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 Arthur is followed home.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
“You would have been my brother, you know.”
The voice very nearly topples Arthur off his horse – it is near mid-morning and he is further on than he has any right to be on his journey; something is making his horse move far faster than it ought to be able to, and that has set his nerves on edge enough as it is.
The last thing he needs is for the youngest of the three witches to be standing where there was only a sparrow perched on a tree stump on the side of the road a moment before.
“Why are you following me?” He asks, because he’s fairly certain she has been all day – he’s had that odd, creeping sensation he gets when his father assigns him a body guard without his knowledge during tournaments.
She smiles, and shrugs, amiably enough.
“It was her idea,” the sorcerer – Merlin – abruptly puffs up into existence at her side, out of the form of a little robin at her feet. “She has some odd notion about keeping the great future king Arthur Pendragon safe from bandits.”
“These roads are full of them,” Morgana points out, reasonably enough.
Arthur sighs, “look, I don’t know if you know, be we are now back inside Camelot’s boarders – if you are caught here…”
“Please,” Morgana rolls her eyes, “we’re more than capable of taking care of ourselves.”
Arthur shakes his head, unnerved by their presence at all (he has no wish to be conversing with witches on the roadside – his father will be no end of wrathful if he ever finds out), and urges his horse back into a trot.
Merlin and Morgana keep up with him with alarming ease, though they don’t appear even to have broken into a run. They have linked hands, easily and casually, and tug playfully at each other – Arthur decides that they must, indeed, be married – though he sees no rings about them. Perhaps witches do not use rings. Or perhaps they are too poor to afford them.
“What did you mean, you could have been my sister?” He asks, after a moment.
“Our fathers,” Morgana lifts her chin to glance up at him – she’s very beautiful, now he gets a close look at her – in quite a different way to Gwen (for Gwen is lovely as a summer’s day; Morgana is lovely in the way that frost is lovely or a terrible storm is lovely). “They were friends. Had he not chosen to send me to be raised with my sister, but kept me after my mother died and had me raised by nurses, after his death I would have been entrusted to your father’s care and we would have been raised together. We would have loved each other very much. I would have called you my little Artie – I would have been the older sibling, as well. How odd. I’ve always been the youngest.”
Arthur is perplexed. “How can you know such things?”
“I see them in my dreams. Mostly the future but…” she waves a hand, “sometimes other things. The past. The impossible. The lives that weren’t.”
“She’s a Seer,” Merlin interjects, “she has visions.”
“You make it sound so much grander than it is,” Morgana gives him a playful nudge. “I walk in dreams, that’s all. And sometimes I walk into other people’s – your Guinevere is not a witch, Arthur – thought it pertinent to let you know.”
Arthur blinks, “she’s not my – how do you know about her?”
“She has visions,” Merlin repeats, in a tone that suggests he does not think much of Arthur’s intellect.
“A few of which I have been at pains to place into your laundry maid’s head, these last few months,” Morgana adds, more kindly, “to ensure your safety. And hers. Gwen is nothing but an unfortunate vessel – she’s the only one who is close enough to you that she is commonly in a position to intervene when you run into danger – and her heart is tender with you and open. Makes her… suggestible, particularly when it comes to keeping you from harm.”
“And that’s why I – did she seduce me because of you?” Arthur demands, and Morgana snorts.
“Oh good lord, for someone with such a great destiny you are terribly dim.”
“I’m not going to sit here and be insulted by a witch!”
“Hey!” Merlin snaps, “she’s a priestess and a seer and you will show her some respect! In ages past even your father would have bowed to a woman such as Morgana!”
“Oh Merlin hush,” Morgana nudges him again, “Arthur simply doesn’t understand. And Guinevere didn’t seduce you!” She waves a hand at Arthur, “you fell in love with the poor girl, long, long before I ever got involved – and a fat lot of good it’s done her, poor thing! Trust me, Arthur Pendragon, without Guinevere your future will be very dull indeed – if you let her, she’ll make you exceptionally happy, and if you lose her, you’ll never love another. She’s a very loyal, very kind, very lovely young woman who will be one of the few people ever to see your soul first and your status second. Treat her well. And stop accusing her of witchcraft.”
Arthur squints at her, confused, but they have rounded a bend in the road and come to the top of a hill which has brought Camelot’s great town into view, the castle emerging out of the dull, grey day and promising a warm bath and a soft bed and a good meal and an end to this particular bout of madness.
A fine, misty rain is beginning to fall. He wants to get home.
“You really are best not to come any further,” he warns them – but sees that Morgana and Merlin have already fallen back, and are wondering off the road into the great marshy meadow to his left.
“Do get home safely now, Arthur,” Morgana calls, “take care of yourself – take care of good Guinevere.”
Merlin remains stoic at her side, though he is still holding her hand.
Arthur is not entirely sure as to the correct way to bid goodbye to a priestess and sorcerer (he has no hat to tip and he’s not about to draw his sword to salute); so he waves in acknowledgement, then nudges his horse into a canter and makes his way on as quickly as he can.
Morgana watches silently as the prince disappears from view, feeling the soft rain trickling through her clothes, palm warm against Merlin’s.
“He will be a good king,” she tells him, after a moment.
Merlin sighs, “if you say so.”
“Have you ever known me to be wrong, Merlin?” She is abruptly teasing, swinging his hand affectionately, “about anything?”
He snorts, “you were wrong about that hex being perfectly safe to practice in Nimueh’s kitchen…”
“If you had executed it correctly, it would have been!”
There is a pause, as the meadow grass murmurs about them – Morgana can feel the earth opening its mouth to sup on the rain; the little flowers turning their faces up; the worms stirring close beneath their feet.
Camelot is blooming over the horizon like a rose, promising many things that linger still a little out of reach – it wishes to grow out of the ashes the king has made of witches and sorcerers and druids and healers. But the king is still burning there, and new life wont come until he has ceased.
And she realises that she has seen this particular view before – stood in this field with Merlin before – a great open meadow, with the sky grey and wet overhead. And she feels her face grow hot at the possibility of what she could make happen, here, now, if she wants it.
She’s dreamed it so many times, she’s suddenly shy with the possibility of drawing it into a concrete reality.
“He thought we were married, you know,” she tells Merlin, “that’s how he had us, in his head.”
“I wonder how we gave him that impression?”
He flashes her a quick, shy smile – doesn’t look at their entwined fingers. His ears have gone pink.
“Merlin,” she says, and again, “Merlin…”
He doesn’t understand until she kisses him, open mouthed and needing – tugging him close, pushing his hands in against her thighs so that he can feel her – and though his ears burn red his face remains earnest, and gentle and kind and he mumbles do you really want… and she says yes back – not out-loud, but directly into his head, placing an affirmative there that is full of everything she feels for him, and everything she is afraid will happen if she looses him, and all the trembling, delicate possibilities that promise a trembling, delicate happiness if only they somehow, somehow can manage to stay with one another always.
So they take off their clothes, and lie down in the grey meadow in the rain, and are tender and kind and clumsy and self-conscious and the most deeply intimate with one another that they have ever been, and for a moment, Morgana thinks, as she cradles Merlin’s head to her breast – yes, just for a moment, this is enough.
Chapter seven is here.