The first time is midwinter. Uther may have forbidden the practice of magic, but he cannot ban the calendar. And even within his castle, the servants dance and drink. Gwen laughs as she is spun around the floor by a man whose face is smeared with coal in honor of this longest night. Upstairs, perhaps, some of the nobles are doing the same thing.
She dances, and she drinks, and she dances, until her feet are unsteady and her head is dizzy. A glance around the spinning room reveals that most of her companions are in the same state, and she politely excuses herself. It is time to go home.
As Gwen steps into the hallway, passing by a window, she feels the flaw in her plan: the wind, ice-cold, comes at her through the cracks and edges. She hears the heaviness of icy rain, each droplet breaking against the glass. She cannot very well walk out of the castle in this weather, even if her lonely home is not far.
Well, she has a pallet in Morgana's room, and her mistress is kind -- odd that she should show kindness to her, the blacksmith's daughter, when her voice raises even against Uther, Gwen thinks -- and as fast as it came, the thought flitters off again in the haze of drink and is gone. No matter. She can sleep in the castle tonight.
It is a long journey up the stairs, though not quite as cold as it would be outside, but by the time she reaches Morgana's chambers she is shivering as she knocks.
"Who is it?" comes Morgana's voice, sounding sleepy, through the door.
Gwen coughs and fidgets. "Gwen, my lady. I was hoping I could sleep--"
"Gwen!" She can almost hear a smile in the voice. "I'll let you in."
There is a rattling, and the door swings open. Morgana is there, face flushed with drink -- clearly the night has been merry for her as well -- smiling at her, entirely relaxed in a way Gwen almost never sees her. Morgana reaches out, grabs her hand, and pulls her inside, closing the door behind her. She does not let her hand go.
"Thank you, my lady," Gwen mumbles.
Morgana squeezes her hand, pulls her a little closer. "It is midwinter," Morgana says, smiling, and Gwen can feel the warmth of her breath against her face. "A time of kindness."
Gwen is abruptly conscious of Morgana, so close to her, in only a thin shift to sleep in. She does not know what to make of this feeling; it is akin to the awkwardness she feels around Merlin, whom she knows she likes. But this is strange, different somehow, and inexplicable -- she's seen her mistress at night before, of course. This is not a feeling that should exist; it's not even something she can name. She feels her face burn with an odd sort of shame, pulling her hand away.
Her bed is there in the corner, next to the draftiest window, with a thin blanket. But it is better than nothing, and she heads toward it. A touch against her shoulder, half on the neckline of her dress, half on bare skin, stops her.
"You cannot sleep there," Morgana says, with a laugh. "Gwen, you'll freeze. Come to my bed."
It is a thing one does with servants, of course; perfectly proper. She shared a bed with Morgana in Ealdor, even. And Morgana's bed, draped in furs for the cold, with hanging curtains to keep the wind out, is certainly warmer than this pallet. Something within her hums in anticipation.
She turns and follows Morgana, clambering into the much-warmer bed. The curtain falls behind her, and as she slides into bed everything goes dark, darker than shadows. She cannot even see Morgana. Gwen rolls, on her side inches closer the center of the bed, brushes up against something warm--
A gasp in the dark. "You're already freezing. Here--"
Morgana moves, and Gwen feels warmth settle all about her as Morgana pulls her into an embrace. She shivers, but not with cold, not exactly -- the touch against her is warm, thrilling. Her head is tucked against Morgana's neck, she thinks, and Morgana's chin is against her hair. The touch of a hand, perhaps, brushes against her back, stroking lightly.
Lower, she thinks, a strange thought, and swings her hips back, then forward, not knowing why. With her movement, Morgana's hand slides a little lower, down her back, and something within her sparks and burns. Yes.
"Better?" Morgana asks, laughing, and Gwen is confused for an instant until she realizes she must have spoken aloud. "I think it's better," Morgana adds, and there is a low throaty note in her voice Gwen has never heard before.
We could be closer, she thinks and hopefully does not say, an even stranger thought, for they are already so close--
Morgana's hand on her back pushes, drawing her somehow more near. Through the tangle of skirts, her leg slides against Morgana's, between them, and as she leans Morgana's leg slips up, pressing there, between her thighs, and she gasps. Yes, there. What is she doing?
Morgana laughs again. "The merriment isn't over." She sounds -- drunk, certainly, but somehow open, in a way she almost never is. She is so arch, so guarded all the time. Not now. Not here.
Impulsively, Gwen kisses her, the soft skin of Morgana's throat warm under her lips. Morgana lets out the smallest of whimpers. Gwen pulls her head back, kisses her way up Morgana's neck to her chin, her mouth, divining it all in the dark by the feel of it. Their lips meet, clumsily. Morgana tastes of spiced wine. Gwen isn't certain whether she hopes Morgana has drunk too much to remember this tomorrow.
The pressure on Gwen's back increases briefly, pulling her closer, rubbing harder against Morgana's cleverly-placed leg, exactly where she wants it, and she moans. A laugh then, and Morgana's hand lifts, pushing her back, trailing to the front of her to work eagerly at the laces of her bodice. She feels a rush of heat, stunning in its intensity, as Morgana's fingers brush across her breasts. Gwen doesn't know what this is, here in the darkness, but she wants it.
"Please, my lady," she says. Her voice is more breath than sound, barely louder than the rustling of the blankets and furs above them. She hardly knows what she's asking for.
Morgana chuckles, and Gwen thinks she's probably smiling. "You can call me by my name." It's a gesture of intimacy, but the way she says it is still almost like a command, lazy, but with power behind it.
"Morgana," Gwen breathes out, daring to say it. "Please."
Her bodice is undone, and Morgana's hands at her shoulders push the useless fabric back and down. Morgana kisses her once more, then slides lower. Gwen feels her mistress's hands slide across her breasts, trailing fire as she touches her, curious, questing.
She can't help but gasp, and it is then that Morgana kisses her breasts, gently. There is a warmth, a wetness against her skin; Morgana licks her. She wishes that it were light, that she could see this -- for it would be a sight, Morgana's head against her cleavage, between her breasts, and the way Morgana would look at her as she did this -- but she supposes some things can only be done in darkness.
Morgana's hand slides from her breast down to her stomach, down further between her legs, and Gwen groans, pushing into it, impatient. This is what she wanted. She's wanted it for years. She is wet already, and Morgana's slick fingers slide, teasing, around and around, but never quite touching. She knows that Morgana knows exactly what she's doing.
"You like that," Morgana whispers, against her skin. "You want me to touch you. Like you touch yourself."
So this is what they are doing, after all. It's not a question, but Gwen answers. "Yes, Morgana." It is like when she touches herself, only better, because instead of thinking of Morgana, Morgana is here with her, and she whispers that to Morgana.
"Do you?" Her voice is low, and Gwen finally recognizes the tone of it. Lust. "How gratifying." Gwen's leg is still trapped between hers, and Morgana rocks against it. Through the dampened fabric of the shift, Morgana is warm against her.
Morgana gives a small laugh, and her fingers finally slide forward, touch exactly where they should. Gwen moans and rocks into it, which shifts her leg against Morgana, who moans back and bows her head again to Gwen's breasts. Morgana's mouth on her is knowing, as she licks and sucks and bites, in rhythm with her fingers.
Gwen tangles her hands in Morgana's hair, helplessly, as Morgana's fingers make clever little circles, in exactly the right spot, faster and faster. She is dimly aware that her hips are thrusting wildly, and against her thigh, the gown that separates Morgana's body from her is increasingly wetter as she moves. Morgana's hand moves faster, just there, and her mouth fastens on Gwen's breast, biting, doubling the sensation. The rising tide of pleasure, half-pain, peaks, and Gwen comes, seeing colors in the darkness. But Morgana's hand on her does not slacken, and as she takes her mouth off and kisses where she has bitten, it feels almost better than the biting, and Gwen is at the mercy of all these sensations as she comes again.
When she can no longer hear her heartbeat pounding in her ears, Gwen shifts, pulling Morgana up to her, finding her mouth in the dark, kissing her, pushing her leg harder, more roughly between Morgana's.
"Oh," Morgana says, sounding surprised. "Gwen." So she does know who she's with.
"Yes?" Gwen asks, slipping a hand between them, sliding it across the slippery fabric over Morgana's stomach to bring it to her breasts. With how close they are pressed, she is touching both of them. It's an interesting sensation, she thinks. She imagines how it would look -- Morgana's skin, pale against her hands, her breasts perfectly shaped. She has spent years dressing her, trying not to stare. She knows how it would look. Her nipples would be pink, but darker with arousal. It would be beautiful. The thought sends a spark of heat down her spine. Perhaps she could come again.
Morgana gasps in her ear and does not reply, rocking harder against Gwen's leg. The fabric bunches between them, and Gwen keeps moving, pushing, leaning in to kiss her. Morgana's lips are parted and her breath is faster now, panting; the kiss is messy and distracted and beautiful all at once.
Gwen pushes, sliding her hand back and down to Morgana's hip, pushing even harder, and Morgana grinds against her, gasping. Once, twice. Gwen kisses her again, just to have done it, and can feel the trembling in her body. She is close, and in this she is entirely uninhibited, wild and entirely herself. Gwen loves her for it, just as she knows few see this side of her. Not cool, not collected. Wanton. Morgana rocks against her one more time and comes, shaking in her arms, shoving herself up against her again and again, groaning out things that aren't words. Gwen has to imagine what it looks like, and in her mind's eye Morgana's face is glorious.
They fall asleep like this.
In the morning they wake at opposite sides of the bed. Gwen's head hurts as if it is being split in two, and one look at Morgana is enough to know she feels the same.
Morgana rolls over her and looks at her. For all that they are in disarray, her glance is perfectly composed, and Gwen knows two things. One, Morgana remembers. Two, she will act as if she does not. There are hardly even words for this; how can it exist in the daylight?
Very well. It didn't happen.
The second time is -- well, it is not midsummer, for that perfect symmetry would only happen in tales. But it is almost a reversal. It is summer. It is daytime. And it is hot.
The windows are all open, and Gwen, having collapsed in a chair after carrying Morgana's laundry upstairs, is fanning herself listlessly. Morgana, for her part is asleep, on top of the covers, a quick nap. As close to the bed as she is, Gwen can see Morgana's eyelids twitch and flutter as she dreams.
Suddenly, Morgana gasps and wakes, flinging herself upright, chest heaving. Gwen has seen this often enough that she knows what to do quite well.
"Shh," she says, rising, coming to Morgana's side. "It was only a dream, my lady."
Gwen reaches out a hand to settle her, comfort her, and she is surprised when Morgana's fingers lock around her wrist. The look in Morgana's eyes is hardly the terrified look she often gets after her dreams. She looks... reverent.
Morgana's other hand reaches up, higher, to Gwen's face, to her forehead, tracing the top of her head. A circlet. "You will be queen," she murmurs.
Gwen would have laughed at the sheer ridiculousness of it if not for the set line of Morgana's face, the calm certainty there. Morgana is not jesting. And what does she say to that? What could she say?
Gwen swallows. "Dreams are strange things."
Morgana's hand slides to her cheek. "They are indeed." She half-smiles and seems to come back to herself, to regain that measure of control. But perhaps it is not too late.
"I recall," Gwen dares to say, "a dream I had this past midwinter." Something about the touch of Morgana's hand spurs her to say these things, this thing they have never spoken of.
Morgana pales, and then her cheeks flush red. She knows exactly what Gwen means. But how will Morgana take it? Gwen's heart pounds, and the room is silent as she waits for an answer.
"Was it a pleasant dream?" Morgana asks, carefully, her calmness now betrayed by her fingers tightening on Gwen's wrist.
Gwen tries a smile, and is shocked at how tentative it feels. This was much easier with the drink. "I wish I could dream it again."
Morgana's eyes widen, and then she smiles back, broadly, pulling lightly on Gwen's arm, pulling her down to the bed.
"Perhaps you can," Morgana replies, and kisses her.
And unlike the first time, shortly after the second comes the third, and the morning after the third, the fourth, and after that Gwen is entirely too pleased to keep counting.