Title: Retreat and regroup (Momo 7)
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Gawin (Gwaine).
Summary: Preparations are being made.
Word Count: ~800
Prompt: #81 tmos Pride
Part 1: Momo
Part 2: Observation
Part 3: Revelation
Part 4: The Hunter
Part 5: The Thief
Part 6: Face to face
The school bell chimed for first period, catching Merlin's attention.
- I have somewhere I need to be. Is it safe to leave you on your own, or will I find you in my school yard trying to blend in with the pupils or hiding in Mordred's locker?
Arthur eyes narrowed.
- I have more pressing matters to attend to.
- Of course. Things to do, lives to ruin.
Sharing a last glare, Arthur turned away and walked towards what seemed to be a busier road, purposely not returning back past Mordred's school. He felt Merlin's eyes burn in his neck until he was out of sight.
Back at the hotel Arthur tried to shower away the stench of failure.
He wrapped himself in the complementary thick flannel dressing gown, took his laptop and folders out of the safe (better to be paranoid than gullible) and sat down by the desk. He browsed through his newest emails and printed out the two pictures he had taken this morning. They were taken from afar, grainy from too much zoom. One was of Merlin in profile and Mordred beaming up at him. The other of Mordred on the steps of the school, where Merlin knew that Arthur was there and still took the time to make sure the boy felt safe. He also remembered the circles under the man’s eyes.
He closed the lid of his laptop. How could all the information he had received be so accurate and yet so incomplete? Father had sent uncle Aggravaine to do the research due to the sensitive and personal nature of this situation. So Arthur knew everything about the man from where he was born to how much money he made per year. Nothing there said that he would turn into a mother bear when Arthur came close, or that Mordred would start to cry when they met.
Naturally Aggravaine would have been forced to be discrete during his research, he had limited time and a lot to cover. But it seemed a bit odd not to mention that their relationship was this close. Then again, it was never truly said that they weren't. His father would say he was looking for excuses. Perhaps he was.
He stared at his refection in the mirror. He did look like quite the mess, not befitting of a Pendragon at all.
Merlin was correct. Arthur could crush him like a bug. This was a minor setback, perhaps not even that. A minor dent in his pride. He had been sloppy with his research, he should have taken into account all possible events. It was to be expected when things were too close to heart. Even his father had interpreted thing in the same manner as he.
He looked at himself again. And laughed. He got up, stretched and rolled his neck. He would try the hotel's massage and enjoy a good meal. Then he would sit down and go through everything once more knowing he would not be caught off guard again. He turned the photos faced down, but he could still see their faces.
In a different part of town sat another man in a fairly similar way, only in his home office in the basement – or as Merlin had put it: 'Woah, nice underground lair, Batman!' The Pendragon lawyers had an unfortunate head start and Gawin worked hard to even the score. He was surrounded by piles of papers, five computer screens with open documents, several used coffee mugs and fast food bags. It did look like chaos, but he was in full control.
Gawin was used to being underestimated. He saw it as a strength and it gave him time to observe. Pendragon had barely acknowledged his presence, he most likely saw a scruffy looking free legal aid. Which was not untrue, he had no intention of letting Merlin pay him anything for this. He assumed that Pendragon's chosen law firm Caerleon & Associates had failed to mention how many times Gawin had turned down their job offers.
Gawin had seen many custody cases, and they were rarely pretty. But he knew the game and he knew the players involved. He glanced over at Merlin, who hadn't moved from the sofa since he had been given the thick folder to read. They both hoped this would be sorted calmly and not go to court, but they needed to be prepared.
Arthur showing up at Mordred's school was worrying. Gawin knew from experience that Merlin was not easily frightened, but if Arthur had only waited one more day then at least Merlin would have had more ammo. Still, it might work in their advantage if Arthur had the tendency to stray from his lawyers’ advice. Big egos had a tendency to make big mistakes.
No, this was not a pretty case. Not pretty at all.