Title: The New Prisoner
Character/s: Gwaine, Percival
Summary: Head jailer Percival is intrigued by the new prisoner, Gwaine.
Word Count: 1000
Prompt: #73 - Attraction
Author's Notes: Playing around with an idea for a canon AU inspired by The Hangman's Daughter books by Oliver Pötzsch.
There was something about the new prisoner, Gwaine, that Percival couldn’t get out of his mind. He was an ordinary thief, the leader of a gang that preyed on travellers who couldn’t afford protection on the long, lonely roads between cities. He’d been caught and he’d pay for his crimes; the people would be safe again. Percival had no business having other thoughts about the man; he wasn’t worth it.
But the thoughts persisted.
As King Arthur’s hangman and lead jailer, Percival’s highest priority was to uphold the honour and respectability of Camelot. He had a job to do and he did it with pride, performing his tasks with competence and grace, as his forbears had before him. Generation after generation, Percival’s family had carried out executions and run the dungeons for the Pendragons. Having inappropriate thoughts about the prisoners was not part of the bargain.
And inappropriate they were. Gwaine hadn’t been in the dungeons but a day or two before Percival found himself gravitating to his cell, dallying when it came time to bring him his meal, searching for ways to extend their conversations. At first, he tried to question Gwaine about his crimes, the methods of his gang and the identities of their victims. It was familiar territory. Inquisitions were something he knew about. In fact, he often had difficulty conducting normal social interactions. On the other hand, questioning a prisoner was well-trod territory and he might find out something useful to King Arthur.
Gwaine wouldn’t cooperate. He sat silently, back against the wall of his cell, arms folded on upright knees, glaring at Percival from under the curtain of his matted, filthy hair. But under the hair, under the dirt, there was a spark in his eyes, a fire that kindled a response in Percival deep in his loins.
Things proceeded in same manner until the third day. Percival asked Gwaine the usual questions, not expecting an answer, mostly going through the motions to prolong his contact with the prisoner. By now Percival realised he’d become somewhat obsessed with Gwaine, but he was mystified as to the reasons. He couldn’t get the man out of his thoughts. Gwaine’s image lingered in his mind as he fell asleep at night and he was the first thing he thought of upon awakening.
This time, instead of his usual grim silence, Gwaine slowly rose and ambled to the bars. The rhythm of his hips drew Percival’s attention until the moment Gwaine pressed his face between the bars, eyes steady on Percival’s, his hands gripping the iron rods that separated them. Percival could smell the stink of him and black grit lacquered his face, making his eyes more prominent. They were brown with flecks of green. His hair was brown as well, although it was difficult to discern its exact colour under the overall muck. His tunic was torn and dirty, the neck opening revealing a tanned and toned chest and a silver necklace. Percival’s eyes traveled its length, but whatever hung from it was hidden under Gwaine’s clothing, caught between the fabric and the warmth of his skin.
Percival’s mouth dried. The question he’d just asked flew from his mind. They were so close, he could feel the whisper of Gwaine’s breath hot on his face,.
“What do you want from me, eh?” Gwaine asked, low, his accent lilting and foreign. “I’m here in your dungeon. I’m not going anywhere. Your King Arthur’s got me good.” His lip curled.
Percival looked down on him from his superior height, his hands itching. “I...just want to know how your gang operated.”
Gwaine shifted back on his heels, putting more distance between them. Percival could breathe again. “And what do I get out of telling you?” Gwaine asked. “Not going to get out of here, am I? Why should I say anything?”
Percival regained some of his composure until he noticed Gwaine’s gaze trailing down Percival’s form, head to toe, then back to Percival’s eyes. Words came out of his mouth that he could swear he hadn’t put there. “Why don’t you answer my questions and you’ll find out?” Percival’s hand curled around one of the bars and he leaned in closer. He was aware of the effect his bulk had on people and he let the weight of it bear down on Gwaine just a bit. Gwaine’s eyes widened in response. His chest flared and Percival’s body drew closer without conscious effort.
For several seconds, their eyes caught and the dark, heavy space filled with the sound of their breathing. Percival was aware of nothing but the brown of Gwaine’s eyes, the delicate ring of white that surrounded the iris; the stubble on his well-shaped jaw.
The door to the dungeons squeaked open, wrenching the quiet of the dungeons. One of the guards entered. Percival jerked away from the bars, breathing hard, his heart pounding with a strange feeling of guilt.
“Theo. How goes it?” he asked.
Theo dipped his head in Percival’s direction. “My shift’s just starting. How are the prisoners?”
“Well, Theo. They’re well.” Percival darted a glance toward Gwaine, whose eyes shifted between Percival and Theo. “Just checking in on this rascal Gwaine, seeing if he’s got some more information for us.”
Theo chuckled. “Oh, he’s a cagey one, by the looks of him.”
Percival’s hand rested on the bulky mass of the keys on his belt as he scrutinised Gwaine through the bars. “He is indeed, Theo.”
Gwaine looked at Percival from under lowered eyelids. His expression was enigmatic and Percival’s heart was full of confusion.
“I might come and check on him later tonight,” Percy added. Gwaine’s eyebrows rose. Percival didn’t flinch his gaze away.
Theo grabbed a torch from one of the sconces.“Suit yourself. Myself, I’d be down to the tavern.” He headed down the hall.
Percival finally turned to go, wondering what had come over him. Still, there was a spring in his step as he climbed the stairs and thought about returning later.