Naoe Nagi (nagi_schwarz) wrote in merlinxarthur,

Fic: Ethics of Attraction pt. 1

Title: Ethics of Attraction
Rating: PG-13
Warnings/Spoilers: through 2x07; line cannibalized from the film Velvet Goldmine; a fictional jurisdiction that runs on a mish-mash of American state law
Summary: De-anon'd repost of this kinkme prompt: Arthur/Merlin, AU. Arthur is a young, promising lawyer. He needs to win his next case to get a job at the best law office in town. Of course, being Arthur, he thinks he's the best man out there :P Merlin is waiting in prison for his trial (arrested for don't-know-what-but-something-not-too-serious). Arthur is assigned to Merlin's case as a public defender. As this is a repost, it won't follow the section breaks of the original.


Bind over hearing - misdemeanors are tried in city court; felonies are tried in district court, and the prosecution must prove probable cause before a defendant can be bound over to district court to be tried for a felony. Unless a defendant waives the hearing, there's a short hearing for probable cause. Sometimes it involves police officers testifying.

Felony - generally a crime for which the punishment is at least more than a year in prison.

Misdemeanor - generally a crime for which the punishment is, at most, less than a year in prison.

Vandalism by graffiti - a misdemeanor on a first conviction, a felony on subsequent convictions (in my fictional jurisdiction, though the law is modeled after an actual vandalism statute)

Recuse - to declare oneself incompetent to perform legal duties as a lawyer, judge, or juror in a given case due to a conflict of interest or other good cause; a lawyer cannot withdraw from a case without a court order after the lawyer makes a motion to withdraw

For the low-down on the rule against lawyers sleeping with clients, see this thread from the original post.





"What did old man Drake say?" Leon asked.

Arthur narrowed his eyes and gestured for Leon to close the door. Leon rolled his eyes but complied, then sat down in the chair on the other side of Arthur's desk. Arthur pushed a deposition aside and fiddled with his pen. It was a lovely fountain pen his father had given him upon his graduation from law school. Arthur used it to sign all of his pleadings, stabbing decisively down onto the paper like he was going into battle. Leon, Erec, Kay, and the other lads in the office called it 'Excalibur' behind his back. Arthur actually liked the name, but he had yet to admit it.

"If I win my next case - whichever case that may be, I suppose - then I'll be an associate at Drake and Associates, LLC as soon as the judge brings his gavel down in my favor." Arthur delivered the words with as measured and even a tone as possible, but at the end he broke out in a grin.

Leon leapt out of his chair and leaned across the desk, one hand out. Arthur yanked him into one of those fierce, one-armed, space-between-us manly hugs, and they both grinned fiercely.

Leon pulled back and clapped Arthur on the shoulder. "You always said you'd make it to the six figures first."

"Well, I am Uther Pendragon's son," Arthur said. "I have to prove myself before I can inherit my father's disgustingly successful firm, don't I?"

Leon laughed. "You're going to put the rest of us to shame, and you know it." He started for the door. "I hope, for your sake, you get an easy case."

Arthur nodded and scooped up the deposition. "I'm hoping. Drake didn't say I had to win an impressive case, after all."

***


Arthur sat in the back of courtroom thirty-three, eyeing the peach-painted walls with mild distaste. Erec, Lance, and Kay had all just pled out their clients, and it was Arthur's turn to pick up another appointment. He had been itching for a new case for a week straight, desperate to make the cut on Drake's challenge, but he'd had to clear six cases off his desk before the clerks would even think of pushing a new case his way. As much as Arthur wanted to get the open spot in Drake's firm, he wanted a challenge, too. He'd watched the news like a hawk every night, hoping for a juicy felony, but he'd only been at the Public Defender's office for three years and knew he'd have to wait another two years before even a low-level assault landed on his desk.

Kay finished speaking to the judge and stepped away from defense counsel table. He caught Arthur's eye and made a bizarre gesture rather like someone using chopsticks or possibly poking himself in the teeth; did Arthur want to catch lunch during the noontime recess? Arthur nodded and signaled back that he'd be there.

The bailiff rose to her feet and announced the next case.

"Case number 169-842, State of Albion versus Merlin Emrys, one count vandalism by graffiti."

Graffiti? Really? The city actually prosecuted that sort of thing outside of juvie court? Arthur craned his neck to peer at defense counsel table and see who was handling it, but all he saw was a tall, thin fellow with dark hair. He was standing alone. He wore one of the orange corrections center jumpsuits, and from his posture it looked as though he was actually handcuffed.

Even the judge looked a little dubious, but then Aredian was up on his feet behind the prosecution's counsel table.

"Your Honor, this man is a political activist who will continue to litter the façades of our city with his wild slogans and accusations against the government. He's a flight risk and a re-offense risk, and the people request that he be bound over to district court on the grounds that, as this is his second offense, he is charged with a class IV felony." Aredian cleared his throat, and Arthur knew he was going to grand-stand his way through the usual probable cause spiel, about how the officers who'd arrested this poor Emrys kid were reliable witnesses and had evidence that a reasonble person could find it was Emrys who'd committed the crime.

This Emrys character really was a kid. He was tall - probably taller than Arthur, actually, but he had narrow shoulders and a slender neck and ridiculously large ears, and he was probably right out of juvie court, just barely hit his majority. Aredian probably had a grudge against the kid or something.

Once Aredian was done grandstanding, the judge sighed and turned to Emrys. "What do you have to say for yourself, Mr. Emrys?"

"I'd like a lawyer, please." Emrys's voice was a light, gentle tenor; he was definitely still a kid. Something in his tone, however, was oddly assured, almost adult-like in its confidence.

"Surely someone from the Public Defender's office -" Aredian began.

The judge sighed and tugged off her glasses. "Let's take a continuance on this case so the public defender's office can sort out counsel for Mr. Emrys, shall we?"

Aredian cleared his throat loudly. "Your Honor, perhaps we should just recess this hearing until after lunch?"

"All right," the judge said. "Bailiff, call the clerk and find out who's on the list for appointment."

The bailiff shuffled through a sheaf of papers on the clipboard. "I don't need to call, actually, Your Honor. Next up is...Arthur Pendragon."

"Are you here, Mr. Pendragon?" The judge scanned the court room.

Arthur rose to his feet, buttoned his jacket. "Here, Your Honor."

The judge scooped up her gavel. "Mr. Emrys, you now have a lawyer. Take twenty, Mr. Pendragon. Bailiff, show them to one of the interview rooms." She banged the gavel.

Arthur grabbed his briefcase and made his way to the front of the courtroom. Emrys turned, and Arthur almost pulled up short. He'd never seen someone with such blue eyes. And then Emrys grinned at him, a wide, friendly grin that made his eyes crinkle at the corners.

"Hello," he said, and offered one hand.

Arthur shook his hand, bewildered by the brightness of his new client's smile. "Good morning, Mr. Emrys."

"Please," he said, "call me Merlin."

Up close, Merlin was - striking. Not attractive, per se, but - he had a lovely mouth. As soon as the thought blossomed in Arthur's brain, he struck it down. First, it sounded like something some nasty inmate called Bubba would say. Second, there were rules about lawyers sleeping with clients. Against lawyers sleeping with clients.

Arthur looked down and fumbled with his briefcase, hoping Merlin couldn't see how badly he was blushing. This was utterly unprofessional. Arthur had represented his share of attractive clients before. Not that Merlin was attractive. Or that Arthur wanted to sleep with him. He gritted his teeth and fished in his jacket pocket for his pen.

Merlin said, "I just want you to know that I didn't -"

Arthur held up a hand to forestall comment. "I don't want to know if you did or did not commit this crime."

Merlin blinked at him. His face was like an open book, and he looked baffled - and a little hurt - at Arthur's abruptness. Good. Maybe a little animus would prevent something unethical from happening.

"It's my job to zealously advocate on your behalf, and yes, anything you tell me that relates to this case is privileged, but it's better if I don't know."

Merlin sighed. "Don't you want to know what happened?"

Arthur flipped open the case file he'd been given. All it contained was Merlin's rap sheet (which wasn't very long), the incident report (filled out by some incompetent officer with childlike handwriting), and the official police report (nicely typed this time but with the same inept grammar as the previous document). Arthur scanned the documents to see precisely what the officers were claiming had happened. Then he shut the file.

"All right, Merlin. Tell me what happened."

"Look, Aredian has a personal grudge against me," Merlin said. "Because I support the anti-registry campaign."

"Personal politics aren't important right now -"

"You prat!" Merlin cried. "This entire farce is about politics. Someone sprayed a mage symbol on a fence downtown, and Aredian assumes it was me. Because he hates me."

Arthur's brow furrowed. "Did you just call me a prat? Look, I'm trying to help you, but clearly you're too ignorant in the ways of the law -"

"I'm not ignorant," Merlin said. He leaned forward, and for one moment Arthur's gaze was fixed on the curve of his lips.

The curves of your lips rewrite history, Arthur thought, and forced the evil-dirty thought from his mind. He was on the job.

"Aredian wants me arrested because he hates magic users and wants us all registered and locked away because we might one day, for no logical reason, decide we want to be dangerous," Merlin said. "And yeah, so I sprayed a mage symbol on the side of a building once before. We're forbidden from learning magic and writing magic and everything else, which is stupid and wrong, given the First Amendment, so I expressed myself the only way I know how."

Arthur took a deep breath. "Under First Amendment jurisprudence, speech that incites imminent lawless violence is unprotected." He'd heard it so many times in Con Law classes at school that it was, at this point, a meaningless aphorism.

Merlin shot him a look of utter loathing. "Not all magic leads to imminent lawless violence. It can be used to heal."

Arthur remembered his father's long speeches about the dangers of mages and their magic, their ability to bend reality to their own wills without thoughts of consequences or remorse.

Merlin sat back, and derision was stark in his eyes. "You're Arthur Pendragon. You, above all, should know that."

"What's that supposed to mean?" Arthur asked.

Merlin arched one eyebrow. "Magic. Can be used to preserve and give life. You know that, right?"

"Why would I know anything about magic?" Arthur asked stiffly.

Merlin had the gall to laugh. It was a soft sound, low and almost whispering, and the way his eyes lit made unease thrill through Arthur's blood. "So you don't know. Of course. It makes so much sense now."

"What is it that I don't know?" Arthur asked.

Merlin shook his head. "I'll tell you what, Arthur Pendragon. Represent me well, and I'll tell you. Consider it compensation for your services."

"I'm a public defender. I'm doing this for them and they're paying me, not you." Arthur kept his words steady and professional, but curiosity was already beginning to gnaw at his insides. What was it he was supposed to know about magic?

"Our clock is ticking," Merlin said.

Arthur finally managed to get his briefcase open and find a legal pad and pen. For some reason, the first pen he found was Excalibur, which was strange, because he never used it to take notes, and he always left it at the office. Arthur uncapped it with his teeth, wrote Merlin's name and case number at the top of the page.

"Tell me about the circumstances surrounding your arrest."

It was very Oliver Twist, an innocent Merlin strolling past a law office midday and some thug in a balaclava throwing a can of spray paint at him with a cry of "Catch!" two seconds before police rounded the corner and spotted him.

Even if Merlin looked decidedly earnest about the story - it was the pretty cheekbones and soft mouth, Arthur was sure of it - there was no way Arthur could possibly make that argument fly in court. Conspiracy? Why? How? Parading Merlin on the stand as a pro-mage activist was unlikely to help his case, and chances were anything Merlin might have to say on the political underpinnings of his case would be ruled inadmissible hearsay or irrelevant.

Merlin was determined not to plead out to a misdemeanor, however. He wanted to go to a full blown trial. Over graffiti.

Arthur glanced at his watch. "Look, our recess is almost up. Chances are you're going to get bound over to district court, because even if you didn't do it, the police definitely had probable cause. So...I'll do the best I can, and if you really want, you can plead not guilty at arraignment. I'll see about getting you released on your own recog at the bond hearing and we'll...working something out from there."

"This is what you call zealously advocating?" Merlin asked.

Arthur closed his briefcase and took a deep breath. "Yes."

"Where's your spirit to win?" Merlin stood up, and Arthur was a little distressed to realize that yes, Merlin was indeed taller than him.

"Trial advocacy is not a game," Arthur began.

"So you don't want to win?"

"That's not what I said."

"So you do want to win."

Arthur didn't want to win. He needed to win. Because Drake was watching him.

***



After the bind over hearing, Arthur scheduled a time to meet with Merlin again - deliberately avoided the boy's gaze and those blue, blue eyes - and then headed for the cafeteria in the basement of the city building. He was halfway down to the basement when his mobile buzzed in his pocket. Arthur fished it out and saw Kay's name and goofy picture flash across the screen, accompanied by a text message.

Your father's waiting for you. He's hacked off. Make ready your shield!

Arthur resisted the urge to roll his eyes at the medieval reference. Ever since he had started working at the PD's office with the other lads and they'd discovered that the table in the conference room was round, jokes about the Knights of the Round Table ran rampant. The jokes got worse when Lance showed up. At least he was dignified enough to not go by Lancelot.

Kay was a master of understatement. The cafeteria was eerily silent when Arthur came careening - gracefully - around the corner off the escalator and saw his father, sitting at Kay's table wearing a stony expression that usually meant an entire rank of first-year associates was getting sent to the executioner's block.

"Arthur," Uther said, and everyone else in the room immediately averted their gazes, forks scraping on plates loudly.

Arthur took a deep breath, composed himself, and crossed the room in a few neat strides. He sat down opposite Kay, who was trying to make his remaining three crisps last as long as possible so he had something to do with his hands.

"Good afternoon, Father," Arthur said.

Kay slid a sandwich across the table to him. Arthur nodded his thanks and bit into it as if his father wasn't looming over him, giving him the glare of death. Pretty much the entire cafeteria was watching, but he refused to be ruffled by what was going on. It was virtually unheard of for Uther Pendragon to deign to descend from his glass-walled penthouse office, and Arthur couldn't begin to imagine why his father had bothered.

Unless he'd heard about Drake's offer and thought Arthur was abandoning the family business? Arthur hadn't been seen on the town with any hussies, hadn't stumbled drunkenly out of bars or grievously upset Morgana, so he couldn't begin to fathom why his father was here -

"You should recuse yourself from the Emrys case."

Ah. Uther Pendragon's infamous hatred of mages. Arthur had grown up wary of mages, of course, and he'd seen what terrible things they could do, but Merlin was just a stupid activist student who wanted something to fight for. It wasn't as if he was a mage himself, after all.

Only when Merlin had been raging against Aredian he'd said us, hadn't he? As if he were a magic user too.

"It's not as if I have a conflict of interest," Arthur said.

Uther repeated himself, though his tone made it clear his words were less of a suggestion and more a demand. "You should recuse yourself from the Emrys case."

Arthur was quite sure that the Emrys case would count, to Drake, as his next case, and recusing wouldn't count as winning. "It's a low-level felony. It's not as if I'll lose my career over it." On the contrary, he was hoping to get a leg up in the legal community when it was done.

"Arthur," Uther began, but then Gwen scurried up to him.

She beamed at Uther. "Good afternoon, Mr. Pendragon." Then she turned to Arthur. "I have a message for you." She handed him a slip of paper and then hurried away.

"Thanks, Gwen," Arthur called after her. She was one of the court clerks and she seemed to go out of her way to do nice things for him, which he might have enjoyed if he hadn't noticed the way Lance pined after her so pathetically and nobly. Arthur unfolded the note and scanned it quickly. He rose up. "I'm sorry, Father, but I have an emergency meeting. See you back at the office, Kay." He scooped up the other half of his sandwich and left the cafeteria with as much dignity as he could muster, given that most of his colleagues and all of his opponents had just seen his father treating him like a recalcitrant teenager.

***



Lance's oh-so-urgent Pick me up a spicy Italian sub? didn't quite qualify as notice for an emergency meeting, but Arthur was willing to lie to his own father about any number of minor things.

Lance looked absurdly grateful when Arthur dropped the sandwich on his desk before heading into his own office.

Lance poked his head out of his office. "Get a new case, then?"

"Yes," Arthur said, and since he was more than willing to lie to his colleagues as well, "Gwen asked after you, today. I told her I'd pass on her good wishes."

Lance beamed and opened his mouth to offer thanks, but Arthur stepped into his office and closed his door. He sank gratefully against it and breathed the sigh of relief that had been fighting its way out of his lungs as soon as the burn of his father's stare on his back had faded.

"You're going to do everything you can to ensure that Aredian's bigotry is brought to a halt, aren't you?"

Arthur jumped. "Morgana! What the hell are you doing in my office?"

"You're going to win this case, aren't you?" Morgana's eyes were wide and earnest, but Arthur recognized the threat in her tone. He'd lost both of his eyebrows to a sudden and inexplicable fire when he was ten because of that tone.

"Of course I'm going to win," he said. "I'm a brilliant lawyer. But why do you care? Won't it be to your benefit if I fail and end up slaving away as a PD until my twenty-five-year loan is up so you can make senior partner at Pendragon & Pendragon in my place?"

Morgana was out of her seat in an instant. "This isn't about the pettiness between you and me, Arthur. This is about Aredian's bigotry and what it'll do to a nice boy like Merlin to end up in prison."

"Nice boy like - Morgana! You know Merlin?" Arthur asked.

Morgana looked away.

Arthur felt his stomach churn. "You've slept with him, haven't you?"

Morgana smacked him on the arm. "Of course not, you dirty-minded berk. Just - do your best, all right? For Merlin." And she left.

Arthur sank down in his chair and wondered if Drake had known this case would cause so much trouble. He suspected the answer was yes.

Next

Tags: fanfic, genre: au, rating: pg-13
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