Parts 1-9: link
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Helios crumples beneath the heavy wood of the chair as it splinters over his muscular head and shoulders. Gwen picks up a chunk of the chair, one of the legs, and clubs him with it.
“If I had shoes I’d be kicking you in the bollocks,” she spits. She raises her improvised weapon again.
“Guinevere,” Arthur’s voice stops her.
“What?” she snaps.
“Leave him for cleanup. We need him alive. The man has got information on everyone and we need it.”
“Shit,” Gwen says. “Hand me those fucking zip ties, then.”
As Arthur hands her the ties, he hears a ruckus from the office upstairs.
“Go ahead,” Gwen says, not looking up.
“Here, put this on before I lose my mind,” Arthur says, tossing an old pair of coveralls that he found in a cabinet at her.
Gwen snorts and nods. “I will.” She’s busy binding Helios… creatively. He had a plastic jug full of zip ties and she is thinking of ways to use them all. At the moment she is tying his right wrist to his left ankle.
Arthur flies quietly up the metal staircase to the second floor office to find it empty. The skylight overhead is broken.
“Motherf…” he half-swears, climbing up on top of the desk to jump and swing himself up through the opening.
Where the hell are Leon and Percival? And how the bloody hell did he get away from Percival? The man is a mountain.
Arthur creeps across the roof. Movement catches his periphery. Small and dark. Lancelot. He clenches his jaw and circles around to hopefully head him off.
As he creeps along, he hears two distinct pops. That’s Percival, Arthur thinks. He’s signaling me, cracking his knuckles. Gross, but effective. Keep moving.
“Pendragon,” Lance turns, cool and casual, as if they were meeting up for tea. “You underestimated me again.”
“Did I?” Arthur leans casually against a large ventilation unit on the roof. The thin sheet metal buckles slightly, giving off a low metallic thump that echoes in the still air.
“You always do. You send your giant goons, thinking that I can’t get away. Dropped them both.”
“Mmm,” Arthur nods. “Then why are you still here?” As he engages Lance in conversation, he sees a red dot appear on his target’s temple. Leon.
Leon was a sniper in the Royal Marines until he was dishonorably discharged and immediately recruited by D.
Arthur tilts his head, stretching his neck. “Well?”
“Just waiting for my ride, mate. If you’ve got any sense you’ll leave before it arrives.”
“Are you referring to your little helicopter?” Arthur asks, his voice almost sweet. He sees Percival’s silhouette to his left now. “I’m afraid that won’t be arriving. It will have suffered a most unfortunate and most unexpected fate by now.”
Lancelot actually looks surprised.
“You underestimate Gwaine,” Arthur says. Then he grins. “Merlin was with him. And I know you definitely do not underestimate him.”
Lance curses under his breath. Arthur pushes off of the ventilation unit and the metal thumps again. He steps forward.
“You’re unarmed,” Lance says.
“So are you. The difference is, I’m not scared of you, while you’re still scared of me, even unarmed. Unfortunately for you, though, I am armed. I have a lovely little stiletto that I had the distinctive pleasure of slowly withdrawing from DeGrace’s brassiere. While she was still wearing it,” Arthur says. The red laser-point dot on Lance’s temple wavers slightly.
He saw the way Lancelot was looking at Guinevere in the theatre. He knows the weak spot.
“It’s very thin and flexible, but wickedly sharp,” Arthur says, holding it up. It’s back in its little Kevlar sheath. “Not a very masculine weapon, true, but I think it could be quite serviceable.”
Lance is glowering, his eyes casting skyward, still hoping for his helicopter.
“I wonder,” Arthur says, his fingers rubbing the Kevlar. He holds it to his nose and inhales. “Mmm. Lavender. Her favorite.”
“Tell me, didn’t it bother you, knowing that idiot Helios was toying with that delectable little body of hers?”
“Part of the job,” Lance says unconvincingly, taking a step back. He’s right against the edge of the building.
Arthur is within arms’ reach now, and he pulls the tiny knife from its sheath.
“You’re not serious,” Lance says, eyeing the weapon, suddenly wishing he had something other than a mobile phone in his pockets.
“I could easily slit your throat with this, but no. I have a much neater solution.” Arthur stretches his neck the opposite direction now and steps back quickly.
He doesn’t want to get spattered too much.
There is a muffled pop and a starburst of blood erupts from the side of Lance’s head. He drops like a sack of potatoes, and as he falls, Arthur gives him a gentle shove with one finger, toppling him over the edge of the roof.
“Why did you do that?” Percival asks, coming into view now.
“So cleanup doesn’t have to come up here. You know Elyan hates heights. What the fuck happened? How did he get up here?”
“Sawdust in the eyes,” Percival says, wincing. Leon steps into view now, a tall, slender figure in black, his weapon nowhere to be seen. He nods.
“Well, it didn’t seem to affect your aim, Leon,” Arthur says. “Come on.” As the three men return to the skylight from whence they came, Arthur looks down. “I got blood on my tie. I liked this tie.”
“We hit the target,” Arthur argues, standing beside Gwen in The Dragon’s office.
“You showed complete disregard for protocol,” D snaps. “Especially you, DeGrace. I’m pulling you from the field and turning your training over to Caerleon.”
“Yes, sir,” Gwen says, eyes fixed on a spot on the wall just above and to the left of his head. She hates The Dragon. And now he’s just made her life worse. Instead of continuing to work with Arthur, she’s going to have to work with Annis Caerleon.
“Perhaps if a woman trains you, you’ll learn how to behave like a female agent.”
“Yes, sir,” she repeats. Sexist pig, she’s thinking. She can feel the rage radiating off of Arthur beside her.
“She doesn’t need a new trainer,” Arthur argues.
“You dare argue with me?” The Dragon asks, his voice rising.
“Yes. She doesn’t need a trainer at all. She’s ready.”
“I make that call, not you. I say she isn’t. Desk duty.”
“She brought down Helios.”
“I don’t give a fuck if she brought down Kim Jong fucking Un. She’s riding a desk until I say otherwise.”
“We hit the target,” Arthur repeats.
Without a word, Arthur turns and leaves, all but shoving Gwen out of the office in front of him.
He keeps guiding her, past his office, past her desk, and down the stairs.
“Keep walking,” Arthur says, his arm locked around her elbow.
“Why aren’t we taking the elevator?” she asks.
“Because that’s where most of the explosives are.”
“Walk, DeGrace. Out the door. Merlin’s waiting with a car.”
One week later. Fiji.
A brown leg swings lazily over the edge of a hammock, metallic lavender-painted toenails glinting in the warm Pacific sunshine.
A golden-tanned arm grasps it, lifts it high in the air, kisses it, and replaces it in the hammock before joining its current occupant on the wide striped cloth suspended between two palm trees.
“Hello, Mrs. Smith,” he says, leaning over her and dropping a kiss on her waiting lips.
“I still think you could have done a better job with the names,” she complains.
“Merlin’s fault,” he says, kissing her again, his hand reaching for the tied corner of the sarong she is wrapped in, knowing she isn’t wearing anything beneath it.
“Arth—Andrew…” she says, her tone reproachful.
“No one will see us,” he says, still kissing her. “We’ve been here an entire week and haven’t seen another soul.”
“It’s been fabulous,” she sighs, moving slightly, allowing him to unwrap his present. “I hate other people.”
“Mmm-hmm,” he says, kissing down her neck. “And you know I’ve been wanting to do this since we moved in.”
“Maybe that’s why I’ve been hanging out here all day,” she whispers, moaning when his lips close over her breast.
He chuckles against her skin, tongue and teeth taunting her nipple. She reaches down and pulls at his shorts, knowing he isn’t wearing anything beneath them.
“Guinevere,” he groans.
“Jennifer,” she corrects, sliding her hands on his back.
The hammock sways with the motions of its occupants as they find a new use for the simple piece of outdoor furniture.
Some time later, a brown leg swings lazily over the edge again.
“That was fun.”
“Yes, it was.”
Kissing, touching, nuzzling, caressing.
“Do you regret blowing up your dad’s building with your dad in it?”
“Not in the slightest. He was a bastard. I found out he was going to retire next month. He was going to put my sister in charge.”
“No! What the fuck is that about?”
He shrugs. Deep down he has a suspicion that he wasn’t keeping his feelings for Guinevere as hidden as he thought he was and that may have been the reason. But he doesn’t care.
Merlin had indeed been waiting with a car outside. Inside the car were the contents of his father’s bank accounts, two brand new passports and two one-way tickets to Fiji. There was also a change of clothes for both of them, including two wedding rings. In the glove box were a one one-way ticket to Tokyo and a new passport bearing the name Matthew Emerson.
Gwen learned that once they returned from the assignment, Arthur had spent the rest of the night rigging the building, including hiding explosives inside his father’s chair and desk. He didn’t sleep until they were ensconced in their first-class seats on a nonstop flight to their “honeymoon.”
Arthur shifts slightly, trying to sit up. “Even if he had lived, we drained his assets and I had someone in place to expose him.”
“Wow, how long have you been planning this?” she asks.
“Um, since… about your second week of training, I think.”
“Help!” by the Beatles starts playing from the pocket of Arthur’s shorts.
“Why do you still have that?”
“It’s got a different number,” Arthur says. “Only one person has it.” He bends down and snags his shorts, pulling the phone from his pocket.
“What do you want, Merlin?”