Title: Love Me Blind [Part 4]
Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur, Morgana/Arthur
Character/s: Morgana, Arthur, mentions of Merlin
Summary: Morgana goes to see Arthur to discuss a delicate matter
Warnings: blind!Merlin, decision-making, Victorian era, way over the word limit (sorry)
Word Count: 1800 (again, sorry)
Prompt: 332: Contest
Author's Notes: So I'm sorry this story is all over the place as far as which part goes where for timeline and order. I can't seem to write in order. This one sits somewhere between Part 1 and Part 2, and all come after Part 3. So far the order is like Part 3, Part 1, Part 4, and then Part 2. What a mess. Yeah, again, sorry. And one last time, sorry for going way over the word limit. I just couldn't bring myself to cut any out...
Part 1 & 2
The inn was nothing to gawk at, just a simple bed and breakfast run out of Mrs. Berwick’s two story house nestled between two small groves just off the town’s beaten path. Certainly not one fitting for a man of Arthur’s status. Pendragon senior clearly had no hand in setting up his son’s lodgings, Morgana was sure of it. From what Arthur had told her about him, he would have scoffed at a place such as this. But it seemed to fit Arthur quite well.
No matter, she was not here to discuss Arthur’s lodgings nor his father’s tastes.
“Oh my, Miss Emrys.” Mrs. Berwick stood in the parlor, her hand over her heart as Morgana strode through the front door with no more than a brief polite knock. “What are you doing out here at this time of night? And without a chaperone! It is quite unbecoming for a lady such as yourself.”
Morgana stopped at the foot of the stairs. “Is Mr. Pendragon in his room?”
Mrs. Berwick nearly choked on her next breath. “Miss Emrys this is most improper. I cannot allow—”
“I assume that means yes,” Morgana said ignoring what was sure to be Mrs. Berwick’s most rehearsed lecture. The woman had had it out for Morgana ever since she had stormed in six summers ago and dragged Mr. Evert’s son out by his ear. It was less than he deserved after what he said about Merlin. “Which room is his?”
Mrs. Berwick moved forward to block Morgana’s path to the stairs but Morgana was too quick. She darted up the first few steps before turning to face the keeper, her eyes set.
Mrs. Berwick glared at her. “Miss Emrys—”
“Mrs. Berwick, I am going up there whether or not I have your blessing so you might as well tell me the room.” She placed her boot up onto the next step to prove her point before flashing Mrs. Berwick her most award winning smile, promising good behavior and only a few knocked heads. “It’ll save you from an awful lot of complaints when I start pounding down every door in order to find the correct one.”
There was a few moments of silence in which the two women stared each other down, Morgana more so. She could see the fight bleeding out of Mrs. Berwick in the face of upholding her reputation and nearly crowed when the woman huffed. “Second door on the left.”
“Thank you,” Morgana said with a tilt of her head and flick of her skirts as she gathered them up and continued up the stairs.
“Don’t think I won’t come up there and drag you out if it’s too quiet,” Mrs. Berwick called after her, her voice low as to not disturb her tenants. Morgana rolled her eyes as she reached the landing and turned down the hallway. “Or too loud!”
Candles burned low in the sconces, their light dancing cherrily across the sparse walls. Morgana didn’t even bother to hide the clomp of her boots on the wooden floorboards as she approached.
She knocked lightly, the sound echoing down the hall.
Barely a few seconds passed before soft footsteps approached from the other side and the door opened to reveal a dressed down Arthur in just a loose shirt, trousers and socked feet. It was the least put together she had ever seen him. She felt like this was the first time she had ever truly seen Arthur, the real Arthur, not the costumed version he displayed the rest of the world. And she knew she had made the right decision, coming to him tonight.
“Miss Emrys?” Arthur seemed shocked, but he quickly threw a mask of gentlemanly courtesy up to cover it. “To what do I owe the pleasure?” His eyes flit beyond her, darting left and right before finally landing back on her, disappointed by her lack of shadow. Yes, she had definitely made the right decision. “Where is your chaperone?”
“Merlin is—” she paused, unsure if she should tell him much about her brother’s condition. She didn’t want him to feel pressured into anything, to feel guilt or shame for anything. Not when all their fate’s hung on his choice. But she also didn’t want to lie to him and she still held out hope Merlin, given time, would make a full recovery no matter which way tonight went. “—unwell. I came here alone.”
Arthur’s brow furrowed, worry washing over his features in a heartbeat. Morgana wondered if he would so quickly jump to concern if it had been her that had taken ill instead of Merlin. She thought not but pushed the thought from her mind nonetheless. It was of little importance.
“Is he alright?” Arthur asked taking a tiny step forward before catching himself. “If there is anything I can do to help, name it and it shall be done.”
“May I come in?” Morgana asked with a tilt of her chin.
Arthur hesitated, ever the gentleman. “Miss Emrys, I am not sure this is a good idea. It is quite improper—”
“Do hush, Arthur.” Morgana said, her tone sharp but not unfriendly. “Neither of us cares much for propriety. Besides I’m not here for anything untoward. There is a delicate matter in which I must discuss with you.” She glanced back toward the landing, toward where she had left Mrs. Berwick and where the keeper was no doubt dawdling in order to eavesdrop on their conversation.
Arthur seemed to pick up on this and nodded in understanding. “Alright then. Please come in.” He stepped aside and gestured for her to enter.
“Thank you,” she said before stepping passed him and into the room.
It was larger than she had anticipated, nearly the size of the drawing room back at the Emrys estate. The sparse decor followed in from the hallways, leaving the walls bare and the furniture delicately carved but hardy if not limited. Just a simple bed and side table filled the side of the room, with a dresser on the other. Not much else in way of making one feel at home.
And yet in the week Arthur had been staying there, he had filled it with his presence, his character spilling out of open drawers and disposition laid out within the haphazardly made bed. This was Arthur as few had ever seen him. As Morgana had barely glimpsed and Merlin had soaked up and bled out.
The creak of the closing door had Morgana turning toward her task and Arthur as he said, “What is it you wish to discuss—”
“I know you love my brother.”
A brief silence fell over the room at her words and Morgana watched as Arthur’s face flitted through shock, alarm before he could compose himself. “Miss Emrys—”
“For Christ’s sake Arthur, call me Morgana.” She didn’t bother feeling any sort of guilt at cursing in his presence. If anything, this conversation would hopefully instill in him that her true character was anything but a proper lady. But she hoped to instill more than that in him. “We are well past the notion.”
“Right.” Arthur nodded. He looked away, took a few steps into the room before facing her again. “Morgana, while it may be true that I am,” he paused, and she could see he was struggling for words, “fond of your brother, that is all—”
Morgana sighed, having had enough of this fancy footwork of his. “Don’t take me for a fool, Arthur, please. You are more than fond of him.” She watched his face, the blush that was creeping up his cheeks and the way he couldn’t meet her gaze. “And he of you.”
Arthur’s head shot up, eyes searching her face for any hint of deception. Morgana remained stoic, standing tall as he studied her before he seemed to find something and his face softened. “That doesn’t diminish what I feel for you.”
He hadn’t denied her words.
Morgana nodded. “I understand,” she said, feeling some of the weight on her shoulders lessen with her assumptions confirmed. “I know we could be happy together, comfortable as husband and wife. But I also know that if it was solely up to you, barring society and your father’s expectations, I would not win this contest.”
“There is no contest, Morgana.” Arthur said with a shake of his head. He stepped forward as if to comfort her and she held out her hand.
“Oh but there is,” she said, taking his hand when he mirrored her gesture. They stepped closer and she lowered her voice as she held his gaze. “I see the way you look at him. The desire and war in your eyes. The choice between what your heart wants and what duty requires.” She paused, letting her words sink in. “No matter the outcome, I will not protest, I want you to know that. He deserves the happiness you could provide him.”
“I could make you happy as well.” His words were almost pleading, as if her confirmation was all he needed to come to a decision. “Could I not?”
Morgana shook her head, earnest, as she placed her other hand over his. “You would, just as you already have, I am sure. But would you be happy in return?”
Arthur winced, the expression so small and fleeting that had she not known better, she would have thought it nothing but her own imagination. He looked away from her. “It is unbecoming. Society would never allow it.” His voice lowered then, soft and nearly pained when he next spoke. “My feelings and desires in this matter are of no importance.”
Morgana squeezed his hand, pulling his gaze back to her. “You follow the rules and do what is expected of you with little thought for your own happiness.” She leveled him with a sharp look, hardening her tone. “But I know you Arthur, I have seen the fire that takes root when you really care about something. About someone. You will find a way, if it is truly what you want.”
She smiled and squeezed his hand again, raising it up to place a simple kiss on the back before releasing him altogether. He stared after her as she strode to the door, drawing it open with a creak of hinges and dipped her head in farewell.
She turned her head in the doorway as Arthur spoke up behind her. “Thank you, Morgana, for your kind words.” The resignation was back in his eyes and the low tone of his voice even as he offered her a smile that hardly scratched the surface. “But this not up to me.”
“It is if you allow it to be,” Morgana said, stepping out into the hallway toward the landing and leaving Arthur to make his own decision for the first time in his life.