Warning: this fiction contains spoilers for Season 5.
Tag: 5x09 - With All My Heart
An: This is quite a long one, today - 2,402 words. It's slightly AU and is set right at the end of the episode. I'd like to thank everyone for the reviews they left, it gives me this wonderful buzz when I get them. Once again, I'm going to ask for five reviews before I post another ficlet. I do this because I like to know people want to read what I'm writing, so I'm not just posting things that no one is ever going to read.
Anyway, please enjoy. I hope you like it.
Awakening from Morgana's spell was one of the hardest things Gwen had ever done. For the past few weeks, she had been unable to think, trapped in a fuzzy part of her own mind, not able to even string a thought together. It had been peaceful.
But then, all of a sudden, she could hear and smell and feel and it was an onslaught on all her senses and she could think for the first time in however long it had been, but there were so many thoughts, all colliding and crashing together, vying for her attention and Arthur was standing in front of her, almost waist deep in water, reaching out to her.
"With all my heart," he was saying, over and over and the words struck her hard and deep because she remembers the last time she heard those words; all that time ago, from her own lips as she accepted his proposal of marriage.
She didn't know why he was saying them or what was happening or even where she was, but she was so confused and gods, it even hurt to think this much, so she started towards her husband, seeking his touch and his comfort, knowing without knowing that as long as she could be with him, everything would be all right.
And suddenly they were both in the water and they were clinging to each other and all Gwen wanted was for her head to clear, for everything to just go away so she laid her head on Arthur's shoulder, felt him shake and somehow found the strength to wonder whether the water in her hair was from the lake they were standing in or from Arthur's tears.
"Gwen," Arthur whispered and she wished he wouldn't because it was just more information for her head to sort out. "Dear, wonderful Gwen. Thank God."
It wasn't until much later, when they reached the horses at the foot of the cliff that her head finally began to clear enough that she could talk to Arthur and Merlin, ignoring Mordred for now because he wasn't important, not at this moment.
"What happened?" she asked dazedly, thankful for Arthur's supporting arm that was probably the only thing that was keeping her standing.
Arthur and Merlin swapped looks; the kind that she could never quite catch hold of and certainly never understood.
"Morgana put you under a spell in the Dark Tower. You were under her control. We came here to free you," Arthur explained hesitantly, watching her very carefully.
Gwen felt her heart miss a beat. "I - what happened? What did I do?"
And there was that look again and although Arthur was trying to control his features, Merlin wasn't. His eyes were dark and serious, the smile that normally never left his face simply a ghost on his features, a distant memory.
"What's the last thing you remember?" he asked finally.
"I was in the dark tower." Gwen swallowed as the memories threatened to break through the barriers she had only just put up. "Morgana had locked me up in the top most room, alone. There were… things, hanging from the ceiling and at first I thought there must be someone else up there because I could hear screaming."
Arthur's jaw tightened and he gripped her shoulders tighter, but didn't interrupt.
"Then… it was horrible. I could see Elyan; he was standing in front of me. He started laughing…" Gwen trailed off. "You were all there, at some point. Merlin, you. I knew you weren't real, but they looked just like you and sounded just like you…"
"You're safe now," Arthur told her and she was glad that he felt so strong by his side, so real, so there.
"But what happened?" Gwen whispered. "What did Morgana make me do?"
"You met up with her in the Darkling Woods several times. Then, on our Anniversary, we went out for a ride; there was a poultice in the grass that exploded. You had restitched the girth of my saddle so that it broke and I fell. Bandits came after us moments later; I assume Morgana orchestrated it." Arthur's voice cracked and only now did Gwen realise that this was just as new to Arthur as it was to her. "It was blamed on Tyr, the stable boy. He was murdered that night because he had seen who actually restitched the girth."
"He was murdered?" Gwen gasped. "By whom?"
There was a silence and she suddenly knew, horror clutching at her heart desperately. Oh god, she had murdered someone.
"You poisoned Arthur," Merlin continued when no one else looked like they were going to, "then accused me of doing it. I was thrown in the dungeons. Luckily, Gaius managed to make a cure in time. As soon as Arthur woke up, he released me."
How had this happened? Why hadn't she done something, stopped it from happening?
Because you were the one doing it, a nasty voice whispered in her head, only serving to state what she already knew.
"Finally, you requested one of King Sarrum's men to assassinate me during peace talks." Arthur grimaced. "He would have succeeded if not a for a boy who sacrificed himself. Merlin of course missed all the drama because he was seeing a girl, of all things."
Gwen raised her eyebrows, trying to force a smile on her face. "Really? I'm happy for you, then. What's her name?"
Merlin shook his head, his adam's apple bobbing nervously. "Don't try to pretend, Gwen. Not for me. You've been through a traumatic experience. You need to get back to Camelot and see Gaius."
He started to tie the various saddle bags onto the horses, then stood by Arthur's horses head while he waited for Gwen to mount but stayed where she stood.
"How could I do all of those things?" she whispered.
"It wasn't you, Guinevere. Morgana had utter control over your mind - no one would have been able to stop it," Arthur said seriously, gazing into her eyes.
"But still," Gwen protested, "there must have been something I could have done!"
Merlin voice cut between them abruptly and both the King and Queen turned to look at him.
"Listen to me Gwen, when Morgana has you in her grasp, there is nothing you can do. She has powerful magic but sometimes, her words and mind tricks can be even worse. There is nothing you could have done."
Arthur's mouth had fallen open and Gwen was about to retort that there was no way he could know what it was like when she remembered a time so long ago now that she had almost forgotten it, when Merlin had also been under Morgana's control, trying to kill Arthur.
"Thank you, Merlin," she said quietly. The least she could do was be grateful that her release from the spell wasn't as painful as Merlin's from his.
"You never cease to amaze me," Arthur said incredulously, looking at Merlin, and the words were so familiar that Gwen felt a small smile touch her lips.
"Come on, we should be going." She mounted Gwyn, Arthur's gelding in a swift movement. Arthur hesitated before mounting up in front of her. Barely waiting for Merlin and Mordred to mount their own horses, he kicked Gwyn into a walk away from the cliff.
As they rode, Gwen felt something begin to nag her at the back of her mind. At first she ignored it, but it grew more and more persistent until she realised that there was something wrong with Merlin and Arthur's explanation for what had happened while she was under Morgana's spell.
It wasn't until they made camp for the night that this feeling moulded into an actual thought. She offered to help Merlin fill the water skins and as they crouched by the stream, summed up enough courage to speak.
"You knew, didn't you."
Merlin almost dropped the water.
"You knew that I wasn't me, that Morgana had done something to me, didn't you."
It was a statement, not a question and maybe it was because of that Merlin dropped all pretences. He nodded reluctantly.
"I knew. There was something not quite right. Then, a patrol came across you and Morgana in the Darkling Woods. Of course, they didn't know it was you at the time, because you both escaped. However, when I went to examine the forest, I came across a piece of torn fabric. It matched one of your cloaks."
Merlin grimaced. "I didn't want to believe it, but I went to your chambers anyway. I was too late. Arthur had already been poisoned."
"That's why I blamed you and threw you in the dungeons," Gwen realised. "Oh, Merlin, I'm so sorry."
"It's not your fault. I've been under her control before now as well, remember?"
Gwen tied the top of a newly filled water skin and cast it aside. "But it was still me; I was the one that did all this." She almost wished that she could remember what had happened instead of everyone else having to fill in the blank space. A thought struck her. "But if you knew… why did you tell me you were going to see a girl? Surely you would have wanted to stay by Arthur's side."
Merlin hesitated. "I needed some time away from the court. Seeing… Emilia was the only way to do that."
"You're lying." Gwen examined his face, seeing the way he was wetting dry lips and how his breathing was quick and shallow. "If you really were seeing this girl, what does she look like? Where does she live?"
Merlin didn't answer.
It was almost worse than if he had because it meant that he truly was lying, that he trying to hide something from her and Arthur, something that was worse than what she had already been told.
"Please, Merlin," she whispered.
"I can't, Gwen. Don't make me tell you, please." Merlin's voice cracked and suddenly Gwen knew.
"Oh god," she whispered. "It was me, wasn't it? I knew that you knew about me and I did something to you."
"No. You didn't do anything. I think you only suspected that I knew, anyway."
"Then what happened, Merlin?" Gwen reached out and took her friend's hand. "If you don't tell me, then I'll only continue to imagine much worse things. What could be so horrible that you're trying to hide it from everybody?"
There was a long silence. The stream bubbled merrily in a song that sounded completely out of place when it played next to Merlin's dark face. Gwen waited with bated breath.
"It was Morgana," Merlin said at last. "She lured me out, far into a forest about a days walk from Camelot. Her magic caught me off guard and she poisoned me."
Gwen clapped a hand to her mouth. "But - you're still alive! How did you- I mean-"
"How did I survive?" Merlin shook his head, his eyes so dark and hollow that Gwen almost wished she'd never asked. "Daegal, the boy she had used to lure me out, had second thoughts. I told him what he needed to make the cure and he saved me."
"You make it sound so simple - like it's so ordinary. Oh, Merlin, I'm so sorry, this is all my fault! I allowed myself to get captured, and then Morgana cast that spell on me and-"
"Stop! This isn't your fault Gwen. I know what it's like, remember?"
Gwen sighed. "Of course."
Her mind was reeling, though. Merlin had been poisoned. Poisoned! And nobody knew about it. Nobody except for her.
"Come on, Arthur will start to wonder where we are." Merlin sprung to his feet and held out his hand to help her up. Slowly, Gwen took it.
"But why didn't you tell anyone? Surely Arthur at the very least deserves to know. Or Gaius! He's your guardian, Merlin."
"I couldn't tell Arthur, you should know that." Merlin shook his head. "There was no time to worry about me. I needed to find a way to save you and also tell Arthur without him killing anyone."
Tears sprung to Gwen's eyes and she hugged her friend impulsively. "You're just as important," she whispered. "It's not always about everyone else; there should be someone to look after you, too."
"I'm just a servant, Gwen. So were you, you should know what it's like."
Gwen hugged him tighter. "You have never been just a servant and I think you know that. You're Arthur's best friend. He trusts and values you like no one else and he always comes to you for advice."
"Maybe." Merlin shrugged and extracted himself, bending down to retrieve the water skins. "I like to think so."
"Don't just think so - know so. You mean more to Arthur than I could ever say."
They shared small smiles and Gwen wished she could find some way to go back in time and stop her capture from ever happening so that she could erase everything that had happened after Morgana spelled her. Arthur didn't deserve what had happened and Merlin certainly didn't. He was just so kind and caring, always serving others and never himself.
"Merlin!" Arthur's yell echoed through the trees. "If you're sleeping on the job again, I'm going to put you in the stocks!"
Merlin snorted. "Are you sure about that?" he asked Gwen and she shook her head fondly.
They started to trudge back to the campsite and as soon as they emerged into the clearing, Merlin chucked one of the water skins in Arthur's general direction.
"Prat," he said.
"Idiot," Arthur returned, his words lacking any heat. He was looking at Merlin and Gwen with a kind of hunger that the Queen would have found disturbing if it wasn't for the fact that she was looking at him in the same way.
In these times, you had to be thankful for what you had before it was taken away.
However, right now, everyone she loved was right here with her and no danger was present, despite her recent actions. She went over to Arthur and slid an arm around his waist. It would take a while for her to come to terms with what she had done and even longer for her to feel safe again, but for now, that didn't matter.
Everything was going to be alright.