Summary:Gwen has trouble sharing her traditions with Morgana.
Author's Notes:Thank you to user saoci for being such a great beta!!
Disclaimer:Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.
Gwen smiles as she pulls her menorah out of a box in the bedroom’s closet. Taking in the slight signs of rust, she considers polishing it before the holiday. One of her favorite parts of Chanukah is watching the way the menorah reflects its own light. She holds it up to the light, spotting a few places that certainly could use some elbow grease. It was a university graduation gift from her parents; they’d have a kanipshin if they saw how she’d neglected it.
“Honey, I’m home!” Morgana calls out from the entryway of their flat.
Gwen shoves the menorah back in the box, replying, “Be right there!” She sticks the box back in the closet, closes the doors, and makes her way to the foyer. Morgana smiles at her, placing her faux-fur coat on a hanger.
“Thank goodness you’re home, darling,” Gwen says, walking over to her. “The pot roast was just about to go cold, and I’ve missed you so terribly.”
“Oh baby, not as much as I missed you,” Morgana replies, in the voice of a gruff man from the 1950s, hanging up her coat before sweeping Gwen into a passionate kiss, as if she’d been away for years. When they pull away, they’re both smiling. Softly, Morgana says, “Hi, love.”
“Hi,” Gwen replies, beaming. “Dinner really is ready, by the way. Though it’s not a pot roast.”
“Oh, you are a saint,” Morgana declares. She kisses Gwen again, briefer this time, then says, “I’m just going to change, then we can enjoy the delicious not-pot-roast dinner.”
“All right,” Gwen says, still smiling as she follows Morgana into the bedroom. She sits on the bed as Morgana takes off her suit jacket, followed by her white button-down. “How was work?” Gwen inquires.
“Oh, same as always,” Morgana replies with a wave of her hand. She turns her back to Gwen, who easily unzips her skirt for her. “Board meeting, turned in some reports, yada yada. Oh, there’s going to be a holiday party, and Father really wants me to be there. Do you want to come?”
“Sure,” Gwen says pleasantly. “When is it?”
“Saturday night,” Morgana answers, opening up the dresser drawers to pull out a T-shirt and sweatpants.
“Saturday?” Gwen repeats.
“Yes,” Morgana says, not without a bit of bitterness. “I know what you’re thinking, and believe me, I agree: It’s not the best way to spend a Saturday night. But we don’t have to stay that long; an hour, two, tops.”
“Right…” Gwen says, biting her lower lip.
“Something wrong?” Morgana questions, brow furrowed as she clocks Gwen’s discomfort. She pulls on a T-shirt, watching Gwen carefully.
“No, not at all!” Gwen rushes to say, ignoring the sinking feeling in her stomach as she plasters on a smile. “Nothing’s wrong, I’m just nervous, you know?”
“Oh, there’s nothing to be nervous about,” Morgana says, yanking on her sweatpants before kneeling down in front of Gwen. “They’re all a bunch of stuffy rich fools; they mean nothing.”
“All right then,” Gwen replies. “Whatever you say.”
Morgana peers at Gwen, placing a hand on her knee. “Are you sure everything’s okay?”
Gwen hesitates, her heart skipping a beat, before she nods a few times. “Yes, completely absolutely.”
“Okay.” Morgana smiles at Gwen and lays a quick kiss on her lips. “Good. Now, let’s go have that pot roast, honey.”
Gwen knows she should say something. But it’s just easier not to, sometimes. Most times. So, she says nothing.
She really should start expecting it at this point, all the assumptions. But for some stupid reason, she keeps believing they will stop. That people will change.
“It’s the Jews, you know,” the old man says it so casually, Gwen almost thinks she’s misheard him. But no, she knows that look in his eyes; it’s the expectant look of someone who’s just shared a delicious secret and is waiting to be asked to go on.
Ever-obliging, Gwen asks, “What is?”
The man holds up his red and green Starbucks coffee cup. “They’re responsible for this war on Christmas.”
“Mm, right,” Gwen says and takes a sip of her own caramel macchiato. She should have known better than to agree to meet Morgana here.
The man snorts, apparently catching on to the fact that he does not have a very receptive audience. “What, you don’t agree?”
“I don’t care to discuss this with a stranger,” Gwen replies shortly, praying that will be the end of it.
Of course, it’s not. “The man snorts again. “’Should have figured you were with them.”
Gwen feels herself tense up. She tries to tell herself not to take the bait, the way her mother always said. But it’s no use; the words tumble out of her mouth, “How do you mean?”
The man shrugs. “Well,” he says, waving a hand up and down Gwen, as if to encompass all of her. “You know.”
And that fucking tears it.
Gwen plasters a smile on her face and says in her most sickeningly-sweet voice, “Oh, you mean, because I’m black?” The man suddenly looks down and shuffles his feet. Gwen laughs. “No need for embarrassment; I’m very used to people like you.” The man looks up sharply, jaw clenched. “Oh, did you think you were the first racist I’ve ever met?” Gwen laughs again, throwing her head back with it this time. “Oh no, you are not special. It’s a shame this is what you depend on to make you feel special, when you are so completely ordinary. I really encourage you to broaden your horizons. You know, beyond your red-and-green not-Christmas coffee cup.” Then, still smiling, she goes in for the kill, “And by the way? I’m Jewish. Cheers!”
With that, she walks away from the man, not looking back to see his reaction. Sure, there’s a chance he may shout after her, may even try to catch up to her. May even get violent. But it’s a risk she’s willing to take, especially since he is an old man.
She whips her mobile out of her pocket and texts Morgana, “Let’s meet at the cinema.” She continues marching forward.
“How’d the writing go today?” Morgana asks over the dinner she made for them the next night.
“Eh—well enough,” Gwen hedges. Truthfully, writing had gone terribly that day. She hasn’t been able to get the encounter with the old man out of her head. And she doesn’t feel like she can talk to Morgana about it, given the party Saturday.
“Hit a block?” Morgana asks with a knowing look in her eye before taking another bite of chicken.
“Er—yeah,” Gwen answers, focusing on her plate. “Let’s call it that.”
Morgana sighs heavily. “Love, what’s wrong?” she asks, dropping her fork on her plate. “You’ve been off all week.”
“It’s nothing, I just—”
“It’s not nothing,” Morgana cuts Gwen off. “Please, just tell me.”
Gwen looks at Morgana. Beautiful, intelligent, funny, witty, sexy, kind, perfect Morgana. The woman who has always been there for Gwen through everything for the past five years now. Who would never turn her back on Gwen.
Gwen takes a deep breath. “Yesterday, in front of Starbucks, a man told me Jews were responsible for the war on Christmas.”
Morgana’s eyes widen as she starts to reach across the table to take Gwen’s hand. “Oh, baby, I’m so sorry—”
“Let me finish,” Gwen insists, pulling her hand away from Morgana’s. Morgana looks like she’s about to say something, then apparently thinks better of it; she merely nods and lets her hand rest on the small round table. Gwen continues, “He assumed I was Christian, naturally. When I didn’t agree with him, he said that of course I agree with ‘them’, because I’m black. I never felt so alone.”
“Except,” Gwen barrels forward, “when you told me Monday that you’re going to a Christmas party on Saturday.”
“It’s a holiday party, not—”
“It’s a Christmas party, Morgana,” Gwen says firmly. “Because it if was a holiday party, it wouldn’t be scheduled on the first bloody night of Chanukah!”
Morgana stares at Gwen dumbly, opening and closing her mouth a few times before speaking. It would be comedic, if Gwen wasn’t so filled with dread. Finally, Morgana says feebly, “I—It is?”
“Yes,” Gwen bites out, “it is.”
“I’m—I’m so sorry,” Morgana apologizes. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
“You didn’t ask,” Gwen replies. “You didn’t even check a calendar. And I was so—excited about really sharing Chanukah with you for the first time. It’s always a big night for my family; we light the menorah, we make latkes, we play dreidel. But now, I feel like you don’t care at all.”
“I do,” Morgana says earnestly. “I really, really do.”
Shaking her head, Gwen responds, “Actions speak louder than words.”
“Gwen, I’m sorry,” Morgana repeats. “You’re right, I—I didn’t take your needs into account. I was inconsiderate. And I am going to try to do better. All right?”
“All right,” Gwen says, not fully believing it.
“I’ll call your dad and Elyan now.”
She looks up sharply. “What, why?”
Picking her mobile up, Morgana says, “To invite them over to celebrate Saturday night. Or maybe we can go over to your father's. We’ll work something out.”
“Screw the party,” she says. “They can do without me for one night.”
“Won’t your father be upset?”
“My father’s always upset. He’s just going to have to get used to me caring more about my girlfriend’s needs than I care about his.”
Gwen just stares at Morgana, not knowing what to say. Morgana gives a small smile in return. Gwen finds herself swallowing past a lump in her throat and wiping tears away. Seeing this, Morgana rushes to kneel by Gwen’s chair, cooing and asking, “What’s wrong, love?”
“Nothing!” Gwen answers quickly. “Nothing, nothing’s wrong. I just—Thank you, that’s all.”
“Of course, darling,” Morgana replies, brushing Gwen’s tears away.
Gwen laughs at herself a bit. “I feel like such a baby.”
Morgana puts a hand on the back of Gwen’s neck and gently brings Gwen’s forehead down to kiss it. Resolutely, she says, “You’re my baby.”
“Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech ha'olam, asher kid'shanu b'mitzvotav v'tsivanu l'hadlik ner shel Chanukah,” Gwen recites as she lights the menorah. “Blessed art though, oh Lord our God, Ruler of the Universe, who has sanctified us by thy commandments and has commanded us to kindle the lights of Chanukah. Amen.”
“Amen,” Gwen’s family repeats.
Morgana catches on a little late, adding a quiet, “Amen.”
She steps back from the menorah to gaze at it with her dad, Elyan and Morgana around her. Gwen’s father kisses her on the top of her head and Elyan punches her affectionately on the shoulder. Gwen laughs lightly at him, then looks over at Morgana, who is staring at the lights in avid appreciation. Gwen takes Morgana’s hand; Morgana rests her head on Gwen’s shoulder.
“’S beautiful,” Morgana whispers.
Gwen takes it all in, her dad and brother and girlfriend all there, the warmth enveloping them all, the way the lights reflect in Morgana’s eyes. “Yeah,” she whispers back, squeezing Morgana’s hand. “It’s—miraculous.”