Title: Watch and Learn
Pairing/s: Mordred/Morgana, Merlin/Morgana
Character/s: Mordred, Morgana, Merlin
Summary: Mordred saw more in Morgana than other students did, but only her colleague Dr. Emrys seemed to provoke it in her...
Warnings: Age difference, potential powerplay
Word Count: 999
Prompt: #68, Rival
Author's Notes: I have a strong feeling this is a world I'll be coming back to drabble in. The characters pretty much demand it. I'm just not sure at this point which pairing will win, or if it'll end up being a trio.
Whispers followed wherever she went on campus. Mordred heard them long before he ever saw her, and though he ignored them for the most part, often shaking his head and walking away from his classmates’ banal need for gossip, he had to admit he was intrigued by the time he witnessed Dr. Morgana Pendragon in person.
Yes, she was as beautiful as they all said, and her tongue was definitely sharp as she faced off with Dr. Emrys outside her classroom, but it was what Mordred saw afterward, when the crowds had dispersed and Dr. Emrys had taken away the student they’d been arguing about—a mousy thing named Freya who inexplicably scared half the blokes Mordred knew—that turned his curiosity into obsession.
Because nobody else saw Morgana break down at her desk once she thought she was alone.
Two months later, he sat in the second row of her Intro to Political History course.
“Don’t think because this is an introductory class, it’ll be easy.” She stood at the front of the class, watching them carefully as she paced back and forth. Mordred had already figured out she wasn’t one of those professors who tried to coax a camaraderie with their students, the kind that leaned against the desks as they spoke to give off the impression of being one of them. Morgana treated them like they were all on display inside a big, invisible cage, and she was the potential buyer determining their worth. “Unlike some of my colleagues, I don’t believe in coddling. You want an A from me, you work for it.” The corner of her mouth lifted in a knowing smirk. “Hard.”
Which pretty much described Mordred’s state of being for the duration of class with her. Her eyes flashed when she was particularly passionate about a topic, and her mocking smile had a way of lingering long after the object of her amusement was gone.
A third of the class had dropped by the end of the first week. That only seemed to spur her on.
He worked quietly, diligently, never volunteering to debate but instead watching from the sidelines when some other unfortunate soul would venture onto the battlefield. He didn’t wish to engage her until he thought he had a chance at winning, or at the very least, not embarrassing himself. For her part, Morgana seemed content to focus on others, only drawing attention to those who required or requested it.
But she noticed him. He made sure of that.
“Well done,” she said in the email with the grade of their first paper. Hastily, he opened the attachment to see a “B+” marked on its top, followed by so much red in the comments he wondered how on earth he’d even managed to pass if she had that much to say.
Later, he discovered his was the highest grade in the class. The next highest was a C.
Mid-term, she called him out for the first time, asking him to stay after dismissal. Though everyone cast him pitying looks as they filed out, Mordred could barely sit still for all his excitement. He stayed in his seat, mostly because he didn’t trust his knees, but when she cocked a brow at him from behind her desk and rose to come to him, he realized how much power he’d unintentionally exuded.
You want me, you have to come to me, he’d said. The best part was, she had.
“I’m curious where your studies lie,” she said without preamble.
“I haven’t decided yet.”
“Have you considered political science?”
He looked her right in the eye. “Not until your course.”
Morgana smiled. “You have the mind for it. It would be a shame to waste it.”
“I’ll keep that in mind.”
“Yes.” She drew the single syllable out as a caress, gliding across his skin until goosebumps erupted along the back of his neck. “You do that.”
A knock came at her closed door, startling both of them. By the time they looked over, it had opened to reveal an impatient Dr. Emrys on the other side. “A word, Morgana.”
She stiffened, but Mordred was close enough to see the sudden jump in her pulse, the way it fluttered like a trapped bird at the hollow of her throat. “Thank you, Mordred,” she said without taking her eyes off Dr. Emrys. “That will be all.”
Dr. Emrys didn’t even glance at Mordred when he slipped past. He was too focused on Morgana.
When the door closed behind him, Mordred leaned heavily against the wall. On the other side, their voices were already raised, loud enough for more than one person to notice as they passed by. This was what Mordred couldn’t understand. In most things, Morgana was cool and in control, so beautifully so she terrified those who weren’t accustomed to having to let it go. Yet, one word from Dr. Emrys and she seemed to shatter that facade, allowing a different woman to emerge, one more vulnerable, more passionate.
That was the woman Mordred wanted to reach. But the only person capable of doing so was Dr. Emrys.
Dr. Emrys was flushed when he emerged, and though he hesitated when he spotted Mordred, he turned on his heel and marched away, never looking back. Mordred glanced inside and saw Morgana crumpled in the chair he’d vacated, dark tendrils loose around her pink cheeks. His instincts wanted to comfort her, but his gaze slid to Dr. Emrys’s retreating back.
Something in the soft-hearted professor sparked Morgana in ways no other man could, in ways Mordred could only fantasize about.
Two days later, Mordred sat in the back of his lecture hall, auditing his easiest ethics class. Dr. Emrys never uttered more than two words to him, though he signed off on approving Mordred’s presence before Mordred could even finish his argument for why he should be allowed.
The only way to understand how to reach Morgana was to watch Emrys.