Blimey, here it is...the last chapter! :( Be prepared for a big a/n at the end! Enjoy!
The journey back was an uncomfortable one. Merlin stared stonily ahead, the muscle in his jaw working over time in an effort to hold his tongue. Walking beside the horse, Arthur couldn't help but give Merlin swift, searching looks from time to time, worried by his silence. It was unlike him to be this quiet, an indication of how upset he was. The only time that he had spoken at all was to ask if Arthur wanted to ride the horse. After being told that he was the one who was injured and would accordingly slow them down if he had been walking, Merlin had fallen silent again, his thoughts far away. Perhaps he had overreacted back in the clearing? He had so desperately wanted to find Tyson that he had not once considered what the two of them may have talked about whilst he had been unconscious. This could easily be as hard for Arthur as it was for him. Perhaps he should apologise to the prince for the way that he had behaved?
With both of their mind's preoccupied, the journey back was relatively quick. Helping Merlin down from the horse, Arthur handed the reigns to the stable boy, ignoring the curious glances that were being cast in their direction. Merlin seemed to have softened a little and even allowed Arthur to help him to Gaius's chambers. Unbeknownst to the two boys, a figure watched their journey back into Camelot, smiling softly at their return. Although part of her was glad that they had safely returned, part of Lady Elizabeth felt a sadness that she knew was wrong. There was no way that Gaius would leave with them now, not after his world had returned. Turning away from the window, the Lady quickly regained her composure and headed towards her chambers, preparing to tell her husband that they would be leaving tonight, alone.
Although he would never admit it, Merlin was glad that Arthur was prepared to help him to the physician's quarters; he would have never managed it there alone. The prince seemed quiet, and horrible thoughts plagued Merlin about why this was. What if he was angry with him for the way in which he had reacted back in the clearing? After everything, the last thing that Merlin wanted was to have an annoyed Arthur. He had a feeling that he was going to need his friends more than ever in the next couple of days, and Arthur was the only one who would know why.
"Sire," Merlin began hesitantly, worried about the reaction he would receive. Arthur glanced sideways at him, as if judging what his next actions were going to be. "Arthur, I'm sorry for the way that I acted. I thought that he was going to stay, that we would be a proper family again. You were only trying to help. I know that now."
Arthur smiled, thankful that the warlock didn't hate him for his interference back in the clearing. He knew that it was hard for him, that it would remain hard for a while. To be given a chance at something, and then to have it taken away like that was unimaginable.
"You idiot, Merlin. I would have been surprised if you had acted in any other way. The man was your father, and regardless of what he has done in the past, he loves you. Don't ever think that I would get in the way of that."
Nudging the door to Gaius's chambers open with his foot, Arthur led Merlin inside and sat him down on one of the stools. The physician was slouched over the bench, snoring lightly. Even in sleep, he looked so sad and withdrawn. Parchment was littered everywhere, but thankfully, Merlin did not notice what was written. Arthur did, and subtly sitting on the edge of the bench, he used his arm to sweep them all off the table and onto the floor, out of eyesight. It would be no good now for Merlin to be reminded of how Gaius still viewed Tyson.
The two boys sat in a comfortable silence for a while, just waiting for Gaius to wake up. There was no need to talk; enough had been said already. It was nice just to be able to sit down with no fear surrounding them. It didn't take long for Gaius to stir, blearily opening his eyes just enough to take in the sight of his nephew sitting across from him. Before long, the joyous physician had treated every single one of Merlin's wounds, as well as tending to any Arthur had picked up on his journey. Gaius seemed to find everything highly amusing, especially Arthur's attempt to bandage Merlin's rib with his shirt, although the old man did praise the prince for his quick thinking, scaring them both by saying that it most definitely saved Merlin's life.
Arthur explained everything that had happened, everything that he was aware of, anyway. Merlin stayed remarkably quiet throughout the whole thing, only clearing up a couple of issues from when Arthur had not been present. He was back in Camelot, back with Gaius, yet strangely didn't quite feel like he was truly home yet. Part of him was still searching the forest, looking everywhere for the father that had once again disappeared from his life. Suddenly, he was aware that all was silent: Arthur had finished speaking, and both he and Gaius were watching the warlock.
"Go to bed, Merlin." Gaius told him softly. Arthur's tale had allowed him to see that Tyson had been bought around by his son, that the two of them had begun to connect in a way that only time would allow to complete. Time that they didn't have. He knew that Merlin was glad to be back, and had he truly been presented with any other option, this was the one that he would choose. It was just going to take time for the warlock to realise that for himself.
Merlin stood and slowly walked up to his room, nodding to Arthur as he passed, who smiled back. The prince stood to leave himself, desperate to snuggle into his big, warm bed and catch up on some dramatically denied sleep. Pushing his door open, Merlin made to collapse straight onto his bed, when something caught his eye. In the middle of his pillow, a blue stone rested, a hole directly in the centre of it. Strange and mysterious, the light glinted off the stone, sending spirals deep within the magnificent colour. Attached, a long cord of leather was threaded through the hole. Picking the stone up, Merlin carefully placed it around his neck, letting it come to a rest directly above his heart. Tyson hadn't really left him; he would be here always for his son. He was there, in Merlin's heart.
Smiling, Merlin carefully laid down on his bed, mindful of his smarting ribs. Exhaling slowly, the warlock drank in the smells and sights of his room. With the stone resting smoothly against his chest, Merlin felt complete. He really was home.
Well, there we go, another story over and done with! :( Can't believe how quickly this has gone, it's spooky really! A huge thank you to all of you who have taken the time to review, especially those who have reviewed every chapter! It has meant so much to me, honestly! Getting your feedback has made it all worthwhile.
A special thank you to MBM for betaing this for me!
A huge thank you to piratemoose for reviewing every chapter, despite having already read the entire thing! *hugehugs*
Don't worry though (or perhaps you should :D) i've got more ideas in the works at the moment. Although when i'll have time to write them could be the bigger problem. Anyway, ta ta for now!
Don't forget to review! :)