Title: Future Fragments
Italics: Morgana's visions of possible futures
Summary: Morgana's visions show her the future in fragments, like seeing your face in a smashed mirror. But there are so many possibilities, that all she can do is pick her own path through the glass and pray she doesn't end up bleeding on the shards...
There was a lake. She could barely see the other end of it, where the edge lapped the pebbled shore, the waters vast and shimmering. She stepped towards it, the water running over her feet as she stood looking out. Waiting...
She edged closer, the water now washing at her ankles, then her calves, soaking her dress and numbing her with its frigid chill.
Distantly, somewhere behind her she heard a voice calling, fear edging her name, but she took no notice of it, her only intent now on the centre of the lake. Something was pulling her in and she had no choice but to follow it.
The water reached her chest, the voice calling her now terrified. The sound of someone diving in after her registered vaguely. But that seemed ever so far away, and now the water was to her chin, to her eyes, and all she could see was the lake that had seemed so beautiful and clear, was now murky and weed filled.
Water filled her lungs, the cold searing and burning her at the same time. The water covered her head. She sank, the weeds gripping her clothes, pulling her down and she let them, her dark hair streaming out behind her, like a siren.
There was something above her, searching. A hand touched hers. Too late.
Morgana didn't have visions of the future every night.
If she was lucky she'd only have one a month. On a really bad week she might have several in one night. It didn't matter when she went to sleep, how she'd been feeling that day, whether Gaius had given her a double dose of her normal sleeping draught or not. The dreams were (unfortunately), random variables that she had absolutely no control over.
Recently, they'd even started catching her unawares if she was daydreaming. She'd drift off for a few moments and then, suddenly, she'd have a vision. It would only last for a few moments- a snippet of the future- so no-one would notice her eyes glazing over as potential scenarios played out for her.
Morgana had always been dutifully attentive in court sessions, listening to the arguments and pleas of the citizens of Camelot as they brought their cases, quarrels and offers before the King and his counsellors. Now though, she made herself sit ramrod straight in her chair, pinching her soft, pale skin if she felt herself slipping for even the slightest second. The danger if she was caught in a trance was too great for her to risk any chance, however small.
She'd also begun to avoid her reflection and had covered the mirror in her room. Reflective surfaces of any kind were just asking for trouble, and she didn't even look in the washing bowl she used each morning, in case the water rippled and she didn't see her own reflection anymore, but the fate of Uther, or Arthur or herself.
If Gwen was plaiting her hair she'd shut her eyes and trust to the judgement of her maid that she looked fine. No one could accuse of her of being vain. Mirrors were anathema to her now.
There was a feast being prepared in the hall for the seventh anniversary of the King's marriage.
"A little to the left," said Morgana, watching as Merlin hung the banners. With a flick of his wrists and muttering his incantations aloud, he hitched them back the way they'd been fifteen minutes ago.
She tapped her foot. "Actually, perhaps they are better the other way."
Merlin growled under his breath.
It wasn't until the servant girls began to giggle and point that she realised Merlin had turned her hair a lovely shade of pink, finally losing his temper as the banner was inched to the right for the twentieth time that day.
Nobody batted an eyelid at this extraordinary event; far too used to Merlin's displays after the King had over turned all of the laws banning magic after his father's death. It hadn't taken long for the magical community to return to full strength and with Arthur's support many were employed in the court, though none had so prominent a position as Merlin, his chief advisor.
Morgana lunged for him, her fury clear, her cheeks flushing and clashing horribly with her new colouring. Nobody seemed to think this unusual either, quite used to the change in court dynamics since the old king's demise.
She'd left the court for a long time many years ago, returning to her own people to sort out problems her parent's demise had left unsettled, and which Uther's death had once again raised. The departure had been necessary but had caused a great rift between Arthur and Morgana. They'd parted on angry terms, accusations flying, the relationship between the two battered and bruised.
She'd been gone much longer than anyone had anticipated. On her eventual return she was to be disappointed if she'd thought she could resume her old position of affection in Arthur's heart. The King, hurt and angry with her, had dealt with it in the only way he knew how and had turned his flirtations in another direction, much to the chagrin of many.
It was to be his biggest regret.
It was too late to do anything now, despite the clear unhappiness of both parties. A marriage in Camelot was so binding, not even kings could change it. Years later, there was nothing anyone could do except watch the marriage wither, and both sides become embittered.
Merlin had tried to warn his friend against doing something so rash, but had been ignored. Arthur now knew he'd been right but he'd made his own bed and now had to lie in it. The only kindness that Merlin could allow him was to bite his tongue whenever he felt the urge to say 'I told you so.'
It was Morgana who had suffered most though.
She still loved Arthur, and it was plainly obvious to the court that he loved her as well. But for honours sake, for the sake of what they had once had, and for the sake of Arthur's wife, neither would allow themselves to give into their feelings.
So they loved, brokenly, from afar.
And Morgana knew she would die a spinster, unable to ever marry, unwilling to put someone in the position of Arthur's own wife. Unwilling that anyone should be stuck loving her whilst she loved another.
And so she'd turned to Merlin, who'd become her greatest friend and ally. She knew that Arthur begged every tidbit of information from him about her as he could, consoling himself with these little facts of her every day life.
It had to be enough.
She was still chasing Merlin round the banquet hall, threatening him with pain if he didn't turn it back, when Arthur entered, his queen by his side. The running pair immediately ceased and Morgana shrank back behind Merlin, her eyes to the floor as Arthur glanced at her. If Merlin hadn't known him so well he would have missed the tiny slump in his posture as he turned back to his wife.
Everyone bowed...as Guinevere walked past.
She had no control over what she saw.
It could be awful, and often left her shaking, waking in a half scream. The future had so many paths and some of them were horrific.
On the other hand some of them brought a blush to her cheeks and left her aching when she woke. The feel of lips against hers, the hard planes of muscle under a shirt, her fingers threading though soft blonde hair.
These latter dreams were the ones which scared her most.
She'd always had feelings for Arthur- mostly ones of irritation usually- but recently her emotions had been changing. Now if he walked into the room her stomach somersaulted and her heart clenched painfully if he talked to another woman.
When she'd tried to warn him about that girl, Sofia, she'd reacted so vehemently to his accusation that she was jealous because part of him (and oh how she hated to admit this) was right. She was slightly, (and it was oh so very slightly) in love with him.
And now she didn't know if her dreams of the Prince were future visions or the foolish hopes of a young woman in unrequited love. Sometimes she dreamt that Gwen was his wife, that she had been made Queen and sometimes she saw herself. But she didn't know which path the future would take, which woman would win his heart, or even if her dreams were even showing the future.
What if they were really just normal, everyday dreams?
Last night had been her most vivid dream to date and she hadn't dared to tell Gaius or Merlin for fear of being laughed at. Her pride was too high. Not even Gwen, her dear sweet Gwen knew quite how she felt about Arthur. Oh of course she could speculate, she knew what servants were like, but only in the deepest darkest places of her heart would she admit how she felt.
She'd dreamt so much...
There was a burnished ring on her finger, the gold band glinting in the candlelight, solid, secure and warm. Her hands were full on her gently rounded belly. She'd stroked the bump tenderly, her fingers splayed out, feeling her unborn children move within her, kicking against her stomach. And then strong, calloused fingers, worn from time handling a sword, had covered her own. A body had pressed up against her back, the rasp of stubble against her cheek, and a voice in her ear.
"Would you like to dance?"
She'd turned and it was Arthur, an Arthur who was in his late twenties, broaching 30, who'd shed the last vestiges of boyhood and was now a man. His thick blonde hair shone in the light, and she swept her eyes tenderly over his face, now angled from losing the remnants of childhood, the shadow of his beard.
But his eyes, oh, his eyes were still the same.
And then her mouth had moved of its own accord- she had no role in this vision except as a passive observer in her own body.
She felt her lips quirk as he kissed her hand.
"Sire?" She'd been half mocking, half shocked. "I wouldn't want to cause a scandal."
Arthur had grinned. "Since when is it a scandal for a man to ask his own wife to dance?"
Present Morgana had felt her heart stop then. 'Wife? Married? Pregnant?'
But dream Morgana had carried on talking whilst her other self tried to recover from the shock. Queen?!
That Arthur would actually willingly care for her?
She knew Uther wanted their marriage; it would be an alliance that would work to his own advantage, but for Arthur to love her as he so obviously did?
"Tis no scandal in that, my Lord," she'd retorted. "But may I remind you that I am two months from giving birth to your children and I waddle rather than walk. A Queen is meant to be graceful- not look like a duck; like this!"
She'd held her arms out to the side and felt the first pricking of tears in her eyes.
"Then perhaps I'll just roll you around the hall," quipped Arthur.
He'd softened though at her outraged look, her eyes now glittering with water. He'd kissed her cheek softly. "You're my wife and my Queen and you're always graceful, whether you're carrying our children or not." He'd stroked her cheek and then brought her fingers up to his lips, his wedding band resting next to hers."My Morgana."
She'd let him lead her out to the floor where the musicians were playing a gentle, relaxing lullaby. He'd pulled her close.
"But what about the rest of the court?" She'd whispered in his ear as they'd swayed. "What are they going to think?"
"Let them think what they like. I'm King, if they don't like it, I'll chop off their heads."
Morgana had smirked. "Arthur, be serious."
"I am deadly serious."
He'd twirled her out before tenderly bringing her back to into his arms. The music had finished and in the distance she heard the polite sound of applause, before a rowdy strain began and other couples filed onto the floor to begin the dance.
She'd made to go, but Arthur's hand in hers had made her stop.
"We need to leave, we're going to be in the way." She'd tugged at his hand. "Arthur, what are you waiting for?"
His face was suddenly very serious, his eyes searching hers. "I love you."
She'd smiled, a little in concern. The Arthur she'd known was never the type to show his feelings. He'd always been very careful to keep them to himself, constantly on his guard, showing the world his kingly demeanour but never anything personable, nothing that made him vulnerable. To do so now was completely out of character.
"I love you too. But declaring that here is going to get us mown down." She sidestepped an enthusiastic lady twirling with her partner.
His face hadn't changed and she realised how serious he actually was. "What's wrong?"
He'd grasped her hands tightly, their fingers interlocking and he'd squeezed, as though he was never going to let go.
"I'm worried about you." He'd frowned. "I'm worried something bad is going to happen."
She'd smiled and squeezed his hands back. "Nothing is going to go wrong. I'm in very capable hands, the pregnancy is going well..."
Fear seized her and she felt herself freeze up. "What did he say?"
A shadow passed over his face. "I shouldn't even be telling you this." He shook his head, changing his mind at the last moment. "I'll see you back in our quarters."
He'd turned and had gone half way across the hall when Morgana felt the pains grip her. They were like liquid fire shooting up across her belly, crippling her. She'd felt herself sink to the floor and a cry escape her lips. She'd been instantly surrounded by courtiers and grasping hands trying to help her up. Everything was swimming before her and she'd heard the frightened calls of the guards, the panic surrounding her. A gasp escaped her as she'd felt blood spot the floor, her vision blurring again as the pain coiled in her stomach like thousands of knives jabbing her.
The crowd had parted as Arthur rushed through, taking her in his arms and holding her against his chest.
"It's too soon," she'd managed to gasp, trying to retain her consciousness. "It shouldn't..."
But whatever she'd been going to say had been cut off as she'd screamed in agony. The darkness claimed her then, but all she could see was Arthur's stricken expression as he'd held her close to him and rushed her to the physician.
When she'd woken in her bed, she'd half expected to feel Arthur's arms still around her, her own clutching her swollen belly. She'd ended up avoiding Arthur that day, unable to even look at him without seeing his future self, her husband, and her king.
She knew it had annoyed him – Gwen had reported that he'd been moaning to Merlin and that underneath his accusation that she was being dramatic as usual, he'd been genuinely concerned. They were friends, or at least he'd thought so.
Angry that she'd upset Arthur and angry with herself for not being able to control the dreams, she'd still not been able to face him the subsequent morning. Instead, she'd found herself drawn to the lake in the forest. She hadn't been there for a while for fear of putting herself in temptations way and gazing into the water. This morning though, she hadn't been able to resist the pull of her old childhood haunt and had ridden down early, asking Gwen to pack her a light lunch, planning to spend the day down there before returning for the inevitable meeting with Arthur in the banqueting hall that evening.
She'd sat at the water's edge, daring herself to face this fear. She was the King's ward, she was no-one to be trifled with, not even by fate. She would look in the water, damning the consequences. Climbing some of the rocks near the water's edge, dodging the slippery moss she found the perfect spot and took a deep breath. She picked up a smooth pebble and skimmed it across the surface, and then dared to glance down.
There was nothing.
Nothing but her own face staring back at her. She smiled in relief.
At the sound of her name she turned, but she was too quick. Her foot slipped and she fell backwards, striking her head off the rocks. She sank into the lake water, unconscious.
Arthur was stood on top of the battlements, dressed entirely in black, staring out over the kingdom. He felt someone come to stand next to him, yet he kept his eyes firmly fixed on the horizon.
"How long will you continue to mourn?"
"Leave me be," Arthur snapped, his tone tempered by the tired hand he passed over his face.
Merlin sighed. "Sire, Morg..."
"Don't you dare say her name."
There was a pause as Merlin closed his mouth and then thought better of it and opened it again.
"Daddy?" A little girl appeared round the corner, her dark curls falling out of her neat bun and framing her eyes, twin chips of blue fire in her face.
"Iseult, what are you doing out here?" He took his daughter's hand and began to enter the castle keep.
"It's been seven years!" Called Merlin, knowing the King could still hear him. Arthur stopped in the doorway. "Seven years. Think of your daughter, think of Morgana..."
He flinched at his wife's name.
"She would never want you to live like this; she would want you to be happy."
Arthur turned and faced his old friend, his face worn with too many cares. "How can I be happy?" He said simply. "I killed her; just like I killed my mother."
There was something glinting in front of her eyes, like soft, spun gold and she lifted her hand up to try and touch it. Unfortunately she had seemed to have no control over her movements and misjudged it, smacking her hand into something hard instead.
Blinking, her vision began to clear and she found Arthur massaging the side of his face, where she'd managed to hit him.
"Sorry," she muttered, trying to sit up from where she was lying on the grass of the forest, where it disappeared into pebbles, the lake metres away. It was only then that she realised she was soaked.
And then she remembered. She'd fallen...
"I saved you," said Arthur, noticing her confusion, tilting her up gently to wrap her picnic rug around her shoulders. "Remember? I called, you fell, you almost drowned?"
She put a hand to her temple, feeling the large bump beginning to form under her hair. Her fingers came away covered in drying blood.
"It's not too deep," said Arthur, still gazing at her in concern, "but I wouldn't get up too soon if I were you."
Ignoring him, she tried to sit up again but the world tilted sickeningly and she felt Arthur pushing her down, his warm hands searing through her soaking dress.
"Lie down and don't move," he murmured. "When you feel better we'll go back to the castle and you can change."
"Gwen packed spare clothes in my bag," she remembered. "I can change here."
Arthur raised an eyebrow. "You packed spare clothes for a trip in the forest?"
She managed a pathetic sort of glare, her head aching too much to really be cross. "I'm the King's ward," she drawled. "I pack for any eventuality."
He rolled his eyes. "I should have known."
It was only then that she realised he was dripping wet too. "You're soaking," she muttered. "You'll catch your death if you stay in those clothes."
Arthur smirked. "If you'd wanted me to strip, you only had to ask."
The colour rose in her cheeks. "Arthur Pendragon, you insufferable pig of a..."
"Calm down," he said gently, his fingers still on her shoulder, pushing her back into the grass. "It was a joke."
"I did just save your life. You could thank me, instead of insulting me."
She still glared.
"What were you doing all the way out there anyway?"
"Skimming stones." It wasn't a lie.
"And you couldn't do that where it's safer, here?"
She ignored the question for one of her own. "Why were you even here in the first place? If you hadn't called I wouldn't have fallen in!"
"Hunting," he muttered unconvincingly. "It was a coincidence."
Morgana thought it was the poorest excuse she'd ever heard but let it go. Arthur was pulling his mask of blankness act again, and she didn't want to make him blush, even if it was amusing.
"Of course," she nodded. "Now turn around whilst I change."
He bowed mockingly. "Yes, your majesty."
She flinched at the reminder of her dream, but Arthur had already turned away and was getting her clothes out of her bag. She gingerly sat up, but the world had stopped swaying quite so violently.
She took the proffered clothes with a murmured word of thanks.
Arthur looked shocked.
She rolled her eyes. "Don't say anything, you'll just ruin it."
He scowled at her. "It's amazing how you manage to combine arrogance and disdain so well."
"I could say the same thing about you. Now turn around and don't look."
"Don't worry, there's no fear of that happening."
Her heart ached a little at his mocking words but she braved his banter with her normal scathing look and concentrated on stripping off her sodden garments.
And then she remembered. She couldn't reach all of the buttons at the back of her dress. She should have packed Gwen as well she mused ruefully.
"Let's just go home," she said sighing.
True to his word, Arthur remained staring out at the lake. "What's wrong?"
She picked at the folds of her dress. "I can't undo the bottom buttons of the dress," she muttered, hating to ask for his help now. Arthur had stiffened completely, his stance giving nothing away. His voice was void of anything when he replied.
"I can undo them if you want."
She swallowed and considered. On the one hand Arthur would be undressing her, not only was it highly inappropriate but she wasn't sure how she'd cope with his fingers on her. On the other hand she could freeze, quite literally. Death outweighing all her other arguments as to why the future king should stay as far away from her as possible, she gave in.
Arthur turned around and walked towards her, his face carefully blank.
"Turn round," he said roughly. Bracing herself against a tree trunk she ignored the heat that had now risen to her cheeks, trying in vain to not notice the feel of his fingers skimming down her back, undoing the buttons, grazing her skin. She shivered.
"You won't be cold much longer," said Arthur, mistaking the sign. Morgana nodded, glad he hadn't understood.
Finally, after what seemed forever, but must had only been a few minutes his fingers stilled on her dress. "
All done," he said hoarsely. She turned round slowly under his inspection, one hand still at the back of the dress, and swallowed at the heat in his eyes, darkened now with desire. Perhaps he had understood after all.
"Thank you," she murmured, her fingers reaching out to touch his shoulder, only now realising that his white shirt was practically transparent and clinging to him, like a lover's embrace. He nodded but found she couldn't move her hand from where she'd placed it. Instead, it had slid down to rest on his chest, her fingers flat against his heated skin.
"Morgana," he warned, his voice husky.
"What?" she asked innocently, her lips parted, her fingers curling in his shirt. The hand still on her back drew her closer, till they were mere inches apart. She wet her lips and his eyes unconsciously followed the action.
He kissed her.
It was soft and gentle, and his fingers curled in her hair, framing her face with his hands. She sighed into the kiss and pressed closer to him, until they were sharing the same body heat, his wet shirt soaking into her dress, so that she trembled as his hand on her back kept her firmly there, taking their time to learn the other. A moan slipped from her lips. Arthur's hand tightened against her back, and he shifted the kiss, relief that she hadn't been seriously hurt flooding through him, tasting her sweetness, chasing away his fear. His fingers curled firmer in her hair and she hissed, pulling back. He'd grazed her injury.
"Sorry," he apologised. She smirked.
"An apology from a Pendragon? Are you sure you didn't hit your head instead?"
He nipped her lips with his teeth playfully. "Hilarious. Come, you should finish dressing and then we can go back to the castle."
Realising her state of undress she blushed again and reached for her new clothes as Arthur turned back round. She pulled her dress over her head and then slipped the other clothes on. Fortunately this one had no buttons of any kind, only a sash to tie around her hips and under her breasts.
"You should ride with me."
Morgana pressed her hands to her hips. "I've only hit my head, I'm not an invalid." She walked gingerly over to her horse, placing a foot in the stirrups. A wave of nausea swept over her again at the thought of the jolting, bumping ride back to Camelot.
"On second thoughts," she said, turning. "Perhaps..."
And then, to her mortification, she fainted again.
"Mother, have you seen Father?"
Morgana looked up from where she'd been feeding Iseult. "He's busy Kay," she said, unable to hide her frown at her husband's actions. "Negotiating the treaty with the Ninagareth."
He snorted angrily. He'd inherited his father's stubbornness and temper. "You know as well as I do that we shouldn't be negotiating with them. They're murderers! They kill anyone who practices magic regardless of age or gender. They're barbarians."
Morgana sighed. "You're grandfather thought the same way."
"But you and father didn't agree. We know all the stories, you've told them us a thousand times. You can't teach us something and then expect us to like it when you act another way."
"And what would you have him do?"
"Fight them of course!"
"It's not that simple-"
"Then make it that simple!"
"Kay," she warned. "Your father's in a very difficult position, and whilst I don't agree with what the Ninagareth do, he can't declare war with every nation that he disagrees with. He has little choice in the matter."
Kay threw up his hands and sulked out of the room, narrowly avoiding missing Arthur as he passed him in the doorway.
"How did it go?"
"As well as could be expected. What's wrong with Kay?"
Morgana sighed. "He's upset you're negotiating with the Ninagareth. He'd rather you declared war on them."
Arthur raised an eyebrow. "I hope you realise this is all your fault. I was never this idealistic at ten years old." Iseult dribbled her food down her chin and happily banged her spoon on the table, burbling at her father. "At least you're not mad at me."
Morgana wiped her daughter's mouth, making bird noises as she tried to feed her the mushed food. "He's just like his father actually."
"Gorgeous, witty and completely irresistible?"
"I was thinking more along the lines of hot-headed. Go and find him. He's probably trying to get Cedric on his side as well."
"Wonderful. The joy of having twin boys. That was your entire fault as well."
Morgana snorted. "Of course darling. I decided to have two babies at once just to plague you. Never mind that it was me who was in complete agony for twelve hours, I thought I'd double the pleasure and do it again on the same day." She looked pointedly towards the door. "Now will you go and find Kay before I end up hitting you myself?"
Arthur smirked before kissing his wife. "All right. I'm going." He stroked Iseult's dark baby hair. "By the way have you seen Gwen anywhere? I need to ask her about the arrangements for the Advent Feast."
"Ask Lancelot, he should know where his wife is."
She woke in her bed, swathed in clean white linen. Arthur had fallen asleep in his chair next to her bed, his arms pillowing his head. She spotted Gwen tiptoeing around her room who smiled at her mistress.
"How are you feeling?" She whispered, careful not to disturb the prince.
Morgana put a hand to her pounding head. "Awful. How long has he been here?"
Gwen smiled softly. "Ever since you came back. He worried himself to sleep."
"Thank you Gwen," said Arthur, straightening himself up in the chair, trying to pretend he'd never even been asleep and failing miserably. "You can go now."
"Sire," she curtsied, and with a wink to Morgana she left the room.
"That was very sweet of you to stay with me."
Arthur rolled his eyes and stretched. "I was tired from having to carry you back to the castle. I must have just dozed off."
She smiled genuinely. "Thank you."
"I was worried." The words slipped out and something shifted between them. He covered her small pale hand with his own, his fingers dwarfing hers.
"I know," she murmured. "I'm sorry."
"I thought, perhaps, that I should have got you back to the castle sooner, that..."
"Arthur, you're panicking again."
"I don't panic," he retorted half heartedly. "I was merely concerned. Father was the one who was fretting, and then Gaius came and said you just had a concussion and..."
She pressed a finger to his lips. "Shut up."
And then she kissed him. This kiss was greedier than the first one, a battle of wills, Arthur pretending he wasn't concerned, and Morgana trying to pretend she was fine. Eventually both had to pull away and she rested her head against his, his fringe tickling her face, her nose brushing his.
Merlin barged into the room and they broke apart as if hit by lightening. "Oh sorry, I-" He backed out hurriedly, almost tripping over his feet in his haste to leave.
Arthur sighed into hair. "How long before this reaches my Father?"
"Oh, perhaps an hour or too, if Gwen hasn't already told anyone."
"I should go." He pressed a quick kiss to her mouth and then got up. "Before Father begins planning weddings."
When he'd gone, she sank back into the pillows and picked up the glass of water on her stand. She gazed at the water, no longer afraid, watching as it shimmered and twisted under her gaze. The future was so changeable that even if she saw it rolled out before her, she was still as blind as if she'd never seen. Something's came true, some didn't happened, some showed her lives she'd never lead, other's that she could never choose.
She touched her lips and smiled.
She'd made her choice. Whatever came.
I hope you enjoyed it as much as I enjoyed writing it. Please leave a lovely glittery review telling me what you thought, as they make my day. Just a little line, or a comment or two!