It Didn't Have to End Like This
"Our destiny exercises its influence over us even when, as yet, we have not learned its nature: it is our future that lays down the law of our today." – Fredriech Nietzsche
A/N: Alright, so suffice it to say, I have serious problems with what's happened to "Merlin". S2 was pretty bad but then S3 is just beyond ridiculous, you can't even be angry about it anymore because that's how ridiculous it is. My frustration with S3 is the reason why I wrote this fic, because I just couldn't bear the crap they're doing on the show anymore. I needed to make sense of the nonsensical. Basically, this is my "fix it" for "Merlin". I attempt to (somewhat) rationally explain what's happened so far and why, then take the show from what its been doing and turn it back around to a place that resembles a REASONABLE progression from S1. Obviously, this is focused on the tragedy that is the Arthur/Morgana relationship. The worst part about what the writers/producers have done is that they completely ignore their own canon! They write one thing and then boom! RESET BUTTON. It's like it never happened at all. I think that's one of the biggest sins of a writer. No more!
A/N 2: This takes place right after 3x08 "The Eye of the Phoenix". Anything after that is AU.
Morgause had sent her a message the night before, giving instruction on where they were to meet next. She had taken up refuge in a cottage that was well hidden at the edge of a forest. It was a longer journey than usual, but Morgana rode swiftly. When she arrived at the cottage, the windows were black and the roof looked like it had caved in years ago. Confused, she looked around for any sign of her sister, but there was no one in the darkness. Having no other choice, she ventured cautiously towards the house and saw, as she stepped closer, a light flickering in the windows. With a smile, she realized Morgause had placed an enchantment around the house to make it appear unoccupied to any passing traveler. By the time she reached the door, the roof was no longer sunken in and a warm firelight blazed against the window panes. Morgause appeared in the doorway before Morgana had even a chance to knock.
They embraced fiercely and for that she was grateful, she had missed her deeply. It had been a long, lonely few months in Camelot.
"Sister, it is good to see you," Morgause said before taking her hands and led her inside.
"And you as well! It has been nearly a month since we last spoke. I was growing worried."
"Worry not," she replied soothingly. "I was busy preparing a way to be closer to you so that we may speak with more ease."
That was when Morgana noticed Cenred sitting in an armchair with his feet propped up by the fire. He waved lazily to her with that infuriating smirk he always insisted on wearing. She paid him little attention.
"Arthur lives," Morgana said tersely. "He said he somehow lost the bracelet on his journey."
"I know," Morgause replied. "It is alright, we will find another way."
"What other way?" she said a bit shrilly. "We've tried twice now and still he evades us. I don't understand how this keeps happening!" She tore off her glittering purple cloak, throwing it on a nearby table and sat down in a chair.
Morgause glanced at Cenred before joining her at the table. She took Morgana's chin gently, encouraging her sister to look at her.
"You must keep faith – we always knew this would be difficult, but it is no less important."
Morgana nodded, somewhat discouraged. "Yes, of course."
The blonde turned around and gestured to Cenred by the fire. With an annoyed grunt, he stood up and walked out of the cottage, leaving the two of them alone.
"What is it that bothers you?"
Morgana looked at her warily. "I don't know what you mean. I'm fine. I'm merely… frustrated. It will pass, I know what must be done."
"You are angry with me."
At that, she leapt forward in her chair. "No! No, you mustn't think that. You are most dear to me."
"What is it then?" Morgause pressed.
Morgana was caught. Settling back down, she looked away from Morgause taking in the state of the cottage. It was small and crude, but Morgause had brought many things with her so it looked well lived in, the firelight made it even more comforting in a sense.
"There is something… that has weighed on me for a time now. When I told you about what Uther said - that I was his daughter."
"It gave you no pause, you didn't so much as blink." She took a deep breath. "Did you know?"
"No," she replied quickly.
"Then what? To know that I am Uther's child, this gives you no cause to react?"
Morgause shifted slightly in her seat, her gaze flickered away from Morgana's face.
"You must tell me, I could not bear it if you lied to me."
"I didn't lie, my sister, but I will tell you what I know and I beg you not to be upset with me. I did only what I believed best for you." She hesitated and then continued. "I did a number of things to prepare before I ever arrived in Camelot. One was to be certain you were who I suspected you to be, of my blood. There is a spell… in which you may confirm the paternity of a child or match bloodlines. It was used by palace sorcerers in days of Old to keep the Royal bloodlines intact. I performed it on you before I arrived in Camelot, I had to be sure."
"There is no room for doubt?"
"None," Morgause smiled. "You are my sister."
Morgana held her head in her hands as she tried to come to terms with this news. To have learned that the man she loved dearly and had been taken from her when she was young, was not who she thought he was, and the man she despised more than any living, breathing thing on this earth, had fathered her. The fury… the shame, it was more than she could bear. Morgause had treated it as a positive turn of events when all Morgana could feel was the sickening lurch of rage churning inside of her, dragging her deeper… She had gone to Uther's bedchamber that night half out of her mind. She could think no other thought that to be rid of the darkness that plagued her so. Uther Pendragon lay at its core.
Now, she was told something else yet again. Another violent shifting of her world. She could barely keep her eyes open – this was too much to take.
"But he believes…"
"That is all that matters!" Morgause said triumphantly. "It changes nothing. All that matters is what Uther believes. Whether or not you are his daughter by blood, he believes you to be so and still treated you as he has all these years."
Morgana's skin had always been very fair since childhood, like fine porcelain, but in the last few minutes she had grown even paler. "How could you not say anything?" she said a bit breathlessly and her eyes narrowed. "You knew how it affected me and to say nothing?"
She straightened her back as she defended herself. "Perhaps it was not the right thing to do," she admitted, "but I did not tell you in hopes that it would strengthen your resolve, give you the motivation you needed to complete your task."
"You didn't trust me," she said flatly.
"That is not true."
They were silent for a while, only the crackling sounds of the wood burning in the fireplace filled the cottage.
"I'm sorry," she said quietly. "I should have told you. I would have eventually, though I'm sure that changes nothing."
Morgana only looked at her.
Sighing, she stood up and walked to the other end of the cottage where shelves covered the wall entirely.
"You don't have much time, if we are to discuss-"
She cut her off. "I have a plan."
Clearly intrigued, Morgause waited for more.
"We have wasted much time trying to kill Arthur, I fear we have been ignoring a much simpler route."
Morgana stood up as well, only glancing at her sister before she moved in front of the fire, stretching her hands out as though to warm them.
"If Arthur were to die, Uther would be inconsolable, I fear what retribution he will wreak if we do not manage to kill him in time. I do not wish that for the people of Camelot, they do not deserve such hardship. Already they suffer too much."
Morgause approached her swiftly. "But that is what we are trying to do, ease people's suffering, ours and theirs, to end the tyranny of Uther Pendragon."
Morgana spun around all of a sudden and with a calm, elevated gaze, said, "Whoever Arthur marries will be Queen."
Her sister said nothing.
"Surely you know of a potion or enchantment of a kind that will have Arthur fall in love with me, I recall you speaking of it, and then it will be simple. We will elope and once Uther finds out, he will have the marriage annulled, but in order to have reason to do so, he will be forced to reveal that I am his daughter. If he chooses to let it stand, then I will still have the crown and will end his life before long. Arthur will be of no concern then."
So certain of her plan, that Morgana was utterly baffled by Morgause's response. The woman simply nodded and seated herself where Cenred had been earlier.
"Why do you look at me so?" she asked. "Do you not think it will work?"
"I thought you told me of how others have tried this same course of action before. That they failed quite miserably."
"They were fools! They thought they could sweep into Camelot, utter strangers, and claim Arthur? My prior relationship with him would give us the advantage. Besides, the people have believed for quite some time now that Arthur and I would always marry."
"It could work," she said quietly. "It is very possible."
"And yet you seem so displeased," Morgana teased lightly. "Is it because I came up with it for once?"
Morgause chuckled. "Not at all."
Kneeling, Morgana placed her hands on the other's knees. "Now I must ask you, sister, what is it that troubles you so?"
She smiled sadly and covered her hands with her own, tracing the healing bracelet she gave her with her index finger. "This path has crossed my mind before, but I did not wish for us to take it. I did not believe it sound."
Morgana looked like she was about to refuse, but Morgause's expression told her to be silent.
"You have feelings for Arthur - and not those that a sister feels for a brother."
Morgana yanked away from her in horror and stood up, but she continued.
"You loved him very much, don't try to deny it, I know it to be true. You have done well to rid yourself of old attachments, but this… what you are suggesting… this is asking too much of you. It would require you to be closer to him than you have been these past years, and your feelings will inevitably… cloud matters. It is too risky."
Morgana scoffed angrily.
"I know you are upset with me for saying this, but I must. It is not your fault, you are human, as are we all. I would expect nothing else."
"You're wrong!" she spat. "I care nothing for Arthur. He is Uther's son, an imbecile, nothing more."
Morgause was unconvinced.
"I don't care if you believe me or not, but I say to you now, Arthur Pendragon is the least of my worries."
"If we are to do this…" she tried carefully, "then I would need a token of his, something off his person, for the spell."
Morgana went for her belt and procured a small, silk pouch, offering it to her.
"Arthur had his hair cut only yesterday. I'm sure that will be sufficient."
The other woman seemed impressed.
She only shrugged. "You taught me well. Now, I can't have him prancing about the castle spouting rhyming couplets about my many virtues, arousing suspicion. …It's happened before."
"It is possible for me to tame its effects, so that it would not cause an overt obsession, but then it would require more effort on your part…"
"I know how to manage Arthur," she said stiffly.
"Very well. His attention would be greatly shifted to you, he would be extremely susceptible to any advances you make, but – granted I make no mistake - the change should not be so dire so as to alert anyone outright. He would appear, for the most part, as his usual self." She paused. "Are you sure-"
Morgana looked to the window and saw that the sky was beginning to lighten. "I must go," she said, acting as though she didn't hear. "Will you agree?"
Morgause sighed. "If you feel you can carry this on without-"
"Then it will be done." She nodded. "In two days time, Arthur will be yours."
Morgana reached for her cloak and threw it around her shoulders. Morgause silently helped her knot it at the neck, but Morgana refused to meet her eyes.
"I have every faith in you, sister," she said softly. "Please, don't let what I've said anger you. I only want to protect you."
Morgana sighed and kissed Morgause on the cheek. "I know… but I promise you, everything will be alright."
Morgause watched from the doorway as Morgana swung up onto her horse and rode away, disappearing over the hill. She turned back into the cottage, closing the door quickly behind her. She was a blur running back and forth as she gathered various ingredients and materials.
Cenred entered a few minutes later.
"I see the Lady is gone."
Morgause didn't bother to reply, too intent on the task in front of her.
"What have you decided?"
She relayed the plan to him haphazardly and he seemed somewhat disappointed, but knew better than to argue. It didn't have the action he had hoped for, but if the result was the end of the Pendragon line and his alliance with the power of Camelot, then that was enough.
"So you're brewing a love potion for our dear, unsuspecting, Prince Arthur now?" he said mockingly.
Cenred fell heavily into a chair next to her, eyeing the ingredients laid out on the table with some skepticism.
"So this is breakfast then?"
Laughing, she said, "If you are hungry, you may return to your castle. I'm sure there are far better comforts there than those to be found here."
"That depends on the comforts you speak of."
She pretended not to hear him. "Before I place the enchantment on Arthur to have him fall for Morgana, I must remove the other one."
Cenred's interest was piqued and he leaned forward greedily. "Other one?"
"Before I made my presence known in Camelot over two years past, I knew of Arthur Pendragon's attachment to my sister. If ever she were to form a bond with me, I knew she would need to feel more alone than ever before. If her relationship with Arthur progressed or even remained as it was, it would have made it near impossible to connect with her as I did. So I cast an enchantment that bewitched Arthur with another woman. Once he focused all his attention on her, Morgana was free to do as she wished without being hindered by his constant presence in her life. I allowed her to believe they simply drifted apart – it is better that way."
Laughing boisterously, he clapped his hand on his thigh. "That's rich! So the servant girl we had taken – Arthur's only after her because of you?"
She rolled her eyes at his juvenility. "Yes. It mattered little who it was, only that it would keep Arthur out of Morgana's way."
"And the enchantment is on the girl as well?"
"No, any feelings she has for the Prince are entirely her own doing."
Cenred was still laughing.
"You must leave me now. Return to your city and I will follow shortly once I have finished both spells. This requires a great deal of concentration; I must be alone if I am to succeed." She gave him a stern look.
He merely wet his lips with a dark glint in his eyes. "Oh, but I do so love to watch."
Arthur went two steps at a time up the stairs to his quarters, absolutely famished after having skipped lunch to sort out a brawl in the Lower town. Merlin better have his dinner waiting for him or he'd be spending tomorrow in the stocks.
Arthur was hardly paying any attention to where he was going, only focused on his dinner, when he ran smack into Gwen coming from Morgana's chambers.
"Oh!" they cried simultaneously.
When Gwen realized it was him, she smiled sweetly.
Arthur was confused.
"Er, hello, sorry about that," he said unsurely.
"It's my fault, should've watched where I was going."
A cold dread crept over him. There was something different... something wrong…
"No, really, all mine."
"Don't be silly," she said.
Why did her gaze make him so uncomfortable? It usually filled him with such joy.
"Is everything alright? You look a bit… peaked."
"Fine!" he replied too quickly. "Absolutely fine. Nothing the matter. Um, I should be going."
"Sorry, must run, very late!"
He couldn't get away from her fast enough.
What was wrong with him? Why did she seem so foreign? That familiar flutter in his chest, being mesmerized by her beauty, desiring nothing more than to sweep her in his arms and carry her away with him – none of it was there. He loved her! Didn't he? He did, he knew he did. Then why didn't he feel the way he always did when he saw her? The longing that plagued his heart and soul whenever he laid eyes on her had vanished. The feeling of having known her all his life was gone. When he had looked at her just now, he didn't see Guinevere, his heart's desire - he saw Gwen - Morgana's sweet, loyal handmaiden… a stranger.
What was wrong with him!
"Arthur, what is wrong with you?"Morgana snapped as she stood with her hands on her hips, clad only in her nightgown.
"What are you talki- wait, what are you doing in my chambers!"
She stared at him in disbelief. "Have you completely lost your mind?"
Frowning, he looked around and was startled to find that he had not just entered his room, instead he had walked, unthinkingly, straight into Morgana's.
"OH? So now I'm supposed to believe that you just walked in here by accident?"
"As a matter of fact…" he started to say, quite embarrassed, and scratched the back of his head.
"Your chambers are on the opposite side of the castle!"
He knew she was right, he couldn't quite believe it himself.
"I – er – damn. I think I really just might be losing my mind. My apologies… I'll be going now."
He turned to leave, but Morgana's hand on his arm stopped him.
"Arthur…" Her tone had changed. She didn't sound so annoyed anymore, instead she sounded…dare he say it… concerned. "Did you need something?"
He really wanted to talk to her about it, but he wasn't sure what to say, or if he should say anything, especially to her. Morgana would probably just laugh him out of the room and humiliate him for the rest of the week about it.
He had just decided not to say anything when she closed the door and pulled him further into her room.
"What is it?"
Looking into her worried eyes, those alarmingly beautiful, fierce green eyes and knew he was going to say it.
"H-have you ever... cared… for someone and then suddenly, all at once, just… stopped?"
He groaned. "Liked, withstood, barely tolerated, whatever."
"You mean if you're angry with them?"
"No!" he burst out exasperatedly and then recovered himself at Morgana's expression. "I mean… can you just wake up one day and not have the same feelings you did the night before?"
"Like a food craving?"
"Oh for… FORGET IT!"
Morgana was laughing now and she pulled him back. "No, no, I'm sorry. I'm just having some fun with you. I do understand what you're saying."
"You do?" he replied skeptically.
She nodded. "You want to know if it's possible to stop loving someone."
"I didn't say that!" he cried, bristling at the use of the word 'love'.
"But it's what you meant, is it not?"
He swallowed thickly and gave an impatient nod. "So… can you?"
Morgana tilted her head at him thoughtfully. "I don't know." She looked away shyly. "It's never happened to me, but… I believe if you truly love someone, if you truly let them into your heart, then that can't just disappear, not completely anyway. It's as though they become forever a part of you, it changes you, no matter what happens in the end. "
A swell in his chest came on so powerfully, it nearly hurt. It had been so long since he felt like this. How badly he wanted to kiss her just then.
"Yeah…" he said hoarsely. "What I thought."
"Did I help at all?" She grinned knowingly.
Now, that, he didn't like. Not at all. The way she looked at him as were though she'd somehow won, so superior. They had gotten into some very dangerous territory.
Morgana didn't expect that. "Pardon?"
Arthur shrugged, trying to look indifferent. "Yeah, you really didn't say anything I didn't know. Fat waste of time this was." Then he looked her up and down with a grimace. "You really should wear a dressing gown, you know, you might scare some of the servants in that thing, it's… unseemly."
"I didn't realize you cared so much about what I wear," she retorted.
"Don't usually, it's just that you're putting me off my appetite."
Her eyes narrowed dangerously. "Then I suppose I'm doing you a world of good. You could stand to lose some of that appetite of yours." She smacked his stomach with the back of her hand. "Don't think the whole castle hasn't noticed."
Arthur looked at her in horror, his hands going to where she smacked him. "I am NOT fat!"
She started to lead him towards the door and gave him a sickly sweet smile, crooning, "Oh, of course not, you're just… well-rounded."
"Goodnight, Arthur!" She shoved him out the door and slammed it behind him.
Glaring at the door, he growled and resisted the urge to kick the wood. Why did she have to be so damned… infuriating all the time! With a frown, he checked to make sure he was alone in the corridor and then looked down, patting his stomach.
"I am not fat."
Morgana rested against the back of her door with a wicked smile, listening to Arthur's retreating footsteps.
So it was to begin.