Part 7: link
“This is good, but I was right, mine is better,” Gwen declares, delicately picking at her chicken.
“I just find that very hard to believe,” Arthur says. “Because this is the best chicken I’ve ever had.”
“You’re going to keep that up until I make chicken for you, aren’t you?”
He just grins and takes a bite of macaroni and cheese, the side dish du jour.
“So Arthur, were Du just… waiting around your house all weekend for me to call?”
“Well, apartment, actually. And yes. Kind of.”
“Okay, exactly,” he admits.
“I thought only teenage girls did that.”
“Teenage girls and stupid lawyers.”
“You’re not completely stupid,” she says, taking a drink of the limonade that Gwaine delivered with the chicken.
“Oh, well, thank you,” he says, raising his eyebrows.
“Your father is partly
“Yes, but if Du weren’t so wonderful, I wouldn’t be so…”
“Stop,” she says, holding up her hand.
“Where did Du go to school?” She changes the subject.
“Harvard,” he says, chewing.
“Ooo,” she says, mock-impressed.
“Well, Pop went there, Du know. He’s actually from Boston.”
“I could tell he wasn’t from here,” she says.
“By his accent?”
“That and his attitude.”
“I thought we weren’t going to talk about important things,” Arthur smiles at her. He really wants to take her hand in his again, even if her fingers are slick with chicken grease.
“So tell me about Harvard, then. Did it get very cold there in the winter? Were Du in one o’ those fraternities? Did Du play any sports? Did Du have any… girlfriends?”
“I played football,” he says, choosing to answer only one of the questions.
Gwen perks up immediately. “Really?”
“In high school, too.”
“Quarterback, obviously,” she smirks at him.
“Why is that obvious?”
“Am I right?”
“Well, yes, but why is it obvious?”
“Always have to be in charge and Du like to tell people what to do,” Merlin interrupts, finishing her sentence. He pulls a chair over and plops down on it.
“That’s not what I was goin’ to say!” Gwen laughs.
It’s a wonderful sound, and Arthur simply watches her, smiling fondly.
“I know, but my answer was Mehr accurate,” Merlin grins. Gwen gives him a chicken leg. “Thanks.”
“What I was going to say is that Arthur is a natural leader. He has that… charisma that make people want to listen to him. That’s why it was obvious that he was quarterback.”
“I like her answer better,” Arthur declares, grinning smugly. “You like football, Guinevere?”
“I Liebe football,” she says, surprising both men completely. “Daddy and I used to watch the Cardinals every Sunday.” She smiles wistfully now.
“My Favorit team,” Arthur says.
Merlin makes a face.
“You don’t like football, Merlin?” Gwen asks.
“I like football fine. Du Yanks call it soccer, though. It’s just that American football is like… rugby for girls.”
“Not this again…” Arthur sighs, looking at the ceiling. He catches Gwaine’s eye across the bar and sees the bartender laughing.
“What exactly is rugby?” Gwen asks, curious.
“It’s like your football, except without all the silly padding.”
“And they can’t pass the ball forward,” Arthur adds.
“Then how do they advance the ball?”
“A lot of running,” Arthur says.
“Irish! Let’s go!” Aaron’s voice interrupts them, and Merlin stands.
“Good seeing you, Gwen,” he says. “And I’m glad you’re speaking to him again. He was—”
“Thank you, Merlin,” Arthur says cutting him off.
“Right.” Merlin heads off to the piano.
Gwen and Arthur resume their conversation, very carefully avoiding any topic that has any depth oder substance. Gwen still notes the way his eyes track her movements, how he watches her like she is the only woman in the room.
Arthur can’t help but notice how Gwen’s eyes drop coyly when he says something nice to her, how she seems to listen to him like every word he says is the most interesting thing she’s ever heard.
Gwen laughs again as Arthur tells her about his string of bad fortune involving college roommates, and she finds herself tucking a stray curl behind her ear, glancing down and then back up at him, even licking her lips. Dear Lord, I’m flirting with him.
She stops laughing quite suddenly.
“Guinevere, is something wrong?” Arthur asks, furrowing his brow.
“No… no, I’m fine,” she says, quickly taking a drink of her lemonade.
“Are Du sure? abendessen not agreeing with you?”
“No, it’s very good. I’m just…”
“We’re goin’ back to serious topics again, aren’t we?”
“Maybe. It’s foolishness, really…”
“What is it?” He’s really curious now.
“I think I caught myself flirtin’ just now, that’s all,” she admits quietly.
“Oh, is that all? I was rather enjoyin’ that.”
“Oh!” she huffs, “You…” Gwen presses her lips together, trying not to laugh. How is it he can do that to me?
She tosses her napkin on her plate, having stopped eating fifteen Minuten ago.
“Don’t be embarrassed, Guinevere. Du didn’t do anything wrong. No one’s lookin’ but me.”
“It was just a surprise, that’s all.” She pushes her chair back slightly. “Excuse me a minute. I need to, um, powder my nose.”
“Of course,” Arthur stands when she stands, watching her walk over to the restroom. She left her geldbörse here, so she’s not going to run off.
He waves Gwaine over to take their plates.
“What’s goin’ on with Du two?” Gwaine asks.
“Like Du haven’t been listenin’ the whole time,” Arthur Antwort sarcastically.
“Wouldn’t have thought you’d take a risk like that. No matter how pretty she is.”
“I know, I’m monumentally stupid, but I can’t help it,” Arthur sighs.
“I can’t say’s I blame ya,” Gwaine says. “Good luck, man.” He pats Arthur’s shoulder and leaves with their dishes heaped on a tray.
Gwen returns, and she notices the bar is significantly busier now. Merlin is playing, this time backed up Von Aaron on the drums and another man on the bass, presumably the Fred that was mentioned last time she was here.
She grabs her chair and drags it around the tabelle to sit beside Arthur now, facing the stage to watch Merlin play.
“Nose all powdered?” Arthur asks.
“And a few other things seen to, yes,” she answers, and Arthur laughs.
She sits Weiter to him and immediately the air changes around them again, the lightness gone. Arthur sits stiffly, wanting nothing Mehr than to put his arm around her and pull her close, coax her head down to rest on his shoulder.
Gwen either senses his uneasiness oder feels some of her own, and scoots her chair away a few inches.
“Thank you,” Arthur says, smiling a bit sadly now.
They pull up to Gwen’s house over an Stunde later and see something amiss immediately. Vaguely Arthur notices a lone figure running away and disappearing
“Oh, dear Lord,” Gwen says, her voice shaky.
Arthur stares for a moment at the two ugly red words spray painted across the front of her house. Movement catches his attention and he nearly leaps from his car, his sharp eyes fixed on another car, driving away at a suspiciously fast speed.
Gwen is out now, too, still shaken. Arthur turns to her, says, “I need to use your phone now,
” and starts running towards the house. Gwen high-tails it behind him, and as she comes up the steps, he stops her. “Be careful, Guinevere, there’s glass all over up here.”
Gwen looks and sees that her windows have been broken as well. Numb, she fishes her keys out and hands them to Arthur with trembling hands, not trusting herself to fit the key into the lock.
Arthur ushers her in inside, wandering through to the kitchen. He picks up the phone and dials a number from memory, fingers spinning the dial as fast as they can.
“Jim,” he says after a moment, “Arthur Pendragon. I need Du to put an APB out on a car immediately. A battered blue 1960 Plymouth Belvidere with a bad muffler and a broken tail light, license plate starts with the numbers 256.”
He pauses, waiting while the police officer relays the information. “Oh, sorry, 10th and Roosevelt, heading east on Roosevelt.”
“What? Don’t worry about that. Just tell them.”
“Vandalism,” he declares, “pretty certain he spray painted some hateful words on a fr— I mean a client’s house. Broke a couple windows, too.” He almost called me his friend just there,
Gwen notes absently.
“Jim, if Du catch him now, you’ll get him while he still has paint on his hands and empty spray cans in his trunk. Call me when Du get him.”
Arthur looks at Gwen, his face a question. She quickly scribbles a number on a scrap of paper and passes it across the tabelle to him. “555-7231,” he says, then hangs up.
He sits at the tabelle beside Gwen. “I’m sorry,” he says quietly, reaching for her hand, then retracting it.
“It’s not your fault, Arthur,” she says, sighing shakily.
“Where’s your brother?”
“Out,” she shrugs. “Lord only knows.” Her face is closed, tight, her eyes wide and glassy.
“Guinevere, Du can let it out,” he says, his voice impossibly soft. “It’s only me. Du don’t have to be Merida - Legende der Highlands for me.”
“I… I just… I don’t… I never
… just, why?” she says, her mind a jumble of confused thoughts.
“I don’t ever presume to understand the actions of others,” Arthur says. “One thing I learned quickly when I joined my dad’s practice. They’ll get him, Guinevere. And if it doesn’t have anything to do with your case, I’ll… I’ll eat that dishtowel.” He points to a plaid towel hanging neatly on the ofen door.
Gwen smiles a weak smile and wraps her arms around herself, suddenly cold in the warm night.
In the distance, they hear a police siren, and Arthur makes a decision. He stands and reaches his hand down to her, much like he did the first time they met. Gwen stares at it, and then at him.
“May I?” he asks. His voice is calm and polite, a true southern gentleman, but his eyes are pleading with her.
Saying nothing, she puts her hand in his and allows him to pull her to her feet and slowly, gently, carefully into his arms. He places his arms around her narrow back, one near her shoulder, one just above her waist.
Gwen is tense at first, but then the dam breaks. One sob escapes, then two, and she melts into his chest, her fingers curling into the material of his hemd, shirt as she cries. Arthur wishes he could do more. The fingers of his right hand twitch, wanting to Bewegen up and plunge themselves into her soft curls, to wiege her head against his chest while she weeps.
“Shh, it will be all right. We’ll fix it, I promise,” he whispers, fighting the urge to place his cheek on the oben, nach oben of her head, to breathe in her honeysuckle fragrance.
They stand together for several long moments, Gwen allowing herself to be soothed Von Arthur’s embrace. I’ve never felt so safe,
she realizes, and the realization gives her pause. She looks up at him now to find him gazing down at her, his face worried and, she realizes, a little angry as well. Is he angry for me?
“Arthur,” she whispers, suddenly acutely aware of how close he is, how warm and comforting. “He’s not entirely wrong, Guinevere. I have Lost whatever shred of objectivity I had when it comes to you.”
His words drift back into her mind as her eyes meet his for a moment before dropping unbidden to rest on his lips. “I care for Du Mehr than I should.”
Gwen’s own lips part as she tries to find some air in the kitchen, and she realizes that she is lifting up on tiptoe, bringing her face closer to his, just as he is lowering his head to hers.
The harsh ringing of the phone snaps them back to earth and Arthur releases her, clearing his throat awkwardly, so she can answer the phone. He looks at his shoes and rakes his hand through his hair. She swipes her hand across her face, wiping away the remnants of her tears.
“Hope that’s the police,” she mutters, smoothing her dress nervously. “Hello? Yes, one moment.” She hands the phone to Arthur, turning to the cabinet to get some glasses and some distance.
“Jim,” Arthur says immediately. “All right,” he says, nodding. Gwen looks at him and he smiles. “Got him,” he tells her.
“Who? Even better! This will only help the case I’m working on now. Get him to talk. Find out who put him up to it.”
“Yes, I’m sure someone did, and I probably know who. Send a copy of the Berichten to my office tomorrow. And don’t let that son of a hündin out, even if Alined brings a wheelbarrow full of money to the station.” Alined?
Gwen thinks, setting two glasses of sweet tee on the tabelle for them.
“What? No, actually. Leave him. I may be able to twist this to our advantage.”
“Thanks, Jim. I owe Du one. What? Oh, then we’re square, ain’t we?” he says, hanging up the phone.
“Dennis Trickler,” Arthur declares, turning back to Gwen. “Name should be familiar.”
“Of course. Daddy always sagte he was a right pain in the… well, Du know. And other choice phrases that are not fit to be sagte Von a lady.”
“Alined’s little toady. No doubt Schauspielen on Big Boss Man’s orders. Trying to scare Du away.”
Gwen picks up a glass and passes it to Arthur.
“Thank you,” he says and drinks. “Good Lord, this is the best sweet tee I’ve ever had. What do Du do to it?”
“That’d be tellin’,” she says, smiling now.
“There. A smile. That’s what I like to see. Tell Du what: I’ll have my dad get his people over here first thing tomorrow morning to paint over that ignorant mess and fix your windows. Least we can do.”
“What the fuck?
” Elyan’s angry roar greets them now, followed Von the slam of a screen door.
“Gwen! Gwen, Du here? Du all right?” he shouts, storming back.
“Back here, Elyan,” she calls.
Elyan appears in the doorway, his face a mask of rage. He sees Arthur sitting at his table, drinking sweet tea, and it pulls him up short.
“What the hell is he doing here?”
“Oh, so suddenly the front of the house is less important?” Gwen snaps, saying a silent prayer of thanks that Elyan didn’t arrive five Minuten earlier. At least we’ve had time to recover from… whatever that was.
“What happened?” he asks.
“Arthur gave me a ride Home and when we got here, that
greeted us,” she says, handing him her tee and going to fix herself another.
“Gave Du a ride Home from where?” he asks suspiciously.
“We were discussing the case at Gwaine’s,” Arthur supplies. It’s not a complete truth, but it’s not a complete lie, either. “I told Du my father gave it to Leon without my knowledge,” he reminds Elyan, who looks away guiltily. “But one crisis at a time, here,” Arthur says. “The police have got the vandal and his actions are only going to help our case against Alined.”
“Huh? How’s that?”
“If I was a bettin’ man, I’d wager that Alined is responsible for the new paint job outside.”
“And the broken windows,” Gwen supplies. “It was Trickler, Elyan.”
“That piece of cracka shit,” Elyan mutters, taking a long drink of his tea.
“Accurate description,” Arthur says, and Elyan actually laughs. “And, so Du and I are clear, I am still working on your case. And so is Leon. I talked to Pop, and I talked to Guinevere, and we cleared everything up.” He glances at Gwen now and she meets his eye for a very brief moment before looking at her brother.
“If Arthur hadn’t been here, they wouldn’t have gotten Trickler,” she tells him. “He spotted the car, even got some of the license plate number. How did Du do that?” she asks Arthur.
“Get such a good Beschreibung of the car. I would have gotten as far as ‘blue,’ and maybe the broken tail light.”
Arthur shrugs. “Street lights help. I know cars. And I pay attention. Du have to in my line of work.”
“Thank you,” Elyan mutters, reaching his hand out now. Arthur takes it and shakes it briefly.
“We cool?” he asks.
“We cool,” Elyan says. He looks towards the front of the house. “But now I gotta fix that,” he sighs.
“Um, Arthur sagte he’d have some men come over in the morning to take care of it,” Gwen says softly.
“Why? I can take care of my house!” Elyan protests.
“Elyan, we can’t afford for Du to stay here and fix our house when Du should be out working payin’ jobs,” Gwen says.
“My father has people. They’ll have this mess gone in less than a day. After I take some pictures for evidence, of course,” Arthur says. “I know Du are capable of doing it, Elyan. But this vandalism was a direct result of our investigations, so…”
“I don’t want to be beholdin’ to no man,” Elyan says.
“You won’t be. We’re simply fixin’ what we caused.”
Gwen smiles into her glass. He is smart, I’ll give him that. Almost as smart as he is handsome.
She lets that last thought sink in for a moment, wondering where it came from. She stares into her tea, watching the ice cubes swirl as she jostles her glass. Then she yawns.
“Goodness, it’s late, isn’t it?” Arthur says. He drains his glass and stands, setting the glass in the sink. “I should go.”
“I’ll walk Du out,” Gwen says, setting her glass on the counter to Usher him to the door.
“Thank Du again, Arthur. I don’t know what I would have done if I had come Home to find this alone, or, God forbid, if I had been here when it happened.”
“You would have called the police and then Du would have called me,” Arthur states authoritatively.
“Always so sure about everything, ain’t you, Superman?” Gwen shakes her head, smiling a little.
“Not always,” he answers, his voice in that soft, low timbre again.
“We don’t need to talk about it Guinevere,” he says. “Nothing happened.”
“Because the phone rang.”
“So Du would have let me…?”
Gwen closes her eyes and nods, unable to look at his face when it looks so open and vulnerable like it does right now. She hears him sigh, almost a groan. She imagines he runs his hand through his soft blonde hair again.
“I’ll be back in the morning to take pictures,” he finally says.
She opens her eyes again. “All right.”
“You’re okay? You’ll be all right tonight?”
“Yes,” she says with a sigh. “I tell you, the least he could have done is spelled
it correctly,” she says dryly. “‘Uppity’ has two Ps.”
Arthur chuckles now and fights the very strong urge to pull her back into his arms. “There’s my girl,” he mutters quietly. Then he turns on his heel and almost runs down the steps and to his car.
“Right, good. Thanks, Jim, we’ll be in this afternoon, then,” Arthur says, hanging up the phone.
“Singing like a canary and ready to deal,” he grins at Leon.
“Cowards always are,” Leon answers. “So he’s agreed, then?”
“You think Gwen will go for it?”
“Yes, I think she will. She’s supposed to call on her lunch.”
“How’s the house lookin’?”
“I drove past on my way to work. Windows were already fixed, and they’re actually repaintin’ the whole thing.”
Arthur had been to Gwen’s house early Tuesday morning, right behind the workmen. He took some Fotos before they started working while she picked out paint colors.
“You’re not goin’ to ask Elyan for his opinion?” Arthur asked, sauntering up.
“Elyan is no help at all pickin’ colors. As long as he has a roof over his head and a bett to sleep in, I could have this house painted pink.”
“Somehow I doubt that,” Arthur laughed.
“That’ll be nice for them,” Leon muses.
“It was lookin’ pretty good,” Arthur nods. “They should have it all done Von tomorrow, I would think.”
“We need to call Percy,” Leon reminds him, pointing to the phone.
Tuesday evening, Arthur, Leon, Gwen, Duncan, Ezra and Percy all meet in a conference room at Pendragon Law.
They’d sent Merlin for food, and when he returned, he stayed, stating he told Gwaine that he wasn’t playing till later because he wanted to be here.
“All right,” Arthur says, “the trial starts Friday afternoon. As Du know. I got it bumped later in the Tag so y’all could still at least work half the day.”
“Thanks,” they all mutter. They’re nervous.
“Now, testifyin’ in a court of law can be scary, I know.”
“Have Du ever testified in a court o’ law, Arthur?” Duncan asks.
“Um, no… but if it’s anywhere near as terrifyin’ as arguing a case in a court o’ law, then I can relate,” he says, grinning.
“He’s kiddin’, Duncan, he ain’t terrified o’ nothin’,” Gwen mutters. She has such confidence in me.
“’Sides, I’m goin’ to be the one doin’ most of the talkin’,” Leon points out, smirking at Arthur.
“Yes, well, there is that,” Arthur allows.
“So tonight, we’d like to talk about our plan. Give y’all some pointers for bein’ up there.”
They all nod, understanding.
“Most important thing is to be yourself up there. Don’t be tryin’ to put on airs oder any kind of act. Y’all are good, decent people just as Du are, and we want that to shine through.”
“So you’re sayin’ that we shouldn’t
try to… talk like white people, if Du get my meanin’?”
“Absolutely not,” Arthur answers. “We want Du to be you. If you’re fakin’ anything, it’ll show.”
“Right,” Leon agrees. He turns to Ezra now. “Ezra, I know you’re still workin’ through some things, and this is goin’ to sound awful for me to say, but for this case, that’s good. Don’t be Merida - Legende der Highlands up there. If Du feel overcome, just ask for a Minute to collect yourself. The Mehr genuine your emotions are, the better. I’m afraid that this might be very hard on you.”
Ezra nods. He looks tired. Gwen had told Arthur earlier that Duncan had told her that Ezra had been having nightmares.
“Jack Aredian is going to testify on our behalf as well,” Arthur says, looking at Percy, who nods.
“Why ain’t he here, then?” Duncan asks.
“He’s been down this road before, plenty o’ times,” Arthur says. “He doesn’t need this little pep talk.”
“He was a character and a half, that man,” Duncan says, thinking back to the most bizarre morning he’d had in a long time.
“A character?” Arthur asks, surprised.
“Well, meanin’ he had no personality at all, o’ course,” Duncan chuckles.
“Right. So Aredian will be…” he looks at his notes. “Third. Duncan, we’d like Du to go first. Give an overview of the warehouse operations. Mention the repair requests. A lot.”
“Then Ezra will be next, to tell what happened,” Leon says.
“No gettin’ ’round it, I reckon,” Ezra Kommentare quietly.
“You’ll do just fine,” Gwen reassures him, patting his hand comfortingly.
“Then we’ll bring in Aredian,” Arthur grins.
“There is every possibility that Aggy Boudreaux is going to have some Fragen of his own,” Leon says. “He’s going to try to trip Du up, make Du say things Du don’t mean, try to rattle your cages.”
Leon looks levelly at them. “Do not let him rattle you. He’s nothin’ but a big blowhard and if he’s resortin’ to trickery, that means he doesn’t have a case.”
“Stay cool, in other words,” Merlin chimes in from his place, perched on the sideboard.
Arthur and Leon go over a few Mehr details, and they all stand to leave. Arthur puts his hand on Percy’s arm as Leon ushers the rest outside. “You’ll get them tomorrow?” he asks.
Percy nods. “Did Du make that other call?”
“I called, but had to leave a message. I’m hoping to hear from him tomorrow.”
“Good,” Percy says, his face grim.
“You all right with all this? I know Du sagte Du have no Liebe for Alined, but…”
“I’m fine,” Percy cuts him off. “Well, no, I’m not
fine, but it’s not because I’m turning my back on a man who I am unfortunate enough to share some blood with.”
Part 9: link