This Meradock one-shot takes place in Season 3 directly after "Blunt Approaches the Warden."
After releasing Haddock of his constant possession, the Warden allowed him to speak to his wife for twenty minutes. The following conversation ensued.
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Gareth Ragnar Haddock the Second: He felt… released. Like he was breathing for the first time, his chest once restrained but now released.
Haddock - actually Haddock - stumbled back a step.
Is this how it always felt to be in control of his own body? He could move his fingers, every joint, curl them with the utmost precision, smell the burn of candles in the room, watch the intricate flicker of flamelight licking against the minute textures of his hands. It was… it was so much… so overwhelming and wonderful… it was such a blessing.
As was being able to see… Odin… did the Warden say Mera? Was she still around?
Suddenly frantic, remembering there was a very short time limit to his freedom, he roved his eyes rapidly through the room and darted out the door. A brief clench of guilt hit him, leaving Stonegit there, but as soon as he stumbled out the bodyguard’s quarters and nearly into his wife, that guilt instantaneously dissipated.
"Mera!" he exclaimed at the same time she shrieked out, "DEITIES!"
The two stumbled back from each other, Haddock limping slightly, Mera throwing two hands to her bosom in shock.
"Do you wish me something else?" Mera asked, recovering quickly, pulling herself into the corner and hoping the demon wished no ill of her for her brash actions.
Haddock’s mouth worked for a moment, and then he sighed, shoulders falling. The man before her was depressed but sincere. “It’s… it’s me, Mera.”
Her eyes widened slightly. “You mean…”
"Not - not permanently…" Haddock sighed. "Twenty minutes, she said. But she’s relinquished her control on me completely from my mind in the meantime."
"If you will allow me?" He bowed, took her hand gently in his, and kissed it before he moved his other hand to her side and placed it along her hip. He leaned down for a small but nonetheless meaningful kiss.
Mera gazed up at him intently as he pulled his head away. “She can access your swordsmanship. Why not also this?” Her voice was trembling, clearly wishing this to be true.
"Then I’ll say something she never would." Haddock thought for a moment, hollow eyes shifting, and then he remarked, "Simply this: you cannot betray to me anything important about the rebellion because it will be used against me." There was something of defeat in those words. But the next phrase was almost jocular. "And… let’s see… oh yes… ‘Sire Resting Bitch Face’."
That was the first nickname Mera had ever given him, back when she was fourteen and he a recent outcast from the Wilderwest kingdom.
A tear dropped from her eye.
"Deities, I could slap you. I could beat you up with my shoe. I could force feed you Fireworms for the next twenty years and shove them up your buttcrack the next time we’re in bed. Why, Garthy, WHY do you always do this to me?”
"Throw yourself into all these ridiculous hazards, King Gallivanting Tight Crotch! First I chase you halfway across the continent with the kids, and then everyone tells me you’re dead, and when you turn up…”
Mera actually was crying now, soft shoulders shaking. Haddock pulled her in and kissed her on the top of her curls.
"It’s a nightmare to me, too," he murmured. Both of them were recalling the same event: the Warden forcing Haddock’s own hand to tighten around his wife’s throat. "Egil, the kids…?"
A soft voice: “To try to… let them cope… I told them you were still dead, and the entire thing was an apparition.”
Gareth had to look away and take in a few deep breaths before he could wrap his head around the news. “Probably for the best,” he sighed. “They’re… they’re doing okay…?”
"A bit traumatized. Especially Egil. I’ve never seen him sulk like that."
"And all my fault…" Haddock’s voice trailed off.
"Garthy, no it’s not." Mera punched the king in the gut right above the belt buckle. She was satisfied to hear him grunt. "You had no choice, I know - I know that.”
"For the love of Loki Laufeyson, I still got myself into this situation!"
"Stop swearing!" Mera screeched. Then, in a quieter voice, "why must you always swear? You’re royalty. Can’t you… choose… any other word? Aren’t you supposed to be Sire Golden Throne Butt Cheeks?”
Haddock laughed in spite of himself. In spite of all the hard times. It was a bit shallow of a laugh… but there was something genuine about it, too. “You might not swear by the gods, but I’m not sure your speech is any better, angel.”
"Angel," she murmured, voice awed by memories.
This time she was the one who pulled him into a kiss.
It was longer than the last one.
"An angel and a demon now. Ironic." Her eyes were still wet, and her husband’s might have been, too. They were certainly… pained.
"And perhaps best…" the king paused. The weight in his hazel-green eyes made Mera shuddered, for she never before had seen him so… forlorn. Almost… despaired. Broken? How? The most pig-headed monarch in the Nine Realms… taken to this point? She had heard the pain in his voice throughout the conversation, a solemness transcending his typical solemness, but only now, after her comments on angels and demons, did it really hit her in full force what this entailed. He was trying to hide it for her, but he never, never would be able to hide it from her.
The Warden’s control over Haddock must have been agony.
"Mera," he whispered with a sudden intensity. His eyes bore into her as he spoke. "I am proud of how you have taken the rulership of the Grounded Dungeon Rebellion in my stead. But if you can, if you can at all… flee. Now. Get away from me. As far as you can. At least the children, to protect them. I - I -” His voice broke. “It’s a danger for you to be near me. I - I -“
His voice broke down, and he could not meet her in the eye. The way in which his hand, clasped in her own, trembled almost suggested as though he were going through some awful memory. Perhaps a flashback. He was unable to speak for a full minute and Mera had to simply stand there, holding his hand, waiting and wondering.
When Haddock recovered, he continued, “You cannot trust me anymore. You’re not safe around me anymore. I love you to Valhalla and back, but… if it means I can keep you alive, I will have it you never see me again.”
Mera stared at him for a long while. Her hand dropped to her side. Her eyes flared.
"Leave me and never come back," he insisted.
"You’re speaking with the hair around your anus and not your brain," she responded, with a great sense of regalness despite her crude metaphor. "You know I will not do that.”
"A man can hope."
"If a man can hope, then he can hope for a happier end. I’m not giving up on you, Garthy, and I’m not letting you give up, either."
"It’s too late."
"So it’s been that bad," Mera whispered. She shuddered. "Don’t tell me. I don’t want to know. Just… just… Gareth?"
"The willow bends."
"I won’t forget."
"Yes." He nodded stoically.
"And so will we."
"Thank you, angel. Give the kids a warm hug for me."
"I will, Gareth."
They shared one last kiss before Haddock, worried his time with his wife was nearing an end, rushed away from her at a full sprint, not even able to see where he ran. Something wet in his eyes blocked all sight.