Lucas knew he should have been expecting this, should have been expecting that Harry wanted him debriefed after what happened to him. And he even understood. It was of vital importance that Section D learned what Morgana was up to and Lucas had seen her hovel, had spent time in her company, even if he would not describe it as such. They would need him to remember everything he could and therefore he had to place himself back there, recall all that had been done to him. The mere thought made him shiver.
But he had survived thus far. He knew he could do this. It would however trigger flashbacks, and the ones from Russia would be nothing in comparison. They could only benefit from Morgana's methods, he thought wryly as he dressed behind the dressing screen with George bustling about the room, doing all kinds of things that Lucas wasn't particularly interested in.
The very idea that he even had a servant was still completely strange to him. Lucas was used to taking care of his own business and he did not need a servant to do it for him. It had been difficult enough to get the man to leave him to bathe and dress on his own – George did not seem to believe him capable of doing it himself – but getting him to leave entirely had proven to be something of a mission impossible. The servant had looked scandalised when Lucas had suggested it and in the end it had seemed easier to just let George do whatever he wanted. It at least made him happy.
And Lucas would not deny that it did feel good to be looked after a little. He had ever been spoiled, but George was all too eager to remedy that. He had gotten a good long soak in the bath, a breakfast that made him feel full again – something he had not experienced in Morgana's poor excuse for a house – and new clothes.
That last was something that felt strange as well. His own clothes had been more or less destroyed by Morgana – no surprise there – and apparently no one had thought to bring some clothes for Lucas when they moved Section D into this castle last night. He would have to make do with the local fashion. The corners of his mouth curled up as he imagined Ros's reaction to his new dressing ways, especially in the light of her own refusal to "dress up," as she called it. She had come to visit when he was still busy breakfasting, commenting on the extravagance of it all, which deeply insulted George.
'Ah, you only say that because you don't eat enough to keep a small sparrow alive,' he had quipped, earning him one of her trademark scowls, but he was not fooled. He could see the amusement underneath.
'And if you keep this up, you'll be as fat as that sodding nobleman on Arthur's council,' she had countered, one corner of her mouth curling up as well. 'Small miracle that man can even walk on his own.'
Lucas laughed, thoroughly enjoying the feeling of it. 'You should convert him to your eating habits then.'
It was good to do this, he reflected as he tried to figure out the best way to wear this tunic – tucked in his trousers or over it? – behind the screen, not wanting to ask George for advice. And Ros had been the one who had always believed him, had faith in him even when almost no one else did. And it had been Ros coming for him in that hovel. That was something he remembered.
And the Section Chief had quickly filled him in on what he had missed while he had been Morgana's unwilling guest. Lucas deeply admired Arthur's willingness to place himself in danger for Lucas's sake and he could tell Ros had been impressed as well, even if she had not put that into words of course. Colleagues really were okay.
It did not make him dread the debriefing process any less. It would be hell to force himself to remember everything that had transpired during his captivity. It was a small consolation to know that he had never revealed one secret to that witch. He had not become a traitor to his team, willing or not. The knowledge that he had always been on Section D's side had been pretty much the only thing that had kept him going in that absolute hellhole she had kept him in.
But the sooner he would do this, the sooner it would be over and then his attempts to convince Harry that he could still handle the demands of the job would begin anew. He had briefly considered asking Ros to put in a word for him, since she did not seem to be entertaining any doubts about him, but he had refrained from doing that. It would not be fair and the truth was that he wanted to do this alone, to show his merits rather than have people claim that he had his uses.
And it was something of a blessing to leave George and his too perfect manners behind. The servant was busy making up the bed and Lucas slipped out of the room before he could notice the spy had gone. It really was useful being a spook sometimes.
Ros had given him instructions on how to reach the temporary Grid and Lucas was only grateful for his photographic memory when he needed to find his way through the castle. The place was a maze and he imagined that it would be all too easy to get lost in this palace, especially when one was new in here. Thank God Ros's directions had been that precise. He'd have hated to have to ask George for help. There had been more than one awkward moment already when the servant had made a joke about brass and had appeared to think that one particularly funny. Lucas had not twitched a muscle.
He was about halfway to his destination when he literally bumped into someone who looked like he was some kind of knight. The encounter almost sent them both crashing to the ground, but Lucas succeeded in finding his balance just in time. Every cell of his body protested. He had no idea what that snake's venom was supposed to be doing, but his body was still sore and aching. But he kept that information to himself. They believed him weak enough already and he could function with a little discomfort. That was after all in the job description, as Ros would phrase it.
The other man was not as fortunate. He appeared to be half drunk, with a swagger to his step, and the unexpected collision sent him falling to the ground. Not that he seemed to mind. He favoured Lucas with a jovial grin as he helped himself to his feet again. 'You're looking better than you did before, mate,' he commented.
Lucas frowned. He could not recall seeing this man ever before. But then, he had not exactly been in a state to communicate with people yesterday. For once his memory was failing him and that was not a feeling he particularly liked. 'Have we met?' he demanded cautiously.
The other man's grin only widened. 'Yeah, but you weren't awake to see me,' he replied cheerfully, far too cheerfully in Lucas's opinion.
'And you are?' This knight did probably not wish him any harm, but spooks were a suspicious lot and no amount of jovial knights was going to change that. It was in their nature to distrust people. Distrust until proven trustworthy was one of the golden rules of the job and Lucas lived by those.
'Sir Gwaine,' the knight introduced himself. 'And you're sir Lucas of Britain, right?'
Lucas almost choked on that thought, but whether it was of shock or of laughter, that remained to be seen. What on earth had Harry been telling these people? He should have asked Ros when she came visiting and he blamed his own confusion at the moment for not having done so. He was definitely not on top of his game so soon after getting away from Morgana and that vexed him. It would not do his full return to Section D any favours and he disliked that notion with a passion.
'Pleasure to meet you,' he forced out.
'Likewise, mate.' Gwaine did not seem to notice the arched eyebrow at that. 'On your way to your friends, then?' He hardly waited till Lucas had given a curt nod in confirmation. 'Don't understand what you like about Lady Rosalind, though.'
Lucas chuckled before he could stop himself from doing so. It was all too easy to imagine this man having a confrontation with the Section Chief. Most likely Ros had cut him down to size in less than a second. Gwaine however did not seem to think this in any way an issue. His enormous ego would probably quite effectively protect him from any snide remark Ros could make and if he knew his colleague at all, that would annoy her to absolutely no end. So far it seemed that every story Merlin had told about this knight was true, from the frequent visits to the tavern – the man vaguely reeked of alcohol – to the absolute carelessness with which he behaved. But in spite of all that, Lucas found himself liking the knight. He would not for the life of him want him as a colleague – he would screw up every operation he was on – but the knight was amusing, there was no denying that. And Lucas found himself in need of a bit of distraction before he would subject himself to a debrief. And he still dreaded that and far more than he was willing to admit, even to himself.
If Gwaine noticed Lucas's sudden taciturn behaviour, then he did not comment on it. If Lucas was really honest, he did not think Gwaine had even noticed. His own tongue was working overtime, recounting his encounter with Ros and a detailed description of the tavern and its occupants, followed by an invitation for Lucas to join him. The Senior Case Officer declined as politely as he could. He had no intention of getting himself drunk. He would need his wits about him and alcohol would not help with that. Gwaine was the living and breathing example of that.
He would have asked the knight to leave him to walk the rest of the way on his own, but decided that since Gwaine already knew where Section D was residing that he might as well let him accompany him. It was easy, because Gwaine did all the talking, not expecting any response from his companion, and Lucas could just let his mind wander. In a way it was the ideal arrangement.
'I don't think you're allowed in here,' he told the knight when they reached the temporary MI-5 headquarters. He smiled a fake apologetic smile. Truth was that Gwaine was amusing to have around as long as one did not have any serious business to concern oneself with. He had no place among the spooks. Besides, Ros would bite his head off if he as much as thought about bringing in Gwaine. He'd be needing the physician's treatment all over again.
'I'll leave you to it then.' Fortunately Gwaine did not seem to have any problems with that idea at all. It would be quite possible that he had no intention of getting on Ros's nerves again and Lucas could not fault him for that. Best not to find oneself on the receiving end of Ros's wrath. 'If you need help with the lady, just call.'
He grinned in spite of himself. 'No, I think I can manage her,' he quipped.
'If you say so, mate.' It sounded a little doubtful, but he was gone before Lucas got the chance to comment on it.
He shook his head in mild amusement and then pushed open the door leading to the Grid. And he could not help but smile when he entered. It felt like Thames House even though this wasn't it. It felt like home. He'd rather die than admit that to anyone, but that was what it was to him. Section D was home. And strangely so, it would seem that Ros shared that opinion with him, even though they had never spoken about it, or not directly at least. But he recalled their conversation they had after the market bombing very well. Lovers leave, friends annoy you and families mess with your head, but colleagues are okay. It were not the words a "normal" person would say.
But spooks were not normal people. Malcolm had installed himself behind a desk with a laptop, muttering under his breath as he was doing something that was probably far too complicated for anyone to understand. Jo was looking over his shoulder, pointing out something on the screen. Merlin was a little distance away from them, sitting at another desk, going through a huge file with a deep frown etched into his forehead. Harry, Ros and Arthur were standing at the desk nearest the window, in deep conversation with a man who had his back turned on Lucas. None of them had seen him entering.
Lucas was about to walk over to his boss and announce his arrival, but a second glance at the stranger in the room stopped him dead in his tracks. He knew that man. He could not yet figure out how that was possible, because before now he had thought him a complete stranger. And Lucas wasn't used to not remembering. That was one of the advantages of having a photographic memory; he never forgot someone once he had laid eyes on them and somehow, somewhere he had encountered this man before. And his memory failed him and that was alarming.
He could only recall one event he did not have complete recollection of. Well, there were two actually, but he dismissed the option of having seen this man in a Russian prison almost right away. His clothing was clearly medieval and that was not the fashion sense among prison officers and FSB interrogators. No, he was fairly sure that this man belonged in this day and age. And that left only one frightening possibility…
Arthur had noticed him, turning towards him with a relieved smile. It made the spook wonder how he had ever been able to doubt the king. He seemed to come closer to being a friend than anyone he had ever known before and in a way, that reassured him.
'Lucas, good to see you back on your feet.' He knew from experience that emotions and Arthur did not make for an ideal combination. The king did not seem to know what he was supposed to do with feelings, and this was possibly the closest he would ever come to expressing his feelings. Lucas supposed he should feel honoured.
Ros favoured him with her trademark half-smile and Harry's expression spoke volumes. There was a paternal smile on his face. Lucas could still feel the remnants of resentment demanding of him to hate his boss, but he also remembered flashes of yesterday. At first he had dismissed it as dreams, induced by wishes and the Nathair's venom, but now he believed that there must have been moments when he had semi-woken. And in those moments Harry's worried voice had been at the very forefront. Colleagues are okay, even the most senior.
And could he really blame Harry for doubting him? Yes, an angry voice in the back of his mind replied immediately. But if he was reasonable, and as a spook he had to be, then he would have to admit that, had he been in Harry's shoes, he would have doubted him as well.
And this was not the time to ponder these things anyway, because there was still this stranger who could have some link to Morgana. But he'd be damned if he let any of his unease show. So he conjured up a pleasant and relaxed smile, hiding his real feelings behind it, walked over to the little group and turned to the stranger. 'I do not believe that we have met?'
Arthur remembered his manners. 'I'm sorry,' he said. 'Lucas, meet my uncle, Lord Agravaine. Agravaine, this is sir Lucas of Britain.'
Agravaine uttered some polite greeting, but Lucas did not really hear it. Because he had just remembered where he had seen this man before. A cold shiver went down his spine. He mumbled some supposedly polite greeting and then turned to Arthur. 'Can we talk?'
Arthur had a hard time finding the courage to face Ros after she had caught him in a rather compromising situation that morning. He was quite sure that was the most embarrassing thing that had happened to him in a long time and Ros had not taken the trouble to hide her absolute disapproval of the entire situation. It had made the king of Camelot feel like a boy caught making mischief and he was quite sure he did not like that feeling at all.
Fortunately Ros behaved as if nothing had happened the moment he joined them all on the makeshift Grid. She might behave a little cooler than she normally did, but that he could live with. And Ros had never been the most social person to begin with, so the difference was hardly noticeable. He would take care not to say that out loud, though. He just so happened to value his life.
And Ros was already edgy because of the company Arthur was keeping. The king had not actually invited Agravaine to join him; his uncle had invited himself and Arthur was loath to send him away, especially since Agravaine had done so much for the kingdom in the past year and a half. He felt it almost his duty to humour him from time to time.
Today was no different and Agravaine's help could prove very useful when they truly went hunting for the traitor. Arthur had been about to protest that notion, because surely catching Morgana should take precedence? Harry however had pointed out that they had no way to locate the witch and no clues to go on and if they caught the traitor, then that person could lead them straight to Morgana. And while they had very little to go on in terms of means of locating the traitor, they had some things. And Section D was probably the best to lead such an investigation.
But Agravaine did not like it. That was not too much of a surprise, since he did not seem to like the spooks. He thought them too strange. His eyes kept darting back to their strange clothes and Arthur would readily admit that when one wasn't used to it, Harry's suit and tie and Ros's jeans and leather jacket would feel entirely alien. He himself had needed some time to get used to it. Not that he had gotten much time. He had been thrown right in the middle of twenty-first century and it was either adapt or go insane. And Arthur just so happened to value his sanity.
So now he watched Agravaine argue with Harry, content to stand back and watch. He knew it was ungrateful to even think this, but Agravaine's behaviour was starting to get on his nerves. He seemed to take the fact that Arthur had called in Section D as a personal insult. To him it felt like Arthur was thinking that they could not handle the situation themselves – which they in truth indeed could not – and he was all flustered, or as flustered as Agravaine could get.
'My lord, I understand your reasons,' he said to an increasingly annoyed Harry Pearce. 'But I am sure you can understand that a situation as delicate as this one ought to be handled by our own people.' He all but threw his hands into the air in exasperation.
The look on Harry's face did not bode well. Arthur had seen it before and it had almost always been followed by a fist slamming a table and a mighty battle commander roar. And he was sure that if he did that with Arthur's uncle on the receiving end, war would instantly break out and that was something they could all do without. He had already opened his mouth to interfere when he caught sight of a familiar figure leaning against the door, studying the scene in front of him with what appeared to be a mixture of relief and happiness.
'Lucas!' he called, alerting the others to the arrival of the Senior Case Officer. 'Good to see you back on your feet.' And he meant that. He seriously doubted he would ever be able to completely erase the picture of a barely breathing Lucas from his mind, but seeing his friend alive and relatively well did a lot to help.
Lucas smiled that lopsided smile as he walked over to them, telling them that he was fine. Or at least he wanted to make them all believe that he was fine. There was a difference. Had he not known Merlin so well, he might be fooled by it, but his servant tended to do the same thing when he wanted Arthur to believe that everything was well, even if it clearly wasn't.
And any information he could offer would be welcome. Oh, good grief, hardly a week among the spooks and he was already thinking like them. He did not like what that said about him. Before today his main concern would be his friend's wellbeing – it still was – but now it was laced with the need to also know what he might have learned about Morgana's plans. That notion might not be very unlikely; he had spent time in that hovel after all, even if that wasn't voluntary.
He was snapped out of his thoughts when he saw Lucas falter. All the blood had drained from his face. Arthur would almost say that the Senior Case Officer had seen a ghost of some kind and he wondered what had brought that on. As far as he knew the spook had been looking at Harry and there was nothing in the spooks' boss that could justify such a reaction.
But it was only a second and then it was gone. Arthur could tell though that he had not been the only one to notice. Ros had a frown on her forehead and Harry looked puzzled. But Lucas had himself under control again, once again appearing relaxed and perfectly at ease. He greeted each of them with a curt but friendly nod of the head before he turned to Agravaine. 'I do not believe we have met?' For some reason this came out as a question.
It did however remind Arthur that Lucas did not know who his uncle was. Introductions were indeed in order. 'I'm sorry,' he apologised. 'Lucas, meet my uncle, Lord Agravaine. Agravaine, this is sir Lucas of Britain.'
Agravaine and Lucas exchanged greetings, but it did not take an expert to see that Lucas's heart wasn't in it. He looked miles away. And this worried Arthur. It was not like Lucas to be so badly shaken that he forgot to hide his feelings. There was something deeply disturbing about that. He wished he could just blame it on Morgana's less than kind treatment, but he knew that was wishful thinking. The spook had been more or less all right when he had entered here. It was only when he arrived here that something had happened. If Arthur had not known better he would have said that it had something to do with his uncle, but that was impossible. They had never met before.
'Arthur, can we talk?' The mask was back in place. This was the cold and calculating spook again, the one Merlin thought to be so creepy. 'Harry, Ros?' It really wasn't a request. 'I am sorry, Lord Agravaine. There is much we have to discuss. I hope you don't mind.' There was absolutely no sincerity in his voice. It could almost have been Ros talking for all the value they seemed to attach to social niceties. Maybe it was a particular spy trait, because Harry only bothered with them when he could not help it.
Agravaine certainly did mind, but he was also a nobleman who had been brought up to be polite to other noblemen. That the spooks were not nobility was a fact Arthur had not wanted to burden him with. Only Merlin and Arthur himself knew about that. And therefore Agravaine reacted with a polite and insincere 'Of course, sir Lucas.'
'My office.' Harry led them to a small antechamber that he had been given to function as his office. Jo, who had not been all too awake at the time, had called it more of a broom cupboard than an office and the name had stuck, to Harry's annoyance. But Arthur appreciated the humour. They all needed it to keep them going in these times. And it was innocent enough. Who knows, it even might have served as a broom cupboard once.
The broom cupboard was rather crowded with four people and a desk in it and he could see it made Lucas uneasy. It might remind him of prison cells and Arthur could not blame him for that. He had seen bigger cells in his life.
'Good to have you back, Lucas,' Harry said as he seated himself behind his desk.
The Senior Case Officer cracked a smile. 'Good to be back, Harry.' The words were genuine, Arthur thought, but with the spooks it was always difficult to tell for sure. They were all enormously skilled actors. 'We've got a serious problem.' The niceties were over for now and they were back to business. All of the spies seemed more comfortable with that. None of them were quite good at all these social skills, the king had learned over the course of the past week.
'What is it?' Harry too was completely back in commander mode. In here Arthur felt more like an officer of Section D than the king of Camelot. A week ago this would have vexed him, but now it was rather reassuring in a way. It made him feel like he belonged. Here he had real friends, who were not afraid to tell him what they thought about him and his actions. He wasn't the king who had to be obeyed at all times. It was almost a relief.
'The traitor.' Lucas had started pacing for as much as that was possible in this confined space. 'When I was meant to be out cold he came there, tried to convince Morgana to strike Camelot now that Arthur was away.'
An ice-cold shiver went down the king's spine. 'You've seen the traitor?' This was meant to be good news, but yet he could not escape the notion that at the same time this was news he did not truly want to hear. He had been longing to get to the traitor to make sure that Camelot was once again safe from that person and Morgana's scheming. But he had always known too that this person had to be someone close to him, someone he doubtlessly trusted with his life. It would be a betrayal like Morgana's and he was not sure he could handle that, could handle the pain of knowing that someone he had trusted so unconditionally had stabbed him in the back.
Lucas nodded. 'I did.' How he could remain so calm was entirely beyond Arthur.
And apparently Ros was done with it as well. 'Will you just spit it out already?' she snapped at her colleague. 'Or do you plan to keep us bloody well waiting until Christmas?' The Section Chief reacted like this to crisis situations. It was common Grid knowledge.
Lucas remained singularly unimpressed. 'Morgana called him Agravaine. I only saw his back, but I am sure it was him.'
Arthur felt like someone had just stomped him in the stomach. He had known that this was coming, he told himself. He had known it and still it felt like a terrible blow. Yet his first reaction was still to try and deny it. 'You may have misheard,' he pointed out. Oh, he sincerely wished that was the case. Had anyone else come with these accusations he would have sent them away. He might ever have threatened to throw them in the dungeons if they ever spoke such words again. Agravaine was his uncle, Arthur's steady rock in times of tumult. He could not, would not have betrayed Arthur, the son of his sister, to an evil witch who wanted his head more than anything in the world. It just refused to make any sense to him. Agravaine had given him good advice, had helped to make him a better king, a better leader. Why would he do that if he wanted Arthur dead?
Lucas however was adamant. 'It was him, Arthur.' He was decisive, but he mostly sounded sorry for the king. 'He told Morgana that he had the council eating out of his hand, that it would only be too easy to take Camelot while you were away.' He closed his eyes and rubbed his chin, thinking, remembering. 'Morgana told him he was a fool. She said they needed to get to you first, so that the people would be left with no other alternative than her. Only then would they accept her, she said.' There was a silence again as he thought again for a moment. No one tried to break it. Arthur did not think he could have even if he had wanted to. He was temporarily lost for words. 'Agravaine panicked. He wanted Morgana to leave her house, something about Emrys having already found her there once. She replied that she would as soon as she had…' His voice trailed off at this point, but all of them knew what words were supposed to end the sentence: as soon as she had done away with me.
Arthur was still not willing to believe any of this. How could it be Agravaine? Why would his uncle do this to him? That was the big question here and it wasn't one Lucas had answered. But he did not think the spook was lying either. He wouldn't, not about something as important as this. And no matter how reluctant the king was to believe his tale, it would explain some things he had not been able to find an explanation for before.
And now that he had started to consider the possibility, there was no stopping it anymore. Because if Lucas was right, then it would explain why Agravaine had been so jumpy when Lucas had first been brought in. It weren't the man's injuries that had startled him, it was the possibility of Lucas having recognised him. And his reluctance to hand over the investigation to Section D was only caused by his fear of getting found out as long as he had no longer a say in those matters. And Agravaine had been one of the few who had been aware that Arthur and the knights would take the route through the Valley of the Fallen Kings, back when Merlin was taken.
Despite these things he still did not want to believe it. The why question had still not been answered. If anyone else had told him, he knew he would not have believed it. He knew he'd react from his wish that it would not be true, willing it not to be true by ignoring the messenger, or shouting at them for the trouble. He would have done so had it been Merlin, or Harry, or Ros. But this was Lucas North. He had risked his life for Arthur's while he had absolutely nothing to gain from doing so, but he'd had everything to lose. And Arthur owed him for that. He owed it to Lucas that he listened to his words.
He did not want that. Heaven knew he did not want to and right now the only thing holding him back from shouting at the spook that he was a liar, was the knowledge that the last time people had accused Lucas of lying, they had turned out to be so very wrong. That man did not lie, not to the people he regarded his colleagues.
Said colleagues had gone silent for a while, but in the end it was Ros who spoke first. 'Well, there always was something off with him.' The Section Chief did indeed not act very surprised. It was almost, Arthur pondered, as if she had expected it. But why would she? She hardly knew Agravaine at all! Or had she simply seen something in his uncle that Arthur had overlooked, had wanted to overlook? He did not like what this said about him.
But still they had only Lucas's word for this and he had admitted that he had only seen this traitor from behind. But he would admit that there weren't that many people who went by the name of Agravaine. And Morgana had at the time no reason to be cautious with her words, not if she believed her prisoner to be unconscious. It all fit and yet he found he could not believe it without more proof. It felt like being torn apart, torn between not wanting to believe Lucas, because the consequences of that did not bear thinking about, and wanting to believe him, because he knew the spy would never lie to his colleagues.
In this case strangely enough it was Ros who thought up the solution. 'We can interrogate him for you,' she offered. She could see Harry was about to protest, so she continued: 'We'll go softly-softly, make it look like a routine questioning. If he is guilty, he'll make a mistake sooner rather than later.'
Arthur did not like the sound of that, having heard from Merlin what she had done to Hogan. Not that he was feeling sorry for the CIA man, but he would not want such a thing done to his uncle, especially not if he was innocent, as Arthur still hoped.
Lucas had his arms folded across his chest, nodding his approval. 'I have a few angles we could explore.' He caught sight of Arthur's face and the expression hardened. Arthur could only hope it was not his disbelief that made him look like that. 'Arthur, if he is innocent, we will know soon enough. But we need to know for sure. You cannot let a traitor walk around in your kingdom.'
He reminded Arthur of duties he did not want to do, but he was right. And he could always hope that the interrogation would prove that Agravaine indeed was as innocent as his nephew hoped him to be.
The king gave the spooks a curt tentative nod. 'Softly-softly,' he reminded them.
Ros's smile might even have sent Morgana running for cover without a second thought. 'Agreed.'