He skidded to a halt outside Morgana's chambers unsure of what to say when he went in. More than that, he was unsure of what he'd find. He had upset her, after all. And what if Gwen was in there? Or Arthur? He needed an excuse to see her. He clenched his fists, staring at the floor and allowed a strange hiss noise to escape his mouth. For all the sneaking about he seemed to do, he wasn't becoming any clever for it. Typical! Oh he'd think of something…
He took a deep breath and scrunched his eyes tight before knocking on the door. He held his breath hoping it would be Morgana who answered and nobody else. He hadn't really bargained on there being no answer. He waited a minute or two but inside the room remained silent. He knew he shouldn't, but he did it anyway; cautiously he pushed open the door and slipped inside to find Morgana sat, with her back to him, in the large bay windowsill.
He coughed, trying to subtly announce his entrance.
'I don't remember inviting you in,' Morgana muttered coldly, keeping her back to him. He couldn't help but admire the way her dark hair fell down her back; smooth, shiny, wavy, like a black river.
'Morgana, I'm so sorry,' he breathed, not even expecting her to hear him, but she did. The young woman turned around so he could see her face. He gritted his teeth inside his closed mouth at what he saw. She'd been crying, that much was evident. Her white face was stained with the lines of what must have been hundreds of tears and her eyes were red, bloodshot. He couldn't stop two tears running down his own face; he'd done that to her and it felt like a knife through his heart.
'Are you?' she asked sceptically.
'Of course I am,' he insisted. 'I don't blame you, not one little bit. None of this was your fault, Morgana. I know that now.'
'Now?' she repeated, dropping to the floor so she was stood up. She was tall, but even at full height she was slightly shorter than Merlin. He wanted to move closer to her, hold her hand, kiss her even, but he thought better of it. She was angry and she knew the last thing she'd want was for him to move any closer to her. 'You shouldn't have needed to work that out, Merlin! You should have already known!' she screeched, fresh tears marking her face.
'I know, I know. But I was grieving, I was confused…' He shook his head; he couldn't use that excuse, it wasn't fair.
'You know me better than anyone,' she hissed, moving forwards, 'you claim to love me. How could you think that of me? I was just as upset as you. Did you not think that I needed you too?' What?
'Morgana, he was my best friend!' Merlin protested loudly, throwing his hands towards the ceiling. 'And he's dead! You didn't care about him, you didn't even like him!'
'That's not what I meant,' she whispered, shaking her head and walking away from him once more, back to the window. Merlin breathed heavily, trying to calm himself. He'd come here to apologise to Morgana, not start a fight with her; the least he could do was listen to her.
'I'm sorry,' he told her again, moving to stand next to her. He placed his hands on the window in front of him and stared at the castle grounds below, being careful not to touch Morgana as he did so. 'Talk to me?' he requested finally, looking her in the eyes.
'I feel like everything's tearing apart at the seams,' she mumbled. Merlin looked away from her; he knew how she felt.
'Merlin, I've never been so scared,' she admitted quietly, biting her lip. 'If Morgause had taken me… If I'd let her back in,' she corrected herself, 'I'd never have come back, I just know it. And goodness knows what would have happened, what I'd have done…' she trailed off. And Merlin understood. Whether he liked it or not, there was an evil streak in Morgana – maybe evil was the wrong word. She was like a child, easily misguided into doing the wrong thing, scared, vulnerable, and ignorant. Innocent.
Gently, he placed his hands either side of her face and put his forehead to hers.
'I wouldn't have let that happen,' he murmured softly. 'I will never let that happen,' he promised.
'How can you promise that?' she asked, mimicking Merlin's gesture and placing her own small, cold hands on his face. He swallowed, wishing she'd have asked anything but that. Truthfully, he knew he had no way of ultimately stopping her should she choose that path for herself, but he was damned if he wouldn't try his hardest to help her. Morgause would come back for her, Merlin knew that. He wasn't stupid. And when she did, they'd need to be ready to fight her. They had to try at least. But, for now, his main focus was to look after Morgana, make her feel safe and happy again.
'Just trust me. Can you do that, Morgana? Can you trust me?' he asked, holding her gaze intensely. He got a little bit worried when she dropped her own gaze to the floor, but he could almost hear the cogs turning inside her head. Eventually she looked up at him once again.
'I can do that,' she breathed, almost too quietly for him to hear. He felt the corners of his mouth lift slightly into a smile, a smile that she matched. She reached up and softly touched his lips with hers, the pair of them still smiling. It wasn't a strong, passionate, intense kiss, but it didn't need to be. She pulled away and faced the window. He stood behind her and placed his arms around her waist and Morgana held his hands and leaned back into him, her head resting on his chest.
'Everything's going to be alright,' he told her. 'Me and you, we're going to get through this and we're going to be fine.' She didn't reply, simply gave his hand a small squeeze instead.
'Merlin. Are you alright?'
The young man looked up from his plate of meat and potatoes to find Gaius watching him from across their small wooden table curiously.
'What? I'm hungry.' Gaius simply raised his eyebrow. 'Oh.' He hadn't meant that. Merlin sighed and pushed his plate away. 'I will be,' he replied. 'Gwaine was a good friend and he didn't deserve to get tangled up in everything. He didn't deserve to die like that. But I can't change it now, Gaius; it's too late.' Gaius nodded slowly.
'And Morgana?' he enquired.
'She's okay,' Merlin answered.
'You know what happened,' Merlin told him sullenly.
'No, I know what Arthur told me, and that was very little,' Gaius corrected.
'It doesn't matter now,' Merlin decided, not quite meeting his eyes. Gaius had been like a father to Merlin, for which he was more than grateful, but there were some things he was better off not knowing, for now at least.
'Ah! Afternoon, Merlin,' Arthur greeted him as Merlin walked into his room. Merlin needed things to get back to normal, and what could be more normal than running around after the Prince and receiving no thanks but insults for it? Arthur put his quill and parchment down and sat back in his chair, studying Merlin. The servant looked around the room – it was a tip! Honestly, he left him for what, a day or two?
Arthur looked at him intently, as though trying to see through his skull and into his brain.
'How are you feeling?' he asked.
'Better, thank you,' Merlin told him. Arthur smiled at him before quickly wiping it from his face.
'Will you be coming back to work now then?' Merlin nodded, trying to visibly not to wince at the torrent of orders he knew was about to be thrown at him. 'Good! In that case, my room could do with a quick tidy-'
'Quick?' Merlin spluttered, interrupting.
'Arthur raised his eyebrows but continued. 'My armour needs a polish, I have at least half a dozen messages for you to run and a small pile of dirty washing over there.' He pointed at the 'small' pile at the foot of his un-made bed. They clearly had different ideas of small.
'Anything else?' Merlin asked, trying to keep the sarcasm out of his voice.
'Oh and I'm starving!' Arthur stated, before Merlin had even finished his question. Of course he was.
'Right. I'll go and get your supper then,' Merlin said, picking up the pile of washing and leaving the room with it. On his way to the kitchens, he passed Morgana and Gwen in the corridor. Gwen merely smiled at him, a look of pity washing over her features. No, pity wasn't what Merlin needed, not when he was trying to get back to normal. He stole a quick glance at the Lady of Camelot who gave him a different sort of smile, one that made him respond with a subtle wink before continuing on his way.
He chuckled to himself. Normal! Like that was ever going to happen…
A/N … I know I promised 50 chapters but I really just felt like I'd reached the end with this story. I hope you're okay with it. If you hate it, I'm really sorry, but that's the best I've got. I know I've thanked you all on various occasions but I really would just like to say a final thank you to my best friend, Kim, for her unconditional support for this story. It was her who encouraged me to write it in the first place and she's been there ever since encouraging me to continue, helping me when I've felt like giving up, pointing out the good bits and helping me with the bad bits. Nobody could wish for a better best friend. Like I said in the previous chapter, if anyone has any ideas or requests for what I could write next, please, please tell me and I promise I'll try. All that's left for me to do is beg for reviews…