A/N: Hello! So, next to Arthur-finds-out-about-Merlin fics I also happen to have this soft spot for reincarnation fics. There are endless possibilities, and I love that. This one-shot is just a short little snapshot of Merlin and Arthur smoking in a high school bathroom. It is slash, so if you like it don't read it.

Disclaimer: Not mine, not mine, not mine.

P.S.A: Smoking is bad for you. But it's the kind of rebellious bad-boy thing that Arthur would do so...yeah.

Nicotine and Remembrance

Merlin—(his name is Max in this incarnation, but he's always Merlin when it comes right down to it)—finds Arthur in the boy's bathroom, in the last stall way down at the end, right beneath the window that has been propped open with a ruler. He knows that he'll find Arthur there before he even opens the door, and his intuition is proven right when he opens the door and the scent of cigarette smoke curls around him. He nudges the door closed faster with his foot and walks, pausing in front of the stall. He lingers for a moment, watching the thin tendril of smoke curl upwards and through the cracked opening of the window.

Then he pushes the stall door open and folds his arms, raising his eyebrows. Arthur jumps for a moment, then gives him one of those looks. "Christ, Max, I thought you were the Rouder." He leans against the side of the stall, shaking his head.

"You're lucky that I'm not." He glances at the cigarette dangling from Arthur's lips, the tip smoldering, the smoke rising. "If you get caught again you'll be suspended. And your father will murder you."

Arthur shrugs, taking another drag of his cigarette. "Then I won't get caught."

"Yeah, because skipping class and smoking in the bathroom is really the best way to avoid that." He says, sarcasm heavy his voice. Arthur rolls his eyes, leaning against the wall, his head tilted back. He examines his friend for a moment. He has a strange kind of double vision, of the Arthur standing here in front of him and of the Arthur that is past and always; he sees Arthur now with his reddish brown hair and his hazel eyes and the rounder fullness of his face versus that Arthur with blonde hair and blue eyes and full lips and high cheekbones and a strong jaw. He wonders if Arthur has the same kind of sense when looking at him.

Arthur opens his eyes and raises an eyebrow at him, and even though his features are entirely different nothing can ever change those facial expressions that he has down so well.

"Are you just going to be a girl and stare at me, Mer-lin?"

It seems that nothing will ever change his prattishness either.

He rolls his eyes and reaches out, pulling the carton of cigarettes from Arthur's jacket pocket. He extracts a cigarette and rolls it between his fingers, tucking the carton back into place. He then fishes the lighter out of Arthur's jean pocket, ignoring the amused, leering look on Arthur's face. He flicks it open and pulls his thumb along the wheel. He fumbles with it long enough that Arthur makes a disgusted noise and pulls it from his fingers, lighting it in one smooth motion.

"Thanks," he says, as he lights the cigarette. Arthur tucks the lighter back into his pocket.

"You could have lit it yourself," Arthur says, and he knows that he's not referring to the lighter. He shrugs.

"There's no point in using magic to light a cigarette in a high school bathroom, just so that I can keep you company as you get yourself into trouble."

Arthur smirks at him. "Keeping me company, is that what you're doing?"

"While you get yourself into trouble," he emphasizes. "That's what I've always done. You're like a trouble magnet."

"It's because I'm so handsome and dashing. No one can resist me or my charm."

"If your head gets any bigger you're not going to fit through the door."

He takes a drag of his cigarette, watching his friend. He doesn't actually like smoking, not really. It burns his lungs and it makes him want to cough—he doesn't, because he know Arthur will get that superior look on his face and make fun of him and call him a girl—and it stains his fingers and his teeth and whenever he comes home with his hair and skin and clothing reeking of the smoke his mother shakes her head at him. But he likes this. He likes these moments with Arthur, when they retreat into their own part of the world and he can be Merlin and Arthur can be Arthur Pendragon, not Arthur Whatever-His-Name-Is-This-Time. (And he likes the addictiveness of the nicotine. It's a fitting metaphor for him and Arthur. Not to mention the fact that Arthur's mouth is deliciously smoky after a few cigs.)

The bathroom door begins to open, and there is that split second where he and Arthur look at each other in panic. Then Arthur—who has always had the faster reflexes—reaches out, grabs him by the collar, and pulls him in, shutting the door quickly. They are squished into the small space, his body pressed tight against Arthur's, pinning him against the wall, cigarettes still smoldering in their hands. Arthur quickly puts them out and throws them into the toilet, then puts a finger to his lips.

"Come out, come out, wherever you are. I can smell the smoke," a voice calls, too close for comfort, and they exchange panicked glances. Arthur mouths silently it's the Rouder, and he gives a sharp nod in return, closing his eyes because he knows they're about to get caught, and in such a precarious position…he doesn't want to think of the consequences.

There is the sound of a stall door being banged open and it makes them both jump. Arthur hisses, low in his ear—shit—and it almost makes him laugh. After all they've been through in the past; it's funny that this is what they've come down to.

Another door bangs open, this one closer in the line, and they flinch. He looks at Arthur, rolls his eyes, and reaches for the door.

"Sometimes I hate you," he hisses, and then pulls the door open wide enough to step out.

"Why hello, Mrs. Rouder," he says in his best polite-and-innocent voice. She stares him down, a seventy year old harpy who can set school boys aflame with a thought. He's certain that in a past life she was a sorceress. Hell, in a past life she might have been Nimueh. Certainly she's annoying enough.

"Giving yourself up, eh Mr. Carver? I'm surprised to find you here. I was certain I would find Mr. Saris."

He shrugs and she scowls at him. "I'm disappointed in you." Actually she's delighted that she's finally caught him doing something wrong; she's known that he is Arthur's accomplice since the beginning and she's been dying to catch him for something. "Out. My office, Mr. Carver, where we can discuss your punishment."

He shudders a little, because she says that with far too much enthusiasm in her voice.

On the way out he doesn't glance back at the stall where Arthur is still hiding. He just sighs. Some things never change, it seems.

(Arthur waits for him, and when he delivers the verdict—detention for two weeks and he'll probably be grounded for a year thanks to the harpy's phone call home to his mother—Arthur claps him on the shoulder and says with a bright smile, "At least detention is better than the stocks". Yes, some things never change.)


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