Freya waits.

Time does not pass for her as it does for the living, she reflects. She recalls the dread of impending night, the way her stomach clenched with fear as the horizon swallowed the sun. She is the victim of a new curse now; Freya finds it very bittersweet that she must forge a whole life from the two half-lives she is given. She comforts herself that now she waits for something good after a thousand days spent dreading something bad, but this does not gain back for her all the little things she misses.

She can't feel how warm the sun is on her skin, if she can even call it that anymore. She is a conduit of the unnatural, a shade or ghost or specter, and they do not have skin (nor should they have feelings of disappointment upon such a realization). The waves weave through her hair but she is not wet. Everything tangible merely passes through her, as if she doesn't matter, but at least that sentiment is familiar. She's aware of the sound of falling water, of flapping wings and singing birds and blowing wind, but doesn't hear it like she remembers. She tells herself that losing these things to death is better than losing them to madness (it is) but still wishes things could be different (they can't).

She thinks of Merlin, of how he sent her off with everything she's ever had. Freya remembers all the things she's lost because she was given so very few things to lose. A burst of flames on the heels of a stolen dress, a conjured boat, unwanted notoriety, and doomed love sent her off into the new world, and these were not things she could take. What she does have are her feelings and memories, but none of these are good. She lost the chance to shed her suspicion, longing, and bitterness in life, and now they would always be a part of her. She wishes that she could wait for him without a heavy heart.

She envisions their meeting differently every time, with one exception: he leaves Arthur at home. This is their reunion; the prince can see (and have) Merlin every day, but let her keep this one good thing for her own. She does not resent Arthur for striking the fatal blow that took her life, only for intruding upon the next. No, it is always Merlin and Merlin alone that will come to her, even if it is for the sake of his master. She buries that knowledge deep in where she pretends her heart should be.

Freya winces at the memory of rain and wonders what their reunion would be like then. It pelts his slender frame as he stomps the mud, howling her name and entreaties for help and a plea for Excalibur, whose silver edge literally lies in her belly like a knife. Even in the storm and even in his desperation, he is so exquisite. If her heart could still beat, his guileless face could make it stop. In her mind, she sees the rivulets run from his hair down his face, around his piercing eyes, and surrenders the only thing that will bring him back, the only thing that brought him there. Merlin runs back to Camelot sword-in hand, his shoulders heavy under the burden of Uther's rule.

Or sometimes Merlin comes to her at night. Instead of three candlewicks he makes a million stars dance for her across the heavens. The moon is a pendant in the sky, and she smiles when he plucks it from the inky dark and places it in her hands. This is the only time she can remember what her laughter used to sound like. His attempts had been so small, almost pathetic, but they had made her fall in love with him. Those tiny little indulgences that he'd shown her were the only kindness she remembered. A bard could sing but his songs were not a part of him like the magic Merlin shared with her. Her wizard is a romantic, and would undoubtedly conjure some strawberries for her immaterial form, if only to coax her grin.

Freya, smiling, imagines a bright, clear morning, where the sky and air and earth are perfect, everything is perfect, and so still and quiet that time just stops and lets her recall every facet she's not paying attention to in faultless detail. He emerges from the forest in splendor, the way a warlock should (because Uther does not deserve to oppress such majesty, more than he will ever possess) and walks in elegant, measured steps to the shoreline. He has no secrets now; he is safe and beautiful and admired and loved. He calls her name and smiles his young smile for her, the one she remembers even though this is many years from now.

These are her favorite scenarios, or in the case of the first, the likeliest. She knows she is imperfect in death but finds small solace in the knowledge she can't hurt anyone anymore. She wants to be selfish and say that she'd gladly live her old life in fear just so she can be with him, but knows that isn't true, that the burden of her condition still stands in the way of their love, even in her fantasies. Her secret relief comes at the expense of knowing that if she were still alive, at least she could lie to herself and say they had a chance. She had cherished that lie; the way those pretty and wonderful words fell effortlessly from his earnest lips just broke her.

To escape that memory Freya pretends she can see the earth change. The landscape dances in her imagination, altering itself to her will before she realizes that she can actually exercise a form of control over it after all. She can make the water lash the shore in violent waves or make it as smooth and cold as glass. If she'd had control over such power in life, she could have battled that witch's curse herself or avoided falling prey to her evil, lecherous son in the first place. She fancies herself a sorceress in her own right, as if she could ever be equal to Merlin. She pauses the wind over the water and wonders how he would feel it on his cheek, if that were the extent of what she could make him feel in such a state.

When Merlin finally comes, Freya wants to stay hidden beneath the waves. One look from his blue eyes will undo her. He only needs Excalibur, he doesn't even need to know she is still there; he doesn't need to remember her. Her hand will barely breach the surface and he will give it, and her, no thought. He will claim what he's looking for because he does not know there is something else out there to seek. He will exit her life forever without the knowledge that he did not do so many years before. She will lose everything she looks forward to and dreads because she has conquered death but still fears pain.

Freya is right; one look from his blue eyes will undo her, but a lifetime of being denied will be corrected in this one small way. Freya resolves to meet him, to see how he once again exceeds her expectations while falling short of her hopes. He will still be kind and beautiful and perfect but they can never be together. She will never stop being disappointed by that, but for the first time she has the opportunity and choice to shy away from being hurt and she does not back down.

A figure approaches her shore, calling her name, and she stirs from beneath the surface to greet him. The waves part for her gently as she rises to the call. She trembles and finds to her surprise that she can actually feel the sensation of her hair brushing her bare arms and looks down to find the water rippling beneath every step of her narrow feet. It's cold out, she thinks, and smiles.

The sun is setting. She never thought of that before.