Title: To the future: to the past
Character/s: Arthur, Gwaine, Percival, Leon.
Summary: If this was to be his last night, Gwaine wasn't spending it sober.
Word Count: 1000
Prompt: Song Prompt 4
Author's Notes: Enjoy!
“Where do you think you’re going? You know what the king said about being disturbed.”
“Screw that.” Gwaine turned and looked down to where Leon was sitting by the fire. The older knight stared pointedly at the bottle in his hand, but Gwaine didn’t flinch. “Gwen is helping Gaius. Our king is sitting in there on his own, probably brooding. I for one have no intention of going into battle – potentially our last battle – having spent the night sulking.”
Before Leon had the chance to respond, Gwaine continued on his way. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Percival. Pausing before he ducked into the king’s tent, Gwaine waved him over and Percival headed his way. Then Gwaine pushed open the flap and strode in.
He was right. Arthur was brooding. He was sitting at his table; maps, diagrams and other pieces of parchment spread out in front of him. But the candle was nearly out and Gwaine knew he hadn’t been reading for at least an hour. Instead, his fingers were steepled and Arthur was staring into thin air. He visibly jumped when Gwaine entered before trying to pull himself together.
“What did I say about being disturbed?”
“Sorry, Your Highness.” Gwaine held Arthur’s gaze when the king glared at him and it was Arthur who looked away first.
“You’re not going to go away even if I sit here and wish it, are you?”
“Nope.” Gwaine settled himself on the floor, sticking one hand back out of the tent and waving the others in. Leon might protest, but once he saw Percival enter and neither knight kicked back out again, he would come along. Sure enough, Percival ducked it and sat down and a moment later, Leon appeared.
“Don’t worry about it.” Arthur sat back as he spoke, pushing aside the documents and shoving the spare chair towards Leon with his foot. He glanced around the tent and Gwaine knew what he was looking for. Or rather, who. But then Arthur remembered that Merlin wasn’t here and his gaze dropped. Gwaine had never felt sympathy for Arthur before – they were both too proud to accept those sorts of emotions. But seeing how lost he looked right now with Merlin around made something twinge inside of him and he leant forward precariously to place the bottle on the table.
“I’m not dying without a drink,” he announced. The fact that no one tried to reassure him that he wasn’t going to die the next day meant he knew this was playing on their minds as much as it was his. There was a pause, then Percival produced cups from somewhere and the wine started flowing. No one was going to protest to it vanishing from the supply wagon if it was found in the king’s own tent.
As the drinks were handed around, Arthur seemed to relax. Gwaine lifted his to take a sip.
“I’d like to propose a toast,” Arthur announced. Gwaine just managed to stop himself from drinking in time to look up.
“To the future.” Arthur lifted his cup and the others followed suit. But as Gwaine stared into his cup, he had a better idea.
“So would I.” He expected to be shot down, but no one said anything and he sat up a little straighter. “To the past. To everything we’ve shared and done together over the last few years. I never wanted to be a knight, I certainly didn’t want to serve another prat of a king.” He paused and winked at Arthur, who simply rolled his eyes. “But I wouldn’t change it for the world. Not now, not ever.”
“Here, here,” Percival added, taking a long draught of his drink. Gwaine saw Leon drink out of the corner of his eye but he held Arthur’s gaze. As the king lifted his cup, he gave a soft nod and Gwaine followed suit before they both drank.
After that, the toasts began getting more elaborate. Gwaine was sure at one point they drank to the castle, to the horses and to the cook that had everyone – even Arthur – running scared. But there was a weight in the air, one that none of them could ignore. This was different to their other skirmishes with Morgana and there was a real sense that not all of them were going to be walking away from it.
But when Percival disappeared to answer nature’s call and Leon had fallen asleep, Arthur looked sad again.
“You will look out for him, won’t you?”
“Come again?” Gwaine had heard, he just wasn’t sure Arthur had intended to speak. The king tried to glare at him, but his eyes were unfocused.
“Merlin. He’s such an idiot. If I don’t make it, you’ll make sure he doesn’t break his neck falling down the castle steps, won’t you?”
Gwaine stared, realising Arthur didn’t know Merlin had ridden out. But telling him the servant was in potential danger over a mission that Gwaine could only guess the details of was not going to help matters now. Arthur seemed to need to know that Merlin would be safe and if that was what it took to keep him focused during the battle ahead, then the least Gwaine could do was agree.
“I’ll keep him upright, you have my word.”
Gwaine wasn’t sure Arthur had ever said those words to him before. But there was such sincerity in his tone that Gwaine knew he was being serious. Not just for promising to look after Merlin, but for everything. Arthur might have been a prat, but Gwaine still stayed true to his initial thoughts of thinking that he was a good man. Before anyone else could say anything, Arthur fell asleep where he was sitting.
Gwaine stood up, drained his cup and ducked out into the cool night air.
“You too,” he murmured, agreeing with Arthur’s gratitude for the last few years. He really wouldn’t change it for the world.