Title: Happiness 101
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Morgana, Gwaine
Summary: Some things we won't learn at school
Word Count: 1296
Prompt: "I've forgotten what it's like to feel young."
Author's Notes: So much fluff...
Arthur would never be accused of being the life of the party.
It was just one of those things that happened when you have a legacy to fulfil - it takes up all your time so everything else gets relegated to the back corners that you never really investigate after a while.
He remembers school and uni as one extended after school activity. Rugby team, football team, cricket team, polo team, mathletes, quiz squad, ballroom dancing class, and every yuppy orientated club and activity his father could think of.
After uni, he’d basically walked off the graduation stage and straight into his job. There hadn’t been time for weekends, holidays, watching the tv shows that everyone talked about in the break room. Dating? Not unless it was his father that arranged it as part of some corporate strategy.
Arthur found himself being the kind of person that grumbled and complained at everything. The neighbours were too noisy. The teenagers in the park by his apartment were suspicious and the traffic was a collective fuck up because everyone else drove with their heads up their arses.
It was in between climbing the corporate ladder that would one day allow him into the old boy’s club that his sister had somehow managed to not only start her own successful business but also meet and get engaged to a man she adored. It had taken weeks of negotiations between Morgana, Uther and Arthur’s assistants to settle on a date for the wedding that would allow everyone to attend.
“I only have one request for today,” Morgana said to Arthur as she was doing a final check of her make up in the mirror.
“Anything within reason.”
Morgana straightened and turned to Arthur, taking his hands in hers. “I want you to smile - at least in the photos. And I don’t mean in a grit your teeth and bear it kind of way. A genuine smile, as if you’re truly happy for me.”
“I am happy for you.”
“Then show it on that handsome face of yours today, okay?”
Arthur pulled her into a gentle hug. “For today. Now, let’s get you married off, shall we?”
It was later, much much later, after the speeches had been said and the dances had been danced that Arthur found himself wandering the gardens that surrounded the manor house they’d used for the wedding.
He had a tumbler of whiskey in one hand, the other tucked into his suit pocket as he slowly followed the paths lit by solar-powered fairy lights. He had ambled through the rose garden and along an avenue of lavender and lemon balm enjoying the evening air thick with the scents of the plants.
As he was passing the entrance to the hedge maze, he heard someone giggle. This was followed by a body lurching out of the entrance and into the path in front of him.
“Gwaine, you wanker!” called the man in front of him, hunching over to catch his breath between laughing gasps.
“We’re not allowed in the hedge maze.”
The man looked up at Arthur and shrugged. “It’s not that great anyway.”
“It’s from the original Tudor garden. It’s practically a national heritage site.”
“Listen mate,” the man crossed his arms, his smile still bright. “The original hedge was burned due to a mould that infected it in the 1800s. The current hedge is not just the wrong species, but they planted over a lot of the original paths. This particular hedge maze is a much newer and shittier version.”
“Still, there’s a sign posted right there that says we need to stay out of it.”
“Psh, that’s just for kids and horny teenagers.” The man motioned carelessly at the sign. “You won’t believe how many condoms the gardener’s had to pluck out of the foliage. Now, I don’t know about you, but I need a drink.”
Arthur held out his tumbler, not realising he’d even done it until the man took it with a nod of thanks. He took a quick sip and returned it. “I’m Merlin.”
“Tell you what, Arthur. How about we grab a bottle of whiskey from the bar and then use it to find my mate Gwaine, who is still lost in the maze.”
“Fuck you, Merlin, I’m not lost,” came a muffled call from somewhere amongst the branches.
Merlin ignored the voice, took Arthur’s hand and led him back into the Manor House by a door Arthur had not noticed before. He left Arthur in a passage with a finger to his lips and within seconds was back, brandishing a bottle of Glenfiddich and a naughty smirk.
“Right, let’s go,” Merlin said, taking Arthur’s hand again and leading him back out to the garden.
Arthur hadn’t had much time to catch up emotionally to what had happened. All he knew is that he was sneaking through the maze, sharing the bottle with Merlin and making some odd sounds.
“You’ve got a nice laugh,” Merlin said as they sank onto a bench along one of the paths.
So that was the sound he was making. That could explain the odd tug in his cheeks and why his jaw was beginning to ache.
“Thank you,” Arthur blushed.
“You should laugh more often.”
“What makes you think I don’t?”
“These two little lines just here,” Merlin lightly pushed at the grooves between Arthur’s eyebrows. “Sorry. I get a bit… I didn’t mean to touch-”
“It’s okay. I...you can.”
Merlin leaned back and let out a laugh. “I’m going to regret this hangover in the morning, but I have to say, I’m having a much better time than I thought I would.”
“No thanks to me,” shouted Gwaine from a few rows away.
“How can you still be lost?”
“Pour a dram onto the ground, maybe I can smell my way to you.”
“That’s the stupidest thing I’ve ever heard.”
“Just do it, Merls. Please.”
Merlin shrugged. “Fine, but don’t you ever lecture me again on wastage.”
“Is Gwaine really going to find us like this?” Arthur asked.
“Weirder things have happened with him and whiskey.”
Arthur wanted to ask what those things were. He also wanted to kiss Merlin and feel his lips shiver when he giggled. He wanted to keep making those laughing sounds Merlin liked.
“Ready to run?” Merlin had leaned over and whispered.
With a dry mouth at the intimacy of the act, Arthur could only nod. Merlin took his hand, pulled him from the bench and began stumbling down the path ignoring Gwaine crashing through the hedge behind them. They ran to the back of the greenhouse and Merlin collapsed against the glass panel, shaking and gasping.
"I've forgotten what it's like to feel young."
Arthur frowned. “What do you mean?”
“I mean this… running around like idiots, drinking on the sly, hiding from the party. We used to do this when we were kids.”
“What kind of childhood was that?”
“A normal one.”
“Sounds like irresponsible parenting to me.”
“Sounds like someone never had any fun in school.”
Ah, yeah, Merlin had him there.
“And don’t say you’re not having fun now, cause then I’d call you a liar,” Merlin continued.
“I am, I just...school was not a lot of fun. I guess I’ve never really -”
Merlin cut him off with a kiss. Short, sweet and chaste, but still it set Arthur’s heart racing.
“Let’s make up for your shitty, no fun childhood right now,” breathed Merlin into the space between their lips.
“And how do you propose we do that?”
Merlin gave him one more kiss and smiled as he pulled away. “Meet me at the lake and you’ll see.” Then he took off running and Arthur couldn’t help but chase him.