Posted originally on the Archive of Our Own at http://archiveofourown.org/works/294516. Rating: Teen And Up Audiences Archive Warning: No Archive Warnings Apply Category: F/M, M/M Fandom: Merlin (TV) Relationship: Ambrose/David, Guinevere/Arthur Pendragon, Gwen/Arthur, Elle/Gavin Character: Ambrose, Arthur, Gwen, Gavin, Elle, Percy, David Additional Tags: POV Alternating, POV Female Character, POV Male Character, Dinner, Het and Slash, Female Friendship, Male Friendship, Male-Female Friendship, No season 4 spoilers, Banter Series: Part 19 of Enduring Legends Stats: Published: 2011-12-15 Words: 4488 The Tapas by Ailelie, Cinaed Summary Thursday, December 15 2011 In which David arrives in the city, and nearly everyone has dinner together. Features friendly bickering, some not-so-friendly bickering, and David and Ambrose being adorable. (Gwen/Arthur, Elle/Gavin, David/Ambrose) Notes See the end of the work for notes Thursday, December 15, 2011 Ambrose Ambrose resisted the urge to check his cell. He had the phone set to ring at its loudest setting, there was no way that he was going to miss David’s call, and yet-- “Do I need to take that away from you?” Gwen asked, sounding amused. When he blinked at her, she leaned against his shoulder, smiling slightly. It eased some of the strain from her face, if not the tired shadows under her eyes. “You’ve been eyeing your cell since you sat down.” “Have I?” Ambrose said. “Yes,” Elle and Gavin said together, and laughed. “Yes, Ambrose, it’s been very odd,” Arthur drawled. “I kept feeling like we were all forgetting something and then realized it was just that you were being quiet for once in your life.” If Gwen hadn’t been sitting right there, Ambrose might have needled Arthur for having been just as preoccupied before Gwen arrived. Since she was currently resting her head on Ambrose’s shoulder, though, he settled for making a face at Arthur and getting revenge later. “I don’t know what we’re going to do about the play,” Elle said. She fiddled with her drink, turning it around and around in her hands. “The third ghost sprained his knee slipping on ice, and I don’t know anyone who can fit in his costume.” At Arthur’s raised eyebrow, she added, “He’s very tall.” “I’m sure you’ll think of something,” Gavin told her. He wrapped an arm around her shoulders and added, “And the shelter owner will understand if things aren’t perfect.” “Right,” Elle said, but Ambrose caught the flash of impatience that flickered upon her face. Gavin had obviously said something very wrong in that attempt at reassurance. “There’s no way to alter--” Ambrose began, and then jumped as his phone began ringing, loudly enough that a few heads in the restaurant turned and glared. “Shit!” Ambrose dove for the cell, mumbling an apology as his elbow almost caught Gwen in the face. “Hey,” David said, his voice warm. “Hey,” Ambrose said a little breathlessly. He ignored Arthur’s smirk. “Are you in the city yet?” “Yes, Percy says we’re on…South King Street,” David said. As Ambrose gave David instructions to get to the restaurant, he caught Gavin frowning at Gwen. Come to think of it, Gavin had been quieter than usual tonight. Were he and Elle having a fight? “They’ll be here in about twenty minutes, barring a traffic disaster,” Ambrose announced, having ended the call with great reluctance. “They?” Gwen asked, frowning. Then her expression cleared. “Oh, right, Percy’s driving him.” “Percy? Is this another person who knew Gwen before Arthur--” Gavin asked. He stopped abruptly. Judging by the slight flinch, Arthur had kicked him under the table. Ambrose resisted the urge to wince in sympathy. “No,” Gwen said with a too-bright laugh. She darted a quick, flustered look at Arthur, but he didn’t seem to notice, too busy scowling at Gavin. She relaxed after a second, adding, “I only know him through David’s stories.” Ambrose nodded. “Percy teaches at Shea’s school. Gym, I think. He offered David a ride since he was already spending the holidays with family in the city.” “That was nice of him,” Elle said cheerfully. “So you’re doing A Christmas Carol?” Ambrose asked, trying to focus on the conversation. “Trying to,” Elle said, “although the lack of the third ghost is a bit of a problem. I guess I should be grateful it wasn’t a huge part like Scrooge--” “Oh, I don’t know, I think Scrooge or Marley could’ve pulled off using a cane during the play,” Gavin said. He shrugged. “Probably couldn’t have gotten away with having Bob Cratchett or Fred having a cast on their leg, though.” “I can’t wait to see the play,” Gwen said. Ambrose frowned. “How are you going to see the play? You’ll be at your dad’s.” “Oh,” Gwen said, and looked down at the table. “I’m actually staying here for the holidays. My dad’s coming to visit instead.” “Really?” Elle beamed even as Ambrose wondered what had caused the change in plans. “He can come see the play too, if he wants.” “I can ask him, but he’ll probably skip it. I think he feels too sorry for Jacob Marley to enjoy the play,” Gwen said, laughing a little. That managed to lead into a conversation about everyone’s favorite Carol characters. Ambrose tried to pay attention, he really did, but he kept looking towards the door, hoping to see David walk in. When David finally did, a tall man following close behind and ducking a little to avoid hitting his forehead on the door frame, Ambrose leaped to his feet. “Looks like David’s here,” Arthur said dryly. David was frowning, scanning the restaurant. When his gaze landed on Ambrose, the frown fled, replaced by a smile that made Ambrose’s mouth go dry. He was already moving towards them, he realized. Two steps more and he could throw his arms around David, which he did. “David,” he said into David’s shoulder. David didn’t wear cologne, but he smelled faintly of the cold air outside and even more faintly of the honey shampoo he liked to use. David’s hand settled on the back of Ambrose’s neck, squeezing it gently for a moment. “Ambrose,” he answered back; this close, Ambrose could feel his name rumble through David’s chest. After a moment, Ambrose forced himself to step back. He was grinning stupidly, he knew, but he couldn’t bring himself to care very much. “Come on,” he said, motioning over his shoulders in what he figured was the direction of their table. “We’ve just been having a salad bowl and drinks. We didn’t want to order without you.” He dragged his focus away from David’s smile to turn to the tall man who had to be Percy. “Percy, right?” When the other man nodded, Ambrose stuck out his hand. “I’m Ambrose.” “Figured,” Percy said in a slow, deep voice. He grinned and shook Ambrose’s hand. “Nice to meet you.” “Yeah, thanks for driving David. We have an extra seat if you want to join us for dinner.” Percy shrugged, and Ambrose was beginning to get a crick in his neck trying to look him in the face. “Never turn down food,” Percy said. “Thanks.” David touched Ambrose’s arm lightly. “Let’s have a seat,” David suggested, smiling. “I’m sure your waitress has been hoping you all actually order dinner for a while now.” Ambrose laughed, all the anxieties of the past week seeming momentarily distant. “I already told Arthur he has to leave a huge tip for her,” Ambrose said. He leaned a little into David’s touch. “Come on, I want to introduce you to everyone.” Gwen Gwen smiled, watching as Ambrose all but tackled David. “Gwen,” a low voice hissed at her. She blinked and turned in her seat to find Gavin had taken the moment to get out of his seat and come over to her. He was frowning, a tense crease between his eyes that she’d never seen before. “So, about these dreams,” he whispered. “Would they be the sort with swords, the living dead, and you all dressed up like a princess?” Gwen stared at him for a moment, struggling between relief and fear. She recognized that tension in his voice now, the urgency in his expression. He had been experiencing the same things she’d been enduring since Thanksgiving. She grabbed his hand and squeezed it briefly. “I’ll talk to you after dinner, okay?” she said, giving him a quick smile. “It’s going to be weird, but you’re not the only one experiencing it.” “Experiencing what?” Arthur asked. When she glanced at him, she couldn’t read his expression, but his eyes were fixed on her hands clasping Gavin’s. She let go slowly, meeting Arthur’s eyes. “Nothing,” she said firmly. Nothing that Arthur would know about, anyway—it was obvious that he hadn’t recognized her in Elliot’s apartment. She squared her shoulders, ignoring a pang of disappointment. Certainly, Arthur was handsome and funny and obviously a good man if he was Ambrose’s best friend, but she couldn’t let the fact that she and a man looking like Arthur had been…close in her dreams dictate her actions now. “And who is that?” Elle asked in a speculative tone. “Who’s who?” Gavin asked, turning to scan the restaurant. “The tall man who walked in with David. Is that Percy?” “Probably,” Gwen said as Gavin glanced between Elle and David’s companion. “Did David mention if Percy had any acting experience?” Elle asked. Gwen laughed. “I…can honestly say that never came up in conversation.” Arthur smirked. “I can imagine how this is going to go. ‘Hi, Percy, nice to meet you. Would you like to be in A Christmas Carol?’” “I wasn’t going to spring it on him that quickly!” Elle protested. She paused. “Unless you think that would work.” “Elle,” Gwen said, unable to keep from laughing again as Gavin sat back down in his chair. “Really?” “Really what?” Ambrose asked. He was grinning from ear to ear, so widely that Gwen wondered if his face hurt. “Everyone, this is David--” Impossibly, he seemed to grin even more. “--and Percy. David, you already know Gwen and Arthur. And that’s Gavin and Elle.” There was a chorus of hellos and Ambrose sat down, catching holding of David’s wrist and tugging him into the chair next to him. Gwen hid a smile behind her water glass at David’s expression. She was glad that Ambrose hadn’t been stupidly self-sacrificing and had invited David here. She caught Arthur watching David and Ambrose as well, the smirk he wore when teasing Ambrose nowhere in sight. She pressed her lips firmly together against the glass, resisting the urge to giggle. So even Arthur fell prey to the utter adorableness of his best friend and David. Arthur glanced her way and she busied herself with smoothing down the napkin she’d placed in her lap instinctively at the start of the meal. Arthur "Trade me spots," Elle hissed, nudging Gavin. Gavin rolled his eyes, but stood and gestured to his chair with a flourish. "My lady," he said. Unaccountably, Gwen's eyes widened at this—not that he was watching her. Arthur looked to Gavin just in time to see the pair trade a quick glance. "Thank you," Elle said, affecting an accent and taking her seat with all the grace of a queen. The illusion held for a full two seconds before she leaned over the table, her elbow nearly toppling Arthur's water glass, and smiled in a way Arthur had long since learned to fear. "So, Percy, is it?" The tall man now seated across from her nodded. Elle tilted her head in consideration. "You're very tall," she said. "How tall are you?" "Subtle, Elle." Arthur couldn't stop himself from commenting. Elle glared at him over her shoulder. "Hush." Then she turned back to Percy, once again all smiles. "You were saying?" "Six-eight," David said from the other end of the table. Elle repeated the number thoughtfully. "You might show a little ankle, but I think that's acceptable. I'm sure our patron won't mind." Then she turned Gavin, her tone sweet, but dangerous. "Will he?" "What?" Gavin asked, flustered. "Will the guy who owns the shelter care if Percy shows a little ankle?" Arthur glanced back at Percy who was leaning back and engaging David in silent conversation that seemed to consist mostly of 'what is she talking about?' He missed Gavin's reply to Elle, but whatever he said must have satisfied her, because then she was back with all of her attention on Percy. Percy, Arthur noticed, remained an inch or so back from the table. "You're a teacher, right?" Elle asked. "I teach gym," Percy said. "Pre-k through sixth." "So you're not afraid of talking in front of a lot of people." This was clearly not a question. "I think what Elle here is trying to ask," Gavin started, "is—" "I think Elle here can talk for herself." Elle talked over his sentence. Arthur winced. She was clearly angry over something. Not wanting to get stuck in the middle, but cut off on the corner, Arthur decided to move to the other end of the table. Elle immediately snagged his vacated seat, continuing her interrogation of Percy. "What did you do?" he asked, taking the empty seat by Gavin. Gavin shrugged, his eyes not leaving his girlfriend. Arthur clapped his shoulder twice and signaled for the waitress. When she reached the table, he ordered three of the tapas party assortments. Normally, one set was enough to feed four people, but lunch had been a long time ago and Percy looked like he had an appetite, so three it was. "What did you do that for?" Ambrose asked, grumpily handing the waitress his menu. "Do what?" Arthur asked. "We had to get food at some point." "Order for everyone," Ambrose replied. "It was rather rude." "Rude?" Arthur asked, drawing back. He gestured at the dining area behind him. "Ambrose, in case your David-addled brain—no offense, David—" David waved him off "—has forgotten, this is Mateo's. We always get the set here." "Yes, but we have new people here today. Maybe they don't like tapas." "Then why would they—" Arthur stopped, pinching the bridge of his nose. He was not going to be drawn into yet another pointless argument with Ambrose, especially not in front of Gwen. Gwen, who was—Arthur noticed when he opened his eyes—looking far too amused. That was when he realized, really realized what it meant for Gwen and Ambrose to be such good friends. He really didn't want to think about some of the things she must have heard about him. Arthur took a deep breath and looked across the table at David. "Do you like tapas?" he asked. "Little finger foods, right?" David asked. "Sort of. They're Spanish and there's all kinds—" "They're good," Gwen interrupted, smiling across Ambrose. "Especially the ones here. There's one with squid that is fantastic." "Squid?" David repeated doubtfully. "You've been here before?" Arthur asked Gwen in surprise. He ignored Ambrose's flashing hands and explanations that were, doubtlessly, extolling Mateo's menu. Gavin joined the conversation, momentarily looking away from Elle and Percy. "My fault, that," he said. "You and I came here for your birthday last July, didn't we?" "Yes," Gwen agreed. "Elle and I come here often as well on the live music nights." "This is my favorite restaurant," Arthur said, feeling rather stupid even as he said it. "I've never seen you here." Gwen met his gaze with an amused smile. Again he felt caught by her. "Thank goodness for Elliot," she said. "We might have never met each other." "That would have been a tragedy," he replied, but then she made that face again, the one that made him feel like they were dancing together, but he kept leading her in the wrong steps. He looked away, sliding his gaze down to Percy. "Percy," he said, interrupting Elle. She gave him a dirty look, but as it did not make him feel like a stumbling idiot, he ignored it. "What are your thoughts on tapas?" "Real tapas, or small plates of food tapas?" he asked. Arthur grinned. "Spanish tapas." "Sounds good." Arthur turned back to Ambrose, who had apparently just finished his spiel. "No one minds the order," he said. "It's the principle of it, Arthur," Ambrose said. "You just assume everything will go according to your plan, not taking even the littlest second to—" "Christ, Ambrose," Arthur said, realizing Ambrose didn't actually care about the order. "The money is still going to charity. Does it really matter if the money goes toward toys instead of livestock?" "Yes, it does. We raised that money; we should get some say in where it goes. Julie was advocating for the Jed Foundation. She and I were battling over the last few neutrals when you just had to swoop in—" "You were giving campaign speeches in the break room," Arthur protested, forgetting his earlier promise to himself to not let Ambrose draw him into an argument. "Julie was leaving buttons in all the mailboxes." "So we were too passionate? Was that the problem?" "Passion is a good thing," Arthur said. "Taking over the copy room to print off posters is not." He noticed David lean back and ask Gwen something behind Ambrose's back. "Julie brought in cupcakes. I had to do something." "You had to—Ambrose, it's a charity, not a presidential election." "Yeah, but you got more donations this year than ever before, didn't you?" Arthur narrowed his eyes at him. "Wait, did you and Julie—" he stopped speaking when Gwen laughed, clear and bright. She settled her chair back on all four legs and looked guiltily at the table. "Sorry, it's not you," she said. "Well, it is you, but—" She rolled in her lips, holding back a smile. Arthur traded a bewildered look with Ambrose. At the end of the table, David was chuckling against the side of his hand. "—the two of you—" she took a deep breath, then looked back down to David "—I don't think you have anything to worry about. Gavin tells me that this is just what they do." Arthur looked at Gavin, feeling absurdly betrayed. Gavin shrugged. "I figured the lady deserved a warning." "It's all right, Arthur," Gwen said, reaching across the table, touching his hand. "I'm glad Ambrose has such a good friend." Her smile reminded him of too-salty fried rice and his mother's laughter; a knot he'd carried for so long he'd forgotten it loosened in his chest. "Gwen," he started, certain he should be saying something, but utterly unable to think of any. "Gwen," he said again. Gwen's eyes widened with what looked like panic. She pulled away, even standing and stepping back from the table. "I—I have to go. Bathroom. Sorry." Arthur stared, stunned. Elle stood up. "I should go after her," she said. She took two steps from the table, before whirling back and pointing at Percy. "You," she said. "Creepy ghost, yes or no?" "I don't think—" "Yes or no?" Elle asked again, her voice low and guttural. She was playing someone, but Arthur wasn't sure who. "Yes," Percy said quickly. Elle jumped up, one fist punching the air. "Yes! Now Gwen." When she saw the waitress coming over with a tray, she turned to Gavin. "Save us squid thingies." "I'll guard them with my life." "You better," she muttered, turning and following where Gwen had fled. "What did I do?" Arthur asked. "I don't think it's you," Ambrose said. "Gwen's been acting strange lately." Gavin stiffened as he reached for the plate of chopitos that Elle and Gwen apparently loved. "Is that so?" He took the plate and protected it in the circle of his arms. Arthur noticed him rubbing at his wrist. David whispered something to Ambrose, but Ambrose just shook his head and mouthed Later. Arthur had the very uncomfortable feeling that he was once again on the outside of some secret, though this one seemed grimmer than the myth of Gwen. "What is going on?" he asked. Gavin, Ambrose, and David all avoided eye contact. Arthur glanced at Percy, but he seemed just as clueless. "I want answers." "So do I," Gavin said, stealing a olive stick off a nearby plate and pointing it toward Percy. "Can you or can you not play basketball?" "That's not—" Arthur started, but Ambrose quickly interrupted. "He's a gym teacher. Of course he can. Er, you can, can't you?" "I can," Percy confirmed. "Great," Gavin said. "That's five then. You're still in, aren't you, David?" He nodded. "I heard our competition is tough." "They're good," Gavin said. "And they've convinced John to play with them." "The guy who does self-defense classes?" Ambrose asked. "Yeah." "When's the game?" Percy asked. "Tomorrow," Arthur said, rubbing at his forehead. This was not what he wanted to talk about, but they did need to strategize. "Aden and Will playing?" he asked. "Finn, Shaw, Aden, Will, and John," Gavin said. "John doesn’t play much, but he's solid. Big guy, when he decides to block you, you're blocked." "Your height," Arthur said, nodding toward Percy "may help with that. Will and Aden are both good players, but better together, and Aden's fast. The best way to stop her is to keep the ball away from her." "Finn can make a basket from nearly anywhere on the court," David added. "Luckily when I played with Arthur, he was our third." "Where was I?" Gavin asked. "Probably off with some girl," Arthur said. It was a low blow, but he really hadn't liked the bit of connection he'd seen between Gavin and Gwen. "A while back then," Gavin said, evenly. He turned back to Percy. "Shaw isn't too shabby either. A little less creative on the court than Finn, but stronger in strategy. In our favor though is the lovely Ria." "Ria Edwards?" Arthur asked, surprised. "The commissioner's daughter?" "Yeah. You know her?" Arthur shook his head. "Vaguely. What about her?" Gavin shrugged. "They're both madly in love with her. Constant battle with them." Elle and Gwen returned to the table. Gavin held out the plate of chopitos. "As promised," he said. "Thank you." Elle gave him a long, soft kiss. "Not to complain," Gavin said, when she pulled back, "but I was under the impression you were mad at me." She plucked a piece of squid from the plate. "I was." "But now?" She shrugged and glanced back at Gwen. "Everyone's got secrets," she said. "You'll tell me yours when you're ready. Now, move. Gwen's going to sit with me." "Just can't let me sit in peace, can you?" Gavin said, standing. "Have to keep you on your toes somehow," Elle countered. "Don't really need to make an effort for that," Gavin said. He picked up his drink and slid down a seat, making room for Elle and Gwen to sit together. Arthur was disappointed that Gwen was no longer sitting diagonally from him, but didn't say anything. He tried not to think about Gavin going back to his old ways or the possibility that Gwen was seeing someone already. Instead he focused on the good food and basketball strategy. It didn't work, but it was good enough. Eventually Gwen started engaging in conversations again, though she didn't leave from her end of the table, away from him. After the food had dwindled to about half of a single set and Arthur had paid, sparking another brief argument with Ambrose, Percy checked his phone and cursed. "My meter's running out." Arthur checked his own phone. "It's nearly 11," he said. "We've been here, what, four and a half hours?" "Closer to five, I think," Gavin said. "Shall we pack up then?" Percy held up his keys. "David, your stuff is still in my car. Do you want me to give you and Ambrose a ride?" "Please," David said. "I guess we're headed out then," Ambrose said. He pointed around the room. "See you tomorrow?" he asked. Everyone but Elle nodded. "Try outs," she said. "Spring musical. Not that we really have time for that right now—" she glared at Gavin "—with the Carol to prepare." "I'm sure it'll be fine," Gavin said, holding up her coat for her to put on. Elle snorted. "Your expectations are really rather too high. Gwen, did you want us to walk with you to your stop?" "Give us a chance to—" "I'll take her," Arthur interrupted, not liking Gavin's expression. "It's all right," Gwen said when Elle glanced her way. "If you're sure," Elle said, giving Gwen a hug. "See you tomorrow." Arthur held up one hand as Elle, Gavin, David, Ambrose, and Percy all exited together. He looked to Gwen. "I guess it's just you and me," he said. "Come on," Gwen said, stepping toward the entry way. "My stop is nearby." "A bit late for the bus, don't you think?" Arthur pressed a button on his phone. "I'm calling for a driver." "Arthur." Something helpless twitched in her smile. "Gwen," he said back, then frowned. "What is that short for anyway?" "Gwendolyn." "Gwendolyn," he said, savoring her name. She almost seemed to shiver. "I just want you to be safe. Besides, you'll probably be great friends with the driver anyway." She laughed. "Fine." Arthur grinned, happy to have won the point. When Leo picked up and grumbled about not being Arthur's chauffeur, Arthur only had to mention Gwen's name for him to agree to come out, just so long as Arthur understood that this was not setting any sort of precedent. Arthur agreed. When he turned back, Gwen was watching out the window where flurries were beginning to fall. "He'll be here in about ten minutes," he said. "Do you want to wait outside?" "You don't think it'll be too cold?" she asked. "I don't mind," he lied. Her grin was worth it. They stood beneath the awning and watched the flurries chase around the air. When her teeth chattered, Arthur unbuttoned his coat and held it open to her. Cold air immediately whistled up his shirt. "You're cold," he said. "I'm cold. Let's be warm together." "That's a terrible line," she said in that tone of voice he was growing to hate, but she settled back against him regardless. He wrapped his arms around her and nestling his chin down against her hair. "There's something about you," he said. He felt her take a deep breath against his arms. "Maybe it's fate," she said softly, almost too quietly for him to hear. "I don't believe in fate." "No," she said, pulling away from him. "Neither do I." She walked out into the flurries and turned her face up into the wind. She was, in more ways than he could count, beautiful—confusing as high school physics had been, but far more worth the effort. "The car's here," he said, noticing Leo pulling into the parking lot. Leo's arrival prompted a hurried hug and damp eyes Arthur hadn't meant to cause. He started to apologize when they were buckling into the backseat, but then Gwen grabbed his hand, her eyes warm and shining, and he found he couldn't form a single sound. "Thank you," she said. This time she didn't pull away or panic or slip back into that look of vague disappointment. Instead she closed her eyes and rested her head on Arthur's shoulder. Arthur met Leo's eyes in the rearview. Leo raised his brows in question, but Arthur didn't know how to answer. He was afraid to even breathe that he might disturb her. Gwen sighed against his arm; and Arthur closed his eyes. He had no idea what he was doing. End Notes This part was co-written by both Cinaed and Ailelie. All the charities mentioned are real. :) Please drop by the archive and comment to let the author know if you enjoyed their work!
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