.

.

The weather programme advises for rainy conditions, but not for a bleedin' hailstorm.

Gwen flinches. What feels like tiny, hard stones pelt her head and shoulders, the wind picking up. She yelps, splashing through rainwater, feeling it creep wet to the insides of her flats.

Off the main road, Gwen flees up against the side of a building, hoping the alleyway might shelter her.

It's daft of her to forget the brolly—she knows that. But, Gwen had been so nervous for her date with Merlin. Nervous enough to forget her non-flavoured lipbalm (Gwen often found herself biting on her lower lip, grinding it raw before scowling to herself) and her bus-fare on the table as well.

Merlin worked at her favourite bookstore as a temporary employee in Salisbury. He was always so cheerful and willing to talk to her, laughing at the blushing stares but never unkindly.

She adores him.

She considers him worth the trouble to dig out money for a rather expensive, new summery dress—a bright, cheery yellow with cream polka-dots. Her worn, black jumper unbuttoned.

Now Gwen's curls drip and frizz, her headscarf completely soaked, and her calves muddy.

So much for dressing to impress.

Gwen elevates her canvas bag over her head, protecting herself from the continuously falling hail. She feels winded from running. Too-warm sweat beading her forehead despite the bitter cold weather. Well, it couldn't get any

The noisy sounds of rain begin to strangely muffle. Gwen looks up.

No rain pelting on her. No more hail.

Instead, a tri-coloured brolly hovers over her, taking the impact.

"Oh my god, are you alright?" The woman holding the object stares horrified at Gwen. She has pretty green eyes. A strong accent, perhaps Irish. And red lips… deep red lips that seem unbitten. Gwen tears her eyes away from the lovely view, far too distracted and far too cold to blush.

"Pardon, but what on earth were you thinking being out here?"

The criticism in the woman's tone is hard to miss.

"I-I didn't exactly p-plan for this," Gwen says as a bit of a retort, shivering visibly. "W-who are you?"

She doesn't insist on overcrowding Gwen's space, even if they are a bit cramped under the brolly, in those lone alleyway. For that, Gwen is thankful. But really, who is she to talk about nitpicking the details on helping someone?

"Morgana." Her alabaster-fair expression softens, aiding the bundle of heat in Gwen's chest to spread.

"I'm Gwen."

"We should get you home, come with me," she says in gentle coercion.

Gwen frowns, keeping her arms wrapped around herself.

"N-no, I'm fine. I am," she replies. "I have somewhere I need to…" Gwen hesitates, cutting herself off, mind whirling with oncoming thoughts.

Absolutely no. She couldn't let Merlin see her like this. Not darling, sweet-hearted Merlin who grinned and flirted with her through the empty crevices between the book-shelves and always complimented her dimples she loathed.

Morgana tuts, keeping those luminous, gorgeous eyes on Gwen. Oh hell, they really are.

"Whatever it is, I'm sure they'll understand," she insists primly, holding out an open, perfumed hand for Gwen. "You'll get sick if you're out here for much longer. I can promise you that."

Rainwater fills Gwen's shoes, and her teeth chatters.

So, she takes Morgana's hand. Feeling warmer, silky skin.

"Thank y-you, for…"

"Once I saw you, I couldn't just leave you in this." Morgana leads them, stepping out of the alley, high heels clicking. The dime-sized hail litters the concrete, but no longer mingling with the rain. "Were you keen on seeing someone?" She answers Gwen's confused look, those full and red lips perking, "The way you're dressed… either he's interested or you're interested in him."

Gwen stumbles a moment, gripping onto Morgana's sleek jacket just as the other woman grabs onto her, murmuring assurances.

"Um, why… would you assume I was going to see a man?"

They should be moving on, but something curiously amused passes over Morgana's face.

"If you were interested in women, I'd know," she adds.

"How?"

"You were staring at my lips earlier," Morgana says, glancing over her unfazed before smiling. "You are right now."

Gwen blanches, mouth gaping, dark brown eyes widening and blinking owlishly.

"I-I…"

"So you're not just interested in men." Morgana raises her eyebrows, smiling bigger. "Good."

Her mind is going round, carousel-fast.

"Good—?" she says weakly, before Gwen notices the jet-black limousine pulling up the sidewalk. The driver rolls down the tinted window, greeting Morgana and stepping out to hold the brolly for them, over their heads. He's not young, but not old, with a reddish-gold beard and stoic eyes.

What on…

Before Gwen asks, Morgana shakes out her own damp hair, combing her fingers absently in black waves. "We'll leave shortly, Leon—what was his name?" she turns to Gwen, full-attention on her. "The person you were planning to see today?"

"He… Merlin."

Morgana offers her a pleasant smile, holding up a silvery coin from her jacket-pocket.

"Tails: you ring Merlin and tell him you are on your way." She flips it to the opposite side, exposing Gwen to the familiar, crowned profile. "Heads: I take you somewhere to dry off, make us some coffee, kiss you properly senseless, and leave you my mobile number for another rainy day."

A light-headed sensation sweeps over her, and Gwen's pulse thuds in her mouth.

Properly senseless.

Within seconds, Morgana has flipped the coin, noisily clapping her hands together. She peers down, expectantly as Gwen claps her own hands over Morgana's, staring fixedly.

"You're shaking, Gwen…"

"I can make my own decisions. I don't need you to do it for me," Gwen says, firmly. She lets go.

Drying off would be nice.

"I'll ring Merlin from my flat and apologise."

Gwen bows her head in silent thanks as the driver pops open the backseat door. Unable to resist, Morgana halts and peeks at the coin under her pale hand.

"Oh… my, my, Gwen," she murmurs to herself, giggling breathy.

.

.


Requested/won by willowbranch15! MY FIRST CONTRIBUTION TO FEMSLASH FEBRUARY THIS YEAR. IS EVERYONE GEARED UP? Please definitely leave your thoughts, thank you!