Title: Say Live and Let Die
Summary: Agent Arthur Pendragon and his team are the best the Agency has to offer. But their boss has started sending them on search and retrieve missions after odd things, like a broken sword. Then comes Chicago, and suddenly the game has changed.
AN: Gwaine's hijacking of the story continues. So it goes. Sorry for both the delay and any typos that may exist.
"Did you send in the report?"
Arthur turned from where he was standing on the hotel suite's balcony, looking at the Chicago skyline. Leon stood in the doorway that led inside, hands tucked into his pockets. Arthur nodded once, and said, "Yes."
"And," said Arthur, leaning on his elbows against the rail, "Gwen received it and said she'd hand it off to Niniane the first chance she has."
"That's not what I meant," said Leon, coming and leaning next to Arthur, his back to the rail.
"You want to know what I said about Gwaine," Arthur said. Leon nodded once in confirmation. Arthur let a gust of air out through his nose, and said, "I said that during complications, he'd been wounded."
"And the roof?"
"I left it out," said Arthur. Leon gave him a look, and Arthur tensed. "Yes, I omitted it. What was I supposed to say? That two men fell off of a skyscraper, one of whom was my agent and appears to have no damage from it and that the other one seems to have vanished completely and we have no explanation for it?"
"I suppose not," said Leon.
"What about Gwaine?" asked Arthur.
"He's confused," said Leon. "We got him patched up just fine, but the last I heard whoever it was took down all of the security guards single handed. With some kind of force field."
"Were that I was," said Leon.
"And that," said Arthur, pushing himself up and walking back in, "Is why I omitted it from the report."
He shut the door behind him, leaving Leon alone on the balcony. The sun would set, soon, and the air outside was growing cool. As he passed by the door of Gwaine's room, he could hear his two agents talking.
" – got shot, and you lost a lot of blood, mate, you were seeing things," Percy was saying.
"No!" Gwaine answered emphatically. Arthur could picture him waving his arms around, wild eyed and trying to get them all to bid into his latest ridiculous tale. "I'm telling you, he was throwing lightning!"
Arthur was about to push in and join the conversation, try and get Gwaine to say something – anything, really – that came close to making sense. His phone, however, vibrated in his pocket. He sighed, and with the mobile held tightly in one hand as it continued to ring, moved off to his room in the suite. He closed the door behind him.
"Pendragon," he said, answering the phone. He expected Gwen, checking in and verifying that Niniane had received the report. He even, maybe, expected Niniane herself, wondering at the deliberately vague parts and demanding an explanation.
Instead he got Morgause.
"Mr. Pendragon," she said. Her voice was as level and cool as it ever was when talking to Arthur. She had never particularly liked Arthur, and Arthur had never particularly liked her either. Morgana told him that he was being ridiculous and that Morgause was a lovely person if he'd only take the time to get to know her. Right. All Arthur needed to know was that she was second in command at the Agency, and while he had no choice in respecting her, he certainly didn't trust her as far as he could kick her.
"Ma'am," said Arthur. He braced himself to be grilled on the report.
Instead, Morgause said, "Niniane is sending you on another run while you're in the States. Lucky enough for us, the target is in a small community an hour from your current location. The specs have been sent and should be in your email. Clear?"
"No," said Arthur.
"What of that wasn't clear, Mr. Pendragon?"
"None of it," said Arthur. "I meant that we're not going."
"It wasn't a request."
"I understand, ma'am. It's only that we had a difficult time of it, today," said Arthur. "As it says in the report, one of my men –"
"And you're going to probably have a difficult time of it tomorrow, too. You're the closest team, and Niniane wants you to go. And if you see a member of your team as unfit, leave him behind and collect him when the thing is done. Is that understood?"
"Good," said Morgause. "Try not to shoot the place up this time."
She hung up the phone without waiting to hear his response. Arthur slid his mobile back into his pocket with a sigh. Then he went to gather his agents to force them into getting a good night's sleep, for they needed to be well rested come morning.
They're sitting by a fire, he and the man from the rooftop. Only he's wearing odd clothes, that scratch, and a sword. The man from the roof is oddly dressed as well, with a brown coat and a bit of brightly colored fabric tied around his neck.
"Why do you want to do this?" he asks, looking sideways at Gwaine.
Gwaine shrugs, and says, "Same reason as you. Help a friend."
The man huffs, and says with a smile, "Arthur's lucky to have us."
Gwaine's never been one to let even a half-truth stand, and so he looks up with a shake of his head and says, "Not Arthur."
"I'd do the same for you," his companion says and yet looks surprised, even a little flattered.
Gwaine wonders if anyone's ever come to his aid for his sake alone, and he doubts it. The thought makes him sad, and so maybe that's why he adds, "I'd hope so. You're the only friend I've got," when he'd normally keep that tidbit to himself.
Gwaine woke sharply to someone shaking his shoulder. He glared up at Percy, who was looking down at him apologetically. "What?" he asked.
"Sorry," said Percy. "But we've got another mission, and Arthur wants to talk to you before the rest of us go."
"Lemme sleep," said Gwaine, rolling so he was facing away from Percy. God, but his head hurt. It was a dreadful, pounding, awful sort of headache. But then he frowned, and cracked an eye open, and said, "What do you mean by 'before the rest of us' as if everyone minus Gwaine?"
"Talk to Arthur," said Percy, and walked out of the room.
Gwaine sat up, rubbing at his eyes. He pawed through his bag until his hand landed on the box of parcetamol he always kept handy, and then swallowed the tablet dry. As he pulled on his clothes and jerked on his shoes, he thought about the dream. It stood in his mind in vivid detail, as if he'd seen it in a movie or even lived through it. But for all of that, he could not for the life of him come up with a name for the man on the rooftop.
It seemed incredibly important, Gwaine thought, that he should remember the man's name. If he could just figure that out, he felt, and then maybe he could figure out the whole mess.
Getting dressed was a little bit difficult, what with his injured arm in a sling. But Gwaine had managed with worse, and it took a very little time until he was wandering out to where the others were all geared up and ready to leave in the main room of the suite.
"You look tired," Lance said as Gwaine came to stand beside him.
"I feel it, too," said Gwaine. He looked over at his friend. He thought about telling steady, loyal Lance about the dream he had, about how he was beginning to worry that he couldn't tell where the dream ended and reality began. But Lance's big, stupid puppy eyes were wide with worry, and so instead Gwaine just smiled and said, "I'm fighting fit, don't you worry."
Lance didn't look convinced.
Gwaine rolled his eyes. "Really, Lancelot, relax."
Lance frowned. "Lancelot?" he asked.
"You just called me Lancelot," said Lance.
"No, I didn't," said Gwaine. "Why would I call you Lancelot? You must have misheard me."
"Yeah, must have," said Lance. He didn't sound convinced, nor did he look it.
"Gwaine," called Arthur. "A moment, please. The rest of you can head out."
Lance gave Gwaine one last lingering, worried look, and then filed out with the others. Gwaine drifted over by Arthur. "What?" he said.
"You're staying behind," said Arthur.
"Like hell," said Gwaine. "I'm fine."
"We need someone to stay and guard the cup," said Arthur. "And you got the short straw."
"We didn't pull any –
"You're staying here, and that's the end of it," said Arthur. "You were shot yesterday, Gwaine. Do try to get some rest, while we're gone. Maybe put together a profile of the other man who fell off the roof."
He clapped Gwaine on the shoulder, and followed the others out.
Gwaine didn't try to rest, just to spite Arthur. He spent some time pacing the suite but soon grew bored of that. He was working on putting Percy's things in Arthur's bag and Arthur's things in Leon's bag and so on when he heard a sort of thudding sound from the main room of the suite.
Gwaine straightened, grabbing his gun with his good arm. He leaned into the doorway. There was a figure, tall and lanky, hovering by the safe that was built into the wall. Gwaine almost passed out when he realized who it was. He lowered his gun, walked fully into the main room, and said, "You!"
The man from the roof startled, fumbling with something in his hands. "Oh," he said. "Er. Hello. I didn't think anyone was in."
"How did you get in here?"
"You wouldn't believe me if I told you," he said, and when he smiled Gwaine thought it seemed forced.
"I survived toppling off of a skyscraper yesterday. Try me," said Gwaine. Then he noticed that the man was holding the golden cup thing they'd had to nab. "What are you doing with that?"
"What?" said the man, frowning, and then looked down at the cup in his hand. "Oh. Right. This."
"Hand it over," said Gwaine, holding his hand out.
"Can't," said the man. "Why do you want it, anyway?"
"I don't," said Gwaine.
"Your boss, then," said the man.
"I can't tell you that," said Gwaine. Never mind that he didn't know, either. But the man just nodded once, tightly. Gwaine watched him, still with his hand out. The man bounced the cup against his leg. "Look, just give it here."
"We got it first," said Gwaine, and wiggled his fingers. "So give it to me nice and slow, yeah? Besides, my friends are going to be back at any moment, and they've got a lot of questions for you. Me too, come to think of it."
The man snorted. "They won't be back," he said. "I've made sure of it."
Any sort of good will Gwaine may have had dropped away. He pulled his gun from its holster and snarled, "What did you do to them?"
The man raised his hands, the chalice still clutched in one. He looked, once again, like someone had simultaneously pulled the rug out from beneath his feet and clobbered him over the head. Something in Gwaine's stomach dropped. Still, if he'd done anything to harm Gwaine's team, that was the end of it. "I didn't do anything to them, I swear," said the man. "I just sent them on a goose chase so they wouldn't be here when I came for the cup. Gwaine, on my life, I promise."
Gwaine relaxed slightly, lowering the gun. The man lowered his hands. Gwaine stared at him for a long moment, and said, "Who are you?"
"It isn't important."
Gwaine rolled his eyes. "Yes, it is," he said. "Look, either give me the cup back or you're coming back to Base with –"
The man's mouth pressed into a thin line. "I can't."
"You were throwing lightning," Gwaine snapped. "You threw me off a building and we both survived, why can't you –d"
"I don't know," the man said, and he frowned, his eyes growing distant. "There's someone very powerful at your base, Gwaine, maybe even more than one person. They were keeping me out. I couldn't – I recognized the spell work, I think, but I can't quite place it. But that's why I can't let you keep the cup."
"Spell work?" Gwaine asked. "What the hell do you mean about spell work?"
"Don't worry about it," said the man. "You'll no doubt find out, given time. Of that I have no doubt."
"Stop being cryptic!" Gwaine snapped.
It startled a laugh out of the man. "Apparently it comes with age," he said. "I owe Kilgarrah an apology."
"Who?" Gwaine asked, even though he knew he wouldn't get an answer.
"Like I said, don't worry about it," he got for an answer. But then the man whipped his head around, staring at the door that led out into the hotel's hallway. "They're back. I – I should go."
He turned and walked towards the window like he fully intended to leap from it. Then again, Gwaine thought, considering yesterday, maybe that wasn't entirely improbable. "Wait!" Gwaine said. "I have questions for –"
"And I'm really sorry, but I haven't the time," said the man. He looked again like he was about to cry. "I thought I was ready to talk to Arthur, I thought I could..even if he didn't know who I…I was wrong, and I have to go."
"But," Gwaine said, "But I –"
The man shifted closer, and asked, "Will you trust me?"
It was quickly becoming one of Gwaine's least favorite phrases in the world.
"Are you going to toss me out the window?" Gwaine asked, trying to sound sarcastic and mostly sounding frightened. He was regretting not just letting the man leave.
"No," said the man, and he had the decency to look ashamed. "I'm just going to show you where to come and find me, so that I can answer your questions. Okay?"
Gwaine wasn't sure what part of giving directions involved trust, so past his better judgment he said, "Yeah. Okay."
The man took a step closer, and said, "This may be a little uncomfortable." Then he pressed his palm Gwaine's forehead, and his eyes went gold. Gwaine tried to pull back but found that he couldn't. His feet were rooted to the spot. It felt like a rock was sinking through his thoughts, pushing through in a way he couldn't describe without sounding like an idiot writing poetry. But then, suddenly, the hand was gone and Gwaine let out a gasp.
"What was that?" he asked.
That's how he realized he was alone in the room, a cool breeze drifting in through the open window. The man was gone. The cup was gone. And once again Gwaine had no way of satisfactorily explaining how any of it had happened.
"I'm done trusting you!" Gwaine bellowed out the window. He felt like he was lying.
And then the door to the suite swung open, and Arthur and all of the others came piling back in. They looked muddy and tired and well and truly pissed.
"Gwaine!" said Percy, slapping him on the back. Then the large man frowned. "Why do you have your gun out?"
"Um," said Gwaine."
"Gwaine," said Arthur, slowly and from the other side of the room, drawing the word out the way he did when he was well and truly pissed off about something. "Where is the cup?"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean," said Arthur, gesturing at the empty safe. "Where. Is. The. Cup?"
Gwaine blinked once. Twice. A third time. Then he said, "Son of a bitch."
"Gwen," said Morgana from her desk as Gwen walked up to her. "I don't see you down here very often. What do I owe the pleasure?"
The Department of Evidence and Retrievals was in the basement of the base. It was a large, sprawling warehouse of a place, filled with shelves that went from floor to ceiling. Every shelf was packed with organized, labeled cardboard boxes. The only way in or out, however, was through a single door. And to get to that door, one first had to get past the gatekeeper – Morgana.
Gwen looked Morgana over with a critical eye. She was no longer panicked and out of sorts as she had been in Gwen's office, but she still seemed pale. Worn. Exhausted. Like there was a part of her slowly fading away. It made Gwen's heart ache.
"I've heard from Arthur," Gwen said, smiling.
Morgana's fingers twitched on her desktop. "And?" she asked. "Is everyone alright?"
"I can't tell you everything. Which you know. Obviously," said Gwen. "But there was an injury, but they're all alive and coming home tomorrow morning."
It was like something in Morgana melted. Her shoulders slumped and she rested her forehead against her fingertips for a moment. When she looked up at Gwen, her smile was wide and real, but there were definite tears glistening in her eyes. "Thank God," she said, and let out a laugh. She reached forward and squeezed Gwen's hand in hers. "Thank you for letting me know."
"Of course," said Gwen. She turned and walked away. She pressed the button, expecting that when the doors slid open for the elevator that it would be empty. However, she jumped when Morgause was standing there instead.
"Miss Smith," said Morgause, raising an eyebrow at her and stepping out. Gwen moved to the side to make way for her. "Niniane was looking for you, but you weren't at your desk."
"Right," said Gwen. "I'll just be going upstairs, then."
"Yes," said Morgause. "Yes, I think that would be best."
Gwen watched Morgause's back as she walked away. As the door slid shut to the elevator, a heaviness settled between her shoulders, twisting up, and it wasn't unlike dread.
There's nothing he loves more than a good tavern brawl, usually.
Right now, though, there are seven of them and one of him, and he's tired and a little bit cranky. Gwaine much would rather that they leave him alone, but as the tall bald one picks him up and slides him down a table, he can't really see that happening today. He skids to a halt at the far end of the tavern, and finds himself looking down at a pair of worn brown boots, held together by a series of buckles.
He looks up to the figure's face, and finds a familiar pair of blue eyes staring down at him. Gwaine is so surprised he can't even quite find the words. Well, he thinks, that's new.
"Hello, Gwaine," the man says, like he's happy to see Gwaine. Odd. Gwaine can't remember the last time someone was happy to see him.
And then the smile explodes on his face, because for better or for worse he had come looking for Gwaine, and Gwaine perks up and says, "Hey! Merlin!"
Gwaine jerked awake.
They were on the plane, heading for home. Arthur had yelled for a bit, until Leon and Elyan had cornered him and talked him down. Lance and Percy seemed more concerned that Gwaine had been harmed in some way, a concern which Leon and Elyan had apparently gotten Arthur to share. Because then Gwaine had been poked and prodded and generally interrogated. The others fanned out, trying to find the man who'd stolen the cup and saved Gwaine on the roof, but to no avail. And so with no cup, and no other mystery object (from the man's goose chase) they were returning to base completely empty handed.
But here, now, on the plane – Gwaine jerked awake.
Like, really awake.
In fact, he rather thought that this was the first time he'd ever been truly awake in his entire life. "What the hell?" he said, patting himself down, searching for a sword and chainmail that wasn't there. But then, he remembered. "Oh, I – I died, I –"
Gwaine looked, his eyes landing on each of his slumbering teammates. "Arthur. Percival. Leon – and Elyan, and Lance – Lancelot, oh my God," Gwaine said, covering his mouth to try and muffle the manic little giggle that escaped out. "Oh my God."
Percival grunted slightly and shifted in his sleep.
Gwaine scrambled out of his seat, and walked quickly down the middle of the plane to the toilets. He shut the door behind him, and turned, leaning his forehead against the mirror. He closed his eyes. The memories were rushing through him now, through some sort of broken dam that had stood in his head. Outside, stretched and sprawled and over seats as they hurtled through the sky – and there was half of Gwaine that wanted to curl up and process that a bit, and half that knew it as an everyday occurrence and both were making themselves known – were the other agents. The other knights. And Arthur. And not a one of them had any clue who they really were. Not even one. Except for Gwaine.
There was something terribly, terribly wrong. Now that he knew it, he couldn't fathom how he'd possibly missed it before. The man on the roof. Who'd come to the hotel suite. Who had been so floored when Gwaine didn't know who he was.
"Merlin," he said, opening his eyes and staring at his reflection like it could answer his questions for him. Gwaine frowned. "But where'd he go?"