Title: We Need to Talk About Morgana [Part 1]
Rating: G (this part)
Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur, Merlin/Gwaine, Merlin/Edwin
Character/s: Arthur, Morgana, Gwaine
Summary: Morgana can't resist the chance to interfere. Merlin would rather be left alone. And Arthur – well, Arthur doesn't know if he's making things better or worse, but it's not for lack of trying.
[ Prequel | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | AO3 ]
Warnings: Deals with criminal behaviour, mentions of stalking and manipulation.
Word Count: 1200 words.
Prompt: 298 Cure
Author's Notes: Onwards! o/
Arthur has never been one of those people who hates his job. Sure, sometimes he wishes he hadn’t accepted Uther’s offer right out of university, but that has less to do with the work and more to do with his relationship with is father. Unlike some people—by which he means Gwaine—he may not have an impressive title or a fancy car, but he is good at what he does, and for the most part he enjoys it.
At least, he used to. Lately, it’s been feeling like a bit of a chore.
It's been almost two weeks since Merlin had taken an enforced leave of absence, and Arthur has hardly seen or heard from him since. In theory, he should be back as soon as the internal investigation is over, but in practice these things have been known to drag on for months, and there’s no guarantee he’ll still have a job at the end of it. Uther has already been threatening to bring him up on charges, and it’s been all Arthur and Morgana can do to get him to wait until he has actual proof that Merlin was involved.
“He just doesn’t want to listen!” Morgana storms angrily, bursting into Arthur’s office unannounced for the third time in as many days. “You have to talk to him, Arthur. God knows I can’t get him to see sense.”
“I have talked to him,” Arthur says. Unlike his sister, he takes no pleasure in flogging a dead horse. “At this point, we have to accept that he’s made up his mind and let the investigators do their job.”
Morgana narrows her eyes at him. “And how long is that going to take, exactly?” she says sweetly, leaning over his desk. “Long enough for Merlin to forget what we look like? Long enough for your desk to become—” she gives a theatrical shudder, “—actually clean?”
Arthur grimaces. His temporary assistant, George, is the complete opposite of Merlin in many respects; he and Arthur have been waging a silent war over his desk for the last ten days. “It will take as long as it takes,” he says finally. “If we try to meddle, it’ll only look like we’re hiding something.”
“Who cares, if we can help Merlin?” Morgana says, scowling. “It’s not like Father will fire us; the least we can do is help the poor boy.”
Arthur sighs. Truth be told, he’s as worried about Merlin as Morgana is—probably more so, although he’s not about to admit it. He still gets the occasional response to his texts, so at least he knows Merlin is still alive, but aside from that Merlin has turned into a full-on recluse. Any and all requests to visit him at his flat or invite him round to Arthur’s have been completely ignored, and Arthur is no longer sure enough of his welcome to just turn up uninvited. He misses Merlin, though, and if he had thought that a period of separation might help to cure him of his feelings for the man...well, he now stands corrected. It seems only to have made things worse.
“We can’t help Merlin by acting rashly,” he says, even though part of him wants to do just that. “We know he’s done nothing wrong.”
“Yes, but Father doesn’t,” Morgana mutters darkly. “And you know what he’s like.”
Unfortunately, Arthur does know, and after she leaves he spends several minutes staring blankly at his computer screen, contemplating exactly what that could mean for Merlin. Nothing good, that much is certain. Then, ignoring George, who is currently re-alphabetising the filing cabinet with a dirty look on his face, Arthur thumbs through his contacts and dials the last number he swore he’d ever use.
Twenty minutes later, Arthur is sitting across from Gwaine Greene in a garishly decorated cafe, staring at a mug shaped like a fluffy little lamb. It would be perfectly innocent, save for the handle coming out of its arse.
“Is this really necessary?” he asks, poking at it.
“You’re the one who wanted to see me,” Gwaine reminds him, smirking. “No one forced you to ask for my help—”
“Yes, fine.” Arthur scowls. “But you have to swear to treat this conversation as confidential.”
“On my mother’s grave,” Gwaine vows solemnly, crossing his heart. Arthur eyes him warily, but after a moment he begins to talk, giving Gwaine a concise run-down of the events of the past few weeks, starting with Merlin’s break-up with Edwin and ending with the discovery that someone has been slipping information to Cenred’s company.
When he’s finished, Gwaine lets out a low whistle. “No wonder Merlin hasn’t been taking my calls,” he says, which makes Arthur feel a little better. “No offence, Pendragon, but your father is a douche. Does he at least have proof that Merlin’s the one who’s been leaking those files?”
“Not as such.” Arthur sighs. “Our system logs user IDs when they remotely access our server, but since several people were granted access to those files, there's no way to tell which one has been sharing information illegally.”
“You’ll want to look into beefing up security, then,” Gwaine comments, and Arthur grumbles his agreement. The two of them sit in silence for a moment, until Gwaine leans back, stretching his long legs out in front of him. “So, I might have an idea,” he says slowly. “But I don’t think you’re going to like it.”
Arthur takes a moment to weigh his dislike of Gwaine against his—well. Lack of dislike for Merlin. “Try me.”
“Well…” Gwaine lowers his voice, glancing around the coffee shop like an extra in a cheesy police procedural, and Arthur refrains from rolling his eyes with an effort. “The problem is that you don’t know who the real rat is, right?”
“The problem is, my father is convinced it’s Merlin,” Arthur corrects, but Gwaine waves this aside as unnecessary detail.
“What if you give them something you know they’re going to want to steal? Information about an upcoming business deal—something that could make or break the company?”
“What would that accomplish?” Arthur asks, frowning. “Aside from getting me fired, too.”
Gwaine rolls his eyes. “You won’t give them any real information, Princess—just a lie juicy enough that they won’t be able to resist. Give each rat a slightly different story, then wait to see which one of them squeaks. At which point, voila. Proof for your father that it wasn’t Merlin.”
Arthur chews on his lower lip. It’s a solid plan; it could work, and even if it doesn’t he can see no harm in trying. “It would have to be convincing,” he says, although he already knows what Morgana would say to the idea. “They’d have to think they have something important.”
“So we find a way to give them something important,” Gwaine says, his face lighting up with a devious grin. “In fact, I think I know just the guy.”
“This won’t involve any more vaguely obscene ceramics, will it?” Arthur asks, eyeing his coffee cup dubiously.
Gwaine blows air kisses at him across the table. “You’ll just have to wait and see.”