TRIGGER WARNING: Mentions of an old cutting habit, battling, blood. Do not read if you can't handle hospital-worthy injuries.


The Hanging Tree
by Shu of the Wind

She still has dreams about poison and blonde women with heavy-lidded eyes, but it's different. It's easier. The dreams only come on the nights she forgets to wear the bracelet, and those nights are rare. Sometimes she'll blink at someone – like Merlin's friend from the French literature department, Leon duBois – and she'll see them drenched in chain mail. Once she sees Gwen dressed up in a pretty purple gown with a crown on her head, and when Arthur drops them off in Caerleon his jaw drops at the sight of Morgana's roommate, and he cons a number out of her. Morgana scowls at him, and says it's a good thing she loves him (which Arthur blinks at her for, but he accepts her hug and writes her off as a freak, she's sure) before handing over the precious number and warning Gwen (who is stripping Arthur with her eyes) that she's going to have a blonde admirer.

Gwen doesn't seem to mind. Morgana asks that they warn her before they use the dormitory for their dates, and carries the bruise that Gwen gives her for three days.

Everything's easier now. Without the dreams, she can handle the memories. She even looks for them, sometimes. Merlin gives her a book he brought with him from Cardiff, a grimoire, and she teaches herself some spells. She can light and extinguish candles, and she can call a breeze, and make a flower out of nothing – or, more accurately, pull one from the other side of the world. She has to show Merlin the first time she summons a lily, and he smiles and tucks it behind her ear and Morgana has to turn away before he realizes she's blushing. Because she never blushes, and when she does, it's so obvious against her pale skin that even Gaius teases her about it.

April. May. It's the start of June when she catches Merlin packing his bags and realizes that their rhythm is going to be totally thrown off. Because they have a rhythm now, she realizes. She wakes up, goes to class, and then drags her homework and herself down to the bookstore, where Merlin minds the front desk more often than not, and she does her mathematics homework or her physics homework or her logic homework sitting across from him and when he pulls the paper away from her, she explains to him the mechanics of string theory, or the lifetime of a star, or the complexity of the P vs. NP problem, and he just sits and listens. She's never met anyone quite so good at listening. Even Gwen gets tired of hearing about astrophysics and advanced mathematics, especially considering Gwen is a literature major, but Merlin just listens. It's soothing.

Sometimes they sort books, but mostly after she finishes her homework Gaius takes over the front desk and they go back into the kitchen so Merlin can explain more about the magic. Or maybe they talk about Camelot. Or maybe just normal things. Sometimes she wonders what exactly it is about him that lets her talk to him. She never talks like this. Not to anyone. But Merlin knows about her. He knows her, and it's not just the memories, either, because even with all the similarities there are differences between Camelot-Morgana and Caerleon-Morgana. Old Morgana played the harp before Merlin came to Camelot; New Morgana is completely tone-deaf. Old Morgana had more luck with fire spells, harsher magic, but New Morgana likes the softer ones; water-based spells, spells about darkness. Not evil, but the gentle darkness, the soft blanket of night, the black in a panther's pelt, the spaces between the stars. He's intuitive about her differences, he picks them out and promptly adjusts, and she never has to tell him anything more than once. She asks him why he's not at university, and he shrugs and says he wouldn't fit in.

She frowns at him, because she sees how he soaks up the knowledge of the bookstore and her class notes that he filches when he thinks she's not looking, but she doesn't push it because there might be another reason he doesn't want to talk about.

He always insists on walking her back to Ealdor, even though she always insists that it's not necessary, but she likes it anyway, in the dark part of the back of her mind where no one can ever sense it.

She's also almost certain he knows about the cutting, even though he never says anything about it. She never brings it up either.

And now that's all going away, it's all going to be different, because Merlin is going back to Cardiff. She doesn't know why it takes her by surprise that he's leaving. Gaius told her that, before he even came to Caerleon. He was only going to be here until the summer, and then he was going to leave, but now it's happening and her chest is constricting and she can'tthink. What is she supposed to do with Merlin gone? What is she supposed to do when her rock – because that's what he is, he's the thing that let her keep sanity, he's the thing that made her sane – leaves?

She can't imagine her life without him anymore.

She's already organized with Gaius that she's staying in the bookshop over summer vacation. Gaius is all for it, and Ethan is too. She's thankful for that. She's not quite come to steadiness when it comes to Ethan/Agravaine, especially when the memories of Agravaine-who-is-in-love-with-Morgana clash with her memories of Ethan-who-raised-Morgana. It makes her sick to her stomach to consider the first option. Because he's her uncle.

She wonders if Uther is her father in this life, or not. And then she laughs at herself because she's already thinking in this life as though that's perfectly normal, perfectly acceptable, and to be honest, she wouldn't be all that surprised if he is. From what little information she's been able to gather about her mother, Vivian wasn't exactly the most loyal spouse.

Merlin doesn't even have a cell phone. She has a minor issue with the logic of this – how can you live in the 21st century and not have a cell phone? – but the problem is more that she won't be able to talk to him, and that bothers her more than she wants to admit.

She doesn't say anything to Merlin about it, especially when she catches him sitting next to his suitcase staring at it blankly, raking his hands through his hair. Morgana vanishes back downstairs before he notices her, but she's selfish; she's a little happy about his frustration, because it might mean he doesn't want to leave.

For some reason, she thinks of the time she overheard Merlin and Gaius talking about her in the kitchen.

We can't lose her again, Gaius. I can't lose her again.

Days pass slowly and too quickly. Suddenly it's Thursday, and she's done with her finals, and Merlin is leaving tomorrow. She almost doesn't go to the bookshop; she doesn't know if she can take it, she can't play it off, she can't pretend this isn't ending, but she goes anyway, and when she opens the door she immediately notices that someone's taken the sword down off the wall.

"'lo." Merlin says from the counter, and he's bent over the blade, rubbing it with a cloth. She can smell polish thick in the air. Morgana wrinkles her nose.

"You could just magic it away."

"Some things are done better by hand." He heaves the sword up, turning it so the blade flashes in the light, and then sighs and caps off the polish. "Finally."

It feels like it should be in her palm. Morgana reaches forward, and then hesitates, but Merlin just lifts an eyebrow and offers it to her. When Morgana takes it, it's still warm from his hand. It's heavier than her foil or her epee, and it takes her a moment to find the balance. She swings it in a circle, feeling the twist in her wrist, and wonders how long it's been since she's practiced.

"Careful," Merlin says automatically, and she makes a face at him.

"I'm not going to chop a book." She hesitates, and then an idea blossoms in her mind and she points at him with the blade. "Have you ever fought with one of these?"

"Long time ago," Merlin replies, which is code forCamelot. "Can't remember anything." He gives her a considering look, and then frowns. "You're going to murder me, aren't you?"

"No, come on. Let's go to the roof." When he still wavers, Morgana lowers the sword and lifts an eyebrow at him. "Come on. It's not that hard, Merlin."

"That sounds familiar." Still, he stands and follows her up the stairs, and Morgana clutches the sword in a suddenly sweaty hand. The last time she used a sword like this, she was sixteen and in camp, and they had decided to do a medieval theme that year. They'd pulled a real swordsman from the woodworks, and since she'd already been practicing fencing, it had been hard for her to adjust. She hopes she can remember everything.

She has to adjust the way he holds the sword ("Arthur told you to hold it this way? Really?" "That was a long time ago, 'Gana") and she has to tap him a couple times to get him into the right position, but soon he's doing well, and she's gone and grabbed another practice sword from downstairs (Gaius has them everywhere) and they're mirroring each other. He's stiff at first, but then he relaxes, and some of the old memories come back, she's sure. They work in silence for a while. Then Merlin clears his throat, and says, "I'm leaving tomorrow."

The swords smack together with a clang. Morgana nearly drops hers. She can't look at him as she pulls back, slashing the sword through the air so that it makes a whistling noise, and ignores the way leather bands have closed tight around her chest, squeezing until she can't breathe. Merlin lowers his sword. "I didn't want to tell you."

"So you wait until now." Her temper flares. She bites the inside of her cheek, hard. "That's a brilliant idea, Merlin, very smart. Last possible moment."

"No, last possible moment would have been tomorrow as I left for the bus." He corrects, and he's trying to be funny but it's not working. Morgana slaps the sword against his, and he stumbles with the force of it.

"This isn't a joke, Merlin!"

"Morgana." She pulls away before he can reach out, before he can touch her. His hand falls to his side again, and he swears in Welsh. "I'm sorry. I should have told you."

She can't think of what to say. She sits on the bench that Merlin had dragged up here in May, and sets the sword down, running her hands through her hair. Merlin stays away, and for a breathless second she hates him for knowing her so well. And then the poison closes her throat, and she snaps out of it.

"I'm not going to make you stay." She says, even though her heart cracks at the words. "And it's not that – you're my friend. And I don't…" Why is it so hard to talk? "You're my best friend. I don't want you to leave."

He crouches in front of her. His eyes have gone soft. "Morgana."

"I'm not good at this." There's pressure on the back of her eyes. She sniffs, and tries very hard not to cry. "Bloody hell. I don't…I don't treat people very well, all right? I'm not very good at talking about…" The madness. The magic. Herself. Her feelings. "Everything. And it's selfish but you're the only one that's…that's tolerated me this long. And I—"

"I'm not tolerating you, Morgana. Hey." He turns her back to face him, and his thumb is rough against her cheek as he wipes the tear away. "I'm not going to be gone for long. Only a couple of months. I've talked to Gaius and he's going to let me work here once the summer's over. It's not going to be forever."

"I—" Why can't she speak? She pulls away from him. "I'm just…afraid that when you….when you leave. It'll all go back to the way it was. I'm scared that—" spit it out, girl, come on "—I'm scared that this isn't…"

"This isn't real?" He laughs. God damn him, but he laughs. Morgana glares at him, and he shuts up immediately. "Morgana, I'm not a figment of your imagination. None of us are. You know that. Don't you?"

She does. But she just wants to hear him say it. Morgana takes a breath, stands, and goes to the edge of the roof, clutching the railing tight between her bare fingers. There's nothing else she can say, because shedoesn't know. She knows that it's true but she doesn't know if it's real, and that scares her more than anything else.

Merlin's quiet for a moment. Then he brushes her shoulder, lightly. "Here. Can I try something?"

"Yeah, of course."

Merlin reaches forward again. He hesitates, his fingers hovering over her sternum, where the pentacle's hidden under her shirt. "Um…"

"Oh." She can't look at him as she pulls the necklace free, letting it rest against her shirt. He takes the pentacle in his palm, wraps his fingers around it, and closes his eyes. Morgana tries very hard not to breathe as the feel of magic shifts a bit.

"Hȳran."

It's a word she doesn't know. Morgana waits until he lets go of the pendant to clear her throat. "What was that?"

"You'll see." He says, and then gestures at her. "You do me."

Suddenly she's very glad her hair is hiding her face, because it means he can't see her blush. She reaches forward, and hesitates before brushing her fingers over his collarbone, trying to find the chain. When he shifts to help her, their fingers touch and it's like a shock of electricity. Finally she has the pentacle closed up in her hand, and she squeezes her eyes shut. "Now what?"

"Imagine your magic." He says, and she does; it's a pulsing grey-green swirl. In her hand, she can feel Merlin's magic, trapped inside the pendant; a soft blue-grey, like cashmere. "When you cast the spell, you need to link it just slightly with the pendant."

"I don't know if I—"

He covers her hand with his, and she looks up. He's smiling. "Trust me, Morgana. You can do this."

She casts the spell. She can feel it when the link settles, and she wonders for a moment why he insisted on this; then his magic unfurls in the back of her mind, and she can't help taking a sharp breath. Her eyes fly open, and she realizes they must be gold with the magic, because his are too, and Merlin grins. "See? Cheaper than a cell phone. It won't be talking, per se, but it's…pretty constant." He scratches the back of his neck, awkwardly. "And you can cut it off whenever, I mean, I know you might not want me in your head all the time, I just thought—"

"I don't mind." She interrupts.

They look at each other for a long moment, and she's not entirely sure how it happens, but suddenly she's leaned forward and wrapped her arms around his waist, and Merlin has her in a tight grip, with his forehead resting on the crook between her neck and shoulder, and she can't do anything other than hold on. She's not sure if this is Old Morgana or New Morgana or both, but it feels right and that's all that matters.

"I'll be back." He says into her hair, and Morgana rests her cheek against his shoulder and breathes him in. "You know that, don't you?"

"You'd better be." She snaps, but her voice quivers a bit and she doesn't do this usually, she doesn't like being vulnerable, but here she is, shaking, because what if he leaves and it all turns out to be a dream? What if she really is mad, and she's just imagining it all? What if she isn't, and he never comes back to Caerleon? "Or I won't be responsible for my actions."

He laughs and she feels it through her ribs. "I'm appropriately terrified."

It's warm for this time of year. They stay on the roof for as long as they can. Merlin dozes a bit, his head on her shoulder. Morgana stays awake, and she rubs her thumb over the back of his hand in small circles, something she would never dare to do if he was conscious, and she watches him sleep. And after he wakes up and she dozes off (or pretends to), she has to pretend she doesn't feel his lips against her hair.

It makes everything worse.

She doesn't go with Gaius to see Merlin to the bus stop. The feel of his magic as he boards and waves to his uncle is a gentle, bittersweet caress against her mind. Morgana wraps herself around a pillow and watches the light play against the wall.

She doesn't cry. She's not very good at it and she doesn't like not being able to breathe, so she just doesn't. But it feels like she should be.

She sits that way for an hour before she forces herself downstairs, back into the bookstore, and back into life. She's not useless without him, and besides, he's there. Faint, but there.

She's still sane, and he's still there, and that's all that matters.


It's the middle of July when Nimueh walks into the bookshop.

She doesn't know it's Nimueh at first. She only saw the woman once, maybe twice in Camelot, she can't remember, and her mind and her lives are all jumbled up anyway. There's been other lives, though. There's a flash of Nimueh in a military uniform, grinning at her over coffee and switchboards, her dark hair wrapped up in a harsh bun, her lips popping red with lipstick that she knows Natalie – Nimeuh – had stashed in the toe of her stocking in her top drawer. And she knew that because she and Natalie had been lovers in one life, and looking at this woman in front of her she can remember hands on her ribcage, those bright red lips on hers, and in spite of herself – it's an old life, one that no longer applies to her, one that she can no longer comprehend – her mouth goes dry. She has to clear her throat before she asks, "May I help you?"

"You're Morgana Rhys?" She asks, and Morgana tightens her hands into fists under the counter.

"Who wants to know?" And why is she remembering Nimueh now, after Merlin told her specifically that it's only the seven of them? Her, Gwen, Mordred, Merlin, Arthur, Uther, Gaius. The seven of them. But she can remember others. She can remember Elyan. She can remember Gwaine. She can remember Leon, and suddenly Merlin's friend in the armor makes so much more sense.

Nimueh doesn't smile. She sets a hand on the counter as she digs through her purse. Her nails are painted red as rubies, drops of blood against the inlaid glass. "My name is Nora Hitchens. I'm a detective with Cambridge CID."

Morgana's eyebrows snap together. "Excuse me?"

Nimueh offers her a wallet with an ID card and a badge. Her lips are pressed tight together; there are shadows in her eyes. "Is there someplace we could talk, Miss Rhys?"

Tentatively, Morgana stretches out with her magic. Or she lets herself sink into it, she's not sure. She's not picking anything up from Nimueh. Not a single drop. And she remembers old lifetimes where she, Morgana, had no magic, had no memories, had no fear of madness and no way of knowing who she used to be, and she stands.

"Through the back."

Gaius takes the fact that Morgana has invited Nimueh – Nora, she corrects herself quietly, silently, because this woman isn't Nimueh, not anymore – into the kitchen of his home. He simply lifts his eyebrows at her, squeezes her hand once, and shuffles out to man the front desk. She owes him more than an explanation after this, she knows; she owes him reassurance that she's not the Old Morgana, and she owes him coffee. Lots and lots of coffee. It's the only way she's found to make Gaius stop grumping. She pushes the button on the coffee machine before pouring herself a mug of tea. "Would you like one?"

"Please," says Nora, and she's distracted; her nails tap against the screen of her phone, her forehead creasing in frustration. Morgana makes another mug and slides it in front of the detective, wrapping herself around her own.

"Were you aware that your uncle, Ethan Myers, had filed a missing persons report when your mother disappeared sixteen years ago?"

"Yes." This isn't news. Ethan complains about the police all the time. "Only he filed it with the Dublin Met."

"There's a national database." Nora waves this away, her eyes flicking to Morgana. "I only ask because a woman matching her description was arrested in Cambridge two days ago for attempted murder."

Her world rocks. Morgana grips the table, hard, and has to try very hard not to vomit. Scream. Run from the room. "Are you serious? What happened?"

"She tried to attack her employer, Uther Pendergast."

Pendragon, she corrects silently, but that's the Old Uther, not the New Uther. Her mind has imploded. Morgana stands, lifts a hand to her throat. Nora watches her, carefully. "I'm sorry, I just – I need a moment."

"Please."

Breathe. She tells herself, turning away from Nora.Breathe. She wants to whisper a spell, to call Merlin, but she won't. She's not that weak. She turns around again, and settles at the table. "I know Mr. Pendergast. He was my father's friend. I met him over Easter break."

Nora's eyes sharpen. "Really."

"He…he and his son came to stay with Uncle Ethan for Easter." Her throat clenches. Arthur. If someone is – if her mother, if Vivian – is trying to kill Uther, will she go after Arthur too? "Are they all right?"

"The boy, Arthur, took the blow for his father. He's all right. Discharged from the hospital. Simple flesh wound." She's like a machine. Spitting out facts and giving no substance. "It'll heal in a month or two. Were you aware that your mother once had a sexual relationship with Uther Pendergast?"

She should be expecting this, but still. Tunnel vision closes in. Morgana takes a deep breath and sips her tea, wondering if Nora has noticed her shaking hands. The woman is watching her carefully. "I haven't seen or heard from her in sixteen years. I have no idea what she's doing. Or who she's slept with."

"No one ever mentioned it? Not your father?"

"My father died before I was born. I was raised by my uncle." Morgana pauses. "Which I'm sure you know. So why are you asking me these questions? You can't possibly expect me to know anything about my mother's—" the word tastes funny in her mouth, like a forbidden drug "—life or why she would try to kill someone."

Nora looks at her for a moment. Then she pulls a file from her bag, opens it, and pushes it across the table. Morgana hesitates before she pulls it closer, studying the graphs. She recognizes a few words –mitochondria, DNA, blood spots – before she can't read anymore. "I'm an astrophysics student, not a biologist. I don't know what this means."

"There was another attacker." Nora says blandly, but her eyes are glass-sharp. "Face hidden. We collected a blood sample from the crime scene, and one of the lab techs figured out it shared many traits in common with both Uther Pendergast and Vivian Cartwright."

"Their child?" Morgana's head is spinning. She hesitates. She hasn't cut in weeks, not since she thought she was going mad. She has no fresh scratches. She can disprove this theory right now. But there's something niggling at the back of her mind, something she's forgotten, and she has a feeling that it isn't from this life. "You think that second attacker was me."

"We think nothing." Nora says, and stands. "It would be appreciated if you would come down to the station for a little while."

Morgana lets out a shaky breath. "When did M—when did Vivian attack Mr. Pendergast?"

"Two days ago, around eleven AM."

She relaxes. "I was in one of my finals. Theoretical mathematics. You can check with my professor."

Nora doesn't deflate, or even react to this piece of information. Clearly, it doesn't matter. "I would still appreciate it if you came in, Miss Rhys. I assume you have nothing else to do today."

"I have the shop to help mind, and—"

"Please don't make me arrest you, Miss Rhys."

Morgana stares at her. Nora stares back. "Fine," Morgana says, and stands. She pours her tea down the sink. "We had better go now if we want to beat the traffic."


"Ari."

She can't help saying it. The instant she spies Arthur – Ari, she corrects herself – out of the corner of her eye, his arm put up in a sling, wincing as he leaves the police station in Cambridge, she bolts from the car and runs to him. There's no question he's surprised to see her – she doubts she's ever seen his eyes that big, except maybe when he first spotted Gwen – but when she hugs him, his good arm goes tight around her waist and she gets the breath squeezed out of her. She's careful not to touch his bad one, but he still winces. "Are you all right?"

"Morgana, what are you doing here?" Arthur's eyes flick over her head to Nora Hitchens, slipping out of the car, and his hand tightens automatically on her waist. "Detective."

"Miss Rhys has been brought in for questioning."

"Morgana has nothing to do with this—"

"I am merely following a line of inquiry." Nora says in her robot-voice, and Morgana takes Ari's hand and squeezes it hard. He glances at her.

"Morgana—"

"It's all right." It has to be. "It's just an inquiry, Ari."

Arthur gives her a funny look, maybe about the nickname – she can't remember if she's ever called him Ari to his face before – but Nora takes her elbow. "Excuse us, Mr. Pendergast."

"Hold on a second." Arthur says, and pulls Morgana away. He keeps his voice low and cautious. "You didhave nothing to do with this. Right?"

"Of course not!" She's not offended he asked. It's a bit of a concern, though. His memories might be closer to the surface than either she or Merlin estimated, and the last thing she needs now is for Arthur to come to her thinking he's going mad. If he comes to her at all. "They brought me in because Vivian Cartwright is my mother, Ari."

"She's your—"

Her brain screams, Morgana whines, and Arthur barely catches her around the waist before the vision explodes behind her eyes. Blonde hair, heavy-lidded eyes, it'sMorgause, how could she have not remembered Morgause, after everything, and Ethan flickers in her mind's eye, but it's Agravaine, and he's kneeling in front of Morgause with his arm crossed over his chest –

The image shifts and it's the coffee shop in Dublin, and they're crashing through the door, and there's an explosion and Violet crumples to the floor. Blood coats her vision. She blinks wildly. She can barely see Arthur through the fog. Morgause and behind her is Agravaine, clutching a struggling Mordred against his chest, and Morgause's eyes flare gold as she whispers a spell that makes Mordred go limp –

And then it's Uther falling through a window, Arthur dead on the floor with a knife in his chest, Merlin clutching his throat as blood bubbles over his fingers, and Morgause is laughing, laughing, laughing –

LET ME GO! She screams into the silence, and the world snaps back to normal again. She clings to Arthur, shaking. It's only been a second. "Listen to me." She glances back at Nora, who's talking to some men in uniform, gesturing in her direction. "Get Mer—get Ambrose here, please."

"Ambrose?"

He's probably already sensed her panic, but it can't hurt for Arthur to tell him too. "Bring him here. And….and tell him to bring Damian. Tell him to keep Damian safe. Please, Ari. Trust me." Her eyes flick over his face, begging him. "Please. I can hold out here for that long. But I need you to do that for me. Please."

In the back of her mind, she feels the slightest twitch from the spell, and when she closes her eyes she can see Merlin shooting up off his bed, and even with all his magic, it's going to take him precious time to get to Dublin to collect Mordred before coming to find her. She can feel his turmoil. Mordred or her? But it's a race against time, and Mordred is more important than she is. She doesn't know how, but he is, because Morgause wouldn't be going after him otherwise. "Tell him to take care of Damian. Please!"

Someone takes her by the arms and pulls her away. Nora gets in between Morgana and Arthur. He's shouting, Morgana's thrashing, and the uniforms drag her forward into the station, ignoring her screams.

"They're going to try again!"


"Did you participate in the attempt on the life of Uther Pendergast?"

"No."

"Did you in any way threaten the life of Uther Pendergast?"

"No. I was in Caerleon taking my mathematics final."

"But you've met him."

"Once."

"Have you ever had any arguments, any fights?"

"I've talked to him maybe twice. And…I liked him."

"Did you know he may be your biological father?"

"No, I didn't."

"Are you certain of that?"

"My father was Gordon Rhys. He died before I was born."

"Your DNA says otherwise."

"…"

"Would it surprise you to know that your mother was legally forbidden from seeing you because of a lawsuit your father made—"

"That Uther made, you mean."

"—claiming her to be an unfit parent?"

"…"

"I repeat, have you ever been contacted by your mother?"

"No."

"Have you ever been contacted by anyone speaking for her?"

"No."

"Has your uncle, Ethan, ever given you a message from her?"

"No. This is ridiculous. I was taking my exams, for God's sake, I was halfway across the country, I had nothingto do with this!"

"We'll continue this later, Miss Rhys. Do you have anyone you would like to contact?"

"No. Thank you."


Two hours later.

"What is your relationship with Arthur Pendergast?"

"…"

"Are you in a sexual relationship?"

"That's disgusting."

"Certainly it would be, because Arthur Pendergast is your half-brother, according to the blood testing we did earlier today."

"For God's sake, I haven't slept with Arthur Pendergast. I've never wanted to. He's just a friend!"

"Who did you tell him to contact?"

"That's none of your business."

"Was it possibly a warning for your mother's accomplice?"

"You're mad. Arthur's Uther's son. He would never take a message to someone who tried to murder his father."

"…"

"Nabbed you there, didn't I?'

"Who is Ambrose?"

"My best friend."

"Why do you want him here?"

"Because he's my best friend and one of our friends was just attacked."

"Uther?"

"No. Ari."

"Who's Damian?"

"…"

"Have you ever been contacted by your mother, Vivian Cartwright?"

"I haven't seen or heard from her in any way in sixteen years, and I've told you that at least a dozen times."

"It says on your private record that you were taken to Beaumont Hospital in Dublin three years ago after an attempted suicide. You have not gone to therapy."

"Couldn't afford it. I don't see how that has anything to do with this."

"It means that you have previous indicators of mental instability—"

"How dare you!"

"—and so I ask again, did you participate in the plot against Uther Pendergast?"

"No! What reason would I have to hurt him? Whatreason do I have to lie about it?"

Silence.

"I'll come back in an hour. Maybe then you'd like to tell me the truth, Morgana."


It's nearly midnight when Gwaine walks into the room, and for an instant, Morgana wonders if she's seeing things. She's not sure if that's funny or cruel, if the universe is playing some enormous joke on her. He gives her a flirty smile as he strides into the room, and Nimueh – Nora – glares at him. "Mr. Gwyar. You are not Miss Rhys's solicitor."

"Well, no, but her name called to me." He winks at Morgana. "Welshmen need to stick together, y'know. Anyway, Detective, you've been in here for a long while, haven't you? Eight hours? I'm surprised her actualsolicitor hasn't shown yet."

Color flares in Nimueh's cheeks. "Dryer's been caught in traffic."

"For eight hours?" Gwaine doesn't wait for an answer; he takes the chair next to Morgana, sitting across from Nimueh. "Surprising amount of traffic. The young Mr. Pendergast sent me, though I might be of some help. Can you tell me the charges laid at this young lady's door, Detective?"

Nora grinds her teeth. "She is being held on suspicion of the attempted murder of—"

"The charges, Detective, I assume there are some."

Nora remains silent.

"Right." He lifts an eyebrow. "Evidence?"

Nothing. Gwaine stands again. He hasn't even opened his briefcase. "She's being released under bail, Nora. You have nothing to hold her here, and as far as I can tell, Uther Pendergast is pressuring you to keep her here."

Nora colors bright red. "How dare you—"

"Miss Rhys." Gwaine says, and Morgana stands. She crosses her arms tight across her chest and wishes she'd brought a jacket. It's cold in this room. "They'll return your things to you tomorrow."

She rubs her wrist where the bracelet used to be, and decides not to sleep tonight. Morgana nods, and doesn't bother to look back at Nimueh as she follows Gwaine out of the room. He looks different than she remembers him, shorter hair, but his face is still the same, his jaw rough with stubble, his eyes dark and smooth. She lets out a shaky breath as the door to the station shuts behind them, and Gwaine glances at her before pulling his jacket off and setting it around her shoulders. His fingers brush against her collarbone in a definite flirtatious gesture, but she ignores it. It's just how Gwaine is.

"Come on. Arthur's rented a room for you nearby. Your friends are there."

Merlin, she thinks, and her heart leaps up into her throat. She pulls the coat around herself, and nods.

"Thank you."

"Anytime." Gwaine says, and grins. "Arthur would have murdered me if I didn't help his little sister."

Her chest tightens. "Then it's true?"

"Saw the records. Blood doesn't lie." He hesitates. "Come on. We'd better get you back."

She hugs him, quickly, before she can talk herself out of it.

The bed and breakfast is only a few blocks away, and Gwaine knows the owners; he gestures upstairs, and stays by the counter to flirt with the pretty young receptionist. The moment she opens the door to room twelve, Mordred flies off the bed to throw his arms around her, and Arthur sits up, looking awkward with only one functional arm. She squeezes Mordred tight, and when he prods at her mind, she lets him see the vision. Only parts of it, though. He doesn't need to see the blood.

We have to do something about Morgause. He says, and she kisses the top of his head and replies, Not now, Mordred.

"Thank you." She tells Arthur, and he colors a little bit before coughing.

"No problem." There's no one else here. "Where's Ambrose?"

"He dropped off the little br—the kid and scarpered." Arthur says, as Mordred tells her, He went after Morgause.

On his own?

I couldn't stop him. They…And it's then that she realizes Mordred has tear tracks down his face, and she sits on the end of the bed and gathers him up and searches for Merlin's magic in the back of her mind, her hand tight around the pentacle. He's alive, frustrated but unhurt, and for now she can't be bothered about him. She rocks Mordred, who clings to her and sobs, and Arthur looks about ready to either punch through the wall or panic or both.

"What's wrong?"

"His mother was killed." Morgana says, and presses her lips to the top of Mordred's head as he cries. He hides his face in her shoulder. "How did Merlin get you out, sweetheart?"

Shield spell.

"What – killed?" Arthur stares at them, and suspicion creeps into his eyes. "Morgana, what the hell is going on?"

She ignores him, and cups Mordred's face in her hands. "A ghrá, tell me what happened."

He gasps and gulps, and thrusts the images at her. Morgause and Agravaine plunging through the door of the coffee shop. Violet pushing him under the counter, drawing them away from him, Emrys bursting through the door but too late, her blood is already pouring across the floor, and Morgause's mouth twists and she flares away in a flash of smoke. Agravaine's carried with her. And as Emrys calls in the murder, he gathers Mordred up in his arms and walks away, and Morgana wrenches herself out of the memories and holds the crying boy, and stares at Arthur.

"Listen to me, Arthur. You're going to have to trust me, all right? I need you to take your father and Mor—Damian, and I need you to hide. I don't care where you go. Don't go to Caerleon, don't go to Dublin, just get out of here. Is there someplace you can go, somewhere you'll be safe?"

He hesitates. "Morgana—"

"Please."

"I'm not going anywhere until you tell me what the hell is going on!"

Mordred looks up at her. The pentacle goes hot against her skin. The words pour from her lips, mixing Irish and the Old Language, and it's nothing Merlin would ever say, nothing the grimoire has ever taught her, but Mordred clutches at her shirt and she feels her eyes go gold nonetheless. "Dúisigh, mo rí!Ic þé bebíede þæt þú ne slæpest! Ní mór duit cuimhneamh, agus éist liom!"

Arthur shouts, and his hands go to his head. Mordred crawls off of her lap so Morgana can catch Arthur before he falls, and her finger brushes over the wound. Magic sparks without her permission, knitting skin together again, and she catches his head in both hands, forcing him to look at her.

"I am not who I was." She says. "I am not Morgana le Fay. I am your sister, and I love you, and I want to keep you safe. I mean you no harm. Do you understand?"

He squints at her as if from a great distance, and she wonders if she's made a mistake.

"You are not mad." She says, because if it had been her this would be what she needed to hear. "You have been sleeping most of your life. I have given you your memories back. I know it hurts," she adds, when he tries to pull away, "I know, I know, but Ari, I need you to understand. Morgause is trying to kill you, she's trying to kill you and Uther and Merlin and Mordred, and if you don't trust me, there's no way you're going to survive the night."

He believes her. She's not sure if it's the lack of dreadlocks in her hair, or the expression on her face, or the memories suddenly all clicking together and making sense, but he looks at her and she can see it in his face. He believes her. That, and the fact that his arm is healed. She lets him go, and hugs him quickly, and after the slightest hesitation he hugs her back.

"You're mad." He says, almost wonderingly, and Morgana laughs at him.

"Maybe. But right now I need to save another madman, and when it comes to magic, you're not much of a help." She kisses his cheek. "Take Damian and Uther and run. If it makes you feel better, don't tell me where. But you have nothing to fear from me. I hope you know that."

He lets her go. Morgana takes a few steps back, ignoring the look on Arthur's face, and wonders if that's how she looked when Merlin chased her down in the park and the trees stole him off the ground to save her. Mordred stares at her with enormous eyes as she crouches at the edge of the bed, putting their faces on level. You weren't supposed to lift the fog on his memories.

How else were we supposed to get him to help? She kisses his forehead one last time, hugs him, and whispers, "Keep me in mind. I'll tell you when it's safe to return."

His arms go strangle-tight around her neck. Morgana stays still for one long moment before she pushes him towards Arthur, and together, king and kingslayer leave the room, and as the door closes she sees Mordred tuck her hand into Arthur's and hold it tight.

Morgana clasps her hands over the pentacle, and holds Merlin in her mind's eye.

"Ábeþecian min léof."


Tintagel.

It's a tiny town on the Cornish coast, and by rights it should take her much longer to get there than it does, but memory flickers in the back of her mind, and one of the spells Morgause taught her so long ago rises to her lips. Of course Morgause would pick Tintagel. Of course it would be the place. It's where Gorlois and Vivienne lived before they were called to Camelot. It's poetic justice for Morgause, and it would be for Morgana if her mind had been as corrupted as it had once been.

She can feel the familiarity of this place as the spell lets her go, the way the wind whips against Gwaine's leather jacket (so harsh for a solicitor), and how it pulls her hair out of the ponytail. She lets it blow. Morgause will recognize her better that way. The bead of heat in her chest that's her tracking spell tugs her forward, and she starts down the hill towards the ruins, following the line of stone wall.

She knows no real fighting spells, not anymore. That's one part of her memory that she hasn't wanted to unlock. She's frightened of it, truth be told; she wonders if she'll turn back to the way she was if she remembers everything she used to be able to do: snap a man's fingers without touching them, burn someone alive from the inside out, how to break tendons and flay muscle, shatter bones, rape the mind and turn a human being into nothing more than a motionless lump of flesh. It makes her sick to remember everyone she destroyed, so she doesn't remember how she did it. And that offers her some distance.

She hears the crackle of magic before she sees them. Morgause's voice is rough and harsh, nothing like she remembers, and she can feel the tainted twist to her spell as she casts. Merlin bellows something in the Old Language – she thinks it's forbærne, and the rush of fire, as though it's dragonflame, makes her right – and Morgana slips and slides down the hill in her rush to make it in time.

"Ástrice!" Morgause hisses, and something explodes. Her clothes catch in a nearby bush. Morgana pushes through, ignoring the scratches on her legs, and throws her hands out towards Morgause.

"Wáce ierlic!"

She wishes for a single instant that she hadn't cast. The force of the spell hits Morgause in the chest, flinging her back into one of the old walls. She hits it with a thud, and Morgana can only stand and stare, transfixed. Morgause is shorter than she is, shorter than she remembers; her long blonde hair has been cut short, and her eyes…something's wrong with them.

It's only now that she's standing here that she realizes she has no actual plan, she has no master tactic, she just has a handful of spells and her sister, bleeding on the ground, and Merlin standing behind her, and she has to choose between them. She has to pick which one, and for some reason she thinks it should be a harder choice, but it's really not.

Someone catches her shoulder. Merlin. She turns to look at him. There's blood leaking down the side of his face, and she reaches up automatically to heal it, but he catches her wrist, keeping his eyes on Morgause. "Morgana, what are you doing here?"

"Do you even need to ask?" She wants to kiss him. The force of that want scares her. She pulls back instead. "Merlin—"

"You're not supposed to be here, Morgana!" It's clear that she's ruined some save-the-world, die-in-the-process plan, because he's looking at her with terror in his eyes, and she wonders if he's just as scared to lose her as she is him. "You're supposed to be protecting Arthur and Mordred—"

"Morgana." Morgause says, and they both shut up. She stands, holding her arm tight, and Morgana presses her mouth into a grim line. She must have broken it with the spell. "Morgana, you're here."

Morgana squeezes Merlin's hand – a reassurance, a warning – and then pulls away. He lets her go. She can feel panic in the back of her mind, barely suppressed, and wonders if he thinks she'll turn on him. "It's all right," she says aloud. "It's all right, sweetheart."

It's for Merlin. Morgause doesn't know that. "Of course it is." Morgause says, and she's smiling. One of her eyes is shot through with blood. "Morgana, you found me."

"I always do." Morgana replies, and takes a few cautious steps forward. "Morgause, what are you doing, sweetheart? Why are you attacking Ambrose?"

Morgause hesitates. Her brow furrows. "Ambrose."

"My friend." Morgana gestures back to Merlin, and steps forward, slowly, carefully. Something's off about Morgause. Something's wrong. She's never felt magic like this before. She doesn't understand what's happened. It's…twisted. It's all in knots, and no matter how she prods she can't unravel it. "My friend Ambrose."

"Friend." She mulls this over, and as she does, Morgana takes two more steps forward. There's only ten feet between her and Morgause now, and if she wanted to she could cast another spell and break her sister's skull open against the wall. She doesn't. "Who?"

"Ambrose." She hesitates, and then corrects herself. "Merlin Emrys."

Something black flashes in Morgause's eyes. Her hand twists. Something seizes Morgana by her shirtfront and drags her forward until she crashes into Morgause, and her sister smells like lavender shampoo and dirt and blood, and she has to steady them both so they don't fall over. And then Morgaues has thrust Morgana behind her, and she's turning to cast another spell, and Morgana has to lunge forward and catch Morgause around the knees to drag her down to the dirt.

"Oferswing," Morgause hisses, and something slams Morgana against the wall. She feels all the bones in her body vibrate, and black closes in for a second. When she can finally breathe again, Morgause is pacing like a panther in front of her, and Merlin is pacing trying to find an opening, and she's the prize in a sick game of tug of war. The courtyard lights up with magic and fire. She can smell lightning in the air. She coughs, takes a deep shuddering breath. Something in her chest crackles. Under her sleeves, her scars throb.

"Morgause!" She shouts, and when her sister turns to look at her, she throws out her hands. "Wáce ierlic!"

Morgause bats the spell away, and snarls, going for a sword at her hip that doesn't exist. And that's when Morgana realizes it. Through her one good eye, Morgause is seeing them in the courtyard at Camelot.

There's only a rustling in the brush to warn her before Agravaine lunges through the bushes to land on top of her, and Morgana screams. "Ethan!" Merlin turns to look at them, and Morgause takes her chance; she throws another fire spell, and it hits Merlin in the shoulder. Morgana screams again, her nails scraping at the dirt around her, and when she finds a rock, she twists. The stone crashes against Agravaine's temple, and he rears back, swearing. Morgana scrabbles away, knocking him back with magic, ignoring the blood on the rock, as Morgause throws another spell, another, another –

"STOP!"

Morgause raises a hand, and points at the crumbling wall behind Merlin. He throws another fireball, but he realizes what she's doing a second too late; the rocks are collapsing, and there's no time. She's too far away. Before she can do anything, he's crumpled to the ground, and she can see the slick sheen of blood against his hair. Morgana reaches out, and screams a word she doesn't know.

The rocks hover in midair over Merlin's head.

There's a single moment of stunned silence. Morgause turns to stare at Morgana, who's sprawled full length over the dirt, and the magic is shuddering inside her. She can't hold it. She turns, and throws, and the rocks go flying over Morgause's head, into the ocean. Her sister stays glacier still as Morgana scrambles forward, her heart pounding in her ears, and terror closes up her throat, her mind, everything. You are not allowed to be dead. But she doesn't know if Merlin's magic is still in the back of her mind or not, she's too panicked to tell, and when she finally reaches him, she can't tell if he's breathing or not. She has to hold her hand over his heart to make sure it's still beating before some of the fear leaks away. His breathing is shallow, and there's more blood every second; when she puts her fingers to his head they come away sticky.

"No. No, no, no. No no no no no. You are not allowed to die on me." She's not a doctor, she doesn't know if this is bad or not, but the blood is making her sick and she pushes Gwaine's jacket off, pulling off her shirt, wadding it up, pressing it against his head. Her scars are all visible, down her arms and on her hip where her tank top has ridden up, but she doesn't care. She looks at Morgause. "Help me!"

Morgause looks at her as though she's been stabbed in the back. "Morgana…"

"This isn't Camelot!" She screams, and Morgause flinches as though she's been struck. "This isn't what we're supposed to do anymore! This isn't our destiny, this isn't anything – you don't need to kill him, Morgause!" And she's not sure if him is Uther or Arthur or Merlin or all three, but she doesn't care, because Merlin is lying on the ground in front of her and she can feel the sickly warm blood leaking through her shirt already. "Please!"

She can heal little things, but only if she doesn't think about it. She doesn't know any spells for that, not really. And she's too panicked to let the magic work through her. She looks up at the sky, and the full moon is cool and distant. She wonders if she can scream at the magic to help, but she doesn't know if it will listen. Her cell phone is still in her pocket, and she doesn't look at Morgause anymore; she pulls it out, pressing buttons with shaking hands, listening to it ring. She lets out a broken sob, and when she pulls her shirt off of Merlin's head, the blood hasn't stopped.

"No, no, no!"

"What's your emergency?"

She jabbers something into the phone, and she's sure she's hysterical, but the magic isn't coming for her, and Morgause is gone when she turns around. The air ambulance shows up ten minutes later, and by that time, Merlin is pale as ivory, barely breathing, and Morgana cannot let herself cry.


The emergency helicopter flies them to Bodmin Community Hospital. Ever since she slashed her wrists at sixteen, Morgana's hated hospitals; the smell, the taste of them in the back of her throat, the endless waiting. She tells them she's Merlin's sister, and since their coloring is so similar, they let him into his room once he's been wheeled out of surgery.

She barely recognizes him wrapped up in the bandages. The nurse keeps talking to her, telling her that Merlin was never really in danger, that head wounds always bleed a lot, and he should wake up in a few hours with a broken arm and a sour temper, but all Morgana can think of is the way the blood had soaked through her shirt so fast. It's still sticking to her knees; she'd knelt in some accidentally, and her jeans are crusty with the stuff. She calls Gaius at the bookshop, and it's a rush of relief when he answers the phone; she supposes Morgause hadn't remembered or cared too much about the old court physician. She doesn't know if Mordred has been eavesdropping on her or not; she hopes he is, because then he knows that it's not safe yet, that they haven't found Morgause, that Morgause ran away.

Without Vivienne – Vivian, she corrects herself, tightening her grip on Merlin's hand – maybe Morgause won't do anything. She's not trusting that, though. She's never met her sister in this life, she doesn't know how much like Old Morgause she is; whether or not she'll try again is completely outside of her realm of expertise. She swears under her breath in Irish and wonders if Agravaine – if Ethan is all right. They found him too, and he was a few rooms away, sleeping it off. He hadn't been struck near so hard as Merlin had.

Morgana leans forward, and rests her head on the blankets, running her thumb over the back of Merlin's pale hand and wondering why she was so tired. It's past dawn. She's been sitting here for who knows how long, has absolutely refused to leave, and the nurse on duty hasn't had the heart to throw her out.

A hawk taps against the window. Morgana looks at it for a long moment, uncomprehending, before she stands, and Merlin's hand slips out of hers. There's only one person it could be.

She doesn't leave a note. She simply leans forward and presses her lips to Merlin's, lightly, breathing him in even though he's not kissing back, before she sidles out of the room.

Morgause is waiting in the parking lot, leaning against a lamppost, when Morgana finally makes her way out of the hospital. She's healed herself, or someone's healed her. Her magic still feels sick, twisted. Morgana keeps her distance. "What do you want?"

Morgause flinches, as though she's been struck. "Sister…"

"What do you want, Morgause?" She repeats, slowly, and she's so tired she no longer cares if Morgause attacks her or not. She can't, anyway. It's the middle of the real world. She doesn't know what Morgause is seeing, but it's too public. "I don't have much time. I have to go back inside in a minute."

Morgause looks at her for a long moment. Morgana wonders if she can fix her, if anyone can ever fix Morgause, if this is her mother's doing or some sick trick of the magic to make her this way. Finally, Morgause licks her lips, and straightens. "Why?"

"Why what?"

"Why did you save the warlock?"

Morgana crosses her arms tight over her chest. "You have no business asking me that when I've never met you before in my life."

Morgause flinches again, and she reaches out. Her hand falls to her side before she can touch Morgana. She doesn't try again. "Morgana…"

She feels frozen inside. Morgana lifts a hand, and before she can talk herself out of it, she says, "Swefe nu."

Morgause's eyes widen, and her pupils go wide, but she crumples to the ground. Morgana watches her against the asphalt, as her chest lifts and falls in sleep, before she kneels by her sister and runs a hand through her hair.

She calls the police while Morgause sleeps, and waits until the flashing lights pull into the parking lot before standing and walking away, leaving the hospital, Tintagel, and walking as far as she can before she magicks herself back to Caerleon.


She doesn't see Merlin walk in. She's too busy trying to stick the sword – she's christened it Excalibur in her head, even though she knows, logically, it's not the same sword – back on the wall, in the hanger over the mythology section. "I'll be with you in a moment," she says, without turning around, going up on tiptoe, trying to fit the hilt back in the slot. "God damn it—"

Something takes the sword out of her hands the instant before she feels the swirling magic in the room shift, coil around Merlin, and she turns around, the blood fading out of her face, as he lifts it easily and slides it back into its scabbard. Her knees go wobbly, and she nearly falls off of her stepstool before she clears her throat. "Hi."

He looks at her, and says nothing. Morgana winces, and closes her eyes rather than meet his gaze. "What are you doing here?"

His magic recoils slightly in the back of her mind, and she knows she's hurt him. Merlin clears his throat, and steps away from her. "I…came to see how you and Gaius were."

"We're fine."

"Oh." God, she wants to touch him. She wants to reach out and push his bangs back from his forehead to see where the scar must be. She wants to trace the lines in his face and smooth them away with her thumb, because he has too many, he's only eighteen or nineteen, he shouldn't have so many worry creases in his face. She clenches her hands into fists by her sides to fight the impulse. "…good. That's…good."

"How are you?" It slips out before she can stop it. Merlin laughs a bit, and his hand goes automatically to his head. He's wearing a hat; she remembers that they had to shave part of his head to get at the broken bone, and wonders if his hair has grown back in yet.

"Not an ache to be had."

Morgana turns away, closing her eyes, remembering how to breathe. He's all right. "That's good."

Silence. After a moment, she says, "Gaius is out right now. If you want to come back—"

"Don't you dare." He says, and she snaps her mouth closed before she can give herself away. "You've been avoiding me, Morgana. Why?"

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"Really? Because you've been screaming ever since I woke up." Merlin snaps. "You've been terrified. Remember?" He taps the pentacle around his neck. "My only question is if you decided to cut me out of your life, why didn't you break this?"

Her temper rises to match his. "I would never do that and you know it."

"Then why?"

"I didn't want to—"

"Didn't want to what? Didn't want to let me know you were all right? Didn't want to remember I existed at all?"

She slaps him. Merlin's head snaps to the side, and he puts a hand up to his cheek, looking at her in shock as she begins to cry. She hasn't cried in months, not since Merlin left in the first place, but now hot tears streak her cheeks, and she's struggling to breathe.

"I didn't want to hurt you!" She shouts at him, and outside, a man who looked ready to come into the shop turns and walks away. "For God's sake, you completely idiotic fool, I didn't want to hurt you again!"

"Morgana—"

"I thought you had died!" Her voice is a shriek, and Merlin simply stares at her in shock as she breaks down. "I thought you had died, and what happened was my fault, I should have stopped the rocks before they hit you, I should have knocked her out earlier, but I didn't and you were bleeding and I didn't know what to do!"

He can't speak. He simply looks at her. Morgana takes a shaking breath, and says, "I can't lose you. I can't lose you like that again." She still can't say it. She breathes for a moment, tears burning down her cheek, and then she snaps, "Thabharfainn fuil mo chroí duit. Tá mo chroí istigh ionat. I couldn't lose you again."

He stays still for a very long moment. Morgana clenches her fists, panting, and finally she looks away from him. Something is boiling in the back of her mind; he's trying to figure out what to say, but there's nothing to say, because she's determined. She's not hurting him again. "Merlin—"

A knuckle brushes her jaw. Morgana looks up, and there's something in his eyes that she recognizes, something that she's only seen once or twice before. He bends down, and she leans up, a flower turning to the sun, and his mouth is soft and warm against hers as his hands slide up to her face, cupping her head, holding her gently. She stands very still for a moment, unable to breathe; his eyes are still open, and he's looking at her, waiting for a reaction, and finally he pulls away, and she makes a soft sound in spite of herself.

Neither of them speak. Morgana can only look at him with huge eyes, her mouth hanging open, unable to say anything, and something in Merlin's face cracks; he starts to step back, out of her space, opening his mouth to apologize, and that breaks the spell on her. She steps forward, grabs him by the ears, and pulls his mouth back down to hers, and she can feel him take a sudden breath, as though she's startled him. Then his arms go tight around her, his hands ghosting up over her ribcage, down over her hips, up her back to her shoulder blades, and she can't help it; she unzips his jacket and runs her hands over his chest, tracing every inch that she's been trying to remember in the month since she's seen him, and he's thin, thinner than she thought he would be after a month in and out of the hospital, a month of a mother making sure he ate because that was what mothers did, wasn't it, if their sons had been stuck in the hospital with a head wound they refused to explain. Tentatively, his fingers stroke up her throat, down to her collarbone, and he pulls away from her mouth to kiss the place where her neck and jaw join. Morgana shivers in spite of herself, and draws him back to her mouth; everything is going hot, her hair is sticking to the back of her neck, and she can feel her heart stuttering in her chest –

Footsteps pound down the stairs, and she breaks away from Merlin just as Mordred thumps into the bookshop, and gives her a look that means she hasn't fooled him at all. Behind her, Merlin coughs, and keeps his hand on hers, refusing to let go. Eventually, Mordred snorts, and says aloud, "Welcome back, Emrys."

Merlin clears his throat. "Thank you."

Mordred studies them for a moment longer before snorting, and muttering something that sounded distinctly like "Finally" under his breath and heading into the kitchen. Morgana snarls something about bratty children before she finally has the courage to look at Merlin again, who's just looking at her, smiling. He reaches up and brushes a hand over her cheek.

"You're not losing me, Morgana. Not now, not ever. I promise you."

"You can't promise that," she says, even though she feels lighter than she has in week. Merlin laughs a little bit, and leans in, pressing his lips to the very corner of her mouth.

"I don't know. I think it's a good idea, don't you? As long as I don't step in front of any buses—"

"Shut up." She snaps, and kisses him again, the way she's been wanting to ever since he dragged her out from the trees and called her a splendid, magnificent girl. It's nothing she's ever done before, she realizes, and she smiles into the kiss, because it means that Merlin's right.

She has no destiny anymore.

She can choose her own.

They all can.


A/N:

10,892 words. Final chapter. I've been working on this all day and a lot of yesterday; I would have finished sooner, but I had finals over the last two weeks and I had absolutely no time. :) Sorry for the wait!

Spells/Phrases (Italicized is Old English, bold is Irish/Gaelige.):

A ghrá:My dear.

Dúisigh, mo rí!Ic þé bebíede þæt þú ne slæpest! Ní mór duit cuimhneamh, agus éist liom!: Wake, my king! I command you not to sleep! You must remember, and listen!

Ábeþecian min léof: Detect my beloved friend.

Ástrice: I strike.

Wáce ierlic: Vile angry one.

Swefe nu: Now send (her) to sleep.

Thabharfainn fuil mo chroí duit. Tá mo chroí istigh ionat: I'd give you the blood of my heart. My heart is within you.

Thank you to MKofGod, co2lneedssomezs, hannahlucyy, Jenny, Haley Renee, Elin Marc, This Is Gallifrey, Sacred3, squirtlemcgee2, and Isis Dragon-Heart for all the reviews, and hopefully the story lived up to your expectations in the final chapter!

NOTE: The lyric at the top is borrowed from The Hunger Games. It doesn't belong to me, so please don't sue.