"Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Camelot Vineyards. My name is Arthur and I will be your tour guide today. I'd like you to pay close attention because, while there won't be a quiz, the information I give you today will make you sound like the smartest person at your next dinner party. However, apart from the wine details, you're on your own."
This earned a small chuckle from the older couples and he smiled in spite of himself. Merlin was always after him to joke more.
"If you could please look to your left. Now, there are many names for this grape. My favorite is 'beaunois' which, loosely translated, means 'beautiful meadow'. Though most refer to the more commercial name of the simple, 'Chardonnay'. And this actually is the most mysterious grape of all those in our vineyard. Its origin is technically unknown..."
"Arthur!" a voice crackled through his headset. Merlin must either be on his lunch break or else ignoring his duties. Both were extremely likely possibilities.
"Now some say these grapes originated in the Middle East while others believe it is indigenous to a vine in Cyprus."
"Arthuuuur," it was a little more insistent this time and Arthur heard a giggle in the background. Merlin must be in the gift shop.
"If you like, feel free to step off the bus and sample a few grapes. But don't stray too far as we will only be stopped for five minutes. If you'd rather stay on the bus, you will not miss anything as we will have samples of both the grape and wine tonight at 6 o'clock."
People milled around Arthur's bus, some stepping off, some moving a few seats to speak to a friend they spotted or whatever it was people did. He smiled widely at those who were stepping off and he hissed into his headset, "what?"
Merlin was there on the other line within milliseconds, "Gwen is having a thing tonight. Do you want to come?"
"Can't. Dinner with Morgana," and it was such a shame because if there was one part of his job he actually enjoyed, it was Gwen's parties. There was always plenty of alcohol that was not wine and there were plenty of people who were not currently old and also not currently studying for finals, like his friends who were still in university.
"Well, bring her." And of course Merlin would suggest that. Bring his younger, cooler, sluttier sister to meet all his friends. Because that had turned out so well all the other times.
"Merlin, no! It's my birthday dinner. It's the only time she actually pays for her own meal. I can't pass that up." This was true. Morgana never paid for anything when he was around. And unfortunately, he was around a lot.
"Pleeeeeeeease," he whined. And Arthur could picture his face, the soft pout of his mouth and the over exaggerated eyelash flutter that worked anyways because Merlin did have great eyelashes.
"Ugh. Fine. Now stop interrupting my tours." He took his finger off the ear piece and smiled at all the tourists stepping back onto the bus. He did a head count and signalled to the driver to move on.
There was a time, not long ago, when Arthur would have spent more time arguing. He had learned, though, that Merlin always won. He stopped contesting, except to go through the motions.
He discovered that when Merlin won these little tugs of war, he slapped on the biggest smile and Arthur didn't mind in the least that he had just signed up for rock climbing or volunteering at the soup kitchen or the cupcake tasting. And okay, the last one was pretty awesome.
Merlin and Arthur were good friends. Some would say almost too good. But you couldn't help who you worked with. And Arthur couldn't help that Merlin was the most tolerable, and also most insistent on being friends with everyone.
Merlin swindled everyone into lifelong friendships. It was his easy grin and large ears - too silly looking to be intimidating that did everyone in.
Once Merlin had a friend, he proceeded to ruin their lives with his bad music choices and that same Bambi face and those stupid Dumbo ears. Never before had Arthur related any of his friends to Disney characters, much less twice in one sentence.
But as Merlin hummed a song into Arthur's ears, something he did when he walked, and Arthur realized Merlin hadn't turned his microphone off once again... Arthur found he didn't mind so much.
As a whole, Merlin was unassuming and people often felt the need to protect him.
Arthur liked to think he was above it all. But he wasn't.
Merlin's tours were much less... structured... Than Arthur's. As long as everyone got the basic 'please, thank you, look to your right' down, Gaius and Uther didn't really mind how the tours were run. And while Arthur liked to believe he had the monopoly on wine wisdom, Merlin himself knew quite a bit.
"These red grapes on your left make the Syrah. Which is fantastic, by the way. Most people say Syrahs are the most peppery of all the wines, but ours is actually much milder than your ordinary Cab Sav."
He smiled at Percy and Leon, two regulars at the resort who, for some reason, took the tour each month. You think it would get boring by now. Merlin knew all about them. They chatted quite a bit at the wine tastings and then when they cheated and progressed from tipsy drunk to shit show drunk, Arthur would help Merlin bring them back to their cabin.
"Ah, now this wine here will get you the drunkest you have ever been in your life. And let me tell you, it doesn't taste quite as lovely the second time around," the husbands laughed at that as well as Leon and Percy. Merlin decided they were probably his favorite regulars. They had been married for four years and had an adoptive baby on the way.
Whenever Merlin was done a tour with Leon and Percy, they stayed behind to chat with Arthur. Arthur told him once that they propositioned him.
Merlin didn't blame them.