Morgana couldn’t seem to shake the feeling that this might be the last time she ever saw the night sky. She had never really thought about it before, how beautiful it was. She couldn’t honestly remember an occasion when she had just gazed out and took it all in. It came with being young, she supposed, being impatient and not appreciating the beauty of the world. Looking out at the stars would have seemed like such a waste of a night to her before, but now she might be about to die there was nothing she wanted to do more. Almost nothing. She would rather Gwen be at her side to gaze at them along with her, but those about to die could not afford to be picky. That would waste too much time. And time was far too precious to waste.
Gwen’s voice carried like a song over the wind. Up there on top of the barn, it sounded quite like the most beautiful thing Morgana had ever heard – and the most unexpected.
“I am over here, Guinevere,” Morgana murmured, quiet as the breeze. In the dark, she knew that Gwen could hardly see her, not below the bright sky.
She heard Gwen gasp over how close they were without her knowing and how impossible it was to see her. Now that she knew where she was, though, she could see a soft flash of moonlight outlining the curve of her lady’s proud jaw, the smooth sweep of her neck, the soft curve of her cheek.
“You need not tend me tonight. Spend the time doing whatever would make you happiest. For it might be running short for us all, the time,” Morgana murmured, still captivated by the summer stars.
“If it will not spoil your night, my lady, being up here with you would make me happiest,” Gwen said in an unapologetically simple tone.
Morgana laid back on the thin woollen blanket and gestured to the space beside her. “You could not spoil my anything, let alone my last night on this earth. Hoist up the ladder, if you will. I do not want to share this night with anyone else. It seems just right for two us and the stars.”
“Thank you, my lady.” Morgana could hear the smile in her voice. A gasp of exertion soon followed as she hauled up the wooden ladder and laid it behind Morgana’s head.
“Do not thank me, I could not bear the thought of spending my last hours of life alone,” Morgana breathed as she felt Gwen lay beside her on the blanket, her legs tucked gracefully beneath her.
“We will be alright, my lady,” Gwen whispered. “I have faith.”
“In you,” Gwen said plainly, as if Morgana should really know this by now. She looked over her shoulder at Morgana and smiled weakly. Her eyes were beginning to become accustomed to the low light and she could just about see Morgana smile back uncertainly.
After a long moment, Gwen broke their gaze and lay down beside her, their shoulders brushing with every breath. And why shouldn’t they lie so close? They had slept beside each other in bed for two nights and both mornings Gwen had woken to find Morgana curled close, her head cradled in the crook of Gwen’s neck. Sleep seemed to melt away the last of the class boundaries between them. Gwen did not begrudge it one bit.
“Aren’t they beautiful?” Morgana asked absently after a little while of silence, her eyes on the stars whilst Gwen watched her.
“Beautiful,” Gwen agreed, not seeing the stars at all. How could she when her lady looked so open and woeful, aroused by awe.
“If I die tomorrow, there will only be one thing I regret not doing, now that I have beheld the heavens from earth,” Morgana carried on, her voice even more distant then before. “I doubt there are many who could say that.”
Gwen could believe that. Her lady had never been one for not acting. Gwen knew that she had regrets. Morgana had even told her about a few of them. What did surprise her was that there was something Morgana had wanted to do and hadn’t. Or at least something she thought she ought to have done.
There was no way she could let it pass without asking. So she did.
Morgana just smiled and stared up at the stars. “Something I have no right to do. But it is alright. This way it is only me who gets hurt.”
Frowning, Gwen whispered, “Not to me, my lady. Nothing that hurts you is alright.”
Morgana looked at her then, her brow creased and her eyes afraid, a woman about to die. Very quietly she asked, “If you knew this was to be your last night on earth, what would you do? Would you damn the consequences and do what your heart yearns for? Or would you want to have one more normal night, safe if bittersweet?”
Gwen didn’t say a word.
“I thought so,” Morgana sighed, looking back to the sky and leaving Gwen feeling like she had just failed a very important test.
“I would damn the consequences,” Gwen said quickly, realising just as she said it that she would. If only because her lack of answer had seemed to give Morgana the impression that she should let go of her dream. “You should take the chance, my lady. If it is Arthur you want, then you should be with him. I promise that I will not tell a soul. No one will ever know. You should be with the one you love.”
Morgana closed her eyes and sighed, long and wistful. “I am, dear Guinevere. Right here, I am.”
It took Gwen half a thousand heartbeats to understand and another thousand to comprehend. She knew at once then why Morgana seemed so still. It wasn’t the calm before the storm as she had thought, but her conscience paralysing her, keeping her from doing something she shouldn’t.
“Oh, Morgana,” Gwen whispered, her heart aching in a way she hadn’t felt it ache for years. Ever since they had been girls with flowers in their hair and wooden swords in their hands had she loved Morgana. From the moment she turned sixteen she had reconciled that it could never be. How could Morgana ever feel the same? She didn’t think anyone had ever felt such love before, to think that someone could reflect it for her seemed almost impossible. For that person to be Morgana had appeared utterly hopeless. But perhaps...
“I never could damn the consequences when it came to you,” Morgana said quite plainly, eyes staring straight up. “And understand that I will not do it now. You are safe with me, Gwen, I have always vowed to keep it that way.”
Gwen’s eyes stung and silent tears overflowed. “I never wanted protecting from you, my lady. Never.” Shifting onto her side, she reached out a shaky hand to turn Morgana’s face towards her and looked deep into her eyes. “I have spent so long with my heart locked away in a cage like a mockingbird, desperate to prevent losing myself in a moment and doing something that you could never wish for me to do. For how could a lady like you ever stomach a kiss from me, a lover’s kiss at that?”
A tear ran down Morgana’s cheek and over Gwen’s fingers.
“I have never had a lover,” Morgana all but whimpered, her voice whisper soft and high. “No one has ever kissed me. Arthur tried once but I pushed him away. I would not kiss anyone until Uther ordered me to, if I could not kiss you. That way...” She smiled and another tear ran over Gwen’s hand. “That way I could be yours for a little while, even if you never knew it. I could be faithful to you, faithful to the heartbreaking love I could never utter aloud.”
“You must have known that I would never be unkind or tell anyone else, even if I did not feel the same,” Gwen said, desperate with the pain that Morgana might have thought otherwise.
“I know,” Morgana nodded, bringing her hand up to Gwen’s and turning to kiss her work-smooth palm. “It was that kindness I feared. With my station and your kindness, a little part of me was afraid that you would go along with it if I ever told you, just to make me happy or to be good or obedient. And I would never know the difference. To chance that would be hellish of me. I never could do it.”
Gwen shook her head. “But that could never have happened. And it seems that we have both been so very blind.” Her tears began to fall again as she her index finger brushed lightly over Morgana’s mouth. “To think, I could have kissed those lips.”
“There are some hours yet, before we must meet our fate. Precious few, I know, but enough, I think, for a kiss. If you...” She closed her eyes and swallowed, her tongue moistening her dry lips – afraid, still.
Closing her eyes, Gwen leant in and kissed her, innocent and overdue.
Morgana whimpered and cupped Gwen’s tear-dampened cheek, her lips parting clumsily to inhale Gwen’s surrendered breath.
It was then she knew that Gwen must have kissed someone before, for Gwen was less clumsy and knew it would make Morgana’s heart flutter to slip her tongue between Morgana’s lips. Instinct brought Morgana’s tongue forward to meet it, the two of them sliding wetly together, making Morgana’s head spin and her whole body thrum with what she imagined were the stars. She was kissing Gwen, tasting her love reflected, tasting her. She hadn’t known there would be tongues but feeling Gwen’s inside her was like nothing she could have imagined. Suddenly, the thought of damning the consequences was all she could think of.
“I want...” she panted when Gwen’s tongue for a moment withdrew and fresh air filled her lungs “... to be yours... to live this night as I should the wedding night that might never come. I want to have no regrets, to go to battle with a body and heart that belongs to you and so cannot fail.”
“And I the same,” Gwen promised, her eyes closed and Morgana’s breath on her lips. She heard Morgana draw in a deep breath as she shifted, cool air from her absence making her gasp. Before she could even open her eyes, Morgana was kissing her – still clumsy but unmistakably bolder, surer. “I mean it, my lady,” Gwen gasped between kisses, “I cannot remember wanting anything else.”
She opened her eyes to find Morgana gazing down at her, eyes bereft of fear, utterly alive.
“I do not know what to do,” Gwen admitted, terrified and simultaneously relived that Morgana seemed suddenly to have the upper hand.
“I think,” Morgana began unsurely, “that I do. At least, I know... Sometimes when I am alone at night and... When I think of you...” Her tongue darted out to moisten her lips and something flipped over inside of Gwen. “If you would let me try? Trust me?”
And when one of Morgana’s cool pale hands slipped under Gwen’s shirt, lifting the hem upwards, she vowed to never stop trusting her.