Pairing(s)/Character(s): Merlin/Morgana (pre-ship), Gwen
Spoilers: allusions to 2.03
Word Count: 1500
Summary: A bit of a 2.03 rewrite - after Morgana returns from the druids, Merlin decides to reveal his secret.
Author's Note: This was written for slightlytookish for camelotsolstice! She wanted Merlin/Morgana and learning magic from one another. I shower many thanks upon mancalahour for her helpful beta work as always ♥! And ♥ to tater_mae for acting as sounding board for this. Original posting here
He doesn't sleep.
He feigns it, when Gaius looks in. And then he spends the night pacing from one side of his bed to the other, letting light snap from his fingers, or summoning dust into malleable balls that he makes trail behind him clumsily.
right it's not right it's not right it's not right it's not right it's not
He can't shake the mantra. He had seen her face, how at peace she was, how much happier she seemed.
Merlin had envied her. He coveted the solidarity she had found amongst the druids, and then felt guilty because Gaius tried to give him so much.
It just... It wasn't the same as being understood.
And why did Morgana have to give up that sense of peace, when he could provide it to some degree? And then, perhaps, he would also receive some small measure in return.
When the light turns from ink black to murky blue, Merlin slips quickly - and miraculously quietly - from Gaius' chambers and heads towards the castle.
She can't sleep.
But at least this insomnia has nothing to do with dreams (well, little to do with dreams) and everything to do with reality.
Morgana remembers tents and beds made of animal pelts and tree branches. She remembers fires that burned with the scent of pine and leaves and mystery herbs which had meaning she would one day learn. She remembers serenity, born of being amongst those who understand and a profound sense of safety.
The stone walls are cold and bare. Her bed is large and soft. The fire crackles and smells simply of burning wood. She knows bereavement, born of being secluded and paranoid.
The lightening outside her windows brings no solace, and with the knock on her door, she jumps with a small trill of fear before she remembers that she is alone in the Pendragon household with powers; Uther has scarcely been able to read faces, let alone minds.
Merlin's face is the last she expects to see, but he is strangely welcome. It's nice to have someone know, even if they can't do anything.
But he says, "There's something I need to tell you," and the twist of fear in her stomach vanishes once he's in the room.
She thinks for a moment that the sudden warmth and light is simply a creation of her mind formed from her relief.
Then he turns, with eyes of gold and a dancing ball of flames suspended just above his fingertips.
At first, Merlin doesn't really understand why she's so angry with him.
But it doesn't matter. They need each other and he won't let her slip away from him.
Morgana has to admit he is persistent.
She watches Gwen's fingers pick deftly through the stalks of the flowers he had left for her - weeks ago now. The day after his confession.
"Honestly, I've never seen flowers last this long in a vase," Gwen says, obviously deeply baffled. "They're not even beginning to wilt."
Morgana doesn't risk meeting Gwen's eye. "You take good care of them, Gwen," she says faithfully. She will not admit that Merlin's trick is an impressive (and inherently sweet) one.
"Mm," is all Gwen responds as she turns to change the flower's water.
The door clatters open and Merlin turns from the pot of boiling soup to find Morgana striding towards him, followed by streams of expensive fabric.
"Where's Gaius?" she demands as she comes to stop before him.
Merlin almost balks, but instead he straightens and eyes her cautiously. "He's meeting with the king, but he should be back by nightfall..."
Already Morgana has turned around and is walking away purposefully.
"Wait!" Merlin calls, though he doesn't actually need to. She shuts the door, and turns to face him, untying her cloak and hanging it on a hook.
He's dumbfounded, watching her. Those two words are the first she's spoken to him since he revealed himself, and while he's been persistent in trying to find a moment to talk alone, Merlin suspects she's been equally persistent in ensuring that opportunity never arises.
He feels as though this is his chance; as though he ought to say some perfect phrase right now to smooth the stormy waters between them, but before he can, Morgana speaks.
"I want to know how you made those flowers last," she says. "It's Gwen's birthday in two days, and I think she'd appreciate a gift like that."
Morgana's still angry with him; for the deception, and the way he told her of his magic as though it were the answer to each one of her quandaries.
But for all Gwen was only a maidservant, she knew the girl didn't want for much. Flowers were Gwen's constant companion, however, and Morgana wanted to give her something that would bring her joy through the coming wintry months.
She watches as Merlin's face goes through several emotions: shock, irritation, relief, disbelief... Before he settles for amicability.
"All right," he says and gestures for her to sit on a stool across from him in front of the fire.
He whispers some words while breathing over his closed palms, opening them with little flourish to reveal a small red rose.
"How did you do that?" Morgana asks, and decides she won't resent the wonder in her voice.
Merlin's grin is instantaneous and bashful, and she can feel her anger beginning to leech away from her, regardless of how hard she tries to hold on to it.
"I'll show you later," he says; it sounds like a promise. "It's a bit more complex."
Morgana nods when he meets her eyes, and his lips quirk a little bit.
"Okay," he begins then with a preparatory rub of his hands, and Morgana finds herself lost for the next hour.
It takes her some time to master the spell, as the words come out garbled at first. But then they are only clumsy; finally slightly halting. At last, they are smooth, but he thinks she's missing some part of it as the flower still refuses enchantment.
"Has it worked?" Morgana asks tiredly, rotating the slender stalk between her fingers as Merlin peers at the flower closely.
He twitches his nose, not wanting to tell the truth. "No," he finally says and Morgana throws her head back with a loud sigh of frustration. "You're just... You've got to feel the magic," he says desperately.
She doesn't respond.
After a brief hesitation, Merlin slips his fingers through hers. She raises her head back up slowly, eyeing him suspiciously for a moment before he grins nervously and twiddles his fingers. "Tell me if you feel anything," he says.
He closes his eyes, ignoring that he can feel her gaze intensely on his face, and focuses on the power. It's like a river swirling, and a breeze dancing, and the reaching fingers of a flame. It's life and death and song and silence blended into a never ending writhing ribbon of the undiluted wild, desperate to be harnessed - by him.
He intones the words, hears Morgana's gasp, and can see the difference in the flower when he opens his eyes.
"I... I felt that!" she exclaims in his ear. "I... Did it - is that what you always feel?"
Shaking his head, suddenly shy, Merlin lets his fingers slip from hers and plucks the flower from her hold, just to throw it to the flames. Gaius will wonder why the room smells so heavily of roses.
"Try again," he implores, summoning a new rose, and watches as she tries.
It's when she thinks of that sensation, almost like it's the pure essence of the eye of a storm, and imagines it weaving with her love for Gwen like an intricate tapestry, that the spell works.
And Morgana tries not to bounce at the wonder in Merlin's eyes as he takes the flower from her fingers and brings it close to his face for inspection.
"How did you make it shimmer like this?" he asks breathlessly, offering her the flower again.
Morgana blinks. She had not intended... But there it is - a very soft, nearly imperceptible glow to each delicate petal. A sudden thrill runs through her from toe to finger tip and she smiles.
"I thought of the magic, and how much I love Gwen," she says and Merlin watches her so closely, she wants to turn away.
She can't remember the last time anyone had made her feel bashful.
The pause between pitch night and bright morning becomes their time.
Morgana learns how to feel for the magic, and coax it to her will. Merlin relearns how to revel in the joy of his abilities.
They feel almost as though what they do isn't hiding. Because there's two of them; because they do it in the almost-light of dawn.
They never break from each other until after sunrise crests in the east, and when they do part, it's with the promise of another meeting.