The Lives That Weren'tRating:
Merlin/Morgana, Arthur/Gwen, Morgause/NimuehSummary:
What would have happened in S1, had Nimueh raised Morgause, Morgana and Merlin; in which there is domesticity and Merlin and Morgana get used to each other.Note:
I actually finished this more than a month ago but have only just got round to proofing/beta-ing it; it's in twelve parts and I'll post one part every couple of days until they're all up. Enjoy!
The Lives That Weren't
The next morning Morgana and Merlin make their excuses and go looking for firewood together (Morgana pretends not see Morgause’s knowing smirk). She grabs Merlin’s hand and tows him deep into the surrounding forest.
“What are you doing?” He’s flustered by her, all uncertain and giddy still from her kissing him last night.
“I want to get lost,” she replies – which is silly, because they both know the forest far too well for that to be a possibility. But he knows what she means.
When they have run until their chests are full of fire and the world is brilliant with the midday sun Morgana stops, abruptly and whirls Merlin round to push him up against the nearest tree.
This time they are both more certain of themselves – Morgana stands on her tiptoes to kiss him and Merlin tugs her insistently closer. He fumbles one hand in her hair and the other in the small of her back, and afterwards it’s not scary or strange at all anymore, it’s just warm, and a little bit funny. They touch noses for a second, and Morgana thumbs Merlin’s jaw, affectionately.
“We should do that more often.”
“What, like all the time?” Merlin grins at her – a big, stupid grin expressing just exactly how pleased he is that they are currently entwined and pressed up against a tree.
“If you want,” Morgana shrugs, amused, “might get a bit uncomfortable with Morgause and Nimueh being right there watching us but I’m sure they’ll get used to it…”
They don’t get used to touching each other in front of Morgause and Nimueh for a while, however. Out of sight, on their own, they are exactly as they want to be – quick and sweet and tender; they don’t do much more than kiss (not yet, Morgana thinks), but the promise of the new-found physicality of their relationship is dizzying. And yet they can’t acknowledge anything in front of Morgause and Nimueh.
It feels odd, particularly as what is happening is so clear and yet so unspoken. It’s an adjustment for all of them, really. Morgana keeps catching Merlin looking at her like that, and he keeps blushing and hiding it, and she keeps feeling as if she must pretend she hasn’t noticed. Except that she likes how he looks at her, like that; it makes her feel desirable and wanted, like she feels in the dream about the grey meadow. She wants to look back at him. She wants to linger next to him when he’s cooking – distract him by flirting over the chopping board, vainly resist the urge to nip and kiss his ears and stroke the pale expanse of his neck.
But it’s strange, still, and she can’t quite make herself.
Then Morgana dreams of Mordred for the first time.
Well – it’s not technically the first time. There has been a lost little druid boy running through her dreams for many years; like Arthur, like Guinevere, like that grey meadow in the rain, there are many things that have simply been a factor of her visions for so long that she doesn’t always grant them much significance. She has never seen Mordred’s face, in her dreams. She has never known his name.
But this time, in this dream, he abruptly turns round to face her, and holds out his hands, and begs help – help – help me as the world explodes with blood and fire behind him, and she awakes with a gasp and finds herself sobbing before she can shake the clinging image of his trauma away from her.
His name is Mordred, she realises, and somehow or other he’s aware that she’s dreaming of him. Or he will be.
Merlin is awake – she hears him slide out of his bed and make his way towards her in the dark.
“I’m fine,” she mutters, automatically, (because she is, really), but he sits down on the edge of her bed anyway, and she can see his moon-pale face in the gloom.
“Are you sure?” He asks, and he wants to touch her, she knows – can feel the desire fluttering in the pit of his stomach.
She wraps her arms about his neck, and he is warm with sleep and tousled, still, and for a moment she presses against him. He’s solid, and real, and she needs that. “Yes,” she whispers, “I’m sure.”
“What were you dreaming about?” He asks it into her hair, stifling a yawn, clumsy hands trying to find her shoulders in the dark.
“A boy,” she nestles closer against his chest, “his name’s Mordred. We’ll be seeing him soon, I think.”
“Okay,” he murmurs.
“Stay with me?” She sits up, letting her hands linger on his chest.
It’s only because he’s still half asleep that he isn’t all flustered and blushing again. He stifles another yawn. “Yeah, okay – um…”
“Here,” she pulls up her blankets and he crawls in beside her – his feet are cold but otherwise he’s wonderfully warm and comforting. She remembers curling up like this with Morgause, when she was a very little girl. Except that Morgause never had quite the same effect on her nerves – Merlin’s hands travel down her sides and set her heart beating.
He’s a perfect gentleman, though (it wouldn’t occur to him to be anything else). He kisses her forehead and they manage to get themselves into a deliciously comfortable tangle of arms and legs; Morgana only means to close her eyes for a second – but then abruptly it’s morning, and Merlin is snoring into her shoulder, and Morgause is standing over them, arms folded, looking highly amused.
“You’re adorable,” she declares, after a moment.
Morgana groans and pulls the blankets up over her and Merlin’s heads.
But after that, it’s easy.
“I knew it would happen, you know,” Morgause informs her sister, some days later, over breakfast.
“You liar,” Morgana’s retort is good natured.
Neither of them can ever know what will happen, of course. They are simply privy to more of the possibilities than most.
Everything changes, and yet it all somehow feels the same. She and Merlin still do their chores together; get up in the morning and eat the breakfast Nimueh makes for them; collect firewood; then sit in Nimueh’s kitchen to study spells and rituals.
Nimueh still gently chides them for their inability to properly scrub a pot, or their laziness at using magic instead of doing things for themselves, and makes them lunch. Morgause still affectionately ruffles Merlin’s hair and tweaks his ears as she goes past. They all still sit round the cooking fire at dinner times and talk about what Merlin and Morgana are learning; or about how to fix one of the old spindly pillars in their ruinous home; or whether they are running out of barley.
But now in the evenings Morgana and Merlin will wonder off together – sometimes to skirt round the edges of Ealdor, other times to walk for miles into the forest, idly gathering herbs or climbing trees. And they will hold hands and touch each other, and they don’t blush and giggle so much when they do.
“I wish I knew where my mother was buried,” Merlin tells her, on one such occasion, as they gaze down into Ealdor, in the dusky haze of the summer evening. “I wish I knew what they’d done with her.”
“It’s probably better you don’t know,” Morgana lays a hand on his arm. “I don’t think she’d want you to be angry. A woman doesn’t make that kind of sacrifice for her child so that they can be angry.”
“I know,” a frown flickers over his features for a moment, “I’m not angry. At least – not as much as I was. I used to be.”
Merlin smiles, quickly – sheepishly. “I know. I was an ass when I was younger.”
“You had reason enough to be,” her nudge is affectionate, “but you grew out of it, like the good man you always were. And for what it’s worth I’m glad she managed to keep you safe – bring you to us.”
“Well that’s good,” Merlin replies, though he’s glancing down now, self-consciously. He doesn’t often talk about his mother – about his grief and his anger at the loss of a woman he cannot remember. The wound of it is deep and still fresh, even after all these years. Talking about it makes him awkward and ties his tongue.
She stands on tip-toe to kiss him, open-mouthed and warm. His breath is quick and skittering and she feels how strong he is, deep down – the well of his power would be frightening were it not Merlin – the boy she grew up with; the man she loves so much it makes her ache sometimes (she has not yet admitted to herself just how much).
She’s seen him as an old man – made wise by years of triumphs and mistakes – but he’s so young now, still. He’s hers, in a way he wont always be, although she thinks (she hopes) he’ll always love her.
Morgana – he’s thinking it, broadcasting it into her head, nudging her out of his consciousness with a teasing thought.
“Sorry,” she replies, out loud, breaking away with him, “can’t help it, sometimes. You’re – um. So easy to read.”
Merlin snorts. “I can’t help that you’ve been rummaging around in my head since you were three years old. Give me some privacy! What if I’m thinking something unseemly?”
“Oh believe me,” Morgana grins at him, “I’m sure whatever you can come up with I can come up with worse.”
Merlin, of course, takes that as a challenge and they spend the next three days broadcasting increasingly obscene things into each other’s heads – until Nimueh demands that they stop it before she banishes them both to opposite ends of the country.
“I mean really,” she informs them, exasperated, “I know for a fact, Morgana, that what you’re currently thinking isn’t even physically possible.”
“How could you know that?” Morgana asks – and Nimueh only flashes her a wicked grin.
“You have no idea what your sister and I have attempted over the years, my dear.”
“Oh, by the goddess!” Morgana groans, “don’t tell me such things!”
“I’ll keep telling you them until you cease this ridiculousness with Merlin!” Nimueh retorts, “the pair of you can frolic physically until your hearts are content but stop running around each other’s heads! Some of us have things to accomplish during the day!”
Morgana rolls her eyes but acquiesces.
“You will be sure to take precautions, wont you?” Morgause chimes in, abruptly, “not that it wouldn’t be lovely in some ways but I think this is a spectacularly bad time to be bringing a baby into the world. I wouldn’t do it until Uther’s off Camelot’s throne, if I were you – the place wont be safe for a child until then.”
“There’s no need for that sort of thing quite yet, I assure you,” Morgana promises.
“No – we haven’t um – ” Merlin has gone bright red again.
“Well, when you do,” Morgause puts her hands on her hips, “for goodness sake, be very careful. I have a charm you can use if you want it.”
“Why have you need of such a charm?” Nimueh’s eyebrows shoot up and Morgause waves a hand at her.
“Calm yourself, my dear, I’ve never had to use it. Mostly it just eases the aches when I’m bleeding.”
“Oh – you mean that charm. Yes, the side effects are useful like that, aren’t they?”
“This conversation,” Merlin decides, standing up abruptly, “is becoming entirely too surreal. Morgause, I humbly promise not to get your sister with child. Morgana, I’ll be studying on the hill – see you later.”
He kisses her cheek as he leaves (and thinks something very, very filthy indeed, just for her – Morgana struggles in vain not to laugh).
Part four here.