Hello for one last time!
So, this story has come to its end. As fun (and dramatic) as it was, this is the epilogue chapter for my story Damages.
I hope you all enjoyed the story and it arouse some feelings in you when you were reading.
For me, this was a bit different multific. The plot kind of evolved while I was writing it. At first I had no meaning to make this as suspenseful as it became to be. And I certainly didn't plan this to go up to 30 chapters...Oh well. I'm so thankful that you still kept following it anyway. It was a bit heavy to write sometimes, as I never ever imagined this to become this dark and heavy, but I'm kind of glad that it did.
For my reviews, I give my humble thanks. I admit that about in the middle of this story, I was ready to give up. I felt like I'm writing a hollow story which dragged itself through. But fortunately, the reviews kept my enthusiasm and inspiration up. There were also a lot of very beautiful reviews - so awesome that I almost got teary-eyed myself or kept grinning hours and hours after reading them. I can't thank you all enough for your support. The amount of positive feedback and especially concstructive critism was really breath-taking.
So about the whole fic: Was it good/bad? What can I work on, was something spot-on? Would you read another multi-fic in the future if I wrote one? Share your thoughts, for one last time. (Wow, I'm so dramatic...=D)
It's been a long journey with all of you. Thank you so much for reading Damages. Here is the last chapter.
Story: Damages (Chapter thirty, Epilogue)
Arthur wasn't sure whether it was possible, but he could have sworn he heard fire rattling.
He had no idea where he was and everything came back slowly, but one thing he realized: it was warm. Heavenly warm. How much had he missed warmth?
The second thing that came into his awareness was that he was lying on somewhere soft. Not ground , or ice. Somehow it felt so familiar. Arthur blinked and the light stung his eyes, but after he had blinked few times, his eyes adjusted. First thing he saw was a bookshell.
He was somewhere inside. No, he was in Camelot. He knew those bookshells. He knew those curtains and this faint scent of herbs. He was in Ortheus' chambers.
How the hell was he in Ortheus' chambers? Arthur had to think back.
Merlin had woken up. It had been so cold. Mordred was dead. The dragon didn't answer to Merlin's desperate calls, or didn't stir when he had tried to heal it. It had been so cold. Then...someone had came to view. Sir...Sir Leon!
Arthur remembered now faint glimpses of here and there. He had woken up once, during the journey back to Camelot. But he didn't remember anything else from that. He could distantly remember hearing people shouting around him. Then it was nothing.
Arthur twitched his fingers. Pain shot to his broken left hand. It had been bandaged. His other hand was fine, well, if the faint numbness in his fingertips wasn't counted.
Arthur tried to move his legs; they worked. He breathed out, relieved. He was fine.
Merlin. What about Merlin?
Arthur struggled to sit up, his head feeling dizzy. But it settled. Arthur gazed around the room, but it was empty. Besides himself, there was an empty bed further away. A wave of uncertain worry washed over him.
-Ortheus?" Arthur called, his voice hoarse. Oh how good it felt when his body wasn't shivering anymore, and the air went in and out without any trouble.
The physician came out from his smaller room, looking distracted. Then he saw the prince, and surprise filled his face. -Sire!" he said, and put the books he was holding onto the table. Then he rushed to Arthur's side.
-Sire, how are you feeling?" he asked, worry in his face.
Arthur shrugged and swallowed. He was rather fine, a bit disoriented but alright. -Fine, but where is..."
-Thank goodness, we all thought you were gone. When the knights brought you here, you were suffering a strong hypothermia. It was severe, even if the knights managed to keep you somewhat warm during the journey back to Camelot."
Arthur took a breath. -Alright, when was this?" he asked, furrowing.
Ortheus smiled. -Two days ago, I gave you some sleeping draughts to let you rest. You have been recovering very well."
Arthur shook his head, confused. -I was out for two days?" he said, incredulous. Merlin. Where's Merlin? Why isn't he here?
Worry started to take over. Why on Earth wasn't Merlin here with him? Before he started to jump into conclusions, Arthur interupted the gladly rambling Ortheus.
-Where is Merlin?"
Ortheus stopped and looked at him, surprised. -Where is Merlin? Your servant?"
Arthur didn't like the surprised look. He didn't like it at all. -Yes Ortheus, where is he?" he said, now some desperationg crawling into his voice. Merlin had been unconcious, but he couldn't have...
Ortheus smiled. -Oh, he woke up few hours ago. He wanted to go outside. I told him that it wouldn't be a good idea, as you both have suffered very strong hypothermia, but he insisted."
Thank God. For a moment I thought...
No. It's not important. He is alright.
Arthur threw his legs over the bed's edge and was about to stand up, before Ortheus lifted his hands up. -No, Sire, you shouldn't get up either. You should get some rest. Your father commanded me to give the best treatment I could, and I..."
-I appreciate it, Ortheus, but I'm going. I can come back later if that's needed." And with those words, Arthur stood up and with few seconds of swaying, he managed to get moving.
Ortheus was clearly about to protest, but Arthur shut the door after him. He stepped into the corridor, looking around. But somehow he knew where Merlin was.
So Arthur headed towards Gaius' old chambers. He passed servants and maids, all of them looking rather surprised. After one corridor, he almost walked straight into Sir Leon.
Sir Leon turned in surprise, eyed the prince and bowed his head. -Sire." he greeted.
Arthur nodded hastily. He felt grateful towards Leon. He had found him and Merlin. Without him they'd both be dead. -Sir Leon, you saved our lives. I thank you for it, and you will be rewarded." he said, but his thoughts lingered on Merlin.
Sir Leon smiled and nodded. -Thank you, Sire." the humble knight said.
Arthur was almost leaving, when he realized that he could ask about the events from the knight. -Sir Leon, can you briefly tell me what happened after you and the patrol found us?"
The knight nodded, looking somewhat troubled. -Well, we took you and Merlin and put up a fire to keep you warm, then saddled the horses properly and got ready to return to Camelot. Then..." Sir Leon hesitated.
Arthur nodded. -Go on."
Sir Leon's brows furrowed. -There were...few people coming out from the woods. People with dark hoods. I think they were druids, Sire. One of them came to me and asked whether they could take the small boy with them. I agreed, as he was already dead, my lord, and so they lifted the boy's body carefully up and disappeared into the woods, saying nothing more."
Arthur sighed. He felt just a slight sting of guilt, even if Mordred deserved all of it. After all, he had been just a boy...No. He was evil and corrupted by power.
Sir Leon looked up. -Was it the right thing to do, Sire? I didn't see anything dangerous in it, and you were unconcious at the time, so..."
-It's alright. The druids probably wanted to bury him. You did the right decision." Arthur said, feeling a slight shiver thinking about the druids.
-What about the dragon?" Arthur asked, carefully. He already worried how Merlin would feel about it.
Sir Leon looked even more confused. -Well, we didn't know what we should do about it as it didn't show any signs of life and we assumed it was dead. We just left it there, we were in a hurry to get you back to Camelot, but..." Sir Leon's brows furrowed and he looked away.
Arthur tilted his head. -But what?" he asked, on alert.
Sir Leon swallowed. -The patrols that came after us, said that there hadn't been any dragon there. That there were blood on the ice and that the ice had a big hole in it, but no dragon."
Arthur gasped silently. -It...it wasn't there?" he asked. Did Merlin manage to heal it?
Sir Leon looked uncomfortable. -It does sound impossible, but...I saw the dragon with my own eyes, Sire. And none of the patrols reported seeing it after they got there."
Arthur furrowed. -Alright...We'll see about that later. Thank you, Sir Leon." he said, nodding and walking again.
During his trip to Gaius' chambers, Arthur tried to comprehend how on Earth had the dragon disappeared. It had been badly injured. Mordred had probably struggled and given some fatal blows to the dragon before they had gotten up from the water...Merlin had desperately trying to heal it, but the dragon hadn't stirred...
Arthur didn't know what to think. Did as old magical creatures as the dragon somehow disappear after they died? All of the memories from the ice reminded him about the thick agony still hiding somewhere inside his chest. But he ignored it.
Arthur reached the familiar door, took a breath and opened it.
Merlin sat silently in Gaius' old chambers. It was quiet there. He had been up for few hours now. He had felt the urge to leave Ortheus' chambers - still too much that reminded him about Gaius. And he really needed to think things through. He was sitting alone in the chambers, with a blanket around his shoulders. He wasn't actually feeling cold, but Ortheus had insisted.
Merlin looked around the room. Everything felt so familiar yet so strange. So much had happened after the last time he had been here.
It felt like it had been months instead of weeks from the druid attack, the very first thing that set things in motion. So much had happened.
Merlin looked down at his scarred wrist. He thought it had been rather ridiculous act to slit it, but it had been necessary back then.
He didn't really remember much after Kilgarrah had fell and crushed through the ice. Merlin was pretty sure that several bones had broken in his body before he had reached the water. He was more or less fine now, but...
Arthur had saved him. He had been the one to save his life, not his magic that had returned to him. Without the prince, he would have drowned into the freezing water. I can't believe you just came after me into freezing water. You could've died, too...
But when he thought about it, he knew that he would have done the same thing for Arthur.
Merlin let out a deep breath. He had blurry memories here or there.
He remembered being pulled back from the blackness, as suddenly everything hurt and he couldn't breathe. He had seen Arthur. The prince had looked absolutely horrifying: he had been blue-ish, pale and shivering roughly. He had also been soaking wet and had hoarfrost on his clothes and in his hair.
Merlin also remembered the coldness. It had been so cold. He had never felt so cold before.
But also, his body had ached. It must've been the magic healing the broken bones...
Then he had seen Kilgarrah. Sorrow stung him like a needle when he thought about the dragon. It had come when he had called it - despite how dangerous it was. When it had been lying on the ice, body broken and torn with bloody gashes, Merlin had known it was dying.
He had tried so hard to heal it - to share some of the magic that was healing himself. He had tried it several times. Merlin was pretty sure that he had been able to concentrate some of it to Kilgarrah, as suddenly his body had started aching so much that his eyesight had blackened. That was the last thing he remembered.
He missed Kilgarrah. It had been an annoying dragon, he knew that - inaccurate, proud and sarcastic, but still. It had been his dragon, the last of his kind. It had been loyal to him and fought for him. Merlin bowed his head. It was wrong. People that care about me shouldn't die like that...Violently...And all because of me.
Apathy hung in the air, just when he heard a door being opened.
Merlin knew who it was before he even saw Arthur. The prince walked quietly to him and sat next to him.
For a moment, they didn't say anything to each other. Merlin knew Arthur was alright, though, Ortheus had assured it to him earlier. Just a few frostbites here and there, but otherwise fine.
-Merlin...how are you feeling?" Arthur asked quietly.
Merlin shrugged. I've been better, but... -I'm fine, I guess. What about you?"
Arthur nodded. -I'm fine, too."
But Merlin knew Arthur was not fine. The prince had gone through way too much to be fine. Because even if the sickness was gone and Merlin had gotten his magic back, the events still followed them.
Arthur eyed him, tilting his head. Merlin turned his gaze to Arthur.
-You're glowing." Arthur stated, confused.
Merlin just hufffed. -I noticed." He had noticed the glowing after he had woken up. It was almost transparent, that kind of light that if you didn't watch closely enough, you just might not notice it.
Arthur tilted his head. -Well, why are you glowing?" he asked, with slightly worried tone.
Merlin shrugged again. -I guess it's because the magic flowed back. I don't really know, maybe the magic is settling slowly. I've never glowed before."
Arthur snorted faintly to that, because it sounded so stupid. Merlin's lips curved into a weak smile. Then it fell.
It was a riddle to himself, because he felt normal. In fact, he felt very good, like he would be whole again. He didn't feel constantly exhausted and tired. He wasn't dying anymore.
But it all reminded him about Gaius and the fact that the dragon was gone...
Arthur somehow sensed it and took a breath. -Merlin, about Kilgarrah..."
Merlin looked away. -I know. It was too far gone. Mordred had wounded it under the water. It had also received a lot of bruises and injuries from the fall."
Arthur shook his head. -But, it's alright, I just..."
-I know. It wasn't your fault, and I know I shouldn't blame myself for it. It was Mordred who killed Kilgarrah. I just couldn't heal it..." I wasn't strong enough.
-No, Merlin, listen..." Arthur started, but Merlin interrupted him again.
-It's fine, Arthur. Kilgarrah was willingly defending us with its own life. Without it we would have both died." Merlin said, and swallowed. You are not to blame.
-No, Merlin, listen to me." Arthur said, and now Merlin turned his head towards the prince. Arthur could see that the sorrow was clearly present in his eyes. He smiled faintly. -Sir Leon just told me that they had seen the dragon when they had left the lake but the patrols that came after them, hadn't."
Merlin looked at the prince, confused. -So you mean that...?"
-That the dragon wasn't there anymore when the patrols came, yes. It was gone, disappeared from the spot." Arthur said, trying to hide his enthusiasm.
It...it wasn't there anymore? Merlin stared into nothingness, his mind trying to take it all in. -As in..." he mumbled. Then he looked back to Arthur, a faint smile on his lips. Was it possible? That the dragon hadn't...
-Do you think...?" Merlin asked, hope in his eyes. That it might be alive?
Arthur went serious. -I don't know. Shouldn't you be able to...sense it or something?"
Merlin looked away, and his eyes got distant. For a moment, he just sat there, but not really there. He tried to sense the dragon's presence. Arthur waited. Merlin's brows furrowed, as he kept looking into nothingness. Suddenly, there was a small flash of something, so small and weak that Merlin wasn't sure had it been just a resulf of his imagination.
-I...I'm not sure..." he shook his head. He looked back to Arthur, very confused. -I...I can't say. The magic is still messing me up, it hasn't settled yet. But for a moment I thought that...I don't know." Merlin said.
Arthur nodded, and silence filled the room for awhile.
The silence was peaceful, as it wasn't an akward or painful silence. For once, none of them were sick or dying or about to meet great danger. They just sat there for a long moment. Calmly.
But there was still so much things left unsaid...
-Arthur..." Merlin said, and the prince turned his head.
Merlin looked troubled. -I...I wanted to apologize for what I said back here in the castle...I didn't mean it, and I hope you realize why I had to do it?" Please understand, I didn't mean any of it.
Arthur swallowed, took a deep breath, looking away. -I understand why you did it. But I won't approve the fact that everytime you get in trouble, you invent something like this to keep me away from it or trying to protect me."
Arthur took an ailing breath as he glanced at Merlin's scarred wrist. -And the fact that you would have sacrificed yourself to stop Mordred turning to Mordys, is unforgivable. It was stupid, selfish and rash, Merlin. You should never danger yourself just because you wanted me to be safe. It shouldn't work that way. I thought that the events a year ago taught something to us both. No secrets or lies. You shouldn't keep things from me, it never leads to anything good."
Merlin took a deep breath, pulling the blanket tighter around him. -I ...know. But...I knew about the prophecy where Mordred kills you and I didn't want to risk it...I couldn't stay in Camelot as you were getting sicker and sicker..." he said, voice shaking.
Arthur bit his lip and sighed. -You are not expendable, Merlin. That's one thing you should know. Did it ever cross your mind how I would have felt if I never came after you and you'd be found dead? And what about Mordred? If he had become Mordys, he would have been unbeatable. Even if you made him promise not to harm me or Camelot."
Merlin shook his head, agony in his face. -I...I just didn't know what to do. I thought it would be easier if you hated me."
Arthur gasped, and shook his head. -I could never hate you. Believe me, I really tried."
There was a tension between them, unfamiliar and unnatural.
Merlin let out a broken sigh. -I'm so sorry for everything you had to go through. I said all those awful things, then you had to see the transition...Then you pulled me out the lake...Actually I haven't thanked you about that." he said, realizing it.
Arthur shook his head. -It wasn't anything that I stopped to think whether I would do it or not." he said, quietly.
I know. Merlin smiled sadly, then turned to Arthur.
His face got serious, and his eyes were glistening. There was one thing that needed to be said.
-Arthur, what ever Mordred said to you, it isn't true. I know it's not. You shouldn't have listened to him."
Arthur swallowed hard and his face twisted before he turned his head away. Merlin blinked rapidly. -I can't even imagine how you must have felt, having to hear me saying those horrible things. And I know that...me...dying...isn't anything easy to deal with, as it would be as hard vice versa. I can't even begin to know what you went through on those minutes on the ice."
It must have been terrible. Knowing that both of us would soon die...That the situation was helpless...
Arthur shivered and his body tensed. This was just the way Arthur acted when the poisoning was mentioned. It was so poignant and painful memory that Arthur never talked about it. Never; it was a forbidden topic. Merlin felt a lump forming to his throat.
But now prince tried. -Merlin...You almost died back there. It's...it is something that I'll carry with me through my whole life. I would have never forgiven myself if...You have to be careful. "
Merlin couldn't help but to let out a silent sob. -I know...But Arthur, you have to know that nothing Mordred said was true. You are a good person." he said.
Arthur's face was twisted in pain again. He was clearly thinking the opposite.
Merlin shook his head fiercely. He hated seeing Arthur liked this, so vulnerable. This was something else, though. Arthur had been through too much. He had gotten into breaking point, Merlin could see it in his eyes. This was even worse than a year ago.
I told him I hated him. Mordred told him lies, forced him to believe everything he said. He had to watch me dying...God what he must've been thinking during those minutes in the ice. It's so wrong. You don't deserve it. You don't deserve any of it.
Merlin sighed, as he tried to hold back the tears. -Your life has never been easy, I know. But you are different from your father and Morgana. I have always imagined that you are more like your mother was.
You have done so much good, Arthur. You risked your life over a servant, fell in love with Gwen...You accepted me and my magic, and defended me in front of your father. You saved my life over and over again, despite how dangerous it was. It wasn't your fault that Gaius... Or your mother died.. It wasn't your fault what happened to Morgana. You blame yourself for things that has happened around you, not because of you. Surely you've done few mistakes, but so all of us do. But you've done so much good, Arthur.
The moment I met you, I thought you were an arrogant and selfish." he said, chukling with tears in his eyes, -...but now I know that you are not any of those things. I have said this before, but I'll say it again: you will become a great king. The people respect you and they will follow you. They knew how you stepped between me and your father, and that gives hope to those people who use magic for good. You are not a coward."
Arthur trembled when he said the last word. Clearly it had been something that Mordred had said also. Arthur closed his eyes, taking a deep breath.
-D..do you really think that way?" he asked with an unstable voice.
Merlin smiled faintly. -Yes, I do. And the fact that you jumped into freezing lake because of a servant, because of me, just proves my point. Mordred and your father are wrong about you. "
Arthur listened to him, swallowing hard. The prince watched the sunlight shining through the big window, as it revealed the dust dancing slowly in the air. There was a long silence.
Somehow Merlin sensed that Arthur believed him. No matter how badly broken he was, and how long it would take before the prince would recover from the events, Merlin knew that Arthur would get through it. He was much stronger than he gave himself credit for. No matter what Mordred had said...
A shiver went through him. Mordred. He just knew that the boy had died. But how had it happened?
Merlin swallowed. -Arthur...Did you...did you kill Mordred?" he asked, barely audible. Carefully.
Arthur stirred away from his thoughts, his gaze fixing to the floor. -Yes, I did. The dragon had taken Mordred to its claws when it had risen from the water. His skull was probably crushed, too. I pushed a dagger through his heart."
Merlin shivered. -I pity him." he whispered. He was just a boy.
Arthur turned to him, the old rage present in his eyes. -You shouldn't."
Merlin pulled the blanket tighter around him. -I know. But...he was lost. Lost in the power that magic offered to him." Just like Morgana.
Arthur shook his head fiercely. -He was a ruthless murdrerer."
Merlin sighed. -I understand why you feel like that, but I can't stop pitying him. No one deserves that kind of death, no matter how malovent and evil they are."
-Merlin, always so righteous." Arthur said sarcastically, and Merlin chukled. He turned to the prince, and he got serious.
Arthur got serious too, and for a moment they just shared a glance. -Are you alright?" Merlin asked.
Arthur looked down to the floor, clearly about to say no and laugh about it, but instead he just sighed, and then said, barely audible: -I don't know."
Merlin felt worry washing over him. Arthur was rarely this honest and straightforward.
Merlin kept quiet, as he knew Arthur didn't except him to say anything. The prince continued: -When I was alone on that ice...I was sure you were gone. And for a moment, I fell into the same dark place where I was a year ago..." He bit his lip, blinking rapidly. -I couldn't have taken it...I couldn't. You would have been one name added to the list of people who had died because of me. And...I couldn't have lived with that. "
Merlin had to blink, too, as his eyes glistened again. -I'm so sorry you had to go through that. But...it wouldn't have been your fault. I know that all of this have taken it's toll on you, but you can't let it break you. All of these damages, they can't and won't break you, Arthur. If they do, you'll let Mordred win."
Arthur swallowed and looked back to Merlin, hurt blastered on his face. Merlin nodded slowly. All of these damages...I won't let them break you.
-And I'm still here, you know? If you just will give me my job back." Merlin said, smiling.
Arthur nodded. -It is yours. A half-decent servant is hard to come by, anyway." Merlin chukled and Arthur let out a faint smile.
There had been so many things messed up between them, cold and icy as the lake, but now at least some of it was gone. We'll be alright.
They sat in Gaius' old chambers, talking hours and hours, just like they had always done before the attack. The most important things were left unsaid.
There was no need for them.
I'm glad that you're alright.
I forgive you.
You are my best friend.
I would trade my life for yours.
They kept talking until the sunlight shining through the window turned into blue one, but now coldness of it couldn't reach them anymore. They stayed there until Merlin's faint glow was the only light in the room; until they had talked enough and a comfortable, understanding silence landed upon them.
Until both of them knew Mordred hadn't won.