"You need to tell him the truth."
Merlin reluctantly looked into Gwen's dark eyes. She was very serious about what she said. He wished for a moment that he had chosen a much more discreet spell to save Gwen being dishonoured by Cenred and his men. Instead, for reasons best known to him, he had chosen to shout a spell very loudly (with Gwen just two inches away) that would make the ceiling collapse.
Well, most people were selectively deaf when it came to him using magic. He saw no reason why Gwen would be any different. Arthur hadn't noticed (again).
"It's done him no harm not knowing up until now," Merlin replied quietly.
It had probably done him better not knowing!
"So you wish to keep building your friendship on lies?" Gwen quizzed him.
"Arthur is my master," the young warlock replied sharply. "I'm just a servant."
Gwen rolled her eyes.
"You know that's not true!"
Usually she and Arthur had blundered past his use of magic. He should have known that his luck would run out eventually. He imagined that his run of luck as avoiding being caught by Arthur, Gwen and everyone else had made him careless. Merlin wished he'd listened to Gaius more.
"Gwen, this isn't something I can just tell Arthur," he told her, rubbing his hands together. "I'd be telling the son of a king who executes those who use magic that I'm a sorcerer."
"It would never come to that with Arthur."
"Maybe not," Merlin nodded.
Gwen sat down beside him, "You know it wouldn't."
"Oh I'm sure Arthur wouldn't tell Uther," Merlin conceded with a nod. He would give her that. "At least he wouldn't tell Uther until he'd given me forty-eight hours to flee the city. Like when Catrina was Queen; he still has to do his duty by the laws of Camelot."
"You're worried that if you tell Arthur the truth, you'd have to flee Camelot?"
"Yes," Merlin said croakily. "I won't even be able to go home, not to Cenred's kingdom."
It was easy for Gwen to forget that Merlin was not a native to Camelot. It felt like he had been here all her life.
"You'd rather keep lying, then?"
"I don't like lying, Gwen."
Merlin was telling the truth about that. He had been so desperate for so long to find someone who he could talk to about his abilities. He had hoped for a time that maybe Gwen would figure out. He had even hoped Morgana might figure it, back before she went deep into the dark end. The only person in the world he feared finding out more than anyone was Arthur, even more with Uther. He knew Uther would just execute him... but Arthur would feel betrayed.
"No one likes lying, Merlin," Gwen said with a sigh. "By a life built on lies isn't a life worth protecting. If you live a lie, you will never know if your friendships are true."
Merlin looked at her through weary eyes.
"Are you still my friend?" he asked.
"Of course I am!" she snipped back. "That doesn't stop me being angry that you lied all the years I've known you and I imagine Arthur will be angry too..."
Merlin looked away from her.
"But," she continued, "I also understand why you lied, and Arthur will too."
"You seem pretty sure," he scoffed, not looking at her.
"You know him as well as I do," Gwen replied.
She sighed and stood up.
"You're a good person, Merlin," she said softly. "You just need to make sure that your magic does not define you. Arthur needs to see you as someone who defines magic themselves, as someone who simply uses magic rather than some who has been corrupted by its force."
Merlin nodded his head, "I know that – but it's not going to be easy."
"Telling the truth never is," she said steadily. "It's your secret alone to tell, Merlin. I won't tell Arthur your secret... but understand that I won't lie to him either."
"I wouldn't ask you to."
Gwen smiled, "I know whatever decision you make will be the right one."
Merlin looked up to her and slowly broke into a smile, "I hope so too."