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With A Little Help From My Friends

By sharmini

Humor / Romance

Chapter 1

This was an AU that had been rattling around in head for a very long time. It came about when I was watching this Bollywood movie about three friends. I immediately thought of the guys in the series and after a few false starts, managed to get it written down.

I would like to apologize before hand for over-long chapters and grammar mistakes. I write whatever runs in my head and sometimes it can be a little incoherent.

I love feedbacks. So, let me know if I am doing this right or otherwise.

It was an hour past closing time, but the party of four guys at the table in the centre of the bar were showing no signs of slowing down for the evening…or early morning, to be exact. Having had just delivered another round of drinks, the bartender went on with his futile task of wiping down the bar again. For the fifth time. By then, he was sure that his bar was probably the most hygienic one in the whole of the UK. He could not throw them out; they tipped him well…very well, actually. And they seemed in the midst of celebrating something. One of them must be getting married, he thought. The bartender could not possibly put an end to such…boisterous celebration.

Maybe another half an hour.

"One more round, Tom!" The brunette of the bunch called out, pushing his shoulder – length, stylishly unkempt hair out of his eyes.

Perhaps after this round, the bartender, whose name actually Tim, thought to himself, as he poured put and mixed up their various drinks…he has already memorized their drinks; the blond one, who looked as if he belonged with royalty, drank scotch, on the rocks. The dark – haired one, who had remained mostly silent until the third round, when he started with some bawdy tales involving backpackers' hostels in Ireland, drank martini, two olives. The other dark – haired bloke, the one who looked as if he grew up in a cupboard without any sun or food, had martini too, without the olives. The brunette, who kept the alcohol ever – flowing at their table, drank straight whiskey. All these were in between uncountable rounds of lager, chips and, surprisingly, bananas. But as drunk as they were, they never mistakenly drank someone else's order. This must be quite an achievement for them, because quite frankly, the four of them were beyond pissed.

The bartender delivered their orders and stayed for a joke, at the pale bloke's behest, laughing politely with them before excusing himself to wash more imaginary glasses.

He was washing the hand towels in the sink when he overheard the blond bloke telling a joke. He could not make out most of it, but whatever he was saying it must have been the world's funniest joke because the rest of his friends were already laughing so hard that it was impossible that they could actually be listening to the joke.

"…and then…and then…Merlin said…'Arthur, I forgot my pants'!"

Everyone at the table erupted in laughter; the brunette actually slid off his seat, fell to the floor, clutching his stomach. The bartender wondered if it was a medical emergency, the expression on his face was halfway between a wince and severe constipation, but his friends pulled him up and they seemed unconcerned, so he just let it go.

Forty – five minutes later, they finally started gathering their coats and mobile phones. The bartender breathed a sigh of relief; a large amount of tips is not a healthy compensation for a good night's sleep. He knew none of them were in any condition to drive and was about to offer to call for a cab when a man dressed in a chauffeur's uniform entered the bar. The guys called out their greetings; the bartender braced himself for another round of orders, but, the chauffeur was firm, but gentle, with his refusal.

As the four friends lurched and laughed their way to the awaiting car, a Bentley, the bartender felt compelled to help them, but a glance from the chauffeur halted him. They were managing quite well, helping each other. It was rather annoying to see them stumbling all over the place, but if one really had the patience; their friendship was very much evident to whoever was watching. When the dark – haired bloke hit his leg on a chair, the rest of them gathered around him, asking him if he was all right, looking as serious as they could be while struggling to stand. When they were sufficiently assured their friend was in no mortal peril, they had a good laugh about it…the pale bloke going as far as to demonstrate it. The bartender was not sure if these blokes deserved medals for being such excellent friends to each other or a box to their ears. He was almost afraid of what would happen if anyone tried to box one of them; said person would have three very vengeful friends to deal with.

Finally, they were all bundled up in the Bentley. Just before he left, the bartender offered one for the road to the chauffeur, sympathizing his predicament of having to deliver the blokes to their homes.

The chauffer said one drink would never suffice and added rather ruefully that he was driving. The bartender wished him luck and finally, closed and locked the front door, wondering what it would be like to have friends like them.

He could clean their table the next morning, but he always liked coming to work and seeing the bar spotless. He cleared the drinks glasses and the empty baskets of chips. When he lifted one of the baskets, he saw an envelope on the table. It was addressed to him. Puzzled, he opened the envelope. Two hundred pounds were in it, along with a folded note. The bartender opened the note and read it.

A little bit extra for your troubles, Tim.

We might overstay…we hope you did not mind.

Have one on us, mate. Thanks and cheers.

The bartender smiled when he saw the note. He pocketed the envelope and cleared the table. He wished, as he wiped the table, he had friends like them. Who knew how to have a good time. He reminded himself to congratulate the one among them who was getting married the next time they came in for a drink.

It was almost two - thirty when Arthur and Merlin bumped their way into the flat. They almost fell over each other in their effort to get in through the front door at the same time, a cause of much laughter and amusement between them. They both got into the flat and hung their coats; they thought they were hanging it, but the hooks behind the door have mysteriously disappeared, so, they just let their coats drop to the floor. They took off their shoes and stage – whispered their way across the threshold, telling each other to be quiet, and managed to get to the living room without knocking anything over. Arthur was about to reach out and switch on the lights, when the lights miraculously came on by itself.

"I wished for the…hic…for the lights, you know," Merlin said, standing in the middle of the living room, his hands cupped above his eyes, shielding them as he looked at the ceiling light, fascinated as if Arthur had performed a magic trick.

"You could have wished for a brain, Merlin."

The speaker was a female. An angry female, to be exact.

"Guinevere!" Arthur and Merlin exclaimed at the same time, as if they were answering a quiz on the telly.

Guinevere, in her pyjamas and a thick bathrobe to combat the chill, had her arms crossed over her chest, eyes narrowed at them. She had been trying to sleep, which had been very difficult indeed, considering that she was thinking about the event tomorrow…or later that morning…and her friends who had gone for a night out in town. She was relieved to see Arthur and Merlin back, this meant that Gwaine and Lance would be safe in their homes, but that still did not mean she was irritated.

"It's Arthur's fault," Merlin was quick to defend himself when he realized that Guinevere was not in a very chirpy mood.

"Really?" Guinevere asked, not believing a word she was hearing. Merlin may be the youngest and palest among them, but Guinevere knew he was no push over for the rest of them. She looked at Arthur, who kept a steady gaze at her…or at least she thought he was looking at her…his gaze was slightly to her left…chewing his bottom lips. If it was not for the fact Arthur was drunk beyond himself, Guinevere would have thought that he looked really like an innocent boy…a sexy, innocent boy, if there was ever such a thing. But, it was not a really good time for analysing her attraction towards her friend. They guys should not have gone drinking; they had to be sober at the church tomorrow, but Morgana had insisted the guys have a good time. She had asked even asked Guinevere to go along with them, but Guinevere had declined. The guys had protested too, but Morgana would not hear of it. She said she was looking forward to her husband hung over for the church proceedings.

"Guinevere," Arthur said, approaching her. Guinevere swallowed, wondering what Arthur was going to do. Arthur embraced her, kissing the top of her head. "I love you…" he said, as he drew away from her. He smiled at her, a silly lopsided grin, and promptly passed out, falling in a heap to the floor next to her feet. Guinevere closed her eyes, taking deep, calming breaths, berating herself for almost believing a drunken man's declaration of love. She opened her eyes again and saw Merlin, another heap on the sofa. Knowing that there was nothing more she could do, she stepped over Arthur, went into their respective rooms and got their blankets. She spread the blanket on each of them, choosing not to act on the impulse that screamed at her to push away the lock of hair away from Arthur's closed eyes, and pushed a cushion under their heads. Then, she switched off the lights and went into the guest bedroom, settling in for what she was certain going to be a sleepless night, with so many thoughts and emotions swirling around in her head.

Sleep came to her in the early hours of dawn. She dreamt of Morgana in her wedding dress. Guinevere woke up to the sound of Merlin and Arthur scrambling to get ready to go to church. She wiped the tears in her eyes and started to get ready for Morgana's big day.

Uther Pendragon was far from pleased to see his son, son-in-law and their two friends stumbling into the church later that morning. They were not late or anything, but Uther had hoped they would at the church earlier. It was clear from their dark glasses, the economy of their movements and a distinct lack of speech that they had heeded Morgana's suggestion of getting drunk the night before. The four of them entered the church, led by Guinevere, who nodded at Uther as she took her place on the pew behind theirs. The four of them stopped when they saw Guinevere taking her seat and Merlin stepped forward to whisper something to her. She clearly disagreed with whatever being said, but Merlin stood his ground. Moments later, she came out of the pew and took her seat in the main pew, reserved for the Pendragon family and closest friends. Uther raised an eyebrow, but he did not say anything; Guinevere was, after all, Morgana's best friend since school. Besides, today was not a day for reminding people their stations in life.

"You do remember you are…," Uther began, as a way of greeting when Arthur approached him.

"Yes, I have not forgotten," Arthur replied and probably had rolled his eyes behind his sunglasses. He and Lance took their seat, with Uther between them. Lance sat at the far end of the pew, the seat closest to the altar. Merlin was beside Arthur, followed by Gwaine, who held Guinevere's hand, in case she wanted to escape to the pews at the back. There were another four places left in the pew; for Morgause, her husband Cenred and their daughter. The last bit of space was Morgana's seat.

The church began to fill up with people and when the clock struck nine – thirty, the priest appeared at the altar, just as Morgause kissed Uther hello and took her seat next to Guinevere. The priest waited until Morgause and her husband were seated, and then regarded the people gathered in the church; his expression changing from neutral to surprise when he saw the four friends with their sunglasses in the church. Uther closed his eyes, took a calming breath and then turned to look at his son and his friends, not bothering to hide his displeasure. Merlin crumbled first; he removed his Aviators to reveal bloodshot eyes. Lance did the same, followed by Arthur. Guinevere took off Gwaine's RayBans and stuffed it into her purse. The priest nodded his approval and began with a prayer to the Lord.

"We are gathered here today to say our goodbyes and pay our final respect to Morgana du Lac …"

All of Morgana's family and friends had taken an oath not to cry at the church ceremony. None of them could keep to their promise; Arthur's eulogy cut short because he broke down in the middle of delivering it. Their promise to Morgana had been futile, something they agreed to at the moment because they could bear to disagree with Morgana. And now, they cried for losing a part of their life…and for being unable to keep their promise to Morgana.

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