Hi, this is my first fanfic so I hope you like it :)

Merlin was lying on his stomach, wielding a scrubbing brush in an attempt to destroy every spec of dirt in the King's room. Again. He had his sleeves rolled up to his elbows, his arms dripping with water and his face creased in concentration. How that idiot had managed to get so much grime underneath his bed, he had no idea.


He jerked his head up in surprise and cursed silently as it collided with the wooden beams above him. He scooted out on his knees, looking up sheepishly to see Gwen smiling down at him.

"Sorry," she grinned. "I have some news and I didn't think it should wait."

He pushed himself up off the floor, wiping his soapy hands down his trousers. He studied her face, feeling suddenly wary.

"Wait, I know that face. You have an idea, don't you?" He groaned. "Gwen, your ideas are great and all, but I really don't think the knights want another picnic in the forest. Especially when Gwaine took all that beer with him last time…"

"No, no, it's not that." She was bouncing up and down on the balls of her feet, an excited gleam in her eye. "I've got you a date!"

He felt his face freeze. "What?"

"A date! It's with Anna, she works for Lady Lauressa? She's lovely, laughs a lot, a little bit shy but I'm sure that will be alright… Merlin?"

He turned away, bending down again to collect the scrubbing brush and bucket of soapy water so she couldn't see his expression.

"Merlin, what's wrong?"

"I- I'm sorry." He didn't turn around. "Um… I can't go on a date. Too much… work to do, have to- to clean the stables, you know…"

She looked at him for a moment, watching as he tried to escape the room and dropped the brush in his haste. She knew Arthur would give Merlin the time off if she asked, Merlin knew that too, and she was sure that he didn't even have that much work to do. She reached out and patted his arm, feeling him stiffen.

"Merlin, are you all right?"

He turned around slowly until he was facing her, and looked up. The expression in his eyes almost tore her heart in two; it was so full of pain and loss that she wanted to cry for her friend. Something awful had happened, something heart-breaking. Something that meant her date had opened old wounds. And she had had no idea… How could she not have realised? This pain wasn't new to him, he was used to it. He had lived with it, without telling her, probably without telling anyone, knowing him. And she hadn't even realised

"Who was she?"

He only looked half surprised at her question. After all, this was Gwen, the closest thing he had to a sister. She could read him like a book. And he trusted her, in a different way to how he trusted Gaius, or Gwaine, or Arthur.

"She… liked strawberries. And this beautiful shore by a lake. And pretty dresses, although she didn't have any for a long time. And she was good, and so kind, and lonely, and deserved… b-better than what she had."

Gwen didn't have to look at him to see the tears in his eyes. He stood stock still, staring at the floor as if he could burn a hole in it.

"Was she ok, in the end?"

"She was happy." He felt his throat close up as he said it.

"What was her name?"

He swallowed down the lump in his throat.


And then he all but ran out of the room, and Gwen did not try to stop him.