"What happened to you, Morgana?" Arthur asked, putting away his sword, stepping towards her. She had not seen him, safe at a distance, for a year. Had not spoken of him safe in derision and disdain, sneer always at hand. Had plotted his death a hundred times. Had managed to win, and hurt him, finally, in a way he could not take back, first by bringing death to the father who had made them both, and then by destroying his trust in the girl who'd belonged to her first, whom he wanted to put in her place. Yet here he was, looking at her, seeing all of her at last as he never had through all their years together, and still there was no hate in his voice.
"What happened to you, Morgana?", as if she'd only pushed him down on the earth as she had a hundred times that first year when they were sparring with nothing worse than wooden swords. "I thought we were friends."
Childish phrase, "friends", what a child he still was, and she opened her mouth to say as much with her customary superior sneer, but what came out, to her horror, was free of all the finely honed ridicule and loathing that had been her armor for years. It was the voice of a girl who had never existed, whom he had only imagined to be there, who had no right to linger on now that Morgana had no more use of her, and yet that useless, treacherous old voice broke free of her and said: "And so did I. But alas, we were both wrong."
They were standing so close now that she could have counted his eyelashes, if she'd wanted. But there was nothing of him she'd ever wanted, or ever had wanted, was there? Nothing but the throne, which was rightfully hers and which she'd taken back anyway.
He looked at her, and there was neither the broken acknowledgment their father had given her at last nor the accusation Gwen regarded her with, nor the satisfying hate Merlin had for her. He looked at her, blue eyes taking her in, reaching out to her, and suddenly she thought that he and Morgause, who did not share a father, looked far more alike than she and he had ever done.
But Morgause was dead. Morgause was dead by her hand, and what if he loved her, if he somehow managed to love her still? He loved so many. Gwen and Merlin and the dead man who'd taught them both to kill, and old Gaius who'd never given her more than potions to sleep instead of offering truth, and his knights, that group of leftovers from Uther's time and commoners he'd picked from the rabble, and every citizen of Camelot who could manage a "long live the king" . If she was thrown somewhere in between all of these, what was that worth? Nothing. Morgause had loved only her, and Morgause was dead, dead by her hand, dead and still not at rest, for how could she be, when Morgana had not yet managed what Morgause had died for, not just the throne but the crushing of their enemies once and for all? Morgause had given her everything, and Morgana had only ever been able to give death in return. What right did Arthur have to expect more of her than Morgause had gotten?
He spoke of Uther, but the moment of weakness was gone. She felt her strength returning. "Too little, too late," Morgana said. "You've made it more than clear what you think of me and my kind. You are far more like Uther than you care to admit."
"As are you," he said, still so close she could feel his breath on her face. It shouldn't have surprised her at all, come to think of it. Anyone capable of loving Uther even after breathing in the ash of the world Uther was burning day by day would be able to love her when she was standing in front of him with the blood of his people on her hands. And if she played Uther's game, if she raised her arms now not to kill him but to claim him, ensnare him as Uther had ensnared her for so long with that promise of family and unconditional affection, if she'd ask him to forgive her as Uther had asked her, if she told him he was all that was left for her to love in this world, he would take her back.
But she was not Uther. And she'd never go back to being that girl again, never. If there was anything she owed him for those years of a childhood shared that had been a lie in any case, it was truth.
She'd make his death quick, she decided, and stepped back, away from him. As she raised her hand, the air around her felt cold.