While he wasn’t the most dedicated student, Gwaine always enjoyed the first day back from the summer holidays. It wasn’t as though the teachers gave them much work in the first week and it let him catch up with his mates and check out the changes the girls had gone through. He still remembered Year 9 when Elena Gawant had left a clumsy, frizzy haired, unfortunate-looking girl with bad skin and returned in Year 10 a clumsy, silky haired and extremely fit girl with smooth skin. If he’d fancied her before for her football knowledge alone, he fancied her even more when she’d come back looking gorgeous. Of course, fate had it that she’d just referred to him as her “brother-type mate” and starting talking about the Chelsea match against Arsenal. They were entering Year 13 now and Gwaine still fancied her.
He spotted a group of his friends kicking a football around near the front gates and sped up to join them.
He turned and grinned as Percival walked towards him. “Hey, mate. Good summer?”
Percival shrugged. “Where’s your class?”
Gwaine shifted his rucksack and dug in the pocket for the paper the school had mailed him with information on where to report his first day. “Room one-twenty.” He looked up at Percival. “That’s Mr Pendragon, right? English.”
“Yeah,” Percival answered. “I’ve got him too.”
Gwaine’s face broke into a grin. “Brilliant!”
“What is?” Elena asked, football tucked under her arm and an expectant look on her face when the two boys joined the group.
“We’ve got our first class together.” Gwaine shared a conspiratory look with Percival.
“Ooh, what is it? I’m in one-twenty.”
“Me too,” added Lancelot, looking pleased. “Gwen as well.” He looked around for his girlfriend and spotted her talking to elderly Mr Gaius at the school steps. “We should probably go inside.”
“I thought it would be different this year,” Elena said to Gwaine as they walked towards the steps, Lance stopping to talk to Mr Gaius and Gwen. “Since we’re in our final year. I didn’t think we’d have all our classes together.”
Gwaine snorted. “We probably don’t. I’m not doing A-level sciences like you are.”
“Still,” Elena continued happily. “We’ve all got English together and I like Mr P.”
“He’s gay,” Gwaine informed her, snickering when she rolled her eyes. “He is!”
“Well, obviously, we all know that,” Elena said good-naturedly. “Doesn’t mean he isn’t fit.” She grinned evilly. “I’ve caught you looking!”
Percival made a choking noise and Gwaine hit him on the shoulder.
“I’m not gay,” Gwaine muttered. “I like both.”
Percival covered his mouth to hide a very unconvincing cough and Gwaine moved forwards as though to tackle him.
“I wonder if he’s lonely,” Elena continued, pretending to ignore the exchange between the two boys. She frowned. “I bet he is. There isn’t anyone at school he could be with.”
“Maybe we could find him someone,” Gwaine suggested, wanting Elena to turn her attention from Mr Pendragon to him.
“Oh, Gwaine,” Elena said pityingly, patting him on the cheek. “You’re hopeless. He’ll never date a student.”
“What?” Gwaine spluttered as Percival stopped trying to hide his amusement and guffawed, laughing even harder when Gwaine punched him on the shoulder.
“Everything all right here?” asked a voice they all knew quite well.
“Hi, Mr P,” Elena said calmly, turning to greet their English teacher as Gwaine and Percival sorted themselves out. “Gwaine’s being stupid.”
Gwaine quickly tucked his shirt into his trousers, not wanting a detention the first day for not being in full uniform. “We’re in your first class.”
“I know,” Mr Pendragon said, raising his eyebrows at Gwaine. “Last year of English. We’ll have fun.” He checked his watch. “I’ll be with you soon, just need to get your schedules from the staff room.”
The three of them mumbled their goodbyes and watched in fascination as the staff room door opened and a dark-haired man dressed simply in dark trousers and a blue button down stumbled into Mr P. The dark-haired man seemed to lose his footing and rather than grabbing the door to steady himself, he grabbed Mr Pendragon’s tie, eliciting a strangled sound from their English teacher as the tie cut off his air supply.
“Sorry!” the unknown man said quickly, reaching for Mr Pendragon’s tie and attempting to fix it.
Mr Pendragon batted the man’s hands away and fixed the tie himself. “You’re keen. Only your first day and already can’t keep your hands to yourself.”
The man’s face turned red with what Gwaine thought was anger and he snapped, “You’re such an arse.”
“Get to class, Merlin, don’t want your students to think you’re a complete idiot,” Mr Pendragon said, clapping the man, Merlin, on the shoulder in what Gwaine recognized as Mr Pendragon’s ‘better luck next time, mate’ gesture that he used whenever the school football team lost.
“Shut up, Arthur,” Merlin grumbled, brushing by Mr Pendragon and heading for the stairs.
Gwaine stared with morbid curiosity as Mr Pendragon watched Merlin go with what could only be described as a fond expression.
“Did you…” Gwaine began, but Elena slapped her hand over his mouth, hissing at him to be quiet. He kept watching as Mr Pendragon smiled to himself, shook his head, and entered the staff room looking pleased.
Percival stared at the spot where Mr Pendragon and Merlin had just been standing and said quietly, “I think Mr P likes him.”
Elena nodded. “But I don’t think Mr…Merlin likes Mr P.” She frowned, looking sadly at the staff room door. “Poor Mr P. He really must be lonely if he thought that was flirting.”
“Well, why couldn’t it be?” Gwaine asked excitedly albeit muffled, licking Elena’s hand to make her let go.
“Yuck!” Elena griped, wiping her hand on Gwaine’s blazer. “I’ll get you back.”
“I’m not taking Biology,” Gwaine replied happily. “No throwing frog guts at me this year!”
“As if that’s the only way!” Elena kicked him in the ankle, making him stumble. She laughed as Percival hauled Gwaine to his feet.
“El,” Percival scolded.
Elena smiled at Gwaine, who shrugged. “You deserved it.”
“I still think Merlin might be the right man to set Mr P up with,” Gwaine insisted. “I mean, he’s not bad looking and he called Mr P by his first name.”
“Most of the teachers do that,” Percival pointed out. “I don’t go around calling you ‘Mr Greene’ or Elena ‘Miss Gawant’.”
“Still, he’s probably about Mr P’s age,” Gwaine commented, holding the door open for Elena to go into the classroom first. He laughed when she shoved him in before her. “What’s the worst that could happen?”
“Maybe you’re right,” she agreed as they chose three seats together near the windows. “But we don’t know if he’s gay.”
Gwaine dumped his rucksack next to his desk and leaned back in his chair, thinking. “Well, we could ask him.”
“That’s personal,” Percival argued. “He’s not going to tell us.”
“We don’t even know if we have class with him,” Elena reminded them. “Or what he even teaches.”
“There’s only one opening since Mrs Sutherland retired.” Percival waved Lancelot and Gwen over when they entered the room. “Sociology.”
“I’ll be in that!” Gwaine crowed happily. He kicked the chair next to him and motioned towards Lance. “Saved you seats.”
“Thanks,” Gwen said, smiling gratefully and taking the desk behind Lance. “Good summer?”
They all started to answer her when Mr Pendragon entered the classroom and a chorus of “Good morning, sir!”s started.
“Hello, everyone,” Mr Pendragon greeted, grinning at his class. “Hope you’re ready for the new term.” He held up a red folder. “I’ve got your timetables here. Would you mind passing them out please, Sophia?” He handed the folder over to her and walked over to his desk to pick up a slim volume. “I’ve got an excellent reading list planned and this is just one of those books.” He showed them the cover, which read The Great Gatsby. “There are enough copies for everyone in the back cupboard. Gwen, would you start passing them out? There’s a good girl.”
“Isn’t that an American book?” Gwaine asked curiously as he took his schedule from Sophia.
“It is indeed,” Mr Pendragon answered, frowning slightly at Gwaine.
“Aren’t we supposed to be in English literature?” Gwaine continued, raising an eyebrow. He liked riling Mr Pendragon up and had done so ever since the English teacher had started teaching at the independent school five years previously. “Fitzgerald wasn’t English.”
Mr Pendragon snorted. “Would someone please enlighten Mr Greene as to what language Americans speak?”
“English,” Percival said with mock seriousness.
“Very good,” Mr Pendragon complimented, clearly amused. He picked a sheet of paper up from his desk and passed it to Martin Valiant who was seated in the front row. “All of the books have a number. Please write your name and the number of your book on this sheet so that I know who to blame if they go missing.”
She passed it over. “I’ve got Biology next so I need to hurry.”
“We’ve got sociology together after lunch,” Gwaine informed her, handing the paper back.
“With Mr Emrys,” Elena confirmed. “That must be Merlin.” She waved to her friends. “See you later.”
“What’ve you got now?” Gwaine asked, turning to Percival, Lancelot and Gwen.
“Free period,” Gwen answered with a small smile. “Lance too. We’re going to the common area.”
Gwaine looked disappointed. “My free period isn’t until this afternoon and then it’s double sociology.”
“We’ll have lunch together,” Lance said, putting his arm around Gwen. “Maths, too.”
Percival looked over Gwaine’s shoulder and thumped him on the back to get his attention. “Our Monday schedules are the same. Let’s go. Herr Zucker will give us detention if we’re late.”
“Do you think we’ll be able to get Mr P to go out with Merlin?” Gwaine asked as they hurried through the corridor towards their German classroom.
“Dunno,” Percival said, obviously uninterested in the subject. “Why do you care so much?”
Gwaine shrugged. “Maybe El’s right. Mr P seems lonely.”
Percival chuckled. “You just want Elena.”
“Shut up,” Gwaine grumbled. “I’m very sensitive.”
“To your own needs,” Percival teased.
“Oh, shut up,” Gwaine repeated as they entered their German room and greeted the teacher with a quick, “Guten Morgen, Herr Zucker.”
“Seriously, mate, it’s only the first day,” Percival said as they sat down next to each other. “It might be that Mr Emrys is straight and you and El have to start over.”
“I could try and get him to fancy me,” Gwaine joked, waggling his eyebrows.
Percival pulled a face. “That’s gross.”
“True, he is rather old,” Gwaine replied. He had no interest in his teacher, but Percival’s reaction was quite funny. “I’ll stick with Elena.”
“You don’t have Elena,” Percival reminded him with a smirk.
“Guten Morgen,” Herr Zucker began as the bell rang. “Dieses Jahr müssen wir immer Deutsch sprechen.”
Gwaine sighed and leaned back in his chair, wishing he’d chosen to drop German.
“He might be awful,” Percival commented. “I liked Mrs Sutherland.”
“We all did,” Elena said, waving her hand dismissively. “That’s not the point! He’s supposed to be cool. Remember what Gwen said over lunch? Elyan liked him and Elyan thinks he’s gay as well.”
“Our plan is working,” Gwaine said gleefully.
Percival stared at him. “There’s something very, very wrong with both of you.” He pointed at Gwaine. “Especially you.” He grabbed Gwaine’s arm when he tried to follow Elena to her seat and leaned down to say quietly, “You’re acting a right idiot around Elena. What’s the matter with you? Just ask her out if you want, but stop making plans to set Mr P up with someone you don’t even know.”
Gwaine grinned toothily. “I can’t help it, mate.”
“Are you coming?” Elena asked brightly, popping her head out of the window that led to the corridor where Gwaine and Percival were standing. “The bell’s about to ring.”
Percival shook his head and followed Gwaine inside.
“Welcome to sociology! I’m Mr Emrys,” Mr Emrys greeted, grinning at his students as they started to pull out their notebooks. “Now, I know you all think I look a little green and might not know what I’m doing, but I promise you I’ve been doing this for a while now.”
“How long?” asked Vivian, raising her hand. “You don’t look much older than my sister.”
“Well, three years if you count my teacher training, I suppose,” Mr Emrys answered with a shrug, not looking at all upset by the sneer on Vivian’s face.
“Why’d you come to Camelot Academy, sir?” Elena piped up, winking at Gwaine.
“I wanted to move back to Exeter,” Mr Emrys replied.
“Why? You don’t sound like you’re from around here,” Gwaine commented, aligning himself with Elena to help gather more information about their new teacher.
Mr Emrys chuckled. “No, I’m not, but you lot don’t want to hear me talk about myself all day. That’s not what I’m here to do.” He clapped his hands together. “Now, let’s go around the room and you can each tell me what you’re most interested in. Sociology is extremely broad and I’d like to try and keep your interest.” He turned to Vivian. “Why don’t you go first?”
“Vivian,” Vivian supplied disdainfully.
“Right,” Mr Emrys said, raising his eyebrows. “Vivian, what do you like about sociology?”
“Beauty,” Vivian answered.
“The social construction of beauty is fascinating,” Mr Emrys agreed with a little nod. If he’d expected Vivian to smile, he was to be disappointed; she only seemed to grow more scornful and turned to look out the window so that Mr Emrys would move on.
Gwaine rolled his eyes. Vivian had always given herself airs. He wanted to reassure Mr Emrys that Vivian treated everyone like that, but his teacher didn’t seem to mind and was asking the next student to share their interests.
When Percival, the last person Mr Emrys called on, had supplied his answer (sociology of sport), Mr Emrys told them to each grab a textbook and write its number down on a sheet. They’d been doing this all day and Gwaine hastily scribbled his down before heading back to his seat.
“Now that you’ve all got your books, let’s turn to the first chapter; we’ve got to deal with the theoretical before we can have fun.” His blue eyes were twinkling as the students let out a collective groan. “None of that! I know Durkheim isn’t always easy to read but they’ve made it simple and when we’ve finished the first two chapters, we’ll move on to the sociology of gender.” A few of the boys in the class made disgusted sounds and Mr Emrys looked thoughtful. “We’ll talk about that more when we reach that section but gender applies to everyone. It’s performative, lads, and you perform it too.”
Gwaine shared a bemused look with Percival. Elena, however, looked as if Christmas had come early.
“He’s got to be gay,” she mouthed and quickly opened her book to the correct page before Mr Emrys could ask what had her distracted.
“Of course! So are Perce and Lance,” Gwaine replied, surprised by the question. “Why?”
“I was going to start coaching practice next week,” Mr Pendragon said, turning to erase notes from the board. “Wanted to make sure you were ready and see if we needed to arrange tutoring. You’re much better at football than English.”
“I’m in your A-Level course,” Gwaine protested, slightly offended.
“I know, but you—” Mr Pendragon began seriously, only to be interrupted as a voice asked, “Arthur? Leon wanted to know if you’re still joining us for lunch.”
Gwaine looked over to see Mr Emrys standing in the doorway with an expectant expression. “Hi, Mr Emrys.”
“Hello. Gwaine, right?” Mr Emrys asked biting his lip as though worried he’d gotten Gwaine’s name wrong.
“Yeah.” Gwaine smiled and turned back to Mr Pendragon. “I’ll tell Perce and Lance about practice, sir.”
Mr Pendragon nodded distractedly, his eyes on Mr Emrys. “We’ll talk more about this later, Gwaine.”
Gwaine bit his lip to keep from grinning. It was only the second day and Mr P already seemed to have a thing for Mr Emrys! He couldn’t wait to tell Elena and Percival. Well, Elena, he amended his thought. Percival wasn’t as enthusiastic about their mission.
He hurried out towards the quad so that he could catch up with the others. “You abandoned me,” he accused, flopping down on the grass next to Lancelot.
“Mr P wanted to talk to you,” Lance replied, unconcerned. “We knew you’d catch up.”
“Mr P is having lunch with Mr Emrys,” Gwaine informed Elena who squealed at the news. Gwen looked at him strangely but Gwaine’s attention had already shifted. “Football practice starts next week.”
“Great!” Percival enthused, grinning at Gwaine and Lance. “Time to focus on things that matter.”
“Your coursework matters,” Gwen interrupted, frowning at Lance who offered her a sheepish smile. “We’re all going to uni next year. Imagine if you fail your exams or don’t get accepted because you were more interested in scoring goals.” She seemed to realize she’d been scolding them and blushed. “I’m sorry, I just don’t want you all to fail.”
“We’re going to be fine,” Lance said, wrapping his arm around Gwen and kissing her cheek.
“That’s great.” Elena was beaming madly. “You can find out more about Mr P and what he likes.”
“No, Elena, come on,” Percival grumbled. “We should leave the poor men alone.”
“What’s this?” Gwen asked, looking between the two utterly confused.
“El’s gotten the idea that Mr P is lonely and so we need to hook him up with Mr Emrys,” Percival summarized.
Gwen looked as though someone had just told her that her beloved family pet had just died. “Oh, poor dear. Do you really think he’s lonely? I always got the impression that he was sad or missing someone when we had to read those Tennyson poems in Year Ten but I thought it was, you know, because of his parents.”
“His parents?” Elena asked with a frown.
“Don’t you remember?” Gwen looked around at her friends, all of whom were shaking their heads. “It was in the paper a year or two after Mr Pendragon started at Camelot. His dad died in a bad car accident just a few years after his mum died from cancer. I remember my dad telling me to be nice to the new teacher because he’d lost his parents and I knew what that was like.” She looked down at her hands to hide the tears in her eyes and her friends pretended not to see when she wiped her face on her blazer sleeve.
“He’s never talked about it,” Gwaine said grumpily.
“Well, we’re his students, aren’t we?” Gwen snapped more harshly than was normal for her. “I doubt he wants to tell us about his problems.”
“All the more reason for him to go out with Mr Emrys,” Elena said brightly in an attempt to change the subject. “How can we do this?”
“Are you sure that’s a good idea?” Gwen asked, worrying her lip and looking from Elena to Lancelot to Gwaine and to Percival.
“What’s the worst that could happen?” Elena grinned. “Mr Emrys turns him down and they have a few awkward moments.” She shrugged. “It happens to everyone.”
Gwaine stared at her, wondering who had turned her down and if he had a chance. She was the only girl he’d ever really been tongue-tied around.
“I don’t think we should be intruding in their private lives,” Percival said quietly. “What if we’re wrong?”
“We don’t have anything to be wrong about,” Elena replied. “Mr P is gay, we all know that. He said as much in Year Eight when he first got here and Valiant thought calling me a lesbian was an insult.”
“He meant it as an insult,” Gwen reminded her.
“Not the point!” Elena said, beaming. “Mr P stood up for me even though I told him it was fine and he said if I ever needed to talk, I could go to him.”
“Can you imagine having a heart-to-heart with Mr P?” Gwaine interrupted, chortling. “He’s not exactly Mr Sensitivity, is he?”
“You’re one to talk,” Percival muttered, earning a jab in the ribs from Gwaine.
“He told me I needed an English tutor!” Gwaine protested. “I’ve always done well in English.”
“Because you study with me,” Percival reminded him. “He knows that.”
Gwaine shrugged. “We’ll do it this year too and he won’t be able to complain.”
Percival grunted. “Yeah, sure.”
“Anyway,” Elena said, breaking into their conversation. “How are we going to get Mr P and Mr Emrys together?”
“They’re having lunch together right now,” Gwaine said, suddenly remembering his first piece of news.
“Right!” Elena squealed delightedly. “Oh, maybe they’ll figure it out on their own!”
“Figure what out exactly, Elena?” Gwen asked.
“That they’re perfect for each other!” Elena cried, looking slightly mad as threw her arms out for emphasis.
“They barely know each other,” Percival said, raising an eyebrow. “Unless you think they fell in love when Mr Emrys tripped and nearly choked Mr P with his own tie.”
Elena giggled. “Well, maybe not then but that doesn’t mean they can’t learn to love each other.”
“Oh, dear lord,” Percival muttered as Elena started babbling impossible ways to make their two teachers run into one another.
He was mildly disturbed by how intrigued he was by that thought. When he suggested it to Elena, her response was, “Oh, that would be hot!” which he found even more disturbing.
Elena’s newest suggestion, however, took the disturbing award.
“No way,” Percival said flatly.
“Why not?” Elena asked, looking from Percival to Gwaine when she told them her newest idea during their free period on Wednesday. Gwen and Lance were in their chemistry class.
“Because it’s stalking!” Percival said. “Look, El, I really like Mr P and Mr Emrys and I want them to be happy, but I’m not going to follow one of them home and see what they do outside of school.”
“But we know Mr Emrys rides his bike, it wouldn’t be hard to follow him!” Elena protested. She paused for a minute and started to laugh. “Okay, maybe you’re right. That’s insane.”
Percival looked relieved. “Thank you.”
“We can pull their personal files instead!” Elena grinned at the two of them in a way even Gwaine found alarming.
“What if we try and figure out what they like to do on the weekends and drop hints so that they run into each other,” Gwaine suggested. He didn’t mind breaking the rules but hacking the school computers was beyond him and he didn’t fancy being suspended for breaking into the school after hours and rummaging through his teachers’ private documents.
“Maybe we could look them up in the phone book,” Elena continued as though Gwaine had never spoken.
“You could try,” Percival said dubiously. “But I doubt Mr Emrys is in it since he just moved here and Mr P seems like someone who wouldn’t want to be listed.”
Elena held her hand out to Gwaine. “Give me your iPhone.”
Gwaine sighed and pulled it out, knowing she wouldn’t let it rest until he’d let her search for the information on the Internet.
After a few minutes, Elena let out a resigned sigh and handed the phone back to Gwaine. “You were right, Perce, there’s nothing. I only got those newspaper articles about Mr P’s parents and nothing for Mr Emrys except a link back to the school webpage announcing him as a new teacher.”
“Guess we’ll just have to ask them,” Gwaine replied. “Subtly, of course.”
Percival looked at Gwaine in disbelief. “You’re no master spy, mate.”
“Sometimes being blunt is the best way to do it.” Gwaine grinned. “We could start with Mr P. We’ve got football practice tonight.”
“Greene!” Mr Pendragon roared when Gwaine started to not so subtly ask what sort of men he found attractive. “If you can talk while you’re running sprints, you’re not trying! Pick up the pace or you’ll be on the bench for the first match!”
“Oi, Arthur, don’t be such slave driver,” Mr Emrys called as he walked towards where the football team was practicing, Mr Gaius walking alongside him.
“Grab some water!” Arthur shouted to the team as he turned to talk to Mr Emrys and Mr Gaius.
They were too far away for Gwaine to hear what was being said so he jogged closer, trying to think of a question for Mr Pendragon if he was asked what he thought he was doing. He thought he heard Percival sigh behind him and smothered a grin. Percival might complain, but Gwaine knew the larger boy was really a hopeless romantic.
“—going to need a ride,” Mr Emrys finished, looking at Mr Pendragon expectantly. “Do you mind?”
Mr Pendragon shook his head. “Of course not. But why don’t you just take my car and go with Gaius now? That way you don’t have to wait around.”
“I wouldn’t want to impose,” Mr Gaius said. “Alice won’t be home for a while but my house isn’t very far, I really could walk.”
“Gaius, it’s fine, really. If I have to, I’ll steal Merlin’s bike and hold it ransom until he brings my car back.” He grinned at Mr Emrys who rolled his eyes.
“Thank you, Arthur,” Mr Gaius said quietly. “I appreciate it.”
Mr Pendragon motioned towards his gym bag without a second glance at Mr Emrys. “My keys are in there, you know which car is mine, you’ll find it.”
“Yes, your majesty,” Mr Emrys muttered, stalking over to Mr Pendragon’s bag and digging around for his car keys. He didn’t bother to repack the bag and Gwaine was sure those were Mr Pendragon’s underpants that were lying out in the open.
Mr Pendragon sputtered when he saw his clothes were haphazardly strewn around the ground and Mr Emrys and Mr Gaius were walking towards the car park. “Merlin!”
“You know what’s yours, Arthur,” Mr Emrys called with amusement, turning and walking backwards as he shouted at Mr Pendragon. “I’m sure you’ll find everything.”
Gwaine tried not to laugh too loudly as he jogged back to his teammates.
“They didn’t exactly ride off into the sunset together,” Lance said, chuckling when Elena glared at him. “When Mr Emrys came back with the car, he just threw the keys at Mr Pendragon and said he’d see him later.”
“Hmm,” Elena said thoughtfully. “We’ve got to try harder.”
“We haven’t actually done anything yet,” Gwen interjected. “We’ve mostly just watched them.” She made a face, rethinking what she’d just said. “Not in a stalkerish way. It’s not stalking if we just see them around school, right?”
“No, it’s not,” Percival muttered in a way that made it clear he still thought this was all an invasion of privacy.
“I think it’s time we started in on Mr Emrys.” Elena rubbed her hands together. “It’s not going to be easy. He hardly ever talks about himself.”
“We’re starting gender next week,” Gwen reminded her. “What if we asked questions about sexuality?”
“I don’t think he’s going to tell us about his sex life,” Gwaine laughed.
Gwen rolled her eyes. “You’re a pervert! I didn’t mean that at all! I just thought maybe we could bring up Mr P’s sexuality and—”
“I don’t think that’s fair,” Percival interrupted. “That’s not our information to share.”
Gwen paled, looking mortified. “No, of course not, you’re right. I’m sorry.”
“Gwaine on the other hand,” Percival said, nudging Gwaine with his foot.
“Hey!” Gwaine complained. “Why me?”
“You’re not exactly shy about what you like,” Gwen retorted.
“Just like Gwaine wanting to sleep with both guys and girls doesn’t make him a confused interloper!” Elena cried more enthusiastically and loudly than was necessary.
The class started to laugh or mutter amongst themselves depending upon how close they were to Gwaine and Mr Emrys was looking at Elena unhappily, as though he wasn’t sure whether to scold her or not.
“You lot are just jealous I get to have twice the fun!” Gwaine crowed, grinning when it earned him the desired laughs and drew Mr Emrys’s attention away from Elena. Gwaine thought Mr Emrys looked relieved if not a little concerned but he could think about that later.
“Biphobia is an important but neglected prejudice,” Mr Emrys began, talking over the people who were still muttering to themselves and looking curiously at Gwaine.
Gwaine wanted to snap at them that it wasn’t any secret, everyone knew he liked blokes as much as he liked ladies. He’d taken a boy from the nearby comprehensive school to their last school dance when Elena had decided to invite her cousin before Gwaine had gotten a chance to ask her.
“Gwaine,” Mr Emrys said when the bell rang, “a word, please.”
Gwaine watched his friends and classmates file out to their next class and hoped Mr Emrys wouldn’t keep him for too long. He had English next and Mr P didn’t take kindly to latecomers.
“Elena shouldn’t have outed you like that,” Mr Emrys said quietly, concern etched into every line of his face as he looked earnestly at Gwaine. “I can’t turn back time, but I promise it doesn’t have to come up again in class.”
Gwaine shook his head, a grin on his face. He was relieved that this was all Mr Emrys wanted. He’d been concerned that the man who was quickly becoming one of his favourite teachers was going to suggest he needed tutoring as well. “Nah, it’s fine! Everyone knows. I don’t know why some people acted like it was such a surprise.”
“You’re all right?” Mr Emrys asked, relaxing when Gwaine nodded. “Good. Well, if you ever want to talk.”
“Oh god, you’re not going to do what Mr P did, are you?” Gwaine asked, laughing.
“What did he do?” Mr Emrys asked, suddenly serious and interested. “He wasn’t—”
“Oh, no!” Gwaine interrupted, not wanting Mr Emrys to get the wrong impression. For all of the unwanted advice and meddling Mr Pendragon did in his life, he was still Gwaine’s favourite teacher and he trusted the man “He’s an arse sometimes but he’s…” Gwaine began and then looked at Mr Emrys, ruefully. “Sorry, sir.”
Mr Emrys snorted. “It’s fine. You’re not wrong, he’s a complete arse sometimes.” He grinned at Gwaine. “I won’t tell him what you said.”
“I won’t tell him what you said either,” Gwaine promised with a grin.
“I’m glad you’re all right, Gwaine,” Mr Emrys said, walking back to his desk and scribbling something on a notepad. “Here, I know you’ve got Arthur’s…I mean, Mr Pendragon next. He can blame me, I’m the reason you’re late.”
“Thanks.” A rush of affection for Mr Emrys surged through him. Gwaine suddenly wanted to get his two teachers together more than he really had in the past. It had mostly been because he was trying to please Elena, but he genuinely liked Mr Emrys and from the few interactions he’d seen, the two teachers would be good for each other.
“No problem,” Mr Emrys said as the bell rang. “Go on, you’re already late and I like to nap during my planning period.”
Gwaine sniggered and turned to leave but suddenly got an idea and decided, why not? It was probably the only chance he would get with Mr Emrys’s defences down. “Can I ask you something?”
Mr Emrys’s lips twitched. “You just did but sure, you can ask something else.”
“Very original,” Gwaine teased and he counted it a victory that Mr Emrys was smiling at him. “I was just wondering. Are you, you know, with someone?” He cringed inwardly at his horrible phrasing and hastily added, “I mean, you don’t wear a ring if you are.”
Mr Emrys looked thoughtful. “I’m not married, if that’s what you mean.” He shrugged. “Usually only married people wear rings.”
“No, right, I know that,” Gwaine muttered, snatching up his rucksack. “I was just wondering.”
Mr Emrys shrugged again. “You’re allowed to be curious.” He looked up at the clock. “You really should go, Mr Pendragon isn’t the most patient of men.”
Gwaine nodded. “Thanks again, Mr Emrys.”
“Any time,” Mr Emrys replied as Gwaine hurried from the classroom and jogged down the stairs, cursing his inability to form a coherent sentence. What had gotten into him? He was never this tongue-tied. If he told Elena or Percival, they would probably joke and say he had a crush on Mr Emrys, but that wasn’t true at all. He couldn’t think of anything farther from the truth. Sure, Gwaine liked his sociology teacher as much as any student could like their teacher, but he was more intrigued by him. Mr Emrys was so private.
Gwaine stopped in the middle of the stairs and started to laugh, realizing that Mr Emrys had never actually answered his question.
Please let him in, we needed to talk.
“Gwaine,” Mr Pendragon said, sounding exasperated. “Just because you have an excuse for your tardiness doesn’t mean you have to take advantage of it.”
Gwaine grinned at his English teacher and gave him a little salute that made the class laugh and Mr Pendragon raise an eyebrow. “Yes, sir.”
“Good,” Mr Pendragon said once Gwaine was seated. “We’re finally starting The Great Gatsby and I’d like to talk a bit about the time period the book during which the book was written: the 1920s in America.”
“Huh?” Gwaine looked at him in confusion, not following the conversation.
“The Great Gatsby,” Lancelot clarified. “Mr P said we could get it at the school library.”
“I’d like to read the book first, I think,” Gwen commented. “I don’t want to have the book spoiled for me or get upset if they made any changes.”
“That makes sense,” Lance agreed. He looked at the others. “What do you think? Should we finish…what?”
Gwaine shook his head grinning. “Nothing. You two are just so married.”
Elena smacked Gwaine on the back of the head and laughed when he yelled at her. “Don’t be jealous.”
“I’m not jealous!” Gwaine protested, gaping at Elena and trying to ignore the indignant look Gwen shot him.
“I think we’re going to find Elyan,” Gwen said tightly with a look to Lance who nodded and walked away with her.
“What’s wrong with you?” Elena demanded when Gwen and Lance were out of earshot.
“What?” Gwaine asked, puzzled. He looked to Percival for help, but the larger boy just shrugged and went to sit with Lancelot, Gwen, and Elyan.
“You’re so insensitive,” Elena snapped. “She was just telling us this morning how she’s worried Lance is going to break up with her when we all go off to uni next year.”
“Yeah, but that’s next year, isn’t it?” Gwaine shrugged. “I don’t see what the big deal is. It’s only October!”
Elena rolled her eyes. “This is why you’re not getting anywhere with Mr Emrys and Mr P.”
“Huh?” Gwaine was startled by the change in topic. “What about Lance and Gwen?”
Elena motioned to where they were sitting and he saw Gwen’s head was resting on Lance’s shoulder as he stroked her hair. “They’re fine.” Elena grinned at him. “Now, about Mr Emrys and Mr P. You need to figure out how we can get them together.”
“Mr Emrys isn’t married,” Gwaine informed her.
“I know,” Elena said wisely. “He doesn’t wear a ring.”
“Yeah, and I asked him.” Gwaine grinned when Elena stared. “Didn’t you notice how I was late to English?”
Elena nodded. “I don’t think Mr Emrys liked that I outed you in front of the class.”
“Oh, that’s fine! He asked me about it, actually, but you know I don’t care about that.” Gwaine smirked. “It just means I get more attention.”
Elena gave a very unladylike snort. “Who is it that’s giving you all of this attention?”
“That’s not important,” Gwaine said loftily.
Elena shoved him. “Oh, go on, then. Any ideas now that we know Mr Emrys isn’t married?”
“Well, he might still be with someone, yeah?”
“True,” Elena agreed. Her face suddenly lit up. “Hey! Why don’t we go meet with him really quickly? I could tell him I’m sorry for what I said in class and maybe we could ask if he has a boyfriend or girlfriend.”
“I thought you wanted to be subtle,” Gwaine reminded her. “That’s not subtle.”
Elena shrugged. “Do you have a better idea?”
“No,” Gwaine admitted.
Elena beamed. “Excellent. Let’s go.”
“But it’s lunchtime, El!” Gwaine groaned as he followed her back into the school.
“I don’t think so,” they heard Mr Emrys saying from somewhere behind them.
“Mmm,” answered someone else.
Elena’s eyes widened when she realised Mr Emrys was walking up the stairs behind them. “Hide,” she whispered, pulling Gwaine behind a pillar.
“Why can’t we just go out and say hello to him?” Gwaine hissed. “We’re allowed to be inside during lunch now that we’re in Year 13.”
“Because he’s not alone and I think it might be,” she paused to listen before adding, “Yeah, that’s Mr P with him!”
Gwaine rolled his eyes, but he couldn’t deny that Mr Emrys and Mr Pendragon were chatting with one another when he heard their English teacher say, “Students sometimes get crushes on teachers.”
“Don’t be daft, Arthur,” Mr Emrys retorted and Gwaine wished he could see Mr Emrys’s face because he sounded highly amused.
“Well, you could have just told the truth,” Mr Pendragon grumbled and Gwaine wanted to laugh at how petulant he sounded.
“Which is?” Mr Emrys asked teasingly, rounding the corner to his classroom and passing Gwaine and Elena’s hiding place.
Gwaine waited until Mr Pendragon followed Mr Emrys into the classroom, then he dragged Elena after him so that they could hear better.
It seemed they missed part of the conversation because the next thing they heard was Mr Pendragon saying loudly, “Well, you’re not exactly single, are you? If I remember correctly you’ve been very not single for six years, you idiot.”
“Seven in December,” Mr Emrys added quietly and Elena clutched at Gwaine’s arm painfully.
“Let go,” Gwaine hissed, straining to hear Mr Pendragon’s response.
“Exactly. I was wondering…nevermind.” Mr Pendragon sounded flustered, something Gwaine had never seen or heard from him before and he was curious. However, when Mr Pendragon spoke again, he sounded exasperated. “What I don’t understand is why you didn’t just say that you’re in a relationship and save yourself some grief.”
“You’re only jealous because the students like me better than you and ask me questions about myself,” Mr Emrys teased.
“You just like to be mysterious,” Mr Pendragon grumbled.
Mr Emrys laughed. “Nah, I’m an open book, isn’t that what you’ve been telling me ever since we met?”
“Yeah, yeah.” Mr Pendragon snorted. “I’d better go. I’ve got Year Eight next and they’re always way too energetic after lunch ”
Elena motioned for Gwaine to leave and they quietly crept away from the classroom and down the stairs, not wanting to alert the teachers to their presence.
“Well,” Gwaine began feeling as though something inside him had burst.
“Yeah,” Elena replied, looking thoughtful rather than disappointed as Gwaine had expected. “Mr Emrys has someone.”
“And they’ve been together for over six years,” Gwaine added.
“But they’re not married,” Elena pointed out. “Which means something.”
“Er, yeah?” Gwaine looked at her with a frown. “What’s that?”
“They’re not that into each other!” Elena cried, suddenly excited. “I mean, if you’re in love with someone and you’ve been dating for six years, don’t you think you’d have married them by now?”
“Maybe,” Gwaine admitted. “But not everyone has to get married.”
“I guess,” Elena said with a shrug. “But I still think it means something and I think Mr P was upset about it.”
“You think he was jealous?” Gwaine asked sceptically.
Elena nodded. “Yeah. I think he really likes Mr Emrys and wants to be with him but can’t because Mr Emrys is with this other person.”
“He might be straight, El,” Gwaine reminded her. “It might be a woman.”
“I don’t think so,” Elena argued. “Remember when I said you were bi? I think Mr Emrys was worried for you. When I saw his face, he looked a little scared, too, like he might know what you were going through.”
“But I’m not going through anything,” Gwaine pointed out.
Elena rolled her eyes. “He didn’t know that. You might be. Mr Emrys talked about biphobia and homophobia during class for a reason!”
Gwaine frowned. “Yeah. I hope he wasn’t talking about himself when he talked about all of those nasty things people do.”
“Oh, that would be awful!” Elena looked upset. “Let’s not think about that! He’s lovely and we need to find a way for him to get with Mr P.”
Gwaine snickered. “You know, even if they get together they might not tell us.”
Elena grinned evilly. “We’d find out.”
The bell rang, startling both of them.
“I’ve got biology,” Elena said, looking in the direction of the science block. “See you later!”
Gwaine waved to her and headed towards his maths classroom, wondering how they could convince Mr Emrys to split up with his partner of six years for their English teacher.
“I’m looking forward to this,” Percival said with a small smile.
“Me too,” Gwen agreed, grinning at Lance.
“I wonder if Mr Emrys likes James Bond films,” Elena commented.
Lance raised an eyebrow. “Why?”
“You aren’t still trying to figure out how to get them together, are you?” Gwen asked as she paid for hers and Lance’s tickets.
“I thought you said Mr Emrys was dating someone,” Lance added.
“He is but I think he and Mr P would be perfect together.” Elena looked at Gwaine for support.
“Let’s just enjoy James Bond,” Percival interjected quietly, handing his ticket to the person at the door. “Gwaine and I can try to get more out of Mr P at practice.”
Gwaine grinned at Percival. “I thought you wanted nothing to do with this.”
Percival shrugged, looking sheepish. “I figure there’s a reason the phrase ‘if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em’ exists.”
“Good man!” Gwaine laughed, thumping Percival on the back. “Anyone want to share popcorn?”
“I can be subtle,” Gwaine insisted, looking indignant.
Elena patted him on the cheek in a way that she must have thought was comforting. “Of course you can but I really think it might be better to let Perce ask Mr P what he does on the weekends. If you ask, he’s going to think you have a crush on him.”
Gwaine stared at her, looking horrified.
Elena laughed. “He already thinks you like Mr Emrys. Who did you think he was talking about last week when he told Mr Emrys that students get crushes on teachers?”
“That’s…that’s…I think I might be sick,” Gwaine said, looking disgusted.
Elena clapped her hands together delightedly. “Right! Now, remember Perce, don’t seem too interested.”
“No, he’ll get suspicious.” She looked at Gwen. “Why don’t you?”
“Me?” Gwen asked, looking nervously at Lance. “But I only ever talk to Mr Emrys about my homework. Won’t he be confused if I start telling him what Mr P does on the weekends?”
“Maybe,” Elena conceded, “but he won’t be suspicious. He’ll probably just think you’re curious about his weekends as well.”
Gwen looked uncertain but she nodded. “All right.”
They entered the classroom and everyone walked to their seats except Gwen, who approached Mr Emrys where he was copying something from the textbook onto the blackboard.
“Mr Emrys?” Gwen blushed when he turned to smile at her and she looked over her shoulder at Gwaine and Elena who were nodding encouragingly. “I was…that is…well, do you, you know…do you like football?”
Mr Emrys’s welcoming smile quickly changed into a look of confusion and he blinked at her, bemused. “Well, I suppose so. Why? Were you thinking of changing your topic for your end of term paper?”
“No,” Gwen hastened to say, “but,” she turned pink, “Mr P said he plays football on the weekend and, well, you’re his, um, friend, right? Maybe you could watch, he might like that.”
Gwaine was torn between laughing and helping the world swallow Gwen whole, she looked so embarrassed. However, Mr Emrys’s brows drew together and he looked a little upset.
“Did he tell you that?” Mr Emrys asked and Gwaine thought he sounded as though he were fighting to stay calm.
“N-no!” Gwen said quickly, looking alarmed. “I didn’t, I mean, he didn’t!”
Mr Emrys nodded curtly. “Thank you, Miss Thomas, take your seat. I’ll have a word with Mr Pendragon about football later.”
Gwen hurried to her seat and sat down, burying her face in her arms. When Elena tried to comfort her, Gwen shook her head and mumbled something that sounded like, “I don’t think this is a very good idea.”
“Right!” Mr Emrys called cheerfully, though Gwaine thought his voice sounded strained. “Let’s get started. We’re moving on to chapter six today. Who wants to give me a summary of last night’s reading?”
“I don’t know. I’m really sorry, though, Gwen,” Elena said apologetically.
“He called me by my surname,” Gwen reminded her. “He never calls anyone by their surname unless he’s angry.”
“I don’t think it was you he was angry with,” Lance said soothingly. “I think Mr P must have done something.”
“Maybe he’s invited Mr Emrys before,” Elena said thoughtfully. “I bet Mr Emrys’s boyfriend wouldn’t like it if he was watching other men play football.”
“It might be a girlfriend,” Gwaine reminded her.
Elena rolled her eyes. “It’s not, I’m telling you!”
“I think we need to make sure,” Gwaine said stubbornly.
Everyone’s head shot up as they heard Mr Emrys’s shout from across the quad and they saw Mr Emrys and Mr Pendragon engaged in what looked like a fierce debate at the bottom of the stairs.
Mr Pendragon was frowning and Mr Emrys looked around, clearly embarrassed at his outburst.
“What do you think they’re arguing about?” Gwaine asked curiously, watching as Mr Emrys turned and jogged back up the stairs without so much as a wave goodbye to Mr Pendragon.
“Oh, I hope Mr Emrys isn’t still upset about me suggesting he go watch Mr P play football,” Gwen moaned, hiding her face in her hands.
“Mr P doesn’t look happy,” Percival commented, watching as a stony faced Mr Pendragon stalked towards the staff room.
“Hopefully he’s in a better mood soon,” Gwaine muttered. “If he doesn’t cheer up, he’ll have us running suicides at practice this afternoon.”
Lance and Percival groaned at the thought.
“Well, hopefully he’s in a better mood this afternoon during English,” Elena commented.
“Yeah,” Gwaine agreed. “We’ve got double sociology this morning, though. Think Mr Emrys will be weird again?”
Elena shrugged. “I think we need to be more careful about setting them up. Maybe we could force them to run into each other.”
“How?” Gwaine asked as they walked up the stairs. “We don’t see them outside of school. They don’t even…what if we hid Mr Emrys’s bike?”
Elena grinned. “Brilliant! That would force Mr Pendragon to give him a ride.” She punched him on the shoulder. “I like how you think!”
Gwaine felt his insides go to mush and he smiled as they approached the classroom to find Mr Emrys unlocking the door.
“Good morning,” he greeted the two students, opening the door.
“Morning,” they chorused, following him inside.
“Oh, look! Those are pretty!” Elena exclaimed, walking over to Mr Emrys’s desk where a small vase of daffodils sat. “Who sent them to you?”
Mr Emrys blushed and mumbled something like, “—thinks I’m a bloody girl.”
“Look, there’s a card,” Elena said quickly, reaching for it.
Mr Emrys’s eyes widened and he grabbed the card before Elena could pick it up and stuffed it under his planner.
“Is it your birthday?” Elena asked innocently. “Did your mum send them?”
Mr Emrys laughed. “No, it’s not and I doubt my mum would send me flowers even if it was.”
“Did your girlfriend give them to you?” Gwaine asked, taking his seat.
“I don’t have a girlfriend,” Mr Emrys replied, raising his eyebrows. He turned and put the flowers on a windowsill as the rest of the class started to file in.
Elena shot Gwaine a triumphant grin and mouthed, “Boyfriend.”
“Nice flowers, sir,” Gwen complimented, turning slightly pink when Mr Emrys smiled at her.
“They’re so cheerful,” Gwen offered. “They’re my favourite.”
Mr Emrys nodded and he cast a fond look at the flowers as he said quietly, “Yeah, mine too.”
“You’re supposed to be taking notes, Gwaine,” Mr Pendragon chided, nodding at the notebook lying open on Gwaine’s desk.
“Someone sent Mr Emrys flowers this morning; he seemed to really like them,” Gwaine continued, pretending not to hear Mr Pendragon. Some of the girls in the class made cooing sounds while the boys snickered.
“He likes daffodils because they’re cheerful,” Elena added, grinning at Gwaine approvingly.
“While I’m glad Mr Emrys had a good morning, Mr Greene, I don’t see how this applies to English,” Mr Pendragon drawled. “Why don’t you focus more on comma placement and less on your sociology teacher’s favourite flower.”
“He doesn’t like football very much, I don’t think,” Gwaine added thoughtfully, trying not to snicker at the glare Mr Pendragon was shooting him. “He didn’t want to talk about the last Arsenal game.”
“That’s because they lost,” Mr Pendragon retorted. “Now, let’s move away from the topic of how crap Mr Emrys is at football and back to Scott and Zelda’s lifestyle and how it fuelled Gatsby.” When Gwaine opened his mouth, Mr Pendragon said in a dangerously low voice, “Or would you like to spend all of next week in detention picking up litter?”
“Did you expect to walk in on them kissing in the English classroom?” Gwaine asked, waggling his eyebrows.
Gwen blushed and shook her head. “Well, no, of course not.”
“We need to steal the bike,” Elena interrupted, looking at Gwaine knowingly.
Gwen frowned. “I don’t want to do anything that will get us in trouble.”
“It’s better than telling Mr P that Mr Emrys’s favourite book is Stuart Little,” Lance said with a grin. “I don’t think I’ve ever heard Mr P laugh like that.”
“It was almost as good as when you told Mr Emrys that Mr P likes romance novels,” Elena agreed.
“Well, we’re reading Pride and Prejudice!” Gwaine protested. “I thought it would make Mr P look sensitive and shit. I figured Mr Emrys would like that.”
The others laughed.
“Now, this is what we’ll do with the bike,” Elena began, motioning for the others to come closer. “Gwaine and I were talking a few weeks ago and we think it’s best if two of us do it during one of our free periods. Mr Emrys and Mr P always come out the same way so they’re bound to run into each other.”
“It seems like a lot could go wrong here,” Lance interjected. “What if Mr Emrys doesn’t ask Mr P for a lift?”
“We’ve got football practice so Mr P will still be here,” Gwaine reminded him. “We can walk by Mr Emrys once he realises his bike is gone and if Mr P doesn’t see him, El can suggest he ask Mr P for a lift.”
Lance, Gwen and Percival all looked dubious, but they let Elena continue with the plan.
“Picking pockets? I always thought you were joking about taking up a life of crime,” Percival teased as they stuffed the bike under a tarp.
“Nah, mate, it’s always good to have a back up plan.” Gwaine grinned when Percival laughed. “We’d better get back quickly. Mr Emrys will notice his key is missing and I really don’t want detention.”
“How are you going to get it back to him?” Percival asked curiously.
“Simple,” Gwaine said, grinning secretly. “Watch and learn.”
They jogged back to the school just in time to hear the last bell ring. They collected their bags from the common room and headed towards geography.
“There’s Mr Emrys,” Percival said quietly, elbowing Gwaine in the ribs. “He’s talking to Mr Knight.”
Gwaine nodded and waited for Mr Emrys to turn away from their geography teacher. He flashed Percival a cocky smile and ran after Mr Emrys shouting his name.
“Gwaine?” Mr Emrys asked in surprise. “Is everything all right?”
“Yeah,” Gwaine panted, holding up and dangling Mr Emrys’s keychain. “I think you dropped this.”
Mr Emrys frowned, put his hand in his pocket and then suddenly looked relieved. “Oh! Thank you.”
Gwaine handed him the key to his bike lock. “I found it near the quad.”
“Thanks, Gwaine,” Mr Emrys replied gratefully, pocketing the key. “I would have hated to have been locked out of my bike. Especially today.” He smiled and walked away, wishing Gwaine a nice afternoon.
Chuckling, Gwaine turned around and walked back to an impressed Percival.
“Well, you must have,” Mr Pendragon said with a sigh. “Who would have stolen it?”
“It was a perfectly nice bike,” Mr Emrys argued.
Mr Pendragon laughed. “Merlin, it was falling apart. You’ve had it, what, four years? I’ve been telling you it’s time for--”
“Don’t you remember? Will gave it to me,” Mr Emrys said quietly and the students saw Mr Pendragon freeze and look suddenly apologetic.
“Who do you think Will is?” Gwaine asked and Elena hit him in the stomach to make him shut up.
“Hey, it’s all right, I’ll take you home,” Mr Pendragon said in what Gwaine thought was an extremely kind and understanding tone he didn’t even know Mr Pendragon was capable of.
“No,” Mr Emrys said, looking a bit lost as he gazed at where his bike had been before Gwaine and Percival hid it in the shed.
“Merlin,” Mr Pendragon began, stepping forward as though he were about to try and pat Mr Emrys on the shoulder or even hug him, Gwaine thought.
Mr Emrys threw up his hands, stepping away from Mr P and shaking his head. “I know you and Will never…No, I’m–I’m going home. I’ll see you later, Arthur.”
“Merlin,” Mr Pendragon called, jogging after Mr Emrys and catching him by the arm.
They couldn’t hear what was being said at this farther distance but Gwaine saw Mr Emrys shaking his head and eventually pull away from Mr Pendragon, walking towards the bus stop. Mr Pendragon stood by the gates, watching Mr Emrys walk away, his shoulders sagging in what Gwaine thought looked like defeat. He was about to suggest to Percival that they go change their clothes when Mr Pendragon turned around and rubbed his face, looking more exhausted than Gwaine had ever seen him.
“I think we messed up,” Elena whispered as Mr Pendragon walked towards the bike rack.
“Yeah,” Percival agreed.
“I want to know who Will is,” Gwaine muttered and he walked over to Mr Pendragon, forcing a grin on his face.
“Hey, Mr P, do we still have practice?”
Mr Pendragon glanced up and smiled in a way that made Gwaine want to flinch. It was a very hollow smile, he thought.
“You all right, sir?” Gwaine asked, looking at the spot where the bike had been and trying not to feel guilty.
“Of course,” Mr Pendragon replied, waving towards the football field. “Don’t you think you ought to change?”
Gwaine chuckled. “I can do that quickly. You look upset.”
Mr Pendragon raised his eyebrows. “Were you eavesdropping?”
“Yes,” Gwaine said boldly and Mr Pendragon nodded.
“I thought so.” He sighed. “Go change into your football kit, Gwaine.”
“Who’s Will?” Gwaine asked, not moving.
“Heard that, did you?”
“Walk with me or we’ll both be late for practice,” Mr Pendragon said, gesturing Gwaine ahead of him. “You know, teachers have private lives too? We don’t always want our students poking in them.”
“Sorry, sir,” Gwaine said without a trace of apology in his tone.
Mr Pendragon snorted. “Mer--Mr Emrys and I were at uni together, you know.”
“Really?” Gwaine asked curiously. He’d never have guessed, though he supposed he should have put two and two together when Mr Emrys had told the class that he’d gone to Exeter for both his undergrad and PGCE programme. Mr Pendragon had told them something similar when he’d first started teaching at Camelot Academy, but Mr Pendragon was a few years older and it had never crossed Gwaine’s mind that the two teachers might have known each other before.
“He was two years behind me,” Mr Pendragon clarified as though sensing Gwaine’s thoughts.
“Oh,” Gwaine said for lack of anything better. “Were you friends?”
“Not at first,” Mr Pendragon said with a wry smile. “Will didn’t like me so I was never invited round.”
“Is that his boyfriend?”
Mr Pendragon looked at Gwaine sharply. “No.” He shook his head as if trying to rid it himself of an unpleasant thought. “Will died two years ago.”
“I’m sorry,” Gwaine said seriously and he meant it. He was very sorry for Mr Emrys, but he was also sorry he had asked as it was none of his business. For all his friends teased him about having no personal boundaries, he never wanted to make someone uncomfortable or upset.
“Me too,” Mr Pendragon whispered. He flashed Gwaine a smile, his demeanour changing back into his usual serious but good-humoured self. “C’mon, hurry up and change. I think we could all use a quick run around the grounds to get our minds on the game.”
Gwaine didn’t bother protesting; he just ran to do as he was told.
“Wow, you woke up early?” Elena teased when Gwaine told her about putting the bike back during their morning break.
“I had to, El,” Gwaine explained. “He was so upset. His best friend gave him that bike before he died.”
Elena nodded guiltily. “I know, you told us.”
“I’ve been thinking,” began Gwen hesitantly, “but do you think that maybe we should stop? I mean, Mr Emrys and Mr P just don’t seem to get along.”
“I think they get along,” broke in Lancelot, smiling apologetically at Gwen. “I just don’t think they get along in the way Elena and Gwaine want them to.” He shrugged at the two of them. “I think they’re just good mates.”
“Mr P told me yesterday that they were at uni together,” Gwaine added. He’d already told this to Percival during practice, but Percival wasn’t as invested and even now he just shrugged his shoulders.
Elena, however, beamed and looked as though Christmas had come early. “That means Mr P must know Mr Emrys’s boyfriend!”
“I’ve been thinking,” Percival said slowly, looking at each of his friends in turn, “but what if Mr P and Mr Emrys are already together?”
Gwaine laughed. “You’re joking.”
“No, listen,” Percival continued, “I’m serious.”
Elena frowned at him, clearly not believing what he was saying, but Gwen nodded thoughtfully and Lance simply looked curious.
“Go on,” Gwaine said in a bored tone that indicated that he was going to humour his friend but was sceptical.
“They eat lunch together,” Percival started, but Elena chimed in with, “And also with Mr Knight and sometimes Mr Gaius,” but Percival shook his head and argued, “They get here at around the same time.”
“But they don’t come together, do they?” Gwaine scoffed. “Mr Emrys rides his bike, well, except for today I suppose. He probably took the bus. Besides, all of the teachers get here at around the same time.”
“They argue more than the other teachers,” Percival protested. “Like a couple.”
Gwen smiled at Percival and shook her head. “I don’t think those are good arguments, Perce. They know each other from before, remember? Mr P told Gwaine they were at university together. Arguing more than the other teachers just shows they know each other better and, you know,” she blushed a pretty shade of pink, “we kind of made things worse. I think a lot of those fights were because of us.”
“Especially the fight yesterday,” Elena muttered, still looking guilty. “That was my fault.”
“No, it was mine,” Gwaine said emphatically, not wanting Elena to feel badly. He was the one, along with Percival, who had moved the bike to the shed after all.
Elena cracked a smile. “Well, maybe it was your fault more than mine.”
Gwaine sniggered and looked at Percival. “Any other proof you’d like to share?”
Percival looked defeated. “No, I suppose you’re right. If they were friends during uni, it makes sense that they’d spend more time together than with the other teachers.”
“They didn’t even do their placements in the same place,” Gwen said suddenly. She smiled apologetically at Percival. “I think that’s really the end for your idea, I’m sorry.”
“What do you mean?” Elena asked with a frown. “What does that have to do with anything?”
Lance seemed to understand where Gwen was going with her train of thought and answered, “Well, if Mr Emrys and Mr P were together, don’t you think they’d want to do their teacher training together? Mr Emrys said he did his PGCE in Bideford and Mr P did his here with us.”
“Bideford isn’t that far,” Percival argued, warming to the subject again. “They could have commuted. Besides, you told us Mr P was two years ahead of Mr Emrys. What if they were together while Mr P was teaching here the first two years and then Mr Emrys left for Bideford?”
“Do you really think Mr P and Mr Emrys were together then?” Gwaine asked, laughing. “Don’t you think we would have known?”
“No,” Percival answered, looking at Lancelot and Gwen for help. “How much do we really know about Mr P? He never talks about his personal life.”
“I think that’s too complicated,” Gwen replied, looking slightly confused with the convoluted story Percival had just spun for them. “I think it’s more likely that Mr Emrys’s boyfriend of six years is someone he’s very in love with and Mr P is just a friend from uni.”
The others all nodded their agreement and Percival sighed, looking dejected.
“It was still a very good try,” Elena said kindly to Percival. “I just think you’re wrong.” She turned to Gwen. “I think you’re wrong as well. I think Mr P is in love with Mr Emrys and Mr Emrys loves him too but won’t leave his boyfriend to be with him.”
“I’m telling you, they’re together,” Percival insisted, begging his friends to believe him. “I think we’ve just been making things worse.”
Gwen smiled and patted Percival on the arm. “It’d be really sweet if that were true but I don’t think so.”
The bell rang, startling them out of their conversation.
“Sociology next,” Gwaine said cheerfully. “Let’s see if Mr Emrys found his bike.”
“Yeah,” Percival agreed though Gwaine hadn’t continued his train of thought. “Mr Emrys was furious.”
“I’m really glad he didn’t know it was us,” Elena whispered, chancing a look over her shoulder and ensuring their teacher was nowhere in sight.
“Stealing is always wrong,” Gwen said seriously, glaring at her three friends as Lance hung back looking ashamed.
“He got it back,” Gwaine protested, though he, too, looked guilty.
“I should have stopped you,” Lance muttered, looking at Gwen for forgiveness. She’d been the only one who had said that it was a bad idea from the start. Though Lancelot hadn’t helped Gwaine and Percival hide the bike, he still felt extremely guilty and angry with himself for not putting a stop to it.
“We shouldn’t have done it,” Gwaine admitted, chancing a look at Elena who was nodding.
“It was a bad idea,” Elena agreed. “Our next one needs to be something that doesn’t involve stolen property.”
Percival sighed but made no moves to leave the table as Elena began on the next plan. Gwaine grinned and kicked him under the table in an effort to get him to cheer up. He knew Elena had absolutely mental plans sometimes, but she had a good heart, part of why he liked her so much.
“I think this is the most sensible of them,” Percival commented, eyes glued to the screen and tongue peeking out of the corner of his mouth as he tried to shoot zombies.
“Really?” Gwaine asked, moving the controller to the left as though it would help him win faster. “You don’t think she’s losing her touch?”
Percival snorted. “By asking our teachers about their plans for the holidays? No. That’s what normal people do.”
“Yeah, but this is Elena,” Gwaine reminded him, crowing triumphantly when he killed the last zombie.
Percival tossed his controller on the ground as he waited for the next level to load. “Yeah, but, you know, we’ve only got three weeks left before the end of term.” He looked pained before adding, “And she’s right. If you lot want to get them together for the holidays, you’ve got to get Mr Emrys to break it off with his boyfriend.”
Gwaine leaned over and pulled Percival into a one-armed hug, kissing him on the cheek. “Knew we’d get you on board, mate.”
Percival shoved him, looking embarrassed, and grabbed his controller to start the next level.
“My sister is coming back from uni,” Gwaine replied, making a face.
Mr Emrys laughed and started erasing the day’s lecture notes from the board. “Don’t you get along with your sister?”
“She’s all right,” Gwaine answered with a noncommittal shrug.
“Are you going to football practice or can you make yourself useful and hand me that box of graded papers?” Mr Emrys asked, gesturing towards a box on back shelf.
“It’s cancelled; Mr Knight is away at a meet with the track team and Mr P is sick,” Gwaine replied, doing as Mr Emrys asked and getting the box.
Mr Emrys snorted. “He’s such a baby.”
Gwaine wondered at Mr Emrys’s comment. He’d heard Mr Pendragon talk about how they were at uni together, but Mr Emrys never seemed to give any indication that he liked the other teacher except for teasing him and spending time with Mr Pendragon at lunch. Feeling bold, Gwaine asked, “Don’t you like Mr P?”
“What? Of course,” Mr Emrys answered, looking bemused. He seemed to realise what Gwaine was thinking and said reassuringly and more than a little fiercely, “He’s my best friend.”
“Right,” Gwaine said, unsure of how to respond to this piece of information. “Did you need anything else, sir?”
Mr Emrys shook his head. “Have a good weekend, Gwaine, and don’t forget to hand in your second draft on Monday.”
Gwaine grinned. He’d forgotten his homework once and Mr Emrys never left him forget it. “Thanks, sir. Bye!”
“He’s back,” Gwen said, smiling at where their two teachers had paused to chat by the stairs. “He does look as though he’s been ill, doesn’t he?”
Gwaine shrugged, but he had to agree: Mr Pendragon did look slightly thinner and quite pale. “Let’s go say hello.”
“We’ve got English next,” Percival complained. Despite his whinging, he got up to follow Gwaine, while Elena, Lancelot and Gwen stayed behind to finish their lunch.
“See if you can find out anything new,” Elena hissed with her mouth full of egg salad.
“Elena,” Gwen chided good-naturedly, “that’s gross.”
Gwaine laughed, winked at Elena, and dragged Percival off in the direction of Mr Emrys and Mr Pendragon.
“Hi, Mr P, Mr Emrys,” Gwaine greeted, sticking his hands in his trouser pockets.
“Hello boys,” Mr Pendragon said, turning from Mr Emrys to offer his students an exhausted smile. Mr Emrys looked at Mr Pendragon with concern but said nothing, making Gwaine look between the two curiously.
“Are you still ill?” Gwaine asked, raising an eyebrow as Mr Pendragon coughed into his elbow.
“No,” Mr Pendragon answered at the same time Mr Emrys said, “Yes.”
“I’m fine, Merlin,” Mr Pendragon said calmly, making a goofy face at Gwaine and Percival who grinned.
“You had pneumonia,” Mr Emrys reminded him, snickering when Mr Pendragon rolled his eyes. “At least the medication seems to have worked well enough.”
“Makes up for the shoddy nurse,” Mr Pendragon retorted and Mr Emrys laughed. Mr Pendragon grinned and turned back to the boys. “I’ll see you in English. Enjoy the rest of your lunch.”
Gwaine watched as Mr Emrys and Mr Pendragon disappeared up the stairs and turned to Percival, who looked pleased about something. “What?” Gwaine demanded.
“Nothing,” Percival replied, walking back towards Gwen, Elena and Lancelot. “You’ll see, eventually.”
Percival snorted. “It’s the last week of term.”
“Be thankful you’re not in A-Level sciences,” Elena grumbled from where she had spread out all of her Chemistry notes on the floor. She’d gotten scary in the last week, Gwaine thought. She’d stopped her ideas on getting Mr Emrys and Mr Pendragon together and instead snapped at anyone who disturbed her during study hours.
“I never knew you cared so much,” Gwaine commented and laughingly held up a pillow to dodge the pen Elena threw at his head.
“Maltesers?” Gwen asked, offering the red packet to her friends as she closed her English notebook.
Lance took a few of the candies and tossed the little bag over to Percival. “What are you doing this weekend?”
“Elyan and I are having a Christmas party,” Gwen explained, nudging Elena with her foot and smiling at Elena’s glower. “Well, our dad is anyway and he said we could invite our friends.”
“Do we have to bring you a gift?” Gwaine asked suspiciously, his smile teasing.
Gwen hit him with a pillow. “It certainly wouldn’t hurt.”
Gwaine chuckled and suggested jokingly, “What if we did a Secret Santa?”
“Just the five of us?” Lance asked curiously, looking at Gwen.
“Why not?” Gwen asked. “It saves us pocket money and I can buy more Maltesers from the tuck shop.” The others grinned, knowing Gwen’s love for the candy.
Gwen opened her notebook and tore out a page, ripping it into five strips before quickly and neatly writing a name on each strip. “If you get yourself, just put it back and pick again.” She folded the papers and offered them to everyone.
Gwaine took one of the strips of paper and made a big show of opening it so that no one could see whom he’d chosen. He felt his stomach flip over when he read Elena’s name and shoved the paper in his blazer pocket.
Percival leaned over and showed Gwaine that he’d drawn Lance and whispered, “New football.”
“Elena,” Gwaine muttered and Percival laughed.
“I’ll help,” he promised.
“I’m doomed.” Gwaine shook his head and sighed, watching as Elena tucked her Secret Santa’s name into her pocket and got back to studying chemistry.
“It’s supposed to be secret,” she teased, elbowing him in the side with a smile.
“Percival got Lance,” Gwaine informed her and Percival rolled his eyes, muttering something about Gwaine’s big mouth.
“Ooh! Good!” Elena squealed, beaming at Percival. “I’ve got Gwen.” She scrutinized Gwaine. “So you’ve either got me or Perce since you can’t have yourself.”
“I’m not telling,” Gwaine said in a singsong voice.
Elena snorted. “Whatever.” She looked at Percival. “Do you want to go to the Christmas Market with me to shop for Gwen and Lance?”
“I was just going to get Lance a new football,” Percival replied, looking at Gwaine for help.
“I’ll go with you, El,” Gwaine offered and Percival sighed in relief.
“Fine. I suppose you’ll do,” Elena grumbled, but she grinned at Gwaine and linked arms with him. “If you have me, I’ll show you where my favourite treat vendor is.”
“I’m not telling,” Gwaine reminded her and Elena laughed knowingly.
“Let’s go Saturday,” Elena said decisively, dragging Gwaine down the street as she pretended to gallop. She looked over at him and grinned. “Race you to the grocery store? I promised my dad that I’d get some potatoes.”
“Happy holidays, Mr Emrys,” the majority of the students called back, quickly gathering their things and filing out of the classroom to begin their holiday break.
“Are you going home for the holidays?” Gwen asked Mr Emrys as she waited for Lance to finish packing his rucksack.
Mr Emrys shook his head and Gwaine thought he looked a little sad. “I don’t go back to Wales much these days.” He smiled at Gwen. “What about you?”
“We’re staying here,” Gwen answered brightly. “My dad’s having a party this weekend and most of my friends are coming.” She paused looking embarrassed. “I’m sure I could…erm, invite you, Mr Emrys, if you like. I don’t want you to be alone.”
Mr Emrys laughed and shook his head. “That’s very kind of you but don’t worry, I won’t be alone.”
Gwen looked relieved. “Good! No one should be alone at the holidays.”
“I quite agree,” Mr Emrys replied. He waved the five of them to the door. “Go on, you lot. Get out of here and have fun. Try not to worry about your exams!”
“Thanks, Mr Emrys!” Gwaine shouted sarcastically and Mr Emrys laughed, eyes crinkling up at the corners.
“Happy Holidays,” Mr Emrys called, following them out of the classroom and leaning against the doorframe, watching them go.
Gwaine turned around and waved, pleased when Mr Emrys waved back, and followed his friends down the stairs. They passed Mr Pendragon on the way down and he grinned at them.
“Going to miss school?” he teased. “I think you’re the last students around.”
“Gwen wanted to make sure Mr Emrys won’t be alone during the holiday,” Gwaine said dryly, rolling his eyes at Gwen who turned pink.
Mr Pendragon smiled at her. “You’re a good girl, Guinevere.”
Gwen went an even darker pink and she turned her face to hide her embarrassment.
“What about you, Mr P? Did you want to go to Gwen’s Christmas party tomorrow?” Elena asked, ignoring Gwen’s mortified whisper of “Elena!”
“Thank you,” Mr Pendragon said courteously, “but I’ve got plans.”
“What are you doing?” Gwaine asked.
“Shopping for my sister,” Mr Pendragon replied. “No offense to you and your brother, of course, but I don’t think I’d fit in at your party.”
“None taken, sir,” Gwen replied in a choked whispered adding, “Elyan never knows what to buy for me.”
Mr Pendragon smiled and looked up the stairs to where Mr Emrys was now standing with a bemused expression on his face. “Ready?” He turned to the students. “Well, I’ll see you all after the break. Have a nice holiday.”
“See you next term,” they called and hurried out of the school.
“Are we still going to the Christmas Market?” Elena asked Gwaine after Gwen and Lancelot turned down the street that would take them to Gwen’s house.
“Sure,” Gwaine agreed. He looked over at Percival. “Are you sure you’re not coming?”
Percival sighed. “I probably should. I still haven’t found anything for my mum.”
“Perfect!” Elena said happily, linking arms with both boys. “I’ll have both of my boys with me to help pick out a gift for Gwen.”
“El, you do know that Gwen’s a girl, yeah?” Gwaine teased, raising an eyebrow.
“Of course,” Elena answered with a dramatic eye roll. “But you know better than I do what girls like.”
“You’re a girl too, El,” Gwaine reminded her.
“Yes, but I’m not girly,” Elena said patiently. “That’s why I need your help.”
“Because we’re girly?” Percival asked, not quite following and looking at Gwaine as though he somehow held the decoder ring to Elena-speak.
“No, you silly boys, because you like girls! You know how to buy gifts for girls.” Elena looked pleased with her logic.
“I don’t know if you’ve noticed, El, but Percival hasn’t exactly been bringing in the ladies,” Gwaine said dryly, dodging a kick from Percival.
“And you have?” Elena demanded. “I’ve been waiting for you to ask me out since Year Ten.”
Gwaine stopped in his tracks, tugging his arm free and staring at Elena who was laughing like a crazed hyena while Percival looked as though he wanted the floor to swallow him up.
“What?” Gwaine asked hoarsely. “You’re joking.”
“Nope,” Elena responded, clutching her sides as she laughed at the amazed look on Gwaine’s face. “You’re daft.”
“I’m daft?” Gwaine grumbled. “You couldn’t have asked me?”
“I suppose I should have,” Elena agreed, crossing her arms and looking in the direction of her house. She shrugged. “I’ll see you both tomorrow!”
“Wait, Elena!” Gwaine called, unsure of whether or not he should run after her.
“Tomorrow!” Elena yelled over her shoulder and he knew she was laughing at him.
“Well,” Percival began, a huge grin on his face.
“Not a word,” Gwaine grumbled, dragging his large friend in the direction of his own home.
“I’ll buy yours,” Gwaine offered. “That’s gentlemanly, right?”
Elena laughed and let him pay while Gwaine ignored Percival’s amused snort. Ever since Elena’s admission the day before, Gwaine had been working up the courage to hold Elena’s hand and possibly kiss her, something he was now regretting admitting to Percival.
“Hey,” Percival said quietly, tapping Gwaine on the shoulder, “look.”
Gwaine turned from the hot chocolate vendor to frown at Percival. “What? Did you see something for your mum?”
Percival rolled his eyes. “No, it’s—”
“Mr P and Mr Emrys,” Elena hissed delightedly, looking over at a vendor selling handmade Christmas ornaments where, sure enough, their English and sociology teachers were standing together, examining the wares.
“What are they doing?” Gwaine asked, sipping his hot chocolate.
“Tap dancing,” Elena said dryly. “What do you think they’re doing? They’re shopping together. How sweet! Do you think they’re buying something for Mr Emrys’s boyfriend or Mr P’s sister?”
Percival let out a strangled sort of noise and muttered, “You two are both daft! Isn’t it obvious?” When both Gwaine and Elena just blinked at him, Percival said patiently, “They’re together.”
“We can see that,” Elena replied, rolling her eyes. “They’re right there.”
“No, I mean…Oh, I give up,” Percival said, shaking his head. “Let’s go.”
“We should say hi,” Elena argued. “They’re right there.” She looked at where Mr Pendragon was tugging at Mr Emrys’s scarf, making Mr Emrys bat his hands away so that he could retie it. “And they look like they’re having fun. C’mon, let’s say hello.”
“Don’t they deserve private lives?” Percival asked, but Gwaine and Elena ignored him, walking over to greet their teachers.
“Morgana won’t want that,” Mr Emrys was saying as they approached. “She told you what she wanted.”
“I’m not getting my sister a new foil,” Mr Pendragon argued, but he put the beautifully decorated Christmas baubles back on the shelf.
“You just don’t like that she can beat you,” Mr Emrys retorted, pulling his jacket a little closer.
“I still win two rounds out of three,” Mr Pendragon grumbled, frowning as Mr Emrys crossed his arms. “Cold?”
“A little,” Mr Emrys admitted, looking at Mr Pendragon apologetically. “Do you think we could—oh, hello, you three.”
Mr Pendragon spun around, his hand going to rest on the small of Mr Emrys’s back as he looked to see whom Mr Emrys was talking to. “Gwaine, Elena, Percival, how’re you?”
Gwaine’s eyes widened as he saw Mr Pendragon remove his hand from Mr Emrys’s back with a sheepish grin at Mr Emrys, who just shook his head with a fond smile.
“Shopping for your sister?” Elena asked, not seeming to have noticed what Gwaine and Percival had.
“Sort of,” Mr Emrys replied, rolling his eyes at Mr Pendragon. “She’s coming next week and he still hasn’t gotten her anything.”
“I’ve got time until Christmas,” Mr Pendragon protested.
“Yes, but if you wait until the last minute like you always do, we won’t be able to hide it. Then she’ll sniff it out, return it, and buy something she actually wants before we’ve even had a chance to give it to her,” Mr Emrys said with amusement, seeming to forget that his students were standing in front of him.
“She only did that once,” Mr Pendragon argued, frowning at Mr Emrys and looking at Elena, Gwaine, and Percival with something like resignation.
Mr Emrys raised an eyebrow. “Just buy Morgana the foil, Arthur.”
“A what?” Gwaine asked, looking between the two men with fascinated delight.
“It’s like a sword,” Mr Emrys explained, waving his hands at Arthur who tried to interrupt. “It’s used for fencing.” He grinned impishly. “Arthur’s sister is quite good.”
“Merlin,” Mr Pendragon said warningly.
“Yes, you’re good too,” Mr Emrys replied in the same tone someone would use to humour a small child and Gwaine knew that Mr Emrys was enjoying himself. He watched as Mr Emrys dug in his pockets for gloves and hastily put them on, rubbing his hands together.
Mr Pendragon frowned. “We’d better get going if you’re that cold.” He nodded to the three friends. “Have fun.”
“We will,” Gwaine promised, grabbing Elena’s hand and squeezing in an attempt to tell her to shut her mouth but also because he wanted an excuse to touch her.
“Good night,” Mr Emrys called over his shoulder and Gwaine watched as Mr Pendragon wrapped an arm around Mr Emrys’s waist and steered him towards a nearby restaurant.
“They,” Elena began excited, brown eyes wide as saucers, “they’re together!”
“Yes!” Percival exploded. “Haven’t I been trying to tell you this?”
“Well, that was unexpected,” Gwaine said as though Percival hadn’t spoken. “Can you believe it?”
“No!” Elena replied, staring at the restaurant in which their two teachers had just disappeared. “Oh, but isn’t it lovely? Do you think Mr Emrys just broke up with his boyfriend?”
Percival looked at Elena as if she were insane. “No, El, Mr P is Mr Emrys’s boyfriend. They’ve been together the whole time!”
“I don’t think so.” Elena rolled her eyes. “I think we helped bring them together.”
“No, El, I think Perce is right,” Gwaine insisted, looking at Percival approvingly. “I think we only made them fight.”
Elena grimaced. “I hope not.” She looked back at the restaurant and smiled again. “They seemed very happy.”
Gwaine smiled and held onto Elena’s hand as Percival wandered off in the direction of a vendor who was selling jewellery. “They make a good couple.”
Elena squeezed Gwaine’s hand, making his stomach flip over. “Do you think they love each other?”
“Yeah,” Gwaine said quietly, “I think they really do.”
“I’m not worried,” Arthur argued, snatching a roll from the breadbasket and smearing it with butter. He grinned and pointed out the window. “Look, Gwaine finally got the courage to ask Elena out.”
“Finally.” Merlin laughed. “Maybe now they’ll stop trying to get us together.”
Arthur laughed. “I think they figured it out.”
“Let’s hope so,” Merlin agreed. “I really don’t want to hear anymore about your love for romance novels.”
“What?” Arthur demanded, but he was laughing. “Oh, I’m going to get them back for that.” He shook his head. “I can’t believe it took us until last week to catch on to what they were trying to do.”
Merlin snorted. “Well, they’re probably the worst matchmakers I’ve ever seen.”
“Yeah, you’re right. It took Gwaine three years to figure out Elena was into him,” Arthur said, chuckling.
Merlin shook his head, grinning at Arthur. “They’re ridiculous, but let’s focus on something else. Tonight is supposed to be about us.”
Arthur smiled and reached across the table to catch Merlin’s hand, his thumb rubbing the tender skin of Merlin’s wrist. “Someone’s selfish.”
Merlin squeezed Arthur’s hand, a small, private smile on his face. “I think I’m allowed to be.”
“You’re right,” Arthur replied, looking at Merlin with unconcealed warmth. “Seven years now.”
“Yeah,” Merlin replied and he grinned. “Don’t know how I’ve put up with you this long.”
Arthur laughed. “Shut up, Merlin.” He nodded towards Merlin’s plate. “Eat your food.”
“Yes, your majesty,” Merlin taunted, but the look he gave Arthur promised warm nights and love for many more years.