Title: Bound Together
Character/s: Morgana, Merlin
Summary: Morgana debates facing the past in order to have a future.
Word Count: 835
Prompt: #81, pride
Author's Notes: This takes place in my AU where Merlin and Morgana are professors and Mordred their student, and can be found at AO3. I've also come to the decision that this really is Merlin/Morgana.
Her fingers drummed against her desk, her gaze locked on the phone sitting in front of her. The call shouldn’t be so difficult. Merlin had taken the first steps, after all. He’d shocked her with the scarf on her birthday, a harkening to the handkerchief she’d given him a lifetime ago, and then more surprises with the coffee date after finals, a tenuous truce perhaps to believe in the best of their pasts and forget about the rest.
Morgana wanted that. She wanted him. It was safe to admit that now.
The problem was, the past was still there. It would always be there. It was the glue that bound them together and the wedge that drove them apart. Neither one of them had mentioned it during their so-called date, the attempts too delicate to burden with such a heavy load. But eventually, it would remind them of its presence, and if she had learned nothing else from their history, it was that they would rather destroy each other than face what they had lost.
What she had done.
Her silent phone mocked her for being afraid to pick it up. It was her turn to be the grown-up. If she called and asked him out for dinner, she was confident he would say yes. He’d laid his intentions out on the small cafe table, right next to the cappuccino she could barely drink because of nerves. But that did nothing to address what she knew was their biggest obstacle.
Seeing the larger picture had never been her strong suit. That was Merlin’s job. Understanding how it would all work out in the end instead of focusing on the details that wouldn’t matter at the end of the day.
To take this next step would mean swallowing her pride, owning her failures and facing Merlin’s reactions. Common sense told her he wouldn’t lash out, not after this last anniversary, not after everything from the past couple months. It was her fear that held her back, the remembrance of old fights and older hurts, where the only armor she had to bear it all came in the form of a self-confidence she didn’t always feel.
Pride was her strongest inheritance from Uther.
“And look where it got him,” she muttered.
Grabbing her phone, she rose from her chair and scooped her satchel from the hook by her office door. Summer beckoned beyond the walls, and she had no rational reason to remain on campus except to hide. She marched assuredly down the hall, chin high, daring anyone to stop her. It was a mask, but then what in her life wasn’t these days?
It didn’t falter until she was on the other side of town, knocking at his door.
Merlin’s brows lifted when he saw her on his step. “Morgana. This is unexpected.”
For both of them, but now that her mind was made up, she couldn’t wait. “I’m kidnapping you. Provided you don’t have somewhere you need to be tomorrow.”
Though he relaxed, curiosity burned bright in his eyes. “I didn’t realize we were already at the ropes and cuffs stage.”
Her breath caught at the image his teasing words elicited. Nobody had ever made her hunger as much as Merlin did. It was just too soon to unleash what could devour both of them if she wasn’t careful.
“I thought we could take a little road trip.” She steeled against the flutter of nerves that begged her to run. “To see Arthur.”
All amusement vanished. She was not the only one who was an expert with masks.
“Morgana, we don’t—”
“Yes, we do.” Her voice broke, and she clenched her jaw in frustration. “We’ve never been there together.”
“But why put yourself through that? I thought we were trying to move on.”
He looked so genuinely confused, she almost wavered. This trip could destroy what they were attempting to build. She knew that. But she also knew that not taking the trip would eventually wreck both of them, him because it would keep Arthur’s ghost between them, her because she couldn’t survive another round of recriminations.
“We are,” she said. “I just…I can’t bear losing you again.”
“You won’t. I told you. If there was ever anything that needed to be forgiven, it happened years ago.”
“I need you to say that to me there,” she admitted.
He fell silent, so long she wondered if she’d pushed too hard, looked too desperate. The thing about swallowing your pride? Sometimes you ended up choking on it.
When he finally moved, she stiffened, frozen in place as he reached out and skimmed the back of his knuckles along her cheek. The touch was devastatingly gentle, enough on any other occasion to send her shattering into a thousand pieces. “Whatever it takes,” he said.
Before he could pull away, Morgana turned her head and kissed his fingers. Today, the feel of him gave her strength.
She hoped it lasted. She would need it even more tomorrow.