Merlin Games Team: Canon Category: long fic Your user name: tetsubinatu Title: in my arms you sleep Pairing(s): Gwen/Merlin, Arthur/Morgana, Arthur/Gwen, Merlin/Morgana, Arthur/Merlin, Gwen/Morgana Rating: R Warnings: het sex, slash sex Word Count: ~2,300 Summary: Time moves them in an intricate dance of love and loss Notes: Many thanks to my beta, the Furry Godmother, for her generous help at the last moment. Enjoy! Prompt and Prompt ID: #188 Spoons Position
in my arms you sleep
the beginning: friendship
"Give me that blanket," Gwen threatens, her brown eyes glinting with laughter. Her curls bob as she makes an ineffective lunge at it.
"My need is greater than yours," Merlin retorts, using his height to his advantage. They both know that he is going to give the blanket to Gwen in the end, but it's been a long day of mirth and celebration and they have both dipped into the mead that Gaius loves so much.
Her lips twist in determination and she stomps - not too hard - on his foot so that he lets out an exaggerated shout of protest and allows her to seize the blanket from him.
"I'll be cold," he pouts until she relents and lets out a sigh of defeat.
"All right. We can share," she concedes and he grins at his victory. They pull the blanket around them as the visiting players and tumblers spin and dance and sing far into the night. The fires die down, one by one, and people slip away to their homes or tumble into sleep where they are, families and friends clustered in groups around each merry bonfire under the cloudless summer skies.
Gwen makes little grunting noises in her sleep and Merlin stifles a snort of laughter as he rearranges the blankets a little in the night. He won't tease her about it. Well, probably not. Unless she really deserves it.
Gwen's curls are tickling his face as the slight breeze catches them. A wave of affection for her swamps Merlin as he pulls his scarf up to shield his nose, wrapping an arm around the soft warmth of his dear friend and pulling her close against the chill of the coming dawn.
Morgana's eyes are wild as Arthur plunges into her chambers, sword at the ready, but they are unfocussed. She is still dreaming, Arthur thinks, although she shivers and stares about wildly.
"Wake up, Morgana," he says tersely. Her scream has pulled him from a deep sleep, and now that he knows that she is safe he would like to be annoyed about that, but he can't quite seem to manage it.
She starts as she comes fully awake and reaches out a trembling hand to him. "Don't go!" she whispers frantically. "There's dark... and teeth..."
"It's just a dream," Arthur says with strained patience, and then more gently, "It's not real, Morgana. Just a dream."
"Stay with me," she begs, pulling at him with slender, strong fingers. "Stay here! I don't want to be alone."
He looks around but there is no-one to condemn or approve, no-one to advise him.
"Please," she says, tugging at him, insistent in the way that makes him sometimes wonder if there is madness in her family.
"All right," he says. Gwen has gone for the night and he has no desire to hunt down one of the chambermaids to attend her in this state. He twists his wrists free from her grip so that he can secure the door - why can she never remember to lock her door - before returning to the bed.
"I'll just sit here," he soothes as she reaches for him again, pulling him to where she can hold his hand. He settles uncomfortably against the headboard, his sword on a nearby table. At some point sleep must have overcome him because, when the bustle of the guards unlocking the gate for the first deliveries of the morning wakes him, he is curled around her, his face pressed into her hair and his left hand resting comfortably around her waist.
Her breathing is slow and even. For a few sleepy breaths he is lulled into comfort by the trusting weight of her in his arms before the realisation that Gwen will be arriving at any moment shocks him into action.
He takes just one more guilty second to breathe in the fragrance of her hair before slithering uncomfortably off the bed. It only takes a moment to recover his sword.
He pauses at the door of her chambers. She still sleeps - peacefully for once - and tenderness wells up in him as he watches her; for that brief moment he loves her as a friend and sister.
"Come here," Arthur says, wearing the smuggest of his vast array of smug expressions. Gwen knows that expression well and experience suggests that any clothing she is wearing is about to become redundant. Eagerly, she comes to his arms and assists him in uncovering her nakedness.
The first time is all fire and passion. They have been apart for weeks and they crave the touch of each other, the scent and taste and feel of each other. They sleep briefly before they come together again.
This time is slow and languid. They know each other now, they are sure of each other. He presses to her arse, rubbing himself in the cleft of it and she sighs low and deep as she shifts her leg and reaches behind to guide him inside her. She is still wet and open, the embers of pleasure re-igniting with only the slow slide of him inside her, the feel of his lips at her neck. She lets out little murmuring sounds of pleasure and takes a moment to savour the feel of his callused hands as they flow over her skin, uncertain of where they wish to rest. They skim her hips appreciatively, rest tenderly on her belly and then quest up her body to play with her nipples and enjoy the sheer silky roundness of each breast. One thumb presses to her lips in a kiss and she licks at it, sucks it into her mouth to taste and tease. The other hand dips between her legs, playing with her curls and pressing sweetly into the folds they conceal.
Her husband nips sharp teeth gently into the curve where her neck and shoulder meet. His hands find a more secure resting place, one on her hip and one curving around her neck to brace against the bed as he begins to thrust in earnest. She clenches around him, pushes herself back to meet his thrusts and lets the feeling flow through her, fire and honey and always the beloved scent of him as he grunts and spends himself inside her one more time.
They lie together as their breathing slows and his spent cock slips from the clutch of her body.
"Love you," she whispers and his hand responds with the same sort of slow, rhythmic patting that she has seen him give his old hounds when they drool beside him at the fire. "I love you, too," he says. "I missed you." They fall asleep like that, and she sleeps well for the first time in weeks.
Morgana is still beautiful. It's something witches do, Merlin has noticed: they hoard their youth and beauty with jealous zeal. It's easier for women than for men, to be fair - their access to the goddesses and their own fecundity makes that sort of magic flow naturally through them in a way that it does not for a man.
Although ... Mordred looks a stripling still, despite the fact that he cannot possibly be more than a decade younger than Merlin. Perhaps Morgana helps him to stay that way. He seems to be the only person she still cares for.
Merlin himself has not tampered with his body. He remains naturally thin but there are lines graven into his face by time and he has a few gray hairs. He wouldn't like to be left outside time's flow, an island apart from those he loves - which is unfortunately exactly where he is now, trapped by the confluence of spells that he and Morgana threw at each other in the heat of a battle that probably still rages outside their pocket of null magic.
"Mordred will come for me," Morgana hisses at him. It might be true. Mordred stands at her side in most battles these days.
Merlin stands alone. The druids assist with the healing and protective spells but they do not fight. It is not their way.
If Arthur can come, he will, but he has no magic - and Merlin has no way of knowing how the tide of battle flowed after he and Morgana were cut off. Perhaps even now the forces of Camelot are retreating across the causeway to safety.
Unexpectedly, Morgana pulls a knife from somewhere in her robes and lunges at him. It is only the work of a moment to wrest it from her and hurl it into the darkness beyond.
There is a painful wrench, as if the world were turned inside out and reconfigured in a moment, and what bounces back looks rather like an exploded frog.
Merlin decides not to try running out of the circle of light and he can see that Morgana has come to the same decision. Under their feet the rock is split and crazed in intricate patterns and the wind blows cold and sharp around them. Without their magic they are defenseless against any threat, including each other.
"Truce," Merlin offers. He is still taller and stronger than she is but he does not think that he can bring himself to leap at her and break her neck. He should. Any other man of their army bar Arthur would do it without hesitation, but ... Merlin cannot.
"Fine," she agrees with a snap of disgust. Carefully they seat themselves in the small, bright haven that remains to them. When Morgana's shivering becomes too obtrusive, Merlin shifts a little to cradle her close. She shrugs a disdainful shoulder but doesn't move away, so that when the bubble finally pops harmlessly they are lying together in a parody of caring which Merlin finds disturbing, although the warmth they generate is too precious to abandon for such scruples.
They leap apart instantly. Morgana's mouth is open to incant when Merlin hurls a fireball at her. It misses - but in a flash of light she is gone.
His tunic still smells faintly of her. It makes Merlin feel a little queasy until he can find the time to wash it.
After Gwen ... left ... they fell into this pattern. Arthur's wounded shoulder has never healed properly and Merlin rubs it every evening with a salve that the Druids provide. It is greasy under his hands but it smells pleasantly of peppermint, with only the faintest unpleasant top note, easily ignored.
After the salve, Arthur goes to bed and Merlin puts out the lights before joining him.
It started on the first campaign after... afterwards. Arthur didn't want to be alone and Merlin was there. Merlin thinks that it was as simple as that. They had been young together and now it was only the two of them remaining.
Merlin has always loved Arthur. And after all these years Arthur has finally stopped caring what anyone else thinks. He wields his power as king with instinctive grace now, and with Gwen gone he has simply stopped caring if others understand or not.
His court gathers close to him, his knights like sons and brothers, but it is Merlin who shares his bed, first on campaign and then at Camelot as well.
Many nights - perhaps most of them - they simply fall into bed and sleep, but there are nights when Arthur is restless and needy and it is Merlin's pleasure to serve him with lips and tongue, hands and any other part of him which is acceptable.
Gods, the hours that he has spent lying in his narrow bed as he ached for this over the years!
And when at last they lie sweaty and sated together, Arthur will place one possessive hand around Merlin's neck, dip his face into Merlin's shoulder and fall asleep.
He snores. Like a pig. Merlin doesn't care. He could live like this for the rest of his life. Please all the gods that he may do so.
the end: ash
The nunnery is never completely still, but it is peaceful in a way that Camelot never was. At night the sound of the river running over its stony bed lulls Sister Penitence to sleep. She has long since become accustomed to the sounds it makes, the swift tumble of rainwater after the Spring Thaw, the slow glide of summer, and winter's sluggish slide to the sea. She likes the autumn most of all, when the falling gold adds weight to the slap and slosh of the river's flow.
It is in the autumn that Morgana comes.
Morgana, too, always loved this season best, Sister Penitence thinks: the drama of it, the richness of texture and colour before the stark winter bones of the landscape were unveiled. She would ride out into the woods with whichever lovesick swain she had in tow at the time and come back with her escort's saddlebags bulging with the harvest fruits given to her by the awed peasants she encountered.
All since then has burned away, gone to dust and memory.
When, in the dark of an autumn night, Sister Penitence - who was once called Gwen by her friends and Queen Guinevere by her subjects - feels the bed dip behind her and a slim, myrrh-scented arm slip over her waist, she does not scream, or wonder if she dreams. She leans back into the fragile warmth of the woman who was once her best friend, her mistress, her conqueror, her enemy, her bane - and takes refuge in kind slumber.
When the bell rings for Lauds, she knows that she will be alone again, the last, stranded survivor of a golden age fast slipping into fable.