Chapter 23 A Friends's Revelations
Merlin and Gwaine rode together in comfortable silence for some time. It was a warm day and continue to get warmer as the sun rose higher. Merlin listened to the sounds of the forest. The chirp of birds, or the occasional hop of a rabbit close by. "Thanks for coming with me. I know Gwen isn't easy to say no to, but you didn't have to come." Merlin heard Gwaine chuckle. "She's impossible to say no to. Plus, she's the Queen."
"Arthur's the king and you don't always do what he says" Merlin replied a smile tugging at his lips.
"You're one to talk!" Gwaine gave a full out laugh. "Since when have you ever done what Arthur says?"
"Hay I listen! Every time I've had to do a day and a night's list of chores. Or get stuck along a pointless hunt. I never enjoyed it but I've put up with it."
"And you've made it perfectly clear every single time."
They both laughed. It felt good to be happy again, Merlin realized. He was still smiling after the laugh ran its course.
"I'm sorry I've never told you who I really was." Merlin found himself saying. "I never told you, or anyone else because I didn't want them to have to lie for me. Or to have to choose between me and Arthur." Gwaine watched his friend quietly as he was talking. "It's been hard, all those years alone. Never being able to tell anyone. I came close to telling you a few times."
"Yes, but I've grown up being taught not to not trust anyone because of my magic. I had to be alone growing up in Ealdor because if anyone found out." Merlin paused.
"Uther" Gwaine said.
Merlin nodded. "I couldn't help feeling a coward for not telling either you or Arthur, every time I tried. I knew Arthur's not his father. But time and time again, he's never been shown the good magic can do."
"I understand" Gwaine told him. "I thought it was because I was a drunk. If you told me and I had accidently slipped up while under the influence. Just the mention of magic could get someone killed in Camelot." Both grew silent for a moment.
"Could you hear them?" Gwaine asked. Merlin looked at him confused. "All those who had died by fire under Uther's execution. You could hear them; in your mind?"
Merlin didn't say anything at first. Gwaine knew the answer.
"Yes," he said quietly. A silent tear ran down his cheek, unashamed.
Gwaine didn't know what to say. He didn't want to think what that could have been like, a shudder ran through his body. Yet Merlin still had been able to find something to smile about. Even when his kin was suffering.
"We shouldn't dwell on the past." Merlin finally spoke up. "The past cannot be changed, only the path that lies ahead." Gwaine was still amazed at the words of wisdom that came out of his friend. "Camelot is in a much better place now. Thanks to you."
Merlin smiled. "Thanks to ALL of us."
Merlin and Gwaine rode in silence again. It was getting increasingly hot, and Merlin was thirsty. Reaching in the saddle bag, he pulled out his water skin taking a long drink. Deciding to take a break, they found a good place to stop. Merlin pulled out some food he packed and tossed an apple over to Gwaine. Throughout lunch, Merlin kept drinking. Not feeling satisfied. Gwaine munched nosily on his apple, and Merlin started feeling tired. When he finished, Gwaine tossed the core aside. "Ready to go?" he asked standing up.
"Gwaine, don't drink from my water skin."
"Why would I do that?" he asked confused. Merlin's eyes started to drop.
"It's been drugged."