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Pray You, Love, Remember

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When Merlin returned at last to Camelot, he was preceded by the terrible stories of his deeds. From all along the length of the coast, the tales came: of Saxon armies defeated by magic, of bands of soldiers immolated by fire, or torn asunder by invisible winds; entire companies engulfed by the earth upon which they stood, or poisoned by the air they breathed. Those warbands which had thought to take easy pickings from the land even after Morgana’s death soon were convinced otherwise, and piled into their ships to sail homeward, away from the death that awaited them at the hand of Merlin, who no longer took any pains to disguise himself; Merlin and Emrys were one and the same.


By the time he strode through the gates of Camelot, his face had sprouted a rough scruff of dark beard, and his hair had grown shaggy. Only the familiar jacket of worn, brown leather and the brightly-colored, if threadbare, scarf had given the guards an inkling of who it was. His welcome would have been subdued, even if everyone had not heard the stories, for even though peace had finally returned for some time to Camelot, the banners still bore the black border of mourning. But one look at his stiff, ramrod posture and his cold eyes, and all but the bravest could only clear their throats uncomfortably and skulk away, only able to give voice to prayers after they’d escaped beyond his sight. And as for the bravest, they could only say a few token words of hollow welcome, before they lowered their gazes to their feet.


Some could, perhaps, be considered more than brave. One of these was Gaius. As he had promised, he had always had dinner waiting, every night, even as the weeks went on and on; there had always been an extra plate set out, and extra helpings made. When Merlin retraced his old route up to the laboratory, and up the stairs to his room, Gaius followed discreetly after, and bent down to peer through the tiny hole in the door.


Merlin sat on the edge of his bed, and stared off into space. “Go away, Gaius,” he said. His voice was quiet, and yet something in it made Gaius want very much to go away from the door, and out of the laboratory, and halfway across the castle.


“Suppertime will be in an hour,” Gaius said, the sudden dryness of his throat making his voice crack and wheedle. “We’ll have a good Sunday roast, and some apple pie, after…”


“I’m not hungry.”


Gaius frowned, and swallowed. “You’ve come such a long way, Merlin. I know that you’re very tired. But, you’ll need something decent to eat. It will help you feel better.” Silence was the only reply. “I’ll warm a bath for you, so you can wash up.”


He hovered near the door a moment longer, and then retreated down the stairs.


Merlin did not come down for dinner.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

At some point, he did avail himself of the bath, at least. When he appeared for his first audience with the Queen, he mostly looked his old self again: clean-shaven, hair not quite long enough to hide his ears, dressed in a red shirt, and a blue scarf. But the coldness and the stiffness were still there. It was as if he were a great, angry serpent, coiled up and just waiting for a warm hand to get close enough to strike at.


“We are grateful to see you safe at home once more,” Queen Guinevere said. “Know that you will always have a place in Our court and at Our side, and that your presence here, and your council, are among the greatest treasures of Our land. If there is anything that you may desire of Us, any way that We may repay you for your service to Us, you have only to ask.”
Merlin simply stood with his hands clasped behind his back, and seemed to stare straight through her.


His demeanor remained thus, throughout the small ceremony where he was given a heavy, sumptuous cloak in the royal scarlet, and officially named as one of the Queen’s close advisors. Only Gaius and Sir Leon could be considered anywhere near his peer. Only those two others remained, when the rest of the court filtered gratefully out of the throne room, while the Queen silently regarded the warlock, and the warlock seemed to regard nothing at all.


“Merlin?” Without their audience, Gwen’s tone was softer, and less-carefully enunciated. “I have missed you. Are you all right?”


“I’m fine, Your Majesty.”


There was another one of those awkward pauses that seemed to follow anything that Merlin uttered, nowadays. “I know that you’ve only just returned,” she ventured, “and…and you’ve been through a lot. But…You were with him. And…and I was wondering…I just…If you could just tell me what—“


“Yes, I was with Arthur. I don’t want to talk about it.” At Gwen’s side, Sir Leon stiffened, and lowered a hand to his sword. Anyone else, using that tone with her, would have had his blade to deal with.


Gwen hung her head and looked at her hands, for a long moment. “Well. If you ever want to talk…” The silence hung heavy and still between them. “If there is anything you need, Merlin…Let me know.”


“Is that all, Your Majesty?”


“Y-yes.”


“Then with your permission, I will take my leave, and return to my quarters.” His hardened gaze pinned down the other three occupants of the room as he spoke. “I do not wish to be disturbed.”


Even the scarlet cloak seemed to hover just above his shoulders, as if it were afraid to touch him, as he turned and left.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Should there have been more? Should I have said something else?” Gwen said, her tone hurt and incredulous, once she could be certain that he was gone.


“No. Don’t trouble yourself on that account,” Gaius said, gently. “He has been through much, and is in great pain because of it. He will come back around, in time. For now, he is immersed in his grief.”


“We all grieve Arthur,” Leon noted, his hand going to Gwen’s shoulder, and clasping protectively.


“Yes, but...” Gaius said, apologetically. “It will just take time.” He ventured to Gwen’s side, and gently patted her hand. “I will take the brunt of it for you, until he is ready to be a polite part of society, again.” He smiled gently at his weak attempt at a joke, and Gwen smiled back, ever the one to humor such.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

A fortnight passed, and Merlin barely left his room. Every day, Gaius would go to the door and peer in, and instantly get snapped at for his pains, as if Merlin could somehow know the instant that he was there. The door came to serve as an impassive bodyguard for each of them during the tense conversations that ensued, sometimes ending with raised voices, from which Gaius eventually retreated with a racing heart and raised hackles and a cold sweat, as if he’d just left off of baiting a bear. And so it became the routine, several times every day.


On the rare occasions that Merlin did come out of his room, it was usually only to bathe and shave, and if he bothered to sit down and eat, he did not bother to return Gaius’ attempts at conversation. The physician looked sidelong at the gaunt, pale warlock and worried all the while, but all the same was grateful for what tiny victories that he did have. Even if they seemed to quickly be erased by more of Merlin’s self-imposed solitude for days at a time.


He just needs time, Gaius thought, over and over, ever trying to convince himself. It’s so with all broken hearts. I must just be here for him, until he is himself again. That is all.


But it never did seem like enough.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

During his waking moments, Merlin relived those last several days. He remembered all the stops and starts, and all of Arthur’s fitful, feverish words, all of the time wasted when, exhausted, they had stopped and slept; all the endless slogging through lonely woods and desolate plains, all of his attempts to make it not hurt so much for Arthur, all he’d tried to do to make him comfortable, all the things he wished he’d said, all the things he wished Arthur had said. He remembered the horses galloping away, and his killing Morgana, and his heart sinking into his stomach as he’d watched her die. He remembered realizing that it was too late, no longer able to deny it any more, and desperately calling Kilgharrah one last time, and how he’d wondered on the ride over why it hadn’t occurred to him to do so sooner. How he’d wondered at his own pride and stupidity, that he, Emrys, could single-handedly deliver King Arthur to salvation.


He relived killing hundreds of Saxons, looking at them as if they were tiny dolls upon which he could commit any indignity, as if he were just dreaming it all. It brought him no pain, but it also brought him no pleasure. He felt nothing as he did it. Which was odd, for even in his dreams, he had always felt something.


He relived how he had failed. And every morning, he woke up with that sour, heavy feeling all over him, like when he would have a nightmare. Only, there was never the relief of knowing it had all just been a dream; seconds later, the realization that it had all been true would come crashing down on him and engulf him all over again.


He shoved his heavy red cloak into the cupboard. Merlin, look what I’ve found. It’s called a cupboard. You put things in it. He shoved everything red into it, in fact. He could not stand that color, anymore. It made him sick to his stomach to see it.


His stomach hurt, all the time. His chest hurt. His head hurt. The only time he felt relief was when he slept, because he didn’t think or feel anything at all, then. He didn’t know why he’d come back. It had just seemed the thing to do. As if he’d just gotten tired of walking, and let his legs choose where to take him, and they’d brought him back here.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gaius had left the laboratory for a few hours. Merlin crept down the stairs, and just sort of wandered about the vast room. At one point, he found himself staring out the window into the courtyard. The sun shone. The red banners stood out brightly against the white castle walls. His stomach twisted. His head throbbed. There was a bundle of rosemary that had been hung by the window to dry, and it scented strong in his nostrils, piney and resinous.


He was so tired of thinking the same thing, over and over.


But, he realized, there was something he could do about that.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

In order to make the concoction properly, he had to chant an incantation, over and over. It was not dull, however. This particular magic was long and wordy and complicated. He felt no pleasure as he said it, but he also felt no pain. His voice was low and deep and powerful as he ground the components into a fine, dark dust in the mortar and pestle, and then made the dust into a thick paste. His eyes glowed golden, as he formed it all into one large, thick pill. When he was finally done, he found that he was quite thirsty, and he almost drank the whole pitcherful of water before he realized that he would still need some of it, yet.


Back in his room, he sat down on his bed, and carefully set the doughy pill on his tongue. Already, he could feel his lips twisting from the bitterness of it. He gulped down the last of the pitcher’s contents, his adam’s apple working back and forth as he forcefully swallowed it all down, until there was just a trace of black sludge left on the back of his tongue. Then he lay down, and closed his eyes.


It didn’t take long for the room to start feeling as if it were spinning. His extremities began to tingle, and then they grew cold. The coldness slowly turned into a numbness that he could feel creeping, steady and sure, up his spine. For a moment, as his breath caught in a thick, solid knot in his chest, and starbursts of pain blinded his eyes, he felt frightened. And then, he felt nothing at all.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Gaius tried to peer through the door, but was met only with a haze of cloth -- some article of clothing, thrown and caught haphazardly on some snag in its surface. Merlin had never been tidy, he remembered with a sigh.


“Merlin?” He knocked after a moment of silence. “Merlin?”


No answer.


He poked his finger through the hole, popped the latch, and shouldered his way inside.


The bed was empty.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“Gaius?”


The physician wheeled around at the sound of his name. At the door to the laboratory stood Merlin, clean and bright-eyed and fully-dressed.


“Is it lunchtime yet? I’m starving.”


“Er…well, yes. Yes, we can…we can do lunch. Of course we can do lunch!” Gaius smiled giddily. “We’ll have anything you like!”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Merlin’s hunger seemed contagious. As they sat and devoured slices of roast beef and bread, they seemed to taste better to Gaius than they had in quite some time.


“Was there anything else I was supposed to do, today?” Merlin asked.


“Not necessarily. But, if you like, we could meet with the Queen. She’ll be very happy to see you, that’s for sure.”


Merlin cocked his head, looking puzzled. “An audience with…the Queen? Um, she’s not ill, is she?”


“Oh no, she’s fine enough. She’ll just want to talk to you, is all.”


“Talk to me? Does she do that with all the Royal Physician’s assistants?” Merlin asked with a grin.


Now it was Gaius’ turn to look puzzled. He gave a small chuckle, and shrugged. “Oh, I suppose she might.”


“Will the King be there?” Merlin’s expression grew wary.


Gaius froze. “No.” His mind raced, but all he could say was, “I’m sorry.”


“Oh, that’s all right.” Merlin looked around and leaned in. “I don’t want to have to deal much with Uther, if I can help it.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“What do you think has happened?” Gwen asked.


“I’m not sure. It is possible that he has created some sort of mental disconnect, a self-induced amnesia, if you will, as a way of dealing with his grief.”


“Will he…come back from it?”


“He can,” Gaius said, cautiously. “I think we will need to be careful, but with patience and gentleness, I think that we may bring him back to the present.”


“Should I still not mention Arthur?”


“Actually, that may help him. It seems that he can now speak of Arthur without so much pain. Without any pain at all, really.” Gaius sucked in a breath. “Merlin has…somehow convinced himself that he has never known Arthur, at all.”


Gwen’s eyes narrowed. “How far back does his amnesia go, Gaius?”


The physician was silent for a moment. “From all that I can gather, Your Majesty, Merlin’s memories of anything after his first day here have been suppressed. He will not remember Arthur, or Morgana, or Camlann. He will not remember meeting you. To him, you are Queen Guinevere. Nothing more.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Warned as she had been, Gwen could still feel a pang in her chest when she saw Merlin. Not just because he had grown so pale and thin again, but because of the sort of…emptiness that she felt, when seeing him. For she realized right away that, just as Gaius had said, Merlin did not recognize her.


It was not that he was rude. He bowed deeply, respectfully to her, and waited to be spoken to. Because she was his Queen. Nothing more.


Gently, she made small talk. She inquired about how he was settling in.


“Very well, Your Majesty, thank you. Though…” He fell silent, and when it became apparent that he was embarrassed to continue, she prodded at him.


“Please, Merlin, go on.”


“It’s just that…on the way here…and when I was out, earlier…Everyone looks at me, like they know me already. Like…I get the feeling that I should be doing something, but I forgot I was supposed to do it.” His cheeks flushed; he knew he was being foolish. But his gaze was steady and trusting, as he looked at her.


“Well…we do know you. You’re the most powerful sorcerer in all of Camelot, for one thing.” She smiled, desperately hoping that he would sense that she was joking, and smile back.


Instead, Merlin paled. “No I’m not.” His eyes flicked warily to Gaius, then back to her. “I don’t use magic. Not at all, not the least little bit.”


“It’s all right, I promise. I have repealed the law against sorcery.”


Merlin’s brows furrowed, and he gave a confused look to Gaius.


“Whatever is on your mind, you may speak it freely,” Gwen prompted.


“Your Majesty…if there is no law against magic, then…why did I see a man get beheaded yesterday? And…King Uther himself said it was illegal.”


Gwen swallowed hard. “Merlin, Uther has been dead for years.”


“Then who did I see? I’m sorry, it’s just…I remember it so vividly. I’d swear it just happened.”


“So…you don’t remember meeting Arthur, at all?”


The blank look he gave would have been answer enough. “Who’s Arthur, Your Majesty?”


“You…you stood up to him, when he was tormenting a page. You even swung on him! And when he said he was going to throw you into prison, you said, ‘Who do you think you are, the King?’” The memory was distant, and second-hand, but Gwen could not keep from laughing at the thought of it. “Oh, how I wish I could have seen the look on your face, when he said he was the Prince…”


Merlin lowered his gaze. His eyes moved back and forth in tiny little arcs as he thought, that puzzled look returning. “I’m very sorry for doing that to your son, Your Majesty.”


“Arthur…is not my son, Merlin. He’s my…he was…You really don’t remember, do you? Being his manservant? Saving him from Valiant at the tournament? Saving him all kinds of times, actually…”


“I’m…sorry, Your Majesty, I don’t.”


“Being in the stocks? The afanc?” Blank looks. “You really don’t remember.” Her tone was defeated, flat.


Gaius leaned down. “Your Majesty, it will take time…”


“Right. Yes. Well then, I…will give you more time.” She stood. “Take care, Merlin. I hope you feel better, soon.”


Merlin’s look was confused and contrite and hurt, as she left. It made her want to hug him and slap him.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~

She stared at the small vase filled with pansies, and remembered their first meeting. She remembered when he had healed her father, and how she’d gotten in trouble for it, and what she’d said to him through the prison bars. “Remember me…”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“This could lead to serious problems,” Leon mused.


“Gaius says that he will get over it. We just need to give him time.”


“How much time, though?” The knight sucked in a thoughtful breath through his teeth. “Because we may not have much time to mess about with this. What I mean, is” – he held a hand up to forestall Gwen’s offended response – “People are beginning to notice the difference in him. About how he seems content to just be Gaius’ errand boy, and perform silly magic tricks in his free time. About how he’s regressed. It may take a while to get out to the rest of the world – but all it takes is one tongue set to wagging, and the secret’s out. And no one will be fearing the forces of Camelot and Emrys anymore.”


“The Saxons are scattered to the winds. You said so, yourself.”


“There are plenty of others besides the Saxons who’d like to sink their teeth into us. The Aurvandil, the Dan, the Franks, the Geats, the Gothus…need I go any further down the alphabet?”


“We will get him back.”


“I hope so, and soon. For your sake, Your Majesty, as well as all of Camelot.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Merlin thumbed through the book of spells as cantrips cleaned his room. Clothes hung themselves, a brush scrubbed the floor, errant plates stacked themselves neatly and floated down to the laboratory. The mortar and pestle floated over to him, as if asking him where to go. He shrugged, and jerked his head toward the stairs, and it floated on out of the room.


Some moments later, Gaius’ shout rang up the stairway. “MERLIN!!!”


Merlin emerged to find Gaius seated at the table, glowering. “Sit down.”


As he obeyed, the physician pushed the mortar and pestle across the table at him. The white ceramic was marred by a tarry-looking substance.


“What have you done?”


“I’ve no idea what you’re talking about!”


“This is my favorite mortar and pestle—“


“Well, I’m sorry I took it! I don’t remember that—“


“And that’s the point!” Gaius pounded a flattened palm against the table. “You made a potion, didn’t you? You cast a spell on yourself, to forget Arthur…”


“Well, maybe I did, but if I did then I’m sorry!” Merlin blurted, words rushing together.


“Merlin,” Gaius said, his voice shaking, “I know how much it pained you to remember Arthur. It pains me, too. It pains Gwen, and Leon, and all the rest of us who knew him. But by forgetting him, you have forgotten us. You’ve forgotten Guinevere and Gwaine and Lancelot and all the rest of your friends—“


“And maybe it’s better that way! From what I hear, half those people are dead! For crying out loud, Gaius, why would I want to remember all that? What’s so wrong with having a second chance and being happy?”


“Because it’s not a second chance, Merlin. You haven’t gone back in time. You have none of those opportunities back. All those memories, all of those experiences, they are done and in the past, and now you have thrown them away.”


Merlin had that old look of petulant defiance. “Well, I didn’t mean to just ‘throw all that away’. I’m sure…it still all means something.”


“Do you have any idea, that of all the people that Guinevere has known in her life…that you are one of the few she has left? And of us who are left, it is you who could comfort and aid her the most, in these times. Have you any idea of the pain she feels, knowing that she is a complete stranger to you?”


Merlin shifted in his seat. “I’m sorry. I don’t know what else to say.”


Gaius rubbed his face with a hand.


“Is there…a way to undo it?” Merlin asked. Gaius was silent for a long moment.


“It was a very powerful spell that you cast. It is indicative of your power that you knew to do so; it is not in any text I’ve come across. But.” There was a pause as he drummed his fingers on the table, and seemed to rifle back through his mental catalogue of the tome-filled shelves upstairs. “I recall seeing a reference to such a spell in my sources; so while the spell itself is not in my possession, I should have record of an antidote.”


“Oh. Well, good, I can just take the antidote and everything will be fine.”


“It’s not as simple as that, Merlin.” Gaius sighed. “Obviously, you were in extreme pain when you made the potion. If you take the antidote, all those memories, and all that pain, will return. But that’s not all. Right now, you are Merlin, a simple, yet talented warlock. But we know you as more than that. You are Emrys, and you have immense power. And you have used that power for vengeance, as well as for good. Have you heard of the tales they are spinning already of Emrys and the Saxons? You did that.”


Merlin gulped. The stories tended to be very…graphic. “I don’t want to hurt people, Gaius. I don’t want to kill anyone.”


“But you have. And you most likely still will have to, to protect Camelot, and Gwen. To protect all of us.” He sighed again. “And there is the rub, as there is with all powerful enchantments that possess the mind. Just as Guinevere needed to willingly enter the Cauldron of Arianhrod, you will need to willingly take the antidote, with all the knowledge of what your cure will entail. Otherwise, you will only descend into madness.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

As Merlin entered the Queen’s chamber, it was difficult to discern which of the two was more nervous.


“I’m sorry to disturb you so late, Your Majesty.” Merlin gulped gently as he gathered his thoughts. “I guess we were really good friends, once. Just like Arthur and I were. It…must have hurt me a lot, to lose him, if I wanted to forget ever knowing him. But I’ve forgotten you, too, and that’s not fair.”


“It’s fine, Merlin…” Gwen started, gently.


“No.” Merlin frowned. “No, it’s not. It’s not fine. Gaius has told you there’s a cure, right? Well…apparently…if I’m to come out of it all right, and not go completely mad or anything else horrible, I need to take the cure, in perfect trust and perfect willingness.”


“He has told me, yes. And I think that you are capable of doing so, Merlin. I know it. When you are ready, you will do it.”


Merlin nodded. “I will. But…I…Your Majesty…Gwen…I want you to come with me. I need you to help me do it. Please.”

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To carry out the antidote, Gaius said, the herbs needed to be mixed with something that represented what the enchanted person had most wanted to forget. “I don’t think I really never wanted to meet Arthur,” Merlin offered, as they mused on it. “I think I just wanted to forget losing him.”


So it was that Gwen and Merlin came once more to the lake of Avalon. Sir Leon disapproved mightily of the Queen leaving Camelot, and insisted on coming with them as an escort when Gwen forbade taking a huge retinue of guards. He would have come with them to the shore of the lake, but Gwen made him swear an oath to stay. “For better or worse, it must just be he and I, there,” she had said. It didn’t really have to be so…but that was how she wanted it.


They stood on the shore and looked at the island that loomed beyond. It seemed very mysterious, and very lonely. Gwen bit her lip, and tried not to think about it being Arthur’s final resting place.


“Well, I guess we should get to it,” Merlin said, far too loudly. He dragged the chalice and the packet of herbs from his satchel. The full moon made everything silver-bright as he dipped the cup into the lake to fill it, and mixed the herbs into the drink. He stared down into it for a moment before looking back up to Gwen. “I want to make everything right,” he said, earnestly. He raised the cup to his lips, tilted his head back, and drank.


They stared at each other for a while.


Perhaps we didn’t do it right, Gwen thought.


Then, she saw his placid look crumble, and he turned to give a stricken look to the island across the lake. She felt her stomach twist, fearing that his will had failed, that he was going mad. Then, he gave a low, agonized groan, and tears began to stream down his cheeks. As he sank to his knees, she knew that he was fully himself again, and her heart broke for him. She knelt behind him, her plain travelling cloak blanketing both of them, her own tears soaking his hair.


“You should have been here,” Merlin sobbed.


“I wish I could have—“


His head shook gently back and forth, underneath hers. “That’s what I mean…I wish you could have been here.” He was trembling in her arms.


She sniffled. “Well, tell me how it was," she said, as if she were speaking to a child; it was the only way she could hang on to her crumbling composure. "Tell me what happened, and I can pretend.”


Merlin swallowed hard, trying to put everything that had happened into words. But he still couldn’t bring himself to do it. With a frown, he tilted his head back, and looked into her eyes. “Seon weorþan,” he whispered, his voice deep and low, his gaze golden, and she saw those last days, and his memories became her own. He hung his head wretchedly, regretting having done it as soon as the spell had been uttered. His body tensed up in her arms, waiting for her to pull away and hate him for his failure.


“He finally said ‘thank you’ for something,” she said, with a choked laugh, and only hugged him tighter. “It was about time.” She sniffled again, and stroked his cheek. “Thank you,” she whispered. At that touch, and those soft words, he felt something in himself finally give way, like a snowpack slowly loosening as the sun warmed it. With a deep sigh, he nestled against her.


For a long while after that, they sat, their fingers laced with one another’s, crying on each other’s shoulders. As she hugged him tightly to her, Gwen felt her own grief spilling out, shared at last with someone that she knew had loved Arthur as much as she had. There were things that she wished she’d said, too; things she wished Arthur had said, or done. She wept for all the lost future that she had hoped to share with him, as much as she did because of the painful memories. Just as, she knew, Merlin did.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The moon and the stars faded away, and the sky slowly turned pink as the sun began to rise.
Merlin had been quiet for a while. He blinked slowly, as if sensing something, and raised his head from Gwen’s shoulder to regard her for a moment. “Ansien in,” he murmured. Gwen raised her own gaze to his, shivering as the gold flared briefly in his eyes.


“That night, after the Cauldron,” he murmured.


“We stopped to make camp…and Arthur and I sneaked off away from the others…yes. It was very fine,” she said, ducking her head a little. Her cheeks flushed.


“You thought you were barren. That even if you hadn’t already been, that Morgana’s magic had made you so.”


Gwen winced, and nodded. “Yes. Though…lately, I’ve had reason to wonder…” she shook her head, not wanting to hope for it. Merlin squeezed her hand, and she looked up to see him smiling.


“You were wrong.” He kissed her temple. “Congratulations.” He wrapped his arms around her, and held her as she wept again, for a whole new reason.


In the fresh sunlight, dew shone on the grass, and glittered on the violets and daisies that grew in a riot of purple and white all along the lake’s edge. Taking a deep breath, Gwen stretched away from Merlin at last, to reach down and pluck one of the nearby violets. “I’ve always liked these,” she murmured, holding it up to inhale its soft scent, its petals caressing her skin.


“You look good with purple,” Merlin said, echoing something she’d said to him, a long time ago. “Well, and red, too.”


She laughed, and tucked it into his scarf so that it tickled the skin of his throat. “And you still do.”


He picked some daisies, and put them carefully along the braided curls of her hair. “There,” he said, when he was done. “That suits you.”


At last, they rose, gave a parting look to the island, and began their way back to Camelot together.