Characters: Morgana, Gwen, Arthur, & Merlin; minor appearances by the rest of the Camelot crew; featuring, er, the Green Knight
Word Count: 3,956
Spoilers: general season 2
Summary: The gripping conclusion of our tale (finally)! In which chilling at
Author's Note: Finally, an ending! Thank you to mustbethursday3, whose enthusiasm reminded me that oh, hey, I should finish this up! Also: this is somehow absurdly sentimental and just plain absurd, to a degree the other chapters did not quite manage. If you have not recently brushed up on your Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, it will make no sense; if you have, it will make no sense anyway. This is what happens when, er, I had to read it in class like six months ago and haven't revisited it since. Hold onto your hats. If you're actually wearing a hat as you read this, I applaud you extra.
Also: many thanks to Mean Girls and Rent for contributing so invaluably to the femmeslashy silliness.
Part the First
Part the Second
“… And so at the end of the day,” Arthur concludes excitedly, “he’s going to give us anything that he’s gotten throughout the day on the hunt, and we’re to do the same for him, only it’s what we’ve gotten lounging about in the castle.”
“Ah,” Morgana says. “Sort of like how the Green Knight wanted someone to strike him a blow, and then he’d do the same for them?”
Arthur scrunches up his face thoughtfully. “I suppose so. Hadn’t thought of it like that.”
Morgana and Gwen both keep a hopeful eye on him. There’s a drawn-out second where maybe, just maybe—
“Really, I think you’re reaching there, Morgana,” Arthur decides. “You can’t just go seeing similarities everywhere. It’s impractical.”
“Impractical,” Merlin agrees.
Morgana rolls her eyes so hard that they threaten to pop out altogether.
“Is she having some kind of fit or something?” Arthur asks, pulling a face.
On the first day, Gwen and Morgana both awake at the distant sound of Arthur shouting.
“WHAT? WHAT ARE YOU DOING HERE?”
“You think Merlin’s tried to climb in bed with him again?” Morgana muses.
“That was one time,” Gwen says, her mouth determinedly straight. “And he was sleepwalking.”
Morgana snorts as they set off down the corridor. When they reach Arthur and Merlin’s bedchamber, it’s to find Arthur in the most knightly and defensive of poses, Merlin standing a few feet behind him with a face full of alarm, and a third figure standing there. A figure in an artfully tattered burgundy gown with golden locks far more fabulous than ought to be allowed.
“Morgause,” Morgana says, her face splitting into a smile.
“Morgana,” Morgause responds, spinning around. Her expression softens. “It pleases me to see you again.”
“And me to see you.”
“I hope you’ve remembered me fondly,” Morgause says, taking a few slow, rather hypnotic steps in Morgana’s direction.
“Very fondly,” Morgana breathes.
Arthur, Merlin, and Gwen stare at them. Morgana and Morgause do not seem to notice.
“Uh,” Arthur finally says. “Right then. What—” He brandishes a pillow at Morgause, “—are you doing here?”
“I happen to be visiting Lord Bertilak as well,” Morgause says calmly. “A funny coincidence, isn’t it?”
“Pfft! You’re telling me. In fact, I’m inclined to suspect it’s not a coincidence—” He jabs the pillow forward, as best as one can jab a pillow; Morgause stares impassively at it, “—at all.”
“No, no,” Morgause says. “It’s just coincidence.”
“Well,” Arthur says, “okay.”
“That’s a relief,” says Merlin.
Gwen lifts her eyebrows. She steers her skeptical look Morgana’s way, expecting it to be met with a matching one; instead, Morgana is staring at Morgause.
“Ahem,” Gwen says pointedly.
“Oh!” Morgana snaps back into action. “You two are bloody idiots.”
“Oh, come off it, Morgana!” Arthur scowls. “Just because you can’t rhyme—”
“My rhyming abilities aren’t the issue here, Arthur,” Morgana declares furiously. “Although, for the record, they’re perfectly fine—”
“That’s debatable,” Merlin mumbles.
“Don’t you remember that the last time we all saw Morgause, she issued you a challenge, Arthur Pendragon, to have your head chopped off??” Morgana demands. “Doesn’t that seem just a slightest bit familiar??”
“Um, yes,” Arthur says. He throws a glance back at Merlin. After a few seconds, they both start chuckling. “Talk about funny coincidences—”
“You idiots,” Morgana spits. “She’s behind all of this, can’t you see??” Her expression turns anxious, and she adds to Morgause, in far gentler tones, “No offense.”
“None taken,” Morgause assures her.
“Good,” Morgana says, starting to smile again.
“The point is,” Gwen says hastily, grabbing Morgana’s arm to drag her back a few feet (she had been drifting dangerously Morgauseward), “if a known enemy of Camelot is behind the Green Knight’s challenge, then maybe it’d be wise if the two of you stopped to question what it really is you’re doing here.”
“What does any of this have to do with the Green Knight?” Arthur says, brow furrowing.
Gwen decides to change tactics. She turns to Morgause. “What were you even doing in here in the first place?”
“She was kissing us,” Arthur nearly gags.
“It is a custom under Lord Bertilak’s roof,” Morgause responds evenly, “that’s all.”
“To sneak into random peoples’ rooms and kiss them awake??” Arthur demands.
Morgause nods. “No one’s ever complained before.” She eyes Arthur and Merlin curiously.
“What?” Arthur says suspiciously. Then awareness dawns. He groans, “Oh, good God!”
“I was sleeping on the floor,” Merlin says quickly.
“He was sleeping on the floor,” Arthur repeats, pointing helpfully and forcefully at the floor.
“Er, Arthur,” Merlin pipes up meanwhile, “do you think that Lord Bertilak meant we had to give him, um, everything we’d gotten during the day?”
“Yes, Merlin,” Arthur says impatiently. “Everything. Absolutely everything. He made it very clear, didn’t he? Honestly, sometimes you’re so thick I think you might—” His eyes widen. “Ah.”
“Yep,” Merlin says sadly.
Gwen, Morgana, and Morgause call a temporary truce between good and evil in order to exchange some rather amused glances.
It is a jolly good time watching Merlin and Arthur each press an awkward kiss to the Green Knight’s cheek.
“Say, mate,” Arthur says as he pulls away, “you’re looking rather green.”
“Stomach bug,” the Green Knight says.
“Damn it,” Arthur mutters, “I hope I don’t catch anything. I need to be in good health to go find the Green Knight so he can decapitate me.”
“Here!” the Green Knight continues. “As promiséd, dear friends, I present: what I have gotten on this day!”
He slams a deer carcass onto the table.
Blood drips onto the floor. Arthur and Merlin grimace.
“Feast your eyes on that!” the Green Knight says, pleased.
Arthur frowns. “What happened to your accent?”
“Whaddye mean? It’s – still – herrrrrrre.” It’s not still there, even though it tries very hard to be.
“Oh, okay, “Arthur says. “Good. Otherwise, Morgana probably would’ve had more stupid ideas about you being the Green Knight.”
Morgana, meanwhile, is sitting with her chin in one hand gazing rather raptly at Morgause on the opposite end of the banquet table. Morgause is in the process of eating a turkey leg far more seductively than necessary – or, indeed, far more seductively than anyone would have thought humanly possible.
“Morgana,” Gwen says sternly, “she’s your sister.”
“Well, yes,” Morgana says, tearing her gaze away, “but she’s my half-sister. You have your sisters, and then your stepsisters, and then your half-sist—” At the shake of Gwen’s head, she trails off dejectedly. “That’s not right, is it?”
“It’s – not – right,” Gwen verifies, slowly and emphatically.
Morgause tosses her hair and tears off another mouthful of turkey flesh.
On the second day, Morgana and Gwen wake to yet more of Arthur’s shouting. This time it’s a bit more like screeching.
“Merlin! That way! That way! Don’t let her get you. Feint to the right! No, the right! No, your other right, you great stupid ass! FEINT with an E, not FAINT. I – aughhh, she got me! I don’t – want to – kiss you – no – really – I find your determination to destroy my kingdom very unattractive—”
“At this point,” Gwen says, “I can’t help suspecting she’s just mocking them.”
“I know,” Morgana says, grinning rather wickedly. “It’s great, isn’t it?”
“No,” Gwen says, but the corner of her mouth twitches a little.
On the second evening at supper, Merlin and Arthur are given a gigantic boar carcass.
“What are we supposed to do with it?” Merlin mutters out of the side of his mouth to Arthur.
“Eat it, you great idiot.”
“I don’t want to eat that,” Merlin says weakly. “It’s staring at us.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t want to snog Lord Bertilak. Sometimes, Merlin, you have to look beyond what you want and just do what the situation commands. It’s called manners.”
“Didn’t Morgause stick her tongue in your ear a bit?” Merlin says innocently. “D’you think that means you have to stick your tongue in Lord Bertilak’s ear? Manners, right?”
“I hate you, Merlin,” Arthur says.
“Just saying,” Merlin says.
“This is getting ridiculous,” Gwen whispers to Morgana. “We need to get out of here.”
But Morgause is licking gravy off her fingers. As such, Morgana is rather useless.
On the third morning, Gwen and Morgana stop by to find that Morgause has changed her tactic slightly.
“A green girdle of immortality?” Arthur snorts disdainfully at the item of clothing in Morgause’s hand. “Blokes don’t wear girdles. And even if they did, I wouldn’t need to. Have you seen my abs? Merlin, lift up my shirt.”
Merlin hastens over.
“Oh, forget it,” Morgause mutters, and leaves.
“D’you still want me to—?” Merlin begins to ask. Arthur shoves him away.
“Well,” Arthur says later that day, “it’s been quite splendid, Lord Bertilak, but I’m afraid we’ve got to be pressing on. Green Knights to find and all.”
“Of course,” the Green Knight says, waving a green hand at them, catching himself, and hurrying to hide it in the folds of his cloak. “Be gone with ye, merry travelers!”
They leave. Morgause watches them from a tower window. It’s hard to decide whether her expression is more Evil Mastermind Gazing Triumphantly At Things Going Exactly To Plan or Tormented Lover Gazing Woefully Upon Their Departing Beloved. Not that the latter description is at all relevant to her dynamic with any of the persons currently leaving.
Morgana waves eagerly. Gwen finally tugs her hand down, rolling her eyes.
They make it approximately twenty feet when the Green Knight steps out from behind a tree, rather winded. He brandishes his axe.
“Green Knight!” Arthur says. “Who knew we’d come across you so soon!”
“Why, it’s almost as if you ran right out of the castle!” Morgana exclaims with false wonder.
“Almost,” Arthur agrees. “Not quite, though.”
“Arthur, it is I!” the Green Knight booms. “Lord Bertilak!!!!”
“Here now, are you sure?” Arthur says, frowning.
“Ay, ye timorous beastie!” says the Green Knight in a highly inconsistent, still inexplicable Scottish brogue.
“OH MY GOD,” say Arthur and Merlin.
The Green Knight/Lord Bertilak takes the four of them on a fifteen minute walk to a rather creepy moor filled with headstones and one conveniently placed chopping block. Because Arthur asks politely, the Knight grants him ten minutes to get himself in order before the chop-chopping commences.
“Arthur,” Gwen says, quite convinced that this has gone on long enough, “I don’t want you to get decapitated.”
Arthur squints at her as if she’s someone he remembers from a dream. “Why?”
“You’re meant to be a great king someday,” Gwen says, laying a hand on his arm. “And if there’s one thing great kings tend to have in common, it’s having a head.”
“My father’s got a head,” Arthur says darkly. “Has that made him a great king?”
“You are not your father,” Gwen says firmly.
He stares into her eyes. For the first time in so long, she feels as if she can recognize him all the way, and as if he can truly see her.
“We won’t bring the whole kingdom to watch it,” Arthur says at last. “This is my fight. It is no longer about glory. I was foolish to let it be in the first place.”
“It was never about glory,” Gwen protests, anger setting in. “It was about pigheadedness, and now that you’ve let go of that, what point is there??”
“I made a promise, Guinevere. A good king keeps his promises.”
“You are not a king yet,” Gwen reminds him, “and if you carry on like this, you never will be.”
Arthur looks at her for a long time. He looks so noble; good, and almost wise. “You would have made a good queen, Guinevere.”
She cannot decide whether she wants to kiss or to kill him more. At last, she figures that the Green Knight has the latter option covered; she may as well take the former.
“They’re very cute, aren’t they?” Morgana reflects, watching Arthur and Gwen embrace in the distance.
“Quite cute, yeah, I suppose,” Merlin says.
Arthur and Gwen keep kissing. It’s a bit awkward.
Morgana turns to look at Merlin instead. “Do you feel a little left out?”
“A little,” Merlin admits.
“I’ve gotten a bit used to it,” Merlin says after awhile. “Being on the outside of things.”
“What do you mean?” Morgana asks. “Arthur’s got you trailing after him every second of the day. Surely you mustn’t even have the chance to feel apart from him.”
“Yeah,” Merlin says, and laughs a little. “There’s just … things I’d like to be able to – I feel as if – as if no one knows me all the way, you know? It’s stupid.”
“It’s not stupid,” Morgana says. “Or if it is, then I’m stupid too.”
Merlin grins. It’s a little shaky, but warm and welcome as sunshine under the circumstance. “You’re many things, Morgana, but stupid isn’t one of them.”
She smiles back. “Thank you.”
She squeezes his hand briefly. In the short time that their hands touch, she feels a peculiar, pleasant jolt. She blames the cold, the fear. She doesn’t know what else it could be. Still, something about the way Merlin looks at her, just for a moment, makes her suspect she wasn’t the only one who felt it.
He turns his gaze to Arthur, watching him pull away from Gwen. “I know he has to have his head chopped off, because it’ll be the greatest thing that’s ever happened to Camelot or either of us, but … there’s a part of me that wishes there was a way out of it. I feel like a bit of a lousy servant, to be honest.”
“Merlin,” Morgana says very firmly, “hold onto that feeling.”
Arthur kneels at the chopping block. The axe is about to fall.
Morgana looks at Gwen. Her face, her whole body seems ready to crumple with sorrow. She is crying silently. No moment in Morgana’s life has ever been more terrible than this one.
“Arthur,” Gwen says, and her voice is strong in spite of her weeping. “Please. Live for me.”
Then, several things happen at once: Arthur jerks backward a foot or so away from the chopping block; Merlin (rather inexplicably) holds out his hand, his fingers stretched wide, and for some reason the movement seems purposeful, almost frightening, rather than ridiculous; Morgana feels a flash of bright, desperate, determined feeling so strong she thinks it will burn her up; “Your eyes,” Gwen says, but Morgana cannot tell who the words are meant for; and the axe in the Green Knight’s hand turns into a bouquet of flowers.
For a moment, there is perfect silence.
“Really??” the Green Knight says grumpily then. “I wasn’t going to do it.”
Arthur is still on his knees. He looks up, glaring furiously. “What??”
“I wasn’t!” the Green Knight insists. “I merely wanted, young Pendragon, to teach you a lesson or two about the nature of honor and chivalry and ludicrously bold displays of masculinity.”
“By chopping off my head?” Arthur fumes.
The Green Knight looks rather sheepish. “Well,” he says, “I suspect it’s one of those things that will make much more sense once the historians have copied it down and it’s had a few hundred years to, you know. Marinate.”
Arthur is having none of it.
“Morgause had me do it!” the Green Knight declares. He’s starting to sound quite whiny. “And for your information, she thinks Camelot is in a rather bad state indeed. Full of big stupid men making hideous, violent decisions when, really, that’s not going to solve any problems at all. Just create a few … hundred!”
“Oh yeah?? Well, at least our big stupid men aren’t green!!” Arthur thunders.
This appears to be too much for the Green Knight. He throws the bouquet of flowers down, spins around, and strides off.
“I suspect he’s rather sensitive about that,” Gwen says sagely. She’s on the ground beside Arthur, running one hand through his hair like she’s checking for axe-marks.
Arthur smiles a bit dreamily at Gwen. Morgana’s not sure how much of that can be blamed on the magic wearing off.
“You’re always telling me to live for you,” he points out.
“And you always do it,” Gwen retorts, smiling.
Morgana glances at Merlin. He’s staring down at his fingers with a look of befuddlement, as if he can’t quite tell what he’s just done. She supposes he must be waking up from the spell. Then he shrugs, and goes over to help Arthur up.
“I wish you weren’t so hell-bent on the destruction of Camelot,” Morgana says wistfully, her hands clasped with Morgause’s. In a sisterly fashion.
“I wish you weren’t so attached to it,” Morgause responds. “It really is a very corrupt kingdom.”
“I know,” Morgana says. She throws a glance back at Gwen, Arthur, and Merlin. “But I can’t bring myself to give up on it just yet.”
“If that day ever comes …”
“You are the first person I’ll seek,” Morgana promises.
Morgause presses a hand to Morgana’s cheek. “I wish you happiness. And all the pleasant dreams in the world.”
“Thank you,” Morgana murmurs.
They gaze at one another, sisterishly. At last, Morgana slowly disentangles her hands from Morgause’s and turns back to return to her friends.
They all stare at her.
“What?” Morgana demands. “She’s my sister.”
Arthur snorts. “Sisters?”
“We’re close,” Morgana grumbles.
The journey back is just as long, but the Green Knight (who’s feeling rather chastened) provides them with horses, so it’s far less painful. For the humans, anyway.
“It’s very quiet,” Morgana says after an hour’s riding.
“You know, Morgana, I was just thinking that,” Gwen replies innocently.
“I suppose,” Merlin begins, “we could tal—”
Morgana begins to sing. Evilly. “Oh, Arthur wanted his head chopped off / And Merlin wanted it too!”
“Every man in Camelot had gone quite mad / It’s true,” Gwen pitches in.
“Gwen,” Arthur says, anguished, “really??”
“But we won’t make much fun of them, for this song is for you-u-u—”
“We’re sorry!” Arthur exclaims. “We’re sorry, all right?? It was a spell. Of course we don’t really think you’re dainty and all of that rot. Morgana, you’ve been able to beat me up since we were ten. Gwen, you’ve got more sense in your pinky than the two of us have got combined in our whole lousy, man-shaped bodies. Now will you please stop singing??”
“Please,” Merlin adds.
“That’s more like it,” Morgana says.
They keep singing anyway.
At last, they return to Camelot.
“Sorcery of the foulest kind,” Uther professes, wrapping Arthur in a hug. “Thank God you freed us all from that foul enchantment. Had I been in my right mind, I never would have doubted you could.”
“It was Morgana, Father,” Arthur says. “Morgana and Guinevere.”
For a moment, Uther looks baffled. Then his expression turns quite proud.
“Morgana,” he says, smiling, “What would we do without you?”
Underneath fifty-seven layers of resentment and loathing, Morgana feels a twinge of fondness. “Let’s hope we’ll never find out, my lord.”
“Indeed,” Uther says, embracing her. “Let’s hope.”
“And Guinevere,” the king continues, once he and Morgana have parted, “you have proven yourself to be the most loyal and remarkable of servants. Perhaps the finest in all of Camelot.”
Arthur grins proudly while Gwen curtseys.
“Gee,” Merlin mutters. “Thanks.”
While Merlin and Gaius sit down to a bowl of lumpy, flavorless stew and share a heartwarming conversation about the obstacle Camelot has just overcome (as they are in the habit of doing every time Camelot overcomes an obstacle), Morgana retires to her bedchamber with Gwen behind her. She changes into her nightdress, then waits while Gwen pulls the covers back and fluffs the pillows.
“That was a lovely string of days, wasn’t it?” Morgana deadpans as she climbs into bed.
“Oh yes,” Gwen agrees wanly. “Lovely.”
“One straight week of Arthur being an idiot. Why, it’s a wonder any of us survived it.”
“He is a bit of an idiot,” Gwen agrees. She does not say the second bit (which Morgana suspects goes something along the lines of but I do love him anyway). She doesn’t need to. The feeling alone warms her words.
“Yes,” Morgana says with a merciful little smile. “But a good idiot. An idiot with qualities.”
“He does have a few,” Gwen says fondly.
She will make a good queen, Morgana thinks. Even Morgause will have no quarrel with Camelot then.
The thought makes tears well up in her eyes for a very silly second. Morgana blinks them back and says, “I’m positively exhausted.”
“I’m rather tired myself, milady.”
“I suppose you ought to get home then.”
“Yes,” Gwen says, “I suppose I shall. Goodnight, Morgana.”
She’s three steps from the door when Morgana relents. There are some nights when you want nothing more than your best friend by your side, and this night is one of them.
“Gwen,” Morgana says, her voice going a little higher with hope, “stay awhile?”
Gwen smiles, and comes back to sink down on the bed beside her.
“… And I don’t know what everyone’s always on about anyhow. The only reason I have you come in here at night,” Arthur says, grumpily and shirtlessly, “is because everyone knows boots are polished best by the light of the full moon. And I’m certainly not letting you out of my sight with my best pair.”
“Of course, sire,” Merlin says, glancing up from his moonlit boot-polishing.
“And,” Arthur adds grudgingly after a moment’s pause, “because I suppose it’ll do us both good if I keep you around. You because Lord knows what you’d get up to if you didn’t have me around to keep you busy with proper work, and me because … well, because I’ve gotten used to having a stupid oaf following me around. Wouldn’t want you getting distracted. Going off to work for someone else.”
“Oh, I don’t think I could work for anyone else after you,” Merlin says, his eyes dancing. “Being treated with dignity and respect, after all this time? Nope. Don’t think I could stomach it.”
“Shut up, Merlin.”
“See?” Merlin says. “How do you come back from that?”
“Not that you’re of much help when it really counts,” Arthur continues pointedly. “I didn’t see you trying to stop me from getting decapitated by a huge green knight. You were positively giddy about it. Singing backup.”
“I think it’s good for me to support your interests.”
“Not when I’m king, it won’t be,” Arthur says firmly. “I need someone who’ll tell me whether what I’m doing is right, not someone who’s – who’s afraid to hurt my feelings.”
“When you’re king,” Merlin repeats, sounding rather moved.
They stare at one another.
“It’s not,” Arthur says at last, “so much that I want you around. Just that I’m not daft enough to think I’ll actually be able to get rid of you.”
“Ah,” Merlin says, “right then.”
“When I’m king …” Arthur muses. Then he groans. “God. I nearly wasn’t king. I nearly gave my head.”
“I’m sure,” Merlin says, “you would’ve given the best head in all of Albion.”
It goes very quiet.
For a very …
… long …
“Maybe we should start listening to ourselves talk,” Arthur says, his eyes huge.
“Yep,” Merlin agrees quickly.
They don’t talk much for the remainder of the night. Just to be safe, Arthur puts on a shirt. Sometimes you can’t be too careful.
THE REAL END