So, this story has come to its end and this the epilogue for it. I thank you all for reading my story, writing reviews, favoriting it and putting it on story alert. (Over 22,000 hits when I last checked) I'm still very taken aback all the very posivite feedback and comments. I specially thank the reviewers, as they kept me going and made me extremely happy. Some of you wrote that you actually cried time to time and some read the whole thing in one go, and I was very flattered to hear that!=)
All and all, I had loads of fun with this. The whole idea of this came to me suddenly, and it took a while before I got it all written, but here it is now.
I once again apologize for the grammar and spelling errors that I've had, but I'm not a native speaker.=)
Most of all, I now ask you to tell me how did I do with my first multi-fic? Did I keep it together and interesting throughout the progress? Were the writing style, characters etc. nice to read? And most importantly: should I keep publishing multi-fics in the future? And what do you think of this last chapter?
So that was all. Thank you all so much for being so amazing readers!
And now, for the last time in this story:
Story: Friendship called treason (Chapter seventeen, epilogue)
Merlin took a deep sip of air. It felt good on his lungs. It was soft, fresh air, the kind of air that made you feel better after being in a dark room for a long time.
He took a good, long look at the city of Camelot, resting on the golden morning sun. But then his forehead shadowed.
He felt the agonizing loss and grief again, the one he had been trying to cope with for three months now. Gaius was gone. He had died instantly, as the sword aimed to Merlin's heart had been pierced through Gaius'.
Merlin had to swallow. Gaius' unconditional love and caring had always been there, sometimes in the form of lecturing and bickering, but always as comfort and love. Merlin felt his eyes burning, but he felt just gratefulness and love. It wasn't a sorrow that would kill him or destroy him, but it still was hard. Gaius had been more like a father to him, and his last token of love had saved his life.
Even if it had just been barely.
Merlin didn't remember much after he had got stabbed. Arthur had told him after, pretty quietly, how the prince had taken him to Gaius' chambers, and a guard had hurried to get one of the best town physicians, Ortheus. He hadn't been Gaius, but he was good at his job.
Merlin remembered some flashes here and there. He remembered lying on the bed in Gaius' chambers, Arthur keeping pressure on his wound and talking constantly some nonsense to him. Arthur hardly ever did that, so it must have been a bit close.
Then he remembered the other physican treating him, giving him potions to ease the pain and telling him that his chestwound hadn't been fatal but the blood-loss had been serious. -Our Highness stayed with you three nights in a row. It was uncertain for a while if you survived or not. You also have a pretty bad gash in your head. But you're getting better now, my boy, I promise, and you will be as good as new."
Merlin hadn't really liked Ortheus, because everything in him had screamed Gaius' absense. But he had his time to mourn. Soon as he got up after two weeks, Arthur had been around him like a shadow. He had skipped the knights' trainings and meetings with Uther.
The name brought a cold shiver in his back everytime it was mentioned. But something had happened in the court hall after he had got hurt. Because when Merlin had started to walk around in the castle, none of the guards even twitched a finger. Instead, some of them stared him. Partly scared, partly stunned. Partly...exited.
Merlin had asked Arthur about his father. Arthur's face had turned into a hateful mask. -He will never do anything to you again." he had said, Merlin nodding. He felt rumours about how their relationship have gotten icy and distant. I feel so guilty for ruining it. It was all my fault.
Arthur never took Merlin into the court hall again if possible. Sometimes Merlin saw Uther in the castle. The king always froze in his place and hatred filled his face. But as Merlin walked by, he didn't even lift a finger.
Everywhere he went, everything he did, he felt always those two burning eyes on his back. But Uther had lost. Arthur had won. So Merlin just gathered himself as the king and him sometimes met briefly on the corridors. Even if he was afraid of the king, he knew that Uther wouldn't want to ruin the remains of the relationship between himself and Arthur by hurting him.
It was a sad guarantee, but it was a guarantee nonetheless.
For awhile, Merlin's legs had been unsteady. He had fallen and stumbled around even more than before. Sometimes his knees just buckled. Arthur had almost jumped out of his skin few times, but Ortheus had said that he was fine and his legs were just suffering from the after effects of the poison, as they hadn't had enough time to heal properly before he had gotten stabbed.
Speaking of Arthur, he had changed. So much that I can't almost believe it.
Ever since Merlin had got back to his feet, the prince had been glancing at him all the time, like making sure he wouldn't...disappear. He hadn't make him do any hard tasks, instead he had sent some other servants to do them. He always was looking after him now that Gaius was gone, and making sure he told everything to him that he would have told Gaius. Arthur had kept him near, talking to him more than ever. Something had fallen off between them. Like a wall.
They had a silent agreement that there were no more secrets. No more lies.
Even the air around seemed so much more free, as Merlin leant forward as he watched Camelot's beautiful morning. So much had changed. I never thought it would be like this. Arthur knows about my magic now, even Uther does and I'm still here...
There was one thing Arthur never talked about, even when Merlin asked: the poisoning. Arthur refused to tell him about the events after he had drank the poison. Those two dark days of the prince's life that Merlin hadn't shared...
-I thought you were gone forever." Arthur had said, barely audible, and that was the only answer he would get. Merlin knew that there was a scar inside the prince that would never heal, a memory he could never forget. You will never have to get through something like that again if I just can avoid it.
It had also brought some kind of silent understanding. Arthur had put his guard down, opened himself like never before, and Merlin appreciated it as once before he had hurt Arthur with his lies. But Arthur didn't care about the past lies or his magic.
He didn't care if he got clumsy or was late. He didn't care if he didn't knock. He didn't care about pretty much anything that he had been previously very strict with.
Instead, Arthur had started a habit of long conversations about magic. Every night when Merlin was about to leave, Arthur always asked him to stay for a little while. Merlin couldn't help but to smile as he sat next to Arthur in front of the fireplace.
Mostly they talked about magic in general, of all the things Merlin knew and what he had learned. Arthur avoided mentioning Gaius. Sometimes they just talked about the day, sometimes they just sat in silence. Then Merlin left, saying goodnight and closing the door.
The chambers had felt extremely empty without Gaius. Ortheus had been named to be the new court physician, and Merlin knew that the man had the right to move into Gaius' old chambers. But somehow Ortheus moved into much smaller chambers on the west side of the castle, and no one ever asked anything from Merlin.
Merlin of course had a good guess why this happened, but Arthur never talked about it. Ortheus stopped by time to time, asking questions about his recovery and Gaius' habits and patients. Arthur also visited him pretty often. Sometimes Gwen came to stop by. But when he was alone, he headed down the stairs and out to the city graveyard on a beatiful clearing. Gaius' fresh grave had a massive tombstone, set there by Uther, but Merlin knew Gaius wouldn't have minded that. Instead, he had let his eyes go golden and make some beatiful flowers bloom in the grave, Gaius' favorite herbs.
He spent his time there in silence, sometimes he talked to Gaius and told him his thoughts. His sorrow was still fresh and raw, but his love for the old physician was much stronger. I can't tell you how grateful I am for you, saving my life. I miss you so badly, but Arthur knows now everything and my life isn't in danger anymore.
Arthur never came with him to the grave, and he appreciated it. I know you feel guilty for him, but it wasn't your fault.
Gaius was a subject they never talked about. With Gwen, Merlin shared his mourning.
Merlin interrupted his own thoughts when made sure his legs were steady enough. Mostly they worked normally, but sometimes they didn't. He didn't want to worry Arthur, so he took some steps before he moved from the window and headed into Arthur's door from the corridor. He reached the door and stepped in, as the prince lifted his head from some papers he was signing.
He let out a small smile. -Where have you been?" he asked, but just curiously, not in the demanding way he used to.
-Getting some fresh air." Merlin answered, and started piling Arthur's clothes from the basket a maid had brought earlier. He continued for a while, but then looked up. Arthur was still looking at him. -What?" he asked.
Arthur's face was unreadable. -Nothing." Then he looked back to his papers.
Merlin finished the job and then sat opposite of Arthur. The prince looked up. Once again, his face was unreadable but his eyes have this new warmth that they hadn't had before.
Merlin knew that the hate towards magic, that wasn't Arthur's, had died inside of the prince. Also the guilt he felt for his mother's death had easened. Arthur had once thought that the fact that he was a prince was the thing that was holding a wall between them.
-I know I'm a prince, so we can't be friends..."
He had been wrong. He had been wrong all along, because the only thing holding Merlin back had been his magic. It wasn't like Arthur's status had ever impressed him that much.
But now, the wall had fallen off. Completely. I will never let you down again like that. I will never betray your trust.
There were millions of things they could say to each other. All the years they had spent together, all the memories they shared and every move, thought, tear, thought, frown, smile and laughter...Every dark moment of death and life that they had had together. As they just sat together, in the other's presence. Existence.
But they had no need to talk.
Their silence was something calm, aware, and peaceful. They knew, and they both understood.
There were no need for words; as they didn't have enough meaning in them to describe all the things that they felt, shared or lost. But they knew.
And nothing else mattered.