Word count: 2,324 words
Warning(s): sex, angst, a touch of slight violence
Disclaimer: Merlin does not belong to me.
A/N: Written for herchampion's monthly fic challenge, #1: "Queen Morgana."
She never plans to be here.
Morgana tells herself that every time that this is a weakness she cannot afford. She believes it too, because every night she leaves Arthur’s bed behind, she is so sure that it is the last. The admonishments while she collects her clothes seem to become more severe as the faint moonlight floods through the open window. She tries to ignore the memories of hours passed: of his lips coaxing a reaction from her body, of the feel of his muscles underneath her open palms, hips thrusting, the way he looks when he first pushes inside of her, all dark want and open longing.
The bed shifts as Arthur rolls over on his side, hand fumbling for the bare space beside him. Before he can be stirred awake by her absence, Morgana gathers her cloak and shrugs it on, escaping into the dark hallway.
It began with one misspent night, but now there is a pattern forming.
"What you mean to say is,” Gwen says, trying to control the pitch of her voice, “you’ve been laying with Arthur at night.”
Gwen’s brows shoot up, her voice going just as high, “Repeatedly?”
Morgana tugs Gwen aside, secluding them in the corner of the gardens behind the castle. There is no one nearby, but Morgana is deathly paranoid that someone will overhear and gossip will spread through the court like a brush of wildfire. She isn’t exaggerating when she says that there have been rumors about her and Arthur since she was a child, but none of them have ever been true before.
Gwen shakes her head. “Truthfully, I don’t think I’m surprised. A little scandalized, yes,” she smiles, taking the bite out of any reprimand. “But not surprised. You were always meant to be queen.”
Morgana keeps silent and looks to blossoming roses in the garden.
A chance encounter in the hallway turns into something else entirely.
Pinned against the cold wall of the castle hall, the prince of Camelot kisses her heatedly and with such a force that Morgana can only think distantly, in a heated fog. This is foolish. This is dangerous. They are exposed (in more than one way) and if anyone should happen upon them – or worse, Uther – it would spell nothing but disaster.
That doesn’t stop her from courting it.
Fisting a hand through his hair, tugging, demanding, deepening a kiss that cuts off her air, Morgana can’t stop herself. Her thighs part, inviting him to press between her legs with the weight of his body and she gasps when she feels the press of his erection against the cradle of her hips. He kisses the column of her neck, draws the hemline of her dress higher to expose bare skin, one hand on her thigh, moving higher, the other palming her breast – and oh god, this sin is one she cannot resist.
Something passes over his features she can't identify. “God, you’re beautiful.”
The tone belies a meaning larger than his words. She can sense it now, after untold weeks of kisses and making love, of hurried thrusting, frantic and raw, of stolen moments when their bodies spoon together and lie still. Arthur Pendragon is falling in love with her.
A deep ache goes through her, and she abruptly finds the strength to wrench her body free of his grasp. She quickly fixes her clothes and glances down the hall, cursing themselves for their foolishness.
Arthur groans, thumping his head against the wall, in the space she left behind. “What now?” he demands. “Someone coming?”
She turns to him, throat tight and choking. “Arthur, we have to stop this.”
He pauses, because her tone is too serious for him to dismiss. “Why?” he says, almost petulantly. “Why do we have to stop when—”
A group of servants turn the corner and happen upon them, and Morgana takes the opportunity to flee, escaping before she’s forced to answer.
She can see it so clearly. Why can’t anybody else? It is like the footsteps of doom, and to her right is the hangman’s noose, ready and waiting. Advancing darkness, intruding visions, pulsing images of a future where blood and ash and a burnt kingdom lay beneath her feet.
Morgana can see it coming, and she screams in warning.
No one hears her.
They fall back into a pattern, because they just can’t seem to stay away from each other.
She tells herself that she’ll push away from him, further, if she has to. It’s for the betterment of everyone. Over the many years, through one revelation after another, she has come to acknowledge something. Morgana is not meant to be queen; a position and title that has always presumptively held her name – but it is a false presumption.
That doesn’t seem to lend weight to any arguments when night after night, she finds herself drawn to Arthur as much as he is to her. The heat between them is undeniable, always has been. Their fights, she realizes now, has been nothing but a prelude to the way their bodies move in bed.
These are the moments she cannot deny what this is: when it's obvious to her, despite all denials, that all she wants is to be able to promise that she'll be back the following night; to reach across and kiss him in public so another person may witness it, or to scream out his name without fear of what the thin castle walls will hear.
She owns him, body and soul, and she knows him in a way that no one else ever will, whether they will share the king’s bed in the future or not. This truth has given her a darkly possessive comfort from time to time, staving off the nightmares in her sleep. Right now she wants him to feel the depth of that; that she can give him something that no one else ever can.
"Mine,” she whispers in his ear, possessively. “All mine."
He grunts, face twisted in a pleasurable grimace as she rides him, hard, wanting to force his release before her own. She plans on coming quietly with the aid of his fingers afterwards, but Arthur always has this way of taking her plans and tearing them asunder. Her hair sways as she moves atop him, and Arthur helps guide her movements as they became erratic with fingers digging into her hips. He slides his hand down, to their place where their bodies join, and then works that spot, that one that drives her insane.
He thumbs and circles, breaking her resolve until she’s flying apart, a sob ripping through her throat before she can silence herself. Arthur grins smugly, and had she been capable of forming thought, she would have thrown him a glare. But her eyes are still unfocused when he wraps his arms around her hips and rolls them so he’s on top.
Then he’s pushing into her, again and again, and Morgana lays with her hair sprawled on the pillow behind her, breasts bouncing with a sheen of sweat, glistening in the faint candlelight in Arthur’s chambers. He crushes his mouth to hers and thrusts at an angle that makes sparks go off behind her eyes.
He swallows her moan with his mouth when she comes a second time, and then finally starts seeking his own release. He buries his head against her shoulder and braces his other arm behind her. Movement becomes erratic as he nears the end, and then Arthur comes with a deep growl against her skin, spilling his release into her.
A child is conceived that night.
Gwen notices it first, when Morgana’s morning sickness can’t tell time and she heaves into a flowered pot when they’re walking back from supper. There’s a gentle hand on Morgana’s back, soothing words whispered as she expels her dinner. When Morgana sits back on the floor without a thought to her dignity, Gwen pauses, looking at her.
“Morgana,” she whispers, knowingly.
Morgana flinches and turns away, because oh, if only conceiving a child out of wedlock was her real fear. It is so much more, though. So much more. The child inside of her is meant for things: great things. Perhaps terrible things. Morgana cannot tell, but there is a whisper of a warning in the air, a chilled silence before the storm comes crashing down on all of them.
“You’ll have to get married soon,” Gwen says, later, when she helps Morgana into bed. “Before you start to show.”
Morgana pauses, glancing away. “I still have yet to tell Arthur.”
The inevitable happens, but when it does, she is as surprised as anyone else.
Her secret is torn asunder. Magic, they say as an accusation. Death, they whisper as a punishment. She has known this day has been long coming, exposed in an act of magic that saved one life but damned two others: she protected Arthur from a spell, but in the process condemned both herself and her child to Uther’s terror.
“I told you,” Uther whispers into her ear that night, hand around her throat, “I warned you I would not tolerate another betrayal.”
“I have betrayed no one,” she seethes, then wrenches herself free. She whirls around, bare feet on stone floors, the dungeon’s conditions not improved since he last threw her in here. “Betrayed nothing but my own conscious by staying so long in your presen—”
He strikes her across the face, sending Morgana spilling to the ground. “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t hang you in the morning!”
She braces her hands on the floor, then looks up with a defiant glare. “Because I’m carrying your grandchild, Uther Pendragon.”
“Is it true?” Arthur asks.
“What?” Morgana responds numbly, hiding the bruise on her face by staying in the shadows. “That I am a witch, or that I am the mother of your child? Either question, the answer is yes.”
He pauses, and Morgana can’t force herself to look at him. She doesn’t want to imagine the betrayal on his face, the confusion, the hatred – any of it, if it is there. She wants to fool herself into thinking she lives in a better world than this. In a world where she is not condemned for what she has the right to be. In a world where her son will grow tall and stand proud, where her bloodline will stretch onward as the next kings and queens of Camelot for generations to come.
She wants to live in a world where Arthur loves her unconditionally.
“You can go,” she tells him. “I do not expect you to—”
He winds a hand through her hair and turns her, kissing her senseless. “You are my queen,” he promises, fiercely. “You will be Camelot’s queen.”
They kiss once more and then he glances down, slightly cautious before placing a hand over her belly. Arthur's hand is nearly twice the size of her own, and it splays across the entire field of her slim stomach. He looks so exposed in that moment, so vulnerable, staring at her womb where a small boy grows. Morgana presses her hand over his, and Arthur's eyes fly up to connect with hers.
"A child," he breathes in reverence, a hint of delight in such an otherwise dark moment. "Our child."
Morgana pulls him into a hug, burying her nose into his shoulder and willing the tears to stem.
Merlin breaks her out that night, while Arthur and Uther clash horns. She doesn’t hear the fight, but even the guards are whispering about the heated exchange before a few words of a spoken spell are uttered and they both fall asleep. Merlin emerges from around the corner, a rucksack in one hand and keys in the other.
“Quickly,” Merlin urges, opening the cell. “Arthur can only distract the king for so long.”
They make it to the far edge of Camelot, where she can see the thicket of trees recede into the horizon and the skies above darken with an approaching storm. A few hills roll one over another, and to the left of them, the castle looms large even from miles away. She feels oddly serene there, a cool sense of purpose washing over her as she stares at the scope of the Pendragon kingdom.
Merlin tells her, “You must flee to the river of Astolat, and follow the stream east. Find the way to my old village. My mother will provide you with a safe heaven until… until—”
“Until what?” Morgana asks, quietly. “Uther is dead?”
Merlin doesn’t respond, but she knows the answer anyway. The only way she can ever return to Camelot will be under a new king. Who knows how many years Uther Pendragon has left in him? It is only with his death that she could be… she shakes her head, dispelling the thought.
No, it is not possible. She has known for years that she will never be queen, and she cannot let romantic notions blind her from reality.
“Tell Arthur,” she says, fingers fisting around the reigns of her horse, “Tell him that he must choose a wise queen. One that will be strong and challenge him. Tell him not to marry a noblewoman; they are all the same. He needs someone else, someone that does not come from privilege and will not cower during hard times—”
“Morgana,” Merlin tries to stop her, shocked. “You’ll come back. You’ll be—”
“No,” she answers, knowingly, “I won’t.”
She kicks her horse into a gallop, and rides off before he can say another word. The wind rushes in her hair, the horse’s feet striding long and fast as they break across the footpath and down the trail. Morgana’s breath is labored but she does not look back; she does not turn to meet Merlin’s stare; she does not glance at the castle in the distance; she will not stop to think about everything she is leaving behind.
Arthur will find himself a new queen, because Morgana will never return to Camelot. What she doesn’t know, and will not understand until the years have turned her hair silver and hands wrinkled, was this was a self-fulfilling prophecy all along.
This was never fate, until she made it so.
On the day Gwen becomes queen, her son comes up to her, crying, “Mother, I had a dream.”
“Of what?” she asks, gently wiping the tears from his face.
“I saw a castle burn to the ground.”