Memories, Dreams and Fairytales

Disclaimer: No, I don't own it. Yet another fascinating disclaimer. When I rule the entire world, I plan to write disclaimers saying "Yes, I damn well do own this. I own EVERYTHING!!! Muahahahahahahahahaha…" But that is a story for another time.

Rating: T

Pairing: Mab/Nimue

Summary: She had always thought of Mab as half dream, part of a fairytale. But dreams and fairytales didn't leave you with scratches on your arms and your thoughts in turmoil.

Warning: f/f pairing, though it's basically all implied. Nothing graphic.

Author's Notes: My first attempt at femslash, and my first attempt at anything even remotely resembling a 'ship fic. Please don't maim/mortally wound/kill me. Many thanks. (Thanks to novitas for the inspiration, and RitaOhYes from MRAP for planting the original idea in my brain until I had to get it out or have my head explode!).

Nimue wandered through the wide, draughty corridors of Avalon Abbey, her face angled towards the ground, away from any prying eyes that might see past her veil. Despite the simple lifestyle of the abbey, so different from the rich palaces of her childhood; despite the horrific injuries that had led Merlin to bring her here in the first place, and the terrible scars they had left her with; despite all of it, she had felt at home here for a long time- as though she belonged, as though she had always belonged. Now, she felt as far removed from any of the other holy occupants of Avalon as it was possible to be.

Keeping her head angled towards the ground, Nimue turned a corner, unthinkingly going about her usual routine. Glancing upwards, she realised where her travels had brought her to, and almost physically recoiled from the sight.

The central courtyard of Avalon was not large, nor was it particularly picturesque, though the sparse areas of grass and single tree were well cared for by the abbey residents. The morning sunlight had fallen on it, and with sunlight shining down through the leaves, reflecting off the damp grass, it looked just as it always had- a pleasant place for those occupying the abbey to sit in their spare time. Nimue herself had often found pleasure in sitting in the courtyard, being out of her room and out of doors, whilst still surrounded by the protective walls of Avalon, not having to worry about hiding her scars, not having to worry about people peering at her, and whispering behind their hands. Indeed, she had often wandered around the courtyard when it was empty- early in the morning, whilst others ate their breakfast and prepared for their chores, and even late at night whilst the rest of the abbey was sleeping…

Last night should have been no different from any other night. A short thunderstorm had driven Nimue under the cover of the stone-arched walkway surrounding the courtyard, but she had remained outside, walking slowly, her mind filled with prayers, and thoughts of Merlin. She should have gone inside then- surely it had been a sign from God that no good would come from remaining outside. Nimue shook her head. After what she had done, surely God would have abandoned her. Her betrayal of her beliefs was only one of the wrongs she had committed last night.

Nimue had never seen Mab before, despite feeling as though they had been enemies before she could remember ("She was- is- my enemy!" Nimue told herself. An enemy of God, and an enemy of the man she loved- surely that made her Nimue's enemy as surely as if they had both declared outright war on each other). Even so, Nimue hadn't needed Merlin's descriptions to know who the woman standing in front of her was. Everything about the woman, from her cold, inhuman beauty to her gem encrusted robes; from her harsh voice to those captivating eyes that shone out of the shadows of the courtyard, had announced who she was more effectively than if a thousand followers had been singing her name behind her.

Nimue had always thought of Mab as half dream, as part of a fairytale. Oh, she knew in her head that Mab was real- real enough to bring chaos and destruction at a click of her fingers at any rate, and that was quite real enough to be going along with- but she had never before seen Mab standing in front of her. Before, Mab had always been someone distant and far away, someone to be hated and feared, but never seen- there had never been a face or body to put with the name. But now… now everything about Mab was emblazoned at the front of Nimue's mind; and she had no-one but herself to blame.

Mab had been there to offer Nimue a bargain, and a true devil's bargain it had been. Take Merlin away from his duty to the country, away from the duty that had taken him from her, and she would not only have Merlin for the rest of her life, she would have her scars removed, and her beauty restored. It had been such a tempting offer. She wanted Merlin to come back to her so very badly. He'd already broken his promise to her, the promise that when he came back to her, it would be forever. Surely he owed it to her to truly come back to her forever? But no, Merlin had a duty to the people of Britain, and Nimue had a duty to her God, to not let her own selfish wishes get in the way of the greater good. She had refused Mab's bargain.

"At least I managed to resist that temptation," Nimue though bitterly.

She should have turned away and gone inside straight away. Mab should have vanished, and whisked herself back to her world of spells and sorcery as soon as Nimue refused. Instead, they had stood there and argued, anger bubbling inside Nimue, and a furious green fire burning in Mab's eyes. She had been standing so close to Mab that she had been able to feel the other woman's breath against her skin, had been so close that they were almost touching.

Nimue wasn't sure what had happened after that. She wasn't sure whether it had been Mab who'd suddenly stopped arguing and leant towards her, or whether it had been she herself who'd leant towards Mab (though she told herself that it must have been Mab, it couldn't possibly have been her…). Either way, one moment the two of them had been shouting at each other, arguing at an increasing volume, and the next moment Mab's mouth was pressed against hers and Mab was kissing her. Worse, she had responded without hesitation. Worse still, she hadn't stopped it.

A large group of healing sisters walked past, and Nimue closed her eyes, frantically trying to stop herself from reliving the events of the previous night, certain that someone would somehow read the thoughts in her mind, pluck out the memories of the previous night, and cast her away from Avalon- she had committed enough sins in one night that they could cast her away five times over, with not a single voice raised in protest at such a harsh punishment.

Try as she might however, her memories were set in motion, and she couldn't stop them from running through her mind. Memories of cool lips pressed against her own, of Mab's arms around her waist pulling her down towards the ground. Memories of clothes being caught at and torn away, of sharp fingernails clawing at her arms and digging into the back of her neck, and her own hands tangled in thick, long, dark hair. Memories of lust, of contentedness, of pure ecstasy. Memories of large green wolf's eyes peering silently out of the darkness afterwards, as they lay on the ground beneath the small tree. Memories of a flash of light, and a tingling sensation in her skin as Mab vanished silently back to her own realm. Memories of creeping back to her small room, praying no-one had seen or heard her. Memories of waking up the next day, praying that it had all been a dream.

Unfortunately for Nimue, she could not fool herself into believing that the whole event had been the product of a dream. Dreams could do many things, but they didn't leave you with scratches on your arms, and bruises on your skin. They didn't tear your clothes, and they didn't leave long strands of black hair caught between your fingers. What had happened here last night had been very real, and Nimue had been an all too willing participant.

Turning away, she almost ran from the courtyard. Hoping desperately to avoid meeting any other residents of Avalon, she made her way back to her room. Once, she would almost have counted herself part of the other holy men and women here- willing to spend their days in prayer and meditation, serving their God and living in a way that would please Him. No more. Now she simply felt sick with disgust at herself. How could she compare to these people, these true followers of God, these people who had given up worldly things and who truly served Him with their actions, as well as their hearts and minds. She, who had given into lust and temptation without a moment's thought, who had chosen physical desire over spiritual fulfilment. She, who had lain with someone that she didn't love – and a woman at that, not to mention a pagan sorceress and an enemy of God- when she was as good as engaged to another. She, who had committed this sin, and was too much of a coward to confess it to anyone. She deserved to be cast out.

Worse than any betrayal of Avalon and God (it was probably sinful to think thus, but Nimue was fairly sure that such a thought would be overlooked in favour of the rather more grievous sin she had already committed) was her betrayal of Merlin. She loved Merlin, had loved him since the first time they met, as a young man and woman just past their childhood. After Vortigern's tyranny had brought them together once more, they had vowed that they would spend the rest of their lives together, that they would never love anyone else but the other. Of course, as matters turned out they hadn't spent the rest of their lives together since then. Merlin had left her here, whilst he went on a quest to save Britain. She, of course, had understood the need for him to do so, and had given him all the support she could, and yet, in a way, she'd resented him for taking on such a burden and leaving her here alone. In the back of her mind, a voice whispered that surely this meant that Merlin had broken his vows to her long before she had broken hers. She shook her head, disgusted once more by her thoughts. Merlin had left her to fulfil a promise he had made years ago, and to save the country from the terrible disaster that three successive tyrannical kings had left it in- a noble and worthy cause. What had been worthy or noble about her own actions? What's more, Merlin had never betrayed her with another woman (or man, as far as she knew). She had not only betrayed Merlin by lying with Mab, she had betrayed him with a woman she knew he hated, a woman who had left his mother and foster mother to die, and who had scarred Nimue in the first place. If Merlin ever found out what she had done, it would crush him.

Nimue grimaced at that thought, "If Merlin ever finds out…" She wouldn't tell him, couldn't tell him- as much for not wanting to hurt the man she loved as for the shame of anyone finding out. But at least one other person knew what had happened last night, and Mab would certainly not feel shamed by anyone finding out what had happened between her and Nimue. One sweetly poisonous sentence here, strange images appearing in a mirror there- all kinds of ways Mab could use to tell Merlin what had happened if she wanted to.

Kneeling down beside her bed, Nimue began to pray. She prayed for forgiveness for her sins, for her weakness, and prayed to be stronger in the future. She prayed that Merlin would defeat Mab, that Britain would be at peace. She prayed that Mab never took it into her head to tell Merlin what she had done. She prayed that no-one ever found out about it at all.

There was none of the comfort that she usually found in prayer. Perhaps God truly had abandoned her? After all, she had betrayed her God, betrayed her home, betrayed these holy people who had taken her in and healed her, betrayed the man she loved, even betrayed herself. But none of that was the worst part of it. Desperately, she continued to pray for inner strength, for the power to resist the temptation of doing anything like this again. She prayed, because, hidden behind thick clouds of revulsion, and trying to be forgotten, was part of her that desperately wanted Mab to appear to her again tonight.

I know I say this in most of my fanfics, but I'm not entirely happy with the way this finally came out. I did write it quite late at night after several glasses of lemonade (who knows what all the pretty carbonated bubbles and artificial sweeteners can do to the mind…). Feedback is, as always, heartily appreciated.