Character/s: Morgana, Mordred
Summary: Morgana struggles with the aftermath of a night she never expected.
Warnings: Major character death
Word Count: 808
Prompt: #71, Despair
Author's Notes: God, I'm so sorry this is so depressing. I blame the prompt and the history of the 'verse I'm choosing to play in, lol. Fingers crossed the next one isn't quite so angsty.
This takes place after my ficlet for prompt 70. The entire AU, where Merlin and Morgana are professors and Mordred their student, can be found at AO3.
The snow was finally melting, allowing shoots of green to peek out through the bald patches in the campus landscape in desperate search for what little watery sunshine an early spring allowed. It was a time for re-energizing, sloughing off the dead skin of winter to embrace the new life the season brought. Students were cheerier. Grades often slipped as they shirked duty for fun. Even the staff's moods improved, ready to see the end of term regardless of all the work finals and papers would bring.
Morgana should've been happy. She wanted to be.
But as each day passed and Merlin maintained his distance, her spirits plummeted to depths she hadn't seen in years.
It didn't help that she happened to catch a pap pic of Uther buried in the middle of the Daily Mail, showing him coming out of the cemetery the morning after she'd slept with Merlin. His head had been bowed, his features masked by his sunglasses so witnesses couldn't truly attest to his lingering grief, but they put the words in the captions anyway, eager for their story. With it was the question, "And where is Morgana?" Like they didn't know exactly where she was.
At least this year, none of the reporters had come around in hopes for a pic of her to accompany Uther's. They'd learned that lesson the hard way.
Uther hadn't called, either. She hadn't really expected him. She'd learned lessons, too.
She just hadn't expected Merlin to fall into the same camp as Uther. After all, he'd been the one to claim he didn't hate her. He'd been the one to come to her in the first place. Merlin had always been the one who was above all the rest, a trait she'd recognized long before anyone else, long before her jealousy had rooted itself so thick and deep she couldn't even see past it. His abandonment now, when she'd finally allowed herself a tiny measure of hope that they honestly could put it all behind them, stabbed deeper than any betrayal Uther might have made.
She went through the motions with her classes, riding her students harder than ever as her emotions became increasingly brittle. More than one showed up at her door during office hours to complain about added work or attempt to argue against a grade, but she turned them all away, uncaring if they weren't capable of rising to the challenge.
Only one remained unflappable, the same boy who'd surprised her at the start of the term with his work ethic and insight. Mordred watched her from his seat without fail, never asking questions, always answering when his calm piqued her into trying to provoke him.
He had eyes like Merlin, old beyond his years, seeing more than made her comfortable.
He lingered after class one day, taking his time to gather his belongings while his peers hastened to freedom as quickly as they could. Morgana tried to ignore him as long as possible, but when she'd finished packing her satchel and he was still hovering at the periphery of the room, she snapped.
"Did you need something, Mordred, or are you looking for more work? Because I'm more than happy to provide it if you're not suitably challenged enough to go running off to research the moment you're dismissed."
If her tone bothered him, he didn't show it. "I just...I wondered..."
His hesitation grated. "Spit it out, or get out. Your choice."
His lips pressed together, and his nostrils flared as he took a deep breath. Good. He was human after all. "You've not been yourself lately. I was worried something was wrong, and I...hoped I could help."
A flash of surprise that he would express concern burned away beneath the flame of her irritation. "That's none of your business."
Except he didn't move. He simply stood there and waited for her to speak again, like he fully expected her to give him the answer he sought.
"We have boundaries here," she bit out. Slinging her satchel over her shoulder, she grabbed her coat and turned for the door. "If you won't respect them, then I will."
She had almost escaped when he called out, "I'm genuinely sorry for your loss, Dr. Pendragon. But from what I've read about your brother, I don't think he would've liked to see you like this. It's been over fifteen years."
Her chest clenched. Nobody ever talked to her about Arthur except for Merlin, and even then, only on rare occasions. She shouldn't have been surprised that Mordred had done his homework. He was the most promising student she'd had in years.
That didn't mean she would acknowledge the truth behind his words by stopping.
She held the tears at bay until she reached her office. Alone.
Without family. Without Merlin. As it seemed she was forever doomed to be.