Brains and Brawn
What drives Morgana the most crazy about Percival, is that he defies every superficial expectation. The first time she sees him she thinks: muscles, biceps, probably an arsehole, definitely an idiot. Because there’s no way that anyone with that many muscles as room for intelligence too, and even the best of the knights are just a little bit prattish (and, considering their leader, it’s not hard to see why).
But her initial thoughts are completely off the mark. The only thing she is right about is that Percival is built like a Greek god.
Morgana hates being wrong.
What she casts off as stupidity at first is just quietness. Percival is soft-spoken, shy, and he tends to fade into the background—a rather impressive feat for someone who is taller than everyone in the bloody castle. He’s well liked of course, quickly a favorite of the servants, who love anyone that doesn’t cause trouble or sling around outrageous demands. (Arthur, naturally, is public enemy number one amongst the servants, and he’s damn lucky that he has Merlin around to put up with him.) But as Morgana comes to realize, quiet and shy do not equate to dumb. This particular realization is driven home when she comes across Percival tucked into a nook in the library one morning, reading a volume of poetry.
How he got Geoffrey to even let him into the library, much less to allow him to actually touch something, Morgana still doesn’t know. Geoffrey officially banned all knights from entering after Leon spilled ink on the fifth volume of Camelot’s history, completely wiping out Ulric’s kingship. The only reason that Arthur is still allowed in is in order to keep Merlin out, and even that is a lost cause.
When she stumbles across him she stands there blinking for a few moments, long enough for Percival to notice her, stand and bow—a sensibility that most people pass over unless it’s a formal occasion or Uther is lurking around—and quietly say, “good morning, Lady Morgana.” Then he tucks the volume of poetry under his arm—that arm, dear god—and is gone before she even realizes what’s happened.
She keeps a close eye on him after that, because she now has a sneaking suspicion that Percival is not what he seems. And as she watches, she discovers that his simple-country-boy-turned-knight persona is just an act. Or, perhaps, not so much of an act as a general assumption that he doesn’t care to correct. She sees him, the way he listens carefully to conversations, thinking all the way through before he speaks, and that when he finally does open his mouth what he says is often exactly what needs to be said. When a problem is presented, eighty percent of the time the solution is either directly from him or prompted by a carefully framed question or statement that he makes. Moreover, he has a sly humor, so subtle that it slides right by people, but when you are listening closely enough it is brilliant. (Merlin, Morgana notes, can often be found near the knight grinning up a storm, and Morgana knows that she’s not the only one who has noticed.)
Maddeningly enough, no one aside from them seems to realize.
Most of the attention he gets is from his physical prowess—he is one of the stars of the practice courtyards, and it is not uncommon to see the knights trudging in from practice patting him on the back and slapping him on the shoulder and commending him for did you see how far he threw that? But any time Morgana asks about him, no matter who she is talking to, the answer she gets is something like oh, he’s so quiet or he’s a sweet lad, bit simple I think or have you seen his biceps? (This last comes from Gwen, and Morgana just shakes her head. Yes, in fact, she has seen the biceps, but she refuses to be distracted by them the way everyone else is. Even if it is so easy to be.)
One afternoon, she seeks him out. She knows where to find him, because she has made a note of where his favorite places in the castle are, what his routines are like, and so on. (Lesser people might call it stalking, but she is simply making sure she knows as much as possible about him. Nothing stalker-ish about that.) She climbs the west tower, and sure enough, finds him there, looking out over Camelot. He turns at the sound of her approach, bows, says “hello, lady Morgana”—his manners are impeccable, and it’s another thing that drives her crazy. He’s supposed to be rude and uncouth and uncivilized. Like Gwaine.
She folds her arms, frowning at him, and he straightens, looking mildly concerned. “My lady? Is something wrong?”
“You, Sir Knight, are so frustrating.”
He blinks at her. “I beg your pardon?”
She points an accusing finger at him. “Don’t play dumb with me, Percival. It won’t work. I know how smart you are. You play up your simpleton peasant-knight bit, but have better manners than Arthur does and you’re smarter than him too, and you are just maddening.”
He has dimples.
She’s never noticed the bloody dimples before. He always has such a serious expression, and even when he does smile it’s tiny, just a little tilt of his lips. But when he really smiles...dimples.
“Are you attempting to compliment me or insult the prince, my lady?”
“Neither. Well, actually, I’m always insulting Arthur, and there’s no attempt about that one. But I’m onto you, Percival. You are not as invisible as you seem to believe.”
“Have you been watching me, my lady?” he asks, so innocently, meeting her gaze and smiling, and he is functioning on a completely different level, isn’t he? There are layers and layers under that simple question, and she feels herself flush. She has been watching him, but only because she wanted to see through his game.
Suddenly, she’s not so sure. She just might be wrong. Again. Dammit.
She makes a huffing sound and steps close to him. He is ridiculously tall, she thinks. No wonder Arthur is developing a complex. She tilts her head back to look up at him. “You, are obnoxious. Absolutely maddening.”
“I’m sorry,” he says, sounding contrite, and she notices he doesn’t add her title this time.
“No you’re not,” she retorts, and swallows when he shifts his weight, when suddenly he is the tiniest bit closer to her, close enough that she can feel the heat of his body, and she leans in just a tad, because the wind is cold up here. She has spent so long watching him, trying to see past the pretty shell, but now that she is so close to him, it is ridiculously hard to not reach out and touch. She bites her lower lip, looks up into his eyes, and raises a hand. He doesn’t move, barely breathes as she gently touches the hollow of his collarbone, sliding her hand along his shoulder and around to cup the back of his neck.
She lost this game when the dimples came out, and here they are again.
“No,” he whispers, “I’m not.” And he leans down, brushes his lips softly across hers. She curls her other hand into the front of his tunic, opens her mouth to him, desperately wants him to press her against a wall and devour her. Instead, he presses soft, almost chaste pressure to her lips, then slides away, to kiss her cheek, the hollow below her ear, the side of her neck, and then he pulls back, grinning at her.
She glares in response, tugs hard on the fabric clutched in her hand, and drags him back down.
He is going to drive her crazy.
(But she thinks she could get used to it.)