Slash Arthur/Merlin (AU) Modern fic

Rating: M

Warning: brief moment of cross dressing involving Merlin and a dress (don't worry too much if this is not your thing as it only occurs in one chapter (chapter 2) and involves Merlin on a catwalk.

Also het relationship Morgana/Lancelot featured (mainly Merlin/Arthur)

Thank you Kuhekabir for the beta *hugs*

*****

Merlin couldn't believe that she was making him do this. What had happened to them never forcing the other into a situation that made them feel uncomfortable?

The only sign of her industrious action amongst the racks of hanging clothes was the tip of her shining head which barely rose above them. Perhaps if he took his boots off and trod extremely carefully?

"Don't even consider moving an inch or I'll make you wear something truly eye catching!"

Great she could read minds now as well as foretell the future.

Morgana, his closest friend since their first day at Secondary school, where they had discovered a mutual loathing for the place which had lasted throughout the six years they had attended. Her apathy had stemmed from her need to remain aloof from others and only Merlin had been admitted into her circle of one from the thousand plus students to attend Camelot High.

Even now, he wasn't quite sure why she had gravitated towards him that first day, when he had been sitting in the canteen, a solitary figure who had felt desperately alone. Merlin had never been overly popular and although easy going with natural warmth he found it hard to maintain friendships as he was always trying to protect his secret.

He supposed that was the reason why he and Morgana had bonded as they had each been born with a magical gift that enabled them to do amazing things. As a result they both knew what it felt like to feel adrift from the rest of society. At High school you only needed to have the wrong colour of hair to be picked on and Merlin hadn't relished the possible consequences of his secret being revealed.

Having Morgana as a friend and support had helped make High school bearable and he had watched in amusement as she manipulated everyone around her without them ever realising it was happening. Her excess of charm and powers of persuasion ensured Morgana never had any difficulty in getting her own way.

It was, however, unusual for Morgana to drag him into her schemes and especially when he was unwilling to get involved.

Merlin pondered on that and then decided that "unwilling" was definitely not expressing the vehemence with which he had argued his point to Morgana when she had initially approached him. She had eventually worn him down with her relentless texts, emails and finally by practically stalking him in person until he had been almost begging to agree to her request. He had needed to refrain from choking her when her only reaction to his capitulation was a small satisfied smile and a pat on his head. Morgana must have realised that he was miffed as she had swiftly adjusted her expression to one of pleasure and grabbing his arm had led him off to lunch as her treat.

Merlin had felt a slight softening when she had walked through the gleaming entrance to a high profile restaurant which happened to serve the best seafood in town. He had just lifted a mussel to his mouth, when she had begun to explain to him what she had in mind, resulting in him gasping in horror and then turning a nasty shade of green. Merlin still thanked his lucky stars that he hadn't actually put the mussel into his mouth or he may have disgraced himself and been banned for unseemly behaviour from the establishment.

What had been her exact wording again?
Oh yes...


"What dress size are you again Merlin?"

He had believed that all he would be expected to do was wear a few suits and strut down a catwalk and in actual fact that would have been horrific enough-hadn't he already turned her down around fifty times after all?

A dress though!

Morgana had smirked as she had swept her eyes over him making him feel like one of those dolls she had professed not to dress up anymore when she had been eleven-he knew different. Merlin had been given the great honour of assessing the outrageously dressed Barbie dolls which Morgana had insisted he judge according to their flair and presentation. They had quite frightened him with their glaring colours and flimsy outfits.

Oh God! He was going to have to be a Barbie!

Her exclamation of delight swung his attention back in her general direction only to discover that she had now materialised from behind the racks and was holding aloft a hanger which supported…oh Lord.
That wasn't eye catching?

Morgana's smile was triumphant and her eyes were gleaming with excitement as she appraised firstly Merlin and then the outfit before swinging her gaze back and forth as if she couldn't help herself. God, she wasn't almost beside herself, he felt sick suddenly and wondered if he couldn't just apologise to Morgana and say that his acceptance had been a momentary aberration which he seriously regretted. That would be the truth after all.

She correctly read his expression and shook her head before he could even formulate his first word of protest. "It's for a great cause Merlin and there is no way that you are backing out of this now, especially considering what is at stake."

Oh, he was well aware of what was at stake, bloody Lancelot Turner.

Merlin had worked for Pendragon Enterprises since leaving University a couple of years previously, it was run by Uther Pendragon and acted as an umbrella for many companies within varied industries. Merlin worked at head office, which employed a vast number of people, Lance being just one amongst many. To Morgana, however, he was one in a million.

Merlin had been bored to tears on many an occasion over a bottle or ten of Chardonnay which never failed to end with Morgana pleading with him to use his position as a fellow colleague to grow closer to Lance. What she always failed to remember, several glasses later, was that Lance was a senior executive and therefore not likely to want to socialise with Merlin who was employed in a relatively lowly position as assistant to the head of marketing.

There was also the added sore point of Lance being close friends with Arthur Pendragon, the heir to Pendragon Enterprises. Merlin hadn't exactly made a great impression the first time they had met. In fact, he recalled with a wince, Arthur had ended up in A&E with food poisoning because Merlin had given him a sandwich with prawn paste spread inside which had been contaminated.

It still made Merlin furious to think about the injustice of him receiving the blame when all he had done was deliver the blasted thing. He had met Arthur's secretary in the lift and she had insisted that Merlin take it up to his office whilst she retrieved necessary documents. Apparently he got cranky if he didn't have his lunch exactly at one o'clock as the clock struck. He had been doing a good deed, a generous act and all he had received was a glare on the next occasion they had met, in a seafood restaurant of all places – the one where Morgana had taken him, his favourite.

No, Merlin really didn't need to be making friends with acquaintances of that decidedly boorish man.

Morgana intruded on his brooding recollections. "You can't avoid looking at it you know and you will be wearing it for the grand finale of my "Easter Love Parade" you've promised me now."

Hadn't he done enough by ensuring that Pendragon Enterprises were responsible for the advertising and marketing of the event which she had arranged to garner money for the hospice which cared for those in the final stages of cancer? Only those close to Morgana would realise the significance of her chosen charity and Merlin could understand why the thought of raising money for the place which had eased her mother's suffering towards the end would be important to her.

He really did want to help but why on earth did he have to be the one to wear the dress?

Morgana had majored in fashion design and ran her own exclusive boutique which showcased her, in Merlin's opinion, rather wild creations which were more concoctions of frills, flounces and flashes of colour than actual wearable outfits. Merlin couldn't deny the fact that there seemed to be a high demand for such items and he was always amazed whenever he stopped by and watched the most unlikely people pass him on their way out holding a bag with "Morgasmic" blazoned across it in scarlet print. Yet he was obviously going to become one of them by wearing a similarly labelled frock himself.

No Morgana the fact that it will be a one of a kind does not help.
Merlin shook his head in disbelief at her as she attempted to make this farce seem more palatable to him.

"Come on Merlin, lighten up, it'll be a laugh and you need to have some fun now..."

He knew that she was referring to his recent break up with Will and for once was being tactful by not actually mentioning him. Sighing for he knew how determined she could be Merlin only nodded once and met her eyes before issuing a couple of provisos. "I'll only do it if I don't have to have my name put forward for the meet your true love lucky dip that you're making all your models enter..."

Merlin continued swiftly, talking over Morgana who looked as if she wanted to protest. "And if I can leave after introducing you to Lance."

Morgana was biting her lip as if thinking something over and then worryingly a slight smirk appeared for an instant before she finally agreed to his conditions.

Merlin grabbed the hanger from her hold and marched off to the changing facilities which were to the rear of Morgana's boutique.

She watched him flounce off and chuckled to herself as she decided that he would definitely be able to carry her dress off if he strode like that down the catwalk. Merlin was an absolute darling but he could be so obtuse and after hearing all about his encounters with the rather gorgeous Arthur Pendragon she was determined to make his dreams come true by setting him up on a date with the man himself. Merlin may believe that he hated him but Morgana could read the signals of attraction as well as the next person, if not better and Merlin was in denial.

Sure, she would benefit by meeting Lance but that would have been achieved without Merlin having to model for her, a fact that he seemed to have overlooked-unless he was in denial about more than a certain blonde and actually wanted to model and wear the dress. No, her reasons for asking him to help involved the rule she had made that every model in the show had to place their name into a lucky dip which would be drawn on the night. A selection of those who had bought tickets had also put their names forward to be matched with each name read out, resulting in a list of dates which each matched pair would be obliged to attend within the following fortnight-at least four dates per couple.

As it happened Arthur's current girlfriend, Sophia Merchant, was one of her regular models and would be taking part at "Easter Love Parade" which had meant that Arthur would be there and would most probably enter his name into the dip. This had turned out to be the case, to Morgana's delight.

She thought that it may just be possible that he wouldn't be matched with Sophia, accidentally of course, despite him having already phoned asking her to fix it that he be paired with his girlfriend. No cheating allowed, unless you were the organiser.

Morgana grinned as she made her way towards the cubicle which Merlin was presently using and bit on her lip to prevent a giggle as she heard muttered growls and sighs from within. "Are you alright in there darling, do you need a hand with the zip?"

Further, deeper growls ensued and with complete disregard for his modesty-she'd seen it all anyway-Morgana yanked the curtain aside to reveal her friend in all his glory.

"Oh!"

*****

Where had she gone now, honestly that woman was turning out to be the worst secretary he had ever had the misfortune to employ.

Arthur scanned the few documents which lay scattered over the top of her desk, which sat in her own private office that adjoined his own. One seemed to be a letter from her daughter if the scrawling "Dear mum" was anything to go by and was that a woman's glossy magazine?

What had Sophia been thinking when she had recommended Martha to him as a replacement for his previous secretary who had recently left to go on maternity leave. The job description had been mailed to her and surely Sophia would have filled her in on the responsibilities and expectations which would be part and parcel of the position. It wasn't a job which could be efficiently done unless you were willing to go that extra mile and put in overtime along with the expected high standard of work.

He couldn't recall one occasion over the past couple of weeks since she had commenced her employment when she hadn't briskly left the outer offices at five thirty on the dot. It was really his fault for accepting Sophia's word at face value and not checking the woman out himself. Arthur acknowledged this truth with a sigh, raking his fingers through his hair in agitation as he reluctantly realised that he was going to have to get through the tiring process of rehiring.

It was the idea of having to inform his father that he had needed to release yet another secretary that caused the pangs of frustration and annoyance. Until his previous secretary, Liz, had joined the company he had employed what now seemed, looking back, like hundreds of different women to work for him.

You would have thought it would be easy enough to hire a capable person to run his offices, especially with the exemplary reputation Pendragon held throughout Europe.
It seemed though that when you were the most eligible bachelor in the Continent this was an impossible task. He had received and scanned through submitted C.V.'s from people, who had been approved to the final stages, which granted them a personal interview with him and had felt confident on each occasion that he would find a sufficiently impressive applicant.

He had been mistaken...

Every last one of them had appeared to believe that they might be the one to snare him into marriage, whether the idea crossed their minds pre-interview or occurred to them once he had employed them, Arthur really didn't know or care.

The sound of heels clicking in the hallway brought his eyes up to observe a petite, plump woman of about forty two scurry in with her eyes directed downwards ensuring she had missed his presence beside her desk.

Her pale face and soundless gasp was recognition enough that she had now noticed.

"I believe that we need to have a meeting, take a seat in my office Martha."

Sophia would throw a hissy fit but business was more important and she would have to get over it, even if Martha was her Aunt.

The door shut quietly behind her with a dull thump as Arthur was left alone to consider what he was going to have to do to make it up to Sophia. He knew for certain that she would demand some form of compensation for sacking her mother's only sister.

The sharp knock brought forth a bark to enter and Arthur grinned sheepishly as Lance entered his office.

"What side of the bed did you get up from this morning, to make you so grizzly?"

Only Lance could get away with such plain speaking and even then it wasn't always tolerated.

"Tell me you're here to bring me good news of some kind, anything at all, as long as it doesn't involve secretaries or mercenary girlfriends."

A raised eyebrow then Lance held out a brochure towards him with a wicked grin on his face.

"I see that you have allowed Sophia to rope you into attending the "Easter Parade" tomorrow night, I would never have believed it if I hadn't seen your name on the official list of Romeo's."

Arthur had tried to forget but glancing at the brochure reluctantly he couldn't prevent his eyes from being drawn to his name which sat at the top of the list with the heading "Romeo's" above it. He recognised several other high profile names on the list – poor bastards.

The second list which was headed aptly as "Juliet's" contained the names of all of the participating models who would be selected and paired with a "Romeo".

Arthur's eyes fell on the familiar name typed at the top of the list which was the main reason why he had become aware of the event and was actively putting himself forward in such a public manner. Sophia would be modelling and was therefore a "Juliet" – the one he intended to be paired with for the required four dates. He wasn't known for desiring attention from the press but Sophia had nagged at him constantly and it was for a charity close to his heart-not that he would admit that to many.

"She's extremely beautiful don't you agree?"

Arthur's head shot up in surprise thinking that he was referring to Sophia until he noticed Lance staring at the front cover of another copy of the brochure which had a flattering image of the "Easter Parade's" founder and organiser on the front.

"Morgana La Fay" Lance mused aloud and the other man was amused to notice a slightly dazed expression come over his usually serious demeanour.

Arthur resolved to introduce Lance to the lovely Miss La Fay at the first available opportunity-it had been a long time since his friend had shown such an interest in anything other than work. Not that he could talk, he supposed, but at least he allocated some time for fun.

"You do know that Miss La Fay will probably be keen to thank all of the employees from Pendragon who assisted in bringing her baby to the attention of the public."

Arthur smirked at his own cunning.

"We did provide a rather amazing advertising campaign for her and I've heard the demand for tickets far out weighs the supply."

Somehow he thought Lance would find this interesting and it would also divert his attention from Arthur's involvement in the proceedings. A win, win situation.

Lance, however, looked at him bemused and didn't seem sure as to how this information could help him.

Correctly reading his thoughts, Arthur rolled his eyes in disbelief that Lance still hadn't managed to pick up and retain any of the tips he constantly tried to leave his way. "It is unlikely that she knows who you are, you dolt, so pretend that you work in advertising ensuring you'll receive a fervent welcome and then take it from there."

Why was he still frowning..?

"What happens when she finds out who I really am?" Lance looked confused and not at all like the resourceful, intelligent man Arthur knew him to be.

He was going to have to be taken in hand, Arthur decided, there was his future happiness at stake. And his own sanity…

Opening his mouth to provide some home truths, a name on one of the lists caught his eye and he felt his jaw drop in surprised disbelief. "Lance, can you tell me why on earth there is a man listed under "Juliet's" because surely Merlin, ridiculous as it sounds, is a man's name?"

The loud chuckle from Lance brought Arthur's face up sharply as he realised what he was thinking. "Unfortunately for you, you sick bastard, I'll not have the pleasure of winning the hand of the fair maiden Merlin as I've cunningly already had a small word in the organiser's ear."

His self satisfied smirk irritated the shit out of Lance, as it always did and he couldn't resist hoping, despite genuinely loving the guy like a brother, that for once a little egg would fly in his face.

"Merlin…Merlin?" Arthur seemed preoccupied now, staring blankly and muttering the man's name repeatedly.

A sudden scowl transformed his previously smug expression into one of annoyance. "That is the name of the nincompoop who practically killed me last month with that sandwich. It's too much of an unusual, never mind weird, name for it not to be him."

Lance shook his head in exasperation for he had heard on countless occasions about the skinny, pale freak who had handed over an innocuous lunchtime snack which had nearly killed the heir to the Pendragon billions.

Okay so maybe he was being a little dramatic but Arthur's reaction had been way over the top in Lance's opinion. He was sure that the poor lad hadn't done it on purpose and then they had bumped into him a week later in a restaurant where Arthur had scowled in his direction the entire night. If it was the same person and it seemed likely, then Lance resolved to try to act as a buffer as best as he could-in between observing Miss La Fay that was.

He watched as Arthur stormed from the room, banging the door behind him and mused over his friend's extreme reactions with a contemplative frown.