For Gwen, it happens a few months after she takes over the Camelot Coffee on Praed Street, and it is all Morgana’s fault.
(The coffee shop is a realisation of a dream she’s had since she was five years old and serving her dolls water out of plastic teacups and she couldn’t love it more if she tried. Even when it’s horrifically busy and she comes home tired and aching and lonely, even when it’s terrifyingly not and she lies awake at night with blood red numbers scrolling through her brain. It’s hers, her miniature kingdom right at the heart of West London, hers.
And Morgana? Well. She’s not so easy to explain.)
Gwen’s about to close the shop for the night when the door opens and Morgana whirls inside, her eyes wild and her hair a mess like she’s been running her hands through it over and over.
“Get me my usual, please, Gwen,” she says, and Gwen moves automatically, even though she should really tell Morgana that she can’t, that it’s past closing time already.
If Gwen were the type to have a favourite customer, Morgana would be it. But she isn’t, of course, because she is a bastion of professionalism, and favouritism is not professional.
It’s that same professionalism that makes her pause by Morgana’s table as she’s winding her way around the floor to wipe them down. Morgana’s normally the most composed, put-together person Gwen has ever met, and it’s more than a little unsettling to see her like this. Gwen just wants to make sure nothing’s wrong, in case she’s about to lose a valued customer. That’s all.
“Sorry for disturbing you,” Gwen says gently, “but are you all right?”
“Not particularly,” Morgana says tiredly, but when she looks up at Gwen, her smile is genuine. “I will be, though, don’t you worry your pretty head on my account.”
Gwen nods. She will, because she can’t help it, but Morgana’s been coming in near daily since Camelot Coffee opened, and Gwen knows more than she probably should, professionally speaking.
“I’ll just get you some more coffee,” she says, picking up Morgana’s empty mug.
Morgana says, “Thank you,” like she means it, like Gwen is doing something amazing, and somehow it’s like that uncorks the stopper on the memories of the lives Gwen has lived because they come flowing out all at once.
Gwen promptly drops Morgana’s mug.
“Shit,” she says, moving automatically to pick up the shards. Her hands are shaking so hard she thinks she’s going to drop them all over again, and her breath keeps hitching like she’s trying to cry, or trying not to.
Out of the corner of her eye, she sees Morgana get up, crouch down, and then Morgana’s hand is closing around her wrist, firm and warm and soft.
Gwen stops. Gwen takes a deep breath, and then another, and then another, and then she looks up at Morgana.
Morgana doesn’t ask. Morgana says, “You remembered,” no inflection in her voice at all, and then Morgana kisses her.
And Gwen kisses her back, which is probably the least professional thing she’s ever done, in this life or any other, but she doesn’t care.
“Morgana,” she whispers, “Morgana.”
Arthur comes into the shop five months and nineteen days after Gwen remembers.
(Gwen’s stomach drops every time she sees tufts of blonde hair, brilliant blue eyes, a jaw sharp enough to cut glass, but this guy doesn’t just look like Arthur. He is Arthur. She knows it in her bones.)
“What can I get you?” she asks, perfectly professional, when he reaches the counter.
“Caffe macchiato,” Arthur says, pronouncing it with a perfect Italian accent, of course. Gwen could cry, and she doesn’t know whether the tears would be happy or sad.
“Arthur came in today,” she says, later. Morgana lifts her head from where it’s been resting on Gwen’s stomach. Gwen doesn’t understand the look on her face, so she keeps talking. “He’s a CEO, of course, at Pendragon & Gorlois. I looked him up on my break. I’m pretty sure he hasn’t remembered, or at least, he didn’t recognise me if he has.”
“I know,” Morgana says eventually. Her voice is very quiet. “He’s my half-brother.”
Gwen is confused. “Well, of course, but-”
“No,” Morgana snaps, sitting up properly. “He’s my half-brother. Not that I knew that until very recently, of course, I just thought he was the son of a very old family friend, but it turns out Uther is just as much of a cheating scumbag in this life as he’s been in every other.”
Gwen doesn’t know quite what to say to that, so she curls a hand around Morgana’s ankle, squeezing gently. “Why didn’t you tell me about him before?” she asks, after a minute. “Arthur, I mean.”
“I didn’t want the two of you to meet,” Morgana says, pointedly not looking at Gwen. “I’m sorry. I know I should’ve but I- I couldn’t risk losing you.”
“Why would you lose me?” Gwen asks, bemused. “Morgana, I love you.”
Morgana’s face closes up. “You loved him. You’ve always loved him.”
“Well, yes,” Gwen says, because that’s true, of course it is, “but I’ve always loved you, too. And I love you now, so much.”
“I love you, too,” Morgana whispers, barely audible, and Gwen gathers her in her arms, winds her fingers into Morgana’s hair, rests her forehead against Morgana’s own.
It’s Merlin, next, on a bright Friday morning in September, wearing a scarf around his neck and earbuds in his ears and that same wide, cheerful grin that Gwen has missed so, so much.
“’morning,” he says, dropping a handful of change into the tip jar. “Can I have a black coffee with two sugars and, hmm, a blueberry scone, please?”
“You most certainly can,” Gwen says, hoping her answering smile isn’t too ridiculous.
Merlin puts his earbuds back in and goes to stand by the cake counter to wait for his order, next to where Arthur’s waiting for his own. Arthur’s staring at Merlin, but Gwen’s pretty sure that’s not recognition in his eyes. Honestly, it looks more like... lust.
Gwen bites back a grin. Part of her wants to push them together, to yell look, right in front of you, how can you not see, but everyone remembers in their own time, in their own way. It wouldn’t be her place.