|At My Most Beautiful
Author: lovepb13 PM
AU. In a world where things were ever so slightly different, Camelot had a young and beautiful Queen. A beautiful Queen who was married to a cold and aging King. Morgana is not related to Morgause or Uther in this story. COMPLETE.Rated: Fiction T - English - Romance/Drama - Morgause & Morgana - Chapters: 27 - Words: 130,682 - Reviews: 59 - Favs: 33 - Follows: 33 - Updated: 01-11-13 - Published: 06-01-11 - Status: Complete - id: 7042253
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
They had been travelling for a week – making their weary way home to the ones they loved and the lives they could never truly go back to living. It was that life that played on Morgause's mind, keeping her awake. She sat cross-legged before the saffron fire, surrounded by red canvas and flickering shadows that seemed to circle her as she worked, playing off the light wooden furniture and fur-covered floor. For the last seven nights she had slept in the tent alone. Several tents had been made vacant by the battles and the men had voted that they should go to the highest ranked Knights. It was supposed to be a reward but the loneliness felt like a punishment from the gods.
To ward off melancholic thoughts, she cradled in her left hand a shrinking block of limewood and in her right a carving knife. Her head was bowed over her hands and her golden hair, copper-red in the firelight, fell in long, glittering ringlets that reached almost to her lap. It had not been cut since she left Morgana's arms and it would not be until she was back in them – a romantic tradition of her father's making. The carving was his as well. He had always returned home with some new toy for her when he went away. She was not sure that she could ever match his curving goddess figurines or sharp-eared foxes, but she could manage a couple of good, solid rings for the babes to bite on as they teethed. Animals would come with practice, she hoped.
"Maybe by the time that they are old enough to appreciate it," she murmured, curving the knife over the edge of the ring, smoothing it.
Sighing, she blinked and tucked her hair behind her right ear. Her eyes were beginning to sting from the smoke and her movements were growing less precise. A yawn rose up from her chest and her head tipped back with it like a lioness giving a silent roar. Sleep was one foe that she could not seem to beat, no matter how terrible her dreams would be. Dropping the wood and the knife on the fur beneath her, she rocked forward onto her knees and got unsteadily to her feet. She ran her hand though her hair – kept smooth and tangle-free by the oil Gwen had sent with her – and yawned again.
For the first time since the war began, sleep came to her the second her head hit the makeshift pillow.
Leon sighed in relief as Morgause's silhouette finally took to bed. One of them at least would have to be alert come morning, and it would not be any other man of the First Company. Unbeknownst to Morgause, her brothers stood a circled guard around her tent. They had done so every night since the defeated King made his vile threat. Morgause was one of them – their brother, their sister. She had fought with the bravery of the Pendragon dragon in battle and had saved each of their lives more than once. They would die to keep her safe from Edwin's wrath.
Soon Morgause was dreaming that she was in Morgana's arms once more, holding her close and whispering devotions to her and the gods alike for such a sweet dream. She knew it was a dream, for Morgana looked just as she did when they last laid eyes on one another, but that did not bother her. All that mattered was Morgana's gentle touch and the sweet smell of the scented oils that Gwen anointed her with. In Morgana's arms, the woes of war seemed a very long way away.
"My love, my Queen," Morgause murmured reverently, her hand sliding up to Morgana's jaw as she kissed her.
Morgana smiled and nuzzled against her. "My champion," she whispered, returning the endearment. "My love."
Morgause closed her eyes and felt her body shiver, overwhelmed.
"I beg you - wake up," Morgana urged softly. Then a little louder, "It is not safe for you to sleep this night. Please, my love, wake up."
Jolted, Morgause awoke, her eyes struggling to focus in the darkness. The fire had died down to mere embers and the shadows in the tent had grown larger and stranger – they were moving. Before she could take another breath, her sword was in her hand and she was on her feet. War had quickened her movements and Morgana's warning had her on edge.
As sleep ebbed away, a peal of swords ringing together erupted around her. Men began shouting for help – Camelot's men by their accents. Turning on the spot, Morgause saw that her tent was surrounded by fighting, the clashing figures silhouetted against the canvas by the brighter fires crackling outside. Her grip tightened on her sword and she rushed for the tent entrance, desperate to see what was going on and aid her brothers if need be. A few scuffles had broken out amongst the knights before, but this felt different. Morgana would not wake her for nothing.
"Not so fast, girl," a gruff voice called from the darkness. "We have unfinished business, you and me."
When Edwin stepped into the light, Morgause's blood ran cold and her knees suddenly felt no sturdier than water.
"That we do," Morgause replied, her voice shakier than she would like. She would not show this man weakness. "We have buried near two hundred of our men in this war and so far you have not been made to answer for their deaths."
Edwin snorted a laugh. "Drop the act, girl. You are no knight. We both know that."
"That is a lie," Morgause snarled, her body becoming solid again in her rage. Nothing flared her ire more than men's poor treatment of women. "I am more of a knight than you or your men will ever be."
Again, Edwin laughed, advancing on her slowly – a predator playing with his prey. "Did your Commander tell you that before or after he took you? My guess is after. Girls like you always need sweet words to stop them crying afterwards."
"Do not dare speak of Sir Leon like that!" Morgana spat, her jaw clenched and her sword poised to strike. "He is a true Knight – gallant and respectful of women."
"Is that what he told you?"
Morgause refused to play this game. He was trying to unnerve her but he had no idea how far off the mark he was.
Rushing forward, she caught him off guard, their swords meeting an inch in front of Edwin's face. The steel locked but he easily pushed her away. She was no match for his oxen strength. This was a fight she would have to win with cunning, form and speed. Nothing new there then.
Parrying back, she evaded his quick return blow, using his momentum to sweep it aside.
"Not bad," Edwin said condescendingly, speaking to show that he had yet to exert himself, "for a girl."
"A girl who cut down a hundred of your men," she retorted. The number was exaggerated but not by far. Edwin's army had been all but decimated before the truce was signed. Morgana, along with Gwaine and Leon, had been proclaimed a hero. She could not think of herself as a hero, though. She was ashamed to admit that she did not know how many men she had killed. It was so contorted in her mind that she could not trust her own memory.
Edwin's eyes narrowed. "You mean that your gallant Sir Leon let you out of his bed long enough for you to see the battlefield? I would not have made that mistake."
Morgana's reply came as another attack that struck as quickly as her heart was beating. Again, Edwin blocked it, but with more effort this time.
"A weak man, is he? That why you are so keen to come at me? Do not worry, girl, you will never walk straight again after I am done with you," Edwin sneered, grabbing his crotch. "Who will protect that Queen of yours then, eh?"
A fear greater than any she had felt before struck her like a dousing of icy water. But only for a moment. He had made a mistake in threatening Morgana. Morgause's anger ignited and drove her forward with a kind of strength that she had never felt before. A voice in her head – Leon's - told her to go low and strike up. That was where her advantage lay – her size and speed. Obeying him without a thought, she lunged forward onto her knees and thrust her sword upwards, piercing the Edwin's rounded stomach through the gap in his leather jerkin. In his arrogance, he had not worn his mail, giving her a clean shot at his weakest point.
With a cry, she drove the point of her sword home, plunging it effortlessly through the man's soft flesh to pierce his dishonourable heart. She shrieked again and retracted her weapon, closing her eyes as blood gushed from the wound – painting her in victorious red.
A stuttering wail came from Edwin's mouth and a sickening stench filled the air. Morgause's eyes watered from the vile scent of the king's demise, making her stumble as she dashed to the side to get out of the way of the tumbling King. He hit the ground with a wet thud and fixed her with an unending stare. A stare that he could never break.
"Morgause!" Percival shouted, panic in his voice as he hastened to her side.
"I'm alright," she insisted breathlessly, heaving the instant she tasted Edwin's blood on her lips.
Percival patted her back as she brought up her dinner, waiting for her to catch her breath again before he asked, "What happened?"
"He… He…" Her stomach lurched again and acid stung at her tongue.
"Alright," he whispered, tenderly holding back her hair. "It's okay. Just breathe." He lifted his head and shouted for Gwaine, for anyone. Only then did Morgause realise that the commotion outside had died down. Through the gash of the tent flap she could see Worcester men being dragged limply away.
"Shit," Gwain exclaimed, appearing in the doorway and blocking her view. "Get her out of here, Percival."
The large Knight nodded and scooped Morgause up into his arms as if she weighed nothing more than a rag doll. Morgause let him carry her – let him take her away from the icy memory of her own fear and the stench of Edwin's end.
She could not think, not clearly. She had killed a King. Committed regicide. And after the treaty had been signed.
What would happen now?
Just after daybreak Morgause was summoned to Sir Leon's tent. Percival, who had not left her side, accompanied her. He had stripped her down to her smallclothes and gently washed the blood from her skin and hair. After she was clean, he tended to the shoulder wound that she had not felt being inflicted in the heat of the fight, and helped her dress again in fresh clothes. Someone had done it for him once, he explained when she weakly protested, when a fight in his youth had left him unable to do anything but relive that life-ending moment again and again. He told her that it would get better, no matter how absurd that seemed to her then. Morgause tried to believe, she really did, but there was a cold, empty feeling inside her that she feared no warmth could shift.
As they reached Leon's tent, the guards motioned for Percival to wait outside. He squeezed Morgause's arm and wished her luck. On impulse, he hugged her to him and kissed her hair. He loved her as he loved all his brothers, but all in the company were united in loving Morgause best.
Morgause looked up at him blankly, wishing that she could thank him.
"We're with you," he promised her, nodding his head to Gwaine and the other Knights of the First Company standing steady in support behind him.
With an uncertain nod, she turned from them and stepped into the gloom of the tent.
The table where Leon usually took company was empty and unused at the mouth of the tent. If it weren't for the sounds of shuffling feet and hushed conversation, Morgause would have thought the tent empty. Even with the noise to guide her eyes, she had to squint into the darkness to make out the figure propped up on the raised bed and the two women fussing around him.
"Come," Leon commanded, his voice a little thin.
He waved away his nurses and they swept like shadows from the tent.
"Commander?" Morgause asked, emotion suddenly flooding into her in the form of worry, of fear. "What hap-"
"One of Edwin's men caught me unawares," he explained, beckoning her closer to see the white linen wrapped around his calf. "The little bugger crawled through the undergrowth and cut my tendon with a dagger. I thought I heard something, but I was looking for a standing foe, not a one on his belly." He took her hand and bid her to sit beside him on the bed. She reached out and touched the bandage, as if she could tell how bad a wound he had taken. "It is nothing that will not heal," he assured her in a not all too convincing tone. "You are the one I am worried about. Gwaine tells me that you are not talking. Tell me, did he…"
She shook her head, a tear falling onto their joined hands. Leon broke their contact and brought his hand to her chin, bringing her eyes up to meet his.
"Would he have?"
Morgause nodded, tears flowing.
"Hush," he soothed, wiping away her tears and pulling her down to him. Gratefully, she let him take her in his arms, laying her head on his chest and holding onto him tight. "You have done us proud, Morgause. We are the ones who failed you. We heard his threat. He should never have been allowed to enter your tent – never."
She sobbed an apology, her words almost indiscernible through he tears.
"For what? Killing a King? Morgause, I do not think you realise what you have done. Edwin would never have conceded as he claimed to have done. He would have attacked again – whether that would have been in a week or a year, we know it would have happened. But God alone knows how many more of our people would have lost their lives to his vendetta, his greed. With one thrust of your sword, you have wrenched his kingdom from his cold, loathsome hands," Leon asserted, holding her tight. "And with it, you have taken out Camelot's biggest threat. I have a document signed by Uther's own hand that declares you as Queen Morgana's presence on the battlefield, with Sir William Grouse representing Queen Igraine in the Three Years War as precedence. That means that your victories are the Queen victories."
Morgause looked up at him, confused.
"Worcester belongs to the Queen now. And yes, that means it belongs to the King. But law states that any property inherited or taken by a woman after her marriage goes not to her son after her husband dies, but to her. You have given your Queen a kingdom of her own. And she will be the very first the hold that right."
Startled, Morgana clutched her mauve silk dress to her chest and gasped. When she saw that it was only Gwen – red cheeked and face shining – who had come bursting through her door, she let the dress drop and sighed in relief. She had been trying on the new nightdress that Gwen had made for her, and the material of it was so thin that it was almost sheer. It would not do to have anyone but Gwen see her in such a state, even though it was practical purposes. The fantastically expensive material was more than thin enough to keep her cool at night – something which the babes had recently made all but impossible, despite the cold weather. Morgana quietly thought it quite an achievement for them, no matter how much discomfort it brought her.
"You gave me a fright," Morgana admonished fondly, smiling at her friend. "What do you think?" She raised her arms and did a little twirl, the long train on the nightdress twisting around her feet. "Will she like it?"
Of course, there were other less practical reasons that she had commissioned the nightdress.
Gwen smiled, her breathing slowly returning to normal. "She… She will not be able to resist you. No one could with you in that. Morgause will love it."
Morgana dropped her head and blushed, her smile shy. "I hope so."
"I know so."
"I do hope that she will be home in time to see me in it. At this rate, it will not fit me for more than a week." It was a slight exaggeration, but the babes were growing so quickly now that Morgana was amazed she could still stand.
Gwen laughed then. "Oh, I think she will make it." When Morgana gave her a puzzled look, she continued. "The advance riders have just arrived. Morgause and the other Knights will be here by sundown."
With a shriek of delight, Morgana held out her arms for Gwen to fall into.
She was nearly home. Her love was nearly home.
Morgana leant back against the high table, tired after more than three hours on her feet. It took time for a gown such as hers to be put together, and it had been rather short notice. Gwen had required her to stand on a platform so that the purple silk could be pinned and smoothed. Unlike the blues she wore, this purple was lighter and so could take heavier adornment. It was woven through with silver thread and studded with tiny crystals trapped in little cages of cotton. Silver embroidery picked out curving vines over her rounded stomach and an intricate border at the neckline to draw the eye. It was one thing not hiding her body but another thing all together to let people's eyes rest on it. Not that the adorned neckline had made any difference in practice. Every man and woman in the hall had gazed almost hungrily at her swollen belly as she entered on Uther's arm. The attention had almost made her bolt.
"Stand up, Morgana," Uther hissed under his breath. "They will be here any second."
Sighing, Morgana ran her hand over her belly. "You try carrying this much weight for this long and standing up straight," she retorted.
Uther shrugged his shoulders, making his armour chime. Morgana had to concede that he carried a good deal of extra weight too when he was dressed in his ceremonial plate.
"Well then try having your armour feed off you." She squirmed as one of the babes kicked. "Try having your armour aiming kicks at your vital organs."
That made Uther chuckle and reach over to pat his wife's stomach. "Behave for your mother," he whispered and, despite all he had done, Morgana could not help the pleasant fluttering sensation it gave her to see him already so fatherly. She blamed being so sentimental on Morgause's nearness. It was easy to feel warmly towards Uther when her Knight was by her side.
She soon became impatient with his lingering touch when he did not remove his hand as, with a creek and the sound of trumpets, the oaken doors swung open, revealing the Knights.
The hall got to its feet and Morgana, eager for the best view, stood up straight, her heart pounding. Uther's hand fell away from her.
At the front of the column came their Commander, Sir Leon, splendid in plate that was dented from battle. His hair was worn short, making it seem darker, and his face was shaved clean, showing a new pink scar on his cheek. He looked every bit the victorious commander, weathered by battle and still standing tall. Though, maybe, not quite as tall as he had been when he left. The news had come to the Queen from servant to servant; from the stable boy who took Leon's horse, then to the scullery maid of the Knight's quarters, onto the washerwomen and finally to Emilie and so onto Morgana. But whatever she had expected, it had not been to see Sir Leon barely able to walk unaided, with his left leg bent and him unable to straighten it. But still, he walked into the hall under no one's power but his own – his jaw tight with the pain it brought him.
Behind him, the Knights walked three abreast. First were the heroes of the war: Sir Gwaine the Good, so named for his mercy on the battlefield; Lady Morgause the Lionheart, so called for her supremacy in battle and for slaying the King who dared to invade Camelot; and Sir Percival the Bold, who held his small force against an enemy twice as large. They looked glorious side by side. But there was only one of those three whom Morgana had eyes for. And only one she could not quite see.
No matter how high she teetered on the tips of her toes, she could not see past Sir Leon to get a look at her love. In frustration, she sighed loud enough to draw Uther's attention even amongst the thunderous applause that accompanied the Knight's entrance. He followed her gaze and saw where her annoyance came from.
"It must have been hard being parted from a friend at such a trying time," Uther sympathised.
Morgana turned to him, shocked by his empathy. "It… Yes. I has been hard, my King."
He smiled. "I hoped you would get along. Looking after you is a job far more suited to a woman than the tough training that the rest of the Knights spend their days with. I had planned to replace her as your guard once the babes are born." Morgana's heart skipped a beat. "But I am willing to concede to the recommendation Sir Leon sent by dove last week. Any Knight who could slay a powerful King like Edwin is more than capable of protecting a babe. And there are other advantages to Morgause being your guard. She is of good blood. Good company for you."
Morgana wanted to hug and hit him all at the same time. Instead she turned back to the room, just in time to meet Morgause's eyes for a fleeting moment before the Knights fell to one knee before the dais, obscuring her from view. In the seconds after their eye contact had broken, Morgana rushed to try to understand that there had been something different about Morgause's gaze. It was… dull. Duller. There was no shine. No warmth. No life. Morgana's heart thudded then seemed to stop.
"Rise, good men," Uther invited, holding out his hand to the Knights bowed before them. Morgana noted he was smiling. For once at these public occasions, the smile on his hard lips was genuine, warm even. Then again, he had just won a war and was expecting his first heir to be put in his arms very soon. He had little not to be happy about.
The same, it seemed, could not be said for Morgause. As the Knights got back to their feet, all of them smiling to see their King so pleased with them, Morgause's mouth remained slack. Impassive. She kept her eyed downcast and seemed not to listen as Uther gave his victory speech. Morgana too let his words pass by her ears unheard. She still had not caught more than a glimpse of Morgause and though she knew that she must try to make eye contact with each of the retuning warriors, it was hard to tear her eyes away from her Knight. She was sure that if she could meet her eyes again, things would be different. After two long hours at the feast with nothing more to say for her efforts than having gotten a semi-decent view of the top half of the back of Morgause's head, Morgana decided to retire and wait for Morgause in her chambers. Even if that meant waiting all night, she was sure that Morgause would come and that her eyes would be full of warmth again.
The feast to welcome them home was the most surreal experience of Morgause's life. Everything around her felt intangible, as if she was living in a dream too good to be true and too good to stand. Before her was the first kitchen-cooked meal she had seen for almost three months and, despite how fervently they had all fantasised about it, she could not bring herself to enjoy it. The chicken was tasteless. The pork was tasteless. The spiced apple sauce was tasteless. All of it tasteless and bland – just like the conversation, the music and company.
Opposite her, Percival caught her gaze and held it for a moment. There was no point in him trying to talk to her; the din from the hall was so loud that Morgause could not even identify the song being played by the minstrel at the end of the table, despite being able to see his lips move with every word.
Percival smiled at her weakly and looked away.
She felt like a stranger in her own mind.
"And you are sure that she said to you that she is coming tonight?" Morgana asked, craning her neck around to try to see Gwen's expression.
Gwen did not answer right away as she was working at fixing dainty purple flowers into Morgana's herringbone braided hair, her look one of deep concentration – eyes narrowed, cheeks flushed and tongue peeking out from between damp lips.
"Yes, Morgana," Gwen said eventually. "She is coming to you tonight. She promised."
Morgana bit her lip and smiled. Gwen had done wonders with her in the hour or so since she had left the feast. She almost felt worthy to welcome Morgause home.
Out of nowhere, guilt struck her at taking up Gwen's time for something so frivolous and pointless.
"I am sorry for dragging you away from the festivities. I know that I should try harder to stay through these things now that you may sit and enjoy with the other guests whilst I am there," Morgana apologised. "Next time I will stay until the end, I promise."
"Nonsense. I would rather be here with you than forced to make awkward conversations with the distant families of Knights and courtiers."
"My fault again," Morgana said quietly. "If I had other ladies-in-waiting like a true Queen, then you would be seated with them and be happy."
Gwen tugged on Morgana's braid playfully. "I am happiest with you. I don't want to share you with anyone else. You having a maid besides me is bad enough."
Morgana laughed. "I hardly ever see Emilie."
"I know. I am good at diverting her to other tasks," Gwen said mischievously, tilting her head so that Morgana could see her impish smile over her shoulder in the mirror.
Morgana's eyes glinted and she matched the smile with a radiant one of her own, lighting up her face and colouring in her cheeks.
"There," Gwen said, kissing her shoulder through the near-sheer material of her new nightdress, "give her that smile and she will yours forever. No one could resist such beauty."
Again Morgana bit her lip, looking at her reflection shyly.
"And if you don't mind, my Queen, I will leave you to await your Knight alone. You don't want me being here when she arrives," Gwen said, stepping out from behind Morgana. "I can go and see my brother and his family – spend the night with them. That way, we will both have had a much more enjoyable night than if we were to stay at that tiresome feast."
On Morgana's nod, she turned and walked for the door. Morgana reached out and caught her hand, pulling her back so that she could kiss her one cheek and tenderly press her palm to the other. "I could not have survived this war without you – not a moment of it."
"Nor I without you, my lady," Gwen murmured, the outdated formality now a nostalgic term of endearment. "Nor I without you."
The night was black as ashes when the knock on her door finally came. Morgana stood startled at the fireplace, eyes wide in the darkness, fixed on the torch-lit door.
"Come in," she bid, trembling.
The door opened tentatively, drawing out the suspense and giving her heartbeat the time to quicken and flutter. The dark wood of the door hid the opener from her, so that she could only see who stood behind it once it began to shut again, closing them inside.
Her first view of Morgause was of her back as she locked the door, giving them the illusion of privacy.
The first thing that Morgana noticed about her was her hair. When she had left, Morgause's hair had hung down to her shoulder blades. Now it curled in ringlets to her lower back, shining a deeper, brighter gold than ever before. Or maybe that part was Morgana's imagination. Nothing could look so fine. So rich. She longed to run her fingers through it. To see it mixed with her inky black locks on the pillow. To feel it tickle her nose in sleep.
"I'm afraid to look at you," Morgause said, a nervous excitement building shaky foundations in the emptiness she had inside. Despite the hollowness which had haunted her since that bloody night, she had feared that if she were to look upon her Queen at the feast, that her heart would ignite again and so their love be given away. Now, finally in her presence, she was sure that would have come to be. "After so long, I am afraid that my heart might not be able take it."
"Nor mine," Morgana admitted, smiling faintly. "But I am certain that it cannot take another moment without you."
At that, Morgause turned towards the firelight, her dark eyes shining with tears as emotion flooded into her for the first time in weeks, filling her so suddenly that it hurt. She parted her lips in a silent gasp and felt as though she could weep with happiness at the sight of Morgana stood at the fireplace, one ivory hand resting on the smooth wood of its surround. She was turned side on to the flames, letting flickering red light and dark, hollow shadows pick out her noble jaw and fine cheekbones. In the firelight, her nightdress glittered gold and silver, revealing the full curves of her body, whilst shrouding her still in maddening mystery that could only be unravelled once she was bare. Her hair, which hung rope like over one slim shoulder, was braided with sweet smelling purple flowers of a kind that usually adorned the Wildes' tables and windowsills on feasts. Through the low V of her neckline and the thin material of her gown, Morgause could see that her shoulders and chest were adorned in her gold lattice of a necklace, showing her devotion with jewels that matched the green stone that hung over Morgause's heart.
"My Gods," Morgause gasped, never having seen a more beautiful sight in all her days.
Morgana smiled shyly and bowed her head, looking at Morgause through her thick eyelashes. And what a sight she was. She glittered splendidly in her polished armour, looking every bit the fairy tale Knight. Her lips were flushed red from nervous biting and her cheeks were pink from wine and wanting. Two neatly healing gashes showed on her face – one on her forehead, half hidden by her long, flowing hair, and one on her left cheek, barely visible through her flush. Morgana wondered how many other new scars she would find on that night and the ones to come. She would seek out them all and kiss them, worshiping her brave Knight for every sacrifice she had made.
Slowly and then quicker, Morgause crossed to her and kissed her soundly – cupping her jaw and slipping her tongue into Morgana's eagerly opening mouth, tasting honey on her lips. A quick fluttering open of her eyes revealed a honey pot above the fire. The taste had been deliberate. Morgana wanted a romantic remembrance of their first honey-sweetened kiss that beautiful morning by the fireside. As kisses went, though, this one was sweeter. Morgana had learnt to kiss back with as much force as was she was given and they had both learnt that even though Morgana could hold her own, they both much preferred it when Morgause took the lead.
Morgana's arms went around her neck and her Queen whimpered needily, opening up for her Knight and melting into her arms. The initial heat of the kiss simmered and cooled as Morgana's hands slipped down to rest on the mail above Morgause's collarbone, kissing her slowly and sweetly, never wanting it to end.
"My Knight," she murmured between kisses. "My champion." Another kiss. "My heart." Another, deeper. "My hero."
Morgause felt a smile lift the corners of her mouth – a feeling which had of late seemed alien to her.
"My Queen and my heart," she said in answer, kissing Morgana briefly. "And my little prince and princess," she said, smiling brightly as she caressed Morgana's full, round belly. "They have gotten so big." She chuckled and kissed Morgana again. "You have gotten so big and impossibly more beautiful with it. I wish I could have been here to see you bloom these last few months. I have missed so much."
Morgana covered Morgause's hands on her belly with her own, letting her feel the babes kick and shift. It was a much more definite kick than it had been when Morgause left, and it made her eyes widen in wonder.
"You amaze me," she murmured, awed, looking deep into Morgana's ever changing eyes as she blushed and smiled bashfully.
"You are the remarkable one. Please, let me help you out of your plate and mail," Morgana said quietly, her hands leaving Morgause's to find the straps at her chest.
"You know that you do not need to do that," Morgause protested, knowing that she would never be able to dissuade Morgana from the task. She seemed to enjoy performing that small wife's task, as if it proved that she was Morgause's and that Morgause was hers.
"I want to," Morgana insisted. "I wanted to do it for you every night whilst you were away. I wanted to take your armour off after every battle and soothe your wounds and your wanting – not have some other woman there to do it whilst I was miles away."
"There is no on but you," Morgause promised. "I would not let anywhere near me but you, except when my wounds needed to be tended. And that was so painful that I needed to close my eyes and think of you to bear it."
She would not tell Morgana of the girl who had tried to talk her way into her bed. She was of no consequence and Morgana would only think she was saying it to hurt her as Uther would when he was giddy on wine after a feast.
"Did you get many wounds?" Morgana asked fearfully, carefully lifting off her breastplate.
"Enough," Morgause said, smiling. "But none of them are so serious that they will not heal under your good care. The Gods have been kind."
Morgana smiled, relieved. "To both of us."
As Morgana carefully removed her amour until she stood in only her shirt and breeches, Morgause asked after her and the babes, questioning her on things she had read – not that Morgana knew that, she was reading in secret so that she could be of use through to and beyond Morgana's confinement – and answering questions about her own health and those of the Knights Morgana knew. When Morgause was free of her armour, Morgana wrapped her arms around her and pulled her as close as the babes would allow, having to turn sideways to manage it.
"I would beg you to take me to bed if I weren't so gargantuan," Morgana whispered, nuzzling into Morgause's neck.
"I do not expect you to want to lie with me now that you are this far along," Morgause assured her. She would never so much as kiss Morgana without her wanting it just as much. "I can survive. Even with you looking so fine, that…" Her eyes wandered down to Morgana's full breasts, heat prickling up her spine and her pulse thundering in her ears. "…that I want you more than ever."
Morgana bit her lip and blushed, hot shivers sweeping over her. "I did not say that I do not want you. I could never not want you, especially after so long apart. It is just that… well…" She looked down at her swollen stomach. "We may need to be a bit more inventive."
Her blush depended when she whispered her suggestions into Morgause's ear. Gwen had been sent to ask her sister-in-law for advice on the ruse that Morgana needed help in being able to keep her husband satisfied whilst not suffering the impossible logistics and radiating pain that lying on her back would bring. The suggestions were quite wonderful, and Morgana had bought Gwen a dozen new dresses to make up for the embarrassment she had suffered.
"Oh yes," Morgause said, smiling as she nipped Morgana's bottom lip, "I think I can manage that if you can. Especially the part about…"
Morgana nodded, smiling impishly. She had been kneeling for almost an hour every night to pray for Morgause and the safety of her people. She was sure that she could manage it for a more pleasurable kind of worship.
Morgause matched her rascally smile and let her hands wander to Morgana's breasts, making her Queen gasp and arch into her touch, whimpering and closing her eyes. "I am truly lucky. You are so very, very good to me, my love."
Morgana, already shivering with pleasure, was quite certain that she was the lucky one.