Just Another Normal Day (Normal Days I)

Chapter 41

Chapter 41

The silence in the temporary headquarters of Section D was deafening. Merlin could feel himself hold his breath, hardly able to believe that Lucas had truly taken it this far. True, the conversation had not seemed to be going anywhere before now and Merlin was starting to get a little frustrated. There had been some verbal skirmishes, but hardly enough to make Agravaine blurt out a confession. He was too slippery to be caught like that. He had played this game for years and he would not fall easily into traps. And Arthur's decreed soft approach would not allow the spooks in there to do anything more.

That was until Lucas had thrown caution and orders to the wind and outright accused Arthur's uncle of lying. That was a risky business and apparently Harry shared the opinion that this was by no means a good idea. He had been giving warnings to his field officer to stop this immediately, but either Lucas pretended not to hear his boss's protests or he had switched off the device so he would not hear Harry, no matter what he said. Harry now kept up a sotto voce stream of curses as the events unfolded.

Merlin himself was a little shocked as well. He still did not know what to make of the Senior Case Officer. He was a riddle wrapped up in a mystery, something Gaius had once accused him of being. Merlin could never read the spook, never predict what he might be up to. There was only one thing he actually was certain of and that was that Lucas was by no means on Morgana's side. Only a fool would not realise that after everything he had been through for Arthur. Had Lucas been truly on Morgana's side, he would have handed Arthur to her and be done with it. He'd had plenty of opportunity and he hadn't done it. He may not like the way the man operated – because morals did not appear to be quite high on his list of priorities – but he owed him a debt. There was no changing that fact.

And if he was really honest he would have to admit that he actually wholly approved of what Lucas was doing now, once he had recovered from the initial shock of it. Arthur's chosen soft approach was getting them nowhere, but Lucas's straight to the point one might just get them what they needed before Agravaine got the chance to walk away from this. That was something Merlin simply could not stand for. They had come too close. He would not let go of this matter now.

Agravaine was still trying to wriggle his way out of this, visibly uncomfortable with the course this meeting had taken. He was ill at ease, almost jumpy, but still presenting that fake smile of his, insisting that there must be some kind of misunderstanding. It was as predictable as it was annoying. Arthur's uncle demanded to know what kind of truth it was then that he wanted to hear from his mouth.

Fortunately the spooks weren't the kind of people to get fooled by these excuses and Lucas was on the case in a matter of seconds. 'Why don't we start with the truth of you falling in love with the king's half-sister?' He leaned against the column, arms folded across his chest, speaking in a tone of voice that would suggest that this was nothing more important than the weather.

In truth he had of course dropped a bomb. The silence following that question was deafening, both on the Grid and in the council chambers. Ros actually seemed the only one to copy Lucas's attitude. The Section Chief was all but lounging in her chair, obviously pleased with what her colleague had done. The people following the interrogation appeared to be in some kind of shock. Merlin had the advantage of being able to shift the way they were looking at the people in the council chamber, so Section D could see everyone's reaction to Lucas's inquiry.

Agravaine was merely staring, clearly not knowing what to do. There was fear, shock and then the mask of the pleasant uncle he had worn ever since he had first arrived in Camelot slipped back in place. 'Sir Lucas, I don't think…'

This time it was Ros who spoke. 'We are actually aware of that,' she commented wryly. 'Now, Lord Agravaine, why don't we drop the pretences and become really honest with one another? You see, we happen to know for a fact that you are a little too friendly with someone who we might consider an enemy of the state.'

'My lady, I must protest!' Agravaine's smile was becoming rather fixed all of a sudden. He had been uneasy before, but he was downright jumpy now. Lucas and Ros had truly managed to take him by surprise and throw him off balance and it didn't seem to take up any effort at all. They just did it and now Agravaine was getting backed into a corner.

Merlin experienced a grim form of triumph. No matter how much mistakes he had made in the past week, eventually it had led to them being here, closer to catching Agravaine than they had ever been. Had Lucas not been abducted by Morgana, he would never have seen Arthur's uncle there and they would never have been able to catch him. He sincerely regretted everything that had to happen to make this possible, but the truth, no matter how hard that truth was, was that they would never have succeeded so soon without all those events.

Maybe this made him as cold and calculating as the spooks he was now watching. They certainly had changed the way he looked at the world and he was not yet convinced that it was a change for the better. He admired Ros and Lucas for playing Agravaine as they did, but he would never want to treat people like they tended to do. And maybe that was why he needed them; to do what he himself could not.

'Must you now?' Ros gave every appearance of boredom. 'Maybe we should phrase it differently then. How about: we know that you are in league with Morgana, because you've been seen?'

Following the proceedings in the water did not provide one with as clear a reception as one would have when they used a camera, but even without that it was obvious that all the blood instantly drained from Agravaine's face. The smile was still there, but only because it had frozen, not because he meant it. 'I am sure there must be some kind of mistake, my lady.' Even his words seemed rehearsed and formal now.

Next to the warlock the king was fuming. 'Ros, stop this at once!' he hissed in the microphone. 'Back down.'

But if the spooks ignored Harry, who was their real boss, then they were certainly not going to pay attention to Arthur. Merlin could have told the king so in advance. It was just the way they operated. They viewed this as their case now and they would do whatever it took to get the answers they needed. And it was personal, for both of them. Both Lucas and Ros still had a bone to pick with Morgana and Agravaine was their way to her. The chances of them letting that chance slip through their fingers was non-existent.

'I'm sure there's not.' Ros too was still smiling, but Merlin didn't need to see her eyes to know that her eyes were ice-cold. Whenever she used this tone of voice against her colleagues, they were prepared to run for cover as fast as they could. 'So, let me specify this further: you were seen by my colleague here.'

The effects were immediate. Agravaine's head swivelled in Lucas's direction, who favoured the nobleman with a creepy smile. This last argument had hit home, Merlin could tell. He was on his feet again, trying and failing to conjure up an expression of righteous indignity. 'I do not have to listen to these insults,' he said haughtily, preparing to turn on his heels and march out of the room to save himself, not that there was anything left to save.

'Oh, I'm sure the king will hear all about this.' Lucas's calm yet threatening remark made Agravaine stop dead in his tracks, unfortunately not literally. 'But not from your lips. And we are authorised to carry out this investigation by your king, so you will sit down and you do not leave this room until you have answered every question to our full satisfaction. Now, sit down.' The friendliness that had been present there at the beginning of the speech had gradually disappeared until only the ice-cold ordering tone remained, reminding Merlin of the exact reason why he should never underestimate this man.

There was an authority in his voice that reminded the warlock of the head of Section D – quite possibly he had modelled his current behaviour on his boss's – and Agravaine was clearly incapable of just ignoring it. He remained standing, not quite obeying, but he wasn't making for the exit anymore either. Merlin considered it progress.

Arthur didn't. He had turned to Harry. 'We must put an end to this. They can't go around insulting my uncle like that.'

Yes, they can. And they must. Merlin had to work hard to stop himself from groaning in frustration. Could Arthur not see that this was necessary? Could he not see how suspicious Agravaine's behaviour was? It seemed so obvious to him!

Fortunately Harry was of the same mind. 'You will not interfere.' This was the boss addressing a disobedient officer. Merlin guessed that part of Harry still regarded Arthur as one of his subordinates, especially when it came to spying matters. In this case that was probably a good thing. 'They know what they are doing and you are going to let them do it.'

'Agravaine is my uncle, not an enemy.' Arthur's protest sounded feeble. He truly did not want to see what was right in front of him and as annoying as that was, Merlin could understand his reasoning. In his place he would not want to believe it either. He would not be willing to accept another betrayal from a family member either and therefore it was necessary that Agravaine did or said something that left no room for any other explanation.

'Lucas has seen him, plotting with Morgana,' Harry snapped, clearly losing his patience with the king's refusal to accept the fact. Had they been in Thames House, then Merlin had no doubt they would have brought Agravaine in for questioning as soon as they heard of his involvement and softly-softly be buggered. 'So, you will sit here and give him the chance to prove his report.' We all know what happened the last time we did not trust him. Those words weren't spoken, but everyone with ears could hear them.

And Arthur backed off for now. Merlin did not think Arthur had ever truly doubted Lucas's loyalties, but Arthur's reaction to this barely concealed accusation was as predicted. The king clearly felt that his loyalty was questioned and he took that as a challenge, a challenge to show that he did have faith in Lucas. He still wasn't pleased, but he at least made no further protests and they could not wish for more at the time.

'I can call the guards,' Agravaine threatened, the friendliness now finally abandoning him as well, making place for the scheming man Merlin knew him to be. 'I can have you thrown in the dungeons for threatening me.'

Ros's relaxed smile told him she was not in the very least impressed by this. 'I don't think that will be much of an issue. Go ahead, call them.' Her smile turned so sickeningly sweet that it surprised Merlin the traitor had yet to make a run for it. He knew he would had he been on the receiving end of said smile. 'But I think you'll find that the guards at the door had sudden business on the other end of the castle and their colleagues down the hallway have found themselves quite occupied by the errands my colleagues have them run.'

This was probably just bluff, because Merlin was quite certain that those guards were still somewhere near and not at all sent away. Should Agravaine choose to test this he would know right away.

'And if you think that appealing to your king is going to help you now, let me tell you that it was said king who authorised this little meeting in the first place.' Ros was still completely comfortable, playing Agravaine with practised ease. 'You see, he doesn't quite trust you anymore. It may have escaped your noble notice, but he trusts Lucas, quite a lot. After all, how can he not trust the man who saved his life at huge personal risk? So, you are going to sit down and tell us bloody well what you have been up to for the last year and you might just walk away from this with your life. Lie to us and we might not be that considerate.'

The notion of the Section Chief being considerate was quite ridiculous. The memory of her dropping steaming hot coffee in Hogan's lap was still very vivid in Merlin's mind. This woman did not have many limits when it came to getting what she wanted, if she had any limits at all.

Arthur on the other hand was bristling with rage. Ten to one that he did not approve of what was going on here, even if he kept his mouth shut for now. Merlin suspected that he knew that Lucas was right, but just was very reluctant to accept it, because in truth he did not want to accept it. It was understandable. It was also a very dangerous attitude. His trust in Lucas had proven to be justified, his trust in Agravaine would soon turn out to be anything but.

'We have to put an end to this.' The tone was nearly pleading. Nearly.

Harry shook his head. He at first had been not too enthusiastic about this turn of events either, but in the end he had to admit that this was the best way to deal with the matter at hand. Agravaine wasn't going to make a mistake if he was not getting backed into a corner the way he was now. He had made hardly any mistakes at all before now and the things Merlin had found out about him were not enough to condemn him. Anyone with a bit of intuition could tell that that man was up to absolutely no good, but there was just not enough evidence and that was what they sorely needed here.

'Let them,' he ordered. His gaze was fixed on the scene that unfolded in the bowl of water, focused and alert. He was not going to let Agravaine slip through his fingers and neither was Merlin. The only thing they still needed was the evidence and he did not really doubt anymore that they would soon have that. Ros and Lucas were deadly together, operating as if they had been doing this for years. Agravaine did not stand much of a chance against them. It really was only a matter of time before the nobleman inevitably would cave in.

'You would not dare.' Agravaine was still pretending to be very indignant about it all.

'There's very little we do not dare,' Lucas informed him coolly. 'Very much you it would seem. Plotting to overthrow the kingdom, scheming to crown a queen who has no right to the throne…' He let his voice trail off.

'Sir Lucas, I must ask of you to stop this immediately!' It was hard to make out if the nobleman was only angry or panicking. Or maybe he was both.

Lucas ignored that. 'What were the exact words again? Oh yes, I remember now. Camelot is ripe for the taking. Arthur sent a message that he has gone away for some time and there'll be no telling when he will return. The council is eating out of my hand now. If you were to invade today, the throne would be yours.' Lucas imitated the voice of Arthur's uncle almost perfectly.

And the last bit of blood drained from Agravaine's face.

Ros could hardly suppress the feeling of triumph that was threatening to overtake her when she saw the man on the other side of the table pale considerably. Lucas's words had hit home. It wasn't the first time the Section Chief was grateful for her colleague's photographic memory and it certainly would not be the last time either. Right now it was only too obvious that Agravaine was properly scared. He could no longer keep up the façade of the helpful nobleman now that he realised that he had been recognised and overheard. The there-has-been-a-mistake-excuse would only be more feeble now and Ros had not even believed it to begin with. A certain Samir had repeated the very same words over and over again, but in the end he had talked. And this man opposite her would talk as well.

'So with that little issue out of the way, talk.' The sentence had started in an almost friendly manner, but by the end of it her voice was little more than a snarl. This man hadn't harmed her personally, had not harmed any of her team personally, but he did support a woman who did those things and he had not lifted a finger when her colleague's life was in danger. He had seen it happening and done nothing. In Ros's opinion that was quite enough to make her hate him. Passionately.

And she hated betrayal. She had done it herself and it had gotten her absolutely nowhere. She had not been able to get her revenge on the Americans, Zaf was dead and she herself on the run with just that one bag to take with her. Six months in exile in Moscow had at least made her learn her lesson, made her see how much damage this did. And she at least had a good reason to act as she had. This man on the other side of the table did not have a reason. The only reason he had was that he was madly in love with a woman who could have been his daughter. She might even have some understanding for it if Morgana had felt the same way, but that was not even the case. In the Section Chief's eyes, that made this man as pathetic as they came and she had no patience for that.

Agravaine clearly had no clue as to how he should behave now. It was slowly dawning on him that he was not going to walk away from this unscathed. His cover had been blown wide open and any excuse he could come up with would easily be brushed aside. At least he seemed to realise that. He was an intelligent man.

'We should talk about this.' There was nervousness now as well and Ros half expected him to start wringing his hands.

'No, you should talk,' Ros corrected. She felt impatient and frustrated. Agravaine was not the one she bloody well wanted to punish. He was just Morgana's lap dog, and, so very like Samir, not even a very big fish in the pond. He was a foot soldier, Morgana was the player. Hogan had basically been the same. Yet the big fish kept eluding them. But to get to the big fish, they needed to get this man to talk. So get a bloody grip, Myers, and get on with it.

'The thing is, you were seen.' Lucas took over again. How he was able to stand there in as relaxed a pose as he stood, arms folded across his chest, leaning against that column, was entirely beyond Ros. 'And I remember everything you said to Morgana. And Arthur believes it.'

There was a short silence. It was a tell-tale sign that Arthur hadn't barged in with a denial of those words as he would have done only a few minutes ago. The king of Camelot was not so sure anymore. About bloody time too. They had been beating around the bush for far too long. Ros appreciated the fact that they had been allies during the last operation, but right now she wanted to bang his head against a wall for not going with the facts, for ordering them to go easy on the traitor. They were wasting precious time here. Morgana was still out there somewhere and they had no idea where to.

She picked up where Lucas left off. 'So, you can fill in the blanks for us. And you better start now.' Good grief, she wished she had just been authorised to really turn the screws on this man, really get him to talk, although she would not do so with Lucas in the same room. He was good at talking people into knots, one of the best interrogators they had these days, but he was highly uncomfortable around the more physical treatments that were in Ros's opinion just another part of the job, a necessary evil to ensure the national security. Maybe being on the receiving end of such a treatment had a way of changing people's minds on the subject.

'Ask him how he learned about Emrys,' Merlin's voice suggested through the earpiece.

Ros didn't know how this was going to help them get a confession, but the warlock sounded very sure of his case, very confident. And while the Section Chief was not exactly anxious to listen to anything he said, spy's instinct told her to run with this one. 'You could always start by telling us where you learned the name Emrys.'

'It's only known to the druids and Morgana, apart from Gaius and me and we have never shared it with anyone.' Merlin now kept up a steady supply of information in their earpieces. 'And I don't think he will have gotten it from the druids, because they are still outlawed and Agravaine would not know where to find them, so he's got to have it from Morgana. But he knows the name, because he asked Gaius about it, and I was there as well.' He should really learn to talk slowly, but at least they had gotten quite enough information to work with.

Someone on the other end was gasping and Ros suspected Arthur was the source of it. If they got this little trick to work, then that might be the break-through they so desperately needed. It at least seemed to make Arthur realise that maybe things weren't as he hoped them to be. About bloody time.

Agravaine meanwhile was back to playing ignorant. 'I have never heard of that name before, my lady.' Clearly he thought they were back on safe ground again.

'Really?' Lucas abandoned his position near the column in favour of leaning over the table, making the nobleman a tad bit uncomfortable. 'We have two witnesses saying something else. Very reliable witnesses, very insistent about it too.' He smirked at Agravaine. 'You do know the name.'

The look on the nobleman's face spoke volumes. The lack of protest did the rest.

Her colleague now slowly started pacing, eyes never leaving Agravaine for longer than a few seconds. He was good at this and Ros tried and failed not to feel some measure of annoyance at that. 'You see, there are really only two groups that know this particular name: the druids and Morgana. Now, the druids are not welcome here in Camelot. Very secretive people, from what I've heard, not very keen on sharing information, especially not with an outsider like you. That really leaves us with only the one option.' There was another silence. 'You better start talking, because right now everything points to you.'

Agravaine demonstratively kept his mouth firmly shut. In Ros's experience that was often as good as a confession anyway. But that did not really matter here, not to her. It told her nothing she had not known already. In the long run she wanted to get Morgana's location out of him. And since he would probably not spill the beans on that, they needed a spoken confession. Hopefully that would sway Arthur's mind, enough to give them permission to really work at him. Because unfortunately this was not Thames House and basically it was Arthur in charge here, but she was happy that he was not her boss back in London, far too soft-hearted for the job. He could not make the hard decisions, making him not only unsuitable for the job, but also for his current position as king.

She got up as well, finally getting enough of these far too hard chairs. They would benefit from some cushions. 'Okay, so don't talk,' she shrugged. 'We can and will make this process a lot more painful for you should you choose to remain uncooperative.'

Lucas was now back at the column again, leaning against it. 'Or,' he said with that smile on his face that Merlin tended to call creepy. 'We can talk about what you thought you were getting out of this particular arrangement. What was it? Money? Power? Your very own happily ever after with the Lady Morgana at your side?'

If Ros were the kind of person who would bet, she tended to go for the last one, although she would not rule out the second option either. Agravaine was the kind of person who liked to be in control. He had tried to make them do his wishes, unsuccessfully of course, but he had tried. And he had boasted to Morgana about having the council eating out of his hand. But according to Lucas he had mostly been trailing after Morgana like a lovesick puppy, swallowing everything she threw at him. Agravaine apparently was a hopeless romantic and Morgana was using that to her advantage.

Something flashed across the lord's face, alarm probably. 'Sir Lucas, I really must ask you to stop this nonsense at once.'

Lucas ignored him. 'What did you think, that she was going to marry you after she had taken Camelot? That she was going to remain loyal to you?' Lucas snorted. 'She doesn't think you're worth anything. That's how she deals with her allies, you see. When they are no longer of value to her, she drops them, abandons them.'

Ros could see that Agravaine was on the verge of saying something, but he could bite it back just in time. But the reaction was there. Lucas had gotten right under his skin. It must be something about the men in this kingdom, Ros supposed. As soon as women were assaulted, if only verbally, they went into full knight-in-shining-armour-mode, standing up for the delicate female who was supposedly incapable of defending her own honour. As annoying as that was when she was the supposedly delicate female, it would now do very nicely to get this man to talk. And talk he would. It was only a matter of time.

The quick smirk on Lucas's face told her that he knew it too. 'Do you know what happened to the last man that was of no more use to her?' he inquired casually. 'She abandoned him, left him at our mercy. That man… well, how to say it? He will never see daylight again. He had outlived his usefulness and Morgana doesn't care for people who can't help her achieve her goals and well, I think once you are locked up, she'll have no more use for you anymore either.' He didn't point out the similarities between Hogan's case and Agravaine's own, but he didn't need to. Arthur's uncle was an intelligent man. He should be able to connect the dots himself. And he would. Of that Ros had no doubt.

It was however not quite sure yet if he chose to believe them, so the Section Chief decided to apply some extra pressure. 'No, I don't think she as much as turned her head when we finally got our hands on her latest ally. I think she was rather glad to be rid of him actually. And if I were her, I'd be all too glad to be rid of you as well. Come on, Agravaine, you're an intelligent man. Has she ever at any point in time acted like she cared for you?'

She did it. She knew it before the last words had even left her mouth. There was a flash of doubt in his eyes. It was the tiniest flicker and then it was gone again, but it had been there. They were on the right track. And Ros had been in the Service long enough to know that the nobleman was close to breaking. And that without them needing to use some of the more desperate measures. They could be proud.

'That's not possible,' Arthur's voice came through the earpiece. It sounded more like a desperate wish than actual denial and Ros had to work hard to suppress the urge to tell him to get over himself and bloody well grow up already. This wasn't some kind of noble world. This was the real world and in the real world people did things like this. Some realism certainly would not hurt the king of Camelot.

Because this certainly was possible. 'Because she doesn't,' Ros pointed out. And although she hated Morgana, she could not blame the witch for not wanting to do anything with this pathetic excuse for a man. She might even be grateful for it, because the way things were looking now, Morgana's rejection was just the thing that was going to break him. And that was what they needed, the sooner, the better. 'She calls you names, turns down your advice… Tell me, has she ever even pretended to be interested in what you had to say?'

His silence was all the confirmation she needed.

'She didn't,' the Section Chief concluded. 'So what exactly makes you think she will bloody well care to take the trouble to get you out now?'

Lucas snorted. 'She's escaped to the Isle of the Blessed, plotting her next move. I don't think she will spare you so much as a thought now. She won't risk her safety for rescuing someone she doesn't even care for.'

Ros swivelled her head in her colleague's direction. Isle of the Blessed? Did he know where Morgana had gone to? Then why on earth had he not told them? Well, maybe you should have bloody well asked him, a voice in the back of her mind commented dryly. They had been so focused on getting Agravaine to loosen his tongue that they had forgotten completely that Lucas still needed to be debriefed. Ros suspected that Lucas hadn't minded much that that still was delayed. He hadn't been comfortable with the debriefing after his release from Russia either. Like then, he wanted to get back to work as soon as he possibly could and Ros hadn't protested the notion because he was bloody good at what he did and they needed him if he thought he could handle it. Apparently he could. She would know better than to think she would have succeeded in getting Agravaine backed into a corner on her own without his information.

Agravaine reacted entirely different. He was on his feet, glaring at them. 'She will come for me!' he growled.

The Isle of the Blessed issue was forced to the back of her mind again now that Agravaine finally made a mistake, as they had been waiting for him to do ever since they had started this interrogation. He had finally admitted that he had a link to Morgana, something that was old news to the spooks, but clearly not to Arthur.

'It's true,' the king of Camelot breathed in her right ear.

Agravaine now realised his mistake as well. Shock was written all over his face, but of course it was now far too late to take his words back. He had been jumpy for quite some time now, but their stinging remarks had been getting at his already frayed nerves and he had snapped. Ros had seen it happen with almost countless suspects before. But sometimes it were the tried and tested ways that got the best results.

'My lady, I must apologise,' the man blurted out. 'I don't know what came over me. I…'

Ros snorted dismissively. 'Save your breath,' she told him. 'Harry, Arthur, kindly send the guards in to take this garbage to the dungeons.'

Agravaine was still sputtering his protests when the guards did come in to lead him away, but Ros wasn't listening anymore. They had gotten Agravaine to slip up and they had gotten Morgana's location. For just this once she could feel pleased with herself. And she didn't need to concern herself with this waste of space anymore. She had a bloody evil witch to catch.

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