PART TWO: In which Morgana lets a hypothetical infant drown, Taboo and Tumblr are not for the faint-hearted, and want to know how Morgana ends up in a cramped laundry room, sporting a large blue stain on her dress, with Merlin? . . . Here's how.
"Hey kids! Why did the teacher jump in the pool?"
"Why, Patty the Penguin?"
"Because she wanted to test the waters!"
"Uggh - would you please change stations?" Morgana finally sputters out.
Arthur's eyes meet hers through his rear view mirror. "I can't believe it. Morgana Pendragon just spoke to me. Spoke to me, out loud!"
"Yes you're quite privileged, yada yada, I don't care if you switch to country, ANYTHING, just -"
" - only two weeks left in your summer of fun, boys and girls! The whole family can join the party - tickets at Magic Geysers, now 15% - "
Finally it cuts off. Arthur raises his eyebrows in the mirror, probably expecting a thank you - Morgana kicks his seat instead.
"They really should have gone with my joke," Gwaine sighs, sitting up-front alongside Arthur. Morgana rolls her eyes.
"Which was what?" Arthur asks, stupidly not remembering what happens when you give Gwaine an open-ended question.
"Why did the blonde place last in the 100-yard breast-stroke?"
"She didn't know she could use her hands!"
Arthur guffaws, almost misses a turn, almost doesn't miss an angry smart-car scootering by, and makes it onto the main road by sheer luck alone. He's dropping the both of them off at work, since its Gwen's off-day, and Morgana is reminded why she hates her brother driving her, suddenly.
She's been meaning to let him have it the past few days, but - as if he knew the telling off he would be getting back at home - her brother has spent most of Thursday and all of Friday away. And Morgana is willing to bet her imaginary left louboutin that means hanging about . . . well, with Merlin. So this is it. Not the ideal situation, seeing as she'll have to deal with Gwaine's unavoidable presence, but Morgana doubts Arthur will be as kind about her yanking at the sun visor, banging at the window glass, and pounding on the dashboard, as lovely wonderful Gwen was the other day. On second thought, perhaps it is better she has to contain herself.
"You've been avoiding me, you know," she starts, and Arthur snorts.
"No. I have a social life. You have Tumblr."
"Tumblr is a scary place, mate," Gwaine starts, "Not for the faint of heart. Looked up one thing on there and what did I find? Fanart with positions I didn't even want to - "
"MOVING ON," Morgana interrupts, barely loud enough to stop him short of finishing. "Tumblr is not something you should try wrapping your little heads around. And fanart is just misunderstood. Oh! - Speaking of misunderstandings, brother."
"Oh, Morgana," Arthur sighs in that patronizing tone of voice both he and Uther have reserved for and only for her name.
"Don't 'oh, Morgana' me. You completely walked all over our agreement - in your stinky footie shoes, probably - and don't tell me you didn't know! I don't care if Merlin sprung it on you last minute, you still could have - "
"Morgana." He waits, like he's expecting her to rant anyway. Morgana just folds her arms, raising an eyebrow. "You're right, I - "
"I'm right?" She pounces right on that. Morgana is willing to bet her imaginary right louboutin that that phrase has never before left Arthur Pendragon's mouth in the history of stubborn Pendragons. Wonders will never cease.
"YES! You're right." Arthur sighs again. "I did know. In fact, Merlin told me a week before that we should go, and I'd been meaning to tell you - but I didn't."
"Hold on you two," Gwaine says, all wide grin and mischievous eyes. "Is this how you managed to avoid Merlin, Morgana? Paying Arthur to warn you whenever his best friend's plans put him in your way?"
"She actually isn't paying me. Too bad I didn't think of that," Arthur muses, looking disappointed. Well, his eyes do. Really all Morgana has in regards to nonverbal cues are his eyes in the mirror and the back of his gold-i-lock head.
"You've been doing it because you're a good friend and a slightly-not-shoddy brother all of the time, and you knew it would only makes things worse! And it did!" Oh no. Girly hormones leaking into her eyes. Morgana hastily finds her reflection in the window before either male notices, and glares the weepy redness away. (It retreats, alarmed.)
"Only because you completely ruined it yourself," Arthur snaps, the back of his gold-i-lock head looking disapprovingly at her. "I didn't tell you because I'm tired of this! You had a real chance, to fix it all up. To be friends, so I don't have to sit through awkward dinners explaining to Dad and Merlin why you aren't coming down, again."
"Oh I'm sure its been horrible for you, you poor tortured thing," Morgana seethes, directing all malice into a beam directed through her eyes, at the nape of his neck. She can tell he feels it. "And you know why I've been avoiding him. Both of you do. I don't know what surprising me with Merlin was supposed to do, but it shouldn't be surprising to you what happened. I panicked. And I was stupid, again. He was acting so - friendly, too, I don't know . . . it still doesn't make much sense. What on earth did you tell him?"
"Does it matter?" Arthur defends.
"Yes! It does if what you said is a lie, moron." She can imagine it now: Morgana was being held at gun-point, mate. No, YOU were being held at gunpoint. That's all. That's the only reason ever that she'd even think to rip your beautiful, trusting heart out and run over it again and again in her hypothetical silver Lightning GT, ever. So don't worry about it.
Morgana wouldn't mind any of that being true - especially the Lightning GT, let's be real, here - but it isn't. None of it is.
"I don't lie," is all Arthur says, before adding, "And now my efforts are ruined. There's no way Merlin is coming tonight." Tonight as in Lancelot's Magic Geysers Park Employee End-of-the-Season Celebration Party. Morgana wishes she could say the same.
"I figured he wouldn't," she says, inwardly wincing at the forlorn tone her voice just took. "Doesn't matter," she tries again, this time flippantly, "It's not like either of you are even employed at Magic Geysers, anyway."
"Ah, come on, Morgaaney," Gwaine says, turning completely around in his seat to look at her. She glares at the use of his old endearment, but he just smiles wider. "You know you want him to be there. You want to melt into his dreamy blue eyes" - he bats his eyelashes - "and get forgiven for all your lies and evil misdoings, no matter how much you defend them on a regular basis. Then, by the power of his luscious healing lips, you'll be granted the magical kiss of redemption, and - "
Arthur starts laughing about halfway through all that, and Gwaine has to stop when the former swerves, almost missing the turn - again - to the entrance of the water park, its semi-impressive rides looming above in wait. Morgana holds onto the door in alarm.
"Here we are," Arthur says rather cheerfully, driving up to the main path. The parking lot is empty almost, probably in response to the early morning's damp, thick cloud-cover. He claps Gwaine on the shoulder, looking at them both.
"Have a great day, Gwaine. Morgana - have the day you deserve."
Funny little quirk about lifeguard duty - you get to wear sunglasses and nod at strangers all day.
Nodding, of course, being a relative term. Technically Morgana is 'scoping,' as she likes to call it, a term referring to the constant scanning the 10:20 system requires. The lifeguard should be able to scan their designated area in ten seconds, and reach any swimmer within it in twenty. Her designated area happens to be about thirty meters of the lazy river, which encircles 'Patty's Playplace.' Meaning soon she'll have to face the worst shift out of all 25 at this park.
But for now its all nodding her head up and down, scanning over the sparse people, relaxed adults and splashing teens, not whipping her head back and forth trying to both ignore and pay attention to the squalling children. Once one little tyke grabbed her fanny pack from behind and almost made her slip - there's no proof, but Morgana's positive he actually meant to grab her arse.
A man actually did that, once, in France, she muses. In the middle of a street too. Morgana remembers promptly turning around and kicking him in the shin - hard.
Of course, she also remembers Merlin's furious face, which was so intimidating it might even contest with hers. That was the start of the weekend Arthur came down with the flu, and waved them off without him for three days straight. The longest, craziest, whirlwind of a weekend she'll probably ever experience, full of good food and beautiful sites and Merlin smiles and finally . . .
Morgana blinks, focusing in on the waving arms of Agravaine. He looks - for once - very, very stern.
Once he starts moving near her Morgana finally spots it - the baby doll 'Rescue Cathy' sunk in the water, orange neon diaper and all. By the time he's picked it up and waded toward her, she's mentally beaten the pulp out of herself.
"I'm so sorry, Agravaine! I don't know what happened! Usually - "
"Usually you're our fastest spotter," he tilts his head, giving her a patronizing look. And of course it has to be Agravaine, here assessing her failure, not Morgause or Cenred. This is her luck. "Off today, Morgana? Are you feeling alright?"
"I . . . actually, I am feeling a bit off. I think I might be - thirsty." Agravaine raises his eyebrows and, of course, takes the opportunity to get right in Morgana's face. Meanwhile, she's still having to guard her area and dig her nails into her palms, the easier not to strangle him with.
"Hmmm," he says, still close up, "You look like you might need a drink."
"Maybe," she says, gritting her teeth. About this close - the distance between his face and hers, actually - from pushing him into the water.
"Yes. How about you and - YELP."
There's no other word comparison that would fit. Agravaine literally yelps when, as if a particular lifesaver has read her mind, certain hands shove him into the lazy river and onto some very obese man - and it can't be, but it is, its the same guy with the flab Morgana was trying to hid her problems in a few days ago - before he's dunking himself and the man both into the water.
Gwaine folds his arms, beaming next to her as Agravaine splutters up for air.
"Your welcome," he says smugly, probably because the hinge has broken in Morgana's mouth and she can't quite seem to close it. "For that, obviously. But also, you should know I got Merlin to come."
"Wuh . . . what?" Morgana says intelligently, staring at him. He's already nodding his head, sweeping across the area.
"To the party? He's coming. Don't ask how, you don't want to know, but I managed it. Now you need to go - but wear the red one, tonight. Trust me." She's gaping at him, but for once in the existence of humanity, the man before her has nothing else to say. Today is full of firsts.
So with her heart pounding in a mixture of terror and elation, Morgana goes for another first as she jogs to 'Patty's Playplace' and high-fives Patty the Penguin for once in her entire employment. When the big bucket of water rains down, the children cheer.
There's a bit of back-story if you're going to understand why Morgana knew what Gwaine meant by 'the red one.'
First of all, when Gwaine moved in at the end of the street his father was still alive and his mother was still happy, and when his father traveled he brought Gwaine back a myriad of strange things. So, starting on the first day at his new school, Gwaine was wearing a poncho.
Second of all, Morgana didn't know any of this until Arthur and Merlin brought home a friend they called 'Poncho,' a friend who was more friendly than even Merlin and more rude than even Arthur. He stopped wearing ponchos, though - a year in and his father died, killed by a drunk driver. Still, he winked at her and flirted with her and made passes at her all the way up until Merlin and Arthur left for university.
Then he kissed her. That would be third of all. For about six months, it was a fiery, passionate high. She is the reason he kept growing out his hair; he is the reason she applied for this job at all. Then eventually she got bothered about how much he flirts with any living, breathing thing - Vivian was just the last straw - and he got bothered apparently by her 'constant need to dominate' and 'can you please not harp on me about what I'm doing, every second of every day?'
And, last of all, they stayed friends. So, despite the fact its over, Gwaine has agreed to put on a facade that keeps Agravaine at bay, and Morgana just rolls her eyes when he still flirts with her, and he knows things like that she loves raspberry punch, hates most genres of music, and looks best in 'the red one.' And finally, cares about her enough, still, to advise she wear said clothing whilst man-catching.
My ex advised me on what to wear to the party tonight, since a certain wizard is showing up, Morgana messages to a close Tumblr friend.
Aye_Thusa replies: Does said ex like the same type as a certain wizard?
Good question. Definitely no, but I think said ex knows that.
Aye_Thusa: They know each other?
Its a small word in which I live, Thusa. An isolated island full of imbeciles.
Aye_Thusa: Alliteration! I like. And a certain wizard is referring to who you said 'put a spell on you,' right?
Wow. I forgot I said that, that's embarrassing. Its mostly because his name is Merlin, actually.
Aye_Thusa: Oh yeah! Merlin, I remember. The one whose heart you ripped out accidentally, because of your ex and his new girl.
Technically, yes. But, in all honesty, no. Its on me.
Aye_Thusa: Oh - yeesh. But now there's hope, for tonight . . . ?
Not really. But I want to at least apologize. He deserves it - he's such an idiot he doesn't even hate me yet.
Aye_Thusa: Ouch, sorry. Good luck.
She shimmies into the red one and stands in the mirror, contemplative. It'll have to do. A bit of red lipstick and eye make-up, and the rest is on her charm.
So, basically, as she's lamented before, Morgana is doomed.
"Morgana! Gwen! Come on in!"
Lance beams at them as they step through, though a second later he melts back into the party and leaves them to it. Gwen looks fine with that - they both aren't completely comfortable in the same space, for too long, unlike Morgana and Gwaine - but Morgana gets that. She smiles, spotting a few friends, and strictly keeps her eyes from wandering. From searching.
But it doesn't matter regardless. First Morgana spots the back of him, talking to someone she can't see, then a short girl Morgana doesn't recognize reaches to tap him on the shoulder and Morgana sees the full profile; there he is, in all his Merlin glory, wearing a strange-patterned shirt and wrinkled jeans. As heart-breaking as ever.
". . . right, Morgana? You were there, didn't you see - "
Morgana looks away, letting herself be drawn back into the conversation, and tries to not think about him. And ends up not thinking at all.
One hour later finds Morgana and Gwen on a couch, the former sipping some blue concoction - she has absolutely no idea what it is she's drinking, but her toes are starting to feel weirdly tingly - and the latter, water from her water bottle, being the wonderful, responsible, perfect Gwen that she is.
"My toes feel alive more than usual," Morgana informs Gwen, cocking her head at the strange dancing a couple is doing in the middle of the room. Or, more accurately, the strange writhing. The music is pulsing, and equally repulsing.
Gwen frowns in answer and gives her a concerned look; Morgana frowns too, after her friend tries to take away the blue stuff and some of it ends up splashing on her dress. "That's enough for you," her friend decides, prying it from her hands. "Come on, let's dance." She pulls Morgana up by the arms.
Morgana groans, but obeys. The second they stand, however, that one short girl from before comes up to Gwen. "Hey! You sober enough to play some Catch-phrase? I brought it and we need more people!"
Gwen agrees and tugs a sulky Morgana downstairs, following the girl, despite her protests of "I don't even know what catch phrase is!" and "I'm not sober enough, Gwen, don't make me."
But said friend only rolls her eyes, and okay, maybe Morgana is not note-ably arseholed quite yet. But she should really be getting around to finding Merlin, and confronting her problems, and apologizing -
Bugger and blast.
There he is, sitting quite comfortably against a couch and laughing at something someone's said. His head rests against the cushion, exposing an indecent amount of neck, and Morgana gulps. Her vision goes temporarily white when he sits up straight, eyes reaching hers.
Then it goes red, not so temporarily, when the short girl who just brought them down here pops a squat right up against him. "So we have enough people!" she says excitedly, as Morgana numbly sits next to Gwen on the ground. She's staring at the space between the two - or more like, the lack of space between the two - like if she looks long enough, something will set on fire. Hopefully, the girl's tool skirt.
"Right, let's get this on with, then," Gwaine grumbles from his slouch above Merlin, on the couch. His head on Vivian's lap, who beams at Morgana. She glowers back. The couple on the love seat - Morgause and Cenred, her managers, gross - pause from their snogging session to nod rather unenthusiastically.
The trespassing girl starts going on about the point of the game and the rules and how to win, whilst Morgana ignores her in favor of snatching small glances at Merlin. It might just be her, but it seems like he is too. By the time the game starts and the girl has out a strange, red talking disc thing, Morgana realizes she has no idea what she's playing still.
"Its something you eat, and you toss it - "
" - Salad?"
" - Yes, salad, its a kind of salad - "
" - Caesar salad! Tossed salad! Fruit salad!"
"What the hell are they doing?" Morgana mutters to Gwen, who elbows her rather hard in the ribcage.
"They're your team! You have to figure out what she's describing!" she whispers back urgently.
" - bock, bock, bock bock bock!" The girl stands up and starts making strange chicken noises - Gwaine, who must be on her team as he's been guessing things like "Radish?" and "Naughty salad!", is staring blankly at her - and Morgana suddenly realizes what is going on.
"Chicken salad!" she says, and Freya collapses in giggles, almost frisbee-ing Merlin with the ticking red disc in the face.
Merlin's turn is next: "Oh, this one! Cinderella lost her...?"
"Glass slipper!" Gwen says, and he nods quickly, "Well yes, which is a kind of...?"
"Shoe," Cenred says, and Merlin continues, "So what's a common phrase, regarding shoes, about somebody - someone filling a stereotype!"
Blank faces all around. He groans, though he's smiling, and racks his head with a fist. "Ugh, ugh, what is it, what is it . . . Oh! Yes!" He looks at Morgana straight on, eyes bright and wide - she swallows down her heart, which has the audacity to skip a beat into her throat - saying: "That cheesy movie with the idiot male and the Cinderella shoe designer in Paris!"
She blinks, immediately remembering: "If the Shoe Fits, if the shoe fits wear it!"
The buzzer goes off a second after.
"MORGAAAANAAA," Gwaine groans as the other team cheers, and leans over the couch to (try to) flick her head. She evades him easily. "Merlin is not on our team, however much you wish him to be."
She immediately feels her circulatory system go haywire; all the blood rushing from her brain, moving to color her cheeks. Not knowing how to feel, that she instantaneously remembered that cheesy 90's flick Arthur insisted they keep the channel on for one night when Morgana joined in on flick watching, because it was set in Paris and right before their trip.
Not that she really remembers much except Merlin's arm casually flung on the back of the sofa - behind her. Or their knees, bumping every now and then. Or a line Merlin found extraordinarily hilarious, something about 'covering body parts' that had him breaking into full-out guffaws. Leaning into her.
Gwaine's comment could have passed right by Merlin, if this was a merciful world in which she lives, but it isn't. His eyes widen comically first, then he stares at Gwaine like he just spoke Portugese. Then his gaze flicks to Morgana, who immediately looks away - at Gwen's face, which is at least safe ground.Though she looks like she's trying not to laugh.
"Let's GO," Morgana mouths, pleading. Then glaring when her friend shakes her head, amused.
Why is all of this so damn funny to everyone else?
Now Morgana has to assert dominance. Gain control over this situation, before things take a turn down cackling laughs and big scary, bugging eyes. Which is not a road she wants to go down again. "I couldn't help myself," she says, probably overdoing it by tossing a strand of hair over her shoulder. Her eyes flash from Merlin onto a much-safer-to-look-at Gwaine, explaining, "I'm not completely incapable of pity, Poncho."
And boy does that shut him up, which is not usually an easy task. She gets a fleeting thrill of assertiveness. But when she catches a strange, very-un-Gwaine-like flash of disappointment, Morgana realizes: she just said she felt pity for Merlin.
What the hell is wrong with her? Serious question.
The game goes on, still. Short girl with her cute little face all craned up at Merlin constantly - that's Freya apparently - starts keeping score for each person's number of guesses, just for extra competition, and Morgana of course falls dramatically behind.
You get the idea. By the time - or more accurately, long after the time - Morgana is bemoaning her long gone, dubiously-concocted blue drink and its strange but pleasing properties, they call it quits. Morgana sits pretty firmly in last place; she only guessed Sherlock Holmes, frosting, and snowflakes right.
Speaking of last place, this is the last place and time she would ever pick to pull Merlin aside and basically . . . well, give him permission to hate her. But alas, the fates deem it so. Everyone is standing up - almost everyone, Gwaine and Vivian look half-asleep - so Morgana moves through them to reach Merlin.
"Hey, Mer - "
" - and then I could prove you wrong! I saw it on the gameboard shelf earlier!" Freya finishes saying, hand loosely on his forearm. Merlin's forearm. Practically holy ground.
"Morgana?" Merlin says, not answering Freya. He's looking at her - with curiosity, but mostly wariness.
"Oh, were you just about to . . . ?" she lets it hang, let's him brush off whatever this insistent girl is proposing.
But Freya chimes in just as Merlin's mouth opens. "We were going to match our skills, since we tied. Taboo, its an older game, but basically the same thing. Wait - oooo!" Her eyes fill with excitement, and Morgana has a feeling this is about to get bad.
"You could be the buzzer, Morgana!"
Chortle as much as necessary, Morgana knows this is laughable.
She gets to sit between these two newly-budding love birds - would you look at the eyes Freya is making him every time she starts describing something, especially if its a pleasant thing, like she's describing him for bloody sake - and pretend to laugh with them and buzz when the time goes out and secretly wonder if Merlin wouldn't want an apology in the least, anyway.
Taboo is much, much worse than whatever the last game was, she decides. Definitely not for the faint-hearted.
"Morgana, are you all right?"
Only a voice like that could rip her in such a way from Morgana's musings, with all of the shock and none of the pain. Merlin is looking concernedly at her, though his time is running out she notices, and Freya's complaining with "Don't stop! I'm almost there!"
He just keeps staring at her worriedly, saying, "Is something wrong?"
Her jaw would drop, it really would, if she hadn't just opened it already to say something. Because he really shouldn't care, about her. Not anymore.
What the hell is wrong with him? Serious question.
"Maybe its something I drank," Morgana excuses, standing and giving them both a shaky smile. "Sorry."
She runs out before she can analyze either of their faces, cringing because could this night get worse?
Apparently yes: "Morgana! Good to see you again!"
Vivian has stood up from the couch; she walks forward, between Morgana and the stairs door now.
"Is it?" Morgana replies testily, trying to side-step her, but the girl won't allow it.
"Its been since forever! Back when Gwaine hadn't even tanned yet," Vivian grins, not saying Morgana because she hasn't. Tanned, at all. "How've you been?"
Morgana narrows her eyes and crosses her arms, so tired of pleasantry at this point in the (morning?) night.
"I still don't know what you're upset at me, for," she grins, widening her buggy little eyes, smiling innocently. And Merlin and Freya are just around the corner.
"Maybe we could play a little game, then," Morgana says, grabbing her by the arm and tugging Vivian to an empty room. The laundry room, it seems to be, and Morgana remembers this being the room Lancelot and Gwen got caught snogging senselessly in. "Let's you pretend for a second that you'll never speak to me again, and I pretend I won't consider poisoning you. Sound like a deal?"
Vivian's pout gives way to an outright scowl; it fits her face much better, honestly. "Don't blame me for your issues with that kid. Whatever he heard - they were your words, not mine."
"You knew he started listening!"
"And I thought it was a good way to let him off easy!" She rolls her eyes at Morgana, sporting a sour smirk. "I did you a favor, you know," she says, haughty. "You're completely out of his league. You deserve way better."
"You're wrong," Morgana says in a hard voice, clenching her jaw. "He deserves better." Then she wrenches the door open, ready to kick Vivian out - and gets hit by a major wave of deja vu.
Because for the second time in her life Morgana ends a conversation about Merlin with Vivian in closed quarters, only to find him standing right outside the door. This time, though, Merlin doesn't stutter out some unintelligible apology, grab his keys and leave. His eyes are staring straight into hers; bright, wide, intense.
"We need to talk," he says. And pulls Vivian out none too gently, shutting the door behind him.
This is how Morgana ends up in a cramped laundry room, sporting a large blue stain on her dress, with Merlin.
What is up with her life? Serious question.