Title: What Must Be Done
Fandom: The BBC's Merlin
Pairing: Morgana/Gwen, brief mention of Morgana/Morgause
Rating: PG, angst
Disclaimer: I don't own them.
Summary: Things are tense between Morgana and Gwen, and though Morgana wishes things could be different she doesn't know how to make it work.
The room was silent, as it often was those days, while Gwen worked unlacing Morgana's gown until she could carefully draw it over Morgana's shoulders. Within seconds the material pooled at Morgana's feet and Morgana stepped out of it, leaving Gwen to gather the dress and hang it. Morgana stood with her back to Gwen, her light eyes focused on the window and the darkness beyond it as Gwen moved through her chambers, and she remained thus when Gwen moved back towards the bed to lay out her nightgown.
In the past Gwen would have directed Morgana over to the stool in front of her dressing table and told Morgana the latest castle gossip as she brushed out Morgana's hair, occasionally stopping to tenderly comb her fingers through her mistress's luxurious dark hair before helping Morgana dress for bed. However, since returning to the castle Morgana hadn't seemed interested in anything Gwen had to say. Nor had she seemed to want Gwen in her presence for longer than was necessary, so after laying out Morgana's night clothes Gwen had reluctantly begun to take her leave.
When Gwen finished by the bed, Morgana expected to hear her footsteps heading towards the door, as had been Gwen's pattern as of late, so when she felt Gwen's hand touch her arm, she startled slightly. Morgana's lips immediately parted to ask Gwen what she thought she was doing, but before she could speak, she felt Gwen's lips press against the back of her shoulder and the harsh words she had been intending to speak died on her lips.
"Please," Gwen whispered, and Morgana could tell from the sound of her voice that tears were leaking from Gwen's eyes before she felt the first warm drop splash against her skin.
Morgana's eyes closed at the soft exclamation and her chest rose and fell deeply as she drew in an audible, calming breath.
"Guinevere," Morgana breathed out tiredly, dipping her head down and shaking it faintly.
She remembered a time when the gentle press of Gwen's lips against her skin would have brought a large smile to her face. She remembered a time when she would have spun around and gathered Gwen in her arms, raining kisses over her forehead, and cheeks, and nose and lips before tugging Gwen down onto the bed with her, moving immediately to cover Gwen's body with her own. She remembered when words flowed easily between them but also how comfortable it had been to be silent around each other. She remembered how they used to be able to gaze at each other forever without being bored, and how it seemed Gwen could read her every thought, her every feelings simply by looking into her eyes.
But that was the past, and this was the present, and not even magic could take them back in time.
"Don't do this," Morgana sighed warily, banishing the thoughts of her previous happiness with Gwen from her mind.
She had to look forward now, not back. Never back.
Gwen's hand slipped from her arm, and the warmth of her body disappeared from behind Morgana.
"Why are you being so cruel?" Gwen asked, hurt, anger, and confusion warring for dominance in her tone as gazed at Morgana's back with wounded, watery eyes.
Because I have to be, Morgana thought, her eyes narrowing and her lips pressing together in a thin line. She did not want to be curt with Gwen. She did not want to have to send her away from her quarters, or to turn her back on her, or any of the other small, callous things she had been doing.
She had to do these things. She had to protect herself. Because as much as Gwen cared for her, Morgana knew with heartrending certainty that if Gwen had to chose between her and Camelot, that Gwen would choose Camelot. Everyone that Morgana had loved and trusted in the kingdom had betrayed her, and Morgana could not set herself up to have her heart broken by Gwen as well.
"I do what I must," Morgana responded, lifting her head proudly though she kept her back to Gwen.
Gwen breathed in sharply, and then released the breath shakily. Morgana's head quirked slightly to the side at the sound, but before she turned completely she checked the motion. She couldn't tell what Gwen's exhalation meant and she wanted to see her face, but that would mean looking at Gwen and she wasn't sure that she was quite a good enough actress to look Gwen in the eyes and seem as cold as she had to be.
"What did they do to you, Morgana?" Gwen asked stepping close enough to Morgana again that Morgana could feel the heat of her body though Gwen did not actually touch her. "You can talk to me," Gwen said, her voice fill of compassion and concern that Morgana knew she did not deserve after the way she had been acting. "Please, Morgana. I only want to help you."
Gwen spoke with compassion and concern, but her words ignited a fire inside of Morgana that began to spark beyond her ability to control. Gwen spoke such pretty words, but they were lies. All of the lips in Camelot only ever spouted pretty lies.
Despite Gwen's words, Morgana knew that the truth was that she could not talk to Gwen. She could not tell her about the magic that burned through her veins. She could not tell Gwen how she had actually spent the last year of her life learning how to make her magic stronger. She could not tell Gwen how she truly felt about Uther or what she was planning to do. She could not tell Gwen anything that truly mattered to her anymore, and the reminder that she was utterly alone inside of Camelot momentarily overwhelmed Morgana.
"Can you turn back time, Gwen?" Morgana spat turning around fast enough that Gwen took a startled step back. "Can you undo the past?" Morgana continued taking a menacing step towards her. "Can you erase the evils of the world? Can you untwist the dark, wicked hearts of men? Can you make this sick, diseased kingdom well again? Can you ..." Morgana stopped suddenly and turned her back to Gwen before she could say more while knowing that she had already revealed too much.
Merlin knew that the smiling, docile face she wore around the castle these days was nothing but an act, but no one else did. Gwen had seen enough of her to know that she was not as happy, or content as she seemed to be outside of her chambers, but Gwen did not know how deep her discontent ran. Gwen did not know how much she hated Uther and the lengths she was willing to go to end him, and Morgana needed to keep it that way. Because as cold as she was being, Morgana still loved Gwen, and she didn't want a situation to arise where she had to choose between her sister and their destiny, and Gwen's welfare.
"Gwen," Morgana started a few seconds later when she felt calm enough to speak without raging, "I ..." she continued turning to face Gwen once more, but when her saw the expression on Gwen's face she stopped speaking.
Gwen had looked hurt and bewildered quite a bit since Morgana's return and Morgana had become used to the disappointed, mystified, wounded looks. But the expression that greeted her just then was new. In addition to confusion and hurt, there was fear in Gwen eyes. Gwen looked wary of her, disturbed by her and Morgana found herself momentarily speechless in the face of Gwen's expression.
The first thought Morgana had was to apologize. Her immediate instinct was to cross over to Gwen and gather her in her arms and whisper to her that she didn't mean it, that she was sorry, and that things would change.
But the impulse to comfort and console was only momentary.
The longer Gwen looked at her with unease and horror, the harder Morgana's heart became, because Morgana realized that the look on Gwen's face then was the truth. It was the future. It was the reality of things, not the kindness and compassion and concern she had heard earlier. If Gwen knew what she was, and how she felt, and what she planned on doing, she would hate her. Gwen would hate her, and betray her to Arthur and Uther, and Morgana would burn. Gwen's love, just like Uther's, and Arthur's, and Merlin's and all of Camelot's was conditional. They would only love her as long as she lied. If they knew her, they would turn on her.
Morgana's hand drifted to her throat and she turned away from Gwen as her face contorted in misery at the memory of slowly choking to death washed over her.
Yes, they would turn on her.
They would kill her with tears in their eyes and tell themselves that she deserved it.
"Goodnight Guinevere," Morgana said looking out the window once more, her voice calm and cool as steel as her hand dropped from her neck. "I shall be able to manage on my own from here."
"Milady," Gwen murmured hesitantly, in a way that Morgana knew meant she wanted to say more.
Morgana did not turn around or otherwise acknowledge the response.
Her chambers were silent for a few seconds after Gwen spoke and Morgana failed to respond, but then Morgana heard Gwen's feet as she moved across the room, and a few seconds after that she heard the door to her chambers close and her shoulders sagged in relief.
Morgana remained where she was for a few minutes longer trying to calm herself and then she moved through the room blowing out the candles that remained lit. She headed back towards her bed after that, making sure to draw the bracelet Morgause had given her off of her nightstand before she turned her covers down. She slipped beneath her blankets and curled onto her side, clutching Morgause's bracelet tightly in her hand as she closed her eyes.
In the dark quiet of her chambers, Morgana turned her mind to thoughts of Morgause and the love in her eyes when Morgause gazed at her. She thought of how easily words came between them and how she did not have to guard herself or mind her words around Morgause. She thought of the passion and determination in Morgause's voice when she spoke of bringing down Uther and returning justice and freedom to Camelot for all people. She thought about how safe she felt in Morgause's arms.
As she lay in the quiet darkness of her chambers, Morgana swathed herself in thoughts of Morgause's love for her, needing the strength that came with thinking about Morgause to fall asleep knowing that in the morning she would once again wake to a nightmare.