Gwen meets Morgana at one of Gwaine and Merlin’s infamous parties. Which means that she’s drunk, because Gwaine is some kind of alcohol dispensing fiend, and Gwen has really, really bad luck when it comes to drinking games.
It also means Merlin pushes her towards the kitchen when she starts swaying, tells her to, “Get a glass of water and a sit-down, Gwen,” with the frowniest face on that makes Gwen giggle, tweak one of his ears, but also go without protest.
She gets her glass of water, but before she can find herself somewhere to sit, she’s distracted by a woman on the other side of the room. She’s leaning against the wall, effortlessly cool in a leather jacket and blood red lipstick, and of course, of course, she’s beautiful, like some kind of fae princess in the stories Gwen used to love, soft and ethereal and very, very dangerous.
Gwen blinks, dazed, and that’s why it takes her a little longer to notice the guy talking to her. He’s one of Merlin’s friends, Will, Gwen thinks, and he’s very clearly flirting and the woman is very clearly not interested, Gwen is three sheets to the wind and she can see that. Maybe-Will doesn’t seem to have noticed yet, and Gwen wonders, absently, why the woman’s still bothering to put up with him, but she doesn’t think about it too hard before swaying over to them.
(Gwen will remember this years later and she will sit bolt upright in bed and say, in great distress, “Oh my god, oh my god, were you going to eat Will?” and Morgana will burst out laughing and not be able to stop.)
“Hi,” she says, loud and bright, “I haven’t seen you in years, I can’t believe you’re here, how are you?”
As rescue attempts go, it could use some improvement. Gwen leans forward to hug the woman and ends up just sort of stumbling into her, and the woman has to steady her with both arms on either side of her waist. Not that Gwen is complaining. Gwen is the opposite of complaining. Gwen would kind of like to stay in this position for the rest of time, honestly.
“I can’t believe you’re here either,” the woman says and, god, she sounds just as magical as she looks. “We really need to catch up. It was nice meeting you,” she adds to Maybe-Will, who wilts a little as she steers Gwen out of the room, but Gwen’s capacity for sympathy is very limited with the woman still holding her in her arms as she is.
Unfortunately, all good things must end, and when they get out to the hallway, the woman lets go of her and props her up against the wall, looking concerned when Gwen starts to slide down it. Gwen’s pretty sure that is not how this whole thing is supposed to go. It’s definitely nothing like the vague fantasies she’s entertained in the past of rescuing pretty girls from terminally boring boys, usually while considerably more sober. She never claimed to be good at this rescuing business, okay.
She must say that last bit out loud, because the woman laughs softly. “I’d say you’re not half bad,” she says. “May I know the name of my brave heroine?”
“Uh,” Gwen says, “Gwen. Hi.”
“Gwen,” the woman says, and when she smiles, it’s not like the sun, but like the moon, silvery and shadowed and surrounded by glittering stars. “I’m Morgana.”
“Morgana,” Gwen says, just to feel it around her tongue, and smiles. “Nice to meet you.”
She wakes, early, to her phone vibrating on her belly, and finds herself on one of Gwaine’s comfier sofas, a blanket tucked around her, with a splitting headache and hazy memories of talking until dawn.
Drink the water, it says, and then, a few seconds later, This is Morgana, by the way, you put your number in my phone.
Gwen bites her lip, tucks her chin into her chest, feels ridiculously glad that no one else is awake to see the look on her face. She drinks the water in the cup next to her head, takes far too long to thumb out a ty xx in response, and lies down to go back to sleep.
Gwen’s waiting at the bus stop after work the next time she sees Morgana. The sun’s just dipped below the horizon, and Gwen leans back against the post as she watches the brilliant colours of the sky turn ashy and dark. Above her, the lampposts are flickering on, which means that her bus is well and truly late. She tries not to sigh too heavily. At least it’s not raining.
Almost immediately, she regrets that thought, regrets even being a being capable of thought, because the clouds that have gathered suddenly open above her head. Gwen swears viciously, flips up her hood, but she’s still drenched to the bone within minutes.
She’s just thinking about walking to the next bus stop along the route – it has a shelter, and the bus is already late enough that she’s pretty sure she won’t risk missing it – when a sleek black car slows to a stop in front of her. When the tinted window rolls down, Morgana’s leaning across to smile out at her. It’s just as disarming now that Gwen’s stone-cold sober, which she supposes is nice to know. She tries to smile back, tries not to feel like a mess next to Morgana’s effortless sophistication.
“Hi,” she says, ducking down to be level with the window. “Fancy seeing you here.”
“Fancy,” Morgana agrees, giving her a once-over. God, Gwen must look terrible. She can feel her hoodie sticking to her skin, her feet squelching in her shoes.
“I’m waiting for a bus,” she says, probably unnecessarily, since she is standing in the middle of the pouring rain next to a bus stop. She pulls her lower lip in her mouth in an attempt to stop herself embarrassing herself any further.
Morgana’s eyebrows go up. “Well, I can’t in good conscience let you do that when I could just give you a lift.”
“Oh, I don’t want to put you out-”
“You wouldn’t be,” Morgana says. “You live down by the hospital, don’t you? I was going that way anyway.”
Gwen smiles, can’t help herself, because for Morgana to know that she must have been asking around, asking about her, and that’s. Yeah. Yeah.
“Well, in that case,” she says, and tries not to break something in her haste to open the car door and get inside. “I’m sorry in advance for how wet I am, your seat’s going to get ruined.”
“I think I’ll live, somehow,” Morgana says dryly, and Gwen smiles, pleased.
They lapse into silence after that, and it’s not awkward, exactly, but Gwen realises how little she actually knows about Morgana. They’ve been texting a bit, and Gwen did her own asking around, but it wasn’t very fruitful. Morgana seems to be one of those people that people just know, who glides in and out of your life at will, always welcome, always missed. Morgana’s a mystery, is what Gwen’s trying to say, and Gwen has always been curious.
“So, you’re going to the hospital?” Gwen asks, and Morgana nods. “Is that where you work?”
“Oh, no,” Morgana says, “I’m… visiting a friend. My sister, actually.”
“Oh, I hope she’s okay,” Gwen says, and Morgana laughs softly.
“She’ll be fine,” she says. “But I’ll pass on your concern.”
Gwen nods. “It’s a left here,” she says, “which’ll take you out of your way a bit, but-”
“It’s no trouble,” Morgana insists. “Really, it’s selfish of me, because if I let you walk I don’t get to spend as much time with you.”
Gwen flushes hot, and then cold, her heart pounding, but that- that doesn’t mean anything, does it? Gwen’s reading into things, seeing what she wants to see, letting herself hope. She doesn’t know if Morgana even likes girls, if Morgana even likes her.
(“I am deeply offended,” Morgana will say, later, “that there was ever a time you thought I was straight, or anything other than utterly besotted with you,” and Gwen will blush and grin and press sloppy kisses to Morgana’s mouth, her cheek.)
“I'm just there,” she says, gesturing to the block of flats on the corner, and Morgana parks up on the kerb. “Thanks a lot, you're a lifesaver.”
Morgana smiles, and Gwen wants to ask what's so funny, but Morgana's parking up on the kerb, and Gwen should really just be getting home.
“I'll see you,” Morgana says, like a promise, and Gwen grins.
They bump into each other a few times after that; it’s a product of having similar circles of friends, living in the same fairly small town, that sort of thing. It’s good, every time, however short their interactions, but part of Gwen wishes it were more, well, intentional.
(The thing is, Morgana doesn’t feel like the kind of person you make plans with. Gwen’s thought about texting her a few times, asking if she wants to come over and go through her Netflix queue together, or go out and get coffee somewhere, but every time, her finger’s hovered over the send button for only a few seconds before swinging right back to delete.)
The next time Gwen sees her properly, it’s at another party, this one at Mithian’s and therefore a much, much calmer affair. Gwen’s only had a glass of wine when she sees Morgana, this time lounging on one of Mithian's sofas, talking to a woman. She’s just as ethereally beautiful as Morgana, with light hair instead of dark, and Morgana’s leaning into her, laughing softly like there’s nowhere in the world she’d rather be.
Oh, Gwen thinks, and doesn’t droop, because that would be ridiculous. She’s maybe staring a little bit too hard, though, because a few seconds later, the woman with Morgana looks over, too quickly for Gwen to look away without it being obvious. The woman smirks when she meets Gwen’s gaze, says something to Morgana without looking away. Morgana looks over, too, and a smile spreads slowly over her face. Gwen smiles back, helpless, and she can’t not go over and say hello now, can she? That would just be rude.
“Fancy seeing you here,” she says, because sober or not, words feel a little difficult right now. Gwen can’t remember being this into a person, doesn’t think she’s ever felt like this before, and she knows that’s a thing people say all the time, every time, but that doesn’t make it any less real.
“Fancy,” Morgana repeats, eyes sparkling. “This is my sister, Morgause. Morgause, this is Gwen.”
“Ah, Gwen,” Morgause says, “I’ve heard so much about you. It’s lovely to meet you.”
Gwen perks up, can’t help it. Morgana might never look at her like she’s the centre of her universe, but if she was talking about her, thinking about her when she wasn’t around, she might have a chance of being somewhere close.
“It’s lovely to meet you too,” Gwen says. “I hope you’re feeling better.”
Morgause looks confused, but then Morgana coughs, and her face clears up. “Oh, yes, much. Thank you.”
“Weren’t you just going to get a drink?” Morgana says, and Morgause turns to look at her, eyebrows raised.
“I was,” she says, after a moment. “Do either of you want anything?”
Morgana shakes her head, and Gwen says, “I'm all right, thanks,” and Morgause nods at them both before getting up to leave.
Gwen hovers for a second, but Morgana looks expectant, so Gwen takes the space Morgause has just vacated. It's not a very big sofa; their thighs are touching, and their faces are very close.
“So,” Morgana says, “I hear you've been asking about me.”
She sounds more amused than anything else, eyebrows raised as if in challenge, so Gwen just shrugs like her heart isn't pounding.
“We keep meeting like this. It's not exactly the best way to get to know someone.”
“What more do you want to know?”
Everything, Gwen thinks, but says, “I’ve never seen you during the day.”
“Oh, I’m allergic to the sun, I’m afraid,” Morgana says, and Gwen isn’t sure if she’s serious, but she laughs anyway, more at the apologetic tone of Morgana’s voice than anything else. “Can I ask you a question, Gwen?”
“I suppose it's only fair,” Gwen says, her breath going shallow, and when Morgana asks, “Can I kiss you?” she can only nod, and meet Morgana halfway.
(“God, I love you,” Gwen will say, in a bed in a hotel in St Ives, her confession paling next to Morgana’s, but Morgana will still smile like Gwen’s entrusted her with a secret, and pull her in for a deep, bloody kiss.)