Title:Sixteen Candles
Category: BBC Merlin, (Canon), Gen.
Characters/Pairings: Merlin, Arthur, Freya, Morgana, Gwen, Mithian. Some Merthian. Some Mergana. Freylin. Some Arwen. Merlin and Arthur brotherly love.
Rating/Warnings: K+. Slight mentions of abuse in two stories. Some tragedy and deathfics. Fluffiness.
Summary: Birthday fic for MildeAmasoj. One story for each of her year. Freylin, Merlin and Arthur bromance galore!

O*o*O

One: Violins

Here he was, standing right in front of her in the most expensive suit - borrowed by his rich, prat of a best friend, Arthur - he would ever have the luxury to wear. His heart pounded fast and hard, each beat pulsing loudly in his ears as he grinned widely at her, a hint of nervousness in the way he breathed in and out deeply as he did so, his chest heaving slightly.

And there she was, looking still as graceful and gorgeous as the day he first fell in love with her, if not more.

Her thick raven curls fell gently over the curve of her faintly brushed-red cheeks, and on the sharp bones of her collar. Her hair smelt of jasmine, dark as the blackest night, flowing down her back. She was clad in a dress as red as the fresh roses of spring, just like her lips, her eyes as blue as the resplendent morning sky.

She was beautiful. Incredible. Amazing.

Perfect.

He took her to the most romantic place for dinner in the entire town; the restaurants with dim yellow and orange lights, and candles and flowers on the centre of tables, and the soft music of violins playing in the background.

He walked over to her, grasped her smaller hand and kissed it lightly, and then led her to their table, smiling tenderly.

"You didn't have to do this," she said as they walked, chuckling softly.

"Do what?"

"You know, take me to such an expensive place."

Merlin smiled widely, pulling out her chair for her. "I couldn't have well taken you to Bill's Easy Dinner, could I?"

Morgana laughed, and Merlin thought it was the most beautiful thing he had ever heard.
.

.

Hours later. They ordered, they talked, they laughed, they ate.

And the violins still played on.

Merlin grinned - the deep dents of his dimples standing out among his prominent, sharp cheeks - as he stood up from his chair. He rounded the table, still smiling.

Morgana stared at him, her blue eyes scrunched in confusion while a tiny, amused smile still touched her red lips.

Then he was standing in front of her, and he bent slightly, holding out a hand.

"Dance with me?"

She smiled at him, putting her hand in his, and followed him to the vacant centre of the room, where other couples watched them.

But they only saw each other.

For a moment, there was no world outside each other's eyes. No sounds other than the violins. No one else in this room, this entire world. Just each other.

Just them.

And before they knew it, their lips were tenderly pressed together, their heartbeats in sync.

No one else. Just them.


Two: The Last Time She Did

Water pounded heavily against the pavement, showering itself over her curled up form. Cold rain soaked through her thin, ragged clothes, causing her to shiver violently as the cold seeped through her skin and wrapped itself around her bones, sucking the heat out of her like a leech.

Laying against the cold metal of the rubbish bin did not help matters much, so she backed away and instead folded into the brick wall behind her, trying to find the most comfortable position she could in her condition.

She was already beginning to fall into the peaceful and serene clutches of darkness, nodding off into slumber, when she heard boots, squishing into the mud puddles formed by the rain. She jerked awake at the sound, alarmed, and she swallowed in fear of the supposed threat.

She hesitantly looked to her side, her heart hammering strongly against her sternum as she did so.

And she jumped in the same time her heart did when she saw a masculine figure watching her from a few feet away, standing there in the darkness silently as he held an umbrella in his hand. Little droplets of water glistened from the ends of his hair, dripping down to the ground.

She quickly closed her eyes, turning her head into the wall apprehensively as she anticipated for whatever misfortune to fall upon her.

She heard more footsteps nearing towards her, and with each one, she pressed herself tighter against the wall, her body shaking as tears welled up in her eyes and streamed down her already wet face, small whimpers escaping her throat as she mentally prepared herself.

But then...

"Hey."

It was a gentle whisper, soft and . . . and so caring and full of concern. A tone she had always longed to hear from her abusive drunkards of adoptive parents, who kicked her out just a few months ago because they thought she was too much of a burden for them to deal with.

"You don't really seem to be doing too well over there," he said tenderly.

Her face crumpled at his light voice, trying to remember the last time she ever heard anything close to it. Always screamed at, mocked, taunted, spat angrily at.

There was a very faltering touch to her shoulders, barely a brush at first. Then his fingers pressed down slightly into a more noticeable feeling.

She sobbed quietly, trying to remember the last time anyone ever touched her so comfortingly, so tenderly and with so much care. Always slapped, beaten, hit and kicked.

"It's okay, it's alright. I'm not gonna hurt you."

She swallowed hard.

And then slowly opened her eyes and turned her head to him, her movements hesitant.

And tried to remember the last time she had ever seen a face as kind as that. Always glared hatefully at, snarled angrily at and stared disgustedly at.

He was kneeling in front of her, his eyes full of concern for her. A stranger that she didn't even know, and still he cared about her more than her 'family' ever did.

Stranger he was, a person she had never seen or spoke to or met in her entire life. And yet, she felt like he could trust him, more than anyone or anything in this cruel world.

He smiled at her gently, reassuringly, as soon as she laid her eyes on him.

The sounds of thunder crackled loudly, sending out harsh lightning along the way as she jerked at the apprehensive noise.

"Do you... want to stay at my house for a while?" he asked awkwardly, no doubt hoping he wouldn't come off sounding like an untrustworthy person and make her get the wrong conclusion. "I mean, just for some food and a place to rest? At least, until the storm stops?"

For a moment, she stared at him warily, like her past life experiences have always taught her to in response to an act of kindness.

She had always thought that the eyes showed everything, no matter what the rest of you said.

And she found nothing other than genuine concern and a desire to help.

He held out his hand to her in a silent confirmation of her answer, and she took it with only a few seconds of hesitation.

He grinned widely at her, and then stood to his feet, helping her up to hers as well.

"What's your name?" he asked politely as he led her to a nearby house that undoubtedly belonged to him.

She swallowed, trying to dampen her dry and unused throat. "F-Freya," she then answered.

"Well, hello Freya," he smiled at her kindly, not a centimetre of it mocking her in the least. "I'm Merlin."

She smiled as well.

And tried to remember the last time she did.


Three: Out Of Your League

Merlin had finally found a cure, and saved her.

It was a magical potion, which could undo any curse, powerful or weak. Though it required some extremely rare herbs - which he had thank Gaius for - and strong magic itself to be able to create it, which he was able to receive from the Great Dragon. But he finally did it.

And he saved Freya.

Though contrary to what they planned, they decided to stay in Camelot, because he knew that the prat of a prince that he loathed to call his friend would probably drop dead to the ground the very second he left the main gates of Camelot. Merlin was able to find her a place to reside in, with his very first best friend in Camelot, Gwen. And she was more than happy to oblige, commenting on finally having some company. And not just company, but some female company. Sure, she had Morgana. But she was actually a noble, whereas Freya was a simple commoner like herself, and that somehow made it much easier to get along with her. Perhaps it was because with a noble, no matter how kind, she had to be careful. About not saying or doing the wrong things, or to accidentally offend her in any way (though knowing Gwen, he doubted she would be able to do that, considering how kind-hearted she was). With a person of the same station as her, she could be herself without risking her head.

Speaking of, Arthur would most likely have his head for neglecting almost the entire day's duty, just so he could spend time with his love.

Well, love did make you do some very stupid things, didn't it?

And it's not like he could be blamed! Arthur owed him that much for everything he's been through for him. Between having to do his constant chores and saving that prat's royal hide, he just barely had much time to spend with Freya. So he decided enough was enough, and took matters into his own hands. It was only one day anyway. Arthur could wake himself up and dress himself and have some other servant to clean his stupid laundry and bring his meals.

So here he was, sitting somewhere peacefully in Camelot with his beautiful Freya in his arms, surrounded by a lovely dark shade of green-colored grass and trees, and wonderfully colorful wild flowers. The sky was a marvellous blue, some white clouds percolating a few areas while a fascinatingly magnificent golden stream of sunlight shone all over the place.

"Look at that! It seems to be... a pineapple with... wings?" he said, his nose scrunched up in confusion as he stared at the blob of clouds in the sky.

Freya chuckled at his expression, nuzzling her cheek into his shoulder lovingly. "Well, I think it looks more like a tree with huge hands."

He laughed lightly, feeling a serene warmth fill his chest as he dropped his chin to her soft hair. He tilted his head, just a bit, to kiss her head, tightening the arm around her waist.

Then she raised her head up at him, and as soon as her dark brown eyes landed on his face, she felt a strong wave of love - so beautiful that it made her breaths cease for a few seconds - wash down on her, and she tried to convey those feelings into her eyes and smile as she leaned in to press a soft kiss against his lips.

His lips stretched into a large smile as he touched his lips with hers, deepening the kiss slightly.

They slowly broke apart with the smile still on their joyful faces, and rested their foreheads together.

"MERLIN!"

Merlin jumped violently at the sound of his voice bellowing his name loudly.

Uh... oh.

He looked up from her to find the very person he was hoping to avoid the entire day, and Freya's own eyes followed the owner of that voice.

Arthur stood there a few feet away, his face burning an enraged red while his shoulders were hitched up to his neck, his fists clenched at his sides tightly as if he was ready to pummel the closest thing he had, no doubt imagining it would be Merlin's face

Great. Just... great.

He swallowed fearfully.

But then, Arthur's tightly curled hands slowly began to loosen. And the lines of anger on his face suddenly eased, and his expression morphed into one of amusement.

"Merlin," he drawled out teasingly, walking forward until he was standing right in front of the duo, his mouth now spread into an enormous grin as he caught sight of Freya.

Merlin gently pulled away from Freya - who was also beginning to get up alongside him - and then he quickly scrambled into a standing position, his fingers reaching up to fiddle timidly with his sleeves as he blushed a furious shade of red, blood reaching his ridiculously large ears as well.

"Uh... I... uh..."

"I don't believe it!" Arthur exclaimed out his astonishment, his voice going slightly high on the emphasized word, his eyes rounded like plates as he grinned even wider if possible.

"N-no... it's not... "

"You actually found a girl!" he exclaimed out loudly again, his arms flying up in the air as he stared at his servant with the widest, teasing grin he could muster. "I was expecting you to be kissing your bloody pillow the rest of your life rather an actual woman."

Merlin stopped fidgeting, scowling at him offendedly.

Freya chuckled into her clasped hands even as she tried to restrain herself, though her eyes remained fixed on the ground bashfully.

"And to actually find one as... beautiful," Arthur said as he took in the view of her face completely, his voice full of awe as he slowly walked over to her, gently leading his own larger and calloused hand to take her smaller and softer one, and bending over to kiss it lightly.

Merlin scowled even more, and Arthur had to chuckle, knowing jealously when he saw it.

"Really, Merlin. I didn't take you to be the jealous type. She's still yours. But I do doubt it'd be the case for long, considering how she's way out of your league."

"Prat," he muttered, a tiny pout jutting out his bottom lip slightly as he glared at him indignantly. Then he recovered as a smirk tugged at his lips, and he said, "I guess I could say the same for Gwen and you."

Even though he saw the hit coming... it still hurt.

"Ow!" he yelled in pain as his master's hand collided hard with the back of his head, and he rubbed the sore spot as his glower returned.

The prince sighed. "Well, are you going to introduce me to her? We haven't got all day," Arthur said, feigning impatience.

Then Merlin's face split into another one of his goofy, cheerful grins.

"Her name is Freya," he said happily, holding her hand tightly as he bounced on his feet slightly, almost like a little kid who just found a new friend and was introducing him or her to his mum.

"That's a very beautiful name," Arthur complimented, smiling at her as he clasped his hands behind his back.

The corners of her lips lifted into a returned smile. "Thank you," she answered shyly.

"And he is, as you've probably figured out by his pompousness and prattishness, Arthur."

Freya curtsied to him respectfully.

"No need for that," Arthur, ignoring Merlin's jibe, held his hands up, smiling kindly at her. "It's very nice meet you, Freya."

"You too, Sire," she replied, smiling back.

"Well, I'd love to stay and chat with you, Freya, maybe tell you some awfully embarrassing things about Merlin, but I best be going now! I've got a lot of duties to attend to. And you know what, Merlin? In celebration of this very unbelievable miracle, I think I'll let you have a day off, maybe even two," he offered, still grinning.

"Really?" Merlin asked, ignoring the jab, his eyes wide with happiness and awe. "Thank you!"

"Don't get used to it, Merlin. Besides, I think two whole days would be just about enough for her to see just how bloody irritating and awful you are."

Merlin scowled again. "Way to ruin a good mood, clotpole."

"No problem. So, I'll just be on my way now. Goodbye Freya," he said, smiling at her one last time before taking his leave as he turned on his heel and took off.

As soon as he left, Merlin faced her with the biggest smile ever, a small happy laugh exhaling out of his lips as he quickly gathered her in his arms, sweeping her off the floor and lifting her up and spinning her around as fast as he could while she laughed along with him.

Their loud laughters, infectious and care-free, did not fail to reach the prince's ears.

And, though he'd never admit it, hearing his idiotic manservant's jovial laughter and even Freya's, a girl that he only met a few minutes ago, made his heart swell with warmth in a way that only older siblings probably have the luxury to feel.


Four: Just Maybe

"I know your secret, Merlin," a voice piped up behind him.

Merlin froze at the words, his heart rate beginning to speed up as they registered fully in his mind, and he suddenly felt detached from his body.

He hesitantly turned his head, his blue eyes locking with the beautiful brown pair of Princess Mithian's as she stared at him silently, a small smile playing on her lips.

But Merlin couldn't see the gentle uplift of her lips, couldn't see the reassurance in it, the kindness and ease with his secret in it.

All he could see was his magic exposed to Arthur, the betrayal and anger in his eyes at the news. All he could think about was his own death as he felt his body engulf in flames, the searing agony of the burning fire seeping all the way into his bones. Think about the noose of the rope around his neck, ready to face his final moments on Earth. Or his head under the axe, ready to be brought down and set apart from his neck in a sudden death.

I know your secret. That was all he could hear ringing in his ears. All rationality seemed to have flew straight out of his head, for if he were in his right mind, he'd notice the calmness of her face instead of the anger that might have been there if she had such intentions, and that she might have already reported him by now instead of coming to talk about it with him.

A part of him hoped that this was another mistake, that she meant something else. Just like with Morgana all those years ago. That she may have been talking about something else other than about his magic.

He swallowed nervously, "What do you know?"

She looked around, as if to make sure nobody was listening. Then she leaned in and, her voice a mere whisper, replied quietly, "That you have magic,"

A sharp pain shot through his stomach, his heart now thudding harder than ever as panic began to settle within him. His head felt light and faint, his breaths rushing out of his lungs in shock.

This couldn't be happening.

"I saw you, Merlin. Your eyes flashing gold back there in Odin's land," she admitted softly.

"Princess Mithian, I..." he managed, his short, rapid breaths becoming harder to catch.

When Mithian suddenly noticed that he was panicking, she instantly grasped his larger and rougher hands, from years of working as a servant, in her own tender and smaller ones without thinking, in a means to calm him down. "Merlin... Merlin, it's alright. It's alright. Your secret is safe with me, I promise. I won't tell anyone."

Merlin could just make out the words through his frantic heartbeats pulsing loudly in his ears, and he slowly but surely began to calm down as the tension drained from his muscles, his tight shoulders and back slumping and his heart beat began to go back to normal. Though his breathing was just a bit harder to get back in control.

"Breathe with me," she said, taking deep breaths herself to help him.

He swallowed at his dry throat, trying to imitate her breathing by filling his lungs with a deep breath, and then exhaling out. And then repeating the process until his breathing slowed down to normal and he was completely relaxed.

"I saw you save us all, Merlin," she said softly, her warm eyes kind as she stared at him.

He licked his dry lips, swallowing to moisten his throat. "Nothing I haven't done before," he croaked out airily without thinking, grinning widely. But then he realized what he just said and he gave her a sheepish look.

She gave him a light smile, one not quite reaching her eyes.

It slowly vanished from her face as she continued to look at him. "You've been doing this a lot?"

Merlin smiled, "Ever since I arrived here in Camelot."

"You really don't get enough credit for this, do you?" she asked him, her eyebrows scrunched together and her head tilted slightly in awe.

"Not really, but... that's not why I do it," he answered, one corner of his lip curling down as his shoulders bounced slightly in a shrug. "I do it to keep my home and my friends safe."

Mithian sighed softly, and nodded. Not really satisfied with how things are for the kind man in front of her, and she could see a wisdom and pain in his eyes of far more years than there should be. But she could understand what he meant.

"Well, for what it's worth, Merlin. Thank you," she proclaimed sincerely, the gratitude and the slight bit of adoration shining in her brown orbs genuine and true. She smiled lightly, her eyes and voice turning soft as she added, "And I think you are a truly wonderful person."

Merlin smiled again, though shyly at the consideration and praise he was receiving from the Princess of Nemeth.

And suddenly, the sun felt hotter than it really was as her throat bobbed nervously, her heart thudding wildly against her chest and the butterflies in her stomach seemed to feel much more intense than she remembered them to be in the presence of him before as she hesitantly brought her face closer to his, her breaths hot against his skin.

And she saw his eyes widen with surprise just a second before she pressed a soft, but deep, and a lingering kiss to his cheek. Her smooth lips seemed to have remained there for a few more seconds than it actually should be. And it may be very inappropriate to some people for a princess to display such affection towards a mere servant.

But in that moment, she couldn't care less. If she were truly honest with herself, she loved the feeling, and couldn't help but wish that she could do this every day. Wish that she'd know what it's like to kiss him on the lips. To be kissed by him. To be held in his arms.

Merlin's own heart had began to hammer so fast against his sternum, he was almost afraid that it would jump out of his chest as her face neared his own, and it skipped a beat as her lips touched his cheek.

And his stupid heart had hoped, that maybe... just maybe... she felt the same way about him.

But then his mind came in, informing him that it would never happen because she was a princess, a royal, and he was just a servant, a mere commoner. She could never be in love with him.

But still, he couldn't help but find it adorable when she stepped back and looked down at her feet with a small, shy smile, a red blush began to creep up on her pale cheeks as she stood awkwardly, hesitantly glancing up at him every once in a while.

And then to make it even worse, they both suddenly seemed to have just noticed their loosely clasped hands together, causing them both to blush furiously as they pulled it away quickly, turning away from each other slightly as their heartbeats thudded lightly as they both fidgeted, Merlin with the hem of his shirt, and Mithian with the expensive silky fabric of her gown sleeves.

Then she glanced up at him, and he looked back at her. And her lips grew into a smile, which soon turned into light chuckles after a short while of silence, and he joined in with her laughter, lightening the awkward atmosphere just a bit.

"Your horse is ready, Princess Mithian!" a voice yelled from somewhere a few feet away.

And Mithian looked up at him one last time, her brown eyes deep into his ocean blue, before she shot him another beautiful smile. "Good bye, Merlin."

And he bowed to her in respect, giving her his own dimpled one. "Good bye, Princess Mithian."

She turned away from him, straightening her shoulders with the confidence of a royal as she walked towards her horse.

But just as she started her ride away from Camelot, she looked back.

Not at Arthur, or anyone else she could have looked at over the hundreds of people standing there in respect of her departure.

But she looked at him, with an emotion that looked almost akin to longing in her eyes.

And he couldn't help but think...

Maybe... just maybe.


Five: Bruises

He was just strolling around the castle at night, delivering the last of Gaius' potions to the nobles who needed them, when he found someone he didn't expect to see here - since he thought she'd be tending to her mistress at this time - and in a state he didn't ever want to see her in.

He saw Gwen, crying softly into her hands as they covered up her tear-streaked face. Her smaller body shook violently with her quiet sobs, and Merlin could see that she was trying her hardest to restrain them, but seemingly couldn't stop them.

"Gwen?" he said her name worriedly, his eyebrows furrowing in concern as he slowly walked over to her and sat beside her.

Merlin could see that her heartbreaking sounds have completely stopped and now she was silent and still from the shock of his sudden and unexpected presence.

He sighed heavily, slowly wrapping an arm around his friend's shoulders, his hands pressing down her bicep comfortingly as he used his other hand to reach up and gently tug away her hands from her face.

And what he saw there made his blood begin to boil.

Even though Gwen's head was still ducked down completely, he could still see the two enormous and dark bruises on her face, one plaguing the left corner of her mouth while the other colored her right jaw.

Her tearful eyes were red-rimmed and damp, her eyelashes and cheeks wet, and her nose flushed red from crying, and there were small hiccup-like sounds emerging from her throat which indicated that she had been doing so for a long enough time.

He tried to calm his anger, and instead focused on the matter at hand. "Who did this?" he asked softly, even though he wanted nothing more than to yell profanities like a mad man at the person who was responsible for her current state.

She shook her head, sniffing congestedly as she ran her hands down her face. "No one."

"Right. So those bruises just appeared out of no where?" Merlin asked lightly, his eyebrows raised as a small smile hinted at his lips.

"N-no, I-I didn't mean that. I just..." she trailed off as her voice broke, swallowing hard.

He breathed out softly, tightening his arm around her as he raised his free hand to bring her head to his own shoulder. "Come on. You can tell me."

She swallowed again at the clog in her throat, sighing softly as she stared at her hands. "Okay," she said, but then she quickly lifted her head and looked at him, taking his hand as she added, "But... you have to promise me you won't go to him and get yourself into trouble."

Seeing her face in full view, Merlin pushed down the burning anger filling up in his chest once again, and he clenched his jaw. "I can't promise that, Gwen."

She gave him a warning look.

"Alright, fine. I won't do anything stupid."

"Promise me," she begged, her eyes enlarged and sad.

He hesitated for a few seconds. How can he just let the perpetrator responsible go just like that after what he did to his friend?

But knowing that was the only way he would ever find out who that perpetrator was, he obliged, though hesitantly, "I... I promise."

Gwen sniffed, laying her head back down against his shoulder as her fingers clutched loosely at her best friend's shirt. "It was a knight of Valeria. I think his name was S-Sir Fred, since I heard someone calling him that in the feast."

Valeria was a small city, not far in the east of Camelot. The king of Valeria had visited their city only about a day ago for the agreement of the treaty that Uther had invited him for. Though the kingdom of Valeria did not uphold the most stellar reputation, the contract was necessary to avoid more enemies and wars.

He tightened his arm around her, silently encouraging her to continue.

"H-he was drunk. And he ordered me to fetch him some dinner. I told him I couldn't, b-because the cooks were probably gone by this time of night, and I needed to tend to Lady Morgana. He got angry and... and he hit me... He told me that... that I was a servant. That I should do as he says. I... I tried to tell him I couldn't once more, b-but then he just hit me again," she bit her lip, more tears welling up in her eyes and falling at the memory. She inhaled shakily, hugging herself. "I just hope he's passed out in his room by now."

"Mhm. And I just hope his hangover in the morning is going to be an awful one."

Gwen laughed at his comment, and after all those tears she shed, it felt so good that she let it fill her up wholly as she brought her hands up to her mouth, still giggling while looking up at him.

Merlin just stared down at her dumbly for a few seconds, as if he didn't expect his remark to sound funny. But then his own lips slowly broke out into a smile, that later turned into a large breathy grin. And then finally, his own laughter joined in with hers as well.

They sat there, letting their laughters echo the silent, empty hallway.

And if the next morning, Sir Fred's face accidentally slammed hard into the heavy wooden door of his room while he was stumbling out of his chambers with an excruciating ache sitting painfully on his head, and then tripped face first into a nearby vase on a small table decorating the side of the hallway...

Well, Merlin couldn't have anything to do with it, could he?


Six: First Kiss

The grass was freshly wet, slightly soaking cold through their clothes and into their back as they laid down on the ground, staring peacefully at the marvelous blue sky. The silence was serene and easy, not in the least awkward for the two friends. There was no need for them to fill the atmosphere with conversation. Just being together with each other was enough for the both of them.

But the accumulating quietness was soon broken.

"How would you want your first kiss to be like?" Freya asked suddenly, turning her face to stare at him.

Her heart jumped momentarily as she asked the question, her gut clenching and her heart beginning to pound with nervousness as well as excitement of his answer.

Merlin didn't say anything for a few seconds, thinking about her question. Realizing that he hadn't decided that yet and was currently coming up blank, he sighed softly and answered, "I don't... really know yet. How would you?"

Now it was her turn to become silent in thought.

No words were exchanged between the two as Merlin patiently waited for her to gather her thoughts.

"Tender," she finally replied, a small smile forming in her lips as her jovial brown eyes became distant, as if daydreaming. "Warm. With someone... amazing. I mean, someone that I really, really like. And it has to be somewhere beautiful. Maybe somewhere with wild flowers." Her smile widened. "It... it has to be special. Magical, you know? The feeling and everything. Something that I will look back on one day, and never regret."

Merlin found his answer.

"Me too."

And three months later, that was exactly how it all went when they both shared their very first kiss with each other.


Seven: I Miss You

Somehow, he had found himself running out of Camelot's main gates in the middle of the night, snapping twigs as his feet rushed through the forests, his sides and lungs aching from all the strain as the winter air blew past his night clothes and black hair, cooling his flushed face and drying the tears streaming down his cheeks.

And then he was standing here.

In front of the lake, the very place he had last touched her, spoke to her, seen her.

And then burned her.

He only had time to walk a few steps forward before his knees collapsed, no longer able to support him as they shook and grew weak from the unbearable and torturous agony that had been settling in his chest since the day he lost her a few days ago, weighing down heavily on his crumbling heart as his mind filled with all memories and thoughts of her. Of everything that would have been, that could have been... should have been. Of all the if-onlys and what-ifs.

Harsh, gasping sobs tore painfully out of his heaving chest, burning tears streaming rapidly down his cheeks as his emotional anguish of her loss seemed to increase tenfold. The aching weight on his heart became twice as heavy as all the pent up feelings came rushing out of him like an entire ocean, threatening to drown him into its deep depths of agony and depression and loss.

He cried openly, hysterically, as the agony became too much for him to bear.

He wanted her - needed her. To be right by his side, alive and okay. He needed to be able touch her. Hold her. Kiss her. To just be with her.

"I miss you, Freya," he sobbed, tears streaming down his face. "I need you here." His voice held a desperate plea, the very same one it did when she was dying in his arms.

"I don't want you to go."

"Please come back," he managed to whisper, his face twisting with tears.

As if in response, a gentle breeze whipped past him suddenly, and he felt a soft weight on his shoulder.

His shaking and sobs ceased in shock. His breaths, his heartbeat, his whole body did.

And when he looked back, he saw her.

Staring at him with her warm, beautiful eyes. Smiling at him.

"I'm here, Merlin."


Eight: I Loved Her

It had almost been a week since Morgana's betrayal.

"I loved her," Merlin found himself saying one night, without even thinking as Arthur, who had seemingly noticed his distressed state, came to sit beside him in front of the fire that the manservant was tending to. Its burning orange glow shone on their faces, dancing almost mesmerizingly.

"I know you both were close friends," Arthur said, in a voice that was unusually soft and sad.

A short while of silence ensued.

"Yeah, we were," Merlin whispered while staring at his hands. He swallowed thickly and took a deep breath through his nose, and then raised his head to look at Arthur in the eye, "But that's not what I meant."

Arthur was shocked into complete silence for a few seconds. But when the words finally registered, "You..."

"Yes," Merlin said as he looked down at his hands, smiling mirthlessly. "I knew we could never be... I mean, she was a noble... the king's ward and ... and I was just a servant."

Arthur stared quietly at his own clasped hands in front of him.

"But I was her friend," he added, his nose twitching slightly as he sniffed softly, unshed tears on the edges of his eyes. "And I poisoned her."

Silence fell between the two men.

"You did it to save Camelot," Arthur stated softly, swallowing. "You did it because you had to, and you had no choice. It was either her... or the whole Camelot. I know how hard it must have been for you to do that..." He paused. "Actually, I don't... I can't imagine what it must be like, to be forced to hurt a person you love to save the lives of thousands, and to live with the pain and guilt of it every day. You knew that, but you still did it anyway. And for that, Merlin...

For that I thank you."

For a moment, Merlin couldn't do anything but stare at him speechlessly.

"I... th-thank you," he then managed, not knowing what else he could say to the unusual consideration and acknowledgement. A genuine and sincere smile, though light, began to stretch across his lips.

"You're welcome."


Nine: Like The First Time

Arthur was sifting through his wardrobe for some clothes, all the while muttering angrily about idiotic, incompetent servants who are always late and can't ever do anything right, and silently wondering why he even kept that stupid buffoon around if he couldn't even do his job correctly. What was so hard about getting here on time? It wasn't as if he lived a thousand miles away from his chambers. It was just on the other side of the castle!

Suddenly, he felt a gentle weight on his back, two arms clasping around his neck in a loving manner.

His irritation eased instantly, and he smiled softly, knowing exactly who it was.

Then that smile turned slightly mischievous as he suddenly turned around and grasped his beloved wife by the waist, causing her to let out a surprised and happy yelp as he swept her off her feet and spun her around. And the room became nothing but a swirl of colors as the air whipped around them, and their purely joyful laughters echoed loudly off the walls of the large vacant chambers, reaching the ears of a few people passing by outside.

But their world was right here, in these chambers, in each other's arms, and no one else mattered.

He caught her lips in a deep, loving kiss just as he put her down, his arms still around her as he held her close and tight. Their breaths rushed out of their lungs as their lips touched, a tingling sensation taking over their bodies like it did when they kissed for the very first time.

They broke apart, a huge smile lifting the edges of their mouth. A sudden and warm rush of love - so strong and beautiful that it took their breaths away for a second - washed down on them, their heartbeats beating in sync as they stared into each other's mesmerizing eyes.

And for a moment, everything was just like the first time.


Ten: Nothing To Be Sorry

Arthur heard the door click, and he turned around from his work desk to find his beloved wife, standing uncertainly in the centre of the room.

"Guinevere," he said lightly, a large smile beginning to take up residence on his face as his eyes filled with love and awe at the sight of her. He slowly walked over to her and took both her hands in his, kissing her temple softly.

Then he suddenly noticed the sadness and guilt in Gwen's brown eyes and he saw her glance down momentarily, swallowing thickly as her nose twitched, seemingly fighting to keep her face straight.

Then she looked up again, and there were the first light glistens of tears beginning to gather in her eyes as she gave him a watery and trembling smile, unsuccessfully trying to hide her emotions. She couldn't stop the few tears from running down her cheeks as she sniffed quietly, her face crumpling as she looked downwards at the ground again.

Arthur's eyes furrowed as he stared at her. He raised his hand to the her wet cheek, gently thumbing the small strays of tears away. Then he turned it over and delicately slid the back of his fingers down to her chin, lifting her ducked face as he asked tenderly, "What's wrong?"

Her shaking hands shot up to cover her mouth as she finally let go of the sobs tearing harshly out of her throat, tears streaming rapidly down her face.

She felt her loving husband grab her quivering shoulders and gently lead her to their bed, lightly pushing her to sit. He came to plop down beside her, his hands clasping around together with hers tightly in a consoling and reassuring manner, mutely letting her know that he was here, ready to listen.

She tried to collect herself, swallowing as she closed her eyes and sucked in a deep breath, then slowly releasing a shuddery one. "I'm sorry." Gwen whispered quietly.

"For what?" Arthur asked patiently, his hands squeezing hers as he silently encouraged her to carry on.

"Everything," she said, her voice straining as her tears broke loose again, and she sobbed again. "E-everything I did d-during the enchantment."

Whether she was in her right mind or not.

But then a memory piped up in the front of her mind and grip her heart and stomach painfully, causing her to freeze as she felt the horrible emotions associated with it - so much hate and rage, all towards the person she loved most - and her breaths stopped.

Then, "I almost killed you."

Merely a broken whisper, but it seemed so loud to Arthur's ears.

"I-I poisoned you."

And then she began to cry hard. Harder than Gwen had probably ever did her entire life as the sobs tore out of her aching throat forcefully, the remorse and hurt piercing her heart and gut like knives.

Arthur said nothing... just simply pulled his beloved wife into his arms and let her cry, his face buried into her brown locks as he held her close.

But then he did...

"You've got nothing to be sorry for."

And those words, though they didn't diminish her painful emotions completely, suddenly meant everything to Gwen.


Eleven: Their Child

Gaius walked out of the room slowly, his old eyes weary and his worn, haggard hands shaking.

Merlin swallowed thickly as his throat closed up with fear and nerves, glancing at his friends for a moment and their mere presence was reassuring and comforting enough. They all shot him an encouraging smile, and it gave him the slight bit of strength and hope he needed, just to ask,

"I-is everything alright, Gaius? Are... are they both alright?"

Gaius didn't say anything for a few seconds, just sighed heavily as he ran his hands down his eyes as if trying to drive away the exhaustion that could be seen clearly in them.

But Merlin mistook the gesture as he began to panic, his heart beginning to pound heavily against his sternum, his ears filling with loud pulsing as his breaths started to become more faster and shorter. "G-Gaius..."

"Merlin, calm down! They're both alright," Gaius hurriedly told him. He waited for his ward to calm himself down before he continued, and then... in a soft, airy whisper that was filled with immense happiness and joy, he gave the news,

"It's a girl."

Merlin stood frozen for a whole minute, every single muscle on his body held still. He was unable to react or think or breathe or say or do anything.

But then his eyes began to burn with tears, and his heart filled with the beautiful and strong energy of warmth and love and joy. And his clasped hands shot up to his mouth as his features conflicted between smiling and crumpling with ecstacy.

And within a second, just like a hurricane, he rushed inside, leaving the spot where he stood earlier vacant, as if he was never really there.

And here he was... staring at his Freya, his beloved wife, the love of his life as she sat there with their child in her arms. She was a mother now.

And he was a father.

Emotions rose up inside at the thought, at that beautiful realization. Uncertainty; will he be a good father? Will his babe like him? Will he be able to face the greatest challenge of his life? (Merlin had to chuckle slightly at that thought, considering everything he's been put through). Happiness and gratitude; he had a family now, a child. He was a father! Who knew he'd even live to be one?

But most of all... there was love.

Love for his little girl whose face or eyes he hadn't even seen yet, or got to know, and still, he already knew that she'd grow up to be the most amazing and gorgeous woman he'll ever know. Love for his beloved Freya, his love, who was now motioning at him to come and see their child.

Their child. Those words had never sounded so amazing.

He practically ran towards his family, even though his knees were shaking and weakening, his feet somehow managed to rush him towards them.

Though just as he neared them, his steps slowed to an awed walk as his ocean blue eyes reflected the love and joy and wonder his entire being was just bursting with.

Freya was watching him with the widest and most exuberant smile, her own ravishing brown eyes glistening wet with tears of euphoria and pride.

Merlin slowly came to sit beside her, his own face splitting with the largest grin ever as his arm wrapped around her shoulders, and he kissed her hair softly, but deeply, and then pressed his nose against her cheek for a few seconds as the tears fell, his breaths warm against her smiling face.

And then he turned his eyes on his little angel, and felt his breaths cease for a second at the sight of her, his heart skipping a beat.

"She's beautiful," he whispered softly, the back of his his warm fingers gently brushing against her small, tender, sleeping face.

Freya swallowed against her heavy throat, and she nodded as a smile stretched on her lips. "She has your eyes."

"And your nose and lips," Merlin added quietly, and then chuckled. "She looks a lot more like you."

They both laughed slightly. And everything just felt perfect and so... so right.

"What should we name her?" Merlin asked after a short period of silence, his voice carefully light.

Freya said nothing for a while, just smiled softly as she stared at her little angel's face, her fingers stroking her babe's cheek gently.

"Sylvia," she finally answered.

And Merlin could only marvel at how perfect it was.


Twelve: Once Upon A Time, There Was An Idiot

"Uncle Arthie! Uncle Arthie!"

Arthur turned around at the screaming high-pitched voice of a six-year old, and just in time to feel a small weight collide against his legs and wrap its little arms around his knees. And he stumbled and almost fell at the sudden and surprising force against them. Almost. Because he was nothing like that idiot he called his Court Sorcerer, always tripping on his own feet!

"Story?" he heard a small, cute voice peep from below.

He sighed softly, shaking his head as he bent and gently pried her away, and then knelt before her. "Sorry, Sylvia. Uncle Arthie is busy right now," he told her, and just as the words came out, he felt a heavy weight of guilt settle itself on his stomach. Because he already knew what would be coming next.

She looked down, her eyes wetting slightly. "Okay," she said softly, her voice cracking.

And it was a bit funny. Because he had bravely charged himself straight into wars, knowing this one just might be his last. He had been forced to make hard decisions that could end up with him losing Camelot or his own life, or his friends' and family's. He had fought a thousand battles in all his years, both physical and mental ones.

And yet, he could still never win against that sad face and voice.

"But that's okay! Because he still has time for one story, at least!"

And her head shot up as she stared her happy blue eyes at him, and a wide grin suddenly lit up her small and young face, cheerful and deep dimples - that no doubt belonged to her idiot father - denting her adorable cheeks.

He smiled despite all the remaining paper work still left on his desk, and gently took her fragile little hand, leading her to his work chair behind the desk.

He plopped down on the chair and grabbed her by the armpits, causing her to squeal slightly and the king to chuckle softly. Arthur knew she was ticklish, another trait she inherited from that idiot she called 'the best daddy in the whole wide world'.

He settled her on his lap and she wriggled a bit to get comfortable and, girly as the thought was, Arthur couldn't help but think of how cute it was. And then she wrapped her small arms around his torso and laid her head on his chest, his own encircling her waist to hold her up.

"Okay. So do you want to hear about the brave king of Camela, the honorable commoner who sacrificed his life to save Camela, the funny, apple-loving drunkard, the huge knight who doesn't know his own strength, or the loyal and brave, clumsy idiot who's always tripping on his feet?"

She looked up, her hand on her chin in an adorable thinking matter as her eyes narrowed slightly.

"The lo-loyal and bwave, clumshy id-idi..ot who's always tir-tir-tripping on his feet!" Sylvia suddenly exclaimed with a wide grin and squealed excitedly, clapping her hands as her feet rocked back and forth happily.

Arthur grinned, and then cleared his throat, shifting to make himself comfortable.

"Once upon a time," he began, smiling. "There was a clumsy idiot, whose name was Martin. He was a servant in Camela to the great, brave king named Archie. Martin was always mean to Archie. He never respected him as he should. Martin was also very clumsy, because not an hour passed when he didn't trip on his own feet!" Sylvia giggled. "Whenever Archie went hunting with his friends, Martin always drove away all the animals with his clumsiness! He would fall down and make them all run away!" Sylvia laughed loudly, clapping her hands happily (she was also just as cheerful as Merlin), which encouraged Arthur to continue. "He was also very, very annoying. He never stopped talking! His mouth just kept running and running and running, especially when Archie was working!" Sylvia laughed even more as Arthur started babbling nonsense in a funny and ridiculous voice, in a way that was nothing similiar to the person he was actually talking about, though it was just to hear the little girl's laughter and to see her smile.

"But... Martin was also very loyal to Archie. He never left Archie, even though Martin was very strong and special and could have been a lot more than a servant. He could have ruled the world! That was how powerful he was!" Arthur's eyes then took on a distant, musing look at the words, his brows furrowing in deep thinking as if they were things he had never really thought of before. "But he still stayed by Archie's side, serving him. Protecting him. Being his friend. A true friend. He always told Archie when he was being bad, when he was making mistakes. But Archie never listened to him, even when Martin was right.

Martin was very brave too. He saved Archie's lives many times, even though he wasn't a knight. But he was one, far more than most of the actual knights really were. He was far more noble than many people of noble blood, far more brave than the warriors, more loyal than Archie's own blood family and his arm."

And he launched into a stream of stories, of adventures and battles with mythical beasts and horrifying creatures and bandits. Of hard decisions made, and a stupid fool's undying friendship and never-ending loyalty throughout all of it. Of a clumsy idiotic servant courageously saving the life of the strong and brave king many times over. Stories of two friends, brothers.

Unbeknown to them that there was another listener, right outside their door, hearing in on everything that was being said and told. Not stories, but past memories.

Merlin smiled softly, rolling his eyes and shaking his head at his prattish brother as he started talking in that same ridiculous voice that he was just a few minutes ago.

"...Somewhere along their journey, though, Archie began to think of Martin as his younger brother..."

"That sounds like you and Daddy!"

"What? No it doesn't!"


Thirteen: He Never Did

He felt his life drain painfully from his being, like the blood flowing fast and easy from the gaping wound on his chest, the sword exiting grotesquely from his back. Slowly, he began to lose all his senses, even as he tried so hard to hold on to all of them; tried to hold on to his ceasing breaths and his final heartbeats.

But he was dying, he knew that very well. And no matter what he did, he could not save himself. Fate had decided, and this was her choice.

But he saved Arthur from that bandit's sword, even though it would be for the last time. And that was all that truly mattered. As long as Arthur was safe, everything was alright for him.

It was a bit stupid. Out of all the things he had fought, creatures and beasts far more horrifying and dangerous, the end of his life was by a bandit's sword. Not a griffin or a Questing Beast's claws or fangs, or a sorcerer's magical spells or a painful and irreversible curse caused by the darkest of arts.

But a simple thing, such as a sword.

"Mer... can... hear...?"

His mind was beginning to go numb and blank, barely able to comprehend anything around him. Just that he was dying, that was all he knew.

And he was surprisingly alright with it.

He was losing all touch with reality, and all the sensations in his body. He couldn't move or feel his body anymore, or the warm ground under his back, or the horrible agony inside his chest and stretching all the way to his back.

He never heard his friend's, his destiny's, his brother's pleas and shouts and cries at him to wake up or to stay alive (for me, you idiot!), the wordless and anguished screaming into the depressingly gray sky as the clouds gathered and the first few droplets of rain began to fall, his hands colliding against his face and chest and shoulder and everywhere he could as a desperate attempt to wake him up and make him open his beautiful sapphire blue eyes, as if he were merely asleep.

He never felt Arthur tug him up and into his arms, hugging him tight and close, and bury his nose into his black hair as he ran a hand down his back, sobbing into his shoulder as he felt the sword's other end slit the skin on his palm. He never felt the rocking motion of their bodies; the prince's tears, the very same one who had once told him that no man was worth his tears, soaking the fabric of his clothes.

He never felt him grasp his face, his forehead leaning against his brother's as he whispered to him, weakly and wearily,

"Merlin, please."

He never saw the hopeless crumple of Arthur's flushed face at the lack of his response, and the helpless sobs and tears that started up all again.

Never felt his lips touch his head softly as the pouring rain washed down on them, and carried all of his blood away from his skin and clothes and into the growing puddle of mud on the ground, making the mixture of water and dirt a red color.

He never did.

Because he was already gone by then.


Fourteen: Forever

He couldn't believe he was dead.

He knew he shouldn't be surprised about it. Considering the life he lived, with fighting magical beasts and horrifying creatures and dodging swords and arrows almost every week, he knew it shouldn't have been long before he finally ran out of miracles and luck and death caught up with him.

But still, it was incredible.

Everything was black, complete darkness percolating the entire place. It felt like he was floating, like there was no ground and he was standing on nothing. It was a bit terrifying, but he knew this wasn't the end of his death process. Or so he hoped.

"Merlin."

The sudden voice made him jump just as his heart did, and he whipped around to face the owner.

Only to find nothing. No one.

He thought the voice may have been familiar to him, but he couldn't really be sure since it sounded so muffled and distant and unclear.

As soon as that thought finished, the place began to brighten slowly...

The whole area began to engulf into a bright white light, one that seemed stronger than the summer sun when you looked directly at it. It burned his eyes painfully with the intensity of it and his arms shot up to cover his eyes.

.

.

.

It was dark again. No more light penetrating through his closed eyelids, filling his vision with a glowing yellow.

That was until he opened his eyes.

To her.

"Merlin."

Her medium-length dark brown hair flowed gently to her shoulders, her beautiful and faintly red cheeks stretched into a smile as her resplendent doe eyes stared right into his own blue orbs. She was wearing that dress... that very same one she wore the day she died.

And she was still as amazing as the moment he fell in love with her.

"Freya..."

She smiled widely, stepping forward and enveloping his hands in her own smaller ones. "It's me."

But then the uplift of the corners of her mouth slowly eased as her eyes grew sad. "You died."

Merlin swallowed thickly, and smiled at her reassuringly. "I know that."

Freya grasped his hands a little tighter. "I don't really know if... if I should be happy or sad about you being here."

Merlin chuckled softly in response, and then lapsed into a serene silence as he stared at her face.

He missed her so much. Not a day had passed when he didn't think about her, when he didn't wish that she was here, alive and right by his side. When he didn't think about all that they could have been.

And even though he loved and missed his friends a lot and wished to see them again, he knew he had to move on and make the best of what he had right now, right at this moment.

So that's what he did.

He let go of her hands, and took her into his arms instead, hugging her slighter body tightly to his own. He pressed a gentle kiss to the side of her hair and he whispered,

"I sure am happy to see you."

Freya wrapped her own arms around his neck and smiled tenderly, mumbling quietly into shoulder, "I missed you."

Merlin held her just a bit more close, burying his face into her neck as the edges of his eyes filled with a thin line of tears, and his voice broke slightly as he replied back, "I missed you too."

She sniffed softly, and then pulled away, though her hands moved down to grip both of his pale ones again. She smiled, and said softly, "I've been waiting so long for you." She brought his hands to her heart lovingly, squeezing them lightly as her own brown eyes wetted with unshed tears. "Now we can finally be together forever."

His lips stretched into a smile, one wider than ever, as he asked in a soft and awed whisper, "Forever?"

She chuckled fondly at his joy, and nodded with a smile that matched the width of her love's.

"Forever."


Fifteen: Just Like Arthur's

Centuries passed.

But he was still waiting for him. He'll wait until the very end of this world if he had to. That was just how much he loved his best friend.

His brother.

.

.

.

He saw a little boy sitting on a park bench, whose face was ducked sadly, hair as golden as the warm rays of the sun, just like Arthur's. His hands curled into his lap as his trembling shoulders hunched into himself, soft and restrained sobs and strangled whimpers struggling to burst out of him.

And Merlin found that he couldn't see that little boy like that without feeling his heart ache.

Perhaps it was the striking resemblance of his best friend, his destiny, his master, his king. His brother.

His everything.

But he just couldn't.

So he went and, for the first time in years, uttered something to another living being.

"Why are you crying?"

Just as soon as those words reached those young ears of the ten-year old, his entire physique stilled into shock and his pitiful sounds stopped into stupefied silence.

Then he immediately sniffed to get rid of the clog in his rose and swallowed hard to remove the aching lump in his throat. He rolled his shoulders, with a false confidence that was only put up for show but greatly practiced, and straightened his back.

Just like Arthur used to whenever Merlin caught him sad and hurting.

"I'm not crying."

"Yes you are. You don't have to pretend."

His nose twitched, and he raised his chin, pulling in a deep breath through his nose and then repeating in a more firm and stronger voice, almost as authoritative as Arthur's used to be. "I. am not. crying."

Stubborn just like him too.

"It's okay to cry, you know. No matter how strong you are... we all need to sometimes," he reassured softly, in an attempt to console the young boy. "And sometimes, there are things you feel that you can't share with your loved ones... so instead... you share it with strangers," Merlin added lightly - a bit hesitantly - and pulled a gentle and kind smile on his lips to show that he was harmless, non-judgemental.

The little boy seemed to be contemplating, staring down at his hands.

And Merlin caught himself holding his breath, hoping within his heart that he'd allow him to help.

Then that breath was released when the boy began softly, "My father doesn't let me have any friends. I... I come from one of the richest families in this city, and he looks down on those who are not in the same class as him. He says that if they'll ever befriend me, they'll only do so because they want my money." He sniffed softly, and then twisted his body towards him, facing him.

And Merlin wanted to cry at those eyes, beautiful as the ocean and blue as the sapphire gems.

Just like Arthur's.

"B-but I don't think that's true! I mean, I'm sure there are some people out here who'll like me for me, and not my money. I just have to look for them! And I can't do that if he won't even let me speak to them."

Merlin's lips stretched into a tender smile at the boy's words. "You are much more wiser than your father is."

The little boy looked at him attentively, silently encouraging him to continue, and perhaps reassure him that his beliefs were true.

Merlin smiled at the innocent hope shining in the little boy's eyes, and he turned his sight ahead at the view of green grass and trees and benches in the park, and cars speeding by on the roads behind.

"There are many kinds of people in this world. Some who are cruel, bad, deceiving, selfish.

And some who are good, kind, true, selfless. Some who don't care about money or class, or anything else that make you what you are, at all. These are the people who'll be your true friends. People who will love you for who you are as a person.

And I know these people are destined to be in your life. A part of your life. You just need to keep your eyes open for them. And when you find them... don't ever let them go."

When he looked back at the boy...

He saw the most awed and hopeful and happy smile tugging at his lips.

"Really?" the boy whispered, his blue orbs and his entire being glowing with hope.

Merlin nodded, smiling himself.

The boy's smile turned into a grin as his eyes become wondrous. His sight became distant, as if in daydreaming or deep thinking.

"Thank you," then he said softly, sincerely, as he looked back at Merlin.

"You're welcome," Merlin replied, his voice just as genuine.

Then the boy's eyes became large and childlike as he asked, "What's your name?"

Merlin chuckled slightly at his adorable innocence, and held out his hand. "I'm Merlin. What about you?"

The boy smiled widely, taking his hand wholly in his smaller one and, confident as a prince, shook it as he answered,

"I'm Arthur. Arthur Pendragon."


Sixteen: Thank You For Being Here

He wasn't the drinking type.

But right now, he was ready to do anything to get rid of all this pain.

The heaviness and ache in his chest, the clenching and nausea in his gut. The constant reminders (strawberries and candle flames and wild flowers and purple dresses), the thoughts and memories (I'm Freya.

I've never met anyone like you either.

...And a lake.

One day, I'll repay you.

You've already saved me. You made me feel loved.)

Wishes and desires (We'll go somewhere where no one knows us. Somewhere far away). The guilt and remorse (he should have saved her. He should have done more. Should have tried harder), the sorrow and anguish and loss (why did she have to go? Why did he have to lose her? She didn't deserve to die).

It was all too much.

So now here he was, drunk out of his mind and having no idea where in the world he was going. Somewhere in the castle, that's all he knew. And he was trying to navigate his way back to Gaius' quarters, but his heavy mind was just spinning like mad and he could barely stand still or see straight, let alone understand the directions he was stumbling to.

He was constantly stumbling and tripping, colliding into walls or falling to the ground every few seconds. His stomach felt sick and he was just about ready to throw up all his meager meals throughout the day.

But somehow he managed to pull himself together. Somehow he managed to get to his feet and stand upright again...

Only for his feet to betray him as he swayed and banged hard against a door.

He just hoped it wasn't Arthur's room. Or any of the prattish knights'.

For a moment, he just laid against the wood, allowing himself to rest. In fact, he even began to contemplate just staying here until morning because he didn't think he would ever be able to get to his room anyway, and so he didn't want to bother if his efforts will be futile in the end.

And it wasn't that bad here, on the ground. The carpet was quite soft...

And plus, he was just so tired. So... hurt from all that happened recently. He didn't care about anything anymore.

He didn't even care that he had no idea which part of the castle he was in. He didn't even care about the fact that he would be making Gaius worry if he didn't show up to the quarters for the entire night. He didn't care that he still had some of his last chores to do, and Arthur would be angry if he didn't finish them.

All he cared about... was making this pain go away.

He just wished Freya was here.

.

.

.

Morgana's hands shook violently as she grabbed a vase and reached for the door, ready to hurl it at the cause of the sudden loud thud from the other side of her chambers, like the sound of someone banging against her door.

She hesitated, her fingers still trembling as they went for the knob. But then she schooled her features into a stoic one, her nostrils flared and her lower lip jutted out slightly as she sucked in a deep breath.

Then she jerked the door open, vase held high.

Only to feel a weight fall against her legs, and a scream almost tore out of her throat at the sudden surprise.

But she relaxed when she saw that it was just Merlin, and she laughed slightly at her stupid paranoia.

Then she realized that he was passed out and, worriedly, she lowered down to her knees and placed a hand on his shoulder, shaking him gently.

"Merlin?" she called softly.

He didn't respond.

She leaned closer, but then instantly recoiled back at the repulsive stench of ale emanating from him, her nose scrunching up in disgust of the smell.

She didn't take Merlin to be the drinking type. But at least she knew it wasn't anything serious.

"Merlin," she repeated, moving her hand from his shoulder to his cheek and lightly tapping it.

"Merlin."

After a few seconds of that, he moaned, his eyebrows scrunching in concentration as he tried to pry his eyes open.

Some attempts later, his stunning blue orbs finally came into view as his eyes fully opened wide.

But Morgana found that there was something different about them.

They were dull, sad, dark... as opposed to the usual light and spirit and joy she saw there every day.

He was squinting at her through his supposedly blurred vision, most likely trying his hardest to focus on her face and figure out who she was.

"M-Mor'ana?" he asked softly.

She nodded, a kind smile on her lips. "Yes, Merlin. It's me."

He stared at her silently, before his lips formed a small circle shape.

She took his arm and bicep with each hand and helped him sit up. Half-way done, she grasped his back with her arms, Merlin's coming around her shoulders, and she heaved his dead weight up until he was standing on his feet, though still leaning against her.

Knowing there was no way they'd both be able to last the walk back to the physician's chambers, and it was a very late night so she couldn't scream for the guards; she led the drunk man towards her own bed.

When they got there, she gently helped him sit down and pushed him slightly, wordlessly ordering him to lie down.

As he did so, she looked around her chambers, searching for anything she could use for her makeshift bed for the night. Spotting an extra blanket that Gwen might have left for her on the chair due to the beginnings of the cold winter season, she started to stride towards the object.

Only to feel herself tugged back as she felt the warmth of a hand wrap around her wrist.

She glanced down at Merlin, and found him staring his captivating and piercing blue eyes at her with such a desolated, heartbroken look in them that she already knew she was prepared to do anything just so she would never see those awful emotions in those orbs again. Those orbs that are supposed to be exuberant and vibrant, brighter than the sun itself.

"St-s'ay..." he slurred, his voice a soft whisper, pleading and sad - so devastated and broken. "Don' leeaave."

His beautiful blue eyes blurred and glistened with tears as his face twisted heartbreakingly. "Don' wan' y-y'u t'leave t-too."

Her heart ached for her friend (for the man she so deeply loved that it hurt).

And Morgana had absolutely no idea what was going on in his life. But what she did know was that she wanted... needed to do something. Anything. Whatever it is she could to help him.

So that's what she did.

She lied down on the bed beside him, their heads alongside each other's on the soft, warm pillow, almost touching. She gently lifted his hands and held them in her own, rubbing tender circles on them with her thumb as she smiled comfortingly at him.

"Jus' st-st'y, a'right?" he slurred again, his voice low as a whisper and his large droopy eyes pleading as a beaten puppy.

She nodded.

He sniffed quietly, and nodded as well, inhaling deeply through his nose.

Their eyes were locked on each other's, beautiful emerald green into ravishing sapphirine blue. And Morgana found that she was already losing herself into those depths.

.

.

.

She was just nodding off to sleep when she felt him squeeze her hand weakly, and she heard his drunken voice softly talk to her,

"Th-th'nk y'u f'r... f'r be-bein' 'ere."