Three days. It had been three days and still there was no sign of anyone or anything magical. Arthur was beginning to get frustrated and Merlin tried his best to placate the prince, because the wizard knew that the deep magic he had felt was now in Camelot, behind those thick walls of stone and ignorance. The last thing he wanted was Arthur turning his hunt towards the upper town.
"My father is not going to be pleased," Arthur stated over the fire that night.
Merlin looked up from where he was preparing to roast a pair of pheasants they had killed earlier in the day.
"You're not going to just give up are you?" he asked with a raised eyebrow, inserting derision into his voice.
"No. Of course not." Arthur straightened his spine and looked royally offended. "I just think we should check back with the guards at Camelot and see if anyone has seen anything...because we certainly haven't," the last he added with a grumble.
Merlin could not argue with that. Arthur was an excellent tracker and he had found nothing. Not even a broken twig or footprint in the damp earth. As far as they could tell, no one but the knights and peasants had traveled this way in weeks.
"Alright. I'll have the horses packed at dawn," Merlin gave in with a silent sigh.
Arthur lay down on his blanket next to the fire and threw an arm over his eyes. "You do that, Merlin," he said and then after a moment added with a yawn, "wake me when the food is prepared."
We can only stay holed up in this room eating rat stew for so long before those fucking guards get suspicious. We need a plan, a way to get Cas out of this place and to somewhere secure...at least until we know if he's going to fully recover. The rest we can deal with when we come to it.
"Sam?" Dean asks his younger brother, letting Sam infer everything from his tone and expression.
The two brothers are seated on the floor on opposites sides of this small, sparse bed that Gaius insists belongs to his apprentice Merlin – the brothers had a hard time with that one – where Castiel lay in a deep sleep.
"At least he's out of the coma, man," Sam pointed out optimistically, "so, maybe, if we wait a few days he will be strong enough to walk out under his own steam. I seriously doubt we'll make it ten feet carrying him."
Sam had a point and Dean knew it, but his nerves were on edge and every second he spent in the tiny, bare room increased his anxiety. He was to the point where screaming into a pillow and knifing a few wall boards seemed like a good alternative. He needed to get out before he went crazy.
"I don't do so well in small spaces," he reminded his brother for the millionth time.
Sam rolled his eyes. "Cowboy up. I know since the whole 'hell' thing you've had a few...irrational phobias, but this is not the time or place."
"Irrational," Dean pointed out with upraised eyebrows and a hand motion.
Sam chuckled dryly. "Maybe we should look into therapy."
Now it was Dean's turn to roll his eyes towards the ceiling. "There is no shrink in the world that could put us back together...they'd have better luck with Humpty-Dumpty."
"Hm." Sam made a non-committal noise in the back of his throat.
"Well, all I'm saying is we better get out of here soon."
Dean crossed his arms over his chest and stared at the dirty wooden floor boards. He cocked his head to one side as he noticed one board that was almost clean...he could barely see the double thin lines of a slit on either side of it. His hunter nature piqued, the Winchester leaned forward and felt under the bed where the board was it lifted with an experimental tug.
"Hey, Sammy, I think I found something."
Sam's eyes widened with interest and he moved forward. "The kids porn stash? Are we really that desperate?"
Dean shot his brother a glare. "No. It looks like there's a … wait..." Dean reached into the opening and pulled out a thick leather-bound tome. "Book," he finished.
"Huh, there really was porn," Sam sounded surprised.
Dean flipped through a few of the worn pages, reading the ornate and colorful scripts written there, and then came to a verbal conclusion.
"Yeah, this must belong to Merlin...it's a book of magic."
"Magic?" Sam asked, leaning over his brother's shoulder so that he could read.
"Yeah. Doesn't look like anything too dark so we probably don't have to worry about killing the little bastard unless he -."
"Dean! We cannot kill Merlin no matter what," Sam cried, aghast, "he's Merlin, for godsakes."
Here we go. I knew it was only a matter of time before your fan girl obsession with that Disney character took over your brain. I mean, I know you held a torch for Merlin when you were a kid, but, seriously, Sammy? You're almost thirty and I'm – god - I'm old. We don't have time for this so put the puppy love back in the box.
"We have enough to worry about without turning this into some bizarre hunt, anyway," Dean said.
Sam heaved a great sigh of relief and sat back on his heels. "Thank, god."
"Jeeze, Sam, don't sound so 'first date' about all of this. You're probably not going to meet the guy, because we have to get out of here."
"Cas isn't strong enough yet."
A knock at the door interrupted. Dean and Sam both stood to their feet, Dean still holding the book. After several long seconds Gaius entered, a steaming bowl of soup in each hand.
"I apologize for the shortness of rations. Usually it is only myself and my ward and it would look suspicious if I required double the amount. Still it is better than nothing."
Dean accepted his bowl with a forced smile. "Fantastic," he muttered unenthusiastically.
Sam's smile was softer and more sincere. "We really do appreciate everything you are doing for us."
Gaius shrugged the compliment away, but the lines around his eyes relaxed. Then he caught sight of the book and the color drained from his face.
"Put that away!" the old man hissed urgently. "It will be bad enough if I get caught harboring fugitives, but if harm should come to Merlin..." he swallowed hard, "I would never be able to forgive myself."
Dean looked down at the book. "I thought there might be a way home in here...There are a lot of spells."
"I thought you condemned sorcery? I seem to recall you enjoyed witch burnings," Gaius said with masked disgust.
Dean shook his head. "Only the evil bitches. Don't ask, don't tell for the White Lighters out there," he said charitably.
"What Dean means is that we only kill people who use magic to harm others. We aren't against magic, per se, we're more...protectors against the Dark Side." Sam explained with a self-conscious wince.
Gaius raised a single eyebrow and looked unconvinced. "Hm. Enjoy the soup. Hide that book."
With those clipped words he turned and left the room, closing the door.
"Well isn't he a ray of effing sunshine," Dean groused as he looked down at the unappealing food.
"Shut up and eat, Dean," Sam said.
Merlin's mouth was starting to water as he thought of the meal Gaius must have waiting for him. Arthur had sent a sentry posted at the gate to alert the King of their return. The servant made quick work of unpacking the horses and getting them set in their stalls. He was almost skipping when he reached the hallway to the quarters he shared with Gaius.
It was not until he opened the door to their rooms that he felt the energy. The dark, tainted magical core that belonged to someone...someone in his room. Merlin's eyes fell into twin slits of suspicion.
"Gaius?" he called into the room.
Movement on his left revealed the court physician half-hidden behind a bookshelf where he was trying to reach a fallen book.
"Merlin, my boy, perhaps your young arms would better suited for this task," Gaius suggested with a gasp as he straightened.
Obediently, the young man retrieved the book and handed it to his friend.
"There is someone in my room. The one they are looking for," he did not have to wait for an answer.
"Yes," Gaius gave it anyway.
When will you start looking out for yourself. I can't always protect you and harboring one fugitive is dangerous enough...You're in the same building as the King who would kill you in a heartbeat if he knew the truth about either of us. Please, Gaius, be careful!
"You shouldn't have helped them," Merlin doesn't really mean it, but still feels like his surrogate father puts himself at risk.
"Merlin, don't worry yourself." Gaius sent a comforting smile to the boy. "I am well aware of what I am doing and the consequences of my actions."
"Still..." Merlin's words trailed off as he did not know how else to fight against the fear he felt at the thought that something might happen to the old man. "How can I help?"
Gaius put the book down on a work bench and sat down on a stool, motioning for Merlin to do the same. He explained about the angel and the men as best he could.
"So, Uther thinks they kidnapped the angel?"
"Yes." Gaius nodded. "Before the guards could be discovered, I informed Uther that several masked men had entered my rooms and stolen the injured witness. I told him they had Eastern accents and talked of leaving Camelot immediately."
Merlin sighed heavily shook his head, chin wrinkled in distaste. "Well, if I know Arthur we'll be back on the road by sunrise going after this imaginary Eastern Sorcerers."
Gaius could not stop a chuckle from escaping. "Indeed. I heard that only a handful of Knights are still in the castle, the rest have been dispatched."
"Gaius, there is one thing I have to tell you," Merlin wasn't sure how to say it exactly, so he let the words blurt themselves out. "I feel a dark energy from at least one of them – there is more than one?"
"Three, including the injured man," Gaius said with a half-shrug.
Merlin's eyebrows shot up and his mouth fell open. "Three! Hiding in my room?" he asked in disbelief. "For three days?" he was suddenly concerned that he might not have a room left.
Gaius gave Merlin a 'you really do act like a bit of a ponce sometimes' look and said, "Now, Merlin, you do need to learn to share."
Merlin threw his hands up in the air and stalked towards his room, a frown making his ears look even larger than normal. He opened the door loudly, letting it smack against the wall.
"I'm Merlin and you're in my room," he informed the two men haughtily.
Sam and Dean exchanged glances.
Dude, he needs a Xanax or...a good lay.
Dean saw a scrawny twelve year old in scruffy clothes and floppy boots, but Sam saw something else entirely. A childhood hero in the flesh, powerful and wise. Sam's knees started to shake and he moved forward, grasping Merlin's arm and shaking it vigorously.
"I'm Sam and I'm your biggest fan. Seriously, I love you and I think you're amazing and that's my brother." Sam knew he was babbling, but didn't care. This was Merlin, for godsakes!
"Sam," Dean said loudly and clearly, "you – are – embarrassing – me," he enunciated each word carefully before adding with a eye-roll, "and yourself."
Merlin was shocked by the reception, especially since the man currently possessing his arm was the one exuding all the black energy. The boy swallowed. This might be trickier than he had thought.
"You are the most amazing wizard in history and I cannot believe you're actually real – I knew it all along! I knew you were real!" Sam contradicted himself with a victorious grin directed at his brother.
Dean walked up beside his brother, stared up at the smile-clad face and smacked Sam's head as hard as he could.
"Ow! Ow! What the fuck, Dean," Sam bit out in pain, whispering out the side of his mouth, "not in front of Merlin."
"We'll discuss this later," Dean growled.
Merlin stood in stunned silence. These men seemed so normal, yet alien. He cleared his throat and his eyebrows lowered as he tried to regain control of the situation.
"You really have to get out of my room."
"Trust me, wiz-kid, there is nothing I would rather do. One problem, we have nowhere to go and our friend here is injured."
Merlin's frown turned into a full glower, "then carry him," he paused a beat, "out of my room."
"You really are a selfish little brat aren't you, you snot-nosed little - ."
"Dean!" Sam interjected, cutting off what had promised to be a long stream of insults.
Merlin crossed his arms over his chest. "I will help you if you will leave. I don't want myself of Gaius getting killed for helping you people."
Sam blinked. "That hurts a little, but I know you don't meant it, because you don't know us yet."
"There will be no yet, you are leaving."
"Yeah, Sammy, we're leaving," Dean agreed, thrilled that they would finally be able to get out of the tiny living quarters.
Merlin watched as Dean went to the bed and tried to pick up the angel lying there. Guilt built up inside the wizard as he watched the struggle. He didn't really mind that they were in his room or that Gaius was helping them, after all he would have done exactly the same, but after half a week in the forest sleeping on the floor he had looked forward to having his own space back. A protective streak ran through him when it came to possessions and he was well aware of it.
With a long sigh Merlin went to the bed and placed his hands over the angel's eyelids. He spoke a spell of rejuvenation and wakefulness hoping that it would have some affect.
"What did you just do?" Sam asked eagerly, pushing his way to the young wizards side, "Because that sounded so-o Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets."
"Seriously, dude?" Dean asked with a shake of his head.
Castiel moaned and his eyes fluttered open slowly. "What happened?" he asked in a raspy monotone.
"We're in a freaking Disney movie, that's what happened," Dean informed him sarcastically.
Castiel winced. "I thought Gabriel was dead."
"Not an actual movie, you idiot."
"There's no need to be mean," Cas grinds out, coughing at the dryness in his throat.
"Here, let me get you some water," Merlin slips back into servant mode and goes out to the main chamber for a goblet of water.
"Sure, he wants to help the angel," Dean grumbles.
"Explain what happened," Castiel tries again once he has had a sip of water.
"We're in the past. Somehow we got sent back a long time – a really, really long time – and now we're in Camelot," the younger Winchester tells him.
Castiel pushed himself up on his elbows, blue eyes widening. "The Camelot?" he asks in awe.
"Uh, I guess," Sam answers.
The angel collapses back, his eyes unfocused as they stare at the ceiling. "I had heard, but I thought it was all just a myth...a legend told so many times over it was believed to be fact."
"I thought angels were supposed to know everything." Sam raised an eyebrow.
"I am not omniscient, despite what you and your brother seem to think. I had a post and I was confined to that post and only relevant information was passed on to me. Camelot was a place I had heard other angels speak of."
"Cas, what's so special about this place?" Dean asked, not understanding the light of awe still shinning through his friend's blue eyes. "It's a freaking castle."
Castiel fastened his gaze on Dean. "You have no concept of importance, Dean."
"Look, can you talk about this later, like, when you aren't in danger of being discovered...In my room?" Merlin asked as he pushed away from the bed.
"Yeah, Cas, we really could use some Shazam power getting out of here," Dean said.
Sam nodded in silent agreement. Castiel groaned and laid his head back down on the pillow.
"I am powerless until my 'batteries' re-charge," he made air-quotes with his fingers, "so I'm afraid getting us out of here will be up to you."
Dean, Sam and Merlin exchanged uneasy glances.
"Alright, let me see what I can do," Merlin said with a forced grin.