Arthur left work late again. It was the third time this week. As he eased his sports car out of the car park, he glanced to his left. He was there again, at the bus stop. The lanky bloke with the shock of black hair falling into his eyes. Hands in pockets and collar up to withstand the brisk wind. His face and those large ears were red from the cold. He should wear a scarf to protect from the winter chill.
Arthur had seen him often enough, waiting for the bus, that he'd come to feel a bit proprietary about him. He was his bus stop bloke. On an impulse, Arthur abruptly changed lanes and braked heavily to stop right at the bus stop. His actions generated a huge splash of muddy water that flew up and soaked the man's trousers.
"Oi! Look what you did! My best trousers are ruined!"
Arthur lowered the window on the passenger side. "Look, I'm sorry about that. I just wanted to help you out."
"And just how is soiling my trousers helping me out?" The young man was agitated--this wasn't going well.
"I meant to offer you a ride home or to wherever you're going."
"Why would you do that? I don't know you."
"Can't a bloke offer a stranger in distress some assistance? Admit it, you were freezing your arse off."
A horn blared from behind Arthur's car, urging him to move.
"Com'on, get in."
The man hesitated a moment more, then opened the door and slid into the seat beside Arthur.
"Do I know you?
"Name's Arthur, Arthur Pendragon."
"No, I don't. I'm Merlin. I'm not sure I should be doing this. You might be a serial rapist or someone equally stalkerish." Merlin regarded Arthur with narrowed eyes.
"Thanks for the vote of confidence, mate," Arthur responded sarcastically.
"I got in, didn't I? And I'm not your mate," the man replied churlishly.
"My mistake then." This was so not going well.
"Yeah. I’d never have a mate who could be such an ass, splattering me with mud.”
"I said I was sorry and I'll pay your cleaning bill. Where to then?" Arthur said with a sigh. Merlin provided directions, as Arthur tried to come up with a way to turn around the conversation.
After a period of uncomfortable silence, Merlin asked, "So why did you offer me a ride?"
Arthur squirmed in his seat a bit. "Like I said, you looked like you were freezing. I've seen you at that stop often, in the evenings."
"Oh God, you have been stalking me! You probably know where I work and now I've given you my home address. I'm sunk." Merlin distractedly ran his hand through his hair, rending it even more unkempt. And adorable, observed Arthur.
"No, no. It's just ... when I work late, I see you there, waiting, by yourself. I don't know where you work or ... anything." Arthur's voice trailed off. Merlin was regarding him with a look of curiosity. Well, at least that was better than fear.
Merlin shook his head. "I still don't get it. Why me?"
Arthur figured he'd already ruined his chances, so why not admit the truth? "Why you? Because I wanted to get to know you, that's why. I don't usually pick up strangers and offer them rides home, despite what you may think of me."
"Oh," Merlin breathed.
More uncomfortable silence followed. Arthur took some furtive glances at Merlin, but he couldn't read anything in the young man's face. He was staring out the window and nervously fingering the strap of his backpack.
Too soon for Arthur, they arrived at Merlin's destination. "Here we are."
"Yes." Merlin made no move to get out of the car.
"I will pay your cleaning bill or pay to replace your trousers if they can't be cleaned. Here's my card. Just let me know how much." Arthur handed Merlin a business card.
"Uh, thanks." Merlin opened the door and exited the car. Before he shut the door, Arthur offered, "If you ever need a ride, give me a call -- my mobile's on the card, too."
"Yeah. Thanks." And then Merlin was gone.
Arthur's mood soured completely as he headed for home. How could he have been so stupid to mess that up? He'd likely never hear from Merlin again. As he pulled into the garage, his mobile emitted a loud 'ding,' signalling a new text.
Ride tmw 8pm @ bus stp?
Arthur grinned and texted back:
Sure, cu then.
He had a chance, and he was going to make the most of it