Not entirely certian how this came about, while I was planning the next couple of chapters for Hostage Situation in my mind, but it was a wet morning at work and my mind wandered. It's set after series 3.
Only a few of the knights had lasted to the early hours. Elyan had his head down and was quietly snoring at one end of the table, the other knights were scattered about the room and Arthur, Gwaine, Leon, Lancelot and amazingly Merlin – albeit a swaying, very unfocused Merlin – were finishing off the dregs of the wine and mead. They were also asking each other questions they had to answer truthfully or pay a forfeit, but it was a bit feeble since none of them were in a particularly fit state to do any forfeits.
"So go on Leon, who was your first kiss?" Gwaine asked.
Leon blinked. "That's a stupid question."
"No it's not," Gwaine argued. "I want to know, that or you have to do a forfeit."
"I don't want to do a forfeit," Leon said, looking uncomfortable.
"There's nothing to it," Merlin said, swaying a little, listing backwards dangerously. Lancelot pulled him back upright. At the head of the table, on Merlin's left, Arthur smirked.
"I wonder if you feel the same about that when you have to fetch my breakfast from the kitchens tomorrow morning," Arthur paused, blinked and thought about it. "No, this morning."
Merlin giggled, swayed and Arthur shoved him back into position, while staring at Leon and slamming a hand down on the table before reaching for his drink.
"Now, as your prince, I insist you answer the question."
"Guinevere," Leon said.
Arthur promptly spat wine across the smooth, wooden surface. "What?"
"It was Guinevere," Leon said, rather wishing there was some distance between him and Arthur, or at least the odd person. But he was stuck there, directly on Arthur's left.
"What are you doing kissing Gwen?" Lancelot said. Arthur glared at him and Lancelot realised he probably sounded more outraged than he should. "Just wondered."
"It was eleven years ago," Leon said.
"How old were you?" Gwaine asked.
"Sixteen," Leon said.
"How old was Gwen?" Merlin asked, eyes rolling in his head as he tried to count.
"Twelve," Leon said.
"Why were you kissing Gwen?" Arthur asked.
"I was practicing being a knight," Leon said, face slowly starting to burn dramatically as all eyes remained on him.
"We get to practice kissing, because we're knights. Why has no one told me this?" Gwaine asked, looking around accusingly. "I'm getting to like this knight lark."
"Shut up, Gwaine," Arthur snapped.
"I would sooooo love to see that on the training field," Merlin said giggling, and then yelping as Arthur clipped him around the ear.
"Shut up, Merlin!"
"Ow!" Merlin said, rubbing his ear. Gwaine watched the commotion, and then tried to get up and ease his way between Merlin and Lancelot on the bench, pushing Lancelot down into the space. Lancelot grabbed him and forced Gwaine to sit back down on the section of the bench he had tried to vacate.
"No, you don't," Lancelot said.
"Why not?" Gwaine asked pouting.
"Because I know what you're like when you're drunk, you'll fondle anything with a heartbeat. And I know what Merlin's like when he's drunk, he won't have the sense to fend you off. I am not going to let that combination lead to anything."
Gwaine glared and shoved Lancelot, whose far shoulder rocked into Merlin's. The warlock yelped as he slipped off the end of the bench. Arthur rolled his eyes and reached down to pick Merlin up off the floor and sit him back. Merlin steadied himself and beamed at Arthur.
"Thank you," he said brightly.
"Now, where were we?" Arthur asked.
"Leon was playing at knights when he was sixteen," Gwaine said.
"I was not playing," Leon said, riling a little. "I was in training by then. I was practicing," he added with emphasis.
"What does that have to do with kissing Gwen?" Merlin asked, leaning against Lancelot for support. Lancelot dropped his chin into his hand and gazed into the middle distance looking resigned.
"Well, you can't really practice on your own," Leon said.
"Which one, being a knight or kissing?" Merlin asked.
"Being a knight," Leon snapped in irritation. "I wish I'd done the forfeit now."
"Too late," Gwaine said happily.
"How did Gwen help?" Arthur asked.
"I needed a princess to rescue," Leon said, face getting even redder as there were sniggers. Gwaine slammed a fist down onto the table.
"I knew it! The moment I saw Gwen I knew she was a princess! Even if it was only in your mind!"
"It might be in everyone's mind soon," Merlin announced, yelping again as Arthur clipped him round the ear, again.
"Arthur, if you don't stop that, I will have to come and defend Merlin's honour," Gwaine warned. "Or at the very least his ears."
Lancelot rolled his eyes and putting his arm's down on the table rested his head on them. Merlin slumped with him, putting his head on Lancelot's back. Gwaine grinned and took advantage of the situation to put his hand into Merlin's hair stroking lightly, moving down over Merlin's reddened ear and around the nape of his neck. Merlin murmured and grinned dopily. Arthur took another swallow from his cup and got nothing but air, he gazed into it hoping to see some wine appear. Lancelot took pity on his mournful expression and pushed his own full goblet in Arthur's direction.
"Do I want to know what those two are doing?" Lancelot said, feeling the movement against his back. Arthur looked at Merlin and Gwaine.
"Probably not," Arthur said, swigging the wine. "It couldn't have been much of a kiss, if you were only twelve," Arthur added to Leon, frowning as he tried to recall the details of the conversation. "How old was Gwen?"
"She was twelve, I was sixteen, and I was very gentlemanly, until she insisted we do it properly."
Arthur's mouthful of wine went across the table again. He peered into the goblet.
"Is this stuff cursed?" he asked.
"Noooo," Merlin murmured, practically purring. "I'd never let that happen to you."
Arthur glowered at Merlin, and then looked at Lancelot, who managed a casual shrug. Arthur shook his head, dismissing Merlin's words as drunken rambling. Arthur turned his glower on Gwaine, who grinned.
"Gwaine, unhand Merlin, and that is an order."
"Aw, but Merlin's so sweet."
"I don't care if he's made of honey, get off him!"
Lancelot solved the problem by swiping at Gwaine and moving his shoulder so Merlin slid off his back, and flopped onto the table. Merlin rested his chin on the table and looked up at Arthur from under his now ruffled dark hair.
"You liked it when Gwen stroked your ears," Merlin informed him. Then he squeaked and put his hand over his ear as Arthur scowled. Merlin tried to bury his head under Lancelot's arm.
"Now look what you've done," Gwaine said, prodding Lancelot's shoulder. Lancelot sat up, jumping as Merlin's head ended up in his lap. He gathered Merlin up and sat him up straight. Merlin kept his hand over his ear.
"Never mind about Leon now!" Gwaine said, waving his hand dismissively. It might have annoyed him at any other time, but Leon just felt relief that the focus of the conversation changed. "I want to know about Merlin's first kiss."
Merlin swayed a little. Arthur raised his eyebrows.
"If he's had one."
"I have so!" Merlin said, straightening up. He went a little too far. Lancelot saved him from falling backwards. Merlin glared at Arthur.
"Well, he's from a village, there's lots of rolling around in haystacks," Gwaine said.
"No, there's not. It was here," Merlin corrected.
"It's not Gwen is it?" Gwaine asked grinning.
"No, Gwen didn't count, I was almost unconscious, and very nearly dead. Gwen was just pleased to see me," Merlin said. Glancing at Arthur he covered up his other ear.
"I'm always pleased to see you, Merlin," Gwaine said. Lancelot clapped a hand over his eyes, shaking his head in despair.
"My first kiss," Merlin announced, in a voice that made him sound like he was about to start reciting poetry. "Was with a girl called Freya."
"A name fit for a princess," Gwaine said. Merlin smiled, but Arthur noticed that Merlin's drunken countenance had gone distinctly melancholy. He distracted himself by drinking some more wine.
"What happened?" Gwaine asked, oblivious.
"Arthur killed her," Merlin said eyes filling with tears, and he promptly fell off the bench again. Arthur's wine got spat across the table again. The knights looked at him accusingly.
"I did not! Merlin!"
Arthur stared down at him. Gwaine and Lancelot did the same. Leon stood up to peer over the table at him. At the far end Elyan continued to snore. Merlin blinked and looked up, trying to focus on the concerned faces above him.
"To be fair," Merlin said. "She did turn into a blood-thirsty cat with wings that ate people every night. She was cursed," Merlin said sadly, and then deciding that was quite enough, he put his head down and passed out.
"Did you know that?" Lancelot asked.
"No," Arthur said, staring down at Merlin in shock, remembering how Merlin had been after the incident with the beast. Very slowly, Arthur started to get up, wobbling a little.
"I'll take Merlin back to his room," he said.
"No, Sire, I'll do it," Gwaine said gallantly. Lancelot looked even more resigned, and he also, to Arthur, looked sober. He stood up as well.
"Let me help you, if nothing else, I think you need chaperoning."
Arthur watched them blearily. Feeling very depressed at the revelation.
"I'll take his shoulders," Gwaine said.
"No you won't," Lancelot said.
"Fine, I'll take his legs."
"No!" Lancelot said, and then paused. "I'm not sure which end to trust you with."
"OI!" Gwaine snapped. Arthur decided to end the argument.
"Stop it. Leave him there," he ordered. The two knights stopped arranging and unconscious and compliant Merlin and looked at Arthur expectantly.
"At least he'll be to hand when I need him."
Gwaine and Lancelot shrugged, and both of them, figuring it was too much like hard work to bother moving dropped to the floor by Merlin, and sprawled there.
"Sire," Leon said carefully. Arthur turned his attention back to Leon. "May I suggest we never play that game again?"
"I'm thinking of banning it by law," Arthur told him. Leon slowly got up.
"That might be wise," he said, giving as good a bow as he could before wandering to the door, going the long way round the table for no particular reason except it was the direction he had stood up in, and meant he could avoid the pile of people on the floor.
"If it's any consolation," Leon said, as he struggled to grab the door handle, which for some reason was moving. Eventually it behaved itself and Leon yanked the door open. Arthur waited for the rest of the sentence. Leon almost forgot to deliver it as he stepped out of the room, but then came back again, sticking his head around the door.
"I was pretending to be you at the time."
Arthur's mouthful of wine went everywhere, yet again. He glared at the goblet and gave up, throwing it across the room. It landed with a clatter. Elyan stirred and settled down again. Gwaine sniggered until Lancelot punched him. Arthur blinked and his head lowered, gaze drifting to Merlin sprawled by his chair. Slowly he started to mentally compile all the stern, but secretly caring, things he would say to him in the morning.
He got as far as how he was going to phrase 'Merlin' before he drifted off to sleep.
Perhaps it was fortunate that none of them remembered it the next morning. Except for the mostly sober Lancelot, who when he woke moved Gwaine's hand from its interesting position on Merlin, wiped the drool off a snoring Arthur and restrained himself when Elyan lifted his head, looked around and asked innocently.
"What did I miss?"