Title: The Email Order Bridegroom, Chapter 31
Rating: R over all, G this part
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Arthur has a plan to stay in The United States. That plan is Merlin.
Word Count: 704
Prompt: 205, First Day of School
Author's Notes: This is a continuation of The Email Order Bridegroom which starts here.
Merlin hits the alarm button at four o’clock Monday morning and is barely caffeinated and showered in time to catch the 4:20 bus to the West Hollywood dance studio where the photo shoot is taking place.
The photographer’s assistant yawns as she’s signing him in. “Sorry for the early hour but we could only book the ballet studio before their classes start.”
He gives her an answering yawn, then smiles, “It was actually nice seeing the streets so quiet.” She directs him over to hair and makeup where he gets artfully tousled, smoky eyed and mascaraed along with two other models. Merlin thinks the fuschia lipstick is a bit much but that only lasts through the second outfit.
The designer’s theme seems to be a mash up of just this side of too small school uniforms, 80’s inspired hyper colored skinny ties and patterned combat boots that at least cover Merlin’s bony ankles.
There is a lot of collar and cuff buttoning and unbuttoning, sleeve rolling, tie loosening and awkward feeling but somehow graceful barre leg extension poses in the hour and twenty minutes they’ve allotted before classes are scheduled to start. At first it’s difficult not to look at their bizarre reflections in the mirrored walls but being half awake works in Merlin’s favor as he gets into a rhythm, working the looks to the photographer’s satisfaction. He’s back in street clothes just in time to watch the ballet teacher welcome her first class of the day.
The rudimentary barre work has stretched muscles he didn’t know he even had so Merlin picks up a class schedule to see about maybe adding some flexibility and core training to his exercise routine.
He’d arrived at the studio before sunrise so the bright light makes him squint as Merlin fishes around in his messenger bag for the sunglasses he hopes he’s remembered.
He’s distractedly pawing around through breath mints, sunblock, grocery lists and ATM slips when an arm snakes around Merlin’s waist and he yelps in surprise.
“Hey, handsome, can I buy you a coffee and maybe take you home?” A voice purrs in his ear and Merlin relaxes into the warm embrace.
“This is a nice surprise,” he says, turning in Arthur’s arms to give him a good morning kiss.
“My first meeting cancelled and it looked like you skipped breakfast,” Arthur pulls back and his eyes widen.
“That sounds great.” Merlin hadn’t had time for more than an energy bar and the shoot had been more strenuous than expected. Arthur is still looking at him oddly. “What? Do I have something on my face?”
Arthur laughs, “As a matter of fact,” he pulls Merlin to the SUV so he can see his reflection in the tinted side window. He’d forgotten all about the makeup. “You look great but you might get some looks at Canter’s.”
Merlin grins, “Who cares? I bet half the customers and waitresses have been up all night and I’m starving. Let’s go.”
Nobody even gives them a second glance as they look over the massive menu, Merlin debating challa French toast over pancakes and Arthur considering a corned beef, pastrami, salami and cheese omelette over something a bit less food coma inducing. Merlin’s not surprised when the food coma wins.
Orders in, they sit and sip their coffees. It’s great people watching in the bustling restaurant. Hipsters, punks, high schools students, faded rockers and young families all rub elbows with Jewish retirees in the beige naugahyde booths.
The counter is packed and uniformed waitresses hurry back and forth across the large room, taking orders while refilling waters and coffees. The air smells of fresh baked rye bread, pastries and coffee.
Arthur smiles happily, “I love this place.”
Merlin agrees. “Yeah, this is one of those places you can’t wait to share with your kids.” He lifts his chin at a booth across the way with what looks like a grandmother, daughter and grandson chattering away. “It’s a waffles for dinner and a glass of milk after the first day of school sort of stop that gets handed down generation after generation. I'd love traditions like that.”
Arthur smiles softly and reaches for Merlin’s hand, “I'd love that, too.”