and see if they’re hiring.
Some blocks south is Whimsic Alley, a store that is all about Harry Potter, Doctor Who and Game of Thrones. Merlin had read raves about the place online and it does not disappoint. There’s a replica iron throne (with a stuffed wolf lounging on the seat). In a corner of the Doctor Who room a life size TARDIS houses a Murphy bed, and there’s a party room set up as The Great Hall at Hogwart’s, candles hanging from the ceiling and everything!
There are school robes, wands, chocolate frogs and butter beer. Merlin picks up a few beautifully crafted wands, checking their weight in his hand. None select him.
He hesitates taking a selfie in front of Platform 9¾ because Arthur’s such a snoop, he’d surely find it and post it all over facebook. A second later, Merlin thinks fuck it and takes the shot, immediately posting it himself. Merlin smiles, thinking Now who’s the dork?
Morgana instantly likes the photo, posting a wand wielding wizard emoticon. A second later, Arthur posts Dork with a smiley face. Merlin replies Takes one to know one.
There’s a box of twenty dollar mystery bags near the check out counter that Merlin sifts through until he finds a bag that feels right, buying it and a box of Bertie Bott’s Every Flavour Beans to share with Arthur. He’ll try to make sure Arthur gets sausage. When he checks his watch, it’s already five past five. Fortunately, the bar is less than a block away.
The small bar is nearly full by the time Merlin pushes through the front door. He scans the crowd but it looks like he’s beaten Arthur even though he’s ten minutes late. A petite blond in a black button down and slacks approaches him. “Hi, welcome to Rascal. Do you have a reservation?”
Merlin looks around at the few empty tables. “Um, do I need one?”
The hostess smiles politely, “We’ve actually got these tables reserved, so we don’t want to disappoint. We’re totally booked up though there’s room at the bar. “
“My husband may have made reservations, Arthur Pendragon?” Merlin hasn’t used the word husband often and it gives him a little thrill.
She looks down at her clipboard and shares a more genuine smile. “Yes, you must be Merlin. He specifically requested a table by the window. Follow me, please.” Once he’s settled she hands him two menus and puts two more at the empty seat opposite, “Here’s the Drinks menu and our Happy Hour and dinner menu. We’re serving both now. Happy Hour goes until seven. Your waitress will be right with you.”
Before looking at the offerings, Merlin pulls out his phone and texts Arthur.
I’m here. Where R U?
Arthur immediately texts back. just parked. CU in 5.
Merlin sees Arthur rushing down the street just as the waitress approaches for his drink order.
“Two waters, please, but could you give us a moment, my husband’s just coming in,” he requests. She retreats with a nod.
Arthur practically collapses into the chair opposite. “Sorry I’m late. I had to put out a few last minute fires,” he says in a rush.
“S’okay, I only just got here and the people watching is great,” Merlin says with a grin.
Arthur looks around. “Morgana said it was cozy. I didn’t know that meant tiny. It opens at five and almost all the tables are already full.”
The place is bustling but the music is low so everyone is speaking in normal voices unlike a lot of bars. The vibe is relaxed and unpretentious. Merlin likes it already.
The waitress returns and they order two Moscow Mules and a shared plate of baby beet and feta salad along with the vegetable gyro sandwich to split. “We’ll see if that’s enough. I didn’t walk for miles this afternoon,” Arthur says with a grin, reminding Merlin of his purchases along the way.
He reaches into the Whimsic Alley parcel, pulling out the Mystery Bag and pushing it across the table to Arthur. “Here, I got you a present.”
Arthur looks at the brown velvet sack, “A present? But, I didn’t get you one.”
“Let’s consider it a present for us both,” Merlin says.
Arthur waggles his eyebrows and mock leers, “Oh, really? I like the sound of that.”
Merlin feels his ears heat so he pushes the bag a bit more forcefully at Arthur, “Shut up. It’s a Mystery Bag, so I have no idea what to expect. Just open it.”
Arthur takes his time with the bag, feeling around the outside, weighing it in one hand and then the other.
“Ugh. I bet you were a nightmare on Christmas morning,” Merlin says with a groan.
Arthur laughs. “It drove Morgana bonkers,” he agrees, finally untying the bag and reaching inside.
The first thing he pulls out is a bumper sticker declaring My other transportation is a TARDIS.
Merlin grins, “Cool. That’s going on the refrigerator.”
Arthur’s grinning, too, as he pulls out slightly battered box containing a black robed Draco Malfoy action figure. He holds it up to Merlin, “It’s like he’s a mini-Spike.”
Merlin nods, “He’s going to fit right in.”
There are a couple chocolate frogs and a Hufflepuff coat of arms temporary tattoo that Arthur hands right over, “Here, Merlin, you’re totally a Hufflepuff.” Merlin snorts but doesn't disagree.
The last item is a velvet ring box embossed with the Game of Thrones crow logo. When Arthur flips it open he’s surprised to find two inscribed silver metal rings inside. He pulls one out and reads “My Sun and Stars.” The other, “Moon of My Life.” He’s smiling a bit wistfully at the jewelry when he looks up at Merlin, “I know which one is meant for you.”
Merlin is about to ask which when their waitress arrives with their sweating copper mugs of Moscow Mule.
When Merlin looks over at him again, Arthur is already packing the Mystery Bag’s contents back in the sack.