Title: The Magic of Fireflies
Characters: Elena, Percival, Gwaine
Pairing: Elena/Percival (in spirit, anyway)
Summary: Modern AU. At Arthur's Bonfire Night, Percival meets a girl who knows nothing of inhibitions.
Word Count: 1205
Prompt: #116, balter
Author's note: Also fills my "party" square for my Summer in Camelot challenge. And I honestly believe this is just the first part of many for Percival and Elena. I find myself charmed by the possibility, too.
When asked to be the designated key holder at parties, Percival always said yes. He liked knowing that nobody would do something stupid that could cost lives on his watch, and he especially appreciated knowing he could keep Gwaine’s arrest record to a minimum, even if Gwaine did his best to make up for it when he was on his own. So what if that meant he missed out on being thoroughly debauched? (Gwaine’s declaration, not his.) He got to see and talk to everyone who came, and socializing was what parties were all about, wasn’t it?
(This wasn’t Gwaine’s declaration. According to Gwaine, parties were for pulling as many pretty girls and boys as possible, and anyone as fit as Percival should have his pick of the litter, so why was he so bloody stubborn about resisting the inevitable?)
What was inevitable was the crush of people at Arthur’s annual Bonfire Night bash spreading throughout the estate in search of dark corners to continue their revelries. Percival’s responsibilities were more a technicality. Most guests would spend the night rather than attempt to drive home, but that didn’t stop him from wandering through the gardens, keeping an eye out on those who strayed away from the fire pits.
He saw her near the hedge maze Uther was so fond of. The sky was overcast, and the nearest illumination came from the flames dancing well over twenty feet away, but her lemon-colored dress caught every possible ray of light, swirling around her slim legs like flickers of magic as she whirled and spun.
Percival froze. He didn’t recognize her. He would remember someone like her if they’d ever met. Wispy blonde curls fluttered on the breeze she created as she danced, the white ribbon that must’ve held them back dangling from her fingers to join in her obvious joy, and her full mouth curved into a dreamy smile that must cast charms when she turned it to others by the light of day. He certainly felt it now.
He had no idea how long he stood there watching, long enough to smile three different times when she fell on her bottom or lurched awkwardly to the side to collide with the nearest hedge, then again when she straightened and went on, oblivious to the fact that whatever music moved her could only be discerned by her ears. It was only when he heard Gwaine’s exuberant “There you are!” behind him that he snapped out of the spell she seemed to have cast, jerking around to glare at his too loud friend.
“Keep it down,” he hissed.
“And why’s that?” Gwaine threw his arm around Percival’s shoulders, hanging off him in at what he would’ve presumed was a painful angle except Gwaine seemed to have limbs made of rubber these days and could contort into any position possible without batting an eye. He squinted into the darkness, then laughed when he spotted the woman. “Someone’s turned into a Peeping Tom!”
Percival shrugged him off. “I’m not spying.”
“Does she know you’re here?” They both watched for nearly a minute where the woman never stopped moving. “It’s peeping, mate.”
“I’m just keeping an eye on her,” Percival argued. “She’s obviously had too much to drink.”
“Sorry to disappoint you again, Perc, but that’s all her.”
Gwaine’s revelation that he recognized the girl was all Percival needed to look away. “How do you know that?”
“Because she doesn’t drink. Doesn’t need to, from the look of it. That’s Elena. She’s Vivian's latest project.”
Elena. The name suited her somehow, though he was hard-pressed to say why. He also didn’t understand why Vivian would find it necessary to make her over as she was wont to do with women she felt would benefit from her so-called expertise. Elena was a little clumsy, to be sure, but absolutely lovely nonetheless.
He shook off the questions. None of his business, really. Just like he shouldn’t be staring at a stranger, no matter how ethereal she was. He turned his back on her. “What’s up? Why’re you looking for me?”
“I’m not. I’m looking for her. Oi! Elena!”
The sudden shout startled her into whipping around to see her audience for the first time. Her legs, however, continued to whirl, and she ended on her bottom with an audible thump.
Percival rushed forward on instinct, scooping his hand beneath her elbow to draw her back to her feet. The glance she cast up at him was wide-eyed and confused—bloody hell, her eyes were so damn big—but lasted only a moment before turning to Gwaine.
“What?” she said.
“Vivian's looking for you.”
She grimaced, her nose wrinkling in the most adorable moue. “Hasn’t she gone off to snog with Mithian yet? I only came because I thought I’d get a break from her whingeing that I never go out to these boring parties.”
“You didn’t look like you were bored.”
Nobody was more surprised than Percival that he spoke up. Though Gwaine grinned, Elena pulled away and backed off, retreating toward the party again without taking her eyes off him. As soon as enough distance was between them, she turned on her heel and ran.
Disappointment lanced through him, made even worse when Gwaine commented, “Well, you bollocksed that one up, well and good.”
Percival began marching back to the house. “Shut up, Gwaine.”
Gwaine fell into step beside him. “If it makes you feel better, I’m not even sure she’s into blokes.”
“It doesn’t.” Except it did. A little.
But as soon as they returned to the others, Elena was all he could see. Everywhere he looked, she was there, the firefly at the corner of his eye. More than once, he thought he was looking at him, too, but then she would flit off, gone for minutes until she darted back into view.
Socializing was forgotten. He didn’t utter another word except to say “No” to drunk people when they asked for their keys, until she was the one standing in front of him, wary expectation in her guileless eyes.
“Someone said you’re the key holder.”
His stomach lurched. He did his best not to let it show how she got to him. “I am.”
She waited for nearly a minute before adding, “So I’d like my key, please?”
He hesitated. “You didn’t give me one.” He would’ve remembered her, he was sure of it.
“No, but Vivian did, and since it’s my car that brought us here, I’d like my key, please.”
“Oh. Of course.” And after he dug out the unicorn keyring to the white Skoda—and how foolish did he feel now because of course that car didn’t belong to Vivian—he handed them over, wondering if she really was only into girls. “My name’s Percival, by the way,” he blurted.
For the first time all night, she smiled up at him. “I know. G’night.”
He watched her stroll toward the drive, disappearing into the dark in pieces. The last thing he saw was the flash of her cheek when she glanced over her shoulder and smiled at him once again.
It left him with hope he probably shouldn’t feel.
Perhaps she really was magic, after all.