Title: Girl Talk
Warnings: Language, but nothing too strong. Slightly out of character, probably.
Disclaimer: Characters not mine. Conversation is. Background plot, who knows?
Notes: Had the first third of this written up in a notebook somewhere. Was originally something else, but, like almost everything I write, it morphed it's way into a Merlin fic. And then my continued case of insomnia gave me an excellent opportunity to finish it up this evening. Review, pretty please. Little uncertain, seeing as it's the first thing I've written, Merlin-wise, that Gwaine hasn't decided to demand a part in. For which I'm grateful, much as I love him, but...uncertain.
He's been her best friend since they were children, since he fell from the tree in his garden over her fence and landed in her sandpit. He cried, but they leave that part out of the story, except for when she really hates him. They've been together all through school and university, and even now, when they're both working full time, they still meet for coffee once a week, and attend the obligatory pseudo-family dinners on a Saturday night. He's always drunk by the end of it, and she always drives him home. Tradition.
She leaves him at the counter to buy their drinks; it's his turn, after all, and they both know the other's order as well as their own. He calls her back softly. "Morgana," he says, and waves in the direction of an already occupied table. "I've told you about Vivian. She wanted to meet you, so I brought her with me."
"Oh," Morgana answers, confused and, dare she think it, a little upset. Their coffee trips have always just been theirs, hers and Arthur's, entirely free of significant others, though there have been several others, significant and not, over the years. "Okay, then. I'll go sit with her."
Vivian is beautiful, of course. Long legs, short skirt, well cut blazer. Not quite trampy, but she makes Morgana feel underdressed. Morgana has sharp suits and daringly high heels, but she saves them for work (a court room requires it, but those shoes are far too uncomfortable to wear for casual things like this). Coffee with Arthur, her almost-brother, is strictly a jeans and a tee-shirt occasion, and she puts a lot of effort into looking like she's made no effort at all. Today, as she approaches this vapid, vicious looking blonde, the first time ever Arthur has allowed anyone to intrude upon their time together, Morgana feels like it's a little too much effort.
Vivian smiles as Morgana walks over to her, sweeping long hair back over her shoulder, and it is the smile of sharks, tigers, monsters in the dark. Morgana almost imagines she can see bits of the last poor girl left alone with her in her teeth.
"I want you to leave him alone," Vivian murmurs, all icy sharpness, before Morgana even finishes pulling out her chair. She blinks in surprise, because Arthur has dated some rude girls before, but never anyone so immediately unpleasant.
"I'm sorry?" Morgana replies, half-sure she has misheard.
"Stay away from him!" Vivian snaps. "He's mine."
Apparently, she hasn't, and that is just fine. Morgana reigns in her inner bitch around Arthur's girls most of the time, largely because he sulks like a petulant child when she doesn't, and the apologies necessary to pacify him are tedious in the extreme and very rarely heartfelt. If the girl strikes first, though, she's more than fair game. She laughs, because with all the secrets she and Arthur have shared, she has to wonder why he dates girls like this. Or at all, she thinks, looking at the smile he bestows upon the barista. "Vivian," she answers, mirth audible in her voice. "Trust me, sweetie, you have nothing to worry about. Not from me, anyway."
Vivian follows her gaze to Arthur and the boy serving their drinks, and Morgana uses the long pause before she grasps her implication to gauge her intelligence (low, very low, which really takes half the fun out of this). "I beg your pardon? Arthur is not...! He isn't!"
"No?" Morgana smirks, wondering just how many weeks in the proverbial doghouse she'll get for suggesting Arthur is gay. She might have thought it more than once, but she's never said anything to Arthur himself, and certainly not to any of the brainless bimbos she has been forced to endure spending time with because of him. None of the others have ever done anything quite as ridiculous as accusing her of having anything beyond platonic feelings for the man she used to share a bath with when they were six year olds, though, so she feels entirely justified.
The fact that Vivian looks like she's being made to suck lemons doesn't hurt, either.
"No," she says, shrill and unpleasant. "You're wrong."
"Well, you would know, wouldn't you? You are his girlfriend, I suppose." Morgana allows the victorious smile on Vivian's face to grow for a moment before continuing, just because she can. "How are things between the two of you, anyway? Just between us girls, of course."
Vivian flinches. "We...he...Arthur is a gentleman," she manages. "That's all it is."
"Yes, I'm sure he is. He's also very busy with work, and has lots of important presentations coming up that he needs to work on in an evening, right?" Vivian nods, actually looking grateful for the excuse. Morgana decides she was wrong (it happens to the best people sometimes, and she is no exception); Vivian's idiocy only makes this more fun. "That's what he told Sophia, too, and Elena."
She pauses, a mock-thoughtful look on her face, then carries on. "No, not Elena. Elena was the arranged-marriage-slash-business-deal, who he broke it off with by telling her he would only marry for love. Unless that was Mithian. In which case Elena was...God, I have no idea, you know. So many girls, so many excuses." Morgana leans in across the table, a conspiratorial grin on her face, knowing the airhead opposite her is dumb enough to do the same. "After a while, you all start to blur into one. I hardly bother to learn names anymore, because none of you ever last more than a week or two."
"It's our three month anniversary on Friday," Vivian crows, deciding this fact – one Morgana already knew – is enough to prove she is the exception to Arthur's lousy history with women.
"Really?" Morgana gasps, dripping with sarcasm (wasted, entirely wasted on Little Miss Bubble-Brain). "Oh, Viv, I am sorry. I had no idea you'd been together that long." True, almost; she certainly had no idea how they'd been together that long. "In that case, the only one who lasted longer than you is Gwen. Lovely girl, Arthur's high-school sweetheart, and the only one to leave him first, if I'm not mistaken." She isn't, and hadn't that been a lovely mess at first, at least until Lance realised just how unbothered Arthur was by it all and stopped apologising. "Dear Gwen strayed, you know."
Unlike Morgana's, Vivian's gasp is almost certainly genuine. "Oh, poor Arthur," she whispers, horrified.
"Yes, you'd think so, really. Of course, six months with a boy who'd only kiss me in public and I'd be looking for action elsewhere, too. Arthur wasn't as upset as you'd expect, anyway. Lancelot – that's the boy she left him for, her husband now. Two lovely children, a third on the way, and I'm getting sidetracked now, aren't I?" She giggles in a way Arthur would be totally horrified to hear, but for the fact that he's smart enough to know it's faker than snow in July. "Where was I?"
She waits for a moment, positive that Vivian will provide the unnecessary prompt. People always do, Morgana knows, rushing in to bring about their own downfall, if only you stay silent long enough and make them think they're smarter than you are. It works better with men, of course, but the success rate with women is about one in three, particularly women as dumb as this one.
"Lancelot?" Vivian says, right on cue.
"Yes, silly me." Morgana puts on her best innocent face, mentally making a note to apologise to Lance and Gwen for this the next time she sees them, even if the conversation probably won't reach them. "Lancelot was always much more Arthur's type. Nothing would ever have come of it, of course; Lance is far too heterosexual to even consider another man like that."
"So is Arthur!" Vivian scowls, crossing the line from confused to indignant. Morgana hasn't enjoyed a coffee morning this much for ages.
"And yet he's still talking to the barista, isn't he?" she drawls, twisting slightly to watch him. "I didn't think it took this long to order a couple of drinks. I bet you anything there'll be a phone number on the receipt." It isn't much of a bet to make, seeing as they always come here and the barista always gives Arthur his number (so far, it's still at the stage of getting points for persistence, but it won't be all that long before it crosses into annoying), but Vivian looks suitably outraged. In a demonstration of impeccable timing, the boy scribbles something on a piece of paper, leaning across the counter to tuck it into Arthur's shirt pocket.
Vivian looks practically apoplectic with rage, so much so that Morgana doesn't even care too much that this didn't happen a fortnight ago, when the boy chose Arthur's back jeans pocket instead. "No!"
"Oh, I wouldn't worry about that too much. You've met Merlin, haven't you?"
The abrupt subject change flummoxes Vivian somewhat, much as Morgana intended it to. "Arthur's secretary?"
"Personal assistant, darling. He's much more than just a secretary." Honestly, the day Merlin walked into Arthur's office looking to become a minimum wage receptionist and got lumped with that job instead was just about one of the best of Morgana's life. Finally, there was someone else to deal with Arthur's idiocy and obtuseness, make sure he made it from one day to the next without doing something catastrophically stupid. "The poor guy practically runs Arthur's life. He'll make sure the number gets destroyed when he takes care of Arthur's washing."
"He will?" The words 'aha, an ally' couldn't be any more obviously on Vivian's mind if they were tattooed on her face.
"Almost certainly. Gayer than a maypole, our Merlin, and terribly possessive at times. I'm surprised he's not got rid of you yet, but then he obviously knows this isn't anything to worry about." That she is definitely apologising for, too, but this bug is proving an impressively persistent one, and Morgana will use any means necessary to squash her. Merlin will forgive her, she's sure, even if he really won't like her telling people he's with Arthur (he's much too sensible for that, no matter how much spark there might be between them).
Vivian's face falls, eyes shining, and Morgana knows just one more sentence will tip her over the line of denial she's walking. She wouldn't normally rejoice in making Arthur's girlfriends cry, if only because Arthur tends to be very much not happy with her for it, but this is definitely an exception.
"They're at it like rabbits, you know," she says, starting an internal countdown. Three, two, one...
Yep, there are the tears, precisely when she expected them. One point to Morgana, and goodbye annoying blonde chick.
"Bitch," Vivian hisses, then repeats it just for emphasis. "Bitch. I'll get you for this, you wait and see."
"I'm shaking internally, I promise you." Morgana smiles as Vivian stands and snatches a bag from the floor beside her seat, stalking towards the door, only to stop and change direction midway there.
"Freak," she says to Arthur, loud enough for everyone in the place to hear. "We're done. Don't ever contact me again."
Shit, Morgana thinks, watching as Arthur frowns at Vivian's rapidly retreating back. She'd forgotten about that little downside to pissing off Vivian, and after a public dumping like that Morgana will be lucky if it's just the doghouse she's in; a coffin is so much more likely. Arthur picks up the tray of drinks, ignoring the stares of everyone around him and making his way towards their table. Morgana refuses to break eye contact, because she isn't ashamed, she isn't, she is...staring at the table instead of Arthur. Damn.
The tray appears in her line of sight, turning carefully until her drink is before her, Arthur's in front of him, and...and there is no drink for Vivian. She looks up, hesitant in a way only Arthur can make her feel, to see him grinning at her.
"Nice, Morgana," he says, putting her coffee next to her unmoving hands when it becomes clear she isn't going to take it herself. "Quicker than I expected."
"You're not mad?"
"Mad?" He takes a steady slurp of his own coffee, black and hideous, then lowers his mug back to the table. "I've been trying to break up with her for weeks. Merlin said I should have introduced her to you sooner, but I wasn't too keen on being indirectly responsible for her death."
"Please, Arthur. Like I'd get my hands dirty." And that was Merlin's apology down the drain, too, the devious little rat. She loved him, she really did, but it would be nice to know these things ahead of time. With planning, Vivian could have been dealt with even sooner, and far less kindly.
"No, I suppose not." Arthur laughs, then sobers slightly. "I owe him a raise for this. And you dinner. How did you manage it, anyway?"
"Nothing special," Morgana shrugs, trying to decide how expensive a meal she can get out of this. There's that new restaurant she's dying to try, but it's just a little out of her price range until she lands another big case. If Arthur is paying, though, she'll make a reservation as soon as they leave. "Just girl talk."