Love and Lakes


Merlin walked to Arthur’s chambers again, feeling a little hopeful for the return of their friendship, but knew it could not be. Arthur was hostile towards magic.

He entered the room silently. It seemed that, if possible, Arthur’s room had become even more of a mess. He supposed from the key on the table that Arthur had been locking the doors and refusing to let George in to clean, and perhaps only unlocking them in the evening for Guinevere's sake. Arthur was on his bed, sleeping. He had not taken off his clothes from the council meeting: Arthur had seemingly collapsed on his bed for a nap, and then hadn't woken up.

Merlin opened the drapes and let the dim evening light into Arthur’s chambers. Gwen’s space in the room was totally clean and spotless, as it would be, but Arthur had no regard for his objects. This irritated Merlin, because as his servant again, he would be the one to clean all of this up.

Soon he said, “Wake up, sire.”

Arthur groaned, happy to wake up to the voice of his best friend, before realizing the words Merlin had said were not what he was used to. They were cold and resigned, empty. They held no affection, or cheerfulness. He remembered what he had done to make Merlin feel this way, and stuffed his head back into his pillows.

Merlin did not drag him out of bed in his joking, playful manner. He did not throw a pillow at him. He simply said coldly, “It’s time to get up, sire. It’s almost time for supper and I have places to be.”

Arthur was confused. Why would Merlin have somewhere to be at this time of night? And then he realized: Freya. She must be back. He wanted to say something about it, but he felt Merlin would not take it well.

Arthur tried to say as kindly as he could, “Go fetch my food and you can have the rest of the night off.” Though his face didn’t show it, he could sense the relief that Merlin was feeling.

Merlin went and brought up Arthur’s meal, and headed out. He pointedly tried to ignore the fear in his heart. There was a chance that when Freya came back, the curse came back with her. He dearly hoped it would not be true, but he had to go see her at midnight to make sure it was not.

He headed out of the city, sneakily, after the sun went down. Once he found the grove that Freya was staying in, her ran in to hug her.

“I”m afraid.” she whispered. “I don’t want to turn into a Bastet again, Merlin. I’m scared.”

He held her close and whispered back. “There’s a chance that it won’t happen. Don’t be worried: even if it does happen, I’ll still be here.”

Freya calmed down for a little while, but as it neared midnight, she became frantic again. She hyperventilated, and her words became shrill. She started to vibrate uncontrollably, and no matter how much Merlin tried to calm her down, she would not. She became more hysterical as they got closer and closer to midnight, and soon her words sounded like screams. Then, they were screams.

Merlin backed away in despair as he realized that the curse had not gone away. She soon started to transform into a Bastet as she dropped to the ground. Her screams became lower and more catlike, and wings sprouted from her back. Soon, she was fully transformed and growling, backing away from Merlin.

Gently, he approached her, holding his hand out but meaning no harm. “Sh, Freya.” He hushed. “It’s me. Merlin. I don’t want to hurt you.” The manic look in her eyes faded a bit, and she stopped growling and backing away from him.

He finally got close enough to stroke her head, and soon enough, a loud sound filled the air around them. He started laughing aloud. “Freya, are you - purring?!” The look in her eyes was embarrassed, but affectionate. She laid down and so did he, continuing to stroke her head. Soon, they fell asleep, her large, black cat form switching out with her delicate human body an hour later, but they didn’t notice.

1 Month Later

Merlin walked out of Arthur’s chambers. He felt very uncomfortable calling him “sire” and “my lord” and casting away Arthur’s attempts at friendly banter. The bond between the two was severed, broken like a string cut, but like a string, there were still little strands reaching out and longing for the time when they were bonded.

Merlin always felt a cold, coiled feeling inside whenever he saw the face of his former best friend. Arthur was still reaching out, trying to tie them together, but Merlin didn’t feel right. Arthur had hurt him because he had his powers, and even though Arthur hadn’t told anyone and had attempted to bring magic back to Camelot, Merlin wasn’t ready to forgive him no matter how much Arthur wished it was so.

Gwen had sensed the distance between the two, and had asked both what had happened multiple times, but when she asked Merlin his eyes flashed with the deepest hurt and he hastily changed the subject before escaping the conversation quickly. When she asked Arthur, he only descended into a feeling of extreme guilt and could not talk to anyone for extended periods of time. She knew that the thing causing them such hurt was staying away from each other, but staying away from each other was necessary for not causing any more hurt.

Often she tried to get them in the same place at the same time, but it resulted in cold words from Merlin and disappointment from Arthur. Once, it resulted in Merlin storming away with tears in his eyes and Arthur deserted, standing in the middle of the armory with tears in his eyes as well.

Gwen knew they needed time to heal, but it seemed that the situation would not get any better. And Merlin seemed worried about something, and constantly tired. The bags under his eyes darkened, but his outlook on life looked like it had improved slightly. But it was obvious he was not getting nearly enough sleep as he should.

Guinevere felt the need to mend fences, but before she could do that, she had to know what was wrong. She entered Arthur’s chambers, where he was sitting in the middle of his bed with his head in his hands and his hair completely unruly. He had been like this for the past month and a half, and she needed her love to be well again.

Quietly, she walked over to where Arthur sat and came down next to him, putting her hand upon his shoulder. He didn’t look up as she started to rub his shoulders and back, but he said, “Gwen. I - I just don’t know what to do.” His voice sounded cracked and broken.

She soothingly said, “Why don’t you tell me what’s wrong, Arthur? Surely I can be trusted.”

Reacting quickly, Arthur said, “Of course I trust you. It’s just that - that it’s not my secret to tell.”

Gwen was worried, but she pressed on. “No, Arthur. I have to know.”

Arthur looked up at her with despairing eyes before stating quietly, “Merlin has magic.”

Gwen’s eyes widened with realization and she brought her hand to her mouth. “Oh,” she murmured. “Oh.”

Arthur continued on.

“Merlin has been loyal to me all these years. He has never used his magic for greed, or power, or evil, or for personal gain. He has never sought any credit for what sacrifices he has made. And oh, how much he has sacrificed.

He has lost the love of his life, Freya. Who, by the way, was killed by me. His father was killed right in front of him, too. And I? I told him not to cry about the fact that his father was murdered after about a day of knowing him. He lost his best friend, who sacrificed himself for me. And he has been hurt so many times, physically and emotionally. He has almost died for me more times than I know. And you know what I did? I jumped to the conclusion that he was the reason my father is dead, even though he is not to blame for trying to help. And what I did for him, after this? I punched him. Right in his temple. That’s why nothing can ever be the same, Guinevere. He’ll never forgive me for punishing him for trying to help. Never.”

Gwen had gasped at the true misery and despair shining in his eyes. He buried his head in his hands again, and soon she realized that he was crying. Dry, racking, sobs that held no tears but a greater sadness. She held him as he mourned for his ruined friendship. Soon, she began to cry too.
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