Love is abandoning what you want, and she understands this fully now.
The estate's study is where Nimueh always finds her. The decor simple, black-and-whites with plush chaises and sophisticated lines for the furniture, and the natural light tends to grey out anything with colour.
Ygraine is muted pinks and violets like hyacinth, muslin and charmeuse dresses snug over her lithe frame where Nimueh wears her boldness in her red-stained lips and long, dark brown hair knotted in a plait.
A crystal-clear and wistful melody plays as Ygraine's practiced fingers hover over the grand piano. "What's this I hear about you dropping out of your schooling?" she asks, faintly enough that Nimueh strains to hear.
"Why should I need to study law when I can actively protest and seek to change the unfair circumstances already entangled in the fixed order on my own — oh, don't give me that face," Nimueh says, trying to appear provoked but hopelessly lost to smiling as the other woman laughs, all her pretty, little teeth exposed. "I'm not afraid of failure."
"You said it, not me."
God, she has missed Ygraine firing back at her. She had always been lively.
Nimueh remembers being little girls together through independent school, when Ygraine's hair had been loosened ringlets and would gleam mimosa in the sunlight. She remembers holding hands, feeling warm and pleased. Remembers Ygraine's fingernails chipped with sparkly, galaxy-blue polish.
These are a woman's hands now, longer and slightly veined. She never used to wear jewelry. Ygraine had never favoured the extravagance. Silver, delicate bracelets covers and dangles her wrists — almost like imprisonment chains — almost brushing the mismatched keys.
Ygraine taps C-sharp with light quickness, with a bare, manicured nail, and all Nimueh feels now is that resonant of melancholy in her.
"Tell me you're not happy here," she speaks up, looking pleadingly at Ygraine's soft-looking, powdered cheek. Nimueh loathes how she can smell Uther Pendragon's expensive and overpoweringly sharp cologne on everything in sight, like he needed to possess and claim what he thought he owned. Even her best friend, her beautifully wild hair perfectly arranged in an elegant up-do and sprayed flat to hell. Ygraine's too-pale face smooth, no visible laugh lines, and always politely smiling. "Tell me you're not happy with someone like him."
The room is huge and grey and soundless, with the exception of low vibrations of the heater. Ygraine's eyes huge and an exceptional blue. She's going to die here, Nimueh thinks with mounting horror — with her life and her energy are sucked out, until she's gone grey herself and turned to shadows.
Ygraine nods, tenebrous and lulling.
"I'm very happy when you visit," she admits, and a bright, hot spark erupts in Nimueh's chest as Ygraine's hand clasps hers, trembling.
Uther is nothing but a pig dressed in Desmond Merrion suit. He lords over his private company, his multiple estates in Kensington, and over his wife. His highly conservative and traditionalist values — conquer, bleed his enemies, maintain his image — clash greatly against Nimueh's ideas of nondiscrimination and acceptance of many walks of life.
Life has taught her grief in the death of her family, to be humbled after becoming homeless for several years, but to never let a man rule her.
She knows Uther hates her, for being a glaring black spot in his orderly, immaculate existence, for openly defying him and what he stands for.
Little does he understand she hates him in return, for taking her closest friend from her, for purposely suffocating Ygraine's joy and her freedom. When she, and no woman ever, deserves nothing less.
Nimueh echoes the notion of thunder overhead, letting it fill her, her waterproof mascara running as she grits her teeth against sobbing further and walks the pavement home, feeling a couple droplets of rain on her head.
A moment ago, Nimueh was awake.
For the next, she isn't.
She wonders if a car had struck her. They answer questions with no.
Nimueh doesn't have a memory of walking home. But her fingers are blackened like tar, her right shoulder numbed from any sensation and it really does feel like she's been punched all over herself. Knocked out by something heavy.
Lightning, the doctors explain with professionally sedate expressions. It had been lightning that struck her; she lost control of her body. It hadn't charge through her, exposing her skeleton cartoonishly — electricity dissipated over her skin, burning her jeans, vaporizing perspiration. The paramedics had to cut away her sizzling-hot belt buckle from hurting her.
The chronic pain would linger, dizziness and being off-balance. Nimueh can barely sit straight.
Everything hurt. Every hair follicle.
You need time to recover.
She considers phoning Gorlois, to ask him to pick her up from the hospital when the door swings open. Nimueh's jaw falls open as Ygraine steps in, ringlet-hair tied in a uneven ponytail, the top of her six month pregnant belly jutting from the confines of her faux-fur winter jacket.
Even in the painfully fluorescent overhead lighting, Nimueh hasn't ever seen a more welcomed and relieving sight in her life.
Ygraine cradles Nimueh's hands in her own, gently stroking Nimueh's fingers.
The pressure aches so sweetly.
"Is it permanent…?" she asks with a hint of curiosity, no longer wrapped in her jacket. They sit in Nimueh's flat, in comfortable periods of silence.
"Not sure," Nimueh replies shortly, trying not to wince. The stitches on her upper lip pull taunt once more, as if meaning to split open. They've already been hastily restitched courtesy of a grumpy nurse before she left.
Ygraine traces those pale fingertips over the span of Nimueh's curling middle finger, the end-half of it tender and swollen purple-black.
"I'll put on the kettle," she says, heaving herself back on her feet with some difficulty. The pendulous weight of her belly keeping Ygraine from moving as fast as she likes. "Do you need help changing?"
The answer is no and once within her master bathroom, Nimueh strips herself down to only her panties and gawks at the reflection of her nearly naked body. She's gained a little weight since autumn, which is worth it in comparison to starving and poor — her thighs and arms rounder and thicker.
But this, her body looks terrifying. A splattering of bruises covering all of her front and back — rainbow hues of greenish-yellow, plum and orangeish-red. The major veins and tendons stand out against Nimueh's white skin, with patches of midnight blue colouring and ugly like spiderweb cracks. Even to her areolas, her nipples no longer brownish-pink.
In retrospect, inspecting herself with the loo's door wide open had been a mistake. So she shouldn't be surprised when her guest peeks in, awestruck.
"Oh, Nim," Ygraine breathes, lips pulling downwards in a concerned grimace as she grips tightly onto the bedpost when Nimueh dodges around her.
Nimueh feels like crying. And crying some more and stomping her feet.
"Get a right look — I'm hideous," she hisses out, crossing her arms rigidly over herself. "I know this is permanent so don't even ask me."
"What are you on about?"
"You're looking at me like everyone else is doing! God, I thought you would be—" Different, she finishes in her mind. Nimueh's heart stutters its quick rhythm, her head buzzing when Ygraine's blue-wonderland eyes widen. "I'm bad luck. I don't think I can change that," Nimueh whispers, tearfully. "And… you don't need to deal with this right now, I'm sorry."
A loud, exasperated noise comes from Ygraine's throat.
"For goodness sake, I'm not leaving you." She huffs, approaching Nimueh's space until they are face-to-face and glaring back, not with hostility, but determination. Ygraine's about five inches less than her, and has always been petite, but Nimueh truly feels like she's tiny right now.
"I'm not sure who has been filling your head with lark of ideas, but you've always been prettier than me." Ygraine's sternness immediately gives way to an absurd amount of self-satisfaction and her face pleasantly flushing when the other woman blinks, uncertainly. "It's true—not only that, but I admired you for your bravery. For being so strong when everyone else told you you shouldn't. I could never be like that. I want to be as strong as you."
Nimueh remains speechless, as Ygraine touches her lower arms, holding on.
"I don't see anything hideous about you."
They're little girls again, blissfully grinning and inclining to each other.
Nimueh visibly shivers, puffing out an exhale when Ygraine's left hand plants on the side of her hip.
Her colour deepening.
Nimueh doesn't want her to stop. Doesn't want this to be an accident or regretful. This is every fantasy she dreamed up, alone together, lust addling their blood. Even if Ygraine, seventeen-years-old, has been married to the one man Nimueh hates with seemingly every ounce of her being.
"I want you…" Her lip stings hellish as Nimueh thins her mouth, embarrassed as her voice croaks and Ygraine stares back in plain amusement — not rejection. "I want you to touch me."
"For how long?" When nothing is spoken, Ygraine nods in finality. "I thought so," she says, eerily calm, with both of her warm palms on Nimueh's hips.
Despite herself, Nimueh tries to step backwards out of it, feeling lightheaded again. Ygraine is married, even if it's a complete sham and it's going to kill them both in the end. "Don't, you're—"
Nimueh hesitates, eyebrows raised. "You… left Uther?" she murmurs, disbelieving.
What was happening?
"Yes!" Ygraine says, a bit too girlishly excitable. "I did. I cannot believe I did it. I cannot believe how long it took me."
What was happening?
"Isn't… he furious?"
"It's the silliest thing, but I don't want anything from him." Nimueh's eyes drop to the pregnant woman clasping herself, protectively over her bump.
Arthur, she remembers Ygraine cooing, swaying on her feet. His name is going to be Arthur. Just like my grandfather.
Nimueh tried before to hate the little life growing inside her best friend, tried to imagine it as the spawn of Uther — but couldn't. Because it was being nurtured and loved by Ygraine, and nothing of harm will come to him.
"Uther will never love you as I do."
Nimueh half-misses that overly affectionate statement, preoccupied with sliding her blackened fingers into a mass of yellow hair. She swoops down, pressing kisses repeatedly against Ygraine, against the hot curve of her neck and her face, black metal-stitching rubbing on Ygraine's skin.
Of all things, no one expects Uther to react utterly heartbroken.
He shuns Ygraine, shuns her and their unborn son. After the documents are signed, after the legal battles are fought, they never hear from him again.
Arthur De Bois comes into the world on a sunny mid-morning, healthy and rosy, in a Parisian hospital and happily interrupting their traveling plans.
"—you're an idiot!"
She recognises the voice barred out from the entrance door. Age is catching up to her after thirty-five years, she's sure — but Nimueh is steady enough.
The lock clicks open. "You're late," she says, pointedly.
It's mimosa yellow gleaming in the sunlight, and Arthur doesn't waste time embracing her in the doorway, burying his face into her right shoulder.
"Mum," he responses with a greeting, and it muffles deep to Nimueh's jumper.
"I've missed you, too." Nimueh rubs her nails to his blond nape, like she had when Arthur was eight and having his night-terrors, her fingers pink-scarred. "And who is this lovely boy?" she asks, eyeing the second and taller occupant on the porch. "He doesn't look like an idiot to me."
The boy stammers, reddening, "Oh—ehm… I-I'm…"
"Merlin, shut up," Arthur tells him, and squawks indignantly when he's pinched softly on the jaw by his mum.
"None of that. We're celebrating your mother's birthday."
The boy, Merlin, smirks in the background as Arthur grumbles, rushing upstairs and abandoning them in the foyer as Nimueh locks the entrance door. The boy is lovely, if she considers it in an enduring and clumsy sort of way. His teeth slightly large and his mouth crooked. Merlin's black hair looks soft and matty. When he smiles, it's genuine and kind-hearted.
"It's nice to meet you, Mrs. De Bois."
"Likewise, Merlin," she says, taking to hugging him as well and earning herself an awkward, low laugh as Merlin's skinny arms encircle her gently.
From the balcony, the older women sip on their drinks and peer over to watch Merlin and Arthur argue about something noisily, before Merlin is yanked promptly into the other man's lap and squirms happily into a deep kiss.
"What do you think?"
She twists a ringlet of Ygraine's silvery-yellow hair.
"This one will break Arthur's heart," Ygraine declares, nudging against her.
"You said it, not me," Nimueh fires back, grinning fondly as her wife does.
BBC Merlin isn't mine. WE'RE BACK WITH MORE FEMSLASH ON THE MONTHLY CHALLENGES FOR THE FEMSLASH BIG BANG. I've been dying to write a Nimueh/Ygraine for literal ages, and something that ended happy for them! I have a lot of canon era headcanon for them, but I tried a modern AU version. I got inspired after looking at photos of lightning strike victims, because Nimueh canonly was struck by lightning, and I wondered how that would turn out in a modern world! Anyway, yes, if you liked this or had a good time reading, please let me know! Comments are so, so appreciated. ALSO IF YOU ARE A FAN OF YGRAINE/NIMUEH TOO!