Title: We Need to Talk About Morgause 
Rating: G (this part).
Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur, Gwaine/Gwen
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Gwaine, Gwen, Elyan, Morgana
Summary: Arthur finally makes his move. Morgana makes a big mistake. And Merlin, ultimately, has to make a choice – but will it be Arthur? The final instalment of the We Need to Talk series.
[ Prequel | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | AO3 ]
Warnings: None (this part).
Word Count: 1300w
Prompt: 348 Knights and 349 Whispered.
Author's Notes: And so I'm back! From outta space! Just walked in to find you here with that sad look upon your face...
“Merlin! It’s good to see you.” Gwaine greets him with a hug, thumping Merlin on the back before ushering him inside. “Arthur didn’t mention he’d be bringing you—but then, he has a habit of leaving out important information.”
He stares at Arthur meaningfully as he speaks, but Arthur just shrugs. “I was in a hurry,” he says, toeing off his shoes. “Besides, you’d already done your part.”
“That doesn’t mean we weren’t dying to know what you found out.” A dark-skinned woman with short-cropped black hair comes into the living room, pushing a pair of wire-rimmed spectacles up her nose. She folds her arms and glares at Arthur. “Fortunately for you, Gwaine already worked out who it was, or else I wouldn’t have let you back in the house.”
“Sorry, Gwen.” Arthur actually sounds contrite this time, and Merlin raises his eyebrows. He likes this Gwen person already. “How did you figure it out? Merlin’s username is confidential.”
“I know. But why else would you go haring off as though the devil were after you?” Gwaine winks at Merlin, who is amused to see Arthur scowl in response. “Anyway, it doesn’t matter now. A little birdy whispered in my ear that you were in need of some knights in shining armour?”
“I wouldn’t put it quite like that,” Arthur grumbles. “But yes, I—we do need your help, if you don’t mind.”
He explains the idea that he, Morgana, and Merlin had come up with that morning in Morgana’s office. On the face of it, the plan is simple: Morgana will meet with Morgause for lunch, as usual, and this time, instead of putting her off when she starts talking about Pendragon Enterprises, Morgana will casually let slip that she’s had an argument with her father—something that would be highly plausible, she had assured them, given what Morgause knew of her and Uther’s relationship—and is looking for another job, should anything just happen to come her way. Ideally, Morgause will jump at the opportunity to get her on side, and either attempt to recruit her as a member of Essetir, or perhaps persuade her to remain at PE as a spy. Either way, Arthur and the others will be listening in via her phone, recording the discussion in secret.
“Why can’t Morgana just record the conversation herself?” Gwen asks, frowning. “Surely that would be easier.”
“Probably,” Arthur agrees. “But Morgause is a bit of a wild card. I’m sure Morgana can handle herself, but it’s better to be safe than sorry. If she calls me instead, Morgause won’t be able to get her hands on the recording, and we’ll know straight away if something goes wrong.”
“You do realise that any evidence you collect may end up being ruled inadmissible in court,” Gwaine points out, ever the lawyer. Arthur nods his head.
“I thought about that. But honestly, I don’t care about prosecuting her so much as I want to convince my father that Merlin’s innocent.”
“Fair enough.” Gwaine looks at Gwen. “What do you say, short stuff?”
Gwen blushes, biting her lip, then darts an uncomfortable look at Merlin. “Of course we’ll help,” she says, after a pause. “But I’m doubling my fee, Arthur.”
Arthur holds up his hands. “Fine by me,” he says, also looking at Merlin. He smiles crookedly. “I told you, money’s no object.”
“That’s settled, then,” Gwaine says briskly, before Merlin can do more than flush with surprise. “Come on, you lot; follow me.”
He leads the three of them down a long hallway and into the kitchen, where they are greeted by another young man in grey track pants and a t-shirt that reads, Always be yourself—unless you can be Batman, in which case, always be Batman. Merlin grins.
“Merlin, this is Elyan. Elyan, Merlin.” Gwaine introduces them. “Elyan is Gwen’s brother.”
“Nice to meet you.” Merlin and Elyan shake hands, and Merlin takes a seat beside Gwaine, feeling a bit superfluous as Arthur and the two computer experts start putting their plan into action. He’s not really sure why Arthur brought him along, except perhaps to throw him in Gwaine’s path again, which is kind of awkward considering the two of them are clearly never going to be anything but friends.
“So, how are you holding up?” Gwaine asks, leaning back in his chair and crossing his ankles beneath the table. “It’s good to see you out and about again. Arthur tell you what’s been going on?”
“Yeah, he’s brought me up to speed.” Merlin shrugs, looking down at his hands. “Thanks for helping with this, Gwaine. It means a lot.”
“Any time.” Gwaine nudges him with one foot. “Cheer up, mate. If this all goes to plan, your name will be cleared and you’ll be back working under Blondie over there in no time.” He waggles his eyebrows and leers. “If you know what I mean.”
Merlin smiles faintly, but it’s more wistful than amused. In another life, the two of them would have been good together, he thinks, but it’s obvious to anyone with eyes that Gwen and Gwaine have some kind of history; the same sort that he and Arthur have, if he’s any judge. Unlike Arthur, however, at least Gwen seems like she’d be interested in taking things further, if Gwaine ever actually asked.
“Actually,” he says, leaning back in his seat. “I don’t think I’m going to go back, after this is over.”
Gwaine’s eyebrows go up. “You’re quitting?” he asks, too loudly. Merlin winces, but it’s too late to ask him to keep it down; breaking off his conversation with the others, Arthur turns towards them with a frown, having obviously overheard Gwaine’s remark.
“What are you talking about?” he asks, straightening up to stare at Merlin. “Merlin isn’t quitting. Are you, Merlin?”
“I—well, I think it’s for the best, Arthur,” Merlin says, glancing quickly at Gwaine and then away again. Gwen and Elyan have turned to look at him too, and he can feel his cheeks going red as he realises he’s made himself the centre of attention. “Uther is never going to trust me again, and I don’t think anyone else will, either, even after we prove it wasn’t me who stole those files. Besides,” he adds, when Arthur opens his mouth to protest. “I’ve been thinking about this a lot since your father suspended me, and I really don’t feel comfortable working for a man who is willing to fire me over something I didn’t do. It’s time for me to move on.”
Arthur shuts his mouth, a look of hurt flashing briefly across his face before smoothing away.
“I see,” he says, looking down. “Well, I’ll make sure you receive a glowing reference, of course. Even if you are a frankly terrible assistant.”
“Thanks.” Merlin smiles a little. “You’re a horrible boss, but I’m sure your word will count for something.”
Arthur doesn’t smile back, and Merlin tries to catch his eye, wanting to reassure him that they will still be friends after he’s gone—that they’ll be even better friends once Merlin figures out how to stop mooning over him all the time. But he can’t say that in front of Gwaine and the others, and in any case Arthur is already turning away.
“We should probably finish setting up,” he tells Gwen and Elyan, jerking his head towards the laptop. “Morgana will be on her way to meet Morgause for lunch soon, and I want to test the equipment before we get started.”
“Of course.” Taking his cue, Gwen turns back to the screen again and starts fiddling with one of the programmes, so obviously ignoring the tension that it’s almost comical. “Just let me fix up these audio settings and we’ll be good to go.”