Disclaimer: BBC Merlin and Smallville are property of their respective creators, owners and rights holders.
Author's Note: This is the final part of a four-shot. There are plans for a sequel to this but please don't expect it quite yet! I have two stories I'm working on. Also, I haven't had much response to this story, but there seems to be a nice bit of traffic. The last time a story of mine had few reviews, there was something very off about it that I needed to rewrite. So if you could let me know if it's good, bad, needs to be fixed, etc. I would really appreciate it.
With another golden flash they were back in the same forest they had disappeared from, the horses still tied to the trees nearby, campfire still ablaze, and the acromantula still laying lifelessly on the forest floor. Arthur wondered how long it had been since they'd left, or if time had even passed at all. Then he glanced to his right and saw Merlin hiding in the shadows, afraid to make his presence known. The warlock caught the prince's gaze, and backed away cautiously.
"I'm not going to kill you, Merlin."
The tension nearly evaporated at those words and a wide smile spread across Merlin's face. It was a sly smile, one Arthur recognized as the wizard's expression before a retort. He was not disappointed.
"I would hope not." Merlin quipped, smirk still in place. "After all the times I've saved your sorry ass, I think you'd at least owe me one."
Arthur snorted and swung at Merlin, who ducked. "You're just lucky that you sort of...maybe...might have saved my butt so much."
Merlin laughed. "You still can't admit it."
Then Arthur sighed, leaning against a nearby tree. There was a palpable shift in mood. "I don't want to be like him."
Merlin froze, knowing who Arthur was talking about. "You mean Lex."
Arthur nodded. Merlin sighed. Both did not speak but moved with the shared understanding of the need to untie their horses, smother the fire, and return to Camelot. Both thought about the things they had learned, and the two people they had met: people who would likely haunt their lives forever. After they had traveled some distance, Merlin finally spoke.
"Do you think there's hope for them?" he asked.
The prince stared at empty sky, clearly wondering the same. After a few minutes, he answered.
"No." Arthur said forlornly. "He's too far gone."
Merlin shifted, a deep sadness on his face. "You don't think...we'll end up that way?"
Arthur paused. "Do you honestly believe that's possible?"
The warlock considered this, then shook his head. "No, but I had this weird feeling, like..."
He didn't need to finish. "I know." Arthur agreed. He turned to the warlock. "What matters is now, Merlin." He said, eyes set with determination.
"Right. Now." Merlin repeated softly.
But a heavy silence had settled in the air as the castle drew closer, and both men somberly contemplated all that they had learned. Neither spoke of it again, but both silently resolved to never become the two they had met.