Title: Family Man (Part 3)
Character/s: Gwaine, Leon, Merlin, Original Character
Summary: Gwaine finds the turning point with the help of his daughter.
Warnings: Modern AU
Word Count: 1,204
Prompt: #240: Cinema
Author's Notes: Apologies about the length! This is a continuation of Family Man (Part 1), (Part 2). The original concept is based on the movie The Family Man but I am taking a lot of liberties with it.
Gwaine poked his head slowly into the room of the six year old girl who was, supposedly, his daughter.
It was more eclectic than he expected. The princess elements jumped out at him, from the canopy bed in the center of the room to the castle-knight-and-dragon-themed wallpaper bordering the space, but the dinosaurs and football kit scattered on the floor also made themselves known. It was messy but in an energetic way, not unlike the way Gwaine remembered his own London flat.
Lexi’s voice reached him from beneath the canopy.
Gwaine tried not to dwell on the title and focused on the task Leon gave him. He’d made it back to the house in time to have dinner with Leon and Lexi and, following the washing up, he and Leon had read Lexi a story and put her to bed. Thirty minutes later Leon’s parental ESP tingled and he was absolutely sure Lexi was awake even though they hadn’t heard a sound since closing her bedroom door.
He sent Gwaine, of all people, to see what was going on.
Gwaine stepped over to the bed, kneeling down and pushing aside the sheer drapes.
“You’re supposed to be sleeping,” he said, repeating Leon’s words.
“I’m in bed,” Lexi said, playing an angle that impressed Gwaine.
“Yeah, true, but you’re supposed to be sleeping.” Lexi giggled, an acknowledgement, not an apology. Gwaine turned his head to look at the ceiling where Lexi’s attention was focused. “What are you watching?” he asked, leaning more into the bed.
Lexi was holding a tablet on her chest on which a video was playing. A small projector, no bigger than coffee mug, was connected to the tablet by a cable; it was projecting the same video onto the bed canopy, turning Lexi’s bed into her own personal cinema. The image had folds where the canopy drapes creased but it was still watchable and was very clearly a video of Leon.
Gwaine frowned as he watched the video play out, unable to identify when and where it had been shot. His own voice coming from the tablet added to his confusion.
”Why are you in such a rush?”
“We’re going to be late,” Leon answered.
“It’s a party. You can’t be late to a party.”
Leon rolled his eyes but laughed. “It’s a New Year’s Eve party. There is a bit of deadline built into the concept.”
Gwaine could only watch as the Gwaine in the video, shooting the video, turned the camera on himself and started talking about how Leon was willing to risk their lives for punctuality. Gwaine latched on to every detail he could make out: the green holiday jumper he appeared to be wearing, the luggage in the backseat of the car, the snow and mountains visible through the windows.
He’d never been on such a trip. Every New Year’s Eve in Gwaine’s memory had been spent with alcohol at some hyped up, glammed out party in whatever city he happened to be in that year. Even before he left Camelot they would drive to London and spend New Year’s Eve getting drunk in Arthur’s penthouse.
The panic, which had temporarily become a secondary concern behind hunger, began to rise in Gwaine’s chest.
Lexi, unknowingly, came to his rescue with a distraction.
“Can we go to the mountains for Christmas?” she asked.
Gwaine shook his head, trying to swallow down his panic. “I don’t... Maybe… We should ask your dad.”
“You ask him,” Lexi said with a smile, pointing at Gwaine’s chest. “He says yes to you.”
“I’ll try,” Gwaine said without thinking. He tasted guilt in his mouth when Lexi looked pleased, her hope shining at him through trusting eyes. “You should go to sleep,” he said, desperate to pull himself away from the conversation. “I’m going to take this to see that you do.”
Lexi didn’t complain when Gwaine took the tablet from her. She made herself comfortable and pulled her bedding up to her chin.
“Don’t forget to ask him.”
“I love you, Daddy.”
Gwaine froze, one hand clinging to the tablet, the other setting the projector down on a white bedside table. The words sounded so foreign to him but so familiar coming from Lexi. He heard himself respond before he knew he was speaking.
“I love you, too, kiddo.”
Gwaine ducked out of the room without checking to see if Lexi was truly sleeping this time. He leaned against the closed door, his heart racing as panic prickled under his skin. He brought the video back up, needing any clue as to why or how he’d been displaced from the life he knew to this world he didn’t recognize.
The video went on to show him and Leon arriving at a large lodge in the mountains. All of their friends were there, including Arthur and Merlin, who to Gwaine’s knowledge (whatever that was worth) lived in London.
“What are you doing?”
Leon startled Gwaine but he was too focused to take his eyes away from the video.
“Watching,” Gwaine mumbled.
He felt Leon lean up against him, a hand slipping around Gwaine’s shoulders. Leon ducked his head, resting against Gwaine as the video followed Arthur into the lodge. The shot turned on a large banner hanging in the entryway, welcoming in the new year.
Gwaine frowned, focusing on the year printed in big, sparkly numbers. “This is the year I was in Italy.”
Leon pulled back from him slightly, finally having the decency to look confused.
“No,” he said slowly. “This is the year we all went up to the mountains. Remember, Uther died earlier in the year and once the estate was settled Arthur didn’t want to be in the city? We drove for six hours to get there and you had that camera out the whole way.”
Gwaine shook his head. “No, I…”
He remembered Uther dying. He’d spent a good portion of the small pay he had to fly back to London for the funeral.
Because he was in Italy at the time, trying to make a name for himself.
After following Julian around for years.
Gwaine could trace everything in his career, every success, every opportunity, back to choosing to move to London and working as Julian’s assistant. Julian had a style Gwaine loved, he saw potential in Gwaine’s work, and he’d introduced Gwaine to so many influential people.
But according to everyone who “knew” him, Gwaine had never left Camelot which meant…
“I never worked with Julian.”
Leon’s expression was hard to read with all of the chaos flying around in Gwaine’s head but he didn’t look confused any more. He looked concerned.
Before either of them could question the other, the doorbell rang.
Gwaine excused himself to answer it, still holding the tablet in one hand. He was surprised when he opened the door to find that he was still capable of surprise.
Merlin stood on the front step, all smile and scarves and jarring presence. Merlin, who to Gwaine’s knowledge (however fractured) did not live in Camelot in the life he knew and the world he seemed to be in.
“Hi Gwaine! Did you figure it out yet?”