PART ONE: In which Morgana's super power of avoidance lets her down, there's some cute Gwen and annoying-as-all-hell Gwaine, and the black knight of Misunderstanding finally rears his awful, giant ugly head.
Morgana happens to be glancing below, looking for the familiar brown curls of lovely Gwen, and - and does not see what she just saw.
Oh no. Oh no oh no oh no no no. This is a dream. A nightmare. A really really horrible, wonderfully terrible nightmare.
And its impossible because she would know. Well, Arthur would know, and then he would tell her and she'd request the day off and successfully avoid her problems for the umpteenth time this summer. And then this wouldn't be happening.
Its been their agreement since that fateful night, almost three months ago now, and though Arthur is a complete imbecile when it comes to practically anything, on this one thing she's always been able to count on him -
Until now, it seems.
"Morgana, are you . . . sweating?"
Gwaine is squinting at her, and she really does not need this in her life right now.
"Yes, Gwaine, I'm sweating. It's hot."
"Well, yeah, but you never sweat. Ever."
She gathers every shard of negative energy littering inside her right now, and throws it directly at him. With her eyes.
It doesn't work properly on Gwaine, of course. Morgana will begrudgingly admit - though never out loud - that it never really has.
"Obviously, I do," she retorts, before telling the next bikini-clad teenager, "You can go now." And she can feel the evidence: creeping down her neck, sticking at her hairline, moistening her upper lip.
She watches the girl shoot down the tube, then looks up to find Gwaine's eyes still on her. "What?"
"You're also shaking a little," he explains, and when she shoots him a disbelieving look he steps into the water to grab one of her hands and pull it up. And upon inspection, yes, perhaps her fingers might be a little unsteady -
"Dude, can I go or what?"
The kid is glaring at Gwaine over his bleached fringe, sitting so far from the edge of the slide its a wonder the current hasn't flushed him down. Gwaine turns to him, unleashes his most dashing smile, releases Morgana's hand and gives the kid two thumbs up - and the second after the kid goes, flashes two other fingers after him.
They don't talk for some blissful seconds, and Morgana successfully stops her stomach from turning or her eyes from wandering to the line of people visible below them, waiting for a turn. All in all, an encouraging change of fortune. Now if only Gwen would show up already for the new shift, then perhaps this day won't turn out so horrific.
"Merlin, could you be more pathetic-"
The familiar voice travels up from the line below, followed by a very distinct laugh that does not make Morgana's knees go wobbly. Gwaine's eyebrows shoot up beneath his sun visor.
And this has just about signed her brother's death warrant.
"Arthur and Merlin are here?" Gwaine says, leaning over the wooden railing to look down, where the aforementioned are standing. Actually, Merlin is leaning over, clutching a foot, which could presumably have something to do with Arthur's "pathetic" jibe, but both are getting dangerously and dangerously closer. Soon there won't be any possible way to slip past for her next shift unnoticed, since the line narrows on the stairs they're moving towards. Perhaps - the slide. Break the rules and make her escape the fun way!
. . . Except no. Gwen's disapproving face really is quite scary. "It appears so," Morgana says through gritted teeth, envisioning how exactly she will inflict Arthur's end.
Stick his head on a spike. Oh yes. Not the most aesthetically pleasing way to go about things, but definitely the most satisfactory.
"Ohhhh! Okay. This makes a lot more sense now," Gwaine says like he's reached enlightenment, gesturing at Morgana ambiguously.
"Everything. You sweating for one, which I am positive has never happened before and I would know, and for two - "
"Gwaine, would you kindly muzzle that incessant mouth of yours? Just for another two minutes, tops?" Gwen has got to be here, any second now. Morgana would watch for her, if that didn't mean looking down where Mer - Arthur and his friend are waiting still.
"How would you even manage it this whole summer? Its not like he hasn't come here before." Gwaine waves on the next person, but his eyes are curious on her.
Morgana would really love to face palm. Because really this whole situation.
"You don't say - I honestly hadn't noticed."
"Seriously? Not even that one time - wait, you weren't there. What about . . . oh no. Morgana." A smile splits Gwaine's face so wide his name might as well be Cheshire. Not that she's paying him any attention - she quite pointedly has her eyes trained where they're supposed to be, on the next person waiting. "I can't believe this. All those random days you requested off! Like you - you knew he would be here!"
Jogging up the stairs into the scene like a intervening guardian angel, enters Gwen. "Hey! Sorry I'm a bit late!"
"Its fine bye!" Morgana manages, booking it past Gwen with her brightest smile and trying not to inwardly die from relief. One battle altogether avoided, no thanks to life and luck. Except the big boy is still up ahead - or rather down ahead.
"Say hi to Merlin for me!" Gwaine calls after her. He'll regret it during their break - no spinach rolls to be shared today. That'll teach him.
She's running off "Excuse me" the whole way down the stairs, head down, silently imploring her sun visor to please save her from potentially the most humiliating, embarrassing, awkward situation possibly since Uther took her shopping for her first bra. Which has never yet been topped, no pun intended.
Oh please no.
She keeps going, keeps her head down - its loud, the water rides aren't silent, nor are the people waiting for them, so its quite conceivable that she simply didn't hear - and then a hand grabs her elbow, spins her to a stop in front of . . . that face. Oh please no. What has she done to deserve this?
"Oh! Merlin, hey. I'm just changing shifts," Morgana says directly to those really blue eyes that she never thinks about, because the beauty of them admittedly does strange things to her psyche.
Arthur is watching them with a grin on the first step of the stairs, all smug and arms crossed. And that spiked head plan is looking pretty viable. "Oh, okay. Good to see you," Merlin smiles, smiles, all flushed from the sun and shirtless - and she hopes belatedly she smiled back when he releases her arm and she's turning to go. Because her tongue doesn't really feel capable of speech, presently.
Then he calls, "Wait! When's your next break?"
"2:00!" Morgana manages over her shoulder. And hightails it out of there.
Cursing silently - maybe just because of her foolishness, believing she could avoid him the entire summer. Maybe because it wasn't awkward like she'd thought, and that somehow makes it worse.
Maybe because her break is at 1:30, not 2:00.
"Awww come on, Morgana, I'm sorry. And I won't tell anyone, I swear on my life."
"Hmmm, when have I heard that before?"
Gwaine opens his mouth; wisely shuts it. For once.
Her break has begun and his has ended, and he really shouldn't be standing here still. "Move it, Poncho. Its fine, just get out of here." She rolls her eyes at his pleading ones, all big and puppyish. He still isn't getting her extra spinach wrap.
Gwaine sighs, grins and heads dejectedly away toward the lazy river, high-fiving Patty the Penguin as he passes.
Morgana can't help but snort at that.
This break isn't technically a real one. She's still sitting here, not on alert for the people swimming in the wave pool, just on alert to be alert the second her walkie talkie beeps at her. But she's off her feet and off duty for the moment, and that's something at least. The smell of sunscreen and chlorine wafts through the park more than usual, like waves of heat - or perhaps in the waves of heat. Today is probably their most busy day so far, and there's only three weeks left of the season.
Which means if Morgana can stick it out here until then, then hide in her room at home and blast her indie rock just loud enough, she might survive till her first day of college this fall. Merlin, more than God, willing.
But the problem being he is everywhere. Even before Morgana started avoiding Arthur's best friend like the plague, his big, goofy, in-no-way-whatsoever-endearing grin has always been there behind every corner, ever since her brother adopted him as his . . . Friend? Victim? Brother? Punching bag? Maybe for guys all those things run into the same river, but Morgana has very little inkling on how that relationship works - only that, somehow, it does. And it means when Morgana goes downstairs nine times out of ten she sees the back of a very dark head of hair, sitting on the couch next to Arthur playing video games or watching strange, 80s action flicks, 'Don't ask why,' . . . and now she ends up retreating back to her room.
Of course, the past year or so his whole 'constant presence' thing definitely changed. The merry pair ended up going to different universities, Arthur's allowing him to still live at home and Merlin's requiring him to move out during the school year, about two and a half hours away. So instead of Merlin's face being part of an everyday occurrence for Morgana, its been a rare thing. Christmas, a few random weekends, Arthur's birthday, Spring Break . . .
But Spring Break is not a subject allowed in this private musing. Hell no. Morgana subsequently crumples the whole event into a wad of jumbled memory and mentally wedges it into the cracks of flab that guy walking past is displaying, the one that really should invest in a water shirt for the sake of this whole water park. Never to be retrieved again.
"You look like you're planning out someone's murder," Gwen says, appearing out of nowhere. Or, more likely, from the Employee - Only Door behind them.
"I'm just thinking," Morgana defends, crossing her arms. "Why does everyone say that?"
"Maybe you just actually have that 'fierce resting face' everyone's joking about," Gwen grins, and Morgana grins back.
"You know that's not actually the phrase they use," she says, and laughs when Gwen - sweet, pure, innocent Gwen - raises her hands in mock surrender.
"Fine, maybe not exactly. Regardless, I was almost as afraid as I used to be approaching you, just now. Bad day?"
"Funny you should ask."
"You'll have to tell me about it once you clock out," Gwen says, re-hoisting her purse over her shoulder. The thing is huge, as in suspiciously so. You totally think anyone with that kind of monster-mother-load-carrier must be an administrator of drugs or stolen babies or something. Until, of course, you meet Gwen for five seconds.
Morgana knows its true purpose in size, a wonderful source of endless teasing: the girl has a library in there.
"Wait a sec," Morgana realizes, connecting the dots, "you have your bag. You're leaving. I thought we had the same schedule today? I thought you were giving me a ride home?"
"I switched schedules last minute with that idiot Cedric, remember? That's why I was here earlier than you," Gwen says, again attempting to reposition that purse on her shoulder. It probably weighs as much as she does.
"But I didn't realize that meant you were leeeaaving me," Morgana moans. "Now I'll have to hitch a ride with Gwaine." That boy does not know when to shut up - one car ride with him and Morgana has often wished for a needle of the sharp variety, to puncture her ear drums with and enjoy the blissful silence that would finally follow.
"Well, yes and no," Gwen shifts hips, worrying at her lip slightly, "I'm still giving you a ride. And Gwaine. We can drown him out with some Paper Route?"
"I vote hardcore Muse," Morgana says flatly. "But that's like, five hours from now. What are you going to do with all that time in between?" Gwen shrugs, but her eyes betray her, flicking to the purse at her waist. "Ahhhhh," Morgana deducts gleefully, "Of course one must not forget the preparedness of Guinevere Leodegrance, Queen of YA Romance."
"Its not just romance!" Gwen defends, clutching the bag protectively now. "Be glad I have it, or I would be leaving you all alone with Gwaine!" Morgana is the one raising her hands in surrender now, though she's grinning ear from ear. "And I should go. I'm not technically supposed to be talking to you now, anyway," she trots off, in a very Gwen-like manner of trying to be upset but not quite getting it down. And Morgana feels infinitely better.
The next two hours go like this: Morgana gets off break, alternates through the different rides and swimming areas, and generally keeps her head about things. No mental breakdowns and counting. Of course every now and then she'll spot a signature blond and not-so-blonde pair of young men leisure-ing through the park and its attractions, but thankfully never quite so near as the first time.
Morgana is up at the Double-Dare Drop, generally enjoying the breeze and cover of the canopy over her head with fellow employee Lancelot, when the peace ends.
"You're coming this weekend, right?" he's asking, all smile and Spanish charm.
Morgana grimaces in play. "Is it required?"
"Yes," he replies easily, "even the managers are coming - except Aggravaine."
"How rude of you," Morgana shakes her head, and his eyes narrow.
"You mean how rude of you and Gwen," Lancelot argues, "considering you deleted him off my party list. Don't think I didn't notice."
She's caught. Two weeks ago, when Lancelot's Magic Geysers Park Employee End-of-the-Season Celebration party was still in the works, she and Gwen had stolen Lancelot's phone from the break room - Gwen happened to know his locker combo, perks of being his girlfriend once upon a time - looked through the list and deleted Aggravaine De Creeps from it. A not so subtle hint for Lancelot to spare everyone else from the man's presence.
"I suggested you didn't invite him, and just like I thought, you were going to anyway."
"It is my party. And I thought you two were chums most of this summer?"
Yeah. Until Aggravaine's intense friendliness turned into intense creepiness. Morgana never had the greatest vibes from the man, but once he started putting his hand around his waist, placing his hand on top of hers, not so discreetly staring at her boobs - which aren't that distracting, REALLY - and overall oozing nasty affection every time she is ever downwind of him, Morgana has employed her amazingly effective super power of avoidance.
Maybe that's why she couldn't keep it up with Merlin. She's stretched too thin, trying to hide from two very-everywhere individuals. Except Merlin probably isn't trying, and Aggravaine couldn't try more if he tried, so to speak.
"Not anymore. If he's coming, I'm not," she threatens. "You can go now." Well, that last part was actually to the kid waiting to jump down the slide of death.
Then, just like the kid screaming his brains out down the slide, Morgana's level-head takes the same 85 degree drop.
"Hey! Fancy seeing you again."
Arthur and Merlin are both smiling in line, just outside the canopy, though Arthur's looks murderous and Merlin's looks a lot more tentative.
"Went to meet up with you during your break, but according to Gwaine it'd actually just ended," Arthur continues, arms folded across his big, annoyingly-golden chest.
Morgana, in any kind of situation besides this one, would quite quickly smile and lie through her teeth. Turn it around and make Arthur look like a complete idiot - which isn't much of a feat, in all honesty - and walk away feeling all the better.
Of course, in this situation, she's having trouble enough not screaming at Arthur for breaking their agreement, not picturing his head on said spike whilst cackling manically, and not noticing Merlin's faltering facade of a smile, fighting a losing battle against a look of despondency.
What has Morgana done to deserve this? Silly Question.
After enough amount of silence Arthur's given up waiting for her answer. "That's just plain rude, you know," he snaps, moving closer as the line shrinks.
"You can go," she nods at the person waiting, inwardly flinching. Oh why oh why oh why why why . . .
"If you didn't want to meet up you could have just said so," Merlin shrugs, still playing the unhurt angle, and this is all WAY too familiar.
It brings to memory that infamous night, at the beginning of summer, when Arthur had about a million people over in celebration, and Morgana saw Merlin for the first time since Spring Break. It was so public, so many people there, yet they still managed to flirt up a windstorm for a good two hours. But of course, by the time the night ended . . .
By then she was looking at what she's looking at now: A badly-concealed, rejected Merlin, putting on a friendly I-don't-care facade before fleeing - because of Morgana.
"I'm sorry," she says, but still has to defend, "I'm not actually supposed to be socializing then, anyway."
Merlin nods, and of course that apology repaired nothing. Morgana just feels stupid and horrible and a supreme vixen, which is a word she looked up in a thesaurus once after someone insulted her with it. Vixen pretty much sums her up, right now.
But here's a completely different story that won't make sense till it does - the first day Morgana and Gwen met Lancelot he was already working at Magic Geysers, the nameless, smoking-hot, Spanish god who went to the other school across town. Gwen, and yes, admittedly Morgana, were both drooling all over the premises oggling at him, following him like the creepy stalkers they were whenever he switched to guard a different area. Then, about a month later, the unthinkable happened - Gwen got sucked under one, two, three waves at Hurricane Harbor, and Lancelot just so happened to be the nearest on-duty lifeguard.
Because of all that, the first kiss Gwen and Lancelot shared was while she was unconscious - though apparently it was still magnificent, according to the drowned one. Lancelot started (and ended, by the way) their relationship as her white knight. And the more you get to know Lancelot, you know that he takes it upon himself, it is literally his mission in life, to save people. Which makes him a pretty good lifeguard, by any standard.
And a particularly good friend in situations like these:
"Well, I'm having a party this Saturday. You can socialize then!" He swoops in, delivering the death blow to the black knight of awkwardness and misunderstandings.
Little does he know its immortal.
"Ummm . . . well, I might be busy," Merlin shifts from foot to foot, keeping his eyes on the slide he's about to sit on, the one Morgana is guarding.
"Well you should come, if you can," Morgana hears herself saying, and inwardly curses herself when he looks at her in confusion, because: eye contact. Bad idea, for all brain cells involved.
"Maybe, I'd have to see," he mumbles, and sits at the edge, looking pretty uncomfortable.
With his mind-warping gaze off of her, she manages, "Hope you can," and that was definitely NOT a good idea because now he's staring at her, but not in confusion. Its more like he's deciding . . . whether he believes her.
She wants to dispel that worry, but all that slips off her tongue is, "You can go, now."
Gwen's car is a comforting sight even if Gwaine is already in it, both waiting on Morgana.
"How are the fictional boyfriends?" Morgana raises an eyebrow as she snaps herself into shotgun. Gwaine didn't even try for the front seat over her, which is both hilarious and smart on his part.
"Great," Gwen blushes, tucking a curl behind her ear. "In the one I was reading, the guy's an alien - sent to kill the human race like the rest of his species - "
"But there's just this one girl he just can't kill," Morgana sighs dramatically, laughing when Gwen slaps her in the arm.
"YES! He realizes how good humanity is because of her," she pouts.
Gwaine apparently decides his voice hasn't filled up the car in too long, because he starts, "You know if I was an alien, and I met a foxy human girl, I'd just use my crazy super-alien powers to - "
He keeps going, but Gwen nods at Morgana in almost military-like fashion, and soon enough Muse is blasting through the car speakers so loud even Gwaine can't compete with his smutty, alien/human dialogue.
He tries of course, but then just settles for singing along - just their luck that he actually knows any of the band's songs besides Madness and Uprising - and screeching through the high notes, which actually is more amusing than it is horrendous, by just a bit. Morgana goes for forgetting that Merlin ever showed up today because why - or that she ever LIED STRAIGHT TO HIS FACE like that would work because she is a vixen, AND NOW gone and invited him to a party she'll just be avoiding him during because of the coward that she is -
With all that in mind, its not a wonder she can't get it out of her mind. By the time Gwen pulls up to let Gwaine out, Morgana is kneading at her thighs with her hands like a mad woman. Or perhaps kneading isn't the right word; its more of an angry stroke, up and down, over and over. Tell-tale signs she just recently made an idiot of herself.
"All right, Morgana: spill," Gwen says the second Gwaine shuts the door, not even bothering with her usual niceties of "Your Welcome" and "See you later" and "Have a good evening." She's obviously noticed the angry thigh strokes.
"Ughhhhhhh whhhhhyYYYYYYYYYY!" is about how it goes the first couple of minutes, amidst Morgana stomping her feet and pounding on the dashboard.
" - Just run into that semi coming, just for my sake, please - "
" - Oh why oh WHY oh why oh WHYYYYYYY - "
" - HIS EYES, ITS NOT MY FAULT, HIS EYES - "
" - UGHHHHNNNNNNNNNGGGHHHNNNNNNNGGGGHH - "
" - because I'M a VIXEN, THAT'S WHY - "
So yeah, pretty bad. Eventually Gwen gets the gist:
"Morgana I get it! MORGANA! STOP IT! YOU'RE GOING TO TRIGGER THE AIR BAG!"
It takes a while, but yes, things do eventually run their course. Gwen stops driving and pulls over in the first two minutes like the responsible person she was born as, and is now staring at Morgana, she realizes, like she's grown a pair of donkey ears or devil horns. Morgana votes the latter - Gwen would probably find the donkey ears cute, damn her.
"Okay. Let's take this nice and easy," Gwen says, hands half-raised likely in defense. Morgana might have accidentally whacked her at some point. "How did this all . . . start?"
"Spring Breeeaaaak," Morgana moans, regretfully digging the crushed up ball of memories from earlier, where she swore she'd never retrieve them - in the cracks of that one guy's flab. It might just be her, but they seem like they smell, just a bit.
"Okay, good," Gwen beams, probably because Morgana didn't just scream in capital letters at her. "I remember, kind of. You went touring, in France - with Arthur and Merlin, right?" Morgana nods, slumping back in her seat. "And you and Merlin . . . ? Had a fling? Of some sort?"
"No. Yes. Kind of."
"Okay, so it wasn't really set-in-stone, for you anyway. Then the party this summer, which I was there for. Which wasn't your- which was wasn't completely your fault," she amends hurriedly, looking frightened. Morgana's raised eyebrow can inspire remarkable changes like that. "But at the time all you said to me was that Merlin hated you and you deserved it. That's all I know."
"It was the truth," Morgana sighs, squeezing her eyes shut. "Except he doesn't hate me. I wish he did."
"He is Merlin," Gwen says, like that explains it all away.
"YES! He is Merlin, the bane of my existence! My ultimate DOOM!"
"I think you're exaggerating a little here."
"The whole day, today, I didn't hardly see him, Gwen, but I could feel him there. Like this presence in the back of my mind, tormenting me!"
"And you're blaming poor Merlin for it? That you are hopelessly obsessed with him?"
That gets Gwen a finger in the face. She stares at it, wide-eyed, as it waggles while Morgana speaks: "I. Am. NOT. Obsessed."
But, like the good friend she insists on being, Gwen doesn't back down. "You are. You've avoided him the whole summer ever since then, on constant high alert, checking with Arthur incessantly that Merlin will not be at so-and-so's party or whats-it's get-together. You talk about him to me practically always - don't think I'm not aware those 'hypothetical situations' aren't actually about John and Jane - and pull out your hair almost the second you two finally cross paths in a real situation. Tell me that doesn't mean you're obsessed."
Well, when she puts it that way.
"What do I dooo!?" Morgana groans, throwing her head back on the head-rest.
Gwen's straight face lasts about .5 seconds before she starts guffawing, Morgana glaring. "I didn't mean it, I didn't mean it!" she laughs, almost tearing up.
Morgana shakes her head. "Its slightly disturbing how funny such things are, to a person like you."
Gwen wipes the moisture from her eyes. And giggles, just a little. "Sorry. You should talk to him," she sobers, putting a hand on Morgana's. "Explain to him what happened at the party, why you said what you did."
"But what if he understands, but is still hurt by it?"
"I think its too late for him not to be hurt, by now," says wise Gwen. "But, if he likes you enough, he'll forgive you."
Gwen shifts the car to drive, looking to pull back onto the street - and then gives Morgana an appraising glance. "I'm going to start driving again, now," she says slowly, like she's talking to a lunatic, "so if you feel like losing it again, you'll have to wait till we get to your house. Okay?"
So fine. Morgana waits.