It's the scarf that eventually tips Gwen off and makes her realise why the boy looks familiar. He managed to knock someone's drink over and is currently trying to mop up the mess with his scarf and mostly making it worse. Gwen recognises the scarf – she helped tie it around his bloodied hand once when he'd intervened in a fight and got knocked around for his trouble. She hasn't seen him since. He looks much better in the warm inside light than he did in the shadows at that railway station.
Gwen tells Morgana that she's going to get some more to drink, and to her surprise Morgana unfolds herself from her corner of the couch and follows her. They zigzag through the crowd, until Morgana turns a corner and into an empty corridor. When Gwen follows, wondering, Morgana grabs her by the upper arms and pushes her up against the wall.
The texture of the wallpaper is rough against her bare shoulders, but Morgana is warm where she wedges a thigh in between Gwen's and lets her hands slide along her arms.
"I saw you watching that boy. I know you want him," she says and Gwen's fingers twitch. She strives forward, aiming for Morgana's mouth. Morgana pulls back, withholding the kiss but pressing her hips flush to Gwen's and drawing her hands up above her head.
"Anyone could see us," Gwen breathes and tries not to squirm. All her limbs feel like hot, heavy iron, not knowing whether to pull away or push desperately for more contact.
Morgana makes the move and kisses her, deep and insistent, and they're lucky the wall is keeping them standing. "Yours," Gwen murmurs, before Morgana bites Gwen's lower lip sharply and grinds their hips together once more, then steps back completely.
"I don't believe in ownership. And I'm going home. Have fun now," she says and leaves Gwen hot and breathless, staring after her.
Merlin is not a very good kisser. His kisses are exercises in bumping noses and clacking teeth, fingers tangling ungracefully in hair. They laugh, and Merlin's smile might not be graceful either, but it's full of joy. Gwen smiles back and maps the contours of him with her eyes and fingers, tracing the long lines of his neck and the shapes of his shoulders, his delicate hands that he isn't afraid to hurt for a perfect stranger. His long fingers are nimble on her breasts.
Then Merlin tries to flip them over, unwittingly elbows Gwen in the stomach and makes them fall halfway off his narrow bed. Gwen giggles, rubs the spot he hit (it hurt) and decides that the room looks much more interesting upside down. Hopefully the floor isn't too dirty, since she's practically sweeping it with her hair.
Merlin looks embarrassed when he helps her back up, blush extending to his ears. She stifles another giggle and kisses him again, feeling quite proud when nothing bumps or clacks together.
The next time she meets him, she is not in the least tempted to stroke his long neck or let him tickle her naked on a narrow bed. She smiles at him, and he grins broadly back. They have coffee, and it's comfortable, utterly lacking any tension.
"Toothpaste," Morgana says and Gwen hands it over, absentmindedly biting at her toothbrush and admiring the curve of Morgana's breast where her nightie slips down.
"Your hair's getting so long. You look like a newly awoken little troll, all tousled," Morgana says, putting the toothpaste on a shelf and turning a considering eye on Gwen before she sets to brushing her teeth.
Gwen garbles an unintelligible reply and uses her free hand to comb through Morgana's hair, tugging a little at the endings to emphasise that how much longer it is than her own.
Morgana spits and rinses, says: "Arthur's been bothering me to come to this dinner party he's arranging for Uther. Would you come with me?"
Dinner party with Uther Pendragon. The idea is intimidating at best. "If you want me to," Gwen says, and Morgana smiles and kisses her, tasting almost numbingly strong of peppermint.
Arthur is finally almost over being awkward around Gwen, and she's thankful for it. He might be many good things, but observant is not one of them. The time he kissed her, he hadn't realised that she and Morgana were something more than uncomplicated friends. When she told him he'd been horrified (and probably imagined getting estranged/castrated/beaten up for trying to snog his step-sisters girlfriend).
Gwen would've liked to have another go or two, but Morgana had said please don't. That was that. Sometimes it scares her, how easily she bends to Morgana's every will and whim. Oh, Gwen knows that she's always fallen in love quick like a charm, tripping into infatuation instantly for a brilliant smile. It's never been like this with anyone but Morgana though, and she hopes it never will – not this iron cage of emotion closing around her chest, unpredictable, nonnegotiable. The reason, she thinks wryly, for that when Morgana says jump she will only ever ask how high.
The problem with Arthur is that Gwen never did satisfy her curiosity, and it niggles at her when she sees him, and old crush that won't ever quite let up. She knows how he kisses gently and carefully (lovely), how steady his broad shoulders felt under her hands. If she kissed him, maybe he would dip her down, maybe lift her up, maybe she'd hold his face in her hands and take what she wanted, forcefully. She wonders how heavy his body would feel over hers, and she's resigned herself to never finding out.
He's for all intents and purposes Morgana's brother, and he's hosting a dinner party. Gwen helps him make the drinks and doesn't let their hands brush together on the bottles.
Vivian is only in town visiting, and when Arthur asks Gwen to be her guide for a day because no one knows her way around like she does, Gwen feel a little flattered. Until Vivian takes one look at her and says to Arthur: "I said I was going shopping, Arthur. If she's you're best idea for a help, then I fear for your wardrobe."
Arthur looks flabbergasted.
"And your future social circle," Vivian adds as an afterthought.
Gwen decides that the perfect figure and cute as button face is wasted on such a horrid personality. And yet they do end up spending the day together. There's something delightfully childish in how Vivian's eyes widen with surprise over the smallest things. Her genuine smile contrasts her disdain, and her eyes keenly track Gwen's moments over the streets and among the aisles of small shops.
In the late afternoon, Vivian's eyes go wider than ever and she giggles when Gwen ties her wrists to the bedposts of her wide hotel room bed with Vivian's own new expensive silk scarf, bright red.
Gwen tightens the knot and the giggling stops abruptly. She musses Vivian's perfect blond locks into a wild mess, trailing her fingers over her head and down her throat, over her breast, making her squirm. Gwen pinches her nipples and sits back on her heels over Vivian's thighs.
"Now tell me I'm not the best."
Vivian blinks hard and manages to smile, nonchalantly silent, but she shivers in pleasure under Gwen's hands. She will agree out loud sooner or later, Gwen thinks. It isn't even evening yet.
"Indulge me, or tell me to shut up if you want, but I'm wondering. I can't help but notice you seem to have a relationship that's only open on one side. How come?" Morgause doesn't sound worried exactly, more faintly puzzled.
"Well, why should we be monogamous? Old norms, such a bother." Morgause is silent and Morgana takes a breath, ponders how to explain this, continues: "I love her when she's free, see? I don't want her pinioned or banded, I want her living wild."
"You know me. One focus at a time." She laughs a little, wondering why it sounds brittle around the edges. She isn't lying about what she wants, isn't jealous or pining for Gwen's attention. But putting it in words always tangle things up.
Morgause corners Gwen later, towers over her and tells that if she hurts Morgana she will make her regret it.
Gwen doesn't doubt it for a second.
Mid-make out session on Lancelot's couch, Gwen's phone goes off and she knows from the signal that it's Morgana.
"Sorry," she says, disentangles her hands from in under his shirt and tumbles down on the floor to grab the phone out of her open bag. He looks surprised when she answers.
"Morgana? Hey, oh you, I'm here, it's okay. Breathe." She starts buttoning her jumper single-handedly, fishing her shoes out from under the couch with one foot, still saying soothing nonsense into the phone, glances at the clock. "I'll be there in ten. Calm, just breathe. On my way. Love."
Lancelot gets to his feet and she kisses him on the cheek, saying: "I am sorry, you know, but she needs me," and then she's running out the door before he's managed a coherent thought.
Morgana swings between absolute focus and a fragile distant mood, seemingly encapsulated in a glass bubble. She's either unreachable or in need of constant reassurance. Gwen stays close, like she always does after one of Morgana's panic attacks, makes tea, waits. Like she always does, like she tells Morgana she always will once Morgana is back in control and trying to apologise for being a burden.
"You're not," Gwen says and makes a point of falling asleep with Morgana still cradled in her arms, head resting on her chest.
"What happened with Lancelot? You never did tell me," Morgana says a few days later, chopping tomatoes for a salad. She's standing by the sink, her back to Gwen who's setting the table.
"We had an awkward conversation the other day where he tried very hard not to say anything outright at all, but apparently he doesn't do casual sex. So that was the end of that."
"You could do non-casual with him." The nonchalance Morgana says it with makes something hitch painfully in Gwen's throat. The well-known iron grip closes around her chest and she has to force the words out, as she says: "That I could doesn't mean I'd want to."
The tension goes out of Morgana's shoulders. She turns, eyes riveted to Gwen and not noticing that she's dripping tomato juice on her white shirt.
"I want you. And I want you free," she says, voice warm. "That's really all there is to it."
The pressure around Gwen's chest lifts at once. She wants Morgana in so many ways, and none of them are casual. Her own desire binds her harder to Morgana than any demands could ever do, and still Morgana sets her free. Awaits her return. Knows she'll go and come back to her, a migrant bird, forever returning home.
Gwen takes Morgana's hand in hers and licks the tomato juice of her thumb. She laughs in surprise, the sound ebbing out in a soft sigh when Gwen sweeps her tongue over the pulse point on her wrist.