She shouldn't be doing this.
If you asked Morgana what had possessed her to follow Merlin from camp when he got up in the middle of the night, she couldn't have told you. Watching him stumble to the riverside, she somehow knew exactly when the dam would break. It was a miracle that his sobs didn't break until he was far enough not to be heard.
Fidgeting in the brush she hid in, Morgana fought tears of her own. She may not have ever lost a friend, the way Merlin had just lost Will, but she certainly knew what grief felt like. It was a night very much like this when she had broken down in the gardens at her family home in Tintagel, screaming incoherently for the parents who had deserted her.
Merlin wasn't screaming, though. His grief wasn't a cornered animal, like hers; it was something dying, whimpering alone in the dark. Seeing the way he hunched over the shoreline, hugging himself like a child, Morgana knew then why Merlin wasn't like any other man she'd ever met. Why he wasn't like her.
Merlin didn't ball up his emotions, didn't forge them into steel and crouch behind them. He was a lover, not a fighter. His feelings spilled out of him like fresh springwater, drenching everyone around him. That torrent captured people, she knew; they became caught up in this simple servant boy and his wide-open heart. It had taken her longer than most, perhaps, but she now knew that she was caught in his tide more than anyone.
Especially now that she had seen him lighting that fire with his magic.
Merlin was magic.
It seemed like it should sound insane, but instead it just felt… right.
Her lips parted around a small gasp. As if he had read her mind (she hoped he hadn't), Merlin's hidden sorcerer showed himself. Only this time, it wasn't a kindling flame that he brought, but ice; the grass and dirt at his knees began to freeze solid, the cold expanding into the rocks and the water with every heaving cry for his lost friend. And it was terrifying to her; not because she was scared of the magic, but because she didn't think Merlin had ever done something like this with it. Because suddenly Morgana was convinced that he would be horrified, if he could see what his power was doing.
And before she knew it, the grass and frost was crunching under her boots, and her hands were splayed over his shaking chest.
Merlin stiffened in her embrace, in her body crushed against his spine and her tears in his hair. Morgana could feel the moment he realized who it was, and what she'd seen. His panic dyed the air with ozone; he was preparing to fight if he had too. She wanted to smack him for thinking she'd do anything but keep his secret, after all he'd done for her.
Instead, she only opened her mouth against the nape of his neck, and whispered.
"Stop, Merlin. Please… just stop."
Just let me stay.
The moon cast his eyes a shade of silver, when they peered at her over his shoulder.
And then they softened, and his head dropped, and his whole body just crumpled into her arms. As the ice began to melt, Morgana held onto Merlin as if she were the only thing keeping him from falling.
She knew she probably was.
"So you know."
His voice cracks unevenly around the words, when he finally speaks, and she can't help but start a little. Their tears are long since dried now, and she'd almost been dozing off into his scalp. It felt like she'd been holding him for years.
"I think I've always known." Morgana whispers, resting her chin on his shoulder and her cheek against his. It was comforting, to just throw away propriety like this, and be close to someone. The idle tap of her fingers against his shirt matched the beat of his heart. "Well, since the Druid boy, at least."
The last of his fear drains away, and she feels the edge of a smile- that huge smile- against her face.
"'What if magic chooses you…?'" Merlin quotes wistfully, and now she's the one smiling. Yes, she's known for a while now, at least. Somehow she feels like this should be a longer conversation, full of confrontations and confessions. Instead there's just a quiet kind of acceptance between them. Anything else can wait until later… he has what she needed to give him, now.
And how has she never felt this close to someone in her whole life?
The minutes tick by in peace, until he at last pulls away enough to meet her eyes. Her breath catches at the gratitude that shines from them.
"Morgana…" he exhales, apprehensively. "Does- does it ever…?"
"Merlin?" She prompts carefully, when he trails off.
He swallows, and presses on. "Does it ever get any better?"
For a long moment, Morgana just holds his gaze. Finally, she sighs. "The loss never leaves you. But, in time, you'll be able to appreciate the times you shared without feeling it." Her brow furrows at his pensive look. "Does… does that help?"
When he looks into her eyes, and nods slowly, she knows that he's not just talking about what she's said.
"Um…" He says, with a nervous sort of cringe. "Do you want to see some magic?"
Oh lord, he looks like he's expecting to be hit.
Morgana smiles soothingly. "I'd love to."
And even though it scares her just a little, the way his eyes flash, making the fire that bursts to life in front of them… somehow it still feels like Merlin. The way he's always made her feel, just by being there.
It feels like home.
"You should probably go back to camp." Merlin says, watching the stars shimmer in the late night sky. "I probably won't be getting much sleep tonight."
He's still made no move to unchain her from around him. Morgana doesn't mind, and she says so.
"Morgana, please. You need rest." But he can't hide the reluctance in his urging, not from her. He doesn't want her to go.
Boldly, she nuzzles her nose against his neck, feeling him shudder against her.
"You take care of so many people…" Her voice whispered in his large ear. "Who takes care of you?"
For a long moment, he just stares into his fire. She tightens her embrace, and smiles into him.
"I'm staying with you, Merlin."
And slowly, his hand comes to rest gratefully over hers, and he lets her join him in stargazing.
When Arthur and Gwen find them at dawn, they share an empathetic glance, and decide to let the entangled pair wake up on their own.
They don't notice the fire that burned without wood, refusing to be put out.
It never would be.
Morgana nuzzles closer to Merlin. And for the first time in years, her dreams make her smile.
Not my best work and bit rushed, but pretty much all I have time for these days. Hope you all enjoyed it; you guys deserve something nice for these two after season four. ^_^