Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, various
Summary: All he had to do was force a smile on his face and pretend he found it funny.
Word Count: 999
Author's Notes: This is a really depressing use of the prompt, sorry. My brain fried.
He had never truly found it amusing, the things that he and his friends got up to. He had laughed along with it, knowing that he would be the one in the firing line if they thoughts that he was going soft. He might have been one of them, but he knew that didn’t save him. Especially not if they found out that he wasn’t into the girls they so rudely called after time and time again. But he forced a smile on his face and made himself titter as one of them tripped a younger boy hurrying down the hallway, late for his lessons.
He did it because it was expected of him.
He knew that he had to keep his social standing, or that everything would be ruined. So he forced a smile on his face and pretended that he found it hilarious when a pile of books the girl had so carefully been balancing were shoved from her arms and scattered around the floor and when his so called friends looked his way, he forced himself to act like it was the most amusing thing he had seen to watch her try and gather them up while the rest of the group were trying to see either up her skirt or down her top.
He had to survive high-school, what other choice was there?
It wasn’t forever, and that was what was getting him through it.
Until the new boy arrived.
He knew that the boy would be their instant target. He just hoped that someone would warn him first, that he didn’t try and navigate the corridors on his own for the first few days. But his hopes were destroyed when he saw him out of the corner of his eye, alone. He tried to steer his group away, the twisting feeling in his gut telling him which way this was going to go. Sure enough, it only took one of them to spot him and the whole group had headed over. He sighed, ready to once again look as if he found the whole thing hilariously funny.
They cornered him. Pinned him up against the lockers, knocked the books from his hand. When he tried answering back, a fist in the stomach reminded him of his place; at their feet. Thankfully, the bell chimed and students began spilling out into the corridors before it could go any further than that. He allowed himself to be swept along with the rest of them, neck craning to get a look back at the boy as he quietly got to his feet, eyes blazing. Something told him he wouldn’t be the victim they thought he would, he had a quiet confidence about him that made him believe that he had only taken the beating because he was getting the measure of his opponents.
He kept his head down for the next few encounters, lurking at the back of the group and only briefly smiling when he felt like he had to protect himself. But his heart pounded hard and a cold sweat broke out as he realised that he was terrified. What would this new boy do to them? Possibly nothing, but there was one thing he did know; he wasn’t going to be there to find out. If he could stand up to them, then why should he be the only one?
He didn’t say anything, but just slipped away one day.
But he was isolated, on his own. Even if people knew that he wasn’t so bad himself, they knew he was part of that group enough to avoid him. No one offered him a place at their table, no one walked to class with him. Suddenly, the whole thing was even less amusing than he had ever thought.
It took them a week, but they found him. It was behind the bike shed as well, where no one could hear his cries for help as they made it known how unhappy they were with him for leaving them. They hadn’t realised it had all been a pretence on his behalf, they had truly thought that he had found the situation as amusing as they had. They hadn’t realised the laughter was faked or the smiles never reached his eyes.
But just as he thought they were actually going to kill him, they stopped. By the time that he looked up, they had simply melted away as if they had never been there. One glance was all it needed to know the reason why; the new boy was standing there. He knew in that moment he hadn’t been the only one to get the strange vibes off the newcomer, he hadn’t been the only one realising that there was something about him they couldn’t intimidate. The boy looked down on him and sighed, crouching down next to him.
“It’s not so funny anymore, is it?” He murmured softly, picking up a bruised wrist and rotating it slightly. A yelp of pain escaped the fallen boy.
“It’s not broken, you’ll be fine.” The newcomer stretched out his legs, settling himself down on the ground as he stared at the beaten mess. Eventually, he shook his head and sighed.
“I’m Arthur,” he offered, watching closely as the fallen boy began to force himself to sit up slightly.
“Merlin,” he whispered back, realising quite how much of an idiot he had been. He had thought staying with the group had provided him with safety through high school. But now he knew he had been wrong. Arthur was the one who would be there to protect him, and he Arthur. It was just something he could feel in his gut.
“The idiot,” Arthur deadpanned, but Merlin could tell the way his eyes were crinkled slightly. He grinned and nodded, knowing he had no reason to disagree. Within five minutes, Arthur had him laughing despite the fact that it hurt.
And this time, he did genuinely find the situation amusing.