Pairing: Morgana/Arthur; Morgana/Merlin; Morgana/Uther; Morgana/Gwen; Morgana/Morgause
Word Count: 3,280
Spoilers: through 2x13
Summary: I cannot say what loves have come and gone. Morgana dreams of what she's lost. (Or, alternately: Morgana makes out with everybody.)
Author's Note: This was an idea inspired by Katie McGrath's legendary rant about how Gwen gets to snog all the dudes and Morgana gets zilch. Oh, Katie, that's why there's fanfiction! Thank you to everyone who told me that I should write this rather than idly daydreaming about writing this, and thank you to SyFy for rerunning The Witch's Quickening tonight and reminding me just how much Morgana's season two predicament frustrates the hell out of me (and making me ponder whether I hate this or like it).
This is sort of a weird one to make sense of; I think the majority of it is a dream sequence of sorts, but of course, Morgana's dreams have that pesky knack of being real. I played with that here, incorporating past and present and future and what might have been all rolled together. For the record (the very special record of at least trying to make sense a little bit), I think the first, second to last, and last scenes are actually meant to exist in the waking world.
What lips my lips have kissed, and where, and why,
I have forgotten, and what arms have lain
Under my head till morning; but the rain
Is full of ghosts tonight, that tap and sigh
Upon the glass and listen for reply,
And in my heart there stirs a quiet pain
For unremembered lads that not again
Will turn to me at midnight with a cry.
Thus in the winter stands the lonely tree,
Nor knows what birds have vanished one by one,
Yet knows its boughs more silent than before:
I cannot say what loves have come and gone,
I only know that summer sang in me
A little while, that sings in me no more.
(Edna St. Vincent Millay)
In the morning, it is as if nothing happened at all. When Morgana wakes, Gwen is setting a vase of fresh flowers on the table – red ones, and Morgana thinks she recognizes them but cannot settle on why. She abandons trying. Spending too long trying to sort out the things in her head is never a good idea, these days. It’s better to be empty.
“They’re beautiful,” Morgana says, about the flowers.
Gwen turns and smiles at her. “Good morning.” She looks kind as ever, but there are circles under her eyes.
Morgana feels a stab of guilt, and sinks deeper into bed.
“Uther and Arthur are waiting for you,” Gwen says, “for breakfast.”
The thought of them exhausts her.
“I’d prefer to eat by myself in here,” Morgana says.
“All right,” Gwen answers easily, but Morgana can see the concern in her eyes.
“In fact,” she adds, “I’m not very hungry at all. Don’t trouble yourself.”
“It’s no trouble,” Gwen says. Before Morgana never would have thought not to believe her. She thinks of the night before, the Always an echo in her skull, and suddenly even it seems hollow. Another thing she cannot trust.
“I think I’ll sleep a bit more,” Morgana continues, her voice brittle. “If I get hungry, I’ll let you know. Until then, you may go.”
Perhaps Gwen looks a little hurt; perhaps she imagines it. She hates how much she wants the former to be true. “I don’t have to—”
“Really, Gwen,” Morgana says, an edge to her words, “how interesting can it be to watch me sleep? Not very, I’d think.”
After a beat, Gwen sinks into an obedient curtsey. Morgana shifts in bed and turns to face the other wall, and listens to the door close.
Sunlight comes through the window, white and hard. She stretches out as far as she can, hating the empty space around her. Eventually, she drifts back into sleep.
Her first kiss is Arthur’s, too. They are ten and bored at a banquet, and sneak off into a dark, neglected corner that’s vastly more entertaining. It turns out the corner is already occupied by one of the king’s knights and an uncommonly pretty servant girl. Morgana cannot imagine that keeping your face that close to another person’s for a half an hour straight can really be that interesting, and, upon consulting Arthur, discovers that he’s of the same belief.
“Maybe there’s something to it that you can’t see just by watching other people,” she speculates in a whisper that’s covered up, mostly, by the couple’s sighs and murmurs.
“Or maybe,” Arthur counters, pulling a face, “they’re stupid.”
Morgana feels a flash of defiance. “How do you know? You’ve never done it.”
“Neither have you,” Arthur points out.
And so she lunges forward and plants her mouth firmly on his. He lets out a stupid squawk of a noise.
“Oi!” He scrambles away from her. “What are you doing?”
“Just checking,” Morgana replies innocently. She doesn’t find herself much impressed. “Well, there was nothing special to that at all, was there?”
“No,” Arthur says, hacking and gacking a bit. He reminds her of one of the kitchen cats trying to cough up a hairball.
“Thought not,” Morgana says.
“Madwoman,” he grumbles.
“Idiot,” she retorts, feeling triumphant.
The second time, they are sixteen and drunk, mostly because Arthur had been convinced that Morgana could not hold her spirits and Morgana had been convinced that there was never an instance where Arthur didn’t deserve to be put in his place.
This time, there’s a bit more to it. They’re in her bedchamber, and have somehow found their way to her bed. Arthur trails sloppy but not unwelcome kisses up her neck, and she thinks that Uther will probably have both of them hanged if he finds out, and that this probably isn’t the most ladylike behavior, and that oh, it feels very, very nice when his mouth does that, and that she’s always figured, in the very back of her brain, that she’ll marry Arthur one day. At the moment, she really doesn’t hate the idea. Oh – make that really, really doesn’t hate it. His hands have begun to sneak up her skirt, and she swears she’ll put a stop to it in a minute (what’s a lady without her virtue, after all? Nothing in Camelot, that’s for sure) but until then, she decides she’ll let her hands do a bit of wandering of their own.
“I’d just like you to know,” she says rather breathlessly in between kisses, fingers flirting with his belt, “that I can do much better than you, should I choose to.”
“Pfft, like who?” Arthur demands, scoffing against the corner of her mouth. “Sir Lathrop?”
“Sir Lathrop is a gentlemen!”
“Please! He’s got teeth a horse’d be embarrassed of. And he wrote you a poem.”
“Oh, Arthur. Just because you haven’t mastered reading and writing yet doesn’t mean you have to be so openly jealous of those who have. I’m sure you could find someone to give you lessons – well, provided they’re incredibly patient—”
“I can’t believe I just kissed you.”
“Well, I can’t believe I just let you!”
“Right, well, okay, how about we agree that this never happened?”
It seems a bit rich to her, since they’ve been going at it for nearly an hour now. But damned if she’ll let on that she wants it to have happened when Arthur so clearly doesn’t.
“Fine,” she says briskly.
“Fine,” he echoes, defiant.
They glare at each other.
Twenty minutes and another ill-timed argument about Sir Lathrop later, Arthur storms out of her room. She lies on her bed, furious and breathing heavy. As soon as her door slams, a smile blossoms on her face entirely of its own accord. She can’t stand Arthur Pendragon – that goes without saying. Still, every inch of her tingles, like she’s just woken up. Like she’s ventured into herself and loosed something new.
The third is a kiss goodbye, and long overdue. He rests in her lap, and the sky is grey, and to her all the world has narrowed to the weight of him, the smell of his blood, and the creak of the boat, the gentle rise-and-fall of the water around them.
“Idiot,” she murmurs, stroking his face (and God, somehow he still looks young), and he coughs out a laugh, a scoff, that is so wholly Arthur. It turns her into a child again, just for a moment. She wonders whether he can tell where he is, or if perhaps, to him, they are ten and hiding in a corner, partners in boredom, or breathless and careless in her bed at sixteen. She hopes so.
And then there are the things that do not happen, but ought to have:
“I know your secret, too,” she says to Merlin one day, after catching him at making Arthur’s armor polish itself, and his ears turn red and he stammers a denial that she will have none of. She is furious at him for half a day, and then her whole world becomes wide and bright. She isn’t alone. She isn’t alone.
He tells her that they must wait a bit before they tell Gaius that she knows about him, and perhaps once she would have argued it, but the boundless relief of this new discovery has given her patience, and so she says, “Yes, all right.” He begins to teach her things, to show her dusty tomes full of spells and tell her how to pull the words off the page, to shape them aloud in her voice. His eyes flash amber and he speaks in low, smooth tones that she understands even as she cannot decipher the sounds themselves. She feels the truth of them deep in her belly; she pays careful attention to the steadiness of his hands, the purpose in his fingers. Watching him like this, she cannot believe she ever thought him awkward or gangly or fumbling. Then he’s ordered to clean Arthur’s boots, and awkward gangly fumbling is all she can see, and something about that delights her. If Merlin can be a sorcerer – good, helpful, quite often silly Merlin – then magic must have good in it. She’s quite convinced that nothing in the dear, ridiculous boy could ever even slightly resemble darkness. At least in his case, Uther is wrong. And (she decides, heartened now) in hers, too.
They sneak warm glances at one another that go unnoticed by everyone at court – for of course, what interest could the Lady Morgana have in the prince’s servant?
One morning, they go out for a walk at an hour most nobles don’t even know exists. Merlin informs her quite cheerily that servants have been privy to the Five In The Morning secret for ages, and she laughs until it’s cut off by a yawn.
“But of course,” Merlin continues, amused, “there are loads of things that you poor unfortunate non-servant lot don’t know. For example: did you know food doesn’t actually come looking like it does on your plates? Oh, no. There’s an entire process—”
This nudges something that’s been hiding in corners of her mind to the forefront, and she says, “You would have told me, wouldn’t you?”
“Told you?” He sounds entirely too nonchalant, and she decides he’s a dreadful liar.
“You know what I mean.”
He doesn’t look at her, and nervousness begins to seize her. But then he turns, and meets her eyes, and he looks as earnest as ever.
“Yeah,” he says, “of course. I was just – trying to sort out the right way to do it. That’s all.”
She holds back her relieved sigh, and opts instead for flippancy. “How gallant.”
She thinks he must sense that a light spot of atonement is necessary, because he murmurs, waving one hand over a blade of grass, and it becomes a flower the exact crimson of her cloak.
“It matches,” he explains unnecessarily. He’s begun to blush a little. He plucks it from the ground in one clean, merciless movement.
“Very thoughtful,” she agrees, smiling, and tucks the flower into her hair. The breeze makes a mess of it right away.
“Oh,” Merlin says, reaching forward to fix it, “let me just – er –”
His finger brushes her face. It is the first time he’s touched her, or at least the first time she’s noticed. She swears she can feel the magic in it, and does not know whether it is his or hers or perhaps some new thing entirely, a thing that belongs to both of them. She leans in quick, drawn by the feeling, the wonderful sameness, and she kisses him. He nearly falls over, but recovers admirably and cups her face in his hands.
The whole field blooms around them. When the nobles rise some hours later, they are understandably baffled by the sudden shift in flora.
Uther sits on the throne that will be hers soon and looks at her with fear in his face, his old man’s face. She would like to trace the lines on his forehead and around his eyes with her fingernails; she wonders how many of them might be attributed to her. She feels laughter boiling in her, looking at him. She is free at last – of him, of this castle, of this kingdom. They had their talons in her for so long. For so long, she’d sit in shadows and will her power from her veins and from her bones, gazing out windows and imagining how Arthur’s funny, handsome face would go hard at the sight of her, if he knew; how Gwen would turn away, avert her eyes, dignified even in her repulsion; how Uther would pronounce her doom in deep ringing tones, happy to watch her burn.
He is bound, now, to that stupid chair, and he is the one who must gaze up at her.
“What?” she demands, her voice all velvet, her red mouth quirking as she leans down nearer to him. He flinches as she rests her hand on the shackle that binds his wrist. The place where their skin touches sets a fire in her fingertips. She would like to burn him with it. “You aren’t afraid of me, are you, Uther? Surely not. A great king like you – a powerful man like you – surely you couldn’t fear me. Why, I was practically your little girl.”
“This is not you,” he tells her, and it is so sadly and deliciously transparent how he struggles to keep his voice calm; emotion shakes his words even so. “You have been bewitched – possessed by them – don’t you see—”
“I see,” she assures him, and dances her fingers slowly up his arm. “I see very well. If only the same could be said for you.”
“You are not a creature of evil,” he says, his breathing heavy. “In your heart—”
“My heart.” Her fingertips reach his neck. His hair still curls sweetly at the base of it, like a boy’s, and she burrows her fingers there like she has the right to. She wonders whether Igraine ever touched him like this. (Before he killed her.) “Why, Your Majesty. Have you really grown so sentimental in your old age?”
“Morgana,” he says, making a plea of her name. It is the voice that used to melt her, the one that came at unanticipated times and always lit her love for him again, no matter how close it had come to burning out. God, how young she was once. He looks at her, now, as if he still sees that girl before him. There is a twitch, just a twitch of feeling. It surprises her for a moment, but it does not throw her.
“My lord?” She is so close now that she can feel his breath. She imagines his pulse must be thundering. Something in her twists at the idea, pleased.
“I have always loved you, child,” he says, his eyes wild with sorrow and locked with hers. “You must know that.”
She thinks that if his hands were free, he would press his fingers to her cheek, the way he had always used to when he made proclamations like those.
“I do,” she promises, putting her mouth to his throat, feeling the thump thump thump of his blood against her tongue, kept from her only by skin. He tenses and she looks up to find he has closed his eyes. He has given up fighting against his restraints. His knuckles have gone white. She laughs, and sinks into his lap, and even as she coaxes open his mouth with hers (for this man has never been her father and she will make sure he knows it now), he can’t lay a hand on her.
She wakes up screaming, and there is the feel of flesh in her fingernails and something dark and hard where her heart ought to be, in the very center of her, and the things she has seen do not follow her into waking, but the feeling does, and all that she knows, God, all that she knows is that they will die, that they will lie, that they will drift away from her, that they will all be ruined someday and she will be the one who’s standing last, the one who’s left alone. She chokes on sobs, she hates the vastness of her bed and the coolness of her sheets. She will burn up into nothing, she thinks, and leave not even dust behind. Nothing to be missed with or remembered by.
Gwen comes in with her familiar noiseless grace. She sinks onto the bed, a steady weight, so welcome and so needed. Morgana is crying, the tears hot down her cheeks, and she puts her hands on Gwen’s face because it is not like hers at all; Morgana knows she is called a beauty but surely the world ought to see that it is Gwen who’s beautiful, with her calm and her sweetness, her smile, her skin that is cool and has (Morgana thinks, foolishly) surely has never been streaked by tears.
“Shh,” Gwen says, as she always does, and runs her hands through Morgana’s hair like a mother might. “Shh. It’s all right now, my lady. It was only a dream.”
“Guinevere,” she sobs, feeling still as though a part of her is lost back there, in whatever she had dreamt. “Gwen. Don’t let me go.”
Gwen pulls back and looks at Morgana, her eyes dark and kind. “Go where?”
“I don’t know,” Morgana cries. “I can’t remember.”
“You’re right here,” Gwen says firmly. “Right here, with me,” and it is this that reaches her, finally, and Morgana stills and breathes in, long and shaky.
She must look a miserable fright, because Gwen’s eyes turn a little sadder, and she runs her fingers against Morgana’s temple, then presses a quick chaste kiss there. It feels like a blessing. It pulls something out of Morgana, or startles it into being – some ravenous pitiful hunger, some greed. She puts her fingers on Gwen’s neck, not quite meaning to trap her, and she kisses Gwen’s mouth.
Gwen freezes, and Morgana thinks her heart will break.
“Please stay,” Morgana whimpers, her forehead on Gwen’s, and she hates to hear herself so weak, but hates to be without Gwen more. “Please stay with me.”
Gwen moves, and Morgana knows for one sick dizzying instant that she’s pulling away, that she’s leaving, and she thinks she will do anything to keep her here. The thought is accompanied by something sharper, something she feels: a flash in some unpinpointable depth of her. Gwen tilts her head and narrows her eyes, as if she’s spotted something unfamiliar in Morgana’s face. Morgana’s heart pounds.
Then Gwen’s expression softens, as if she’s chosen to forget whatever she saw.
“Always,” she says gently.
“Do you regret it?” Morgause asks, her fingers in Morgana’s hair, Morgana’s head in her lap. It has been so long since Morgana has been touched, and she has craved it so much that she thinks she could cry. And so she surrenders to this, to her sister’s fingers, and thinks that for once she would not fight, that she would die in this and would not bother to struggle.
“No,” she says, because she must. The word comes out a whimper. She does not believe herself. Not quite yet. All she can see is the faces of the people she loves. She vows that as soon as she is stronger, as soon as she is less tired, she will stop loving them. She might as well return the favor.
Morgana shuts her eyes, and wonders if, here, she will still dream. Morgause drops kisses onto her eyelids like coins.