Title: The Email Order Bridegroom, Chapter 30
Rating: NC-17 but not this part
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Morgana, Gwen
Summary: Arthur has a plan to stay in the United States. That plan is Merlin.
Warnings: Ridiculous fluff as well as another POV switch.
Word Count: 848
Prompt: 200, Amnesty Post: pt 007 Family, 012 tease, 032 Laugh, 076 Nervous
Author's Notes: This is a continuation of The Email Order Bridegroom which starts here.
Arthur is a bit put out that their weekend plans need to be put on hold because of work and their commitment to see a kid’s play but he forgets all about the disappointment when Merlin gets a call from Pinocchio’s director Saturday afternoon asking if he can possibly fill in as Gepetto.
“I know it’s a huge ask but Steve has the flu and his understudy’s cellphone is going to voicemail. I'm desperate.” There are less than twenty four hours before the performance but it’s one of Merlin’s childhood favorites and the director assures him the young audience the play is geared toward won’t notice ad libbed dialogue as long as it’s entertaining.
Merlin agrees, telling Arthur “I’ve done children’s theater and improv before. It will be fun.” Arthur thinks he’s crazy to take the job, but he’s happy to drive Merlin to a last minute rehearsal at the director’s house in Hollywood.
“If it goes well it could open the door for other performances. This group does a different play every month at this bookstore as well as schools and birthday parties,” Merlin says after kissing Arthur goodbye. “This will be a chance to show I’m a team player.”
Arthur thinks Merlin is awfully cheerful about this possible train wreck and wonders why his stomach isn’t in knots, too. He keeps imagining missed cues and flubbed lines and even Merlin being pelted with rotten tomatoes. Arthur calls Morgana for moral support.
“Have a little faith. Merlin wouldn’t have said yes if he wasn’t sure he could do this,” she reassures him. “If you can get a ticket for Gwen, too, I’m in. We had plans for brunch but this will be a lot more fun than mimosas and egg white omelets.” Arthur immediately goes online and is relieved that there are still a few tickets available on such short notice.
The next morning Merlin decides to walk to the bookstore so he can run lines in his head, leaving Arthur on edge, pacing around the house waiting for Gwen and Morgana to arrive so they can all go together. What feels like hours later the doorbell finally rings and he jumps up, almost running to open the front door. Morgana takes one look at him and marches over to their liquor cabinet. She pours him a glass of scotch, neat.
“Here,” she says shoving it into his hand. “Drink this and try to calm down. I know you don’t want Merlin catching your stage fright.”
"I don't know what you're talking about, " Arthur mumbles, embarrassed, but he does as he’s told though the drink just makes him feel sleepy as well as agitated. He’s grateful when Morgana insists on driving.
They get to the bookstore ten minutes before the performance to find a nearly packed house. The group is lucky to get the last three empty folding chairs in a row. The rows are arranged around the small stage with a pillow pit at the very front that is teeming with excited kids.
Most of the audience is made up of parents with very small children in their laps. Nobody pays them any mind, too focused on their children and the mysterious noises coming from behind the red velvet curtain hiding the set. Time seems to crawl by.
“The show is about to begin,” A voice finally announces from stage right, “Please take your seats.” There’s an excited hush in the crowd as everyone settles and the lights dim.
The curtain slides apart revealing a cluttered toyshop interior. A voice opens, “Once upon a time there was an old toymaker named Gepetto who lived all alone. Although he made his living carving beautiful marionettes he was very, very poor.”
There's a jaunty burst of flute music and Merlin, nearly unrecognizable under a fluffy salt and pepper wig and bushy grey moustache enters from stage left carrying a large log. With a thick Italian accent he cheerfully greets the marionettes hanging from the rafters, “Good morning my friends, look what I found in the woods this fine day. I wonder what I’ll make with it.”
He runs a hand down the log and there is a sudden, loud giggle, causing the toymaker to jump in surprise, knocking into several of the marionettes hanging overhead. The toymaker rubs his head, looking around the empty shop. “Who’s the ventriloquist?” he asks in exaggerated alarm and several of the children shout out “It’s the wood” and “the log!” The audience laughs in response and Merlin’s delighted grin at the interaction finally helps Arthur relax.
An hour later the curtain closes to enthusiastic applause that increases as the cast takes their bows. Arthur thinks Merlin gets the loudest ovation but that’s probably because he’s clapping so hard.
Morgana leans in, squeezing Arthur’s arm. “See, I told you there was nothing to worry about.”
“I wasn’t worried,” he lies.
“Sure you weren’t,” Gwen laughs.
“Merlin’s a much better actor than you are, brother dear,” Morgana says but Arthur is in too good a mood to care about her teasing.