Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin. I'm not trying to profit from it.
Day 14 of my fic-a-day New Year's Project (see my profile for fandoms/details).
This is a sequel to my oneshot Badgering Arthur, but you don't need to read that to understand it.
"The queen wants to do my hair?" Morgana looks more amused than scandalized. "Is that legal?"
"Every woman is a queen on her wedding day, Morgana. Besides, I'm already dressed, and I miss being your maid."
Morgana smiles fondly.
"I miss those days, too, sometimes. I suppose we have bigger things to do, now, but…it was so simple, once upon a time, wasn't it?"
"When I was just your maid and Arthur was just your prat of a foster brother and everyone thought Merlin was just a clumsy servant…" Gwen's eyes are far away, remembering.
"I always suspected there was something in him," Morgana retorts.
Gwen ignores her in favor of more reminiscences.
"And then I caught you two practicing magic in your chambers and everything changed…did I ever tell you that I knew he was sneaking into your room? I knew you two were taking risks; I was just wrong about what kind of risks they were."
Morgana laughs in astonishment.
"Really? Oh, no, Gwen! I was too wrapped up in being the king's ward to even admit that I thought him handsome. And he thought himself unworthy of me, the silly fool."
"Really?" Gwen echoes, startled in her turn, "He did? But he always encouraged Arthur and me! He never gave up on our future together, even when we did."
"I didn't say it was logical, Gwen. Merlin is a wonderful man, but he has blind spots." Morgana laughs. "It's me who's marrying above my station, but he'll never believe that."
"You'll not be marrying at all, if we sit around chatting," Gwen says, and pulls her former mistress towards the wardrobe. "Did you decide on the blue underdress, or the green?"
"Merlin mentioned last night that I was wearing blue the first time he ever saw me," Morgana confesses, and Gwen presses a hand to her mouth in shocked memory.
"That's right! He was in your room by accident! I was afraid that you'd have him flogged if you knew, so I didn't tell you."
"He said that he saw me in that blue frock, and it took his breath away," Morgana says. She smirks. "What he means is that he knew he was very close to seeing me out of it and that took his breath away. I might as well let him repeat the experience, don't you think?" Gwen giggles.
"So, the blue underdress. With the silver net in your hair?"
"Yes, if you'll put it in for me."
Gwen revels in playing the lady's maid again, lacing Morgana into the midnight blue underdress, straightening seams, brushing long, dark waves until they shine. She gently winds strands of silver into the hair at her friend's crown, admiring the way that the vividness of the dress and the coldness of the metal complement her coloring.
"I've never been able to wear that shade," she remarks, fetching the white overdress from the wardrobe, "And you look so lovely in it. I'm a bit jealous, honestly."
Morgana laughs and catches the golden cloth of her sister-in-law's sleeve.
"You're jealous of me? Gwen, honestly, have you ever seen me wear a gold dress? Or anything close to that dusty magenta you wore to our betrothal feast? You wear warm colors and glow. I wear them and turn yellow. There's a reason that your husband used to call me the Ice Queen."
"The Ice Queen has melted a bit, though." Their eyes meet in the mirror as Gwen helps Morgana into the white overdress, and both women smile.
"Blame Merlin for that. That man could warm the heart of a marble statue, which is very nearly what I was." Gwen does up her laces, frowning at the words.
"Stop it, Morgana. You were alone, and frightened of your magic. No one blames you anymore, not even Arthur. You would never have done anything really evil."
Morgana shakes her head, and her expression is very dark for a woman on her wedding day.
"Oh, Gwen. Sweet Gwen. You don't know how close I was to the edge. If Merlin hadn't reached out to me when he did…" she trails off. "Well. All's well that ends well."
"Very, very well. You look lovely," Gwen says, making one final adjustment to the drape of Morgana's trailing sleeves. There's a knock at the door. "Just in time, too. Come in, my love!"
Arthur opens the door and pokes his head inside.
"It never ceases to amaze me how long women can take to fuss with clothing. I was expecting you half an hour ago."
"Worth the delay, though?" Gwen asks, pushing her handiwork towards her husband. He lays his hands on his sister's shoulders and looks her up and down, shaking his head in feigned disbelief. "You may be dangerously insane…and a witch…and deeply irritating…and have bizarre taste in men…but you do clean up remarkably well."
"Thanks, dear brother. From you, that's a sonnet." She kisses his cheek. "Now, am I getting married today, or are you going to go on griping until poor Merlin concludes that I've eloped with Bayard?"
"I don't think he's noticed the time passing," Arthur remarks, opening the door for them, "He's just sitting and staring into space, grinning. If I didn't know he was besotted, I'd say he was concussed."
Gwen gives a long, happy sigh, deeply touched by the image. Her husband smiles tolerantly at her outburst as they start down the stairs to the Throne Room.
"We'll just have to hope that he doesn't faint when he sees you in that dress," he adds thoughtfully. "I wouldn't put it past him to actually concuss himself and be no use to anyone all night."
"That would be a shame," Morgana says, a little too innocently. Gwen giggles at the disgusted sidelong glare Arthur gives his sister.
"Seriously, Morgana? There are things a man doesn't want to contemplate."
"Serves you right for making fun of Merlin."
"Merlin and I understand each other. He may be as much of a lunatic as you are, but he's a good man, and probably the best friend I have." Arthur hesitates a moment, then goes on in a softer tone. "I wouldn't be letting him marry you if I didn't have total confidence in him."
"I seem to recall you trying not to let him marry me?"
"I wouldn't have given in if I'd actually thought he wasn't good enough," Arthur says patiently, as if this should be obvious. "I just couldn't believe that someone would voluntarily marry you. Or marry him, for that matter."
Morgana meets Gwen's gaze and rolls her eyes.
"Men," she says, looking to her sister-in-law for commiseration.
"You tease him quite as much as he teases you," Gwen says fairly, refusing to be drawn in.
Morgana opens her mouth to reply, then notices that she's arrived at the doors to the Throne Room. Gwen sees her former mistress's eyes go wide in realization, Arthur's teasing entirely forgotten.
"It's time, Morgana," Arthur says solemnly. "We need to take our places. I'll see you inside." They each hug her quickly, Gwen dropping a kiss on her cheek. Arthur offers his arm to his queen, and they process through the double doors.
It's a royal wedding, with all the pomp and circumstance that entails, and more guests than even Camelot can house comfortably. Some, such as Caerleon and his wife, are here to do honor to their king (Caerleon has not forgotten that it was the timely arrival of Arthur's army that defeated Lot and saved his people from slaughter). Many, however, are here out of gratitude to the King's sorcerers. From her vantage point on the throne, Gwen can see the headmen of several of the villages Merlin saved from drought in the year that Arthur took the throne. She can see Bayard and Elena near the front, and she smiles at the memory of the morning when Morgana woke up with a start and exclaimed that Bayard's daughter was possessed and that they had to help her somehow. Mithian of Nemeth is out of her bed for the first time in weeks, despite the nearness of the day Gaius has named for the baby to come. Still, it was Morgana's prophecy that alerted her to the possibility of miscarriage, and it's Merlin's magic in the amulet that holds her unborn daughter safe. Perhaps it's not surprising that Mithian insisted on attending. The lady Vivian is absent, and Gwen tries hard to repress an uncharitable smirk at the memory of the last time the blonde visited Camelot. The look on her face when Merlin and Morgana unraveled four years of ensorcelled adoration…well, it was scarcely her fault, Gwen tells herself sternly.
Almost every face has a story behind it, one of the fledgling legends that Merlin and Morgana seem to create every time they venture outside the walls of Camelot. Some stories, of course, are simpler than others; Hunith is seated in the front row, poised and lovely despite the fact that she has flatly refused to let Merlin buy her a fancy dress for the wedding. Gaius sits beside her, beaming at everyone, and especially at Merlin.
Merlin himself is also in her line of sight, fidgeting with the cuffs of his ceremonial robes. She smiles at the sight; he vocally, passionately hates the pomp and extravagance of his velvet regalia. Gwen rather likes the way the deep blue brings out his eyes but admits that the combination of the stars with the fur collar is a bit much. Arthur finds them amusing, though, and so Merlin has to wear them on formal occasions.
Arthur rises from his throne, and the guests fall silent.
"Are we assembled?" he calls, and there's a general murmur of assent.
"The bride may enter!" he calls, and there's rustling as everyone in the room turns to face the opening double doors. Morgana comes in. All eyes turn to her, and Gwen, positioned as she is at the front of the room, is the only one who sees Merlin go suddenly still, all fidgeting forgotten. She sees him forget to breathe, eyes locked on his bride's. She smiles at the way he remembers and draws breath like a drowning man, and the way his shoulders straighten in pride. Everyone can see that Morgana is glowing as she takes her place beside Merlin, and Gwen wonders idly how Arthur could ever have called her an ice queen.
"It is my very great honor as your king to preside over the union, by the ancient rite of handfasting, of Merlin, King's Sorcerer, called 'Emrys' by the Druids, and the Lady Morgana Pendragon, Sorceress Royal."
There had been a lot of dispute about those titles when Arthur became High King. Merlin, for all his complaining about being Arthur's manservant, had flatly refused to accept any other post. Arthur had maintained that it was ridiculous for a man publicly known to command life and death, forge undefeatable magic swords, and enchant entire enemy armies to introduce himself as the King's manservant. Merlin had bewitched all Arthur's armor so that only he could clean it and then levitated himself onto the roof of the stables to sulk. In the end, of course, it had been Morgana who guessed what was wrong, went up after him, and convinced him that, in fact, people could not possibly stare awestruck at him in the streets any more than they already did. Merlin had come down and agreed to take the title…on condition that Morgana take the title of Sorceress Royal.
"Is it your wish, Merlin, to become one with this woman?" Merlin smiles down at his bride, warm and loving.
"Is it your wish, Morgana, to become one with this man?"
Morgana's voice rings out across the throne room.
"Do any dare say nay?" Arthur asks, one corner of his mouth quirking up at the proud, possessive look on his sister's face.
No one dares, if indeed anyone wanted to. It's unlikely that anyone did; the people have seized on the wedding of their two most beloved magic users as joyfully as they did the marriage of their king to one of their own. The superstitious are already claiming that the coupling of two such powerful sorcerers will mean a rich harvest, fertile ground, and many births in the coming year (the look on Merlin's face when he heard that one made Gwen laugh for hours).
"It is my privilege, as the Lady Morgana's brother and her sovereign, to present her for marriage." Arthur meets Merlin's eyes for a long moment, and Gwen is glad that she's close enough to see the look that passes between them. Affection in plenty from both of them, of course, but there's another expression on Arthur's face, one she's seen before. It's the look of a man awarding an important responsibility to someone he trusts, Gwen realizes. He looks like that whenever he gives a knighthood. Merlin smiles at his king. And that's…acceptance of the responsibility and…gratitude for the trust, I think.
The exchange ends with a particularly manly forearm grasp. Oh, my love…a bit embarrassed, are you? The King turns his attention to Morgana, taking her gently by the shoulders and kissing her brow. She smirks at him, as though about to say something teasing, then thinks better of it and lets her face relax into an honest smile. Arthur takes her hands in his own and solemnly lays them on his friend's palms.
Gwen watches, charmed by the look of tenderness in Merlin's eyes as his long-fingered hands wrap around Morgana's smaller ones. The amount of power in those clasped hands…she muses, as Arthur binds them together. The two of them together could destroy Albion if they wanted…but they never will. Arthur utters the words of the blessing with the majesty befitting a king and the love proper to a brother. Gwen loves the way his voice adds another layer of weight to the ancient words.
"Now speak the vows," Arthur says gravely.
Merlin is first, and, though he's speaking loudly enough for everyone to hear, Gwen thinks that he looks at Morgana as though they're alone together and his words are only for her. He's forgotten that there's anyone here but her. He's forgotten that there's anyone in the world but her.
"I, Merlin Emrys, King's Sorcerer of Albion, shall not seek to change thee in any way…" But he already has, more than he would ever believe, just by loving her.
"I shall respect thee as I respect myself. Thou art heart of my heart…" Anyone with eyes can see that.
"…Body of my body, life of my life. I promise thee faithfulness and love in all our days, whatever fate may come. This I swear before all men, in words of promise and in clasping of hands. You…are my wife, now and forever." His voice is slow and hushed on the last sentence, full of wonder at the very idea. Several women are crying.
Morgana is as public as he was private, head high and voice clear, eyes locked on his. She's so proud to claim him that if there weren't enough other people here she would go and find some more, Gwen observes and grins at the charming contrast the two of them make. "I, Morgana Pendragon, Sorceress Royal of Camelot, shall not seek to change thee in any way." She already thinks he hung the moon. What would she change?
"I shall respect thee as I respect myself. Thou art heart of my heart…body of my body…" She lingers deliberately on the words, smiling, and Merlin swallows. Wicked Morgana.
"…Life of my life. I promise thee faithfulness and love in all our days, whatever fate may come. This I swear before all men, in words of promise and in clasping of hands. You are my husband, now and forever." She makes the last sentence almost a declaration of ownership, and Merlin turns slightly pink, looking flustered.
A little possessive, my lady? Gwen thinks, grinning. No, I see…you want him to know that you are proud to be his wife and proud to have the whole world know it. And he understands.
"I now pronounce you to be husband and wife," Arthur says, untying the garland around the couple's joined hands. Merlin pulls his bride gently into his arms with a reverence that makes every female in the room sigh and kisses her with a tenderness that makes even the men smile. Gwen is proud to note that Arthur is smiling as well. I knew he was just being difficult, she thinks as Morgana wraps her arms around her husband's neck. She rises from her throne and goes to stand beside her husband, tucking her arm through his.
"Do you think they'll be happy?" she asks softly.
"Are you serious?" Arthur asks wryly, "They're going to be revolting. Just look at them."
The kiss has progressed a bit from its gentle beginnings. Gwen realizes, too late, that Arthur is about to say something tasteless. He does.
"Break it up, Merlin! You've waited this long to besmirch my sister's honor; you can wait a little longer."
The kiss suddenly dissolves into twin fits of laughter.
"What?" Arthur says. Morgana clings to her husband's shoulder, giggling. Merlin's starry-eyed smile is gone, replaced by a wicked grin.
"If you knew…" he says, slipping an arm around Morgana, "How long and how hard I have had to fight to stop your sister besmirching my honor…" His bride tries to hit him in the stomach, still laughing, but he seizes her wrists and goes on: "…taking liberties with my person…" She moves to kick his shins, and he dodges, grinning. The rest of the throne room is watching, mystified at the royal family's bizarre behavior. Thank heaven they're too far away to hear, Gwen observes to herself. …I hope. "…and making indecent offers in public places…" Morgana turns an unaccustomed and vibrant shade of pink, but Merlin is apparently oblivious. "…to the point that I had to agree to marry her to get her to hold off…" Her eyes flash gold, and Merlin's hair turns green. He lets her go, laughing, and changes it back with a flick of his hand. "…You would have given me a knighthood for extreme fortitude years ago. The woman's shameless, Arthur!"
The court definitely heard that last sentence; Gwen can see the looks on their faces, even if the rest of her family isn't paying attention.
Morgana regains her composure and shrugs in acceptance, smirking. She addresses her husband in a honeyed voice.
"You'll pay for that, Merlin."
"I look forward to it, my love."
Gwen looks from face to face, taking in Merlin's too-innocent smile, Morgana's smirk, Arthur's stare of horrified nausea, and the looks of bewilderment from everyone else, and collapses in her own fit of laughter.
"I think that's enough of that," she says reprovingly, when she's able to speak again. "Our guests are very, very confused, and they want to congratulate you both."
The court sorcerers suddenly wear twin expressions of chagrin. Gwen and Arthur watch them move hurriedly out into the crowd, accepting embraces and congratulations.
"Revolting doesn't even begin to cover it," Arthur observes, still looking shell-shocked. Gwen giggles again.
"Really, though, my love, would you have them any other way?"
Thanks for reading! I'm considering filling in the gaps in the rest of the month with oneshots based on some of the alternate history I mentioned in passing in this oneshot. Any requests?
Big thanks once again to Cajast, my lovely and talented beta, and Day 14's offering will be a Rory-centric Doctor Who oneshot.