Title: We Need to Talk About Morgana 
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
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: None (this part)
Word Count: 1000w
Prompt: 338 Newcomer
Author's Notes: Finally finished this section of the story. Woohoo!
Arthur texts Merlin as soon as he gets off the tube, but receives no response. After knocking on the door of his flat and being similarly ignored, he pulls out his spare key and lets himself in quietly. Merlin has told him more than once that he’s welcome anytime, but this is the first time in recent memory that Arthur has had occasion to test that statement. He tries not to feel too much like an intruder.
“Hey, Merlin, are you home?” he calls, stopping in the middle of the living room. The blinds are still drawn, which is unusual for this time of day, and the place smells faintly of alcohol. “Merlin!”
He hears a faint groan coming from the vicinity of Merlin’s bedroom, and makes a beeline for the doorway, only to stop short at the sight that greets him. Merlin is buried so far beneath his duvet that only his hair is showing, looking like the rumpled fur of an extremely startled black cat. As Arthur watches, he rolls over towards the door, covering his head with a pillow as if he fully intends to go straight back to sleep.
“Oh no you don’t,” Arthur says loudly, crossing over to the window. Ignoring Merlin’s feeble protests, he yanks open the curtains, then picks up a pair of discarded jeans from the floor and chucks them at Merlin’s head. “Let’s have you, lazy daisy,” he says, feeling a little lightheaded at being in the same room as his best friend for the first time in weeks. “Time’s a-wasting. You can’t lay about in bed all day, we have work to do.”
“Arthur?” Merlin blinks at him blearily. “What are you doing here? What time is it? Oh god, has someone died?”
“It’s twelve thirty on a Thursday afternoon,” Arthur says, watching with a mixture of amusement and concern as Merlin drags himself into a sitting position, looking like he’d barely survived an encounter with a cement truck. “Which is a stupid time for you to be hungover, by the way. What have you been doing?”
“Updating my CV,” Merlin retorts at once, proving that he can’t be that badly off if he’s still capable of some form of repartee, “since it looks like I’m going to be out of a job for the foreseeable future. Seriously, Arthur, what are you doing here?”
“I have to talk to you,” Arthur says, some of his giddiness subsiding as he recalls the reason for his visit. “It’s important.”
“Okay.” Merlin narrows his eyes and doesn’t move. “So talk.”
“Get dressed first,” Arthur says, shaking his head. The last thing he needs right now is a half-naked Merlin distracting him, no matter how attractive the sight may be. “And maybe drink some coffee. I have a feeling you’re going to want to be awake for this.”
Maybe his serious tone gets through to Merlin, or maybe Merlin has finally regained consciousness enough to realise the gravity of the situation, Arthur doesn’t know. Either way, however, he stares at Arthur for a long moment before sitting up with a groan.
“Fine, you win,” he grumbles, turning back the covers. Arthur exhales in relief, then promptly chokes on his own spit as Merlin slides out of bed wearing only his boxers. “Give me a few minutes to shower and grab some breakfast, then I’m all yours.”
If only, Arthur thinks, watching him go, then flees to the kitchen to make coffee.
“This is about the investigation, isn’t it?” Merlin asks half an hour later, sitting down at the table across from Arthur and digging into his breakfast. His hair is still damp from the shower, and he’s looking a little green around the edges, but his eyes are bright and alert as he meets Arthur’s gaze. “Did they find out who did it?”
“In a manner of speaking.” Arthur pulls out his laptop and logs in, turning the monitor so that Merlin can see it properly. “According to our computer logs, this is the person who has been leaking our files to Essetir.”
Merlin stares at the screen for a moment, then looks back at Arthur. “You can’t be serious.”
“Unfortunately, I am. We came up with a fake company and a lucrative potential client to tempt our mole into revealing themselves, and this was the result. You recognise the ID, of course.”
“I ought to,” Merlin says bitterly, “seeing as it’s mine. But Arthur, I swear to you I didn’t—”
“I believe you,” Arthur says, cutting him off. Merlin shuts his mouth with a snap. “But my father won’t, if he sees this—not without serious proof to the contrary, anyway. In his eyes, you’re still a relative newcomer to the company, and he’s not going to trust your word when all the facts say you’ve sold us out.”
“So, what then?” Merlin has put down his fork and is no longer eating, his expression unreadable. “Did you come here to fire me? Am I supposed to resign gracefully and devote myself to a life in retail?”
“As if I’d let that happen,” Arthur scoffs, and is rewarded by the faintest of smiles crossing Merlin’s lips. “No, I’m here because I think there’s something else going on. As well as setting up the files, I put about several different stories regarding the means by which our ‘client’ acquired the company. The idea was that when Essetir contacted them about the sale, they would have heard a slightly different version of the facts depending on which person was behind the leak.”
“Kind of like a verbal tracking signature,” Merlin says, looking interested. He sits forward, something like hope rekindling in his eyes. “Does that mean you can identify the mole?”
“That’s why I came to you,” Arthur says, shutting the laptop lid and regarding Merlin seriously. “I’m not sure about the whys and wherefores of the whole thing yet, but based on what we know, I’m pretty sure that it’s my sister.”