Title: The Email Order Bridegroom, Chapter 16
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Arthur has a plan to stay in the United States. That plan is Merlin.
Warnings: Excessive fluff.
Word Count: 958
Author's Notes: This is a continuation of The Email Order Bridegroom which starts here
Arthur asks after the rest of Merlin’s day so he recounts Elena Godwin emailing a request for a photo in formalwear. He’d cropped one of their wedding pictures and sent it along.
“Am I in it, too?” Arthur asks with a grin.
“Sort of,” Merlin scrolls through his phone to show Arthur the picture of him laughing uproariously at something. Arthur’s been mostly cut out of the shot but his hand is trying to save Merlin's tipping champagne flute. Merlin thinks he looks a bit crazed but the angle highlights how well the tuxedo fits.
“I hope this is what she’s looking for,” he says, wondering if he should have gone for a photograph that didn’t showcase so many teeth or all that skinny white neck.
Arthur points at the screen. “Stop it. You look genuinely happy as well as totally edible. If that isn’t what a casting director is looking for in a party guest, you don’t want to work with them.”
Merlin flushes at the compliment but still just sees a gawky guy in a great looking tuxedo. Oh, well, what’s done is done so he tucks the phone back in his pocket.
He brings the copper mug back up to his lips, savoring the tang of fresh lime, spicy ginger beer and vodka. He wonders why the copper cups and Merlin is about to ask if Arthur knows when he asks Merlin the same question.
“We could Google it, but I hate when people use their phones on d…” he hesitates. “Meet ups. It’s rude,” Arthur says. “I think maybe the copper keeps the drink colder than glass would.”
“Sounds good to me but we’re going to look it up when we get home, right?” Arthur nods his agreement and takes another sip.
The food arrives and it’s just as delicious as Morgana promised.
“Even the salad is good, and you know I’m not a big fan,” Arthur says, spearing another baby beet and waving it between them. “These are cute and yummy. I bet they’re not hard to prepare. Another Google quest.”
They talk about favorite movies and television shows, books and authors (Arthur: Blade Runner, Buffy, Vonnegut and Slaughterhouse Five. Merlin: ”It changes all the time. Right now it’s Mad Max because it was non-stop, crazy violent but still gorgeous and there were fantastic roles for women. Plus Tom Hardy is hot,” The Wire, ”Whatever I’m reading right now. The Goldfinch is brilliant so far,” Shakespeare).
Conversation flows easily, maybe because Merlin’s getting a bit buzzed from the cocktails (he’s on his second).
He talks about drama school and the lean times in London, making absurdly complicated coffee drinks for harried commuters and students between auditions. “I got a few print ads and a commercial that helped with the rent, but I lived on day old sandwiches and pastries from the shop and pot noodles just like every actor ever.”
Arthur talks about university and his pretty much unused degree in architecture. “I’m a glorified building contractor, keeping things on budget and on schedule,” he grouses. “I thought I’d be creating things, not supervising the creative process.” He sighs. “At least it pays well.”
“Have you ever thought about doing something different?”
“Oh, only a million times,” Arthur answers. “It’s difficult to walk away when you work with family. I don’t want to disappoint father or leave Morgana holding the bag. She’d probably hire an assassin to hunt me down if I left the firm.”
This segues into Arthur giving a truly hilarious impression of Morgana death glaring a department store perfume clerk who’d sprayed her without written permission (the woman had apologized profusely and handed over a free make-up bag full of samples) when, laughing, Merlin thinks this really is feeling very, very date-like.
The idea of where this date may be going is making his stomach do pleasant flips when Arthur abruptly changes conversational gears, “We have our first meeting with Immigration Services in a month.”
“Way to ruin the mood,” Merlin grumbles under his breath, straightening up in his chair.
“I’m not really worried,” Arthur continues, obviously not having heard Merlin’s complaint, “but I can’t help being a bit nervous.”
Merlin mentally agrees but pushes that thought away. “We’ll be fine. Our paperwork is in order and our story is solid and believable. We are married and I think I’m making an excellent husband.”
Arthur smiles softly, “You really are. It’s nice not coming home to an empty house.”
Merlin shoots him a big grin, “Or an empty bed.”
Arthur grins back, “The bonus snuggling is going to be a real boon when it gets colder.”
Merlin blushes thinking about waking up in the middle of the night sharing a pillow, a leg or arm (or both) draped over Arthur. He’d move back to his side of the bed but had woken up on Arthur again nearly every morning so far. He’d stopped apologizing but it was still embarrassing. He shrugs, “What can I say? You’re soft and cuddly.”
Arthur mock glares “Are you calling me fat, Merlin?” He slides his hand over his chest and abdomen, “I’ll have you know this is all muscle.”
Merlin’s face lights up with an impish smile. “Very cuddly muscle,” he agrees.
Arthur gives him a little kick on the ankle but he’s smiling again. Merlin’s glad for the lighter mood but he continues breezily, “Anyway, look at the bright side. If you get deported you can find a job that you like and your dad and Morgana will have the federal government to blame. It’s a win no matter how this plays out.” He has to laugh at the outraged look on Arthur’s face.
Arthur kicks him a bit harder this time.