3 Months Later
Merlin was pouring out Arthur’s bath water as the King dried himself off. He was meeting Guinevere for a private dinner, and he was required to look absolutely astonishingly handsome. Arthur believed he was already absolutely astonishingly handsome without the preparation, and it took a couple insults from Merlin to humble him.
Secretly, Merlin felt a little jealous of Arthur. His love was still alive, and their love was allowed, and their love was real... Merlin shook the thought from his head. He knew thinking about Freya would only worsen his mood. But it seemed that everywhere he turned, Freya was put in his mind, a beautiful wound that maybe one day would only be a scar. But for now, it was open and bleeding.
Without thinking, Merlin had both picked out Arthur’s clothes and dressed him. Arthur was simply getting ready and checking his hair in the mirror when he noticed Merlin sitting down in one of the chairs, staring off into space blankly.
Arthur put on a straight face, turned around, and walked over to where Merlin was sitting miserably.
He sat down beside him, and Merlin’s attention was suddenly on Arthur, plastering a fake smile on his face. “Yes, sire?”
Arthur looked at him and sighed. “I know something’s wrong, Merlin. Something’s been troubling you; you just haven’t been yourself these days. It’s been a week since you last really smiled.”
Merlin stared at him. “Uh, no, nothing’s wrong, sire. I’ve just been, eh, tired doing all of these chores for you and Gaius. And still recovering from the curse.” Merlin was taking a long time to get stronger: his breath was still weak and he couldn’t do any activities that costed him much energy.
Merlin suddenly realized he’d made a mistake bringing the whole Avalon incident back into the light. Arthur would remember about Freya, and he would simply make the wound worse...
“Ah,” Arthur exclaimed. “the girl. Freya, was it?”
Merlin gulped and nodded slowly.
“Listen, Merlin. I don’t think it’s a good idea that you see her again. She is, after all, a sorceress, and you know the law against that. If someone caught you the court would not look kindly upon you, even if I did forgive you. Anyway, she is the Lady of the Lake, and cannot leave Lake Avalon. I know how you want to see her, but it will only reopen old wounds. And you are... my friend, Merlin, and I don’t want to see you the way you’ve been these past days. The best way to deal with this is just to let it heal.”
Merlin nodded, more miserable and heavy-hearted as he was before, and Arthur pushed his shoulder, and said, “Good.” before pushing himself out of his chair and went off to have dinner with Guinevere.
As it was getting late, and it seemed Arthur would not need him that night, Merlin headed back to Gaius’ chambers, where he wanted just to crawl into bed and have somebody who would understand hold him... Freya. Freya would understand, and yet she was the whole problem.
Gaius was not surprised to see Merlin trooping through the room without saying hello, a depressed expression hanging on his features, but he was still disappointed. However, it seemed Merlin was already feeling horrible, as he had these past months, and he would not disturb him.
Merlin simply went to bed, where he dreamed of finding Freya, his Freya, alive and well and not cursed. He dreamed of their future, and being together, and growing old together and being happy. But the whole dream had a shadow over it, and Merlin knew what the shadow meant. It meant that it would never be true.
Meanwhile, Guinevere and Arthur were having a very nice, romantic dinner. However, Arthur seemed troubled, and Gwen just couldn’t bear to see him worried like that.
“What is it, Arthur?” Gwen asked quietly. “What’s wrong? Something’s been troubling you.”
Arthur sighed and looked at the table. When he looked back up again, he said: “It’s Merlin. He just hasn’t been...himself these days. I know it’s that girl in the lake who healed him, that sorceress named Freya. I just don’t know what to do, but Merlin is miserable, and he’s my best friend. I feel like I should do something about it, and I already have, but I don’t think it’s made him any better.”
Guinevere, surprised at this caring speech, replied. “You told him to let it heal, didn’t you? I think that that’s not the best way to go about doing things, but she is a sorceress, and it could cause much trouble. In the long run, it’s better for Merlin. He knows that magic is outlawed.”
This made Arthur think. “It-it’s just that ever since Freya healed Merlin that I’ve started to doubt that magic is evil. Maybe it’s not the magic that is bad, but the people who wield it could be bad.”
Gwen, continuing his thought, murmured: “Like a sword. Anyone could use it for evil, but it can be used for good.” Arthur nodded for a second, and then shook his head.
“No,” he said. “My father’s life work was devoted to ridding the world of magic. I cannot betray him like that.”
Gwen gave a sad smile and reached out her hand for his. They held hands across the table. “I know. It is your decision, Arthur, and you should do whatever you think best.”
Arthur came across the table, embraced her, and kissed her forehead. “You always know what to say,” he whispered, and they left the dinner table still holding hands.
Merlin’s sleep had gone from longing to incredible sadness, waiting for Freya by the shore of Lake Avalon. He was reliving their worst moments; finding out she was cursed, watching her being hurt by Arthur, holding her as she died, seeing her flaming boat floating across Lake Avalon, her leaving him after bringing him back. And though he did not know it, Merlin was crying.He was crying.