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Exhale

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Breathing had always been just this side of difficult. It was almost like that one time Arthur and her shared a pipe up on the ramparts of the castle, trying to keep the smoke inside for as long as possible before exhaling deeply and sending out the entire cloud in one large burst. Morgana always felt that sharp ache in her chest. Her body had eventually learned to tune it out, only popping up when she was angry or hurting. Gwen had once said that it seemed like she was constantly holding something in. At the time, Morgana had thought it was ironic considering how many parts of Gwen she cherished and hoarded like a dragon. Now she just thought it was sad.

 

Arthur had swung his arm around her shoulders and told her to let go , squeezing her to his side in the hope that she’d let the smoke out before it killed her. She always was better at that game then he was. Arthur was a raging river, carving out a canyon steadfastly. His emotions were always impossible to hide, at least from her. His anger was sharp and harsh, unyielding like the sword he wields. Morgana always thought they were similar in that aspect, twins in a tangible way. But he forgives just sharply as he turns to anger. His rage didn’t fester in his soul, didn’t turn his heart hard like diamond. He knew how to make decisions and how to relent. He knew the meaning of “mercy”. Arthur was going to be an excellent king. The only thing Morgana could find that made him just a touch less great was how dense he was. He didn’t see the breathe she was holding. He didn’t see the way Merlin looked at him.

 

Morgana had thought Merlin was like her too. He had the same pain in his eyes, the same heavy breathe in his lungs. He glowed silver, a vast lake under moonlight. He was full of something he’d been taught to hate, just like her. But he was soft and empty in a way she could never be. He wasn’t naive and he wasn’t helpless. He knew how to drown someone in his depths. But Merlin didn’t exhale harshly. He let out the breathe in soft gusts, gently lifting up. Morgana wished she could be like him sometimes. She wished she could be unmoving and powerful without jagged edges. But she couldn’t stand by impassively while innocent blood watered the flowers on the palace steps.

 

Gwen was always close to Morgana. She would brush Morgana’s hair, and bring her flowers, and stay up with her all night if the “nightmares”( she knew better now ) were bad. Gwen was gentle and careful, but refused to let anyone perceive that as harmlessness and Morgana was in love. Gwen had carved out a home for herself in Morgana’s useless lump of rock heart, right next to Morgana’s brother’s alcove. Gwen was warm gold and gentle spring days. Gwen was wildflowers and smooth river stones. Gwen was homemade meals and family. Gwen was heaven on Earth, an angel in servant's garb. Morgana wanted to give her the world. Morgana wanted to give her a crown of flowers and listen to her talk forever. But Morgana still held her breathe. Her jagged pieces caught on the edge of Gwen’s braid and tugged against her scalp. Morgana never wanted to hurt her, but smoke coiled in her chest refused to lay dormant, and didn’t make room for anyone who didn’t belong in Morgana’s war.

 

Morgana just wanted to exhale. Morgana just wanted other people to be able to exhale without losing their heads. Everyone had always told her to let go and breathe. She did and ended up alone in a field, cold metal buried inside, unyielding as always. Morgana felt for the pieces of her that simmered instead of burned, but found nothing. Aithusa and Mordred were lost to her. Everything was lost to her. Morgana’s eyes dimmed, and she exhaled.