The weary, bleak walls of the council chamber seemed to be creeping towards them, forcing them all closer together. The tension was almost unbearable, for all except one of Arthur's noble knights, that is. The room brimmed with anxiety and fear, rather similar to the way that Sir Gwaine was brimming with alcohol.

Gwaine shifted his weight from his right to his left leg slowly, and with great difficulty, very nearly falling over and sending all the knights closely packed around him toppling like dominoes. He widened his eyes and blinked, trying so hard to stay awake. It would be considered highly inappropriate for a knight of Camelot to doze off during a Council of War. Very serious things, these war councils... also very boring, pondered Gwaine as he wiped a slight trail of dribble from his chin.

He wasn't drunk. That he was certain of. He hadn't drunk any alcohol at all in quite some time... as far as he remembered. He had been sitting in an ale house earlier today... and he had definitely ordered some alcoholic beverage or other, but he distinctly remembered looking down at his glass and being rather disappointed to discover that his drink had simply vanished. He couldn't fathom where it had gone.

Arthur was saying something. Gwaine surmised this from the fact that his mouth was moving. Both of his mouths were moving, actually. Determined to look as though he was concentrating, Gwaine fixed his gaze at the midpoint between Arthur's four blue eyes, all of which were glaring straight back at him.

Oops.

Had someone asked him a question?

But then Arthur's gaze was redirected, and Gwaine turned to Merlin. The young servant's face was so withered and tired; his eyes too heavy to be held in position, instead drooping down towards the unfriendly floor.

From somewhere vaguely around the area of his stomach Gwaine felt the sharp edge of sadness slice through his dull reverie. Poor Merlin. His friend appeared so wretched. Great black bags dragged the skin around his drooping eyes down, his shoulders had rolled painfully far forwards, and his hands were trembling independently of his arms. What could have made Merlin so sad?

But then Merlin turned to look up at Arthur, and it seemed as though something in his face was lighter. Gwaine got the sudden sense that everything was going to be alright.

There was that cross, harsh barking noise again. What was that? Gwaine wondered as his head lolled around uselessly searching. Ah. It was Arthur. He was still talking. Still? Couldn't he just shut up already and deal with whatever it was that was making Merlin so sad and Arthur so angry? Couldn't they just kill the bad guys and then hit the ale house? Ah, the ale house... And with that thought Gwaine was entirely lost to anything serious going on around him.

x

Arthur concluded his speech, taking one shallow, shaky breath, eyes skipping around ferociously, desperately grasping for support from his friends. The silence that followed echoed painfully around the ever narrowing room. The new King raised a single arm, his stance one of power and control, his face that of a terrified child who has just been confronted with the reality of growing up. There was nowhere for little Arthur Pendragon to hide now. "Who's with me?"

A pause as the knights readied themselves to respond with great, meaningful declarations of their loyalty to King and Camelot. But all were in the grasp of such strong emotion that words became inconceivable.

The bonds of friendship and trust swelled in that space and forced the walls back out again, the pride streaming from each and every face bathing them all in a glorious, perfect light, as the friends realised that everything was going to be alright, just as long as they could cling to that truth, right there in front of them.

Arthur smiled, and opened his mouth to congratulate them all on forming the greatest Kingdom that would ever grace the land, but the earth-shattering belch that followed was not his own. All eyes turned to Gwaine, who had lost the ability to stand up when he realised that the helpful pillar he was leaning on was actually Sir Leon.

Oops.