Title: The Email Order bridegroom, Chapter 20
Rating: One of these days it will be R
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Arthur has a plan to stay in the United States. That plan is Merlin.
Warnings: Nerves and fluff
Word Count: 1012
Prompt: 189 Evidence
Author's Notes: This is a continuation of The Email Order bridegroom which starts here.
Merlin wakes up absurdly early the morning of the shoot, mind restlessly careening through everything he’ll need to take even though he had packed his outfit and release forms the night before. He’d done background work in England but mental images of slip ups and spilled drinks keep him from falling back to sleep so he carefully removes Arthur’s arm from around his chest and gets out of bed.
He wanders aimlessly around the house, stomach too unsettled for coffee, thoughts landing on one thing after another. Filled with nervous energy, he decides to go for a run, maybe stopping at the Jewish bakery Arthur loves.
He quietly locks the front door and steps out onto the sidewalk to move through a series of stretches before putting in his earbuds and taking off at a slow jog. He hasn’t run in several weeks but Merlin’s body easily falls into the remembered rhythm of his selected soundtrack. He runs past homes and storefronts on now familiar streets, focusing his breathing and keeping his stride even, calming his mind with every step, sun rising at his back.
An hour and a half later Merlin is on their front stoop clutching a grease stained paper bag packed with half a dozen assorted bagels, lox, cream cheese, red onions, tomato slices and capers. He’s fishing around in his pocket when the door swings open to reveal a pajama clad Arthur.
“Have you been on a run?” Arthur asks, moving to clear the door so Merlin can enter. "I didn't know you ran."
“I do yoga, too,” Merlin answers with a smile as he heads toward the kitchen with his bounty. “I have to work to maintain my girlish figure.”
“And a very neat figure it is,” Arthur agrees with a laugh, already moving toward the bag. “Now what kind of bagels did sweaty Santa bring this good boy for breakfast? Mmm, lox and all the fixings. Why don’t you shower while I lay this out and make us some coffee.”
Merlin agrees this is an excellent plan and immediately complies.
Twenty minutes later he and Arthur are sitting on the patio sharing the Sunday Times while Arthur layers cream cheese and lox on their bagels: rye for Arthur, sesame seed for Merlin.
“No onion on mine, please,” Merlin says and Arthur gives him a questioning look.
Merlin shrugs. “It’s rude to have onion breath when you’re working. Even if you don’t have lines you may have to stand close or kiss. I’ve been on the receiving end of some truly horrifying halitosis.”
“There could be kissing?” Arthur asks, breakfast preparation forgotten.
Merlin looks up from the Entertainment section. “I haven’t seen a script but I have to be ready for anything.”
Arthur gets back to the bagels but Merlin can see something’s bothering him.
“Nothing will probably happen, Arthur, but if it does it won’t mean anything,” Merlin says quietly when Arthur passes him the bagel. “It’s acting. It’s what I do.”
“I know that,” Arthur answers, not meeting Merlin’s gaze. When he starts eating, Merlin notices that Arthur has left the onion off his bagel, too.
“I’d like to take you to the shoot,” Arthur says after breakfast, sounding subdued. “I know Gwaine said everything was on the up and up but I need to see for myself.”
Merlin frowns, “And how do you plan to do that when you’ll be dropping me off?”
“I was thinking I could go into the lobby with you, scope out the check in process?”
Merlin should be upset that Arthur doesn’t trust his judgment but he can see how uncomfortable this is making him. “As long as you don’t interfere, that should be fine.”
Arthur’s stiff shoulders relax with relief. “Thank you. I do think you know what you’re doing but I don’t know what these strangers are going to be doing and it’s making me a little crazy.” He blushes, smiling sheepishly, “I’m a bit invested in keeping you safe and sound.”
Merlin reaches out to cup Arthur’s pink cheek. “I like you looking out for me,” he says smiling. “Even if I don’t need it.”
The line for valet parking at The Andaz looks like it will take several minutes so Arthur finds street parking and grabs Merlin’s garment and messenger bags off the back seat, draping them over one arm. “You’re being ridiculously over protective,” Merlin says smiling.
“I know,” Arthur answers, looking both ways before taking Merlin’s hand to cross the street.
“I’m not a toddler,” Merlin sniffs but he doesn’t pull away.
The hotel lobby is near empty. Merlin looks around for the concierge but only sees one young woman serving cocktails to a couple several feet away.
“May I help you?” a voice comes from behind them and Merlin and Arthur spin around. There’s a petite brunette in uniform carrying a clipboard looking up at them expectantly.
“Hello, yes, I’m here for the film shoot? Merlin Emrys-Pendragon,” Merlin answers smoothly. The woman checks her clipboard and nods, handing Merlin a swipe key to the elevator that will take him directly to the ballroom and then turns her attention on Arthur. “And you, sir?”
“Oh, I’m with him,” Arthur says startled. He obviously hadn’t thought further than this point.
“He’s my assistant,” Merlin improvises. “I’ve just had a manicure and brought him along to carry my bags from the car. Is it all right if he takes them upstairs? I assure you he’ll be right back down as soon as I’m situated.”
The woman gives Arthur an unimpressed once over before waving them both toward the lift.
Once they’re in the elevator and Merlin’s pushed the button for the ballroom Arthur grins and pulls out his phone to take a shot of them both. “Smile, Mr. Emrys-Pendragon, you’re on your way up.”
Merlin groans at the terrible joke but leans in for the shot, surprising himself by turning into Arthur and kissing him on the corner of his grinning mouth. Arthur quickly shifts to kiss him back.