Merlin returned to the barrow with a stack of dry wood, smiling as memories of other times so long ago danced in his mind. Winking at Gwen, he placed the wood down next to her and then let his eyes drift over to where Morgana was.
Where she should be.
His gut twisting slightly, he eyed Leon, who sat closest to where Morgana’s jacket lay. It was clear that Leon had been guarding Morgana, no matter what they all said about trust.
Leon stood up slowly, placing his hands on his hips. “She had a nightmare. Another one. Seemed bad, she said she needed to walk so off she went.”
“And you just let her, without following? Doesn’t seem like you to relax your guard, Leon.”
Leon’s face was stone and his eyes were dark. “She didn’t seem like she was in any state to make trouble. I’m not her babysitter to follow her to dry her tears. I’ll leave that to you, Merlin”
His jaw tightened and a fist curled around the first touches of magic that disappeared when Gwaine rushed into the clearing.
“Merlin, I think you need to go find Morgana.”
There was something in his friend’s voice that made his heart sink.
“Where is she?”
Gwaine pointed to the east. “She was running that way, headed to the river, looked mighty upset. I tried to call her back but she either didn’t hear or didn’t want to hear. I came to find you.”
His blood like ice spreading through his body, he ran. He had a terrible feeling about the river. The magic had been particularly strong in this forest. If Morgana’s nightmare had brought everything back he didn’t know what she’d do.
Tripping over a root on the path he cursed and his eyes flashed gold, lending speed to his steps.
He found her by the water hole. Her hand was over her mouth and her hair streamed behind her as she waded into the water. Her long woollen jumper dragged at the surface and even at this distance the tears streaking down her cheeks were plain to his eyes. He thought his heart might burst but he sped up, his legs moved faster than he ever remembered running. She was up to her torso now and he made the bank and plunged straight into the water, calling after her.
A hand flung out behind her back and she looked at him over her shoulder
“No Merlin! Stay back! It’s too late. It’s much too late now.”
“Morgana! No! I won’t let it be, not this time!”
He was so close now and when she fell into the water, eyes on his until the last, he took a deep breath and dived after her. She fought him but his eyes flashed gold and he drew strength from the earth. He pulled her from the water and didn’t let go until he’d dragged her onto the bank and she’d collapsed, all fight gone from her.
“Why?” he hadn’t meant to shout but he was suddenly deeply angry “Why, Morgana?”
She lay on her back, her eyes wide and staring at the sky, her mouth working as if to hold in a cry.
He dropped to his knees beside her and stretched out a trembling hand to brush the hair from her face.
His voice gentler now his terror was subsiding he asked her again. “Why would you go? Why would you leave me again Morgana?”
Her hand crept up to his. It was ice cold from the water but from something else too and he brought his other hand up to enclose it in his palms. Hoping to warm her with sheer will alone. Tears welled out of her eyes and her voice was a ragged whisper.
“I remembered it all. I can’t stop remembering. I remember the pain I caused. It makes my nightmares seem like daydreams. And my ordinary, inoffensive life now seems like the dream, as if it was never really real. I remember each day as if it was yesterday.” A shudder wracked her and her hand convulsed in his. “How can I look at Gwen when I remember how I laughed as I tortured her? The hatred I felt for Arthur was never really real and yet I wanted him dead so badly. And now I look at him and he is kind but I know he remembers also.”
He disentangled a hand from hers and slid his arm round her shoulders, lifting her from the cold ground into the warmth of his embrace. Her hair was soft against his chin and he murmured a charm to try and dry them both out. She shuddered and turned her face into his chest.
“How can I let you care for me when in my head I hear you scream as I set the Fomorroh on you to tear into your mind and force you to try and kill your closest friend. When I see your body as I kicked it over the ledge and left you to die. How can I ask you to forgive me when I can never forgive myself?” Her hold on his hand was painful but he didn’t want her to ever let go.
“Morgana, have you forgotten that you died by my hand? You aren’t the only one who seeks forgiveness.”
She shook her head, the silky tresses of her wet hair falling over his arm. “You were always true to your friends and to yourself Merlin. I not only betrayed my friends, I lost myself. I became what I always most hated in Uther. But I was worse, worse than him by far.”
Merlin sighed. “You were certainly scarier. Super scary”
She stilled and then he swore he felt her lips curve in a smile against him. “I doubt you were ever scared of me, Merlin. You were the bravest man in Camelot.”
“Not the bravest, just the most foolish”
“And more powerful than I ever was”
“Well, maybe. But like I said, you were super scary. But do you know what the hardest bit was?”
He waited for her murmured “what?” before he continued.
“Never actually wanting to hurt you.” His arm tightened around her as he felt her fingers clutch at his shirt. “I never wanted to use my magic to harm you so I always tried to avoid it. Killing you was one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. If it hadn’t been to save Arthur I never could have done it” He looked down at her head and his heart felt it would burst from the emotions tangling inside him.
“I know you don’t realise, Morgana, but I’ve loved you for over a thousand years. You don’t need to seek my forgiveness because I already forgave you centuries ago.”
She stilled completely in his arms before she relaxed enough to embrace him gently but briefly. She pulled back and he let her go, his hand going to his mouth.
He hadn’t meant to say it. Knew it was too soon. But then it had been over a millennium so ‘too soon’ was a relative term.
Her mouth turned up in a little smile but he could see the tension in her shoulders. Though he sighed inwardly and his heart seemed to burn, he smiled brightly.
“Don’t worry, I don’t expect anything. I just guess I really wanted to say it. I’ve never been able to before. It doesn’t have to change anything.”
Her smile grew and touched her eyes. “But it’s changed everything, Merlin. I don’t deserve such love. But I hope that one day I might.” She pushed herself to her feet and he followed suit.
“Come on then, let’s get you back to a fire and warm. It’s cold out here”.
Her smile trembled. “You’re always trying to warm me up Merlin. I hope it works”
From my Merlin fanfic written in 2016. Needs some rewriting but I still like Morgana and Merlin moments.