Another divergence from the episode 4.06 Servant of Two Masters. Darkish. Merlin is captured. Emrys is revealed in her dreams. Morgana can put two and two together. A fair duel is agreed on. No lies, no disguises this time. Angsty. Eventual Merlin/Morgana. Multi-chapter. Completed.
Rating: T, just to be sure.
Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit.
EDIT: 2014. Revisited this old darling for some brush-up and a thorough spell-check. The text should be clearer and easier to read :)
In the Hovel
. . .
Hands bound, dripping wet, he hangs wounded in her hovel. Morgana's eyes glint gold, she's ready to cast, and he closes his own for ... nothing.
A moment passes, then another.
"Really?" Morgana emits a laughter, sharp and incredulous. His eyes open again. "You'd rather die than use your magic? Or are you just nervous around me?" Her smile is narrow, suggestive. There's no humour left in it.
Nor in him, for sure.
"Morgana-" He stops, unsure what to say or do.
"Emrys." She counters, so very close, and the word bounces right off his cheek. His shoulders tense, then relax. There's a silent whisper from his lips, the cuffs snap open. There's no point in denying.
He's tired of lying.
Despite herself, she steps back a little. Seeing is believing. And believing is fear. Which is why Arthur can't know. Why she can't either.
This is a game changer and they both know it.
Merlin sags onto a stool, rubbing his sore wrists. For some reason, he can't bring himself to look at her. The situation is vaguely familiar. Though poison is no longer an option - and she's no helpless princess - only one can walk out of here alive.
"Does it matter?"
"No. Not really."
Morgana tilts her head in mockery.
"Care to explain?"
His pale blue eyes dart around the room in search of something. A weapon?
She laughs again, shakily, as fear, the treacherous creature, rears its ugly head. She stomps it down and leans in, impatient. "Or is stabbing me in the back that much simpler?"
Merlin finally speaks in slow, strained voice, "It's pointless... talking to you, Morgana. You know only what you want to know, nothing I could tell you would make any difference. All you can do is harm." Then, more quietly. "I considered you my kin. I would have died for you, once. Now we..." The implication dies on his lips. It's still too fresh. The reveal.
The old wound is streched open between them. And they poke in it in turns.
Morgana takes a seat opposite of his. The wooden table is uneven and rough, uncouth. But that is her life nowadays, because of him. For most part. She'd point it out, but it's meaningless now. She does not need his pity. And his guilt falls short these days.
"You've tried that before, what makes you think you'll succeed now?" She cuts to the chase. "I'm not a defenceless maid anymore."
"Good." He counters, quietly. It sounds like he means it. For a while, nothing happens. The air is cold, and both of them shiver. With a glimpse of an eye flames flare up in the hearth. It could have been her doing, but she sees his eyes catch gold and die. It's fast and instinctive, like a second nature of his.
Morgana will say nothing. He's never openly used magic in front of her. It's a both liberating and sorrowful act to witness it here.
Bearing in mind the upcoming battle, she tries to remember everything she's heard about the sorcerer Emrys, and paste it onto him. Merlin. This face and that name feel foreign to each other.
"At least we can have a fair duel. The poison works just once, you know."
He nods, for both. His despondency makes it feel like it's already over. Is he really that sure of himself? Morgana stifles an involuntary shudder. Has it always been like this? Who else has he killed?
Morgana silences those voices. She won't let him get to her.
"No, it's not easy." He answers, staring ahead, into the fire. Anywhere but her. "And no, I try to avoid it as far as possible. And... there have been a few." His jaw twitches but he's not crying, not this time.
"You read minds?"
"Only when addressed."
She pulls back from her thoughts. She does not want him there. His guilt makes her sick in the stomach. "Who else have you betrayed? Friends? Lovers?"
He shakes his head to that line of thought. "Only you."
Morgana stiffles a laughter. She feels like going mad again, or maybe it's all the adrenaline in her blood. She looks at the door, hopelessly far. It's too late now, and she's gambled her chance. She feels properly trapped - like a fox in her own hole. She laughs, again.
Merlin looks up this time, and it's not a relief. Not with all the mourning behind his eyes. Who knew a murderer's eyes can carry so much sorrow? Or maybe, she hadn't looked well enough to this day. What else has she missed?
"I'm not dead yet," she prompts then, avoiding that glare. She is a powerful sorceress in her own right. If only Merlin cared about his own life as much. It would level the playing field at least.
"No," he agrees again, again in that terrible voice. Morgana wants it gone.
"Where shall we fight?" She looks around, almost merrily. "I'd say here, but I'll have an unfair advantage." She points at the rows of shelves, laden with books and potions and things inside the jars. "Besides, while you may be gone, I still need a place to live."
"Outside, in the woods."
His eyes light up a little, and it's more than suspicious. What happened to all his regret? Or is he entering his fight mode?
"I know a spot."
Morgana offers her prayers to the Triple Goddess for a blessing, a short prayer for her sister, beyond the veil. Blessed be thy fruit. All -
"We need some rules, first - " he interrupts her mantra, her holy rite. She shoots an angry stare at him, but nevertheless gets up from her knees, snaps the altar closed. The smoke lingers in the air between them, hazing his eyes. He prayed to no one. So no one will come to his help. Or perhaps he won't need it. Talking about overconfident.
"And what might they be?" she asks, hiding her nerves.
"No weapons, no tools, no other creatures of magic..." He pauses, significantly. "Just us, and our spells."
"Anything else?" She drops the bag of she was holding.
"If either of us... perishes. I would like you to take me back to Camelot."
She smirks. He's thinking of death, after all. His death, no less.
"And... The same for you?"
"That won't be necessary. But for your knowledge, I would choose to rest by the side of my father. The one I loved, Gorlois," she clarifies. Talking about burial won't be putting her at any ease. The image of their two graves, side by side, feels too real, too palpable to bear.
"I promise," he vows.
She wonders who'd visit her there. Merlin, once, to bury her. Maybe Arthur, if he's angry or sentimental enough. Aggravaine. That's it. No one else. Just some moss growing over the stones, with no one left to clean them. Soon time will make them forget, as they did her father.
"Morgana, it doesn't have to be like this." Merlin steps closer. Almost touching her. She pulls her arm away before it can happen. His hand drops in defeat. She sneers back.
"For you, yes. You know who I am, it's been foretold. I've had magic my whole life. You've only just begun... Believe it or not I don't want to hurt you."
Morgana stares at him, merciless. She's steeled herself to his words, and they bounce right off her.
"You spend an awful lot of time doing things you claim not to want."
He holds her gaze, for a very long while, before he gives up. Then, lifts a hand at the door like an invitation. Ladies first. Hopefully, not this time.
"Let's go, then."
Standing to leave, Morgana casts one last look at her room.
It's a pitiable place, really. No better than a shack, and before her sister's injuries, she would have never submitted herself to thinking of such a place as her home. Yet now, emotions wash over her, as she looks over her shoulder... the bed she slept in, her woolen scarf, the bowl she ate from, the rabbit she'd planned to cook... How strange to think she might not be here to use them, to ever touch them again.
She quickly sheds those thoughts.
For she's foreseen it. The dreams have shown this. She can still avert her doom.