Hello! Firstly, I would just like to apologise for my tardiness... life has been busy! But I thank you all for your patience :-)

Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin, else I would be happy. Very happy.

Chapter Three: Healing.

The hour long walk to the lake was uneventful. Merlin had been subconsciously taking the very same route as he had when carrying the dying Freya in his arms. This time, he carried nothing but a rose and a heavy heart.

As he weaved around the trees and avoided low hanging branches, his mind kept wondering back to the last time he came this way. Today was the complete opposite to how it had been. Instead of raindrops falling in the early dawn, Merlin was greeted with the sound of birdsong and the warm feeling of the suns rays as they fought through the upper branches of the trees.

He remembered how, as they got closer to the lake, his arms had begun to ache ever so slightly as Freya became limper, her breathing faster and yet more shallow. Despite this, Merlin had never ceased to hold her close, their two hearts thumping next to each others as the living carried the dying, the warlock carrying the cursed.

All through the journey, Merlin had kept his gaze down on the forest floor as he walked, his nerves slowly letting themselves known with each passing step. He had no idea how he was going to react when he arrived, no idea how he would feel or what he would see.

Would he turn on his heels and run? Would he let out a loud cry? Would he see any remains of the boat?

His heart began to pound in his chest as these thoughts and questions assailed his mind, making his head feel light in what could be described as fear. His body tensed as though preparing to run, and for a moment, Merlin had to stop.

Resting his back on a tree trunk, Merlin looked up to the foliage above him as he took a deep breath to clam himself down. He could do this.

His fingers gripped the tree bark as though it was a lifeline, the rough bark feeling sturdy beneath his shaking hands.

Exhaling, Merlin pushed himself off of the tree and continued walking, again keeping his gaze on the floor but never really registering anything he saw. Keep one leg in front of the other...

It was some time later when Merlin felt rather than hear the movement of small pebbles and sand beneath his boots. He came to a dead stop and let out a shuddering breath.

Ignoring the warm sunlight shining its rays over his face, Merlin forced himself to take a few more steps, before he staggered: everything becoming too overwhelming. He squeezed his eyes shut and slowly raised his head to face the lake before him.

As he stood there, he felt many different emotions swirl around within him. Panic, fear, sadness, hurt, heartache, loss... Each emotion stood out for literally a split second at a time before forming back into the whirlpool they were in right now.

With a mental push, Merlin opened his eyes and froze.

Looking out to the lake, it was as though no event full of grief had ever occurred. The snowy tips of the mountains that climbed up the sky glistened white in the sun, bright against the clear blue sky. The surrounding trees had their green leaves and branches sway ever so slightly in the wind, the same wind that caused the smallest of ripples in the calm lake before him.

All his whirlwind emotions seemed to rise up as one, causing Merlin to let out a teary choke as they overwhelmed him, bringing the warlock down to his knees.

For what seemed like an eternity, Merlin knelt there, his breaths coming in shuddering gasps. The shock that had taken over him was dying down, quickly being replaced by anguish. His heart clenched at the normality of the scenery, but a small part of his brain was asking him what he was really expecting. In truth, Merlin wasn't sure.

Tears formed in his eyes that fell freely, leaving wet trails down Merlin's cheeks. Tearing his eyes away from the lake, he turned his head slightly so that he was looking at the pebbles before him. The same pebbles that Merlin had laid Freya down on in his arms as she spoke her last words and breathed her last breath.

Still on his knees, Merlin leant forward with his hands and crawled over to the same spot, using a shaking hand to collect a few pebbles and sand into his palm. He wasn't thinking, his mind was blank.

He knelt back on his legs and looked at the sand encrusted pebbles that looked so dull in comparison to the blue of the sky and colour of the lake. They felt warm on his palm after lying in the sun, but he remained oblivious. A sob escaped him as he clenched his hand, feeling the pebbles dig into his skin as he held them in a white knuckled grip.

And that was when a new emotion made itself known within Merlin. One he had not felt for a very long time, one he wouldn't allow himself to feel until now.

Merlin held the pebbles in a vice like grip as though by doing so he could crush them to powder as his breathing became heavier. With an enraged cry, Merlin pulled his arm back and threw the pebbles furiously into the lake where they landed with a light splash before sinking down to the bed.

Growling, he used both shaking hands to pick up more handfuls of the small stones to throw, over and over again, never ceasing in his rage.

He was angry. No, he was beyond angry, he was livid. He was livid at the Bounty Hunter for ever capturing Freya, livid at the people she had trusted, at Uther for allowing such people such as Halig to work, at the witches son who had attacked her and caused all of this, the witch herself, Arthur for dealing the mortal blow, Gaius for informing Uther, but most of all, he was livid at himself.

With a mighty roar, Merlin raised his fists and brought them crashing down to the shore. He punched and scraped at the ground, not caring for the bits of sand and stone showering him, cutting into his hands. Not even when one of the sharper pebbles ricocheted and cut lightly into his left cheek did he stop. Right now, he hated himself.

He continued pounding at the floor with his fists for what seemed like an age until he felt tiredness in his arms, the dull ache causing him to stop with a small cry. Too distraught to even bother to raise them, Merlin remained on his knees and bowed his face on the disturbed floor, the sand clinging to his wet cheeks.

Merlin had finally given in, and allowed his grief to consume him entirely. Hot, salty tears cascaded down his face onto the sand as he sobbed openly, choking and spluttering now that he had let his mental guard down.

"Freya..." he moaned, as the anger and hatred left him, leaving him with a feeling of helplessness.

Raising his head, Merlin raised himself so that he was on all fours, and slowly gazed out to the still calm lake before him.

"I am so sorry," he whispered, feeling more tears escape and drop down to the disturbed sand beneath him. "I should have seen what you were trying to tell me... should have realised, but I didn't. It's my fault you're gone, as much as everyone else's."

Exhaling as a slight choke, Merlin bowed his head before sitting back on his legs and letting his arms dangle at his sides, ignoring the soreness in his sand encrusted knuckles.

"I was just so happy to have met someone like me, who understood and accepted me for who I am that I couldn't put the pieces together." Merlin let out a disbelieving laugh. "I know Gaius knows, but, he doesn't understand, he doesn't know what its like for something to be beyond your control, to have it but not through choice. I'm just so sorry for what you had gone through. I'm sorry that I couldn't protect you. I should have."

Looking down, Merlin picked up a handful of sand and watched it as it filtered between his fingers, like the sand in an hourglass throwing away time.

Looking back up, Merlin eyed part of the lake that glistened in the sun. "You should have told me, Freya..." He inhaled shakily, "I could have kept you safe. I would still have loved you; we could have found a way. I still love you."

Falling into silence, Merlin felt that his emotions had calmed down, and that an invisible chain that had been tightened around his chest without him realising it had been there, had been released.

The occasional hiccup escaped him, but Merlin didn't care. He finally felt content and peaceful.

For a while, Merlin remained looking out before him, marvelling at the beauty of the lake, having never allowed himself to see it in this way. For days, the lake had been a place of hidden torture for the young warlock, a place of heartache and grief... but now, now it was somewhere bittersweet... even soothing.

Something sparked in Merlin's memory, and he brought a hand to his jacket, feeling the carefully wrapped rose in his pocket. He pulled his jacket open, revealing the white cloth that felt soft tp the touch in his palm, containing more than just any old rose. This was a rose that held his heart, his joy and so much more.

With trembling fingers, Merlin laid the rose out on the sandy shore, and gently peeled back the corners of the cloth, revealing the green stem and blood red petals. He looked to his right and spotted some ferns growing in the shade of a nearby tree. With a flash of golden eyes, several luscious green ferns tore themselves form the rich soil and bound themselves together to form a small intricate boat, big enough for the rose to fit in. It floated to Merlin and settled itself next to the rose, where Merlin gathered the flower and delicately placed it within the leafy confines of the boat.

Scooping the boat to his palms, Merlin raised himself to a standing position and tentatively began to walk forwards, only to stop when he felt the cool water lap gently around his worn boots.

A moment of panic took over, but Merlin suppressed this as he exhaled deeply to calm himself. Walking through the shallows, he could feel the gentle pull of the currents and the crunching of pebble and stone, with the occasional bit of plant stroking his calf before floating back alongside the current.

He came to a stop when he felt the lake bed begin to dip downwards into the depths, a resting place for many things lost in memory. With the cold water lapping around his knees, Merlin held back a shiver and ignored the numbness in his boot sodden feet.

Eyes never leaving the object in his hands, Merlin slowly placed it on the surface of the lake, certain it would not sink. The fern boat moved in a hypnotising way with the waters surface, bringing a smile to Merlin's face.

The young warlock wiped his sand encrusted cheeks with his palms, stepped back and raised his left hand, whispering, "astyre' blostma".

The fern boat and rose floated towards the centre of the lake as though guided by an unseen line, before stopping in the part of the lake that seemed to glisten more so then the surrounding waters.

Smiling sadly, a tear escaped down his now clean cheek, which he felt as it formed its glistening path that stung ever so slightly.

"You will always have my heart," he whispered softly.

Merlin turned and began to walk away to the shore, not seeing the pale hand that rose from the waters and enclose its slender fingers around the boat, pulling it gently back to the depths, never making a sound.

As the young warlock reached the tree line, he rested a hand on one of the trunks, smiling when he saw the boat had gone. "Goodbye, Freya."

Whilst Merlin walked away, the body of young dark haired woman slowly broke through the surface, stopping where the water lapped around her thighs. Despite having just risen from the water, her body remained dry as droplets of water trailed from her and returned to the lake.

Holding the rose to her heart, Freya smiled and watched the back of Merlin as he walked back to Camelot, healed and ready to continue living his destiny and protecting all that is good.

"Thank you," her voice spoke softly, sounding distant. "I will see you again, Merlin. One day."



Et voila! I hope you liked this chapter, and the story for that matter ;-) thank you again to all who have reviewed... reviews are most welcome and bring a smile to my face!

Soooo, despite this story now being finished, please, if you are reading it now or some when in the future... let me know what you think!

I am currently writing another Merlin fic that will be uploaded soon! Here's a teensy weensy taster to (hopefully!) keep you interested –

Blue eyes never left green as one figure lowered his hand slowly to his side. Both were breathing heavily, one from exertion, and the other from shock, fear, betrayal.

Thank you again!

Lady Elrayen x