Title: 10 Things Arthur Pendragon Learnt After Meeting Morgana
Summary: Morgana teaches Arthur many things in his lifetime, though he doesn't always realise it.
I. She Gives Him The Strength To Be Brave.
His father is yelling at him for being so careless as to wander off without telling anyone where he was going. Morgana silently creeps up beside him and puts her little fingers in his.
She grips his hand and says nothing, and they endure the storm together.
II. She Will Take The Blame For Him.
He has fallen out of a tree playing soldiers and bandits and his arm is now at a funny angle. He's trying not to cry in front of Morgana but it hurts so much and the tears leak out as he squeezes his eyes closed. The little girl kneels in front of him and pats his head gently- she'd give him a hug but she's not sure she could do so without hurting him more.
"I got Gaius," she says gently. "He's come to fix your arm."
The physician sits down next to Arthur and makes him swallow something vile and sticky but it lessens the pain a little. And then Gaius is telling him to look at Morgana who is squeezing his other hand hard and making faces at him, anything to get him to focus on her. Gaius' hands are on his arm and it burns so much and there is a sudden crack and a shift and his whole arm aches but it's back in its socket. Arthur rolls over and vomits, as the physician rubs his back and Morgana goes to fetch her water bottle.
After twenty minutes Arthur is feeling a little better and Gaius helps them both to mount their ponies as they head back to the castle. By now it is dark and far past their curfew and Arthur dreads the confrontation with his father. They are met at the castle gates by a pacing Uther who begins to scold his son before Morgana steps in and explains that it was her fault that they are back so late- that she'd not paid any attention to where they were and had ridden further into the forest than they were allowed and had got them lost and Gaius had had to come find them. There is no mention of Arthur's accident or the fact that it was him that had urged them deep into the forest, childishly trying to prove that he was grown up and knew what he was doing.
Uther sends her to bed without anything to eat, confining her to her room for the week and the little girl accepts her punishment with a nod of her dark head. She dismounts with the help of a groomsman and then quietly trails into the castle after her maid who is scolding her soundly for leading the prince into unnecessary danger.
Arthur doesn't feel much like eating anything at the evening feast, and spends the time sneaking food into his pockets. He sneaks out halfway through and creeps into Morgana's room when the guard is being changed on the door. The little girl is staring out of the window watching the ravens on the roof opposite, her head in her chin. She looks like she's been crying and starts when Arthur comes in. She smiles at him though and he digs the food out of his pockets dumping it onto the table in a small pile of goodies.
It is an apology without words, and Arthur has always been better at those, something he has learned from his Father. Actions (in the Pendragon family) speak louder than words.
She smirks and the two have a feast on the young ward's bed before Morgana's nurse comes back and chases him round the room. Eventually, after five minutes of farce, the old lady finally succeeds in shooing him out.
Morgana's giggling makes it worth it though.
III. He Should Always Knock Before Entering A Lady's Chambers.
He walks in whilst she's having a bath. Gwen has momentarily gone to fetch hot clean towels and has left her mistress amongst the bubbles in the stone tub.
"Morgana I-" His sentence trails off as he notices that she's not exactly in a suitable state to receive visitors.
The sixteen year old girl blushes madly and scoops the bubbles around her chest and stares at him.
"Have you never heard of knocking?" Her voice is scathing.
He blushes but can't look away. He scrubs a hand through his messy blonde hair and closes his eyes. This is worse however, as the Morgana in his mind slowly rises out of the water, her skin wet and glistening in the candlelight. He hurriedly blinks and meets Morgana's scowl.
"Are you going to stand there all night? What do you even want?"
To his mortification he's completely forgotten. Morgana takes his silence for his usual idiocy and points one bubble bedecked hand at the door.
"I think you should be going."
"You're not moving."
"Oh right." His feet finally catch up with his brain and he stumbles backwards to the door, bumping into Gwen who is just coming through, her hands holding thick fluffy towels.
Arthur's adolescent brain has lost all coherency at this point and it's a miracle he can actually get words out.
Gwen watches him leave and then she and Morgana look at each other. The sound of their giggling taunts Arthur as he hurries away.
IV. Even If Seriously Ill, Morgana Will Insist She Is Fine.
It's taken her a couple of days to admit something is wrong, and even now, curled up in bed, her face as white as curdled cream, clutching her stomach in agony, Morgana still tries to put a brave face on it.
"It's not like anyone's never had food poisoning before."
Arthur raises as eyebrow as he sits at her bedside. "Yes, but most people don't try to pretend they're fine when they've got a fever and are vomiting up blood."
"You make it sound so dramatic."
"It was! Gaius said you could have died-"
"He was exaggerating."
"Because as court physician, he does tend to do that." Arthur's voice is thick with sarcasm, but he softens as another cramp cripples Morgana, forcing her to become a shivering mass under her bedcovers. "Do you want any more of the tonic?"
Morgana shakes her head, trying to breath through the roiling pain in her stomach. "No, I had some an hour ago, and Gaius has prescribed it every three. I'm going to have to last it out."
"Would it make you feel better if you hit me?"
She manages a chuckle, and then winces as this makes her ache even more. "No, just, be quiet a moment will you?"
Arthur nods and tries not to fiddle with the bed covers as he waits for Morgana to ride out the cramps. After a couple of minutes her breathing has evened out and she settles back into her pillows, her hair soaked with sweat.
"Better?" He hands her a glass of water.
"A little, thanks."
He hums a moment, trying to think of something to amuse her with, to take her mind off the pain. Morgana's voice cuts through his train of thought.
"Tell me a story?"
He blinks in surprise. It's something they used to do together when they were very young, when they couldn't sleep, or if they'd been in trouble with his Father. They'd take it in turns to crawl into each other's beds at night and Arthur would tell a story, with additions from Morgana who enjoyed chipping in with her own characters, and poking him when he was telling it wrong.
That had stopped a long time ago, around the period when Arthur had discovered girls and Morgana had suddenly become all too aware of boys and her power over them.
"Alright." He settles into his chair but Morgana pats the covers next to her, so Arthur gingerly props himself on top of them next to her and begins his tale.
"Once upon a time there was a Prince and a Princess-"
"I'm the Princess right?"
"Yes, and she was very annoying and enjoyed interrupting the Prince whenever she could."
There is a soft laugh from beside him and Morgana settles down. "Sorry, carry on. You were telling it so beautifully."
"Right. So, where was I? Oh yes, there was an annoying Princess and a Prince…"
The next time he glances down at her, wondering why she's become so quiet, she's fallen asleep, her brow smoothed out, pain free now she is sleeping.
"And so they lived happily ever after." He smiles gently. "And you would have hated that ending. But you're asleep, so for once I can get away with it."
He watches her breathing for a moment and then gives into impulse and kisses her brow.
V. Running, Sword Drawn, Into A Lady's Bedroom At Night = A Slap.
He's racing to the Great Hall to meet with the warriors, his sword drawn, when he suddenly realises nobody's warned Morgana about the Minotaur stalking the castle corridors.
Terror that he may have arrived there too late wells in his breast and he bursts into her room. She whirls from where she's been staring out of the window. His sword is pointed at her chest, and she breathes in shallowly from shock.
"Arthur!" She is yelling, anger vying with fear, battling the urge to hit him for scaring him, and fear of what has made him act like a madman. She takes a step backwards into a shaft of moonlight. "What the hell is going on?"
But all he can focus on is the fact she's wearing her nightdress, and the material is very short and very sheer. It's almost transparent in the moon's glow and should the King's ward really be walking around dressed like that, when there are lots of men who would take advantage of a young, half naked woman?
He must have said the last bit out loud because his cheek is stinging from where she has slapped him. She crosses her arms over her breasts and gives him a look that would curdle cream. Her lips are pursed, her hair mussed and her cheeks heating from anger or embarrassment he can't tell. He's never seen her more enraged.
She looks beautiful.
His lips meeting hers cut her off mid sentence. For a moment there is resistance and then she is fisting her hands in his clothes. He thinks she's going to push him away but instead she presses closer, their kisses hot and wet and hurried, as though the other might disappear in a moment. Soft mewling noises escape her as she slides against him and he groans her name, as suddenly all he can concentrate on is the feel of her soft curves pressed up against him. His breeches are rapidly tightening and this is bad, very bad, especially not at this hour when he is in a lady's room. He suddenly realises what this would look like if someone were to walk in.
He pulls back reluctantly, breathing hard, managing to mutter something about the Minotaur and checking she was alright. Morgana softens at this but instantly tenses at the sound of distant voices outside in the courtyard. Their compromising position seems to sink into her too. She begins to guide him out towards the door, but her chest is heaving from the adrenaline of the last few minutes, which is more than enough distraction for him.
Morgana is much more objective. She ends up pushing him out of the door, a difficult thing when Arthur seems to intent on snatching kisses from her. It doesn't help that Morgana doesn't seem to mind that much either.
Finally he reaches the doorway and she shoves him out. There is a distant bellow, like the sound of a wounded bull coming from the corridor below and they both start.
"Go, find monsters," she hisses at him. With a final warning to make sure she bolts the door shut and sleeps with her dagger next to her he begins to walk down the corridor. He tries to ignore the thought that perhaps this was a mistake.
"Arthur?" She calls, peeking her head out of the door.
He hates the hope in his voice as he replies. "Yes?"
"Next time, bring flowers. The sword's alright, but I'd prefer not to almost be eviscerated every time you come and see me."
She blows him a kiss and shuts the door, drawing the bolts behind her. Arthur blinks as her words sink in.
He ends up grinning like a fool.
VI. No-One Is Immune To Jealousy.
Many months later, and the court has settled into the quiet expectation that Arthur will marry Morgana. The visits of rich far away kings and their eldest daughters of marriageable age have become less frequent, and the court is enjoying a fairly quiet winter. Nothing bad has happened for a while now, and even Uther is beginning to relax. The lines on his face have become less noticeable of late, and he seems to have some of his vigour back, enjoying the gentle courtship of his ward and his son play out in front of him. It's nice to have something he wants come true for him, without the need for his usual brand of manipulation.
Only Morgana worries for the future, for when the bubble will burst. Her visions are thick and frequent, and they all show a time limit on the present happiness. All of her visions end the same way- there is the cold of the winter wind and there is nothing but white. Someone is chanting and the words sound unfamiliar and heavy in her ears, though she knows they are only spoken out of the desire to comfort her. She turns around and behind her is only a red ruin and blood drips out of the stones of Camelot. It streams around her, like a river round a boulder and she cannot cry.
She does not know that she shares her worries with Merlin and Gaius, who watch the court and the weather and each other and wearily wait for the end.
When the Lord Bertram arrives with the autumn leaves nobody knows this is the catalyst. He is an old friend of Morgana's, a playmate from her earliest years and she welcomes him with open arms, far too open in Arthur's opinion. He greets the young man with a tight grip on his arm and the two men silently test their strength in a battle of dominance that leaves bruises on their arms the next day.
The tension between the two men is almost palpable, Arthur hates a rival and Bertram enjoys making the prince bristle with badly concealed jealousy. Morgana is not oblivious to what is going on but she is stuck in the middle of the two and so tries to smooth things over as best she can, trying to split her time between them both. Her good intentions are taken badly by Arthur who can't see why she should spend any time with Bertram, and the latter finds it amusing to constantly rub Arthur's face in the fact that he has older claims on Morgana that the prince can do nothing about.
It doesn't help Arthur's jealousy that Bertram is wonderful. He is courteous, handsome and has a good sense of humour. He can fight as well as any of Arthur's men. He is charming and the women throng around him, but he only has eyes for Morgana. Arthur stalks around the castle all day, unable to escape from Bertram's praises and his practice sessions with the knights become brutal.
And then he glances out of the window one day, overlooking Morgana's private walled gardens and seethes as he spots the pair of them in there. Bertram is telling her a story, his arms moving animatedly and suddenly she bursts out laughing, the sound carrying to him clearly, like a leaf on the breeze. Suddenly the weather turns, and it starts to lightly shower down around them. Morgana lets out a small cry but Bertram twists his hand, which is suddenly curled in gold twisting strands of magic and as Arthur watches it stops raining around them. Morgana is gazing at her friend in wonder, her hand to her mouth but Arthur's mouth is set in a grim line. He has all the excuse to get rid of his rival that he needs.
Bertram laughs when Arthur storms through the doors of the Great Hall and confronts him, in front of an astonished court. There is no denial or fear in his eyes, only a brazen acknowledgement of the truth in the wry twist of his lips.
Uther is on his feet, calling for his guards. Merlin begins to feel his own magic coil in his veins at this new threat and wonders how he's going to get away with using it this time in front of such a large crowd. Bertram looks him dead in the eye and smiles. He grabs Morgana and kisses her before she even knows what's happening and Arthur's hand has found his sword.
The sorcerer winks and gently pushes the lady aside as he disappears in a flurry of leaves. One drifts slowly down to rest at Morgana's foot, and she picks it up before anyone can stop her. It is the colour of the setting sun, a deep rich orange, specked with brown, and she rubs it gently between her thumb and forefinger.
Arthur is instantly beside her. He plucks the leaf from her fingers and crushes it, the magic dying immediately. He opens his fist and only ash drifts to the floor. Morgana gives him an unreadable look and rushes from the hall.
Merlin and Gaius watch them and begin to prepare for the end.
VII. He Can't Protect Her From Himself
It is the thick of winter and the breach between the pair is healed but it has left a scar. The trust that once held them together is now fractured, like the crack in a smooth sheet of ice on a lake. They spend more time apart than they used to, and Arthur feels a twinge every time he sees her face. The shadows on her face have increased and he knows her sleep is more troubled than before. But she will not share her dreams with him because she knows he will only laugh. And he regrets the fact that he cannot believe in her.
"The Trenyans signed the trade contract," he says, making casual conversation as he sits in her chambers, tracing his name on the wood grain of her dressing table.
"Good," she replies, but her mind is clearly on other things as she stares out of the window. "Don't go out today, there's a storm coming this afternoon."
He stares out at the brilliant winter sunshine, the cloudless blue sky, and goes out anyway. At four o'clock precisely, the sky clouds over, thick black clouds open and he gets drenched in icy cold rainwater, ten miles from the castle gates.
He finally makes it home, covered in mud and shivering with cold. Morgana meets him at the castle entrance with a towel. She doesn't even look smug as she hands it to him. Instead, she's wearing that look of disappointment that seems to be more and more present on her face every day. She doesn't say anything as she walks away, but Arthur has never felt more like he has let someone down.
Merlin's words echo in his head and Arthur decides that it is time he took his advice.
He needs to start listening more. And stop being a prat.
And then Uther passes away suddenly in the night and Arthur becomes caught up in his grief for his father. He forgets his promise to himself. His resolution slips, even as Morgana grips his hand at the funeral and whispers words of comfort to him.
He can't recall now what they are.
Morgana begins to wear her disappointment like a second skin.
VIII. Goodbye Can Be Said In Many Ways.
They end up having their final showdown in the Great Hall of all places, in front of everyone.
He can't remember what they argued about now but he does know that he shouted a lot and Morgana's eyes flashed and the flags in the Hall moved without a wind and his statue exploded into pieces in a corner of the room.
He remembers later that night, the soft tread of her step in his doorway and the whisper of his name. He remains silent and still, pretending he can't hear her. She comes in anyway and waits by his bedside.
Still furious with her he rolls over and faces the wall, his back to her. She is so still he thinks she has frozen herself. Then she leans over and kisses his temple. It feels like a ghost.
She leaves with the spring flowers.
IX. Stories Do not Always End Happily
It is eight years since Morgana left. Since then Camelot has been through much but none of it has been caused by the sorceress who seems to have disappeared off the face of the kingdom.
There are distant murmurings of a goddess who walks barefoot through the woods and forests, her face marked with the druid tribal tattoos, who has skin like snow and can pierce a man through with her stare. The people are beginning to murmur her name as a talisman, half in fear and half in awe. She is becoming mythologized already into the Old Religion.
Arthur can only remember her as a very real woman.
Since she's left he's seen her so often walking the castle corridors that he's stopped saying her name out loud, watching her glide along and disappear through doorways. Instead he lets his eyes follow her imagined form and then concentrates on listening to his knights, seated round the table. He is strong enough to ignore his imagination most of the time. He has mastered the impulse to leap out of his chair every time he sees her, mastered the urge to fall down on his knees and beg her to come back. He is King now. He has responsibilities.
Sometimes he gives in and lets himself daydream a different future, sketching in Morgana as his queen, seated beside him in the banqueting hall, laughing at something he has just said. He removes the dark shadows under her eyes that had blossomed in her final few months in the castle. He forgets to give her the terrified expression that haunted her after a particularly awful dream, where she'd come running down the steps to stop him from doing whatever it was that would get him killed or injured or hurt someone else.
And he most defiantly does not put in the last look she gave him as she rode out of Camelot, one so full of sadness and anger that he turned away. By the time he'd looked back she was gone.
Instead, this dream Morgana is smiling at him, touching his arm in the old familiar way she used to. She laughs with him, gently mocking. She recalls an embarrassing episode involving him falling in the castle moat and everyone laughs. Her eyes shine dark with mirth in the candlelight and he grins back at her, conceding this battle to her. He raises his glass for a toast.
"To the Queen!" The words are happily echoed back and the celebration continues in full swing.
His wife's hand on his shoulder bring him sharply back to reality and he smiles wearily at Guinevere, the smile that doesn't quite touch his eyes anymore.
He's out hunting when he sees something gleaming white in the distance. He isn't sure what it is but he raises his crossbow, prepared to shoot. It will make a magnificent trophy for his hall. Closer now and his finger trembles on the trigger and the creature turns and it is Morgana, her long hair streaming out behind her white cloak as her hood falls. Her face, underneath her curling druidic tattoos, is one of shock. The flowers she holds in her left hand fall unnoticed to the ground.
He lowers the crossbow immediately, calling her name, but she does nothing but stare at him. For a moment he thinks this is another imagining of his, she haunts his days after all, perhaps today is just a particularly strong hallucination. He has barely taken five steps though when he sees hooded figures in the distance calling her name.
A young man, a teenager, runs towards her and a smile graces her features. A pang shoots through Arthur, he has not seen Morgana smile in years. The boy is closer now, his dark hair about his shoulders, and Arthur recognises him. Mordred. The boy looks at Arthur warily, not like a rabbit staring at a fox, but like a predator sizing up another one. Like a rival. He tugs Morgana's hand.
The druids in the distance are waiting. "Come on."
"Morgana?" Arthur hates how like a child he sounds.
She tilts her head, crowned with autumn leaves and vines and looks at him, through him and he's never felt more exposed. Like she knows everything. Perhaps she does, he thinks.
She pulls her cloak around her and turns to go, but Arthur's voice stops her. "Won't you even speak to me?"
She urges Mordred on but the boy doesn't go far, protective over his adopted mother.
"We said all we had to say a long time ago." Her voice isn't accusing but he still feels the resentment as her powers brush over him tentatively.
"Please, I-" He doesn't know what he's going to say but she nods.
"It's alright." They gaze silently at each other for a heartbeat and then she makes a move back to Mordred. "I must go."
He steps forward but her hand motion stops him, even as her powers hug closer to him. "Don't," she says and her words are soft but painful. "Now is not our time."
He swallows and stands still, accepting her decision, though it costs him dear.
"We will see each other again, Arthur Pendragon." She smiles and it is genuine. "It is a parting, not a goodbye."
And then she pulls the white hood of her cloak up and heads to the group of druids standing on the hill taking her power with her, like a cat unfurling from him. He misses the warmth immediately, but bites his lip from calling out. He watches until they disappear from sight. It is only then that he spots the flowers on the forest floor that Morgana has left behind.
X. Some Endings Are Only Beginnings
Decades have passed and Merlin has brought him here, at the end of his life to wait by the bank of a lake and a boat that bobs gently on the water. Merlin is silent in his watch of his king, silent until he spots the approach of a figure through the mist and then he touches his master's arm and mutters words of the Old Religion before quietly disappearing into the fog. Arthur's drifting gaze fixes on a face he knew better than his own and a name escapes his lips like a prayer.
Time has not aged her. She reaches out her hand and touches his shoulder gently. Warmth fills him and instantly his flesh softens and fills out, his lines disappear. He stands before her as the man she knew before. Here is Arthur in his prime of life.
"I told you we would meet again."
He reaches into his breast pocket. "I have a present for you." He drops the dried flowers into her open hand, now paper thin from age. They are still faintly blue. "I didn't forget." Her powers flare suddenly and melt against him and he wipes away the tears tracking down her face. "Forgive me?"
She nods as her hair gently breezes around her face. "Come, we must go. The others are waiting."
Sudden fear grips his heart and he reaches unconsciously for her hand. "Will it hurt to die?"
"Die?" Surprise etches Morgana's youthful features. "You're not going to die."
"Then where are we going? What am I doing here?"
Morgana tilts her head, the old spark in her eyes, her lips twisted in a challenge. "Are you afraid?"
He looks down at their linked hands and remembers the first time she took his hand. Remembers being six years old again. He feels her old familiar power tingling in her hand. And underneath that, the feel of her skin against his, smooth against his warrior hands. Beneath the magic and the power, where she is just Morgana and he is just Arthur.
He grips her hand in the old familiar way and smiles. "No."
Well I hope you liked it, that was my early Christmas gift to you all :) I had a great time writing it, even if it didn't turn out to be the fluff fest I had originally thought it was going to be. It went all serious and sort of ran away with itself lol.
Please leave a review- and a big shout out to all of the lurkers! Yes, you who's read this story but hasn't reviewed. Christmas is the time for giving and receiving, so don't be a Scrooge, press the review button so I can recieve your (hopefully) lovely reviews. Even if it's just a line, it's worth it :)
Merry Xmas and have a very Happy New Year!