Author's notes: This is set in a post-season 2 world. Morgana has returned to Camelot, and Merlin follows her to the forest one night. Explosions ensue.
It's seriously dark. Consider yourself warned.
After the unnatural wind died down, an eerie calm descended in the forest. Morgana heaved a sigh, still gazing at the spot where Morgause had vanished. Her sister asked too much of her. She couldn't go on playing this role for long, simpering around at court pretending to be as naive and deceived as she once was, in the days before she learned to hate Uther – the days before she learned the truth about herself. Each day grated on her more than the last. How had Camelot survived so long without magic, and with a ruler so blind?
The sharp crack of dry twig interrupted her frustration. Immediately, she called her magic to her, as Morgause had taught her, and reached out to seek the source of the noise. She felt a presence close by, something that nagged at her as familiar somehow, but that she couldn't quite place.
"Show yourself!" she called into the dark forest. "You cannot hide from me!" At least, she was reasonably confident they couldn't hide; her magic was growing every day, but she had little occasion to put her powers to the test in Uther's Camelot.
"You were meeting with Morgause," a small voice accused from the darkness. "You're conspiring to destroy Camelot."
"And what business is it of yours? Show yourself!"
Merlin stepped quietly out of his hiding place. "It is very much my business, Morgana."
"You!" she hissed, instinctively flinching back before recovering herself. "The business of Camelot is no business for a mere servant."
"The protection of Camelot is the business of all those who care for her. Like you once did, like I do. Like Gwen does. Camelot's 'mere servants' have always been grateful for your friendship in the past," he said, sadly. "Has Morgause already poisoned your mind so much?"
"Poisoned? Poisoned?" Morgana sputtered. "You would dare to speak to me of poison? Was poison just the business of Camelot, then? And leaving me to be butchered by the knights of Medhir, was that, too, the business of Camelot?"
A shadow fell over Merlin's face at these words. "I never wanted to hurt you, Morgana."
"No? Did you think that the knights' swords wouldn't hurt me? That poison would feel just fine? Then you surely are suffering from a grave mental affliction, indeed," she spat. "But you never have been the brightest, have you? You were never more than Arthur's idiot manservant, and now you're Arthur's idiot murdering manservant."
"I never wanted to hurt you!" he shouted, the words exploding out of him. "Can't you see you've been used, Morgana? You were poisoned by others with words long before I was forced to poison you with hemlock! You let Morgause use you, and I had to stop her spell somehow." Merlin took a step forward, and he seemed to grow larger in his fury. "They've made you think that having magic decides your allegiance for you, that it means that you have to hate Uther, that you have to destroy Camelot. It doesn't have to be that way! I've stayed loyal! They've seduced you with their lies, Morgana, seduced you and manipulated you, and the whole time, they've been after your power. They'll be no better than Uther in the end, can't you see? You've been blind to their true natures, blind to their motives!"
Morgana had never seen Merlin in a rage before, not even with Arthur; that she should provoke his anger, when he was the one who had tried to kill her, enraged her. "I have not been blind. It's you, you and the rest of Camelot, who are blind!" She gathered her magic in a fiery rush.
"Morgana, don't!" he shouted, a moment too late.
"Forbærnan!" she shouted, hurling her magic at Merlin.
Lightening-fast, he dodged, and her fireball slammed into the tree behind him, setting it instantly alight. Unbelievably, he launched back into his rant, not showing a hint of fear, only disappointment. "Has Morgause been arming you for the battle against Camelot? Arming you to destroy everything you used to love? Magic doesn't have to be this way, Morgana; you don't have to use it to fight. Remember the druids! Magic can be a force for good!"
"Putting an end to you would be doing good, Merlin! Or did you think you could poison me and get away with it?"
"Morgana, stop this," he pleaded. "Please don't push me."
Raising her hand again, she edged closer, not intending to give him room to dodge this time. Something seemed to give way inside of him as she did, and his face hardened into a mask. "No, Merlin. In a moment, there will be nothing left to push. Forbærnan!"
With vengeful glee, she watched Merlin thrust out his hand as if to shield himself, as if he could stop her magical fireball.
And then, it stopped.
Morgana's glee evaporated, replaced by shock. Her fireball evaporated just as quickly, vanishing into Merlin's hand, the only sign it was ever there a golden glow fading from his eyes. Incredibly, he laughed, but there was no mirth in it.
"You've come a long way from setting curtains alight in your sleep," he mocked coldly. She had a sense of something dark and fey swirling around him as he met her widened eyes. "Are you that surprised, Morgana? You of all people should know that magic chooses as it will, be you a king's ward or a simple villager." She simply gaped at him, openmouthed, still reeling from the revelation that Merlin can stop magical fireballs with his mind and then laugh about it.
Memories and dreams came flooding back to her all at once, suddenly making sense with this new piece of information. The Avanc, Sophia, the Questing Beast. Sigan's mysterious end. Merlin's willingness to help Mordred, and his knowledge of the druids. A deepening sense of betrayal overrode her shock as more memories descended: Merlin, refusing to admit she has magic. Merlin, seeking her trust and giving none in return. Merlin, handing her the poisoned waterskin. Her fury bubbled over again, and something he'd said a moment ago clicked into place in her mind.
"You've remained loyal, despite your magic, you say? Loyal to what? To a kingdom that would burn you alive simply for being what you are? You are a traitor to your kind, Merlin! Forbærnan!" Fueled by her anger, the magic came freely this time.
Merlin deflected this fireball as easily as he had absorbed the last. "I've never wanted to hurt you," he said calmly, but there was an edge to his voice now. She ignored him and launched another two attacks; he sent both flying away into the trees. Fire and smoke filled the small clearing where they stood. His face darkened.
"Morgana. Stop this."
"Why should I? You don't deserve my mercy! Forbærnan!"
This time, he caught her spell and kept it alight, toying with it as if it were a child's ball. The golden glow lingered in his eyes. "Because, Morgana, I don't think you know who you're dealing with," he said quietly.
"You're nothing but a country sorcerer who's learned a few spells for defense!"
Slowly, a wind rose around them, starting softly and swelling into a gale that whipped at her hair and her gown. She struggled to remain upright. In the flickering shadows, Merlin crackled with power, radiating an aura of danger.
"You underestimate me, Morgana!" he announced over the wind, which continued to rise, though it was eerily calm where Merlin stood toying with the fireball. "It was I who killed Nimueh! It was I who singlehandedly defeated Sigan, the most powerful sorcerer Camelot has ever known! I have seen the future in the Crystal of Neahtid, I have forged a sword that can slay the dead, and I am the last of the Dragonlords. Think before you challenge me, Morgana!"
Fear washed over her, smothering her rage. He had wielded the Crystal of Neahtid? That alone was enough to frighten her, for she had tried in vain, finding herself unequal the vast power lurking inside of it. Even worse was the notion that he had defeated so many powerful beings. Nimueh? Sigan? Their power had haunted her nightmares. Perhaps the most terrifying thing of all, though, was that he was this powerful and nobody knew.
Morgana fought to regain her composure. This new and dangerous Merlin was still the same Merlin who collected herbs for Gaius, she reminded herself, the same Merlin who polished Arthur's armor. He had the same insecurities as that Merlin, the same vulnerabilities.
And he was the same Merlin who had tried to kill her.
Her anger returned full-force with that thought. She gathered herself to launch another attack, calling her magic while she tried a new tactic. "Does Arthur know?" she asked, malice in her voice. "Does he know that you tried to kill me?"
All at once, the wind died. Darkness washed over them as the burning trees were snuffed out; her own building attack was gone as if it had never existed. Merlin still held the fireball, but it seemed diminished somehow. In the dim light it cast, she could see he had fallen to his knees, as if he had been struck.
"No." It emerged as a choked whisper, barely audible despite the silence.
Merlin looked up at her, and she saw tears welling in his eyes. "He can never know."
There was a flash of fire, and then her world went black.