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Same Spring, Different Rivers: Part One
i_canz_dragon
Title: Same Spring, Different Rivers
Pairing: Merlin/Gwen
Rating: PG
Word Count: 6, 535
Disclaimer: If I owned Merlin instead of Shine or the BBC Merwen would be canon not fanon.
Warnings: None
Summary: After waking up hundreds of years in the past, Gwen discovers she is actually the reincarnation of Queen Guinevere and has somehow swapped places with her past self. Believing this means she must be fated to marry the Arthur of her own time, Gwen attempts to get to know him whilst working with Merlin to find a way back. But in the face of her growing feelings for Merlin, Gwen must soon decide if fate and destiny may be two different things. 



Oh no. Gwen thought. No, no, no.

It had happened. She had finally become that girl, the one so drunk and desperate she had gone home with a stranger. She didn’t even remember it. God how drunk was she last night? Was she really that miserable over Ambrose?

Well, at least he’s rich. She thought, looking around. She’d never thought she would be the type to fall at the feet of a stranger, but clearly he was a brain-surgeon or something, because this bed alone probably cost more than her whole house. I could’ve done worse she thought to herself, running her hands through the thick, rich red velvet of the hanging curtains surrounding the four poster.

Then she opened them.

Instead of an enormous plasma screen television on the opposite wall, there was an old tapestry on blank stone. Instead of plush white carpet, her feet met cold slate. The large table in the centre of the room was a wooden antique, and when she looked through the open door on the other side of the room, there was no ensuite bathroom, only a stone staircase. Where was she?

She walked to the window and jumped back immediately.

People dressed in strange medieval clothing bustled around a central courtyard, bordered on all sides by what was clearly a castle.

And her room looked to be a part of it.

 Cold dread began to pool in the bottom of her stomach. No matter how drunk she was, she knew she would remember something as outlandish as being driven to a castle. Had she been drugged?

Just as Gwen’s breathing began to quicken, the door suddenly opened surprising her, and losing her head completely, Gwen screamed.

“I’m so sorry Your Highness!” said the woman holding the door. Your highness?? “I didn’ expect you to be out of bed already, the King said you were havin’ a lie in”

King. What king? The king who owned this castle? Where was she? Was she in another country? No, that wasn’t possible.

And the woman. She bowed her head deferentially at Gwen as she moved into the room but that wasn’t the strangest thing about her. She was dressed in a full length, grey dress of unknown material. The same material had been used to make a head covering, and she had a plain white apron on over the dress. In short, she looked exactly like a peasant straight out of a medieval television show, just like the people in the courtyard below.

Gwen noticed that just as she was staring at what the woman was wearing, the woman was staring at her clothes in turn, though she didn’t say anything other than, “may I help you dress Your Highness?”

She opened the cupboard door and, good lord the clothes – they were beautiful. Plush red velvets, beautiful blue silks, gorgeous purples – all in a medieval style. The woman approached her, and began, embarrassingly, to remove her clothes. Gwen felt as though her brain was frozen as the woman pulled a white underdress on over her head, but as the woman reached for one of the blue dresses, the thought, how on earth are they all in my size, pulled her to senses, and she knew this had to stop.

Gwen took several deep breaths, trying to calm herself, and think rationally. “Ok” she said. “Where am I?”

“I beg pardon?” The woman asked, turning around with her arms full of dress.

“This place,” Gwen clarified. “Where is it?”

The woman only stared at her.

“Where am I?” Gwen asked again, her voice rising somewhat hysterically. “I wasn’t here last night!”

There was a ringing silence, in which the woman only stared at her, before whispering, “I best fetch the King”, and she walked out.

Panicking Gwen went to reach into her pocket for her phone to call Ambrose, and then remembered she was in the medieval version of underwear and that her phone would probably in her bag. And that was a question. Where was her bag?

Oh god I really have been kidnapped, she thought, tears welling up in her eyes. Ambrose please, please notice I’m gone. Please call the police.

At that moment, the door opened for a second time, and Gwen let out a gasp of shock as, of all people, Arthur Penn walked through the door.

Gwen barely had time to even think about what the captain of the university rugby team was doing here as well – or the fact that he was dressed head to toe in chainmail – before he was striding over to her, taking her hand in his and asking “Guinevere what’s wrong?” with eyes full of concern.

She could only gape at him incredulously.

“Are you alright?” he asked again.

“Am I alright?” she repeated slowly. “Am I alright?!? WHAT DO YOU THINK?! WHAT IS GOING ON?!?”

He stepped back. “Gwen, what – “

“I was meant to go back with Morgana, where am I? What are you doing here?” Gwen had the horrifying thought that maybe Arthur was the one who kidnapped her, before she remembered that he lived on campus like she and Ambrose did. But then what was he doing here?

“Arthur,” she pleaded, struggling to hold back tears. “What is going on???”

Arthur said nothing for a minute, only stared at her with eyes full of concern, until Gwen began to feel uncomfortable. She didn’t know him very well after all, whatever Ambrose and Morgana wanted, and now apparently he was fully comfortable with staring into her eyes as though they’d been dating for years and pretending they weren’t in some….wherever they were.

Eventually, he said, “I’m getting Gaius” and then he was out the door.

Gwen collapsed onto the bed, shaking. She wished she had her phone so she could call Ambrose and find out what the hell was happening, since apparently Arthur Penn wasn’t going to tell her. Then she remembered that she didn’t have her phone because...why? Where was she?  

The only theory she could come up with was that Arthur Penn, who was after all very rich, had some kind of medieval fetish and had created this fake castle (the view from the window had to be a painting or something, she reasoned) and kidnapped her to play into his fantasy of being King and Queen. She thought it was unlikely that Morgana wouldn’t know this about him before trying to set her up with him, but then she had only found out he was her brother a year ago.

More than ever, she regretted ever going to Nimueh’s party two weeks ago. If the events of that party had never occurred, then Ambrose and Morgana wouldn’t be trying to set her up with Arthur. Instead of politely listening last night as Morgana expanded on his many amazing qualities, she would’ve been giggling as she and Ambrose sneakily tried to switch the music a Disney song.  She and Ambrose would’ve belted out “I Just Can’t Wait to be King” for as long as they could before Leon realised what had happened, instead of Gwen growing tired of faking interest in Morgana’s matchmaking, until she had gone outside and gotten.......whatever had happened to her.

Instead of waking up wherever she was right now, she would be making bacon and eggs for breakfast at Morgana’s house, because Ambrose always hated going back to his dorm room after a party, since he claimed he needed bacon after drinking, and he never stocked any food in his own fridge.

Morgana would berate him for coming over just to steal her food, and Ambrose would flash his huge, brilliant grin at her, and Gwen would just sit and be happy to be in the company of that smile.

Instead of being here.

Exhausted, she lay back and just let the tears come.

***

Twenty minutes later, Gwen could hear soft voices speaking outside the door. One of them was Arthur’s, and she could hear the words “Morgana” and, alarmingly, “sorcery”. Oh god. He was mad.  

After another minute of the low rumbling of voices, Gwen heard the sound of footsteps going down the hall, and the door opened for a third time, to admit an old man with medium length white hair, wearing what looked like a blue kaftan.

And walking in behind him was –

AMBROSE!!!!!!

She launched herself off the bed and flung herself into his arms, barely noticing as he stiffened, and then awkwardly patted her hair.

“Oh god Ambrose, I didn’t know what was happening, where the hell are we? Is this your idea of joke? Cause it’s not funny Ambrose. I thought you only liked science fiction anyway, not fantasy? What the hell! How we even get here, I don’t remember anything after I walked outside last night, where are we? Next time you want go to some medieval party or whatever this is, will you not wait till I’m drunk to take me? I was so scared when I woke up this morning. Did we come here with Arthur Penn? Is Morgana here? And where’s my bag?”

She said all this in one breath, and then pulled back and waited expectantly for his answer. It wasn’t forthcoming.

“Erm........,” he said, looking at the old man.

“Gwen,” the old man said gently, “why don’t you sit down?”

Fear began to rise in Gwen again.

“No,” she said stiffly. “I’m perfectly fine standing”.

“Well then,” the old man said, moving to examine her eyes, then her ears. “Why don’t you tell us what happened?”

“What do you mean?” she asked “You know what happened.”

“Humour me,” the old man said, now checking the back of her neck for reasons unknown.

Feeling scared again, Gwen said, “Ambrose and I went to Leon’s party with Morgana and I must’ve had more to drink than I thought, because I only remember walking outside and I woke up here.”

“And this is Ambrose,” the old man said, waving a hand in front of Ambrose, who was watching her closely.

“Yes what are you talking about? Of course that’s Ambrose,” she couldn’t stop her lower lip from trembling. “Ambrose what’s going on? You’re scaring me,” she whispered.

Ambrose only glanced at the old man again.

“Gwen you need to sit down,” the old man said in that same gentle tone as before.

“No, I don’t,” Gwen said, squaring her shoulders. “I need someone to explain to me what is happening.”

 The old man sighed. “I cannot say for certain. It appears that someone has tampered with your memories, perhaps implanted false ones. I am unsure if anything else has been done to you, or what the purpose of it could be. Arthur told me you mentioned Morgana. Tell me, what do you remember of her?”

“Morgana’s one of my best friends. And I don’t know what you’re talking about, but it is definitely impossible to tamper with people’s memories like that.”

“Not with magic,” he replied, and Gwen did sit down this time. Hard. Mad. They were all mad.

But why was Ambrose going along with it?

“Ambrose,” she tried again. “Please. I want to go home. This is all very nice, but I have an essay due on Wednesday that I have to finish. I know you’re probably still over the limit from last night, but I can call Elyan and he can pick us up. He’ll take Morgana and Arthur too. I’m sure Arthur won’t mind, if this was his idea. We can just explain that we’ve never really been into medieval stuff.”

“Medieval stuff?” the old man repeated, eyebrow raised.

Gwen wanted to ask him who he was and why he kept answering for Ambrose when she wasn’t addressing him, but with a patience she didn’t know she had, she took a deep breath and answered;

“Yes, you know medieval stuff. Stuff like this. Um, kings and queens and castles and peasants and these clothes and things. Stuff from about a thousand years ago.”

“You’re from the future?” Ambrose asked both eyebrows raised in surprise.

“Yes,” she said slowly “we all are. Well compared to -,” she swept her arm around the room, “– this”. It wasn’t like they had actually travelled into the past after all. That would be absurd.

Ambrose and the old man looked at each other. Gwen was getting really tired of that.

 “My name is Gaius,” the old man said finally. “And I think that – Ambrose – and I need to have a short discussion. If you would just wait here Your Highness.”

He got up to leave, and to her fury, Ambrose followed him, leaving her alone again. Why wasn’t anyone just going to be honest with her? Why was Ambrose of all people refusing to help her? It couldn’t be because of –? She stopped, hurt. No, she and Ambrose were best friends, and he would never do that to her, no matter how he felt about that.

Gwen waited for them to return, but after five minutes alone, she began to panic.

She was so stupid! She should’ve known better than to allow Ambrose, who clearly wasn’t in his right mind, to be led away by a strange old man that appeared to be the employ of Arthur Penn, who was apparently a kidnapper.

In all probability, she and Ambrose were in danger. She needed to get out of here, and find the nearest police station. Decision made, Gwen walked over to the wardrobe, pulled on the easiest looking dress she could find (though still with great difficulty) and walked out the door.

Gwen was greeted with a long corridor that appeared to be solid stone for its entirety.

Deciding to go left, Gwen walked down the corridor noting the click of her shoes against the floor. Apparently it at least was real. She reached a hand out to the wall, and confirmed it was definitely stone. She wondered how much of this ‘castle’ Arthur Penn had had built. Perhaps they were in a warehouse.

She continued walking until she came to a tapestry. It was very similar in design the one in her room, and when she reached out to touch it, she felt real wool. Either Arthur had found two almost identical hand-made woollen tapestries on Ebay or these had been specially made.

She began to feel a prickle of doubt creeping up her spine.   

Arthur Penn must be both richer and more dedicated than she had ever imagined it possible for anyone to be. Building a castle replica out of actual stone, with authentic tapestries and – she stopped to check – yes real steel suits of armour, would take a larger amount of money than anyone had a right to own and longer than just a few months of planning to pull off.

She gasped as she turned the corner.

This would take years.

The wall of the right hand side of her corridor had disappeared, leaving her with a view of the enormous inside of the castle. She could see at least six levels of stone corridors, most with ornate carvings done into the pillars.

In front of her she could see that her corridor led to a short walkway dominated on one side by one of the largest and most intricate stained glass windows she had ever seen.

And the people.

Dozens of them, bustling here and there, and though none were in her corridor, she could see that all of them dressed in much the same fashion as the woman this morning – as though they living hundreds of years ago.

She ran to the nearest window and looked out – the same view as this morning, only from a different angle, proving that what she had seen from her own window was no painting at least. The castle was real and it was huge and it was populated by hundreds of medieval peasants.

There was no way Arthur Penn had the money to construct something this elaborate, and pay this number of people to participate without anyone saying a thing about it.

There was no way that Arthur Penn, who was (as far she knew) only 21 could possibly have been masterminding a construction like this when it must have taken at least a decade to complete.

“Where am I?” she whispered, feeling faint.

Then she remembered Ambroses’ only words to her this morning.

You’re from the future?

“Oh no,” she choked. “Oh no, no, no.”

She stood still on the spot, trembling all over and trying to contain her fear as I have gone mad and Oh God I’m in the past warred inside her until a shouted “Gwen?!” cracked through the hall like a gunshot, and unable to contain her instinctive response in the middle of her blind panic, she ran.

She didn’t know where she was going; she ran down the corridor, left then right then left again, past dozens of people who were just blurs of colour; she ran until she was out of breath and out of options and seeing an alcove near a flight of stairs, she ducked inside it, slid down the wall, and burst into tears.

Where was she? How did she get here? How would she get home? Oh god, she thought, Ambrose. He must have travelled back into the past with her and she run had off on him and left him with a crazy old man.

“Gwen?” she heard someone ask gently.

She looked up. It was Ambrose. His must have been the voice that had startled her into running; she had been so absorbed in her panic she mustn’t have noticed him follow her.

“A-Ambrose!” she sobbed relieved, quickly wiping her eyes on her sleeve.  

“Are you alright?” he asked quietly, bending down until he was sitting on the floor with her.

“No,” she sniffed. “I-I don’t –“

“It’s alright,” he said, gently.

He looked like he wanted to reach out and comfort her, but he restrained, which Gwen was grateful of. She was embarrassed to remember her panic earlier when he had called out to her and her tears when he had found her.

She wiped her eyes, composed her face, took a deep breath and said seriously, “I think we are stuck in the past.”

“I know,” he said softly. “Well, you are at least.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

“Come on,” he said, getting up and offering her a hand. “Let’s go back to Gaius. He might be able to explain it by now.”

“How do you know him?” Gwen asked, accepting it and getting up. “We haven’t been here that long, is he from our time too?”

“What?” he looked at her, confused, and then appeared to come to a decision.

“Oh right. Er, no, I – I got here a bit before you. I met him then,” he said.

“Really?”

“Yes. Now, I think it’s probably best if we avoid Arthur until we know what’s going on.”

“Arthur! He’s not a kidnapper!” Gwen immediately felt guilty for all the horrible things she had thought about him, when all the time he’d been stuck in the same predicament as her and Ambrose, and probably trying to help.

“Erm....no, but we still shouldn’t speak to him until we are absolutely sure what’s happened.”

Gwen wanted to ask why not, but Ambrose was already striding ahead, so she hurried to catch up.

***

Ambrose didn’t lead her out of the building, or even back to her room. Instead he led her to what appeared to be a giant medieval workshop of some kind, lined with books and herbs, with a cot in one corner and a table in the middle. Sitting by the table was the old man – Gaius – she corrected herself, looking over a pile of books.

“Gwen,” he asked. “Are you alright?”

“No,” she said wearily.

“Gaius have you any idea yet what’s happened?” Ambrose asked.

“Well....” Gaius said, but Gwen tuned the rest of what he was saying out.

It suddenly seemed a ridiculous waste of time to think that this old man was going to find a solution to their problem with only a pile of medieval books.

What would they know about time travelling in the medieval times? They didn’t even have clocks. Unless it wasn’t technology that brought her here.

Which only left...

“ – powerful magic,” Ambrose was saying softly to Gaius. “What do your books say on....“

 Gwen felt as though the earth had shifted a little from underneath her. It was ridiculous. And yet here she and Ambrose were, at least a thousand years in the past.

No, she thought. If she was going to believe she had travelled through time, then she would at least believe it was the result of some futuristic technology she’d somehow got caught up in.

She tuned back in to their conversation.

“-Morgana of course,” Gaius was saying. “But-“

“That’s ridiculous,” Gwen said suddenly.

Gaius and Ambrose looked at her.

“Morgana’s not magical,” she said, feeling a little more uncertain now they were both staring at her. “If magic were real and she had it, she would’ve showed it to me by now. She’d be going around calling herself the female of version of Merlin, saying she was the wizard without the staff or something....”

She trailed off in the face of their stunned expressions.

“Sorry,” she said. “That was crude.”

“What did you say she would call herself?” Gaius asked faintly.

“Um. The female version of Merlin? Cause...well, she’d think she’d be like him cause he’s the most powerful sorcerer...”

Gaius suddenly seized two of his books; flicking through them for a full minute, he suddenly cried “ah!” after he landed on one of the pages, and turned to her with a stern expression.

 “Tell me; what do you know about Merlin?” he demanded.

“That he’s a fictional character,” she said confused.

“Can you tell us everything you’ve heard about him?” Gaius pressed.

With a glance at Ambrose, who gave a tiny encouraging nod, she cleared her throat and told them what little she could remember of the King Arthur legend she had been taught at school.

Gaius and Ambrose were a very strange audience. They nodded impatiently when she told them about the sword in the stone as though they already knew it, but pressed her for every detail she could remember when she reached the part of the story in which Merlin became trapped in a tree, and when she told them that Nimueh did it, Ambrose actually cried aloud.

“But that can’t be true I already – sorry,” he finished abruptly, catching Gaius’ raised eyebrow.

“Well, maybe it’s not,” Gwen said, unsure why she had provoked such a strong reaction, when Ambrose had never been interested in King Arthur as far as she knew. “I mean, I don’t really know that much about the King Arthur legend, I never really liked it.”

 “Right,” Gaius said. “So, just to clarify, you grew up in a time in which the lives of Merlin and Arthur are a story, set some hundreds of years ago in the past, featuring Merlin as a powerful sorcerer.”

“Yes” she snapped, beginning to grow annoyed.

She couldn’t understand why they were asking about King Arthur when they should be trying to find a way back to the future before anyone noticed her missing.

Irritation and panic were warring inside of her as she watched Gaius mull over her answer for a full minute. They needed to be doing something now!

“And this,” Gaius spoke again, waving a hand at Ambrose, “is not Merlin”

“No of course that’s not Merlin!!” she shouted, too worried and exhausted to contain her outburst. “Why on earth are you asking me all these questions about Merlin?? We should be trying to find to find a way back home!”

Gwen didn’t want to entertain the possibility that it was the magic they were interested in; she just couldn’t deal with the idea of magic now, so soon after accepting she was trapped in the past.

 “Gwen,” Gaius interrupted. “It’s alright. You’re perfectly right; we should have been more honest with you from the beginning.”

“But first,” he said, interrupting her as she opened to mouth, “I need to make a proper introduction.”

“Gwen,” he said, moving over to Ambrose. “This is Merlin.”

There was a ringing silence.

“No,” she said.

She looked at Ambrose, silently begging him to come to his senses and tell Gaius he was crazy, but Ambrose was only looking at her with a mixture of compassion and apology.

He opened his mouth to say something, but Gwen turned away. It just couldn’t be true. Horrified, she realised she on the verge of tears. She needed Ambrose to come back to himself, instead of going along with this horrible old man so they could get back to their own time and everything would be alright.

“Gwen,” he said softly, after she had composed herself. No. She thought petulantly. I don’t want anything to do with you right now. “Gwen” he said again, and unable to resist, she looked up.

Leoht” He whispered, and his palm filled with light.

“Oh my god,” she whispered.

A few more words and the light was turning into the shape of a castle, of a horse, of a girl and finally of a girl riding a horse.

Everything inside of Gwen felt as though it was splintering apart. Everything, everything she thought she knew about the world, it was wrong. Magic was real. Merlin was real. And he was beautiful. The strange blue colour of the light threw shadows over Ambrose’s face, playing on his sharp cheekbones and the blue in eyes in a way that made him look ethereal, inhuman even. Like a fairy. Or a sorcerer. Ambrose wasn’t Ambrose.

He was Merlin.

Gwen let out a strangled sob.

“I’m sorry,” Merlin said, quickly extinguishing the light.

“No,” Gwen gasped. “It’s – it’s fine, it’s not your fault, it’s just a lot to take in, you’re not-“

Ambrose. God. What are you doing now, if this is Merlin? Where are you?

 “Now my dear,” Gaius said gently, beckoning her over to the pile of old books. “First, although I believe you, we must confirm that you are from the future, and not under a mind-control spell, or another sorcerer who has discovered Merlin’s magic in disguise.”

He picked up a book and hugged it to his chest; explaining it contained written visions of the future, he asked her to explain details of her own time as well as she could, to compare with that seen by Seers, to prove she really was from the future.

Exhausted, Gwen did the best she could, and Gaius nodded as though unsurprised when her description of her own time matched that of the book. Then he picked up another one.

“This is the story of Jerome, the only sorcerer known to have used his magic to travel back into the past. But you see, when he did it, he travelled only into the events of his own lifetime, and he didn’t take over his past body, he brought his future one with him – that is, there were two Jerome’s.”

He looked at her. “That clearly has not happened with you. You are from the future as you say, but you are also clearly the Guinevere of our time.”

 “Which brings me to this book,” Gaius continued, picking it up.  “You see the ancients often spoke a process called reincarnation – the rebirth of a soul into a future time. From what you have told us about the ending of the ‘King Arthur Legend’, Merlin and Arthur are destined to be reborn into the world again. Now it may just be that so too are Guinevere and Morgana. In which case,” he said looking at her over the top of his glasses, “the most logical explanation is that you are Guinevere, the woman you know as Morgana is a reincarnation of her, and ‘Ambrose’ is Merlin in your time. Somehow, you have swapped places with the past life of yourself.”

“But - !” Gwen cried, then stopped. She couldn’t be Guinevere! Guinevere was a queen! She, Gwen was just a middle class girl from a single-parent background, and probable future university drop-out. How could she be the reincarnation of a famous queen?

“Listen,” Gwen said. “I’ll admit, Ambrose might be – be the reincarnation of Merlin or something. I mean, they look exactly the same. But I’m not Guinevere! I can’t be! How do you know I’m not someone else from the future who just knows Ambrose that’s taken over Guinevere’s body or something?”

“Easy,” Merlin answered before Gaius could. “You’re exactly like our Gwen.”

Gwen looked at him helplessly; to see him looking at her with a fond smile on his face, exactly like the one Ambrose sometimes wore when she’d speak her mind without meaning to, or sing in public without realising, or bring him flowers, just because. And the thought that somewhere in the past – here – there’d been another Ambrose and Gwen, just as close, just as silly together, melted the resistance in Gwen’s heart.

 She smiled at him, and he smiled hugely back.

“I think you had better show Gwen to her rooms,” Gaius said, “she probably needs some time to get used to the idea.”

Gwen was shown back to the lavish room she had woken up in the morning; Merlin begged her leave shortly afterward, and despite thinking she was going to be bored sitting by herself, when she sat down on the bed exhaustion took over and she fell asleep almost immediately.

***

When she awoke, it was to the smell of food. It was dark outside, and Merlin was sitting at the table opposite a plate of meat, bread and salad greens.  

“I brought you some dinner,” he smiled at her, noticing she was awake.

“Thanks,” she replied.

She got up to the table, but despite her hunger, once there, she could only stare at Merlin, until he politely looked away.

“I’m sorry,” she blurted. “I just can’t believe we’re…..I mean, I’ve heard stories about you my whole life.”

“I know,” he grinned, “apparently you didn’t like them.”

She blushed. “I’m sorry,” she said.

“What for?” he asked

“Not liking the stories.”

“That’s alright,” he grinned again. “I wouldn’t like stories from thousands of years ago either, if it were me.”

“You didn’t,” she said feeling relieved she hadn’t offended him.

“Well I’m glad I didn’t like stories about you anymore than you like stories about me then,” he teased.

“Right,” Gwen said, feeling a little uncomfortable. She had forgotten she was Guinevere.

“I know how hard it can be trying to live up to a legend about yourself,” Merlin said, correctly guessing the reason for her discomfort, “but don’t worry. You were a great queen for a reason, and all you have to do is be yourself, and you will be great in your own time again.”

“Thanks,” Gwen said, not really sure she wanted to be.

“It’s not a problem,” Merlin said.

“Listen,” he continued, voice slightly strained. “I know how stories can get changed over time, or how the timeline of them can be muddled sometimes….”

“What’s wrong?” she asked, noting the tension in his shoulders.

“Arthur,” he breathed out, “doesn’t know I’m a sorcerer yet”

It took a few minutes for this to sink in.

“What??” she asked. “But you’re......why doesn’t he know?”

Merlin looked uncomfortable.

“Oh. Well, it’s – magic is illegal in Camelot.”

Gwen thought that was the most incredible thing she had ever heard.

“But why on earth would you outlaw magic? I mean, if you had something that could just heal the sick or grow crops or, I dunno, transport people from one place to another with a click of your fingers –”

She stopped, realising Merlin was staring at her.

“Did I say something wrong?” she asked, unable to identify the look on his face – he was surprised of course, and yet there was sadness and even wistfulness in his expression as well.

“No,” he said softly.

“Um –“he continued with a small shake of his head, “- a lot of people use magic for evil. Arthur’s seen his kingdom attacked by magic too many times to trust it.”

“I see,” Gwen said, even though she didn’t. “Well, I won’t tell him about you, don’t worry.”

“Thank you,” Merlin said seriously, “But you have to know, that means you won’t be able to tell Arthur about you – who you really are. We have no way to explain how we returned you to your own time without mentioning my magic.”

Gwen was about to say that that was fine, it wasn’t like she spoke to Arthur much anyway, when she stopped, and realised the full implications of that sentence.

In this life, she was married to Arthur. She was married to him right now. She would have to pretend to be his wife.

A cold feeling she was unable to label settled in her stomach. She didn’t even know the Arthur Penn of her own life, but if she was Guinevere, and he was Arthur Pendragon, then that meant that Morgana had been right all along, and she was destined to marry him – and apparently, destiny wasn’t patient enough to wait for her to take her time about doing it, and she had to start right now.

“I know it must hurt you to lie to him,” he said, incorrectly assuming the source of Gwen’s worry. 

“So,” he said, “if it bothers you, we can tell him. I mean –“ he gave a strained laugh, “- we know it must go alright eventually right?”

“Merlin,” she asked seriously, taking in his worried face. “What’s the penalty for magic use in Camelot?”

“Nothing. Well, it’s something, but don’t worry, we know he must repeal it, it’ll be fine.”

“Merlin,” she pushed

“It’s……” he bowed his head, “death” he whispered, looking up.

She couldn’t risk Merlin’s life like that. For all that he talked about Arthur’s coming to accept magic eventually, she could see by the worry in his face that Arthur clearly wasn’t ready to accept it now, even in Merlin.

For a moment, Gwen felt frustration welling in her at being forced to endure yet another matchmaking session with Arthur Penn, this one apparently of Fate’s own design.

But then she remembered how kind he’d been to her this morning; how he had been nothing but concerned for her health and safety while she had been shouting at him thinking him a kidnapper; how it might be nice to have someone hold her hands and look into her eyes like that every morning.

Coming to a decision, Gwen said, “It’s not a problem Merlin. I won’t say anything, I promise.”

“Are you sure?” he asked, looking concerned.

“Very,” she said firmly.

He nodded.

“Thank you,” he said sincerely.

 She smiled at him.

“It’s not a problem.”

“So,” she said changing the subject, “what did you tell Arthur about this morning?”

“Gaius made something up about a form of sleepwalking where the person appeared to be fully awake. He said you were having a very bad dream brought on by something you ate the night before, and that it definitely wasn’t sorcery.”

She stared at him.

“That is the worst lie I’ve ever heard.”

He burst out laughing.

“Honestly,” she said, happy to have made him laugh, “How on earth did he make that sound believable?”

“Years of credibility,” Merlin chuckled.

“And secret sorcery?” she teased gently.

“Something like that,” he grinned.

“So do you two do this all the time then? Secretly solve magical mayhem,” she clarified at his questioning glance.

“That’s about my life. Save the city, wash Arthur’s socks, keep the stocks warm, that’s me.”

“Wash Arthur’s socks?” she asked, half amused half confused.

 “Oh,” he muddled. “Yes. Well, I may be….his servant.”

“His servant!” she laughed. “Really?”

“Er, well, yes. Please tell me that doesn’t end up in history.”

“No,” she laughed, “I definitely never heard about Merlin, the wizard servant to Arthur.”

“Great!” he said, happily. He got up and took her now empty plate.

“I really should be heading back, I have work to catch up on,” he said. “I’ll come fetch you for breakfast tomorrow.”

“And Gwen?” He said, looking back at her with his hand on the handle.

“Thank you,” he said seriously.

“You’re welcome,” she said.

He nodded at her and left.

***

That night, Gwen found herself thinking about what had happened to the real Guinevere, the one she had apparently swapped places with. How would Guinevere react to finding herself in the future? Would she panic and run as she had done?

Gwen had last been standing on a balcony at Leon’s party. Is that where Guinevere find herself? What would happen if she went inside, and found three people that looked exactly like Merlin, Arthur and Morgana?

Gwen knew what she would do. She would have run straight to Ambrose, thinking him Merlin, and demanded to know what was happening. But Guinevere was married to Arthur. Would she have seen Merlin or Morgana, but held back, waiting to find Arthur so she could go straight to him instead? Would Merlin and Morgana be only afterthoughts to her?

Would that be what happened to her, once she started dating Arthur Penn in her own time?

Gwen felt strange thinking of herself dating someone she barely knew, and wasn’t entirely taken with. But she did have to admit, there was nothing wrong with him. He could be arrogant and rude, but she’d seen his kinder side with Morgana, and it was clear from meeting Arthur Pendragon this morning that he loved her.

His reaction to a kiss from her would never be an awkward “oh, um...” and an attempt to set her up with another man.

Perhaps she had been sent back for a reason. Perhaps Ambrose and Morgana were right, and she wasn’t trying hard enough with him. Maybe destiny had decided she needed a good kick up the bum.

Gwen decided that until Merlin found a way to send her back to Ambrose and her own time, she was going to use the opportunity to get to know Arthur Pendragon. After all, they’d got married in this life. For all that she had felt smothered by Morgana’s matchmaking, they really must’ve had a connection.

Until Lancelot came along at least she thought suddenly, remembering that part of the legend. But she hadn’t known about magic being illegal at the start of Arthur’s reign, or Merlin being Arthur’s servant, so who was to say that bit of the story really happened like that, or at all? After all, she didn’t know any Lancelot’s in her time, or even any Lance’s.

The only man she was close to, she thought with a twinge in her heart, was Ambrose. But it had already been made clear that that could never happen.

Right then, she thought. Tomorrow, I am getting to know Arthur Pendragon.

And with that, she blew out her candle, and went to sleep. 




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This is a really interesting story. I love the start of it. You didn't rush Gwen just accepting she was in the past. Can't wait to get to the romance between Gwen and Merlin. I'm looking forward to seeing how you deal with that.

Lovely, lovely, LOVELY start! You have got my interest, keep it coming!

jsyk, i have this bookmarked and will read this weekend. i can't waitttttttt. <3

cant wait!!! not often i find a good merlin/gwen fic

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