Characters: Arthur, Merlin, Gwen
Length: 566 words
Notes: No real spoilers.
The dagger is one of the last gifts her father gave her, and she carries it with her everywhere. Not because she feels the need to defend herself - although sometimes she's had to, of course - but because its a comfort. It's something he made; specifically, it's something he made for her.
She takes it out sometimes, in forgotten corners of the castle, and strokes her fingertips over the steel. It's nothing fancy, nothing like the blade Morgana keeps in her cupboard. The hilt is not silver, but simple steel, and it's not encrusted with rubies and sapphires. It's clean lines, no-nonsense, a slim, light blade that nonetheless means serious business. It's unassuming in some ways, but strong. Capable.
It reminds her of her father, and so Gwen carries it with her everywhere, keeps it near at all time. It's the closest thing to having him back again.
She's carrying it that night, as she hides in the shadows and listens to the sounds of two low, familiar voices. She shouldn't be there, it could jeopardize everything, but she couldn't stay away either.
"I don't want to go," she hears Merlin say, "but with your father..."
"I know," Arthur replies. "Believe me, I know even better than you." He pauses, and Gwen's eyes widen as he reaches forward to adjust the dark cloak - one of his own, she realizes - around Merlin's narrower shoulders. "When I'm king," he says, "I'll repeal the magic laws, and you'll come back."
"I will," Merlin whispers. Gwen imagines he's smiling that slightly crooked, slightly rueful smile of his. "I'll be waiting."
Gwen takes a deep breath and closes her eyes before she steps out of the shadows and into the moonlight. She smiles as both of them turn on her in alarm. "Merlin," she says evenly, "you're leaving."
"Guinevere," Arthur hisses, and Merlin just stares, his face pale, his lips parted.
"I'm not going to tell," Gwen says in a whisper. "I just...overheard. If you're leaving, Merlin," she says, "I want to give you something." She pulls the dagger out before either of them can object. The hilt gleams dully in the moonlight, and the blade is covered with the rough leather of its scabbard. "My father made this for me," she says. "But I think you should have it instead."
Merlin tries to push it back on her, but Gwen shakes her head. "Please," she says. "Take it." She smiles. "It's a strong blade, but light and small. Good for you."
Merlin hesitates one instant more, and then nods. The dagger disappears into the folds of his cloak. "I'll take care of it."
"I know," Gwen says. She glances back at the castle - it's still dark, but no telling how long that will last. "You should get him out of here now," she says to Arthur.
"I am," Arthur says. Gwen can see the faintest of smiles on his face. "Thank you, Guinevere."
"He's my friend too," she says simply, "and he needs it more than I." Then she melts back into the shadows and walks lightly back into the castle.
It feels strange without it, Gwen thinks. She's carried it everywhere for months, almost years, and it's been a familiar weight. Now she feels lighter, and a little bit off, but all in all it's a good feeling.
Like it was time to let go.