G; 1,500 words
Merlin (bbc): Merlin/Freya
Merlin and Freya run away.
(AU from 2x09 when Merlin leaves Freya to gather supplies. He doesn't know of her condition.)
Note: A huge thank you to thexpuzzler for the enormously wonderful and helpful beta. ♥
Merlin and Freya run away.
They're by Camelot's borders, at the outskirts of the woods. Freya ducks behind a tree, clutching the bark with white fingers. Her face is tight and tense, her whole body stiff. Merlin looks away from her; he looks at Camelot.
He imagines Arthur returning to his chambers, noticing that his bed has not been prepared, noticing that Merlin is nowhere to be found. He imagines Gaius sitting at his work table, head in hands. He imagines the knights overturning every bed, every basket, every cart looking for Freya.
"Merlin..." Freya says, and Merlin startles and catches her hand. It's easy to leave, to leave behind his destiny and Arthur and Gaius. It's so easy that this has to be the right choice.
Freya needs him, and she makes him the happiest he's been in a long time.
Her fingers are cold.
"Merlin," she says again, and her eyes are jumping everywhere. She's so skittish. "You should stay in Camelot."
Merlin shakes his head. "Nuh-uh. I'm going to look after you, okay? Nothing you can say to change that." He grins and reaches a hand out to her face, to tuck a strand of hair behind her ear, but she wrenches out of his grip.
She closes her eyes and says clearly, deliberately, "I can take care of myself. You're safer here."
Merlin laughs. He's a beheading waiting to happen in Camelot. He just keeps digging himself deeper into trouble. With Freya though--with Freya he can do no wrong. He can be himself.
"I'm cursed," Freya says. She holds up a hand. "You have to know. That I." She swallows.
A light catches Merlin's eye, fire near them, moving closer. He grabs Freya's wrist and pulls her deeper into the woods. "We have to keep moving," he tells her and she falls silent. She stumbles after him.
Camelot is behind him; he hardly feels any regret.
Not long after they start, Freya stops. She grimaces, her face twisted and pained. "Go," she gasps, bent over double, clutching at her stomach.
"Are you--what's wrong?" Merlin moves closer. He touches her shoulder.
She tilts her face up and it's ugly, all wrong. "Go," she bellows and her voice is deep. Her knees hit the ground with a dull thud and she screams; her body morphs, thickens and grows, hair sprouting out all over, teeth extending, hands into paws with claws.
Merlin gapes and falls back, behind a tree, but he can't take his eyes off her. He can't look away from her deep black fur and thick wings.
It suddenly hits him: this is what's been killing people in Camelot.
Before he can comprehend this, before he can move (to do what? what can he do?), she's gone. She runs away from Merlin and into the thicket, her shrieks loud and reverberating.
Merlin tries to find her, but he's too exhausted. At some point, he falls asleep against a tree and wakes to the sun blinding his eyes. His limbs are stiff. His neck has a crick in it and he tilts his head to the left, the right. Freya is curled up under a tree nearby. She's changed back into her human form.
Merlin rubs his neck before he crawls across the forest floor. He reaches a hand out and touches her hair, her face, her arm and down to her hand. He links their fingers. He likes the feel of it.
She snaps awake the moment he sits down, his knee on a pinecone and the fingers of his other hand inching across the dirt to her. "It's just me," he says.
She looks at the ground. "I tried to tell you." She inhales twice without an exhale. "You must hate me."
He presses his lips to the swirly druid symbol on her arm.
Freya pulls away, ducking her head. She says his name like she doesn't understand why he's here, a simple "Merlin!" and maybe she's crying. "I killed my family! You--don't want to be near me. I'm cursed."
He draws her close, beds her head on his chest, and she weeps. Her shoulders shake and she's babbling, her mouth working overtime. Merlin can't understand a word she's saying.
He rubs circles on her back because that's what his mum used to do when he was little. He whispers into her hair and a blanket weaves out of his knapsack and drapes itself over Freya's shoulders.
She stops crying almost instantly. She leans back, hand holding the blanket in place at the joint of her neck and collarbone, and she won't look at Merlin.
She tells him of this man who attacked her and she killed him. She tells him this man's mother was a sorceress and she cursed Freya to kill until it was her time to die. She tells him this is what happened to her family: she couldn't control her turning, and one morning she woke and found them torn apart, her house bloody and still.
Merlin wants to kill this sorceress. He wants to kill her son, too, but he is already dead. It feels just like fate.
Later, Merlin says, "We'll find this sorceress and force her to remove the curse."
Freya says nothing and won't look at him when he talks about it.
They keep walking. At night Merlin keeps his distance, hides himself away in tall grass or in the nooks of rocks. He always wakes with her sleeping nearby.
Not once does she attack him.
They walk and they never meet a soul. Merlin practices conjuring food.
He starts thinking about Camelot. He hopes Gaius has stopped worrying. He thinks about the Great Dragon underneath the castle and he images it howling its displeasure over destiny and two sides of the same coin and how Merlin is making the wrong choice.
Merlin thinks this and chokes on his food with laughter. Freya glances blank-faced at him.
Destiny. He wonders how Arthur is faring. He wonders if Arthur is even alive, if some sorcerer with a grudge against Uther has done what Merlin's spent so much time preventing.
Merlin finally feels it: guilt. His thumb sinks clean through the skin of his apricot. Freya walks away.
When it starts raining, Merlin and Freya huddle close underneath a thickly leaved tree. Merlin tries to hold an invisible shield over them to keep them from getting wet, because they're both cold and slightly cranky.
They haven't spoken in at least a day aside from, "Should we move now?" and "Yes."
The rain keeps falling and Merlin's starting to feel awkward when Freya says, "My mother used to sing songs to make the rain stop," and curls her fingers against her stomach.
Merlin dips his forehead against hers. "Did it work?"
She shakes her head, her hair grinding between their skins. He leans in and captures her lips and she sighs against him. She tastes like the rain.
This is the first time they've kissed since they left Camelot.
Merlin has a break-through.
"Look." He extends his cupped hands. "I can make strawberries." He whispers the words and opens his hands.
She leans in. "That's raspberries," she says and she's half-smiling.
He shrugs one shoulder and can't keep in his own grin. He pokes at them. "They're both fruit?"
She covers his hand with hers. "I like raspberries too."
It's been a long time. Merlin wishes he had kept track of the days. He starts a fire, eyes flashing golden, then plops down in the dirt. They should have started off from Camelot in another direction. They need to stop taking turns and just go straight. He exhales and runs a hand through his hair. They need to find water.
Freya says, with the fire flickering between them, "You should go back to Camelot. It's your home."
Merlin says, "My home is with you," because it makes her smile and because while it may not be true yet, it could be. They have to make being together home. They have to work at it.
He stands and rounds the fire to sit down beside her. "I want to be with you," he says and kisses her check. Her skin is soft and warm from the heat of the fire.
She smiles at her knees and leans against him. "Me too."
Merlin and Freya find a home.
Their feet are tired and their clothes are ripped beyond repair. Merlin says, "We'll be there soon," but they have no destination and he's been saying that for weeks. Freya just nods and stares forward, keeps walking.
They walk up a hill, the grass thick and green and alive beneath their feet, and at the top they pause.
Mountains. There are mountains off in the distance, and fields before them.
"There's a lake," Freya breathes. There is. Below the hill, spread out and glistening in the sun. There's even a tiny village nestled by the shore.
When Merlin squints, he can see little dots, people moving about. And if he closes his eyes, with Freya's hand in his own, he can hear distant mooing. He can smell the wildflowers.
He can feel no regret.