I would like to warn you that the last bit may be a bit darkish. It wasn't my intention, but the story got away from me again, taking on a life of its own. I really want to keep this story T-rated, but if I need to change it, please let me know. Well, at least you've been warned.
The atmosphere on the Grid was tense. There was no other word to describe it. Merlin himself was no exception to that. In fact, if he had the option of crawling into a corner and wait for all this to be over, he would probably have taken it without as much as a second thought.
He felt positively miserable and not in the last place because Ros's snapped remarks had been more or less true. If he had acted just a little bit faster this need never have happened. Lucas would still be with them and Morgana would be gone forever. They had been this close to ending this once and for all and thanks for his stupid inability to act at the right moment, they were now in as much of a mess as they ever were, with no means of knowing where Morgana was or what on earth she was up to, save for her accomplice in the interrogation room downstairs who refused to open his mouth.
Merlin knew Arthur would not look on him any differently now. If anything, he blamed Merlin for what had happened. Of course he had not said it in words, but he hadn't needed to. The message was perfectly clear to anyone with half a brain.
The king of Camelot had arrived at the Grid approximately five minutes ago. He had been making for his desk, but when he saw that Merlin had been standing there, he had changed direction almost immediately, joining Connie instead. It was hardly subtle, but then that word didn't even seem to be in his vocabulary. Somehow this hurt all the more.
The warlock was pondering this as he was going over some tips that had come in concerning Morgana's whereabouts. Not that Merlin had much trust in them. If catching Morgana would be that easy, they'd have caught her years ago. But at any rate it was better to do something than to do nothing at all. At least now he could tell himself that he was trying. It made him feel a little less useless, if only a little.
Because he did feel useless. Not only had he jeopardised the entire operation, he had also made a completely wrong assessment of Lucas's loyalties. Arthur was right: he should have had faith in the Senior Case Officer, but really, could he have known that man could act so well? If he was right, even his own colleagues had doubted him. Good grief, even Harry had lost faith in Lucas in the end.
But Ros and Arthur had not. How ironic that the king who had not recognised Morgana's betrayal for so long and who still had to see Agravaine's true nature had been right about Lucas? And how Ros had known that Lucas was still on their side, he would probably never know. That woman had a mental armour that was as impenetrable as the walls of Camelot.
He was snapped out of his thoughts that had long since stopped paying attention to the work he was supposed to be doing, by Harry's best commander roar. 'Meeting room, NOW!'
Nobody was in a mood to try his patience. The head of the section had been in a right foul mood ever since returning from the Home Office and no one had yet dared to ask how that had come about. Knowing Harry's dislike for what Connie called political haymaking, it would at least be a safe bet to say that something there had not gone quite according to plan.
The room quickly filled up in silence. In fact, it was very much like it had been that morning, with the exception that Arthur now was present. The king had been unusually quiet. It wasn't like Arthur to be so silent when something bothered him. Arthur didn't do silence. He voiced his displeasure at the top of his lungs. But it would seem that Ros's icy attitude was catching.
Harry took his place at the head of the table, throwing some file forcefully on the table in order to get everyone's attention. 'We have not been authorised to use every resource available to track down Lucas,' he began, the tone betraying what exactly he thought about that.
The silence returned as everyone exchanged worried glances. Merlin could feel his own fists clench under the table. This was bad news and he knew it. They were already losing time here and Morgana wasn't known for wasting time, especially not when she believed someone had betrayed her. And even though Lucas had never been really on her side, he knew that was how she would look upon it.
'So, what will we do now?' Jo asked hesitantly in the end.
'We will use every resource available to track down Lucas,' Harry said briskly. 'He risked his life today and we are not going to leave him out in the cold. If anyone doesn't feel up to taking this risk, they can leave now and don't come back.' There was a pointed look in Merlin's direction. While it really made his blood boil, he also knew that he had deserved it. He had never fully trusted the Senior Case Officer and he had not really made a secret out of it either. It was only logical that the others now had doubts about his willingness to break the rules and do their best to find Lucas despite the fact that they had been forbidden to do so.
And so he met Harry's look with defiance. 'I'm with you,' he replied.
Ros's eyebrows went up, but she refrained from commenting, for which the warlock was secretly grateful. His motives were his own. They were no one else's business.
Harry just nodded. 'Right. Dolby might come in and ask what we're doing. If he does, we're tracking down Morgana. We have been told she has to have our first priority and that we should only focus on Lucas when we're done with her.' Merlin could swear he could hear Ros's teeth grit in anger. Knowing how she felt about protecting her team, that should not have come as a surprise.
'Those two things don't have to be entirely separate,' Merlin felt obliged to point out. 'She will probably keep him as close as she can to prevent him from escaping.'
'Or she dumps him somewhere,' Connie remarked dryly. 'She might have other accomplices here.'
Now there was one very unwelcome thought, but it was one they had to take into account. It might just be the thing Morgana was doing, although it seemed unlikely to Merlin. And he said as much. 'I don't think she has. She never has had more than one ally at a time and her plans are never really too sophisticated.' It was important now that they too knew who exactly it was that they were dealing with, so he would have to share his knowledge with them.
Ros gave him a disbelieving look. 'I think getting an Al-Qaeda terror cell to organise the market bombings while leading MI-5 around by the nose rather bloody sophisticated.'
'That could just have been Hogan,' Ben chimed in. 'He was always something of a schemer, wasn't he?'
Harry nodded. 'Right. So that means he'll probably know everything there is to know about her sodding plans. Where do we stand with him?'
The Section Chief's nose wrinkled in disgust. 'He wants a deal.' If her tone was anything to go by, she thought that the single most revolting word in the world.
Harry slapped that down right away. 'He's not getting it. Turn the screws on him until the pips squeak and he has told every last secret he has. He has to know what she is up to and we will not rest until he has told us.'
Ros gave a curt nod. Having witnessed Ros's way of "dealing" with Hogan he had very little doubt about what kind of things she would do to him to get him to talk now that she had been permitted to let go of the soft approach. To be quite honest, the fact that she had dropped hot coffee into Hogan's lap had kind of shocked him. The fact that she had done so without batting an eyelash, that she had even done that with that pleasant smile on her face, that had shocked him even more. The warlock had always known she was cold, but he had not been expecting that she was this cold. This, this was creepy. Maybe Lucas and Ros were more alike than he had seen up till now.
'But I thought we were not allowed to touch him?' he had asked when they had made their way back to the Grid.
Ros's smile was almost sickeningly sweet. 'I haven't laid a finger on him, have I?' She had sounded wholly unconcerned.
Merlin made a mental note never to underestimate her.
He was called back into the here and now when Harry turned his attention to Jo and Connie. 'Where do you stand with Hogan's file?'
'We're on it,' Connie replied.
Harry's face started to predict storm again.
The intelligence analyst favoured her boss with an altogether indignant look. 'I'm an intelligence analyst, Harry, not Mystic Meg. These things take time.'
'Then get Merlin to help you go through that file,' Harry barked. 'Make a list of every place he has been and then try to find out which ones he may have been using as hideouts. Morgana may still be using one of those.'
'I don't think so,' Merlin spoke up again. 'She'll never believe that Hogan will keep his mouth shut. She will not want to risk that he tells us everything we know. She has grown rather paranoid in the last few years.'
'Bit like you then,' someone muttered. It sounded remarkably like Arthur.
And Harry hadn't missed out on that either. His fist collided with the table again, making the cups on it rattle. 'That's enough!' he bellowed, making even the fearsome king of Camelot fall back into his chair. 'I will not have your petty grievances jeopardise this operation! If you can't stand the sight of each other outside this building, then you're welcome to it, but in here you will work together. So, one more word and I will have you both in the paper archive! Is that understood?'
Merlin was very much tempted to say that he most certainly did not agree with that arrangement. He was not answerable to Harry Pearce and it would seem that the spook had forgotten about that. But he was also right and that stopped Merlin from blurting something out that he just might regret later. If he blew this, he wasted every chance of getting back into Arthur's good books and that was a risk he could simply not afford to take. And so he nodded. 'Yes, Harry.'
Arthur had more trouble controlling his temper, but in the end he too gave a curt tentative nod. It was probably only for the sake of the mission that he agreed, because Arthur Pendragon wasn't known to obey orders. That alone made Merlin realise once again how strongly the king felt about this. He had been suspecting for a while now, ever since the rest of the team had given up faith in Lucas, that Arthur regarded Lucas as one of his own men, a knight of sorts. And Arthur would do just about anything to protect his people. It was as admirable as it was reckless and Merlin was sure he would go grey before his time because of his king's heroic tendencies, because when it came to his people, Arthur had a remarkable disregard for his own safety.
'Good,' Harry said. 'Merlin, where do we stand with the leads on Morgana's whereabouts?'
The warlock bit his lip. 'Useless for as far as I can see. Either Morgana's playing us or she was never there in the first place.'
'Then leave that for the moment,' the head of the section ordered. 'Work together with Ros to get Hogan to talk.'
Ros grimaced. 'I am not sure that is going to work, Harry,' she said. 'He's too much aware of what will happen to him once we have no further use for him. He'll keep his mouth firmly shut. Probably hoping that if only he holds out long enough the CIA will demand him back, the sodding bastard,' she added under her breath.
'And they've already called to voice their displeasure,' Ben spoke up. 'They want him back and they want him now.'
Harry's face was murderous. 'You can tell the cousins to stick that proposal where the sun doesn't shine,' he growled. Merlin could understand the sentiment. If Hogan was indeed responsible for the kidnapping of two of his officers and had aided Morgana in her evil schemes, he would not be in a hurry to lose him again.
Ben looked a bit uneasy. 'They're not going to like that,' he said. 'They're already threatening to involve the government in this.'
The Section Chief sent him a dazzling smile, looking wholly unconcerned. 'Diddums,' she commented unsympathetically. Merlin got the, probably very accurate, impression that she could not care less about what the CIA wanted. Taken into account that the Americans had been less than helpful so far, Merlin couldn't even bring himself to disagree with her on this one.
'Well, they're not really asking,' Ben pointed out. 'They're demanding.'
That got a dismissive snort from the Section Chief. 'And why on earth would they want that? Because they did such a splendid job of holding onto him the first time around?'
Harry clearly felt the same. 'Either way, they're not getting him back.'
'We might get into some trouble though if they make this official,' Connie pointed out. Merlin had come to regard her as the most level-headed officer on the Grid. No matter how badly wrong things seemed to go, and no matter how panicked everyone else was, she always seemed to be able to keep a clear head. The only other one who seemed to be capable to keep his head under almost every circumstance was Malcolm, but even he had been uneasy when Lucas and Arthur had gone missing. Connie had not even seemed impressed at all.
'They won't,' Arthur suddenly spoke up, resulting in every head swivelling in his direction.
'And since when are you such an authority on CIA behaviour?' Harry's voice was dangerously low.
Arthur leaned back into his chair. Had Merlin not known better, he would have said that he was having meetings like this one on a daily basis. He had been less than pleased when they had first come here, but now he seemed completely at ease. It was almost as if he had been born to do this. 'We still have Hogan's involvement in the market and station bombings to hold over their heads, don't we?' he asked. 'Surely they won't want to risk the possible CIA involvement in the worst bombing in years to get out to the people of this kingdom?'
Merlin had to pinch himself to confirm that he was not dreaming this. Since when did Arthur do blackmail anyway? The king of Camelot always had been the type to shout and command. That was the way he used to get his way and in Camelot that was all it took for him. He was obeyed there, no matter how he asked, if he even asked at all. At any rate it was not like Arthur to use more subtle means to get his will done. Until now Merlin didn't even know that Arthur had it in him to blackmail other people. He was secretly impressed.
The rest of the team also looked at Arthur like he had suddenly grown a second head. At least he wasn't the only one to think Arthur's sudden proposal strange and extremely out of character.
Arthur of course noticed this. He scowled at them. 'I'm not an idiot!' he defended himself. 'I've done it yesterday as well.'
That prompted a memory of Harry being extremely annoyed by a certain phone call from the Americans, who had somehow come under the impression that MI-5 had threatened to name the United States as the culprit for the recent bombings. Maybe Arthur was capable of surprises every now and then.
Harry seemed to consider this for less than ten seconds. 'It will be your responsibility to make sure they are aware of that,' he told Arthur. For some reason the king seemed satisfied with that arrangement. Not that this was surprising to Merlin at all. As far as he was aware the king had never passed up an opportunity to shout at other people.
'So, the rest of you get cracking on finding Hogan's weaknesses. Finances, friends and family. I don't care what you find, just find me a way to get him talking.'
It was a clear dismissal and the team was already getting up to leave when Arthur spoke again. 'Can't we just offer him a deal?'
Harry's expression could have frozen the entire building. 'We are not letting him get away with this.'
Arthur shook his head. 'That's not what I meant,' he said. 'But we can pretend to offer a deal, make him talk and then come back on our words.'
The silence that fell in the meeting room was as disbelieving as it was awkward. The warlock could hardly believe his own ears. Had he really just heard the Once and Future King propose that they lie? Arthur had never been one for lying. He just could not do it. The truth was mostly on his face for everyone to read. He could not conceal secrets even if he wanted to, which made lying an impossibility for him. Either there was more to the Pendragon king than met the eyes or this operation had drastically changed him. He felt a sense of loss at that. Arthur should never have needed to be anything else than the just and kind king with a streak of an arrogant prat.
But he could not deny either that this idea might be the only one that would work with Hogan. Merlin did not know much of the man, but he had seen enough to know that the former CIA officer was unlikely to break under any kind of torture. If they were to get the information they needed, they would need to trick him into telling it to them. And this idea of course had the added bonus of not taking days and days. And time was of the essence to them now.
The smirk on Ros's face would even have had Morgana cower away in fear. 'Not a totally stupid idea,' she judged. 'Let's get to it.'
For the first time since Lucas had been taken Merlin felt like they actually stood a chance.
Lucas was disorientated when he regained consciousness. He had no idea where he was or how he had come to be wherever it was that he now found himself. The last thing he remembered was throwing himself against Morgana and getting transported away from the barn in what appeared to be a magical whirlwind. Next he knew he was being knocked on the head. Then there was just nothing.
His entire body ached. There were bruises from where he had fallen to the ground after knocking Morgana away from Arthur and his head was throbbing as well. But he had known far worse than this and so he forced himself to work past the physical pain and fight his way back into consciousness again.
Slowly he started to feel his body again and he wished right away that that had never happened in the first place. His hands were tied and held above his head with chains that had his heart beat as if he had just run a marathon. Russia. It was not exactly the same, but there had been a few occasions when he had been restrained like that.
'No!' he moaned, forcing his eyes open. 'Not again, please!' He knew he could not survive another eight years in prison. He was not even sure he could bear one more day. Now he knew what it was like to live again, to feel even remotely alive, he could not go back to that hell.
But it was not a Russian prison cell he found himself facing. It wasn't even a real prison he was in. He found himself in what looked like a hovel that gave every impression of being in disuse for years. The furniture was dusty and even rotten in some cases, it was dark and the air smelled as if fresh air was in short supply here.
To top it off the roof was leaking. He appeared to be standing right under such a leak. He could feel the water steadily dripping onto him and he shivered. The cold had nothing to do with that, even if he felt positively frozen by now. No, he remembered all too well what had happened when last he had looked up into the rain. And Russia was already threatening to invade his mind again, torture him with the flashbacks that would leave him screaming for mercy until his throat was hoarse and he was crying like a child lost in the dark.
He clenched his hands into fists. No. He would not let that happen. He would not break. Those Russian bastards had not done it and if he could help it, Morgana would not do it either. He was stronger than that.
Harry will come, he told himself. This time he will come.
But it was more of a desperate wish than a solid belief and he knew it. Harry did not even know where he was right now and here, all alone with the water dripping onto his head, threatening to take him back to Russia, the possibility of his boss charging in to save him became more and more unlikely with each passing second. He knew Harry would not make him a first priority. He was a spook to boot, always putting his duty first. And right now it would be his duty first to catch Morgana. Lucas would come in second place. And he had to, because the safety of Britain had to be put first. If that meant he would leave Lucas here to die, then that was what he would do, no matter how much it pained him to make that decision. It had been the same when he had been imprisoned in Russia. Only when Harry had a convenient chance had he pulled Lucas out of that hellhole. In a spy swap. And there would be no chance of that with Morgana. She would not want to get Hogan back. No, no help would come. He was on his own.
Harry sweated blood to get you back here. The memory of Ros's reproachful voice penetrated his thoughts. He would rather die than let anything ever happen to you.
He remembered that, remembered when she had said that. It had been after the market bombings and they had discussed the value of colleagues. Lovers leave, friends annoy you and families mess with your head, but colleagues are okay. He had been doubting that, his opinion on the subject strongly influenced by the long eight years that he had been left to rot in prison. He had gone as far as to voice that opinion, even when he had not really been meaning to. Clearly Ros had been angered by his assumptions and she had told him that Harry had never once had given up on him, despite the things Kachimov had said on the subject. Her words had been like water to a thirsty man in the desert. Harry did care. He had not given up.
'He will come.' To say those words out loud made them somehow feel more real to him. He needed to believe that his boss would do whatever it took to get him back. He had promised. It had not been in words. It had only been a curt nod, but it had been enough. Harry would come.
'How touching,' a voice drawled somewhere behind him.
It was almost impossible for Lucas to turn. His entire weight seemed to hang on his hands, since his legs were not yet strong enough to carry him. But he recognised the voice. 'Morgana,' he acknowledged. He hated how weak he sounded. She must have hit him harder than he had believed her capable of. For such a fragile woman she had a lot of bodily strength.
'You surprise me, Lucas North.' Her voice was more of a sneer than a compliment and he mentally braced himself. He had heard that tone too often and nothing good had ever followed it.
He kept his silence. There was nothing he had to say to her. And he doubted that nothing he could say would stop her from inflicting whatever horror it was that she had in mind for him. She would do it anyway.
'You would sacrifice your life for Arthur, yet he believes you a traitor.' Her voice was sickeningly sweet. If she was trying to tempt him to join her side, as he was strongly suspected she was doing, then she was doing a very poor job of it. He had met the experts and Morgana wasn't even close to doing what they had done to him. Now Lucas knew that Arthur did not think him a traitor, not anymore. The Senior Case Officer doubted he ever really had. For all his loud-mouthed and idiotic behaviour, the king of Camelot was an intelligent man, and a loyal one beyond the shadow of a doubt. He found it hard to believe that Arthur would willingly leave him at the mercy of this cruel witch.
'He knows where my loyalties lie,' he forced out from between clenched teeth. Part of him wished to start the torture already and be done with it. The actual deeds could not be worse than the anticipation and the water that dripped onto his head and trickled down his neck, down his back, making him shiver with the cold and the fear. But he would not go to pieces, not here. He would not show her weakness, not when he had been so adamant about hiding every sign of weakness to his FSB tormentors.
'Does he?' Morgana asked, still in that sweet, almost soothing voice. She was still out of his line of sight. Somehow that made the waiting all the worse. There was no telling when or where she might hit, no knowing what kind of torment she would inflict on him. He would have to turn around for that and whenever he tried to do that the chains hurt his wrists so badly that he changed his mind about turning. 'You never got the chance to explain yourself though, did you? For all he knows you've only turned back to his side when you thought it would be wiser to do so. He cannot know if you were on his side the entire time. Because you were not, were you, Lucas? You were on my side and when you thought you could save your own skin by going back to them, you betrayed me.'
She was close now. Her voice was almost right behind his left ear. He could feel her breath on his skin and it froze him into place. Russia was trying to creep back up on him and heaven knew the trickling water on his head didn't help. I only need to keep it away from my face, he told himself. Keep it away from my face and I will be all right. And he knew he could do that. This was already torture, whether Morgana was aware of that or not, but if it were to fall directly on his face, Lucas knew for sure he would not be able to keep silent. He would be lost if that happened.
He forced Russia to the back of his mind and made himself concentrate on the conversation. The longer he could keep her talking, the longer she would wait with the torture. Because as much as he wanted this wait to be over, he wanted the torture even less. 'I was never on your side,' he told her. 'I was MI-5 all the time.' I am still.
This only served to enrage Morgana. 'No, you were not,' she said forcefully. 'You even betrayed your own friends to do it.'
This forced a snort of laughter from his throat. 'I don't do friends,' Lucas informed the witch. A truer thing had never been said. 'They're either a nuisance or they're boring.' The only people one could trust were one's colleagues. They were okay. In his line of work that was the absolute truth, he had come to learn. And they had come to his rescue only this morning, despite their distrust of him. He would have to have faith that they would find him again. He didn't know where he was or if the tracker he had swallowed was even working still, but he would keep faith. Harry would come.
Morgana moved in front of him. 'Let's not bother with words,' she snapped. 'You betrayed them and they know it as well as I do. And now you have nowhere and no one to go back to.'
But he had. He knew he had. Ros knew the truth, Lucas was one hundred percent convinced of that. He had seen the look in her eyes as she had stormed into the barn that morning. There had not been even the hint of a doubt in her eyes, like there had been in Merlin's. He still had his place in the Service and it was something worth fighting for.
'Yes, I have.' The words came out harsher than he had meant them. 'And you've dug your own grave with this, Morgana. Right now, all of Section D will be on your trail. They will come for me.' If he only told himself enough times, he might start to believe it himself and he found that he desperately needed that. He needed a reason to hold out until they found him.
She shook her head, an amused look on her face. 'After your betrayal, Lucas? I doubt that.'
Lucas laughed in her face. It was a humourless bark of laughter, but he needed, he really needed to defy her, to deny her words, lest he started to believe them. 'You cannot honestly believe that I would betray my country on a whim after eight years in that Russian hellhole, can you? I do know what it means to be loyal to people, but I do not expect you to understand. You have no sense of loyalty at all, do you, Morgana?'
If he had meant to provoke her, he had succeeded. Unadulterated rage flashed across her face and before he knew it, a hand slapped him hard across the face. He tasted blood, but in a way he also felt triumphant. He had made her lose control, which essentially meant that now, even if it was only for a moment, he was controlling what happened here, even though he had been chained to the leaking ceiling. It helped him to ignore the trickle of water that threatened to drag him straight back to Russia.
'You do not know me at all.' Her voice was no more than a low hiss.
'Then why have you not yet attempted to break your ally out of jail?' Lucas challenged. 'With your powers that should only be too easy for you.' He was treading on thin ice, but he was still in control.
'He abandoned me,' Morgana replied curtly. 'He let me down.'
Lucas snorted. 'That was not the impression I got.' That was a lie, strictly speaking. Hogan had no more loyalty for Morgana than she had for him, but it was more important to let her believe what he wanted her to. The truth was not important. He wondered if it ever was in his line of work. They told so many lies that it was almost impossible to determine what was genuine.
Morgana ignored his words. 'As did you,' she spoke softly. She began walking again until she was behind him again and he could no longer see her. The cold shivers returned instantly and the feeling of being in control vanished as rapidly as it had come. He went rigid when he felt her cold fingers trace the prison tattoos on his back. 'Dum spiro spero,' she read. 'Latin, I take it?' The tone came as a surprise to him, as came the change of topic. It was almost as if they were discussing the weather now, but Merlin had already warned him that this woman was unpredictable.
'While I live, I hope,' he translated. He could not even begin to think how many times he had silently recounted those words in his head, holding onto them as if they were the only thing in the world still keeping him alive. And maybe they were. Lucas knew he had been close to putting an end to his misery several times. He had only gone through with it once – and that attempt had obviously not been successful – but all the other times he had just in time reminded himself that there was still a chance, no matter how small, that someone would come to his rescue as long as he was still alive. And so he had pushed through and kept himself alive until at long last he had been handed back to Harry. While I live, I hope.
'How very… brave,' Morgana commented, her finger finishing its tracing of the spero. 'But you see, Lucas, I do have a problem now. You failed to deliver Arthur Pendragon to me.'
'Shame,' he remarked dryly. 'Whatever will you think of now?' This was a provocation and he knew it was dangerous, foolish even, to do it, but he needed to show her some strength, if only to convince himself that he could handle this. And with every drop of water that landed on his head he felt his resolve not to break down lessen. She must know of his fear of water. This was too much of a coincidence. And he did not believe in coincidence any more than he believed in the tooth fairy.
'Oh, I do have my ways, you see.' Her fingers left his skin and that was a relief in and out of itself. 'Thanks to your new friend I can't go walking into your Thames House anymore. It would seem that Merlin has tampered with the shields around that building, so you see I can't just transport my way in there anymore.'
'That was the general idea,' Lucas countered. He knew what she was asking of him, and he knew he was never going to give it.
Morgana came to stand in front of him. 'That's where you come in.' Her voice was calm and somehow all the more dangerous for it. 'You can tell me how to get in. And you will tell me, or I'll make you wish you had never been born.'
But Lucas had heard that threat too often already. It had stopped frightening him a long time ago. And he would never say a word to her, because the moment he started spilling the beans, he would die. And every moment he held out was a moment longer for his colleagues to come and find him. While I live, I hope.
The witch didn't need to hear a denial to know that he was giving her one. She walked over to a box that was standing on a table some paces away from them. Upon opening it revealed a tiny snake, the kind one might crush underneath one's shoes when encountering it in a field. That threw him off balance for a minute. He had experienced most ways of torture mankind had invented over the last eight years, but this was a novelty, even to him. Yet he also knew that this was unlikely to be good news to him, if Morgana's smirk was anything to go by.
'Do you know what this is?' she asked.
'A snake,' he replied. No matter how much he tried to prevent it, a shiver went down his spine and the fear seeped through in his voice. God, not again. Please not again! He knew it was a weakness and if he would let himself he would beg her not to do this to him. But that was something he could not, would not give into. He had survived Russia. He would survive this.
'It's a Nathair,' Morgana said in a relaxed conversational voice. 'Harmless enough most of the time, but with a little persuasion it can cause a man pain beyond all imagining.' The smirk widened, if that was even possible.
But he could deal with that. He could handle pain. He had done that for eight years and he had never broken. It would be hard, but not impossible. He could do this.
Lucas controlled his breathing and met Morgana's eyes evenly. Surely she would have him begging for mercy before long, but he would not give her the satisfaction of having the information she was seeking.
Her low chuckle caught him off guard. 'Oh, you think you can handle the pain, don't you? But this isn't just an ordinary snake, Lucas. He will cause you pain in your very soul. Not even you with all your experience will be able to endure.' She laughed as she saw the expression of fear that must have flashed across his face. 'So, you have a choice, Lucas. Tell me how to get into Thames House, or sample the delights of my little friend here.'
The water was still trickling down his back, Russia was tugging at the edges of his mind and Morgana's threats made him want to scream and beg already, but he could not do it. He had never betrayed MI-5. He would not start now. Colleagues are okay.
He met her eyes in defiance.
That was all the answer Morgana needed. She started to chant in a strange language that Lucas could not for the life of him understand. But he knew what she was doing the moment she brought the Nathair to his neck to let it bite him. His resolve crumbled into dust in less than a second and then Lucas North screamed.