Title: The Scion and the Relic
Rating: PG13 (for this part)
Pairing(s): Arthur/Percival (eventually)
Character/s: Percival, Gwaine
Summary: Cyberpunk AU. Mercenary Percival takes a job protecting Uther Pendragon's heir, but what initially looks like an simple protective detail quickly turns into something far more complicated.
Warnings: None for this part
Word Count: 1112
Prompt: #407, pick a trope: cyberpunk
Author's Notes: So...I got bitten by a bunny. A very insistent, long one. And I think I want to use the community as a way of working on it. This opening will be the first half of the first chapter when I get around to posting it on AO3.
As Percival ran through the silent tunnels, sweat dripped from his eyelashes and slicked his skin to the point where the wicking in his shirt stopped being effective. A bioregulator would have solved the problem, but he eschewed even that nod to technology on his semiweekly marathon. He did it the old ways. No tracker to monitor his stats. No stims to push his limits. Just him and his muscles and the determination to stay as fit as humanly possible.
Besides, he knew how far he’d gone by the markers on the walls. Before the transit system had been abandoned for being too dangerous, people had posted signs at every stop. Using those as well as the faded maps on the inside of the barricaded entrances, he had long ago calculated how many kilometers each piece of track was.
He didn’t even bother with any comms during his run. Anybody who wanted to reach him could wait until he was done.
Sounds began to trickle into his awareness as he neared the end of his route. Though he was the only person he ever saw who used the tracks the way he did, others shuttled through the warrens, especially closer to the entrances. Nomads carved out shelters until the authorities rousted them out, while jobbers used the relative isolation to make the deals they couldn’t get away with aboveground. Few gave him a second glance when he would emerge. Those that did knew enough to look away.
His pace slowed as the dull light brightened. It wasn’t too late to turn around. His muscles burned from the exertion, but nothing hurt, and his lungs were still good in spite of the stale fume-laden air. As much as the continued solitude appealed, however, doubling back would require him to pay for a ride home. His accounts weren’t low, but dipping into them unnecessarily set a bad precedent when he was between posts, and his marathon schedule was set specifically to take advantage of his location the nights before. Changing it up for no good reason went against everything he was.
But the instant he saw the familiar dark-haired figure leaning against the tiled wall of the platform, Percival wished that, just this one time, he’d listened to an impulse.
“No,” he said before anything else could be uttered. “Don’t even ask.”
With a smile, Gwaine pushed off to crouch at the edge and hold a hand out in offering. “That’s all right,” he said. “Persuading you’s the fun part anyway.”
Percival ignored Gwaine’s aid to pull himself onto the platform. Though he and Gwaine had been over for years now, he wasn’t so blind not to remember all the incidents in between their break-up and now when he’d fallen prey to Gwaine’s charms and ended up regretting it. Feeling his warm fingers was the first trip down a very deep rabbit hole.
“Does Merlin know you’re here?” he tried. Hopefully, reminding Gwaine about his current boyfriend would be enough to throw him off the scent.
“Who do you think told me you’d be here?”
Percival frowned. “That’s impossible.”
Gwaine cocked his head, a sly glint appearing in his dark eyes. “That’s his specialty.”
Not a lie. Merlin Emrys was one of the best runners in Old London. But that was exactly why Percival forewent tech on his run. Nobody could find him unless he wanted to be found.
“Besides,” Gwaine continued, “you’re the most predictable bloke I’ve ever known. I wouldn’t have pegged you for holing up in Seven Sisters, but it didn’t take Merlin more than five minutes to suss it out. And since it’s Tuesday…”
He didn’t have to finish the thought. They both were very well acquainted with Percival’s schedule. Tuesday morning, he ran. His destination was the only thing that changed.
Of course, now that meant he would have to pick up and find a new crash. It was one thing to be predictable. It was something else entirely to be accessible to a past he kept trying to get away from.
“Whatever you want, I’m not doing it,” Percival said. “Not after I barely got out of being arrested last time I helped you out.”
“That was never a risk,” Gwaine replied with a dismissive wave of his hand.
“The agent who had me in bracers would’ve disagreed.”
“And he let you go, now didn’t he? You’re welcome, by the way.”
With a sigh, Percival mopped away the worst of the perspiration from his brow. He always forgot how exhausting talking to Gwaine could be. “I’m still out.”
“You haven’t even heard me out.”
“I don’t need to.”
“You wouldn’t be working for me this time.”
“That implies you’ve paid me in the past.”
“Aw, now, I’ve always made it up to you.”
Heat rushed to his cheeks. Percival ducked his head to hide it from Gwaine’s view. “I prefer credits these days.”
“Which is what you’d get with this job. They’d even be Avalon credits. So much dosh, you could probably buy up the whole neighborhood here if you wanted.”
Percival went still. He knew half of Gwaine’s clientele came from the clouds — it was the only way he could afford some of the intel he got — but Percival had rarely been witness to the interactions. Hell, he could count on one hand how many times he’d even left the ground.
This job could change that. It would mean more than the credits he’d earn. It would mean access to programs he could only dream about down here. Resources that could revolutionize…everything.
He realized a moment too late that his silence was damning. Gwaine was grinning at him again by the time he spoke.
“What kind of a job is it?”
“The perfect one for you. An easy protective detail.”
Gwaine’s jobs were never easy. “And why’d you come to me?”
“It can’t be because you’re the best?”
Percival simply stared at him and waited.
Gwaine sighed. “Fine. My client wants someone as clean as possible. One look at you, and he’ll pay triple once he finds out you’re completely tech-free.”
It sounded too good true. Since it was Gwaine, that meant it was.
But…the credits. The resources. He’d be a fool to turn his back on that without further investigation.
“How long is the job?”
“Undetermined for now. Probably at least a month. Could go as long as two.”
“And the client?”
The smile returned. “You’re not protecting him. He wants someone for his scion. Fatherly love and all that rubbish.”
Gwaine wanted him to play bodyguard for a spoiled rich kid for a few weeks? He’d had worse gigs. A lot worse.
“Hook me up.”