A/N- Hey y'all! I'm alive! ;) I'm posting this little drabble as an admittedly lame (and belated, to boot) peace offering in place of the sequel to "Secrets and Lies."

*Massive sigh* I really don't think I'm going to finish that one, and I apologize for my words to the contrary. I did begin it, long ago, and even have a basic outline. It's just so obsolete now that we know what really happened… However, if anyone wants to work with what I've already written and the outline I had in mind, then feel free to PM me. I'd be delighted to send the material to you! I feel horrible about not completing the story, but I've been very busy and there are many other projects that I have in mind. I'm sure that many of you could write it at least as well as I could!

So here's a short, emotional piece. It occurred to me that most of my "post-Return stories" involve Merlin crying, so I decided to turn things around a bit. It follows "Looking Back," but there's only minimal (if any) confusion for anyone who hasn't read it!

…Awkward moment where the notes are longer than the story…



Merlin had remained on the porch for a while after Arthur went inside. Now heading in himself, he walked down the hall and stopped when he heard a sound- a sound like… No, it couldn't be that. Arthur was the only other person here, and he never-

When Merlin heard it the second time, he was sure. He ventured into the bedroom where Arthur sat on the floor against the opposite side of the bed. Though he must have heard Merlin enter, he didn't so much as glance over his shoulder. That made the wizard sure.

Arthur covered his face with one hand as Merlin sank down beside him.

"What's wrong?"

Arthur shook his head. "It's nothing, Merlin," he replied in an unnatural, hoarse voice.

Merlin wrapped an arm around him. "You don't have to hide anything from me, Arthur," he whispered, rubbing his friend's shoulder warmly.

A sob escaped Arthur. Though he kept his face turned away, he let his hand fall from it. "I'm so sorry, Merlin. The hell that you went through- the curse of living through centuries alone… it was all because of me. Because, I'm an idiot, Merlin."

Merlin lay his forehead against Arthur's shoulder. "It wasn't-"

"It was all my fault- all of it."

Glancing up, Merlin saw that his friend looked straight ahead now, tears of guilt running down his face.

"I died because I was incautious," Arthur continued. "Maybe it served me right, but you shouldn't have been dragged into it. You shouldn't have cared so much about me, Merlin. I've caused you… so much grief- sometimes on purpose." He shook his head. "I had no idea how much you were doing for me."

"That's because I wanted it that way," Merlin said gently.

Arthur scoffed with only a shadow of humor. "No, you didn't."

"…Maybe not," Merlin admitted, "but it was best that way."

"How?" Arthur demanded. "How was the way that things worked out the best anything?"

Merlin squeezed his shoulder. "You're needed now," he pointed out. "As hard as it is… this did all happen for a reason. We're here because we need to be here, and in this time."

Arthur shook his head. "I can't accept that," he said. "We make our fortunes- unless someone else decides them for us… consciously or not." He sighed deeply. "Merlin, when you told me yesterday about the time… about when…"

"In the lake?" Merlin said, also unwilling to speak the word "suicide" aloud.

"Yes," Arthur answered gratefully, then fresh tears started down his cheeks. "…I was so ashamed of you when you told me that, and it was utterly unfair of me to judge you… especially when it was my fault in the first place. If I hadn't been foolish enough to allow Mordred to stab me that day at Camlann-"

"I love you."

Turning, Arthur stared at Merlin.

"Don't look so startled," Merlin told him with a little shove. "I've come to consider it self-evident. The point is, Arthur, that I don't just love your good traits, but everything that makes you who you are. Every foolish thing you ever did… every dollop-headed word you ever said…" He smiled sadly. "Wise men have said that your choices are what define you. It all makes you, Arthur. I know that if you make up your mind to blame yourself for my fate, there's no stopping you from it. But just know that I don't blame you for anything."

Arthur wiped away his tears, but more fell to wet his face. Merlin knew he was still a little embarrassed- he was one to cry alone, when he cried at all- but Arthur managed to look him directly in the eye. "I'm sorry," he said.

Merlin shook his head and rested it again on Arthur's shoulder. "I can't forgive something that was a mistake."

"…I'm still sorry." Arthur shrugged a little. "I'm sorry I had to make that mistake."

Merlin considered his words for a short while before responding. "If you ever feel that you're anything less than perfect, Arthur… know that you're perfect to at least one person."

Arthur kissed the top of Merlin's head before pressing the side of his face against it. "Thank you," he whispered, in a voice that was already more relaxed.

A/N- Let me know if you liked it! ;) All constructive criticism is appreciated, and just a simple "I enjoyed it" remark is something that will make my day!

Also, I'm finishing up my longest fanfic ever- a "post-Return" where Merlin finds that Arthur has no memory of who he is… I'm super excited about it! :D