Merlin's eyes snapped open as his whole body jerked awake. He found himself to be looking up at a familiar ceiling and lying in a familiar bed.
He was back in his room at Camelot.
He sat bolt upright and looked around at his room to make sure all was as it should be. He half-expected an angered knight to jump out from his cupboard at any moment and charge towards him with a sword.
But all was quite peaceful. Did this mean that the spell had indeed sent him back through time?
"Gwen!" he suddenly thought out loud. If the spell had worked correctly, that would surely mean that she was alive, after all, technically, she hadn't yet been killed.
Quickly, he sprang off the bed and onto his feet, noticing that he was somehow now wearing his bed clothes. Without further ado, he stooped to pick up his trousers and shirt which were, as usual, strewn messily across the floor, and dressed quickly.
He then rushed to the door and went down the few steps to the main room where he saw Gaius attending to a man who was showing the physician a red and blotchy arm.
"Merlin!" Gaius suddenly exclaimed looking up from his patient and peering over the top of his glasses, "You're going to be late for work, again!" he said disapprovingly with a frown.
"Erm...work...yes." Merlin muttered preoccupied. So it was the morning that he'd been sent back to. The morning before the basilisk had attacked. He now vaguely remembered that he'd not been this late the first time that morning had happened. But he realised that this would mean that he would still have plenty of time to carry out his usual routines before the basilisk arrived later on. He'd check on Gwen as soon as he had the opportunity, just to make sure that she was definitely alright.
"You'd better hurry, Arthur will not be pleased with you." Gaius continued when he had noticed Merlin had gone off into his own thoughts.
Merlin hurried past Gaius and the other man, heading for the door.
"I'll have to look into this further, Mr McCormack. Let me study my books..." Gaius was saying as he focused his attention back on the man.
Suddenly Merlin stopped, backed up, and looked over Mr McCormack's shoulder, "Well if you ask me, that looks like an allergy to a hyacinth plant." he said without thinking. He realised afterwards that it had been a mistake to open his mouth, but it was too late now. Surely just a little information brought back from the future couldn't do any harm?
But before the stunned and open-mouthed Gaius had a chance to query the rapid and unexpected diagnosis, Merlin rushed out of the door.
Across the courtyard he went, and headed into the palaces's main entrance. His first stop would have to be the kitchens to fetch Arthur's breakfast.
Quickly he collected a tray of food from the cooks before heading up to Arthur's chambers.
Upon entering the room, he was greeted by the sight of a very annoyed looking prince who was already sat waiting at his table, his impatient fingers drumming on the wooden surface.
"You know, Merlin," Arthur started, "most people prefer to eat their breakfast in the morning. As late as you are, it might as well be my dinner that you are bringing to me." he said irritably.
"I'm sorry," Merlin apologised as he set the tray down on the table quickly, then poured water from the jug into Arthur's tankard.
So that was that. Arthur, at least, was back to how he was before. This saddened Merlin as he stood back and watched the prince eat the first few forkfuls of his food.
"Merlin?" Arthur asked suddenly between mouthfuls, a strange look upon his face.
"What exactly is it that goes through your head whilst you just stand there gawking stupidly like that?" Arthur said sarcastically.
"That's exactly what I was afraid of." Arthur muttered with exasperation before he continued to eat.
"Well I'll be off to muck out the stables then, I guess." Merlin sighed changing the subject, realising that he needed to get back to what he was supposed to be doing for the time being. Of course, he was first planning to find Gwen.
Quickly, he left Arthur's chambers and headed towards Morgana's. Gwen should of course be found there, as she usually was at that time of the morning whilst she attended to the needs of the king's ward.
But just as he had neared Morgana's door, he found Gwen walking down the corridor.
"Gwen!" he exclaimed exuberantly.
"Hello, Merlin." Gwen said pleasantly, a big smile appearing across her face.
"You look so well!" Merlin said with relief, "So...so... alive!"
Gwen looked a little confused by his choice of words, yet still flattered, "Thank you. Er...you look well, too."
Satisfied that she was healthy enough, Merlin excused himself from her presence and headed out to the stables.
Whilst he raked out the stinking manure and put down fresh straw bedding, he ran through in his mind, a plan to deal with the encroaching basilisk attack.
He had remembered that it had originally entered from the north side of the castle, so he would need to find a suitable place to hide out and destroy it. He wouldn't even allow it chance to get into the courtyard this time. If he could kill it before the knights were even aware of the problem, then it would certainly lesson his chance of being in the wrong time and place for Uther to catch him this time around.
As important as it was to concentrate on that problem alone, he found his mind wondering back to Arthur. Should he tell him about his ability of magic now and get it out of the way? After all, he knew now that Arthur would accept it.
But deep down in his heart, he knew the answer. It wasn't the right time to share his secret and it pained him so. Though Arthur may be ready to hear the truth about him, the knowledge of it could easily put the prince in danger, as it had done whilst they were in the future.
Merlin stilled his rake and leaned on the handle, sighing heavily. Why did it all have to be so hard?
He willed himself to get back to his work, and after he had finished up in the stables, he realised that it must soon be coming up to the time of the basilisk's arrival.
After walking around for a short time, he decided that he should situate himself up on the north curtain wall. This way, he would gain the advantage of glimpsing the basilisk before it had chance to infiltrate the grounds. From there, he could use his magic to destroy it the same way as he had done before. Only this time, of course, he would be safely out of Uther's, or anyone else's, sight.
With no time to lose, he headed up to the steps that led up against the main inside walls, and arrived at the top. He looked over the side and across at the surrounding grounds, trying to catch an early sign of the giant serpent's entrance.
He crouched down, waiting and watching patiently. After a while had past, he started to wonder if he was actually in the right position after all.
But soon he noticed something stirring in the trees out on the edge of the forest. And then he saw it. The huge beast slithered out into plain sight and started on it's way towards the castle, it's rough but somehow sleek body moving quickly and stealthily.
Merlin still had to wait until it had drawn close enough before he could make his move, ensuring that it would be within range of his magic.
As soon as the basilisk was moments away from the outer wall, it suddenly started to change direction so that it would be able to enter the main gates. Now, Merlin carried out his plan.
He extended his arm over the side of the wall and allowed the sensations to take hold of him. Like before, a great light shot from his fingers and made it's way in the direction of the un-natural creature. As it cried out with pain, it burst into the familiar dark spray of dust, billowing into a huge cloud as black as night itself. Then, it was gone.
As Merlin watched the dust, shouts erupted from below as the knights noticed the disturbance on the outer wall. They were soon on the scene, staring at the now dispersing darkness in utter puzzlement.
Merlin smiled to himself. Yet another disaster had been averted. Camelot had been saved again, and once more, Merlin would receive no praise for it. A silent hero.
Quickly, he clambered back down the steps to arrive back at ground level, sighing with relief.
Now there was nothing to do but continue with his duties as if it had been just any other normal day. He was making his way back to the courtyard when he heard someone calling for him from behind. "Merlin!" the voice bellowed.
Merlin turned to see Arthur marching towards him.
"Where on earth have you been?"
"Well...I...I've just been..."
"Never mind!" Arthur snapped, "I need you to get my armour polished. I have jousting practice later today, and my chambers are a complete mess, tidy it up immediately!"
Yes, sire." Merlin replied, his smile fading.
"Will there be anything else, sire?" Merlin asked Arthur once he had finished plumping up the pillows on his bed and collecting the laundry into a basket.
"No. That will be all. It has been a long day." Arthur replied with a yawn.
"You've no idea." Merlin muttered under his breath.
"What was that?" Arthur asked giving Merlin a puzzled look.
"Er...nothing. I just said that I agree with you there."
"Well you'd better be off then. I'm sure Gaius will be expecting you back."
As Merlin turned to leave, Arthur spoke once more, "Oh, Merlin."
"Yes, Arthur?" Merlin asked as he turned to face the prince again, noticing that there was a strange strained expression on his face.
Arthur sighed heavily, "For some absolutely peculiar reason which I am yet to fathom, I feel compelled to say...thank you." the last words were clearly uncomfortable for him to say, but Merlin could tell that he'd meant it to be genuine.
"No, thank you. That means a lot." Merlin responded with a thankful smile. Though Arthur had gone back to being a total prat, there were some moments that made all the effort worth the while.
"Yes, well just don't go getting used to it. No doubt you will soon give me a reason to regret what I have just said." Arthur deadpanned.
So okay, maybe this wasn't one of those moments, after all.
Exhausted, Merlin left Arthur's chambers and headed home. When he got there, he found that Gaius was seated at the table eating.
"Did you have a good day, Merlin?" Gaius asked him conversationally as he dragged his feet past.
"When is it ever a good day?" Merlin said in an almost defeated tone, too tired to sound enthusiastic.
"Ah," Gaius said, "Arthur has no doubt been working you hard again."
"Oh yes. In fact, so much so, that I'm straight off to bed." Merlin stated as he carried on towards his room.
"Well what about your supper?" Gaius shouted after him, exasperated, but Merlin closed his door and flung himself onto his bed, landing with his face buried in the pillow.
He closed his eyes and let his whole body relax, hoping that he'd feel better in the morning.
At least now, things were back to how they should be; all loose ends from the day, well, double-day, had been tied, and had come full circle.
Just as he felt he might actually doze off, there was a knock on the door, "Oh just one thing, Merlin." Gaius said as he entered the room.
"Hmmpphh?" Merlin grunted, not bothering to look up.
Gaius's tone was suspicious, "Well I was rather hoping that you might explain to me how it was that you were able to tell that Mr McCormack's rash was caused by a hyacinth plant."
Okay, Merlin thought with groan, so maybe not quite all the loose ends were tied, after all.