Disclaimer: I do not own, nor make a profit, from Sorcerer's Apprentice.

-o-o-o-

"I don't know what you're talking about, Dave." Balthazar mumbled from beneath the rim of his hat, attention focused on the book in his hands.

"You-you, don't try to pretend you don't know what I'm talking about, Balthazar." The young apprentice frowned, hand waving in the air, "Remember? On top of the penthouse? Right before the battle, you turned and I specifically remember you saying something about loved ones and not knowing how much time was left, and-and-"

"And your point, Dave?" The older sorcerer sighed, as though bored. The boy had a tendency to talk too much. And this time was no exception.

"Don't-don't take that I-am-mightier-than-thou tone with me." Dave frowned, pointing at the seated man as though he were participating in the argument more than he was, "You think I'm pretty dumb, don't you?"

"Never said that." Balthazar interjected, finger held up while his hidden eyes remained on the book. Before Dave could begin to smile at the not-quite-compliment but not-quite-not-an-insult, Balthazar continued, "Not refuting it. But I never said that."

Dave's face fell, remembering his hard position in cracking the stubborn man's shell, "Yeah? Well, that's how you treat me. And- and I am sick of it."

Realizing that the boy wasn't about to let it go any time soon, Balthazar gave a weary exhale, slowly closing the large tomb with one hand and leaning back in the sunken chair. When piercing blue eyes finally made contact with resolute brown, Dave had a hard time not crowing in victory. The man always had his nose buried in a book. It was hard not to believe the man was taking him seriously when he was constantly preoccupying himself with one reading material or another.

"And how is it, exactly, that I have made you come to this conclusion?" Balthazar's voice rumbled, as though the centuries clung to his vocals, making them flow leisurely from his chest. Though the man himself sometimes had enough impatience to spare at times.

"You-you…" His nerves were starting to get to him, so Dave took a shaky breath to calm himself before continuing, "there's more than you're telling me."

"Really?" The older sorcerer leaned further back into his chair, elbows resting on the armrests as his fingertips steepled in the traditional, amused Balthazar air.

"Yes, really." Dave frowned, not finding this amusing at all. His arms crossed over his chest as he continued, "Now, back then, I thought you were referring to me and Veronica. But that's not true, is it?"

Balthazar's eyes narrowed. A small thing, but easily caught from the younger apprentice that was watching the man's every move.

"Dave. Are you pinning the girl leaving you… on me? I warned you not to get involved." The sorcerer's gaze began to wander back to the book, as if bored of the subject once more. The younger man had to think fast, before Balthazar returned to his dormant –and completely stubborn- shell.

"Why, because love is distracting?" Dave asked.

The sorcerer whipped his head back towards the apprentice, assaulting Dave with his fiery gaze alone. The boy had struck a nerve.

"Yes, Dave." Balthazar shot to his feet, book falling, forgotten on the ground before him, "I should know Dave. It's the kind of distracting that can tear a man's heart in two and leave him dead. Both figuratively, inside, and literally on the physical realm."

David just watched as the man paced, his long trench coat dragging its heels at each step, swooshing in protest to his leather-soled stomps. The old coat weighed as heavily as Balthazar's words. The man was definitely a puzzle. Each spoken phrase riddled with clues as to his true meaning. However, it was a puzzle Dave himself may just have cracked.

Dave folded his arms, stroking his chin pensively as he nodded his head, "So that's why…"

"Why. What. Dave?" Balthazar hissed out slowly, stressing each word as though they were their own sentence.

He couldn't figure out what it was his apprentice was skirting around, though a nagging fear began to worm its way up his spine. He squashed it before it could come to fruition, brow creasing as he tried to focus on the matter at hand. What was Dave-

"You're afraid." Dave interjected, swiping through the sorcerer's thoughts.

The frown deepened on Balthazar's brow, one arching as if to inquire 'of what?' He had faced countless mystical beings, dark morganian sorcerers, numerous magical traps.

The smug look on Dave's face made him edgy, though, "Afraid to tell me that you lo-"

"Do not. Finish. That sentence." Balthazar said in intervals, each harsh word taken with a large stride to cover up the distance between them.

Dave's face darkened, those deep brown eyes looking more troubled the closer the older sorcerer got.

"Why?" Dave demanded, not backing down when he found the man's face mere inches from his own. The closeness of the man's presence was intoxicating, his mere aura drawing Dave in just as it had those many years ago. Though the feelings then had been more innocent. Less charged.

It wasn't the same as it was now. And the way Balthazar's blue eyes flashed, the way he stiffened ever-so-slightly, Dave could tell it was affecting the other man as well.

"Just…" Balthazar's breath rebounded off of Dave's jaw, making the younger man's own breath hitch, as those blue eyes searched within his own. Then the sorcerer finished his sentence, stepping back as he did so, single hand splayed outwards, "Don't."

"…what?" Dave asked, confused.

But Balthazar was already walking away, his back facing Dave as he repeated, "Just don't, Dave."

"You're… you're really gonna just deny this. Just walk away?" Dave exhaled in defeat, arms flopping uselessly at his sides.

Balthazar shot a darkened look over his shoulder, pausing in his stride long enough for his clipped reply, "…Yes, Dave."

Then he was gone around the stone corner, his footsteps echoing hollowly behind him.

Dave's shoulder sagged as he heard the door slam with a finality to it, as so many things did after Balthazar decided against something. The man had centuries to practice clarifying it was the end of the discussion. That was also centuries to get used to his own, old, stubborn ways.

Shoving his hands in his pockets, Dave felt the warm fuzzy hope from earlier sink to the bottom of his stomach. He muttered to himself, "You are a coward, Balthazar Blake."

-o-o-o-

Weeks had gone by, and the infuriating man had managed to continue acting as though nothing had happened.

Unfortunately, Dave couldn't sweep it aside just as easily. Heart on his sleeve kind of guy. Why couldn't fate just spear him in the eye with a fork? Or run a bulldozer over both legs. He couldn't imagine anything hurting worse than how he felt right now.

He searched Balthazar's eyes for something other than the cool indifference of a mentor. Searched his demeanor, the tone of his voice, for anything that showed what he truly felt.

Nada. Nothing. Zilch.

Nothing could possibly hurt worse.

Other than how he felt right now, staring up at the sky. Every bone felt like it had a bruise on it, his muscles joining the symphony of aches and pains. He stood up, crooked over with a hand on his spine like an old man, his free fist shaking at the retreating stone eagle figure in the distance.

"Traitor!" He shouted uselessly after it.

He had only been joking when he said he was gonna kill Balthazar. He had just been venting, honestly, and muttering to himself the whole ride. Who knew the eagle could hear him, much less take it personal.

"Great, great. What do I do now?" He sighed to himself, looking at the expanse of forest all around him, "Get walking, I guess."

With a weary sigh, he began his journey towards what he had hoped would lead him back to civilization.

-o-o-o-

"Great idea, Dave." He found himself talking mockingly to himself, his feet hurting just as bad as the rest of him, "Walk out on Balthazar while he's teaching you, to take his one favorite stone eagle on a joyride to clear your head. Honestly, out of all the things, that stupid loyal eagle?"

"Of course in hindsight it all seems so obvious." He muttered, glaring at each tree he passed as if they had offended him personally.

How long had he been walking, anyhow? An hour? Maybe two? Seven? Really, who kept track anymore?

The dark haired youth kicked a stone out from between a couple roots, exclaiming 'ouch' as he tweaked his sore knee, before continuing on his rant, "Why pay attention to where your going? Look for landmarks? Who needs to when you're riding a huge stone goliath? Not to mention said bird is only alive via magic sorcery and whatnot. Gawd, I must sound so crazy right now."

"Yeah, actually, mate. You do." The British accent preceded the leather-clad man that stepped out from behind a tree.

"Woah, don't do that!" Dave exclaimed, arms out like he was about to do some martial arts move he had absolutely no idea how to execute, "And that was a rhetorical question. Besides, what are you doing here in the middle of nowhere? And why are you still dressed like that?"

"Ouch, feelings mate." Drake feigned hurt, a fishnet covered hand pressed to his chest, "'Sides, I'm pretty sure I should be askin' the questions, Prime Merlinian, seein' as how you're on my property and whatnot."

"What?" Dave frowned as he looked around, "You live… in a forest? In the middle of nowhere?"

"This is not the middle of nowhere, you twat. This is England, love. What side of the world did you fall off of this mornin'?" Drake raised an eyebrow, as he could've sworn he heard Dave cough and mutter the word 'stupid stone eagle'. Drake's spiked golden hair kept perfectly still as he jerked his head, continuing, "And no, I don't live in the forest. I happen to own this piece of dirt for a couple acres out. And I happen to live in that mansion, right over there."

"Haha, you're joking, right?" Dave eyed him, before turning in a circle, addressing the world as a whole, "This has got to be some kind of joke. Out of the entire span of the globe, I end up in your backyard? Yours?"

Drake Stone barely blinked, "Not just backyard, mate. As I said before, I got a mansion. Right over there."

With stiff shoulders, Dave bobbed his head to the side, obliging the rock star as he looked in the direction he was pointing. Through the trunks and low hanging branches, he could make out the stone pillars and archways that made up what looked to be a very large medieval-style mansion. With the works. Fountains, hedges, and what looked to be five or six floors. Maybe seven or eight if you counted some of the towers.

"That's it, my life officially blows." The American mustered enough energy to roll his eyes and flop his arms at his sides.

-o-o-o-

"Why should I trust you, again?" Dave asked, pausing with the hot cup of cocoa an inch from his mouth. As if the words didn't speak enough of his nervousness, he was also sitting at the edge of his seat, eyeing the exits as though they would disappear any moment.

"You really want me to spell it out for you, mate? I thought you were the Prime Merlinian or somethin'. Can't you read my mind or what not?" Drake's face scrunched up, himself sprawled comfortably along a nearby couch.

"What? No I can't read your mind." Dave lowered the steaming cup, though his stomach threatened to protest, "What kind of question is that?"

"No? Fine. Let's see, reasons why you should trust me…" The blonde muttered to himself in thought, before jumping up, which inconsequently startled the younger man and made Drake crack a smile, "Aha, well, for starters I'm famous-"

"Famous, what's that got to do with anything? I didn't even know who you were." Dave interjected.

"That's 'cause you're a geek, mate. As I was saying, I'm famous, got millions in the green paper, own a couple mansions, can do magic way better than you at this point and time, meaning I can kick your ass-"

"Yeah, I get what that means." Dave mumbled dumbly, "Still not really getting the trust thing, though."

"All right, that went a bit far." Drake agreed, continuing, "Still, I can do it better. So, really, mate, you're no threat to me in any way, shape, or form."

"I feel so much better already." The Prime Merlinian said dryly, shooting the Morganian a dull gaze.

Placing the untouched cup on the mahogany coffee table before him, Dave ran a hand through his hair, "What am I even doing here?"

Shaking his head, he placed a hand on the armrest, about to push himself to his feet. But Drake beat him to it, moving so fast that the creak of his leather pants and coat was like an afterthought.

"Woah!" The dark-haired sorcerer plopped ungracefully back into the cushion, staring at the other warily as Drake rested his hands on either armrest, effectively trapping Dave, "What… are you doing there… buddy?"

"So I haven't been entirely truthful, mate." Drake exhaled slowly, one knee bent slightly as he shifted his weight to one side, hands still gripping the armrest, "You saved my life back in the penthouse. I should be dead as a doorknob right now. Or maybe as dead as that creepy goth chick I found in front of my fireplace."

"Uh, you're welcome?" Dave replied, unsure, "All I remember doing was putting your ring back on."

"I know, you're a real wonder you are, mate." Drake grinned, shaking his head, "No brains yet you still manage to do what needs to be done."

"Haha, yeaaaaah, I do." The Merlinian said stiffly, pressing further back into the cushion as the platinum-haired sorcerer started leaning forward, "And again, what are you doing?"

He didn't like the grin that spread across the Brit's face, "Why, returnin' the favor, mate."

Dave found that scooting back further when he was already pressed against the back was not as effective as he would've liked. Still, he couldn't help trying, "W-well, as I see it, my life is not in any mortal peril at the moment, but th-thanks for your concern."

"Almost forgot how nutters you are." The blonde's grin cracked wider.

Eyes narrowed, Dave frowned, "I could think of a few choice words for you, myself. And if you don't stop coming closer, someone's gonna get more than just words."

"Relax, puppet. This won't take but a second." Drake murmured into Dave's ear.

Then all of a sudden lips were over his and-

Oh my god, was that his hand down there playing with his-

A moan escaped Dave's lips before he could stop it, the rocker's hand doing wonders through his pants while a tongue flicked playfully across his lips.

A fishnet and leather glove covered hand cupped his face, and the Merlinian couldn't help but imagine them belonging to someone else. Someone who wasn't here.

Dave's eyes opened.

Someone who definitely wasn't Drake.

He blinked.

Who he was being kissed by. And molested on top of that.

Panicking, Dave placed his hands against Drake's shoulders, shoving the older youth off of him.

"The hell?" Dave demanded, furious.

But the spiked blonde could only grin knowingly at him, winking.

Then all hell broke loose.

The glass balcony doors slammed open, the panes shattering on their hundred mile impact against the walls. Dave felt a tremendous amount of magic crackling towards them and curled up instinctively, his shields up.

But his preparation was unnecessary, as he found the target had been the Morganian. In less than a breath, he found Drake plastered against the ceiling, looking to all the world like he had the wind forcibly knocked from him. Feeling a sense of déjà vu, Dave turned slowly towards the doors, fearing what he would find there.

He almost wished he hadn't.

Standing there, in a swirl of energy and magic, stood Balthazar. His heavy trench coat blew from the mystical force, gloved hand outstretched towards the boy on the ceiling, easily holding him there.

But his gaze, his terrifyingly intense gaze, was narrowed at Dave.

The Prime Merlinian could only swallow deeply, his throat dry.

"…Hi, Balthazar." He smiled nervously, hand raised in greeting.

For a few stretched moments, the Sorcerer said nothing. His gaze took in the whole room slowly, resting lastly on the Morganian on the ceiling, before settling heavily back on Dave.

"What are you doing here… Dave?" He finally said, his voice deeply disturbed.

"I…" Dave's voice faltered, hands stilling at each pause and crack in his response, "uh… I, um, really… have no good answer to that."

If it was possible, Balthazar's gaze darkened.