|The Prince's Boyfriend
Author: VioletRose136 PM
Modern AU: A very much 'in the closet' Prince Arthur starts his university life at Georgetown University in the United States. Enter Merlin. SLASH WARNING! MerlinxArthur R&RRated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Merlin & Arthur - Chapters: 21 - Words: 98,405 - Reviews: 352 - Favs: 280 - Follows: 430 - Updated: 04-21-13 - Published: 12-03-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7604428
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
I know that I promised the first chapter of 'A Wizard's Prince and King's Wizard's' sequel, but I just didn't feel like it. I felt that I needed a break from the whole Wizard's Prince/King's Wizard world and that if I forced myself to try and write a sequel, I'd give up and the writing would be bad. So I decided it was best to have a break and turn out a good story in the meantime then post a first chapter and give all of you a bad story.
'To Marry a Prince' fans: very sorry, but I simply lost interest in the whole 'Titanic' storyline idea. So, for reasons mirroring those above, I deleted it, I won't promise anything, but it is possible that I might chose to re-post it early next year.
I'm really excited about this story. I used to live in Washington D.C. (though not in Georgetown, sadly) and I've never had the chance to write anything set in D.C. so its really great to finally have the chance! I hope you enjoy this! :)
As always, starting a new story is a little nerve racking... please let me know how you like it!
"And you remembered plenty of socks?"
He sighed playfully. "Mom, I'm eighteen. I think I'm capable of remembering socks."
They were driving from West Virginia where Merlin and Hunith lived in a small town called Capon Bridge. The town itself was less than a square mile large and the population matched its landscape, being about two hundred at the start of the century. Since then it had grown by very little, probably six or seven people, Merlin guessed. It was a dead place, he had told his Mother at the start of his teen years. Yet, Hunith refused to move. She had met her dead husband there twenty five years previously on a camping trip in midsummer, Capon Bridge truly felt like home for her. A safety blanket that she wouldn't - couldn't - leave.
She sighed. "I'm sorry, but you know I can't help but worry. I mean, you're going off to the capital... the big city and you don't know your way around -"
"I won't be alone. Uncle Gaius lives on Capital Hill doesn't he?"
Hunith looked at Merlin and sighed. "Yes, but he's busy at work most of the time. I don't want you ringing him up all the time. You'll annoy his front desk person, if you call every two minutes asking for the Congressman."
"I was thinking I'd call every five minutes, not every two. D'you think that'd help?"
Hunith gave her son a weary glance. "Merlin, you know what I mean."
Merlin ran his hand through his impossibly dark hair and sighed. "Yes, I do. And you really need to have more faith in me. I promise you that it won't be that bad. Besides, from what I've seen and what I've read, Georgetown is pretty easy to navigate on foot. I should be fine."
Hunith sighed and reached across the seat, taking Merlin's hand in her own. "I know you will be. I just can't believe that you're all grown up and going to college... I feel as if one moment I was watching you play with a rubber ball in the front yard and I blinked and you're all grown up."
Merlin smiled at his Mother's nostalgia. "I'm eighteen and in collage. I'm hardly graduating and going off into the big world. You've still got the comfort that I'm still in education, not fully fledged." He leaned back into his seat. "And I'm going to University with the Prince... so I'm pretty sure that I'll still be a virgin by this time next year."
Hunith looked at him humorously. "You're gay."
That had been the second reason that Merlin had wanted to leave his tiny judgemental town. No one there was openly gay, save for his sixth grade math teacher, who was probably about forty years his senior. After Merlin had come out when he was sixteen, it had travelled around the town so quickly so that by Sunday when Hunith dragged him to church, rather than listening to the Minister, most of the two hundred who appeared for the service could only turn around and gawk at Merlin. The weeks that passed at school, Merlin chose not to think about.
When it became evident that Merlin wasn't going to rape every single of the ten other guys in his grade, people had started to ignore it, but since then there had always been this awkwardness whenever he walked in a room. Any of his friends always fell silent when he walked past. He had been treated as if he was medically retarded instead of sexually attracted to men. Merlin hated it and had at one point in his sophomore year of high school become so desperate that he had overdosed on pills and had to be rushed to the hospital in Winchester. Since his recovery, Merlin had focused on one goal: getting away from that horribly homophobic and isolated little town. Mr. Harrington had been incredibly supportive of this goal, seeing the chance that he should have taken years ago. That morning he had been the only one to come see Merlin off; he had clasped the young man on the shoulder and said,
'You've been given a great opportunity, Merlin. Don't let it slip away from you. Don't let it crush you, either. I'm proud of you.'
Mr. Harrington had then promised to come down and visit Merlin at Christmas and so had Hunith. Merlin had told his Mother that although she felt a connection to the town, Merlin never wanted to see the cursed place again. Hunith knew all too well how hard the past few years had been for Merlin and agreed, promising that they would never meet there again. Although their Holidays wouldn't always be spent in Washington D.C. she had promised to assist Merlin's hope never to see the place again.
Pushing his thoughts away, Merlin replied, "So? Does that mean that all the other out-of-the-closet gay guys at Georgetown won't be throwing themselves at the Prince in the hope that he's in the closet?"
Hunith laughed. "That's an interesting idea, the gay Prince of Britain."
"Wales," Merlin corrected. "And I really doubt that. According to British tabloids like The Sun and Hello say that he had a massive relationship with a girl who cheated on him later, some Lancelot guy or something."
Hunith rolled her eyes. "And like you say, you haven't been stalking the Prince just like every other eighteen year old gay man or woman at your University."
Merlin smiled guiltily. "Of course I Googled him when I found out he was coming to my University. I hardly expected a British Prince to show up in the US capital hoping to complete University, it was worth looking up."
"You looked him up only once?"
Merlin forced a serious face and looked straight ahead. "Yes. Only once,"
"Sure," Hunith looked out at the road for a few seconds and then she said. "Merlin?"
"You're a terrible liar."
They arrived in Washington D.C. around four in the evening. Merlin felt a wave of relief as he saw the large city which he had visited every year for Thanksgiving to visit his Uncle Gaius. Merlin's love of the old city, with its Greco-Roman monuments and generally elegant feel, had been what had driven Merlin to try and get into Georgetown University, instead of Yale or Brown. Merlin knew that there were other Universities nearby, like the University of Maryland, but Merlin didn't want have to ride a Metro train to get into the city centre. He wanted to wake up and see it out his window. Georgetown was also the most expensive neighbourhood in the city, like in New York City, Merlin figured that it would be best to live there as a student.
Hunith smiled as she saw the city skyline come into view as they crossed over the Potomac River. She reached over and grasped Merlin's hand for the hundredth time that hour. Tears glistened in her brown eyes as she looked over at her son, she was again struck with his utter beauty and for the billionth time since this boy had been placed in her arms moments after his birth, wondered how such a perfect human being could possibly be part of her. His Father had been Irish and this certainly translated into Merlin's looks, he had dark hair and very pale skin, his eyes and lips becoming rather striking against the whiteness of his skin. Merlin looked over at her and smiled, his blue eyes lighting up.
"I'm so happy for you," She whispered. "I know these few years have been hard and I'm so proud of you, Merlin. Proud of your perseverance and endurance, I'm so proud that you're proud of who you are. I'm so proud to call you my son and I'm so sure your Father is proud too, looking down at us now."
Merlin looked up at the sky. He had never believed in God and this had only been heightened when he had come out. Why God should claim to hate homosexuality and then create people with that exact desire was beyond Merlin, such questions had turned the young man into a diehard Atheist. He didn't know what happened after death; he preferred not to think about it. However, Merlin had never shared his views with his Mother, so he only nodded.
"I hope so,"
Georgetown University was obviously in Georgetown, which sits on the banks of the Potomac River, so it wasn't long after they arrived in the city that Merlin and Hunith arrived on the Georgetown Campus. After about twenty minutes of asking directions, they finally made it to the residential side of Campus. Merlin got out of the car and gazed around him. The dormitories were made of brick and had the look of obviously new buildings which were made to look old fashioned. Unlike the few other fake historical buildings Merlin had seen, this one was actually plausible as a historical building. It didn't look as if it was obviously a pathetic remake.
After waiting in a rather long line in the Office of Residence, Merlin learned that he was in room five-zero-eight in Kennedy Hall. As he and Hunith drove to the Kennedy Hall parking lot, Merlin wondered what hall the Prince would be in. He knew from a contract he had signed in early July that the Royal family was issuing a media blackout, so that the Prince could have a somewhat normal University life without constantly being harassed, so although that would aid security, but the hall which they had deemed the most security ready was unknown to Merlin.
Merlin and his Mother took the main stuff first: two of his suitcases and his bedding. Although the University did offer single rooms, Merlin had chosen to pay a lower housing fee and have a roommate: a guy called Percival who he had been in contact with since the middle of August. Rather than skid around it, Merlin had decided to mention in the first e-mail that he was gay. The past few years had consisted of openness and if he was to have a somewhat normal love life during collage (he hoped) that did involve telling his roommate the truth. Besides, if the guy was a total homophobic who thought living with a 'faggot' was disgusting it was best to know early so that he could request a new roommate when he had a chance of actually getting one. To Merlin's surprise, although he wasn't gay himself, Percival had been surprisingly cool about the whole thing, replying to Merlin's confession with, "Oh, that's cool. Just make sure you put a sock on the door (as appropriate) so I don't walk in on anything that would scar me for life."
And since then, the two had become fast friends. Merlin had no intention of telling Perceval this, but since Merlin had come out Percival was the first guy his age who had been willing to be Merlin's friend regardless of his sexuality. The revelation that had come with this had been outstanding in Merlin's general attitude. Mr. Harrington and Hunith had told Merlin time and time again that there were people who weren't stupid enough to judge people purely on the basis of whether they were gay or not, but it was one of those things which you wouldn't believe until you saw it. The revelation that had come with forging his friendship with his roommate had confirmed that and Merlin began to actually look forward to his collage life. Rather than hoping that he could find a couple other gay people who he could hang out with, Merlin realized that he wouldn't be limited to a group, there were other people, really interesting people who were open to his friendship. He wouldn't have to try and be someone he wasn't.
Merlin took a deep breath and put his key in the lock, turning it. The door swung open to reveal Percival in his boxer shorts, his shorts half pulled up. He looked up at shock at Merlin and his Mother and fell over in his frantic attempt to pull his shorts wholly up. Merlin laughed as Percival stumbled around the room, before getting up, zipping and buttoning his shorts and then reaching his hand out and saying as if nothing unusual had just occurred.
"I'm Percival; I promise I'm not as stuck up as my name is. You're Merlin, right?"
Merlin smiled and nodded, shaking Percival's hand. "Yeah, nice to meet you in person, despite my name, I can promise you that I'm not magic."
Percival chuckled at Merlin's joke and turned to Hunith. "Hi there, despite my nakedness when you walked in, I can assure you that I am fully used to wearing clothes. In fact, I do tend to wear them most of the time."
"No, its fine, I rather liked it, actually." She winked at him. Merlin thought he would die.
If Percival had found anything unusual about Hunith's flirtatiousness, he didn't show it. Merlin thanked his lucky stars and then regarded Percival as he talked to Hunith about their drive. He was tall, at least six two or six three and had an army-style haircut. His features were handsome and he looked like the sort who had been a jock in high school and would be one again in collage. Merlin guessed that he was just a magnet and used to anyone flirting with him. It was certainly out of character for his Mother to flirt with anyone so openly - Capon Bridge had had its effect on her - Percival probably just had that effect on people.
Percival helped them bring the rest of their stuff up to the room and then Merlin and Hunith went down to the lobby so that Merlin could bid his Mother goodbye. It came as rather a shock as they were riding down in the elevator. Merlin wouldn't be sleeping in his own bed that night - he wouldn't wake in the morning to find Hunith feeding their chickens. He wouldn't go into town and find a paper at the convenience store with its freezer room. He would wake in a large city next to someone he had only had e-mail contact with before.
Merlin had been to sleep away camp, just like any other kid. He had gone and stayed with Gaius during a week in summer. It wasn't like he hadn't been away from home overnight before. But it hit him that this was it. He had had his last night in a house with his Mother. Despite his relief at knowing that he never had to return to that blasted town again, it also hurt that he knew he was leaving childhood behind. He walked his Mother out to the car, they were both silent, knowing that something precious had come to an end.
Hunith paused at the car and turned around, facing Merlin. She hugged him as any Mother would do who was taking her son to collage. When she pulled away tears were in her eyes, about to well over.
"I'm going to miss you so much."
Merlin smiled. "I'll miss you too." He hugged her again, breathing in that special scent at her neck that only Mothers seem to have. "I'll e-mail you tonight and I'll call you as soon as I can, let you know how it's going."
Hunith nodded. "Okay, okay. I'm going to miss you, Merlin. I love you."
Merlin hugged her a final time, holding her a moment longer than necessary before letting her go. "I love you, Mom."
"Arthur, are you sure you want to do this?" King Uther sat in a leather armchair across from his son. Despite it being only early September, Uther had a crackling fire going. On the oak table between them sat two cups of coffee.
Prince Arthur nodded. "It's my only chance to see a different country where I won't have to meet Presidents and wear suits all the time. Besides, I think once the Americans calm down about having a Prince attend one of their Universities, I think I have a much higher chance of the media blackout being effective. Americans care about presidents and celebrities and that lot. The snotty British Royal Family isn't exactly number one on their lists, unlike here."
"Don't do this if you're only doing it to escape public life. Remember that you can't escape it. You can't escape who you are, Arthur."
"I am doing this to escape public life, just for a couple years, obviously. I'm going to be King one day - I don't expect that I'll be able to walk into an office every day like everyone else with a crown on my head." Arthur sighed. "I'm just so sick of it. People who meet me ask what it's like to be a Prince - and my only answer is that I don't know, because I don't know what it's like not to be a Prince. I know that I can't get a whole answer, but I want to know. I don't want to go through my entire life answering 'I don't know' because I've been cooped up in a castle somewhere and never actually experienced the real world."
"That's what you're not understanding, Arthur." Uther sighed, annoyed. "You can't escape being a Prince. American paparazzi will hound you whether or not there's a media blackout. Tabloids have money, they can pay the fines. And although I think that we've protected you from students selling information about your personal life and media persons walking onto the campus and harassing you, I can't promise that there won't be anyone hiding in the bushes. I can't promise that a student won't take a photo of you kissing some girl and send it to the tabloids. People can use you, Arthur. You won't be able to shake that."
"And that's why I'm careful about who I trust."
"Arthur, you don't have to do this. I can claim that you want to join the army."
"But I don't want to join the army." Arthur replied. "I hold great respect for our army and military as a whole, but I don't want to be part of it."
"Arthur..." Uther started at his son ruefully.
"Father, I know you think it's a bad idea... and fuck, maybe it is, but I don't care. I want to do this. I want to go to America."
"I would thank you to reserve from using such vulgar talk. The last thing we need is for it to get out to the press that the Prince talks as if he has a toilet for a mouth." Uther snapped. "You do realize that this doesn't completely exclude you from state duties? The President is to meet you at your plane and offer you a military escort to your university."
"Father that is very kind of his Excellency, but it is not required."
Uther regarded his son with a stony glare. "The President is to meet you at your plane and offer you a military escort. You are not to deny this, am I understood?"
"Of course I do not intend upon embarrassing his Excellency, I'm not completely and utterly mad." Arthur sighed. "I just don't want to arrive at the University and make every other student there think that I'm going to expect special treatment purely because I'm a royal."
"Well, we'll find out about that."
The King stood abruptly, Arthur stood too and after stealing a glance at the grandfather clock which stood in the corner of the room, realized that his flight to the United States left in about four hours.
For the first time, Arthur would be flying on a plane with non-royals. Of course, all of the first class cabin would be reserved for him and his security would be standing at the two entrances from business class and economy, all of this Arthur believed entirely uncalled for, but at least his Father wasn't making him arrive in full royal glory on a UK Government Aircraft. Twenty armed men and an entire section of the plane to himself seemed to be enough to please his Father.
As Arthur expected, there were about seven hundred people waiting outside Buckingham Palace when the car left. Several of them were reporters from various magazines, newspapers and news channels. Cameras went wild when the gates opened and the car drove through. Arthur looked out of the window and after seeing several, 'Marry Me Arthur!' signs, turned back to his Father.
"They seem sorry to see me go."
Uther sniffed. "I would expect that they would. You're off to a completely new continent. You're part of Britain's national identity; of course the British people would miss you."
"Father," Arthur snapped and then he sighed. "Father, we're already headed for the airport; it is not as if I'm going to instruct the chuffer to turn around and take me straight home to Buckingham Palace. I'm already enrolled and all of America is expecting me there tomorrow morning. I won't let them down."
They arrived at Heathrow to the same size; if not larger crowd of people all chanting Arthur's name. Of course, the Prince being known as a heartthrob was not merely because he was a royal - it was because he was damn handsome. Blonde hair and blue eyes were only part of Prince Arthur's natural good looks. He was also incredibly athletic which led to him being rated the best pin-up royal of the century. After their private trip to Greece that previous summer, tabloids had been full of photos of the shirtless Prince. Every girl within three decades of the Prince's age hoped that she would be the special one he would chose.
Arthur smiled and waved that polite royal wave that appears to be a trait of all royal families around the world and walked into the airport, surrounded by security. People tried to get at them from all sides. Mostly reporters and cameramen, cameras flashed off in the King and Prince's faces and questions were shouted from all sides.
"King Uther, how do you feel about your son choosing to study overseas?"
"Arthur, do you think that this will help relations with the United States?"
"Is there a special reason you're going? An American Princess in waiting, maybe?"
Arthur knew very well how to deal with the media. He stopped and as if they were connected to him, his security stopped as well. He looked the reporter, a thin woman with fake red hair and a white suit and smiled as cameras went off in his face.
"No, I can assure all of you that there isn't an American tucked up my sleeve, I'm completely single, I assure you."
At that, the girls outside went wild, so much to the point that it could be heard inside. Uther looked at his son somewhat fondly and shook his head, laughing. He fell into step beside his son as they made their way to Check In.
"You're a chip off the old block; you know exactly what to say to provoke the media and supply weeks of stories. Hello won't be bored for weeks,"
"It's true, though." Arthur insisted, lowering his voice. "I haven't got an American up my sleeve nor do I intend to obtain one. I'm not interested in dating at the moment: my academia career is far more important."
Princess Morgana, the Princess Royal had also joined them on this goodbye. She smiled disapprovingly and nudged her brother playfully.
"Oh, no American will ever want you," She said. "You'll come back here with a rich, handsome American for me to marry."
Arthur landed in the United States at Dallas Airport mid-morning the next day.
Arthur had been quiet for most of the flight, although the stewardess had tried to draw him into conversation and failed. Arthur was troubled by many things, his heartbreak over Guinevere and his desperate need for approval from his Father being the top two.
Lady Guinevere Harold had been everything Arthur had ever dreamed of. She had been a blessing, coming at a time when Arthur had been rather confused about who he was really attracted too. Lady Guinevere had come as a breath of fresh air and Arthur had used her to assure himself that he was definitely straight. They had met at a garden party when Arthur was sixteen and she was fifteen. Her Father was an Earl and her Mother had been the daughter of a Duke. She had an older brother who had been knighted the year before. So, obviously the young beauty had been approved by his Father and the realm. Their romance had lasted until that March. It was shortly after Gwen's seventeenth birthday. Guinevere had left school at sixteen, at the time she had fully expected to marry Arthur.
And then Lancelot happened.
Lancelot was the son of Guinevere's cousins' best friend. He was dark, tall and handsome and when photos of Guinevere with this strange man had appeared in the tabloids, Arthur had very openly denied that there was anything going on between the pair. Arthur however, when he was staying at Lady Guinevere's family's estate in Kent had been woken by his uncle, Agravaine the Duke of York only to find Guinevere and Lancelot together in the great hall. After that, Arthur had publically announced that Lady Guinevere would not be found at his side, although he had kept the reasoning secret, it had soon come out about her affair with Lancelot.
Arthur had been broken. He had truly and honestly loved Guinevere. He also now had to face the fact that he wasn't entirely sure that he was one hundred percent attracted to women. It was a fact he had known since his early teen years but had been very careful to ensure was hidden. Guinevere was the perfect cover. He had truthfully loved her and if she had remained faithful to him, Arthur had no doubt that he would have been happy with her beside him, with her as Queen. But now, Arthur knew that he could not get to close to any one man, for fear of being revealed to be, well, gay, a gay Prince - now that would cause a national scandal and shove Arthur into a spotlight that he certainly didn't want. It hurt Arthur more than Guinevere's betrayal did: the fact that he knew that he always had to hide, he had to hide behind a wall of fake lovers and eventually an unhappy marriage.
His Father's approval also troubled him. Arthur knew that he could never come out as gay; it was his duty to marry and produce an heir. Also, Arthur knew that even if he did accept that Morgana's children could rule and be the heirs, his Father would be disgraced. Uther was very much an in-the-closet homophobic. Although he never made his opinions publically known, Arthur was not stupid enough to believe that his Father agreed that such feelings were appropriate or even natural.
Arthur felt very uneasy about attending University in the States. He worried that his country would find it dishonest or disloyal. He worried that his Father was more upset about him choosing to attend University overseas than he let on. Uther could guilt trip anyone with a blink of an eye and Arthur dreaded when he would return to Britain for Christmas, fearing Uther's bazaar gazes and sharp words. Uther's last words to him as Arthur stepped onto the plane still rang uncharacteristically loudly in Arthur's mind: 'You speak for honour, my son. You believe that no one should be treated differently because of their birth. But I don't believe that you can do it. I don't believe that you can live up to the bravado in your words.'
Heartbroken, in the closet and desperate for his Father's approval, yeah, Arthur was totally ready to face the real world.
They rolled a staircase up to the plane so that Arthur could get off before the plane reached its terminal. This ensured that the Prince would not have to wait in a long line with all the other passengers, for his security feared that they would attempt to ask him unwanted questions or harass him. The President waited at the base of the steps as Arthur stepped down. Several reporters stood behind police tape behind him. Arthur met the president at the bottom of the stairs and shook his hand firmly, greeting the First Lady with a kiss to the cheek and an awkward hug.
"Welcome to the United States, Your Highness," The President smiled, as they got out of the airport's car and stared towards the car which would take them to Washington D.C. "I trust your flight was pleasurable?"
"Yes sir, thank you."
They were outside the airport, where the general public was allowed. Barricades bad been put up as probably five hundred Americans screamed with delight as they caught sight of the Prince. Arthur and the President waved as they stood by the open door of the car, before slipping in behind the first Lady. As the car pulled away and cameras flashed and news reporters talked into their cameras, saying things like, 'You saw it here first, ladies and gentleman, the British Prince Arthur has landed safely and been greeted by the President.' and 'Prince Arthur has arrived to start his University life over here in the United States...'
"They'll be just as many cameras and reporters and screaming girls at the University," The President said, looking to Arthur.
"Your country must be rather excited for my arrival."
"Yes, it was on the cover of all the big newspapers like the New York Post when you announced that you were coming to the United States for University. And I tell you, I could hear teenage girls all the way over in Oklahoma screaming with delight that morning." He smiled fondly and leaned back in his seat. "As you know, there isn't a royal family in America; we have to live viciously through Britain's royal family."
Arthur laughed at that.
"As I recall," Arthur said, sitting back after he had declined champagne. It dawned on him that the legal drinking age in the United States was twenty one. Either the president was testing him, or assumed him to be older than he actually was (which was eighteen, nineteen next month) or assumed that as a Prince, Arthur would be more sensible with alcohol than other people. "As I recall, you enjoy referring to your celebrities as American Royalty."
"Without the crown jewels or the political power," The President laughed.
Arthur was about to disagree, claiming that major superstars like Angelina Jolie, Nicole Kidman or George Clooney did have quite a lot of backhand power. Although they couldn't sign any papers changing any US laws, they could definitely generate a lot of national support for certain laws or amendments or even Presidential campaigns when they passed a very odd building out of the window. It looked like a rectangle that had been bent partway in the middle. However, this didn't look like any flaw - it looked like a part of the design plan.
"That's an interesting building," Arthur commented. "Is it anything special?"
"No, just an office building, one that practically all of the D.C. Metropolitan area will know about, should you mention it to them. Also we'll pass by the Mormon temple, which is rather ornate and reminds everyone of the Wizard of Oz."
And on they went for the next hour or so, making strained and polite conversation. A man who had been elected by the people, his wife and a Prince who was from one of the most socially adapt families in the world, trying to find one topic on which they could remain for more than five minutes.
By the end of the third week of collage, Merlin knew that he needed a job. Uncle Gaius wasn't exactly going to want to fund all of his month's food until he graduated. Luckily, Merlin had chosen the absolute perfect time during which to worry about a job. At this point, all the local teenagers had either returned to school or college, leaving several open places throughout the bookshops and restaurants in the neighbourhood. Merlin had originally thought about trying to get a job somewhere in the suburbs, but due to the lack of Metro stations in Georgetown, he quickly learned that without a car, or even with one, commuting back and forth would be quite frankly, a bitch.
After a week or two of looking, Merlin found a job reasonably close to his dormitory at a chain French restaurant known as La Madeline. It took up a reasonable size of the block and was somewhat of a non self service buffet. Mostly, customers would come up and order and would return to their table with a metal stand supporting one of many numbers and would wait idly, trying to pronounce as many French words as they could see from their table until someone brought them their food.
And this was where Merlin finally met the Prince.
Of course Merlin had seen Arthur before. Since the Prince was another resident in Kennedy Hall, it would have been sort of impossible for Merlin to miss him. Usually, Merlin caught sight of the tall, blond man surrounded by at least ten girls all dressed up, all wearing fake eyelashes, all wearing tight low cut tops, all trying to catch his eye. But he had never had a chance to speak to the man himself, not that he wanted to, from what he heard from his friend Gwaine, who had the room next to the Prince's - he was nothing but a stuck up Prat.
Merlin was the first to see them come in. Prince Arthur held the door open for a girl with obviously dyed very bright red hair that looked as if it was more expensive than she was. The Prince paused, looking around obviously for someone to show them to their table, something which La Madeline wasn't exactly known for. He caught sight of Merlin, who stood at the top of the few steps which lead to the ordering counter and a couple tables.
"You," He said, gesturing to Merlin. "Come seat us at a table."
Merlin smirked at the Prince's obvious indifference to the way things were really done. It occurred to Merlin that Prince Arthur probably hadn't ever had a fast food meal in his life. Merlin pictured the other man trying to get the staff at MacDonald's to wait on him and almost laughed as he made his way towards the pair.
"Why on earth weren't you standing here?" Arthur demanded. "I didn't expect that people would be so uncaring of whether I came to their restaurant or not!"
"I'm sorry," Merlin thought about adding 'sir' to the end of that sentence but decided against it. An idea struck him as he lead the Prince and his date over to a table. "But you must understand that we don't usually offer anyone to show you to a table. We expect that you will choose an empty one."
Arthur's nostrils flared, but he didn't reply to that, he only turned to his date and said. "Is this a normal phenomenon?"
Even though she looked cheaper than her hair, Merlin felt sorry for the girl. She obviously knew the answer but didn't want to embarrass the Prince. Merlin saw her gaze flick to the door and he realized that she was already planning an escape.
"Er," She said, choosing her words carefully. "Yes, at most restaurants I would expect that we're not shown to a table."
Arthur forced his embarrassment to retreat and looked up at his waiter. "Er, yes, can you get us some water?"
Merlin nodded and returned with two waters before walking away and pretending not to hear when the Prince asked him for a menu. Another hour passed and Arthur and his date waited awkwardly at the table, waiting for a waiter who never intended to return to their table. Arthur tapped his fingers impatiently on the table. He had never been out on a proper date before. Of course with Guinevere they had met and spent time together, but he had never been on a real, 'getting to know you' date. He had no idea what to say.
After looking about three times a second, Arthur caught sight of the waiter who had waited on them previously. He got up and walked over to the man, catching him by the shoulder.
Merlin turned. "Can I help you?"
"Aren't you going to come take our orders? We've been sitting there for the better part of an hour!"
"You order at the counter... I thought you would realize." The tone in Merlin's voice told Arthur that he meant exactly the opposite.
An instant dislike for the waiter crept into Arthur's bones. He cuffed the other man roughly on the shoulder and said.
"And then you'll bring the food to us?"
"No sir, we'll bring a guillotine."
It took Arthur a moment to realize that the man was joking. He frowned. "Well, I hope at least you're swift when it comes to bringing food out." He snapped and then he turned around and returned to the table, awkwardly asking Hilary what she wanted to eat.
He ordered a few minutes later and Merlin ensured that he would be the one to take the food out to the Prince. He had met several people like the Prince before, the rich kids who lived in the country on gigantic family estates who believed that the only reason people should talk to them should be to ask if they wanted them to kiss their arse. Merlin had already sabotaged the date: not that it looked as if it would be going anywhere, anyway. Dates like that, where one party is far too eager to impress - never go well.
The Prince had ordered a starter of French Union soup for both of them. Merlin waited at least ten minutes after the soup was presented to him, before taking it out to the Prince. He waited to ensure that it would not be too hot. After all, he didn't want to be sued by the King of Britain for completely hindering his son's ability to have children.
He walked down the stairs and Arthur almost smiled with relief when he saw the waiter. They could eat and be out of here. Arthur intended to spend the night with Hilary and ensure that he was caught leaving a hotel with her the following morning. A photo of Arthur and Hilary would be likely to show up in a tabloid soon. He would have further evidence against being gay.
Merlin walked over to the table and made such a show of putting down the soup and fluffing out the napkins and putting them over Hilary and Arthur's laps that he reminded the Prince vaguely of Mr. Bean, a famous British T.V. comic character, who very few appeared to know about in the United States.
Merlin put Hilary's soup down carefully and then turned to Arthur's soup, his heart suddenly beating very quickly. What he was about to do was very likely to cost him his job. Normally, this kind of thing would be counted as an accident, but it was also likely to appear in tabloids and humiliate the restaurant. Merlin assured himself that he would be able to find something - even if it was something as badly paid as working in a twenty four hour newsstand in the south east of the city.
Arthur watched as the waiter put down his soup with a flourish, and reached on the other side of the bowl. He knew what was going to happen seconds before it occurred. Merlin suddenly brought his hand up, knocking it on the rim of the bowl, turning it over the contents spilling straight into the Prince's lap.