Notes: Many thanks to misspamela, kaneko and astolat for beta!
The maids of the castle come to Morgana with their eyes cast down and their fingers twisting nervously in the rough linen of their aprons. They come to her at all hours of the day and night and she takes them in. How can she deny them when their fear of the men at Court outweighs everything they've ever learned to fear about the wrath of nobles woken from their slumbers, or distracted from their amusements? How can she refuse them, when they've been so brave?
In Morgana's chambers as the sun sets, in the forest where the little sour apples wait to be picked in the autumn, or in Morgana's garden where the strange flowers grow in the summer and ice drapes the fountain like crystal during the short winter days, the maids find her. They tell her stories. They whisper to her of knights whose hands are rough, or lords whose mouths left bruises, or courtiers who come to them with songs and promises they do not intend to keep.
Morgana listens. She watches the maids tremble in the flickering glow from the fire and sees their cheeks flush and pale under the harsh light of midwinter's cold sun as they tell her what's been done to them, and she knows the anger and helplessness of a woman with no claim to her own honor.
They never complain to her of Uther, who much prefers experienced widows and has no interest in spoiling young virgins, but pays precious little attention to their plight. Nor do they complain of Arthur, who is known to have different tastes. For that Morgana is grateful. Their disinterest grants her a void to fill; protection to offer.
When the maids have said all they can, Morgana nods, and warmly accepts their petitions as if it is her responsibility, and her pleasure, to do so.
She says, "You will tell them you serve me alone," and the girls are desperate to agree; often they curtsy so low that they might as well be kneeling at Morgana's feet.
Sometimes, they do.
Morgana gives them gentle kisses. She takes them to her bed, so that they are perfumed with the herbs sprinkled on her linens to keep them sweet. She tousles their hair and loosens their laces. She darkens her mouth with paint and gently sucks love marks on their necks, while they hold their breath and shudder against her, sometimes afraid and sometimes, perhaps, excited.
Then she sends them away. They stumble from her rooms flushed and panting, a mark smeared with paint dark against their skin; an obvious claim that no man in Camelot would challenge for fear of Morgana's temper and her place as Uther's ward.
Camelot has no queen, but Morgana is one anyway; she takes the king's right as if it is her due, and no one dares to argue.
When the maids have gone to make their allegiance obvious, Morgana sighs and wipes her mouth clean. She says, "Guinevere," and Gwen comes to her from the shadows of the room, where she has been watching, waiting.
Gwen is quiet and steady and there is always a smile in her eyes as she slips out of her clothes and into Morgana's bed. They kiss in a wholly different way than Morgana kisses the maids. Their mouths are wet and open together, hands slipping and catching against bare skin that gleams in the firelight, the sunlight, and sometimes the dappled shade of the garden.
Between them, there is no king, and no fear, and no need for marks; everyone knows that Gwen is Morgana's and has been since they were children who played like kittens, free of the fear that things would change.
What no one knows is the way Gwen's touch claims Morgana as hers, or how Gwen's hair brushing across Morgana's skin makes her gasp, or how her mouth makes Morgana plead for mercy, for more. They would not guess that Morgana would open so easily for the strong fingers of her maid. They would not understand how Morgana's heart races when she whispers promises, as the courtiers do, or how she means them more and more when Gwen says, "Yes, Morgana. Yes, always."
With Gwen's warm skin on hers, and Gwen's voice in her ear, Gwen's eyes sparkling as they take her in -- with Gwen, Morgana forgets her station and her duty and together, they are just girls.