A/N I wrote this fic for a good friend of mine from LJ. It's posted there as well as Ao3 if you guys prefer those sites! I hope you all enjoy!
"Arthur, it really could have been worse," Morgana said, eyeing her step-brother critically as she sipped her tea.
Arthur raised his eyebrows at Morgana disbelievingly and leaned back against his couch cushions. "He broke my laptop."
"You work too much." She shrugged and pointedly ignored looking at the remains of what had once been Arthur's prized, custom-built laptop. "Besides, I'm sure your files are backed up."
Arthur glared at her. "That's not the point." After a moment, he muttered something that sounded like, "I don't know why I thought you'd be sympathetic."
Morgana actually laughed. "If you'd really wanted sympathy, you would have phoned Gwen." She grinned wolfishly. "Instead, you rang me. So tell me, what is it you really wanted? If you want my opinion, I think it's rather funny."
"That's because you're a sadist," Arthur grumbled, glancing back at his broken laptop.
"Are you really upset?" Morgana asked, sounding both concerned and curious. "I didn't think you liked him all that much."
"No," Arthur replied, resigned. "I didn't."
Morgana gave him an appraising look before saying, "I'm sorry." She reached out as if to take Arthur's hand but changed her mind at the last minute and awkwardly patted his knee instead. "You'll meet someone. Someone you actually like."
"It's not that," Arthur told her, half-smiling at her attempts to comfort him. He nudged his broken laptop with his foot, trying not to think about how much he hated using the company laptop that was still in his desk at work.
"If you invited me over to mourn your stupid laptop rather than offer comfort after Peter broke it off with you, I'm leaving," Morgana informed him, eyes narrowing.
"I'm not mourning a laptop," Arthur argued, refusing to meet Morgana's gaze, "and you're hardly comforting."
Morgana's eyes softened and she actually did squeeze Arthur's hand this time. "You'll find someone."
"I don't want to turn into my father."
There, Arthur thought, I've said it. He got out what had been burdening him for the last hour as Morgana sat with him, trying to figure out what to do now that the man he'd been seeing for the better part of seven months had stormed out when Arthur checked his email for the third time during dinner.
Morgana let out a whoosh of air as she stared at him, eyes wide with shock and something else Arthur couldn't quite place but that he thought might be pity. She didn't offer him any reassurances, didn't say that he was nothing like his father. Instead she just shook her head and said very quietly, "I know."
Arthur looked up to meet Morgana's eyes and felt something in him crack before he swallowed thickly and looked away. "I'm going to be thirty in a few weeks."
"So?" Morgana demanded, suddenly tired of Arthur's wallowing. "I just got married and I'm thirty-three."
Arthur glared at her. "You're really not helping." He realised he probably shouldn't have made the age comment. For some reason she'd always been sensitive to the fact that she was a few years older.
"Look," Morgana said, sounding amused. "I'm sorry Peter dumped you, but you really need to get over yourself and start thinking that there might be a common factor in your failed relationships."
"Morgana," Arthur said dangerously, "if you're about to tell me that I'm the common factor, I will beat you with what is left of my laptop."
Morgana laughed. "Think about it, though. You do have a tendency to talk about your job as if it's the love of your life and your partners as if they're…well, work."
"I like what I do," Arthur replied with a shrug.
"Just think about it," Morgana said, putting her empty mug on the coffee table. "I think it's time you found someone to date that you like a lot more than you like your job."
Arthur nodded, not quite wanting to admit that his step-sister was right, and told Morgana to go home as it was past nine and he had work in the morning.
Merlin sighed as he watched his godfather flip through the files on his desk. It had been three months since he'd graduated with his Masters in computer engineering and he still hadn't found a job. Gaius had been his last hope, but it seemed that even his godfather wasn't able to hire him on.
"You don't really want to work as IT support anyway," Gaius was saying, looking at Merlin apologetically. "That's not what you studied for."
Merlin sighed. "I'd do just about anything right now," he admitted. "I've had to ask for an extension on my rent now that Freya's moved back to Sweden."
"Your messiness finally scare her away?" Gaius raised an eyebrow, knowing just how horrendous Merlin's organisational skills truly were.
"I'm not that bad!" Merlin protested. "I think she wanted to be closer to her family. I'm happy for her. It's just hard to pay rent for a two bedroom flat when I'm on my own."
"Ask that boyfriend of yours to move in," Gaius suggested. "What's his name again? Gilli?" When Merlin involuntarily flinched and looked away, Gaius sighed. "Oh, Merlin."
"It's fine," Merlin said, waving Gaius off. "It's been over a month now and I'm the one who ended it."
Gaius nodded. "Well, I'm sorry there isn't more I can do for you."
"You really don't need an assistant?" Merlin asked hopefully. "Just for a few weeks?"
"I'm sorry, Merlin." Gaius shook his head. "I don't do the hiring around here even if I did need an assistant."
Merlin sighed and sank back against the uncomfortable desk chair Gaius had offered him. "Can you think of anything here that I could do? Camelot Enterprises is a big company, there must be something." He looked at Gaius pleadingly. "I really need a job, Gaius."
"I know Uther Pendragon quite well," Gaius said slowly, finally taking pity on his godson. "Go get something to eat and meet me back here after lunch. I'll see if there isn't a temporary position somewhere." He looked at Merlin seriously. "You'll really do anything? I don't think I'll be able to find you anything with computers and I doubt it will be much more than making copies and filing paperwork."
"Just something to pay the rent until I can find something better," Merlin confirmed, doing his best not to get his hopes up. They'd already turned his heat off and if Merlin didn't make this month's rent, he would be out on the street. His mother had offered to help him, but Merlin knew she could barely afford her own mortgage and he couldn't bring himself to ask her.
"All right," Gaius said with a sigh. "I'll speak with Uther. If you go to Miss Alice's Tea House around the corner, I wouldn't say no to a large, strong cup of black coffee and some chocolate biscuits."
Merlin smiled and got to his feet. "Thanks."
"I've got a new PA starting this afternoon," Arthur announced as he and Leon stepped out of the elevator.
"Finally!" Leon said, grinning. "Think they'll last without someone else trying to snatch them up?"
Arthur was about to reply that from his resume, the new PA seemed slightly over qualified so he wouldn't count on it, when he noticed Peter walking across the lobby towards the two of them. Leon muttered that he would meet Arthur at their usual shop and hurried out of the building.
"What are you doing here?" Arthur asked, frowning at Peter who indicated that they should walk outside and talk.
"Security wouldn't let me up," Peter said wryly. "Didn't take you long to tell them I wasn't to visit anymore."
"They need to know if there's a risk," Arthur said with a shrug as he followed Peter out of the building.
"I'm hardly dangerous," Peter snapped, his lips a thin line and his dark eyes cold when he glanced at Arthur.
"You broke my laptop," Arthur pointed out. "I'm not sure if I can save the hard drive."
"Your files are probably all backed up somewhere," Peter replied shortly, though he had the good grace to look embarrassed. After a moment he added, "I'll replace it."
Arthur was about to tell him to go to hell but he was tired of fighting and asked, "Is that what you're here for?"
Peter shook his head. "I wanted my key back."
"Oh," Arthur said, putting his hand in his pocket and pulling out his set of keys. "I don't think I ever gave you a copy of mine."
Peter snorted. "Of course you didn't."
Arthur ignored him and stopped to pull Peter's key off of his keychain in front of Miss Alice's Tea House where Leon was waiting for him inside. "Is there anything else?"
"You're really a selfish bastard, aren't you?" Peter commented quietly, taking his key from Arthur and stepping out of the way as a thin, dark-haired man walked out of the tea house chatting with his mobile pressed between his shoulder and ear, his hands full with two takeaway cups and other items.
"I'm not doing this anymore, you're the one who ended it," Arthur replied, ignoring the dark-haired man who was now standing a few feet away from them chatting on his mobile and pretending not to listen to their conversation while he juggled the takeaway cups, a pack of chocolate biscuits, his wallet, and keys.
"I thought you might apologise," Peter said, crossing his arms.
Arthur snorted. "For what? You're the one who broke my laptop and just called me selfish."
"Maybe for ruining my celebration dinner? The one I cooked for myself," Peter suggested. "Or did you forget somewhere between checking your email and answering your work mobile that I made partner yesterday?"
"I didn't forget," Arthur answered. "I just needed to make sure everything was fine at work."
"You always come first; if that's not selfishness, I don't know what is," Peter said, shaking his head. "Let me know when you replace your laptop and I'll reimburse you."
"I think I'll be okay," Arthur said coldly, furious that he was getting a lesson on manners from the man who had thrown a tantrum in his flat the previous night and destroyed a very expensive computer in his flight of temper. "I still earn more than you even with your promotion."
Peter made a disgusted noise and turned away from Arthur, stepping around the dark-haired man who was still talking on his mobile as he attempted to manoeuvre his wallet around the takeaway mugs.
Arthur took a step forward to offer help when the man turned his back to Arthur and said in what Arthur assumed the man thought was a quiet voice, "You wouldn't believe what just happened, Will. These two selfish prats just broke up in front of me and one of them…"
Arthur didn't stay around to hear the end of that sentence. Fuming about eavesdropping busybodies who couldn't respect people's privacy, he stormed into the tea house to meet Leon and try to convince himself that this day couldn't possibly get any worse.
When he returned with Gaius's tea and biscuits, Merlin was greeted with one of his godfather's rare pleased smiles and the information that yes, there was a job for Merlin if he wanted it.
"Personal assistant?" Merlin asked sceptically, sipping his own cup of tea. "Isn't that just another word for secretary?"
"Not quite," Gaius replied. "The company has secretaries; your job is slightly different. You answer directly to Arthur."
"It sounds like I'm his servant." Merlin chuckled. "Please tell me I don't have to help when he goes to the loo or do his tie up for him."
Gaius snorted. "He'll tell you what the tasks are when he comes back from lunch."
"You've already said I'd do it, didn't you?" Merlin asked, raising an eyebrow. It wasn't that he minded Gaius agreeing to this job for him; it was that the job sounded like a more permanent position and Merlin really didn't want to do anything outside of his field of computer engineering for too long. He'd gotten his Masters for a reason and that reason was not so that he could make coffee for wealthy business executives.
"Uther saw your resume and said you fit what Arthur needs," Gaius replied.
"Why isn't Arthur hiring me if I'm to be his assistant?" Merlin asked. "Doesn't he need to make sure I can do the job?"
"Arthur is Uther's son," Gaius told him, "and I think Uther feels slightly guilty for stealing Arthur's previous PA away from him. It's been a few weeks and Arthur still hasn't found a replacement."
Merlin nodded. "Does he at least know I was hired?"
"Uther told him before he left for lunch," Gaius answered. "I was there. I think he's looking forward to meeting you. He saw your resume and said that you might be able to help him with a few projects right away."
Merlin broke into a broad grin. "Thank you, Gaius!"
"You're welcome, my boy," Gaius said, smiling at Merlin. "Now go meet with Gwen in the HR office and fill out the necessary paperwork before Arthur gets back from lunch. You're to start right away."
After lunch, Arthur headed back to his office with a small wave to Leon. His meeting with Peter had left him reeling and hearing the stranger begin to talk about him on the phone had left a sour taste in Arthur's mouth, but he'd tried put that out of his head. As Leon had pointed out, it wasn't every day that two men had an extremely personal conversation outside of a busy shop. If anything, Arthur was feeling a little embarrassed and he hoped that the man on the mobile wasn't a frequent customer at Miss Alice's. Arthur didn't think he would be able to look at the man without remembering how poorly he'd acted with Peter.
A knock at his door startled Arthur out of his thoughts and he called, "Come in!" and turned his chair around to meet his new PA.
"Hi, I'm…" the man faltered, his eyes going comically wide as he stared at Arthur before continuing, "I'm Merlin."
Arthur nodded curtly. "Sit down."
Arthur was not about to acknowledge what this man had overheard. He briefly entertained the thought of telling Merlin that he wouldn't be needed, but Arthur dismissed that as petty and ridiculous. Besides, he'd seen Merlin's resume and the man was more than qualified for what Arthur needed. If anything, Merlin could gain some experience working for Arthur and later join Arthur's team if his work turned out to be as good as his resume suggested.
"Gaius said I'm you're new PA," Merlin offered, smiling awkwardly.
"Yes," Arthur answered. He pursed his lips as he looked at Merlin who was now gazing calmly at Arthur as if waiting for his instructions. Merlin was actually quite attractive, Arthur thought before being horrified with himself. This was work; he was not to think about those things at work, especially not about the man who had seen Arthur make a complete arse of himself with his ex-boyfriend in public.
"What am I supposed to do for you?" Merlin asked bluntly, not seeming to realise that his job actually required very little talking on his part.
"Well," Arthur replied, raising an eyebrow and smirking slightly, "mostly you do as I tell you."
Merlin snorted. "Like that kind of thing, do you?"
"Excuse me?" Arthur demanded.
"Sorry," Merlin replied, looking down at his lap but not appearing to be sorry at all.
Arthur frowned but he didn't comment. "I have something I'd like for you to work on. I asked Gaius but he said you'd be better at it."
Merlin leaned forward eagerly. "Do you have a computer problem?"
"Not exactly," Arthur replied and sighed. When he'd first seen Merlin's resume, he'd been excited at the prospect of getting his new PA to recover the files from his broken laptop's hard drive. However, now that Merlin had overheard the conversation about how the laptop had been broken in the first place, Arthur was slightly mortified.
Merlin shrugged. "Well, I'll do my best with whatever it is."
Arthur nodded and opened his desk, pulling out the top and bottom halves of a laptop. He couldn't meet Merlin's eyes as he placed it on the table. "I need the files recovered. Not everything was backed up and…" He looked at Merlin who was staring openly at Arthur with something akin to shock and possibly even sympathy. "Look, I realise you overheard how this…er…happened, but I really need to know if you can get the documents."
"You're lucky he didn't do this to you," Merlin said quietly, still staring at Arthur.
"Huh?" Arthur asked, startled. "What are you…can you fix it?"
"Sorry," Merlin said, not moving to take the broken computer as he watched Arthur. "I just know that sometimes when people are violent with objects they can…you know, hurt people."
"What? No!" Arthur all but yelled, horrified when he realised what Merlin was suggesting. "Fuck. What is the matter with you? Can you fix it or not? I don't pay you to make up stories about my ex."
"You don't pay me anything yet." Merlin made no move to take the laptop. "I know someone who you can talk to if you need to."
"Christ, Merlin!" Arthur snapped, flushing as he finally lost his patience. "Take the laptop, get those files if you can, and don't come back until you're able to talk to me rationally. Peter wasn't abusive; he was just a bit angry and he ended it anyway, so stop trying to get all touchy feely on me."
Merlin snorted, his sympathy gone. "From what I heard, maybe you deserved it."
"Get out!" Arthur ordered furiously.
Merlin grabbed the broken laptop and left, wondering if he was fired as he headed to Gaius's IT office.
"What've you got there?" Gaius asked, looking curiously at the broken laptop in Merlin's arms.
"Arthur's laptop got a bit smashed," Merlin answered, setting the pieces on the desk. "He wants me to recover the files."
Gaius nodded. "He mentioned as much. I didn't realise he'd thrown it out a window."
Merlin snorted. "His ex-boyfriend broke it."
Gaius raised an eyebrow. "He told you that?"
"Not exactly," Merlin answered as he flipped the laptop over and started opening the bottom so that he could remove the hard drive.
"Arthur's quite private," Gaius said after a moment. "I wouldn't bring it up. He's to be your boss, not your friend."
Merlin shrugged. "That's fine. I'm not staying, remember? It's only temporary. Besides, he's sort of a prat."
"He's good at his job and he's going to pay you well," Gaius replied and Merlin could hear the reprimand in his tone. "You don't have to like him but try not to insult him."
Merlin looked at Gaius suspiciously. "Do you like him?"
"I've known Arthur since he was a boy," Gaius answered in a tone that made it clear he was done with this topic.
Merlin sighed and went back to trying to remove the hard drive.