Disclaimer: I do not own Hetalia, or The Last Dragon Chronicles.
Summary: “N@West Building Society Lending Centre; this is Arthur speaking. How may I help you today?” Arthur's morning becomes anything but monotonous due to an interesting customer.
“N@West Building Society Lending Centre; this is Arthur speaking. How may I help you today?”
It was one of the many riddles of life that Arthur pondered between calls – when had his life become so awfully monotonous?
Working in one of the UKs many call centres had certainly not been what he had pictured himself doing at the ripe age of twenty three, his aspiration of writing books for children put on hold in order to raise the funds to live comfortably.
It was all very well and good to have the desire to replicate what Chris d’Lacey’s The Last Dragon Chronicles had done for him as a child for other children… Parents often told children dreaming of becoming an author that it wasn’t the most highly paid occupation if you did ever manage to get published, and they certainly weren’t wrong. While he had managed to get a contract with a publishing house with two books out on the shelves of Waterrocks and another in the works, he didn’t earn enough from the returns to pay off the debts he’d acquired as a student and still keep food on his table.
“I see; I’m just going to put you on hold for a moment and see if there’s anything we can do for you.”
He glanced through the numbers on screen listlessly, already knowing what he would find, and what he would have to say to the already disgruntled customer at the other end of the line. With a disinterested flick of his eyes to the screen he confirmed his thoughts, jotting down an errant thought for further investigation later and picked the line back up. The idea would only be developed further later that evening when he got off work in the comfort of his two-bed flat; this had pretty much been his routine for the past year and a half: selling those already in debt loans which only pulled them in further or arguing the semantics of bank charges by day, and writing to his heart’s content by night.
“I’m afraid that there is nothing that can be done on our end; you’ll have to call up the company themselves and speak to them.”
With a sigh, Arthur leaned back in his chair, drumming his fingers against the armrest absently as he waited for the torrent of words attacking him through the headset to cease. There was a small pause in which he took a brief breath to form a reply... but before he had the opportunity to speak his customer was off again, words almost merging into one another. Sharing a brief roll of the eyes with an equally exasperated co-worker, he scribbled a few more notes in the margins of his notepad.
“As I explained before- I assure you it would have been present in the paperwork you signed when opening the account… You’re well within your rights to do so if you please; as I said earlier my name is Arthur Kirkland, and I’m certain my manager will say the same thing. I’ll just transfer the call over.”
Finally able to wash his hands of the troublesome customer Arthur slid off his headset and slipped out of his chair, palming his mug with the intent of a well-deserved refill of tea.
No rest for the wicked though; no sooner had he returned to his desk with his now full mug did he have to take another call. Really, they were unusually busy for November; January and February tended to be particularly busy months for them due to the over-expenditure of the nation at large over the Christmas period.
Arthur heaved a sigh as he slipped the headset back on and answered the call; it wasn’t even noon and he was already bored out of his mind…
“N@West Building Society Lending Centre; this is Arthur Kirkland speaking. How may I help you today?”
There was a slight intake of breath on the other end of the line and a small pause, as though the caller had been shocked out of whatever he was about to say. Arthur frowned; it wasn’t as though he’d said anything odd – just what he said to just about every other customer who he dealt with.
“Can I ask which call centre this is?”
Arthur’s brow rose; while it wasn’t information that he couldn’t give out, he wondered behind the man’s motive for asking. Well, he hadn’t sounded angry at least – the voice was a little gruff, and seemed pensive if anything.
“This is the Leicester call centre; sir, how may I help you?”
“Huh. You might be able to help me with a couple of things, actually. So, are you as hot as your voice suggests?” Arthur could hear the grin in the man’s tone, and could feel his brows climbing his forehead in incredulity. Before he could stop himself, a snort of amusement had left him, his lip twitching up slightly on one side.
“I couldn’t possibly comment, though I suppose you may ask a colleague for their opinion if you ever need to call again. May I ask the reason for your call today, sir?”
There was a slight shuffling on the other end of the line, and Arthur guessed that his customer was looking through paperwork and bringing up the appropriate sheets. He wasn’t sure if he was glad or disappointed that the caller had deemed to turn his attention back to the reason for which he had called.
“Okay, so this month has been a little tight as I’ve had to have some unexpected maintenance work done on my flat; I was also paid late because of some banking issue at work so I was overdrawn two pounds for two days until I did get paid and was able to pay it off.” The rustling had stopped now, and the playfulness from before had abated. Arthur had a feeling he knew where this was going; he could only hope the man had a level head on his shoulders as if he started shouting down the phone at him Arthur was unlikely to be sympathetic to his plight. “I got back this afternoon to see that I’d incurred a twenty eight pound bank charge for this; it seems more than a little unreasonable.”
So far, so good. Arthur was a cynic at heart and although this conversation had started civilly enough he could see the whole thing going pear-shaped rather quickly; he liked this man so far, but so many other calls had started well and then gone downhill to the point that he had been forced to make a note on the person’s record for verbal abuse.
“Could I please get your name? I’ll also need your account number and sort code to take a look at your account to see if what the next course of action should be.” Arthur asked, hands poised over the keyboard and ready to type. This was now all standard procedure and rolled off his tongue with ease.
“Th’ name’s Gilbert Weillschmidt… You know, I swear I’ve heard your name somewhere before…” Arthur rolled his eyes; that was almost as bad as ‘have we met before?’ He keyed in the name (after having it spelled out using an… interesting rendition of the phonetic alphabet), account number and sort code he was given and glanced through the details. Gilbert was only a year older than Arthur was, and his home address was listed as one in Leicester… Wait, maybe Francis had managed to post pictures from their Uni piss-ups on MyFace even after all of Arthur’s threats? Leicester was a small city and it was possible he may have been seen tagged in a photo documenting one of his less sensible moments…
Trying not to get ahead of himself, he quickly got onto confirming the post code of the address and the last transaction made on the account, squashing his mounting dread. “Alright, that’s all fine; I’ll just take a look at your account and see what we can do.”
For someone who seemed so young and, judging from the voice, outgoing, the account itself was extremely well run. Direct debits were being paid out of the account regularly and on time, and this seemed to be the first time that he had been overdrawn… The timing of the whole debacle seemed to be very unlucky on the who-
“What did you say your name was?”
Arthur’s nose wrinkled in annoyance at the interruption to his thought process, but dutifully muttered “It’s Arthur Kirkland,” as he frowned and expanded one of the tabs on his screen. “Now according to our recor-”
“No way, are you the one who wrote Fall of the Sidhe?”
Arthur could only blink at that. “I… Y-you’ve heard of it?”
“My little brother loves it… Aw man, Ludwig’ll never believe this! He’s going to be so jealous that I spoke to his favourite author.” Gilbert chuckled, and if it weren’t for the fact that he was already blushing under the praise Arthur was sure the warmth in his voice would have caused his cheeks to colour anyway. “Fall of the Sidhe was always his favourite – he used to stay up all night to read it even though he’d read it through once already and ignore me when I’d go both- I mean when I’d need him for something. I wanted to see what all of the fuss was about so I ended up reading them too… The Cursed Wyvern has to be my favourite though.”
Arthur was still slightly at a loss – how on earth should he respond to that? He wasn’t used to being recognised for his writing, and had only really been on a couple of visits to schools and libraries. Mostly, he spoke to the children; he wrote for them, after all, and silly as it was he hadn’t really considered that adults may have read his work as well. “…May I ask why you prefer it?”
Arthur had pretty much forgotten that he was on a work call; Gilbert didn’t seem to mind the distraction though. “Oh, well faeries are okay, but dragons and knights? They’re just awesome. And then the chivalry as well; how can you not like it? I’d swap magic for being handy with a sword any day.”
They both fell silent for a moment. The flush that had almost dissipated from his features was now back with a vengeance, and Arthur couldn’t decide if he wanted to laugh or bury his head in his arms and groan.
Seeming to catch onto his unintended innuendo, Gilbert began to snicker quietly, but his amusement mounted swiftly until he was chortling down the phone. A small grin tugged at Arthur’s lips at the sound.
“If we may get back to the reason for your call?” Arthur prompted lightly, unable to keep the smile from his voice as he let his gaze fall back on the screen. “The time for which you were overdrawn was two days, right?” At the murmured assent from the other end of the line as Gilbert composed himself, Arthur continued. “It seems that unfortunately the two days have fallen at either side of the period, so instead of incurring one charge of £28, you’ve actually been charged a total of £56 for being overdrawn in both periods – you’d be charged the second lot of £28 at the end of this second period.” He paused for a moment as he scrolled through the records before him; he continued before Gilbert could interrupt. “Now, from what I can see here, your account has been run very well thus far and this is the first instance of any such charges being made to your account. As you’ve been an exemplary customer so far in running your account, and the charge in itself being a little ridiculous, I can offer you a ‘gesture of goodwill’… That is to say, have the charge waived from your account.”
“You can do that?”
“Yes, with cases like this one, and for customers who do not have a history of being overdrawn… I’ll just arrange that for you now.” Again, Arthur tapped away at the keyboard, making a few relevant notes and ticking a couple of boxes.
“So when’s the next one out?”
“I’m sorry, what?” One final click and it was taken care of. He turned his full attention back to Gilbert again.
“The next book; when can we look forward to reading it?”
“Ah, well… I’m still writing it actually; it’s still in the early stages so it may be a while before it’s out, but we keep the website pretty up to date about progress made on them.” Usually at this point in a call, Arthur would look to try and sell the customer a loan – if they were a good customer as Gilbert seemed to be, he could offer him a better interest rate, and those who struggled already would end up being pulled further in debt as they attempted to consolidate their existing loans… He could tell that Gilbert wouldn’t buy into his sales pitch – he didn’t want to use it on someone he liked anyway, really – but by omitting that part of the routine, he’d be cutting the conversation short.
And although he probably wouldn’t admit it aloud, he was rather enjoying the conversation.
He could see his manager eyeing him suspiciously from a few desks away where he was helping a newcomer with a difficult customer, and knew he hadn’t much choice in the matter anymore. Apparently all managing staff had radar which homed in on anyone in the office who wasn’t feeling miserable or enraged – because if they were happy, they clearly weren’t doing their job right.
Arthur let out a rueful sigh. “Well, it’s all been put through the system now, so you won’t be expected to pay those charges now… Was there anything else I could help you with today..?”
“There was one thing.”
“I still want to test my theory from before; how would I go about doing that?”
It took a moment for Arthur to remember what he was talking about; when he did recall the beginning of the conversation he had to stifle his mirth before his manager really did come over. “I’m afraid I can’t help with that; however I’m sure your brother could probably contact that author you spoke of earlier for you should you have any questions.”
Gilbert seemed to consider that for a moment, before finally replying. “I’ll be keeping that in mind. Thank you for your help today.”
“Have a good day, sir.”
He hadn’t been expecting to hear back from Gilbert but it hadn’t stopped the hope from creeping into his voice every time he answered a call, nor had it kept him from checking for contact.
He couldn’t help the beaming grin from spreading across his face when the email arrived a week and a half later.
I’ve been a big fan of your books since I read The Cursed Wyvern the year it was released, and particularly enjoyed Fall of the Sidhe. I’m a little reluctant to ask any questions with regards to the series as I’d rather discover the answers through reading them in the books if they are revealed, but I would like to say how much I am looking forward to your next published work.
Actually I was quite content to simply enjoy your books without bothering you with fanmail but this past week or so my brother Gilbert has taken to pestering me to write to you; why he can’t do it himself is beyond me as he is an older sibling rather than a younger one.
I introduced him to your work when rereading them myself; he doesn’t tend to be a fan of reading for pleasure as a whole, but I think The Cursed Wyvern has caused him to give a few other books a chance as well. I don’t think there has been another to catch his attention in the same way though.
He keeps insisting that he spoke to you last week – which I am aware is absolutely ridiculous, though I don’t know his purpose for saying such a thing – and thus, the reason for this email.
He has insisted that I include his own email address and mobile number in the email. I’m sure you have a lot to do though so please don’t feel obligated to send him anything.
Eagerly awaiting your next book,
A/N: Soooo. You know that music meme? The one where you put your library on shuffle and then write for the duration of the song?
I started it last year at the end of summer and got... just a tad carried away. As I do. Which spawned this.
The first time I heard this song was last year when I got hold of the album just before I was due to see them at the forum; the lyrics always make me giggle XD
The procedure of charges being waived in this manner is how it was done back in 2007 when my sister worked in a lending centre (she's the one who I pestered about all of this to get it as close to right as I could), though it works differently these days with the staff on the end of the line having less power to do things like this for customers.
Anyway, I hope you've enjoyed reading this! Expect more from this meme from me, though I have no idea when you'll get the next part. This time next year perhaps, if I keep this up orz