Morgana awoke to a warm breath on her face. Her side still ached and she felt dizzy, but she could inhale without wanting to vomit. She opened her eyes to a small wonder. Morgana pushed herself up to see the tiny dragon better. She didn't think to ask any of the countless questions running through her mind until the shadow of white wings had disappeared into the endless blue.
She had heard the name as clearly as she'd heard the Druids call her own.
She had time to think of all the possible answers as she walked through the forest, back to the cottage. With each step the fog lifted and she could think a little better. To feel a little clearer. To remember.
Morgana first felt it in her fingertips. A little tingle as the spell faded away, like a veil pulled over her face. It was in her palms, in the soles of her feet making each faltering step a little lighter. She should have been tired, but she felt strong and more awake than ever. Her scalp felt alive. she combed her fingers through her hair slowly, over and over, letting go of all the magic little by little.
With each untangled snarl, she was reborn. With each fallen twig she was rebuilt, with each cursedly easy step, she was found. She had the time, she had the strength; she could wait.
"I've been expecting you," Morgana said, stepping aside. "Come. Sit." She went to the fire and reached for the pot. She may have been rebuilt but the shack was still the same; ready to fall apart at the slightest wind.
Merlin followed her, at first with his eyes, then with his feet. It was almost like they were back in Camelot, hiding behind corners and running away from Uther. Only the laughter was absent now. It had been replaced by the years that had seen them grow old and turn from one another.
Merlin sat and took the tea Morgana offered him. He stared at his cup shutting everything out, until he suddenly spoke: "Much has happened since we last met."
Morgana hid her smile behind a careful sip. He was the master of understatement. And deception, apparently. Morgana grew hot as she listened to Merlin prattle on about Arthur and Gwen, their marriage, and magic. Merlin's magic. Emrys' magic.
"You're wondering why I never told you I had magic. I know you feel betrayed."
Morgana shook her head at his words and let go of her rage. She was angry, but not at him. She was irritated with herself for not seeing it earlier. There had been clues, she remembered now.
"—understand I had to feed you poison."
Morgana blinked. From fire to ice, her body shuddered. Poison had killed her, they had murdered her more than once. Both her friend and her sister had betrayed her. They all had.
"I hate you." Merlin met her eyes, and she repeated the words slowly." I hate you. You are Emrys. My destiny and doom. My final judge." The cold fled her and she snorted. What a ridiculous idea.
"Shut up!" Morgana got up on her feet to add a little distance between them. She might have as well plunged a dagger in his chest and twisted the blade. Tea forgotten, she unleashed her rage:
"Did you think it would be that easy? Did you think I'd let you come here and make one excuse after another, to wash away the blood that lies between us, and cart me back to Camelot like a sack of grain? Did you forget everything?"
"I haven't forgotten anything. I haven't forgotten how you tried to kill everyone who has ever loved you. How you tortured my friends." Merlin spoke to his cup in a measured tone. Tension had crept up his arms and into his shoulders.
"Everyone I've ever loved betrayed me. Do you have any idea how that feels? My parents, Uther, Morgause—"
"Arthur hadn't the spine to stand against our dear father for what is right. He chose and he chose wrong."
"He knows better now." Merlin jumped out of his seat. "He knows magic can be a force for good."
Morgana crossed her arms.
"He does," Merlin insisted.
"It wasn't his name I was about to say."
Merlin looked confused.
"You, Merlin. You've betrayed me." Morgana's voice was too soft for the cut it delivered.
"I know." Merlin slumped.
"No, you don't. I don't mean your secret, I mean mine. I came to you when I was scared, begging you to believe me, to believe in me. I wanted someone to help me understand and you turned away from me. I wanted a friend to help me and you weren't there for me. You failed me, Merlin."
"I'm sorry, Morgana. I had some conflicting advice."
"Gaius." Morgana turned her back to Merlin. "You're as bad as Arthur. Always pretending to be so righteous only to baulk when a real choice is put to you. You may have kept my secret but only because it was convenient for you."
"Look at me, please." Merlin waited until she faced him again. "I was wrong. I'm sorry. I wanted to tell you, I wanted to say I believed you and that I was like you. But it was easier to hide. I think I would still be hiding had the choice not been taken from me. You're the brave one, Morgana. Despite everything and everyone being against you, you held your head high. You chose to be unafraid, to accept yourself."
"And look what it cost me," she bit back.
"You don't have to be alone anymore," Merlin said, looking earnest.
Morgana shook. "It's too late. We can't go back."
"We can't go back to back to how things were, but we can move on, together.
"Can there really be a home for me in Camelot?"
Merlin closed the distance between them and offered her his hand.