Hi everyone! So this is my first attempt at a Merlin fanfic, though I'm pretty sure I've read nearly every complete Merlin fanfic there is on this site. (I might be slightly obsessed). I intended it to be a three-shot, but it just kind of expanded into this. So please leave a review and tell me what you think :)

Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin. If I did, the show wouldn't have ended.

By The Lakeside

Part One

"It's okay, Merlin. Stay with me."

Arthur kept up the encouraging and desperate babble as he raced through the woods, a bleeding and weakening Merlin in his arms.

"Arthur…" The servant – his friend – tried to speak.

"No, Merlin! You're not dying on me. I'm not losing you too." Arthur had lost many of those who were close to him throughout his life. His father, Morgana, Agravaine, even Guinevere, for a while. He'd be damned if he was going to lose Merlin too.

They'd been ambushed by bandits whilst out on a hunt and while trying to protect his king, Merlin had received a grievous sword wound in his stomach.

In his rush to get Merlin to safety and back to Camelot – to Gaius and treatment – he had separated from the knights and was now running through the forest, desperation and adrenaline the only thing keeping him going. He had no idea where the horses were, but he really wished he had one.

"Freya," Merlin rasped out and Arthur glanced down at him in confusion. Who was Freya? "You must take me to Freya."

"It's alright," Arthur soothed, "I'm taking you to Gaius."

"No! Arthur … Freya, please. The lake … we must go to the lake."

"Merlin, shut up."

"Arthur, I'm dying." Those words pulled Arthur up short and he stopped running, but he was breathing hard. "I'm dying and Camelot is too far away to get to in time. Freya can help. Please … we are close."

Arthur glanced at his friend. Merlin was losing a lot of blood and was getting worse. He made a split second decision. "Which way?"

Merlin lifted a shaking hand and pointed to their left. Arthur set off again.

"Freya..." Merlin murmured, sounding half delirious. "Freya, I am coming. I will see you again." Arthur didn't know what to make of his servants ramblings. All he knew was that if they didn't find this 'Freya' soon, Merlin would die.

Arthur ran even faster. His muscles screamed in protest, but he pushed on. He needed to save Merlin. That was all that mattered.

Suddenly, they were there. A vast lake appeared in front of them, surrounded by mountains. It was beautiful. The whole place had a peaceful, tranquil feel to it. It was so calming; Arthur could almost imagine the last fifteen minutes hadn't happened.

Arthur glanced down at Merlin's bleeding body. But the last fifteen minutes had happened and Merlin needed help. "Frey … a .." Merlin groaned and then slumped into unconsciousness.

"Merlin!" Arthur looked around, but there was no one in sight. The king gently laid Merlin on the ground. "Merlin! Stay with me! Help! Somebody! Anybody! FREYA!"

Arthur felt tears stream down his face as he looked at the dying form of his best friend. Merlin was going to die because Arthur heeded the delirious words of a dying man and had taken him to a lake where there was absolutely no help at all. This was all Arthur's fault and he was going to lose Merlin.

"Arthur Pendragon."

Arthur's head snapped up at hearing the soft feminine voice speak. A woman was standing on the top of the lake's water. She was beautiful, with dark hair and dark eyes. But she was bathed in a bright golden light. It was so intense that Arthur had to shield his eyes.

The lady stepped forward, the light around her fading. Arthur drew his sword. "Not any closer, sorceress," he said, standing protectively in front of his manservant.

"Be at peace, Arthur Pendragon. I wish you no harm."

Arthur remained unconvinced and suspicious; he didn't lower his sword. "Who are you?"

"I am Freya, Lady of the Lake and Guardian of Avalon. Please, Merlin is fading. I will not allow him to die and your prejudice against magic is not going to stop me healing him."

Arthur, shocked that Merlin and this sorceress, water spirit, guardian – whatever she was – seemed to be on a first name basis, lowered his sword. "You're Freya?"

"Yes," she said, sounding impatient. "You must bring him to me. I cannot leave the lake."

Uncertain, Arthur hesitated. Trusting her went against everything he'd been taught. The last time he'd trusted magic to heal someone close to him it had ended in the death of his father. Still, he couldn't lose Merlin. "You promise not to harm him?"

Much to Arthur's surprise, Freya stared at Merlin with such a loving and tender expression that Arthur felt the need to look away, uncomfortable. But he looked on as Freya softly said, "I could never hurt Merlin."

Hoping he wasn't about to make a huge mistake, Arthur picked up Merlin's limp form and placed him at Freya's feet in the shallows of the lake. He then stepped back to give them room, but close enough to help if it was needed. He really was very uncertain about all this.

Freya knelt down, gently caressing Merlin's cheek. "Oh, my love," she murmured, "What has happened to you?"

Wait. WHAT?! Arthur thought, starting in surprise. My love? Her and Merlin? What?

But Arthur didn't have time to dwell on that massive surprise as Freya had placed her hands over Merlin's wound and began chanting in the unfamiliar language of the Old Religion. The king held his breath as Freya's eyes burned gold. Her spell continued, the air around them crackling with power as she cast it.

Abruptly, Freya pulled away from Merlin, glancing at him to make sure the spell had worked and that he would be alright. Convinced he was, she turned back to Arthur. "Merlin will live," she told him. "But he will need rest. Gaius will be able to take care of him."

Breathing out in relief, Arthur rushed to Merlin's side. He has so many questions he didn't know where to start. But he was relieved. Overwhelming relieved that Merlin was alright. Seeing that his friend was merely asleep, he turned back to Freya. "How do you know Merlin? And Gaius, for that matter?"

"Merlin saved me many years ago," she replied, once again looking at Merlin with a loving expression on her face. Arthur really didn't know what to make of that. "He showed me love when others thought me a monster. Although I cannot leave this lake, I am always watching and looking out for him. But we are separated by a void that everyone but Merlin can cross. Though I do believe we will be together eventually, Merlin has many, many years before his time in Avalon. Though he came very close today."

"… What?" What does that mean?

Freya looked at him, uncertain. "I am not the one who should be telling you this … The time of Albion is nearly upon us, but it is from Emrys' lips that you must hear the truth. Not mine."

"I don't even know what you're talking about! Who is Emrys?"

"Then Emrys has kept his secret well, even if the deceit has caused him great grief and pain. He never wanted to lie. Least of all to you."

"What are you talking about and what does this have to do with Merlin?!" Arthur had absolutely no idea what the mysterious Lady of the Lake was talking about. He hated not knowing. Confusion was a feeling that did not bode well with the king of Camelot.

But Freya was spared answering by a groan from the man between them. "Merlin?" Arthur called, feeling even more relieved that there were signs of life coming from his friend. "Merlin!"

The manservant stirred and opened his eyes, blinking a few times to get used to the light. But when he was fully aware of his surroundings, he only had eyes for one person.

"Freya!" Merlin tried to lunge to his feet, but both Freya and Arthur prevented him. He needed to do as little sudden movements as possible.

"Slowly, Merlin, slowly," Freya said, "you must rest."

Merlin was beaming, absolutely beaming. Arthur couldn't remember a time where he had seen the man so happy. Merlin's eyes were filled with incredible joy, but for some reason Arthur could see sadness in them as well. Sadness and longing as he stared at the woman who had saved him.

Arthur really didn't know what to make of any of this.

"Arthur," Merlin said, bringing the king out of his thoughts. "Thank you." The traces of sadness were gone from the man's eyes, taken over by that ecstatic joy that was still present in his expression. There was a mass of gratitude and sincerity in Merlin's voice as he thanked his master.

"That's alri-"


The three of them turned at the sound of the new voice to see the Knights of the Round Table clambering out of the tree line surrounding the lane. Their swords were drawn and were all looking at Freya suspiciously.

Merlin stood slowly, shakily. He took Freya's hand and gave it a comforting squeeze. "They are friends," he assured her.

"I'll deal with them," Arthur said, heading off towards the knights. And give you two a moment together alone, he thought as he went. "Stand down!" He ordered as he reached his men.

"But Arthur," Leon protested. "We had separated from you and then saw this bright golden light – we thought it was sorcery – who is that woman?"

"And what is Merlin doing with her?" Elyan asked.

"If she hurts him…" Gwaine started threateningly. Gwaine was just as protective of Merlin as Arthur was.

"Does it look like she's hurting him?" Percival pointed out, ever the observant one. "Look at them."

The knights all turned to study the pair in the water. Merlin and Freya were oblivious to the observation, lost in their own world.

"… They … They love each other." Gwaine said, a little in shock. No one denied his claim, though. Their feelings for each other were written all over Merlin and Freya's faces. "… Merlin's never said."

That he's in love with the guardian lake spirit of Avalon? Arthur thought. Gee, I wonder why?

But then the group was shocked a second time as Merlin leant in and kissed Freya on the lips; a gesture that was happily returned by the woman in his arms.

Arthur, seeing that Gwaine was about to wolf whistle at the pair, smacked the knight on the arm. "Don't."

"Hey!" Gwaine protested, rubbing his sore arm.

"Shh!" Elyan hushed them. "Look!"

They all fell quiet and once again focused on the pair by the lakeside. Merlin and Freya, who instead of smiling widely and tenderly at each other, were now both crying freely.

"… What's wrong?" Gwaine asked, all trace of teasing gone as he took in his friends distress.

She must have to leave, Arthur realised.

It was then that Arthur also realised that he hadn't thanked Freya for healing Merlin. He took a tentative step forward, but didn't want to ruin the last few moments the two had together.

As if hearing his thoughts, Freya looked at him. Thank you, Arthur Pendragon, the Once and Future King of Albion. Arthur jumped at hearing Freya's voice inside his head. Thank you for letting me heal him. It was not his destiny to die here, and all of Albion would be lost if he did.

Please look after my Merlin, she continued and Arthur could tell by the shocked sounds and starts of the knights beside him that Freya had projected her thoughts to them as well. Please look after him where I cannot.

I promise, Arthur thought back to her, and thank you for saving him. It means more than I can say.

She smiled at them all and Arthur could tell by the expressions on the knights faces that they too had promised to protect Merlin.

Freya turned once more to Merlin, gave him another sad, loving kiss and then walked out to the middle of the lake. Freya faced them, but had eyes only for Merlin. "Goodbye, my love," she said softly and then disappeared in a flash of golden light.

"… Goodbye … Freya…" Merlin whispered.

Arthur watched Merlin, concerned. The king wondered how his friend was going to take all this. However he didn't have to wait long for an answer, as he watched with a heavy heart as Merlin collapsed in the lakes shallows. The man's body shaking with sobs as he cried.

Never had Arthur witnessed such grief and Arthur felt wretched and useless because he had absolutely no idea how to fix it. So he merely went to Merlin's side, ignoring the water and sitting by his best friend, embracing him and giving him a literal shoulder to cry on. Merlin clung to Arthur, sobbing until he exhausted himself and cried himself to sleep.

But the day's events left Arthur with more questions than answers. Who was Freya, really? How did she and Merlin actually meet and what had happened to warrant such a reaction from his manservant? Who was this Emrys Freya mentioned and what does he have to do with Merlin? Why did Freya call him the Once and Future King and what did that even mean? And if Freya had used magic to heal Merlin, was magic wholly evil like Arthur had previously believed?

As Arthur picked the sleeping Merlin up out of the water, there were two main thoughts running through the young king's head.

The first: I hope Merlin's alright when he wakes up.

And the second: When he does he's certainly got a lot of explaining to do.