A/N: I wanted to try and write a modern AU since I love them dearly.
Here's part 1, focussed on Merlin. Arthur appears in part 2.
Please, do tell me if you're enjoying it or if I should let myself out of the website this instant. :)
"Merlin, are you actually planning on getting a real job at some point?" Gwen complains for the hundredth time.
"I do want one." Merlin protests. "But they don't want me, that's all."
His best friend sighs tiredly but gives him a cup of tea nonetheless before she sits with him on the couch. Merlin hates it when Gwen is being nice in one of those particular moments when he really could use some excuses to be an ass without hating himself afterwards.
After all, she's got everything to be hated for. She's the poster girl for perfect life. Happily married to a hot, smart and gentle soul affectionately called 'Lance', she's living in the loveliest flat Merlin has ever set eyes on, and working in a successful small shop where she can create and sell her own clothes. She also happens to be a mother-hen to him and to worry about him all the time because he can't keep a job –or a boyfriend for that matter– for more than a month.
"I'll be ok." He repeats –just as he always do after a dismissal. "Gwaine said he can manage for a month before we're in the red again."
"Gwaine won't be here forever." Gwen reasons.
"He's not going anywhere soon. He needs me to watch over Rosie when he goes out."
"But he will grow up eventually and move out of your flat."
"Rosie will be 30 years old before him." Merlin jokes.
But Gwen is not amused and he rolls his eyes:
"Relax Gwen, you know I always find a way."
"But you're here when you could be looking for a job though." She can't help but saying it out loud. She loves Merlin dearly, but he's like a child who can't find his way in the world and she fears he won't ever find it.
"Gwaine doesn't want Rosie to know I've been sacked again so he asked me to come home at the same hour I would if I still had the job. He said irregularity is not good for a 7 years old girl."
"If Gwaine of all people thinks you will set a bad example for Rosie, then you're in trouble, Merlin." Gwen insists.
"I'll have a new job by the end of the month, you know me."
"I do, and that's why I'm worried. You can't live like this forever. You'll need to settle at one point or another."
"I'm a free spirit, that's not gonna change." Merlin shrugs.
Gwen sighs and gets up to refill the teapot. Merlin follows her in the kitchen to fetch some more milk.
"Why don't you go back to college?" Gwen dares to suggest, her back to him.
"Oh, 'cause that's gonna be so helpful to pay the bills." Merlin spats.
"Don't be a jerk about it, Merlin." She warns him.
"Sorry." He sighs. "Look, I know you think I'm a failure… Don't try to deny it –I know." He adds when she's about to protest. "But I'm a grown-up and it's not the first time I fail. I'll get back on my feet –as I always do."
Gwen gives him a worried look but doesn't dare to push him more. Merlin thanks her silently and then engages her in a new conversation on the clothes she is creating for the new season. He knows she could go on and on about his problems, but he's just been fired and he wants to think about anything except his situation now. And thank God, Gwen is the nicest person on earth and that's just what she does for the next hour.
Merlin has been home for five minutes when his phone buzzes with a text message from Gwen. He rolls his eyes because not only does she know him by heart, she's also behaving like his mother –like always.
Gwen: "One of Lance's mate just heard of a job as an assistant, interested?
Merlin: "Do I have a choice?"
Gwen: "I text you the address as soon as he's home."
Merlin considers the idea for a minute. He's never been an assistant before but he's not really sure it's a job for him. He has always had problem with authority and he has a feeling that working for an obnoxious, bossy and wealthy businessman would make a time bomb of him.
He doesn't have more time to consider since the little Rosie comes home and dashes right in his legs to hug him. He laughs and picks her up to twirl her around for their daily ritual of the 'plane-hug'.
"One of this day, you're gonna hurt yourself, Merlin." Gwaine says while settling his stuffs in the dressing-room.
"But she likes the plane-hug, don't you Rosie?" Merlin protests with a smile, all his bothers forgotten.
"One more time!" The child approves, giggling.
"Homework first." Gwaine interrupts.
"I did it with the nanny." Rosie argues.
"I want to check, go in your bedroom, I'm right behind –and don't give me the pouty face, young lady!"
"You're no fun!"
Rosie keeps on complaining loudly under Merlin's amused gaze while she drags her schoolbag quite theatrically to her bedroom.
"I could believe you're a responsible adult if I didn't know better…" Merlin teases Gwaine.
"Says the man who can't keep a job."
"This is coming from the human garbage who came home at 4am with no recollection of his own name, therefore my ego is intact." Merlin retorts, grinning.
"At least I have a job to be hangover at in the morning." Gwaine ripostes.
"I found a job already." And it's not that much of a lie.
"Prostitution doesn't count." Gwaine mocks.
They glare at each other for a moment, but they are laughing hysterically the next minute.
"I'm going out again tonight, will you watch over Rosie?" Gwaine eventually asks.
"Getting serious about a certain lady, aren't you?" Merlin teases.
"That's not an answer."
"I could say the same."
"You have lost your job; you're not supposed to be in such a good mood, Merlin."
"It's not as if I had lost a job three times this year –and we're in April."
Gwaine laughs and goes to the kitchen to check that there's something to cook for Rosie's dinner. He really is trying to set a good example for his niece, but sometimes it gets really hard not to order pizza or take-overs all the time.
"I'll watch over Rosie." Merlin declares when he sits on the bar stool in front of Gwaine who is trying to choose between pastas and green beans.
Gwaine offers him a grateful smile and courageously settles for the green beans.
They easily fall back into their routine after that: setting the table; speaking about their day, their friends, their wishes for the future; checking on Rosie's homework for Gwaine; visiting the website of his potentially future employer for Merlin; and eating with Rosie in a joyful meal.
And even if he's purposeless and jobless and a failure… Merlin feels like he's part of a family and he wouldn't change anything for the world.
Merlin is still unsure of how he got the job but he is in front of the building now and he sure as hell doesn't want to get in. He's sick in the stomach and he has no idea of what an assistant he's supposed to do.
The building of the Pendragon Corporation seems to go up straight to the sky and its many windows are shining too brightly. Merlin had heard of buildings like that in the USA, he never thought they had it in London and he has been living in the city for five years.
He had googled the Company on his way to his interview two days ago and he had discovered that Uther Pendragon was one of the wealthiest men of the country. He had no idea that a company that began by offering bodyguard services could get this worldwide influence and own shares in companies around the world. He's not even sure he has grasped every activity the Pendragon are implicated in yet. He's heard they've got architectural projects and own a lot of shopping centers around the world and he's quite sure he has read somewhere that they still train the best bodyguards of the country.
There's no chance on earth for Merlin to fit in this world.
And that's what he texts to Gwen before even entering the building.
Merlin: "Standing in front of the building. Seems posh."
Gwen: "Don't you back down, Merlin Emrys. You need the money."
Merlin: "I don't even know how I got the job. The interviewer seemed about to cry when I left"
Gwen: "Don't overthink, be polite and above all: don't be yourself"
"Don't be yourself." He reads out loud. "The most useful advice ever, thank you Gwen."
He rolls his eyes but eventually gets in, thinking really hard of the little Rosie.
When Gwaine had announced that his niece was coming to live with them one year ago, Merlin hadn't been exactly ecstatic about it. But he had agreed anyway, because Gwaine was going through some rough stuffs with his sister's brutal death and there was no way on earth that he was letting his best friend down when he needed him the most. However, now that Rosie is in his life, Merlin often wonders how he has made it all these years without her. The little brat had crawled her way through his heart before he even got the chance to say never.
He needs the job, they need the job and that's what eventually makes him enter the building.
He checks the floor he's supposed to go to on the contract the interviewer gave him and decides against the use of the stairs when he reads 'Floor 35'. He's alone in the elevator and verifies he's not looking too untidy. When he realizes that he does indeed look like a mess, he sighs and tries to flatten his unruly hair unsuccessfully. Merlin's never been too worried about his appearance but he supposes that such a job requires some elegance. Gwen would say he's not making any effort if he does not at least try to look decent and polite.
When he finally finds the office of Morgana Pendragon, he knocks lightly and waits for his new boss to invite him in. When she does, he hears some annoyance in her tone and braces himself for what's about to happen.
Inside, he faces the most beautiful woman he has ever seen –and his best friend is Gwen, so that is saying a lot. She has long disciplined brown hair, the purest green eyes, a face that could be described as goddess-like, and what he sees of her figure behind the desk must make most men unable to utter a correct sentence in front of her. If Merlin ever chooses to go for a woman, she would be the one to blame.
That is, until she opens her mouth.
"Are you going to stay in the doorway all day?" She barks.
Merlin has always responded fiercely to this kind of tone and it takes all he has in him not to snap right back at her something really insolent.
"Good morning Miss Pendragon." He articulates politely instead.
"Do not patronize me." She retorts, crossing her arms.
Merlin really thought he wasn't that obvious in his tone, he assumes she's really good at detecting lies –that must be exhausting for the people around her.
"Did you bring coffee?" She asks, looking back to her computer.
"No, I didn't. I have not been informed you needed one."
"Are you aware that your job's name pretty much reads 'go fetch me a coffee'?"
"I was unaware that the job I applied to was entitled 'servant'." He instantly snaps.
He covers his mouth in horror because he really should have thought twice before he spoke. He can already hear Gwen's cry of anger.
He dares to glance at his soon to be ex-employer and is shocked to discover that she seems genuinely amused, a smirk lighting up her gorgeous face.
"Blunt honesty, I quite like that." She grins. "Tell me your name again?"
"Merlin Emrys, Miss."
"What do you think of my office, Merlin?" She asks, her tone daring.
"You could do with more light." He answers before he overthinks everything and fails to answer properly.
"What do you think of this job?" She inquires, curious.
"I can't speak of something that has not yet begun."
"What do you think of disabled people?"
"I don't know how to answer this question."
"Oh really?" She seems to be enjoying the conversation far more than he does.
"Do I have to think something particular about it? I mean, what does it change? …–Are you going to sack me?"
He really didn't want to ask that but she's making him nervous. He doesn't know what to think of her little game but he cannot see where this is going. The situation appears to please her though, because she is now beaming at him and escapes a little laugh:
"You don't read the tabloids, don't you?"
"Oh please, don't." She implores.
She seems to fumble with something behind the desk and the next moment gives Merlin a death wish because he's an insensitive fool. She is in a wheelchair.
"Don't feel sorry for me, I'm lucky enough to be alive." She says more gently than she has talked before. "And it's only temporary." She nods towards her legs in plaster. "Car crash –I always drive too fast." She then explains.
"I'm sorry if it sounds insensitive but please, don't fire me?"
She laughs and rolls her eyes.
"You're not going to get fired because you didn't lick my boots. You do need to go fetch me a coffee though –please. We'll talk about your role as my assistant after."
"Thank you." He bows a little and feels foolish but it only makes her laugh a little more.
He exits the room quickly and sighs heavily as soon as he's out. This is gonna be harder than he thought to keep his cool. And he's fairly certain that his new boss is bipolar. It's just a matter of time before she fires him.
Gwen is so going to kill him.