Summary: Things go as implied in the legend. Set after series 4. Arthur is the King of Camelot. Morgana, still evil, returns to the court. Merlin as the advisor is caught in the middle, and the dark game of seduction begins. AU. Merlin/Morgana. Oneshot.

Rating: Between T and M. Mild language, adult themes.

Disclaimer: No ownership, no profit.

Unbetaed - sorry. I keep a look-out for mistakes.


. . .

.

- Fata Morgana -

(The Grand Illusion)

.

He had ruined her peace of mind. It is only fair she took his.

.

. . .

"Arthur, do you really consider it wise?"

Generosity has nonmore effect on Morgana's heart as pleads to Uther's ears. Merlin understands the sentiment - the desire to have her once again in their midst, to witness the return of old Morgana - that taunting hope, however faint.

He also knows the futility of his attempt to dissuade the King on the eve of this fatal event. The deal has been struck, the arrangements have been made. All that's left for them is to wait.

"You know what they say about friends and enemies," Arthur muses, studying the darkened window.Flames are dancing on the glass, and from inside, it looks like Camelot's on fire. "And I intend to keep her as close as I can."

.

- a -

They put her up in her old quarters. In the northern wing, overlooking the executions.

A bit symbolic, if you asked him. (But no one did these days.)

She's arrived, as promised, under the shadow of the night. Without the sound of trumpets or cries of war, this time. People of Camelot would not have accepted it any other way. Her brother has served her coming as a truce, some bloodless way to victory.

In the court, she's presented as a captive. To please the crowds and to create an illusion of security.

And what a grand illusion it is.

.

- b -

He walks in silently, without knocking, lingers on the doorway for a moment. The room is empty. She's in the middle of unpacking: heaps of clothes piled up on the bed, black on black on black, her only color these days. That and a splash of green.

"I assume you'll be needing some changes around here, cobwebs and mold, to make you feel at home." He grins and folds his arms, leaning against the four-poster bed.

When she looks up, her smirk is already in place, and he gets an eerie feeling he's been expected. Does he really run like clockwork to her?

Voice smooth from years of court life, Morgana responds in kind, "How thoughtful of you, Merlin - but that's missing is you ... tied up to the ceiling."

Merlin smiles at the vaults above.

"You've picked the wrong place for these games. Too high, if you ask me."

Toying with an untold power, Morgana leans in, teases his jaw. It twitches. Something alarming awakens in his guts.

"Oh," she hums - all poison and sweetness, "I could just simply let you hang."

.

- c -

It's been settled. Morgana will not dine with the royal family. Merlin is somewhat relieved, and hopes the same goes for Gwen. The Queen, though forgiving, has seen the true extent of her corruption.

(Smiles with compassion, when she hands him a tray for that room.)

The dinner is served. An hour later he returns to find it untouched. He can't keep the sarcasm from seeping into his voice.

"Perhaps Her Highness would like to eat?"

Morgana pouts. "You bet she would."

Merlin stares at her, offended. "Arthur wouldn't poison you."

A dark amusement enlivens her face, and she pushes the tray forward.

Morgana stares back, nonplussed. "Who said anything about Arthur?"

.

- d -

Merlin chews, slowly. Carefully. The meat has no weird aftertaste, and bread is the same colour as usual. The chances of being poisoned are next to none, but the intent with which she watches him won't let his suspicions subside.

He ignores it and they way her eyes squint at him. - Like Gaius, when he's teaching him a valuable lesson.

"Not so pleasant, is it, Merlin? Living in constant fear."

He shakes his head, swallows the bread. Washes it down with some wine.

Slim fingers hold out a grape and as he opens she plops it in his mouth.

The ghost of her touch tingles on his lips.

Morgana licks her fingers, watching him squirm.

.

- e -

It comes without asking that he takes up the duty of "watching over her". He's already practically following her around.

Being the royal advisor, he no longer needs to clean nor muck up the stables - though Arthur still threatens him with it, whenever Merlin gets him real, real mad.

This time, it's no threat, just a task that can't be trusted to anyone else.

"It's not that I do not believe her," Arthur admits with a sigh. "But there's more than just my trust at stake."

.

- f -

Camelot bores her, that much is clear.

For more than a week, the knights have been plagued by bad luck. Toads congest the wells and snakes upset the stables. Statues and tapestries change overnight, strange happenings all around the castle. At last a day comes when she demands to be allowed outside, to revisit the neighboring woods.

Arthur is silent for a moment. Then, almost predictably, he relents. "We know it's inevitable. You can't tame a beast without giving some leeway."

Merlin nods.

"I'll prepare the horses."

.

- g -

The cuffs are a humiliating detail. Everyone stares at her as they ride through the city. Morgana holds her head high, as if fuelled by some sacred mission - something that lights her from inside, and won't let it affect her.

What could possibly be worth all of this? Merlin wonders, knowing the true extent of her powers. With one fit of temper she could blow off a tower, flee or burn Camelot with a single word.

When they reach the clearing, she stops her horse. They're in a middle of flowers, a field of forget-me-nots, ready for reaping. She kneels down to pick a single blossom.

The knights of Camelot surround her like a giant mushroom ring.

A fairy circle.

.

- h -

It's a long-held custom, a tradition, that the women of royal household bless the knights before they go into battle.

Morgana, the fay, approaches the regiment, laughing softly at the retreating rows, arching away from her, afraid of a curse.

In the end, only one man stands his ground. (The Great Hall sighs in relief.)

She ties the handkerchief, white for surrender, around his right wrist.

Merlin wears it and nothing happens.

.

- i -

To know your enemy, is to know yourself.

Alator of Catha once warned him about her. But more than that, he warned him of himself.

He does not dare to go the the Crystal cave anymore, seeing things there tends to take a permanent turn.

He can't confide in Gaius, so old and feeble, his aging heart won't survive another shock.

So Merlin sits, alone, on the rooftop, unable to shake the feeling of Destiny about to swoop down, digging its claws in unsuspecting prey.

.

- j -

Guinevere, the fairest, invites her to the gathering. There's just too few women. (Arthur, possessively keeps Gwen from joining.)

Merlin volunteers to blindfold Morgana - the one way to ensure that she won't cheat - and sends her whirling as the music grows louder...

Pickety witch, pickety witch...

He, too, joins the laughter as the crowd chants on: Who's got a kiss for the pickety witch... Guinevere claps in merriment. Even Arthur is amused by the sight. For the shortest, strangest of whiles, it's just like it was with the four of them again. (Hiding from Uther, fighting the bandits, joking with Arthur in the midst of it all.)

There's a cheer and cruel laughter as the witch catches her prey. - Even without the executions, the crowd's bloodlust runs high.

He knows she knows it's him, but regardless, Morgana kisses him, hard.

.

- k -

There's a secret weapon, one she's yet to put into work.

Sick and tired, (and slightly drunk from the feast) he finally corners her and demands a straight answer.

"What is this - this twisted game you're playing?"

"You'll know. In time," she laughs and turns to go.

This time, he won't let her. A hand on her wrist - and the challenge is on.

.

- l -

It's a fight, a scuffle, a battle of wills.

Merlin thinks he's winning. Until she closes the distance, as she disarms him with a kiss.

Warm, wet, and human. So human.

There's a loud clank and a nearby pitcher is dropping, his will completely drained from his limbs. She is soft and pliant and unresisting.

He gasps and pins her onto the mattress. To slip - it's incredibly simple.

.

- m -

He enters her. The sensation is so overwhelming that Merlin completely freezes for the moment. Furthermore, the implications it brings - whatever he does, he cannot take it back.

Both fully clothed, this should be so much easier, but instead it makes this much more bizarre. Like they've skipped some steps in the natural progression.

Hovering above her, hands flat on both sides, he tries to come to a decision. Morgana wiggles under him, watching him (failing to) breathe, and with a decisive tug at his neckerchief, she exposes more flesh.

It's over, it's already done, a voice chimes inside his head, only grows louder at the friction of her hips. You can turn back from this, another voice says.

Her black shift ruffles, scrapes around her thighs, and the sound in tantalizing, tempting. Urging him on.

There's a soft sigh and a sense of falling.

Slowly, with eyes closed, Merlin begins to move.

.

- n -

Guinevere believes in him, the goodness in his heart. Tells him to - always, no matter what - stay true to himself. But what if your soul is sold, your heart no longer yours?

It won't happen again. It's the least he can do to pardon his actions.

"You think I'd tell him? The Once and Future King?" Morgana mocks and smiles at him, before growing annoyed and serious. "I've kept our secret safe, better than you your own."

Her eyes crinkle and point at the centre of his anatomy, where the traitor lies. Already stirring.

.

- o -

His fall is expected, almost foretold.

He can see her setting the traps, but in the end, it's him that walks right in it. Almost willingly, for he's always resented the games.

.

- p -

"What is Morgana up to, these days," Arthur wonders as he prepares to retire for the night. "I don't remember seeing her around."

"I'm sure she's out there somewhere, sparing us from her presence."

Arthur frowns at the lack of accusations, his sudden indifference to his sister's conniving behaviour.

"Still, better keep a check on her, just to be sure."

.

- q -

It's not Morgana the King should be worried about. It's Merlin's precious soul that's at risk.

The candles are lit, a warm yellow glow that shifts behind the screens.

"Morgana?" he calls, before entering.

She's lying on her bed, feigning a surprised look. Dressed in pure, white silk - the sweet, dainty thing.

"Did you need something?" she asks, determined to make him crawl. He swallows, sharply, looking away.

A bare knee pokes out from between the sheets.

There's nothing to tell, needless to say.

.

- r -

There's no one to inform about their little arrangement. Because, well, how could he?

He cannot even look the King in the eye, for the fear that somehow, the shame would shine through. Telling that his advisor had done exactly what he'd advised him against.

How easily, without resistance, he played yet another trump in her hands.

(One she, no doubt, will put to good use.)

.

- s -

Weeks pass and Morgana still won't make a move.

The Kingdom blossoms. Knights return from another glorious battle. With the exception of Merlin, Camelot seems more peaceful than ever. Even Arthur waltzes through the castle with a newfound mirth.

There must be a plan, of course she has one. He just hopes he finds it out first, before she has a chance put it into action. So he spies and hides in the alcoves, with a sense of deja vu so strong he has to consider himself for the moment.

They are right back in the old times, just not the ones he wanted.

.

- t -

Her lips, blood-red, mar his neck.

He's already sunk deep into sin and it gets better as they progress. Morgana's movements grow more erratic, less calculated or concerned about domination. The pleasures mount and he's not far behind.

It's all pivoting steadily out of her control, he can tell. (For some reason it doesn't make him feel any safer.)

.

- u -

Bards pile verses when they speak of fated love. His feels a lot more like a nightmare. A horror story to frighten little kids.

(More than once had he caught himself thinking of her during the council. The smooth span of her waist and the sway of her hips.)

"Where the hell are you?" Arthur asks in one of those times.

"You've already answered that," Merlin mutters, far out of sight.

.

- v -

It's been a long while since she's been called that - a witch. Merlin watches the beast flap his wings, the wind swoop down and the impact of his landing.

The Dragon is always the last one he turns to. An option reserved for the outmost plight.

Merlin's voice sounds thin to his own ears.

(Kilgharrah just laughs and laughs.)

.

- w -

It takes two more moons to lose himself. If she wants this, she'll get this, and he's come too long a way not to claim his own.

The sheets are brittle as they twist and tangle, and he works her milk white body, making sure no shadows remain.

And, even as they move, something's building up - a strange kind of expectation, the threatening finality of some grand reveal.

"Emrys," she gasps and his eyes, they flash gold.

.

- x -

"You knew?" Of course she did, says the little voice at the back of his head. "How.. Or rather, when?"

"Quite some time ago," Morgana yawns and stretches like a cat. "In fact, I returned as soon as I heard."

"Why..." Merlin moans into the pillow, shudders from betrayal. Going straight to Arthur would have been so much easier. Merciful, even. But that is not her. Instead, she'd seduced him, played him for a cat pretending to be a mouse.

There's a poetic sense of justice, to lie and be lied to in return. She traces his back, and whispers, almost in comfort, "You know what they say about enemies..."

"Same thing they say about friends."

.

- y -

It's Guinevere who finds out first. As always, it's Merlin who bears the blame.

"I told you to keep a watch over her, not to bed her!"

The King is naturally, understandably upset. His glare demands a justification. Merlin has none whatsoever.

At last, a weak, strangled voice, with tears welling in his eyes.

"I - I couldn't... resist."

Arthur's shoulders relax in something of a pity. He's a man too, after all. His voice is surprisingly calm when he speaks.

"Morgana has many... charms, I give you that. But imagine - the complications, if she were to produce an offspring. The conflict she'd set up in the line of succession..."

.

- z -

"The King thinks you want to beat them to an heir."

Morgana is amused, actually laughing at this implication. He's pouting and, obligingly, she straddles his lap.

"Relax, Merlin. Besides, that can't even happen."

"Whyever not?" he asks despite himself, toying with her robe.

Morgana pulls away, stands and walks over to the window. "When Morgause took me, I was already dead, Merlin. She saved me, using dark magic."

A wave of remorse crashes around him. So sudden, so strong, and ever present.

"But... " Merlin fights back the implication - she is not a shade, not undead either.

"You are alive. She saved you. You said she did," he argues, staring at the truth. The woman before him is all flesh and blood. Undeniably Morgana.

The smile he gives him is broken on the edges.

"Yes. But not all of me."

.

He wants to take her to the green and mossy fields, far from man-made towers or hills. A place where battle cries have never washed the shores. He'd take her by the hand and say their vows in the Old Tongue, before the Gods of Old, the passing breeze their only witness. If he could.

(She'd call him a romantic fool and would have exactly none of it.)

He wants to take what's left of her and fill it up with light. If she insists on being so one-sided, why on Earth can't that side be Good?

"Fairytales, Merlin," she says, but that is not a 'no'. He grabs her hand and entwines it with his. One day they'll reach an agreement.

(When they're both too tired to fight.)

. Fin .


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