A/N: Okay...it's ridiculous how long it's been since I've updated. I'm sorry... On another note, I think my writing style's slightly different this time, there's a little more introspection than I usually add. And I also put forward that Morgana can be ridiculously hard to write...but anyway, enough excuses. Forward!
That evening, Morgana found Arthur leaning against the edge of one of the tables in his room, staring at the wall. He turned around to look at her as she came in. "Morgana," he said shortly, obviously not looking forward to this conversation.
"I can see your mood's as good as ever. Sophia have anything to do with that?" Morgana asked. "You know, I'd say 'I told you so,' but for some people, that just isn't sufficient."
Arthur sighed. "Go on and gloat then. It's not as if I can stop you."
"I didn't come here to gloat, actually. I came to find out what really happened last night." Morgana was staring hard at Arthur, all traces of humor gone from her face.
"You already know what happened," Arthur parried quickly. "Merlin was an idiot and forgot to tell Father I was out hunting."
"You really think I'm stupid, don't you?" she demanded. "I know there's more to the story. I saw you leave with Sophia and Aulfric."
That threw Arthur for a loop for a minute before he answered, "I was just saying goodbye. Sophia's been very kind over the last few days, after all."
Morgana's tone and expression were edging into the truly dangerous now. "Oh, I'm sure she has. And how do you explain what happened to Merlin, then?"
Arthur looked away. "What about Merlin?" Arthur's question was obviously meant to be an uninterested deflection, but Morgana wasn't fooled.
"I haven't seen him, but Gwen says Gaius is keeping him in his chambers for a day or so."
Morgana waited for him to look up at her, but he didn't. She took this as a cue to strike.
"Such a valiant knight, defeating a manservant," she continued, teasing mercilessly. "Did you make him hold one hand behind his back, just to even up the odds a little?"
Arthur gritted his teeth, now staring up at the ceiling before looking down to glare at her. Morgana's baiting was beyond irritating. He didn't want or need to be hearing this, least of all from her. "Did Guinevere say anything about what was wrong?"
"She didn't know any of the details. I was hoping I'd be able to hear a little more from you. He is your manservant, after all. Shouldn't you know what state he ought to be in?"
Arthur's fists clenched on the back of the chair he was standing behind. "I don't know," he said truthfully. "I can't explain it. Besides," he added, "it's not like I know everything about him."
"Arthur," Morgana pleaded, "You know I'm not going to tell anyone. I just want to know what really happened."
Arthur gave up. He could never win against Morgana, anyway. "Fine. I tried to elope with Sophia, and Merlin knocked me out and brought me back here," he said flatly. Morgana stared at him. "Satisfied?"
Morgana didn't speak for a minute – now it was her turn to be surprised. "No," she managed finally, frowning. "That doesn't make any sense."
"It doesn't have to. It's the truth." Arthur looked away again.
"It doesn't explain anything. Sophia worked so hard to get you under her spell, and then she and Aulfric just let you go?" Morgana phrased the question carefully, looking for any sort of response to her choice of words.
There wasn't one. "I don't know, I don't remember any of it."
Morgana looked at Arthur oddly. "Nothing? Nothing at all?"
Arthur shrugged. "I'm taking Merlin and Gaius' word for it."
"And you don't think that's strange?" When Arthur didn't answer, Morgana shook her head. "I don't understand you, Arthur Pendragon." She turned and headed back for the door, but before she passed through it she turned. "One more thing," she added. Arthur couldn't understand her expression. "It's a little strange, but..."
"Yes?" he asked warily.
"You and Sophia didn't ever go swimming, by any chance?" she asked carefully.
Arthur stared at her like she'd gone completely insane. "What?"
Morgana looked at the floor. "Never mind," she muttered, and passed out of sight, shutting the door hard behind her.
Arthur stared after her for a minute, then went back to scrutinizing the wall and thinking.
He really didn't remember much, but if he concentrated long and hard enough, some images would spin themselves out of the gray stone. Most of what he remembered was some sort of blind compulsion, like a rhythm in his head all the time – Sophia, Sophia, Sophia. Stupid, but everything else seemed to be blocked behind the name, behind his weird, vanished obsession.
This was not normal. Arthur shook his head, annoyed with himself, and concentrated harder. Behind the weird hum, he could get flashes of images, sounds. Sophia in the forest, staring into his eyes; with him in his room, kissing him; himself before his father's court – he glared at the wall and skipped over that one – then him in his room, and Merlin walking in.
This was what he wanted. He closed his eyes, trying to get the images to come a little more readily, but he could still only get a few fleeting impressions and flashes of words.
He had been folding clothes into a bag, almost without thinking about it. He was running away from Camelot? It was ridiculous, but it seemed to be the case. Merlin was in the doorway, then in his room. They were talking, then arguing. The words themselves were a jumble, except for two phrases.
"I'm your friend."
"No, Merlin, you're my servant."
The expression on Merlin's face at that moment was also all too clear.
Then Sophia arrived. Some sort of conflict, he couldn't remember, and then...nothing. His memories were just – over, as though that's where things had ended.
Arthur blinked, and winced inwardly. Well, that certainly wasn't going to make him feel any better about himself. He'd been completely unfair to Merlin, after all the times Merlin had stuck out his neck for him recently, and the boy, unusually, hadn't even gotten angry at him – which, for some reason, only made it worse. Arthur would never let anyone but Merlin say it, but sometimes he could be a real prat. Great. Just great.
Not to mention, as Morgana had said, these memories didn't tell him anything about anything, except that he had at one point indeed planned to elope with Sophia. Nothing about how, exactly, Merlin had gotten Arthur away, and nothing about his separation from Sophia and Aulfric, either. And also, of course, nothing whatsoever about any sort of head trauma for anyone – him or Merlin.
Arthur sighed. Morgana might as well have said it – in fact, she essentially had: Merlin was his manservant, and in a way, he had a responsibility to keep track of him, for the sake of efficiency if nothing else. If something had happened to Merlin over the last few days, Arthur should have known about it. Well, he'd try not to make mistakes like these again – not really sufficient, he knew, but at least it was a start. Tomorrow, he'd go talk to Merlin, see if he could figure out what had happened, check to see whether he was all right. It was the least he could do.
Morgana thought long and hard as she headed down the stairs towards Gaius' chambers. None of the stories she'd heard yet had been true, that was obvious. What was also obvious, though, was that Arthur believed what he'd said. Asking him any more questions would be pointless and possibly dangerous, given the original source of her disquiet.
There was only one person to go to for answers, and there she would have to tread very carefully.
Her relationship with Gaius was a rather stange one, as though all their conversations had double meanings, and she was constantly missing the hidden ones. She guessed that the secrets behind Gaius' eyes stayed there for her own protection and convenience – she trusted him with her life, more than ever after the incident with Edwin – but sometimes it seemed the line that he drew between what he would and wouldn't tell her was a frustratingly impassable wall, one she would give anything to see over.
There was something – possibly several somethings – that Gaius wasn't telling her, something he didn't believe he could. A secret he thought she couldn't handle, or perhaps even more than one? She guessed that there was more to herself, to this whole scenario, than she what she could ever independently bring herself to expect.
Someday, she would find out what that more was, she promised herself. Even if it killed her.
A/N: I've actually been sitting on this for a while (yes, you can kill me now XP), but I wanted to add in another scene at the end of this chapter. I'll have to re-watch this episode before I can write it, though, and it's been delaying this chapter long enough – so it'll be incorporated into the beginning of the next one. Which, with any luck, you won't have to wait more than a year for. Sorry again...