He had been back to work for a few days, though he kept the bandages around his hands for a bit longer, and he didn't have to do any real lifting at least until they came off. Gaius's orders, of course. Arthur would never have thought to let him off of some work without prompting. Gaius had finally stopped watching him like he was about to suddenly get depressed or go crazy and kill himself. Merlin went back to his earlier routine almost seamlessly, and he had ceased suddenly shutting down in the middle of conversations as he waited for someone else to start controlling him. He started talking to Gwen again. No one except Merlin, Arthur, and Gaius knew what had happened, and Orson was gone. And on top of all that, the sun had been out and cheerfully shiny, and the weather hadn't been at all bad lately.
Overall, Merlin was more content than he'd been in a while. Sure, he still lived where his natural gifts could get him killed, and he still had to save Camelot without recognition, and Morgana – his own personal failure – still wanted to see everything he loved come crashing down about his protruding ears.
But he was free to smile, free to talk, and no one was forcing him to do anything! It took a brief period of possession to make him really appreciate that. (All the same, he thought he'd learned his lesson quite effectively, and did not by any means need a repeat.)
There was only one dark spot in his joy, the shadowy umbrage of someone who just had to try and make him miserable. Morgana. Just seeing her, even if she wasn't looking his way, sent a pang of fear down his spine, but he pushed it to the side and told himself he'd have to get over that. It was worse when she did see him. She couldn't seem to decide whether she wanted to smirk at him in a way that screamed "I know your secret, and as soon as it will further my plans, I will expose you," smile at him icily in a way that whispered, "I know how painful the memory is for you," or glare at him in way that hissed, "You ruined my plan and you will pay." No matter what she decided on when she ran into him, Merlin wasn't happy with the way her looks made him feel. Not least because she might actually decide to divulge his secret, and then where would he be?
Probably tied to a pyre in the courtyard or running for his life, just like Balinor.
Or hiding until we can find "proof" that I'm innocent yet again.
He had to smile at that, but the grin had a worried tinge to it.
Merlin was sitting in the armory, polishing something stubbornly dirtied, when it occurred to him that really, it wasn't fair that Morgana should be so angry at him about this. Especially since he actually saved her too.
Putting down his cloth, he wondered what he should do about it. He could sit here and simmer, of course. He could suffer in silence. He could… No, he couldn't do that.
Except, actually… He could. Merlin couldn't help himself. He laughed. Perhaps it wouldn't be the best advised course of action, but then, who really cared anymore?
More than a week of someone else's plotting in his head made him want to pick his own path. So he thought he would. And he would enjoy walking it, no matter what.
Not much to lose anyway.
Merlin stood up, still smiling, his shoulders squared, and walked out the armory and towards Morgana's chambers. They would have a little talk.
How would he start?
How about… "You know, Morgana, I don't think you realized that I saved your sister's life and kept you from a life of being possessed."
Or maybe something about how Orson planned on betraying everybody?
And then he could finish up by telling Morgana that actually, no, he didn't have magic; what he used was just the residue of Orson's magic that hadn't left his body yet.
Well, she might not believe that.
Heck, she might not believe any of it. She might toss him out of her room on his ear and then go right back to plotting whatever plot she was working on now. Or toss him against a wall again. And then Gwen would ask him why Morgana was in such a horrible mood, and Arthur would look at him as though he was crazy to be angering Uther's ward.
It would probably all be worth it to say what he wanted to say and know that the words were all his own.
As he walked down the hall, trying to squash down his smile, he began to hum absentmindedly.
A/N: So that's the end. I thought after all that angst, Merlin deserved a more light-hearted chapter. I hope you enjoyed the story, and since it's the last chapter, I would love to hear from everyone kind enough to review one more time. I'm really curious as to what everyone thought of the story overall, the style, the IC-ness (I'm honestly very nervous about that this story), the plot... Whatever. Oh, biggest thing! Did I leave any clues unexplained or any loose end not tied at the end? I think I got them all, but like I said, it's my first mystery-like story, so I'm not really sure how I did at the ending.
I hope you liked it.
Oh, and if you are someone who expressed interest in that new story, I have published it.
Kitty O of Awesomeness, PBO, signing off!