The morning announcements were easy. There was some technical business jargon that Merlin had had to Google, just to avoid an obscene amount of fingerspelling and looking like an idiot, but it was mostly just the times of events and talking about the merger—tight-lipped thank you’s and all that. Simple stuff.
Arthur Pendragon’s Friday address was a bitch to get through, mostly because the man didn’t seem like he’d know a comradely tone if it bit him in the arse, so Merlin spent the entire time trying to salvage the speech to a point where it didn’t make the new Deaf employees seem like aliens.
He’d finished all of that by two o’clock, and he put it down in his timetable. (Honestly, the prat’s office was right there—if he was so concerned with what Merlin was doing at all hours of the day, couldn’t he just come over and check?) He did not, decidedly, spend his lunch break buying a shirt or a tie. The black sweater he had on was his favorite for interpreting, damn it, and the PenEd offices were cold. He was going to dress like this every single day, if only to piss off Pendragon.
That just left his trip to Human Resources, which he was sort of dreading. Merlin wasn’t the best at meeting new people, and Pendragon hadn’t even told him what he was supposed to be doing down there.
But with the threat of the timetable looming over his head, Merlin packed up his laptop and notebook at two fifteen and headed down to HR on the first floor.
The office itself—the whole of PenEd—was kind of strangely designed. The bare bones of the building looked like they had travelled directly from 1973, but the décor (the furniture, the paintings, etcetera) were overdone and expensive. Elaborate wooden picture frames contrasted uncomfortably with the sallow walls behind them. Sultry leather couches looked out of place on cat-food colored carpet. The greenish fluorescent lights put everything in an apocalyptic sort of cast that gave Merlin a bit of a headache. Not to mention, soft music was playing everywhere. It was too low for Merlin to hear, really, but his aid managed to pick it up and reproduce it as an undecipherable, quiet warbling in his right ear. It did nothing to help his growing dizziness.
The lift lurched to a stop, revealing the dim first floor of the PenEd offices. Merlin power walked straight out of the lift into another person, causing binders and folders to be dropped to the floor and someone to call out “Shit!”
“Sorry! Sorry.” Merlin had already reflexively kneeled down to help the person to pick up their things, splayed across the carpeted hallway.
He looked up to meet the eyes of someone grinning. He hadn’t expected that; he’d been ready for anger, or at least some annoyance. But the man didn’t seem annoyed at all. He stood after having quickly gathered his things, offering a hand to help Merlin up, and graciously accepting the rest of his materials that Merlin offered to him.
“So, that’s how you introduce yourself, ah?”
The man’s Irish accent was slight but still noticeable, the voice of someone who’d been living in England a little too long.
Merlin didn’t know what to say, so he kept looking awkwardly at the man until said man gave a sort of amused smile. “I’m only kidding you.” He shifted his things to one arm, seemingly assured of their security where Merlin couldn’t reach them, and extended his newly free hand.
“Gwaine,” he said.
Merlin shook his hand; it was warmer than his own. He answered, “Merlin.”
Gwaine had obviously originally been heading the opposite direction as Merlin before, but he didn’t seem to be in much of a hurry at all anymore.
“You’re going to HR?” Gwaine guessed, and Merlin nodded. “I can walk you.”
“No,” Merlin said automatically. “Obviously I’ve given you enough—”
—Gwaine waved a dismissive hand. “It’s nothing, really. I’ve gotta drop some of these off with Junior, and it’s funny how mad he gets when I’m late. Let me walk you.”
“Pendragon. The wee one. Arthur.”
Merlin had to laugh.
Gwaine cocked a mischievous eyebrow. “You don’t know him?”
“Just met him today. I’m his interpreter.”
“Ooh.” Gwaine gave him a pitying look, and they began to move together toward HR. “I’m sorry.”
“He can’t be the worst boss I’ve ever had.”
Gwaine shrugged. “Well, I admire your optimism.”
“You don’t like him.”
Gwaine laughed, a loud, dispersing thing that didn’t seem like it should be able to fit in the halls. “What gave it away?”
Merlin just caught his grin and shrugged.
“I’ve lots of names for him,” Gwaine went on.
“I’m sure you do.”
“Junior, as you witnessed. Prince—all the titles, really, you know: sire, my lord, that shit—and Princess—he doesn’t like that one as much, obviously—the Second, Number Two—get it, like, yeah, you get it—and Rich Richard.”
“I don’t actually dislike him. We’re kind of friends,” Gwaine went on to say, as they reached the Human Resources department. “But he does get on my nerves.”
“What do you do,” Merlin asked, “that you’re friends with him?”
“I’m on his team,” Gwaine said, like that explained everything. “He does the outreach stuff, you know”—Merlin hadn’t known—“and he’s got a consult board. It’s myself and some others.”
“Oh,” Merlin said. Then, when he didn’t know what else to add, “Nifty.”
For some reason, that made Gwaine crack another dashing smile. He gestured with mock-chivalry to the door of HR. “Well,” he said. “Now, I leave you, good sir.”
This man was ridiculous. “Thanks,” Merlin said. “I’ll see you?”
“In your dreams and in your waking life,” Gwaine answered, before giving Merlin a sort of playful salute and spinning on his heel, ready to retrace all the steps they’d just taken.