Lost in Translation
Author: Carla, aka cali-chan
Genre: Drama, sort-of romance, some fluff.
Canon/timeline: Past & future for the Merlin series.
Summary: It was always about hidden meanings between them.
Contrary to popular belief, Arthur had been quite the polite little gentleman back when they were younger. With Uther as the sole parental influence in his life, it was to be expected, really: even while instilling in the boy the relentless pride, smugness and arrogance that seemed inherent to most of the nobility, he had also been very strict with his heir, and raised him to always be honourable. The idea of his father's reaction were he to act out in any way could put the fear of God in a young boy, like you have no idea.
She still remembered the time she came to Camelot after her father died. Previous to that they had not interacted much, Uther often visited Cornwall but always by himself, and the one time she had travelled to Camelot with her father before that, the little prince had been confined to bed rest due to a chest cold. So in a way, that was their beginning.
She had hidden behind her then governess' skirts that day, and must've painted quite a strange picture wearing her nicest dress but with eyes rimmed red from crying. He had stood beside his father, all fair hair and round cheeks and blue eyes that stared at her in pure curiosity. She had been very pretty even back then and his gaze never wavered-- he bowed to her when it was required of him but otherwise simply stared, and looking back on it maybe that had frightened her more than the imposing town, the imposing castle or the imposing King.
That afternoon after their first "family" meal, he'd walked her to her rooms, as Uther had instructed him to. She was led to a spacious, well-lit room that had already been arranged for her to inhabit; she was quiet as she first set eyes on the cosy-looking but unfamiliar area, moving as little as possible as she inspected up and down and every corner. The sound of his voice shook her from her inner musings, and she turned around to find him focused on her, once again.
"These will be your chambers. I would hope everything is to your liking," he had said, in a tone too formal for his size, that she may have found amusing under other circumstances. But from the way he looked at her, she knew that what he was really asking was Why are you so sad?
It was always about hidden meanings between them, ever since that day.
He was nothing if not attentive to her those first few weeks. Offering to accompany her on horseback rides, attempting to draw her into playing knights and dragons with him, pretending that he was not bored as he sat in a leather-upholstered chair near her whenever she was reading at the library. She wasn't particularly responsive, assuming that the novelty of her presence would wear off eventually, but he would not be deterred: he had all the momentum of a boulder and all the energy of the northern winds. That was who he was, she came to learn, always in your face but with his heart in the right place.
But it took her a while to come to that realization. Initially, she had sidestepped him just as much as he tried to push in. "Her father has just died, young sire," her elderly governess had told him once, simple and straight-forward, when he had asked her why Morgana kept ignoring him. And she was right, of course; her father's death had marked her in every aspect of her young life. However, there was more to it than that. It was that she was afraid. Afraid of being in a new place that didn't quite feel like home yet. Afraid that she had been thrust into a new family, when she couldn't even bear the thought that her old family was no more. Afraid of what the future held for her, as the ward to the great Uther Pendragon, King of Camelot.
And perhaps she was also afraid of Arthur in a way-- afraid because his boundless enthusiasm was a reflection of the passion for life she herself used to have up to the point where her life had been turned upside down by a bloodied sword. Afraid because he was too honest and she could see that their souls were similar. Afraid because in his innocence he was trying to make her care for him, and she didn't want to allow herself to care for anyone because everybody she loved wound up dead.
So she pushed him away, again and again.
Just coming up on the sixth new moon after her father died, one morn he picked a pretty daisy and left it at her doorstep. She noticed it as soon as she walked out of her room. She lifted it off the floor and cradled it with resolute care, walking straight towards him and handing the flower right back, meanwhile advising His Majesty not to leave his toys and whatnots on the floor where they could be crushed by those walking by unawares. He had frowned, half disheartened and half offended in his male pride, but she had bowed and walked back to her rooms before he could get a word in.
For almost a full month the silly (precious) boy continued giving her flowers, and each day she would turn them down with a different dry excuse. Everything from "Unwarranted presents are such a waste," and "Is it not unseemly for the heir to the throne to be picking flowers like a little girl?" to "Its pollen gave me a dreadful rash," when in reality she always meant the same thing...
Thank you. I'm sorry. I'm scared.
Eventually, though, her continued dismissal of his advances started sounding more and more like teasing. She hadn't meant for it to be that way, but admittedly it was easier to handle him when he started to find her rejections annoying instead of sad. She would never say this out loud, but the prince was charming and fun (...to badger) and he won her over, up to a point where it was very easy for them to fall into the routine of good-natured bickering and friendly competition.
Before she knew it, they had become the "usual" Morgana and Arthur, and their hidden meanings had accompanied them. Their arguments made her ladies-in-waiting shake their heads in dismay and made Uther roll his eyes, but veiled under many thin layers of heated words that sounded like insults, their spirits seemed to echo something else altogether. He was clumsy and clueless when it came to feelings, and on the other hand she was perhaps too aware of them and how they could hurt her, so their defence mechanisms were the order of the day, but it was what they didn't say that really mattered. He would swear to everybody who could hear that she was the most irritating creature on earth, and she would call him everything from pompous to stupid, yet to her it all translated as I know who you really are, please don't let me down.
She didn't mind that it wasn't out in the open; it was the way they were. And she loved that Morgana, and she loved that Arthur. They were carefree. They were free.
Yet sometimes... sometimes she wondered if perhaps she had rejected him one time too many, for he began to simply believe her words.
She felt him rather than saw him come in. Her senses were that attuned to him-- they always would be.
She had been standing by the window for a long time, breathing in the golden aura that was Camelot. She had promised herself that she would never again set foot here, in the place that once became her true home-- the town, let alone the castle. Fate had a funny way of playing with you no matter how deep in the loop you were, though, and so here she was. She wondered if she would be able to take it all in, in her amazement; but also a part of her was grieving for innumerable things.
Perhaps a little of both was alright.
She had not strayed from her current position to explore her surroundings, though. To be honest, she felt a little uncomfortable; this wasn't her old room. Of course it wasn't her old room, she had lost such commodity the moment she willingly chose to walk away from the kingdom and all that entailed. But she was not one to complain because she was not stupid: she was well aware that only a miracle spared her from being chained to a dungeon wall at this very moment.
It was by sheer grace of Merlin, actually, that she was standing where she was right now. Clearly, it was a fact that she could not go anywhere else: their agreement was magical and it was binding. But he trusted her still, even after all this time and all these trials. He truly believed she wanted to come back of her own volition. He'd never told her so directly, and she had no way to guess, but she knew because power so great reverberated, and oftentimes his magic spoke to hers, just as if it had been said out loud.
But that was sorcery. Arthur, on the other hand...
She turned to the doorway where he was standing: tall, regal... wary. The sunlight glinted in his golden hair in a familiar way, yet he seemed not to have any idea what to do, what to say, and she couldn't blame him-- she was feeling a multitude of feelings in her at the same time, for she was angry, disappointed, terrified, hopeful. She would never let those feelings show, that was certain, and neither would he, but they knew each other too well and no person in this world could feel nothing in this situation, given all the history they had.
It was almost dangerous. Could he trust her? She'd betrayed him. Could she trust him? He'd let her go.
But there was no sight of a tell-tale red cape; he wasn't wearing his crown. At that moment, he was not the Monarch of Camelot. And neither she was the fated sorceress. They were just Arthur and Morgana, and this was where they began again. And it was awkward, and tense, and frustrating, and confusing and... wonderful. Just as it had always been between them.
He cleared his throat, like he used to do when he was nervous. "My lady," he said, jaw tense although his gaze was not accusing. He didn't bow-- they were long past that. You left me.
"My lord," she replied, just as ceremonially. Her eyes sought out his and held them, never faltering, for they were an even pair; they were equals. I had to.
He similarly held her gaze, seizing her up, trying to figure out the complexities of her expression. He was suspicious and she couldn't blame him, not after everything they had been through. And she couldn't say what she really felt she should say: that she was sorry, there was no escaping her fate but she didn't mean to hurt him, they'd hurt each other so much but she just did what she thought was right... She couldn't say any of it, it just wasn't in her-- had never been-- but oh, she would give the world for him to see that. That he could, for once, see her for who he knew she was, understand what her words really meant.
And then he nodded, very lightly, his eyes softening almost imperceptibly. I know. Her heart caught in her throat.
"These will be your chambers. I would hope everything is to your liking."
And... I remember.
Author's note 1: Sorry for the abrupt ending. I honestly had no idea what else to add. The whole fic was leading up to those two lines.
Author's note 2: Yeah, I know: Gwen, what Gwen? xD This basically happens after everything-- after Guinevere and Lancelot, after Mordred... It's kind of how I want the show to end, really. I mean, "together in Avalon" is all wonderful and great, but this time Morgana leaves Camelot and she should come back to it. Come back to Arthur, that is. ;)