Merlin hadn't been nervous before coming to Camelot Medical Center, but he certainly was now, because Arthur Pendragon, MD, did not look like an otolaryngologist.
Not that Merlin knew what an otolaryngologist should look like; he'd never met one before. But he'd assumed a person who earned his living carving up people's noses, ears, and throats, would not look like the disgustingly handsome man before him.
Maybe it was his uniform? The white lab coat contrasted with a blood red tie peeking between lapels. Or was it his hair? Golden wisps that were shiny and perfectly parted-
Merlin had always been a sucker for blonds.
"Ah," Dr. Pendragon said, glancing to a chart at his desk. "You must be my 4pm otoplasty consultation, Mr. Emrys?"
"Call me Merlin."
"And I'm Dr. Pendragon," the doctor said, shaking Merlin's hand and then motioning to a swivel chair in front of his desk. "Please, take a seat."
Merlin nodded, making himself comfortable. It was a tidy room, with floor to ceiling windows and a perfect view of the garden outside. The curtains were old-fashioned looking; the walls painted a joyful robin's egg blue that perfectly matched the flecks of color in the doctor's eyes.
"Let's start with the standard questionnaire," Dr. Pendragon said, firing up his laptop. "Do you have any medical conditions, drug allergies, or past surgeries I should be aware of?"
"No drug allergies, but I'm lactose intolerant. Does that count as a condition?"
"It does," the doctor replied, his fingers flying across the keyboard with the precision of a pianist. "Vitamin's, supplements, current medications?"
"Um… I take a one-a-day men's multivitamin. Can't remember the name. Its a generic from the grocery store sold in a blue bottle. Has a picture of a super hot guy jogging on it."
"Vi-ta-min supp-le-ment in hot-guy bottle…." The doctor chuckled, each syllable punctuated by a keystroke. "Got it. How about alcohol, tobacco, or drugs?"
"Yes please," Merlin grinned.
Dr. Pendragon glared up at him. "You do realize you're my last appointment for the day, Merlin. If I have to I'll dive straight into my anti-smoking shtick and break out the throat cancer photos-"
"Kidding, kidding!" Merlin squeaked. "I don't smoke or take drugs. I have the occasionally beer or two on weekends, that's it."
He nodded. "So, why you are interested in undergoing an ear pinning procedure?"
"Shouldn't that be obvious, Doctor?" Merlin smiled. "I'm hideous."
No return smile from Dr. Pendragon.
Merlin licked his lips and continued. "What I mean is, I've been teased about my big ears my whole life. I've heard every insult from Dumbo to Mickey Mouse, and it doesn't help that I've made a career teaching high school English."
"Kid's that age can be merciless," the doctor sighed.
"Exactly. I just want to look normal. Attractive. To finally feel confident in my looks, you know what I mean?"
Dr. Pendragon didn't speak, but Merlin could feel that he was watching him. He'd hoped for another show of sympathy, but the doctors face had hardened to the point where even a chisel couldn't crack out his smile.
Merlin frowned. Of course he wouldn't understand how he felt. Look at the man, he'd probably been getting dates since he was eleven and laid since he was fifteen.
Dr. Pendragon tucked his clipboard under his arm, his lips thinning as he stood. "Enough questions, let's move on to the physical exam, shall we?"
Merlin squared his shoulders, lifted his chin, and let doctor's warm hand slide up the sides of his jawbone and settle at base of his right ear. It was a strange touch, clinical, but oddly intimate. Dr. Pendragon's calm expression the only thing keeping Merlin's blush from spreading all the way down his neck.
"The angle of your ears is over 35 degrees," The doctor said, leaning his face closer to Merlin's to get a better look. "And you have excess cartilage there," he added, running his thumb in a half circle at the back of Merlin's ear. "That's why your ears have a more prominent look too them."
"So how do I fix them?" Merlin moaned.
"Based on my physical examination, I'd recommend otopexy. The surgeon would make an incision here, where your ear and head join," he said, rubbing the tender flesh behind Merlin's ear again. "Removing excess cartilage and skin. Once the right visual effect is achieved, the cartilage would be pinned back with permanent sutures."
"Gruesome," Merlin shivered, pretending the graphic description had caused this physical reaction, not the pleasurable feeling of doctors fingers on his skin.
"Hardly," Dr. Pendragon smirked, going back to his office chair. "These surgeries are preformed with the patient under intravenous sedation and local anesthesia. You'd be high as a kite for an hour or two, with a full recovery expected within a few weeks."
"Fantastic! Sign me up!"
"I don't believe I'll be able to fit you into my schedule..."
"I can wait. Do you have any openings in February?"
The doctor cleared his throat. "I don't think we understand each other, Merlin. What I'm saying is I don't consider you a candidate for the procedure."
"What? Why not?"
"Because there is absolutely nothing wrong with your ears."
Merlin's face fell. "Excuse me? Do you have eyes? They stick out like satellite dishes! Like pie tins! Like-"
Dr. Pendragon waved his hand dismissively. "It's your self esteem that's the problem, not your ears. Yes they stick out but the look works for you. Pinning them back would be a crime against nature and I won't have it on my conscience."
Merlin's pulse quickened as the doctor did an odd thing. He scribbled on his prescription pad, folded the brittle paper in half and handed it across to Merlin.
Merlin hesitated, looking at the doctor's earnest face. "What's this, a physician referral?"
"It's my prescription for you, no surgery required," Dr. Pendragon smiled. "Open it once you've left my office."
Merlin waited until he was in the parking garage before unfolding the pink sheet of paper.
"Dinner?" It read, in a typical half-legible doctor scrawl, followed by a number...
A personal cellphone number.
It took Merlin two days to pluck up the courage to call.
"Do you make a habit of hitting on your patients, Dr. Pendragon?"
"Honestly?" A familiar voice rumbled. "You're the first."
Merlin chuckled into the receiver. "How unprofessional of you."
"Highly," the doctor agreed. "Do you plan on reporting me to the board for flirting with you?"
"Not if you ask me out for Thai food."
"Perfect," Dr. Pendragon said, with a sweet mellow laugh stole Merlin's breath away. "If there's two things I love, it's guy's with cute ears and Thai food."