Author's Notes: This one-shot takes place after Dave leaves Balthazar alone in his lab after the mopping incident.


Balthazar Blake paced back and forth over the Merlin Circle, reviewing some simple defensive spells he was considering teaching Dave. He glanced up briefly at the stairs leading to the entrance to Dave's workspace, a former subway turnabout, as though expecting Dave to suddenly reappear.

When Dave had left, Balthazar was certain he would return almost immediately. When the boy had his first experience with magic, instead of giving up the ring to return to a normal life, he had chosen to step into the Circle with Balthazar and become his apprentice. Of course he would return.

Balthazar was a patient person. He had to be in order to survive over a thousand years without any friends or family while he searched for the Prime Merlinian. Running a finger along a line in the Incantus, he thought that perhaps this spell for a shield would be a good next step for Dave. A shield against magical attacks was always a useful skill. His apprentice would be returning any moment now. Balthazar smiled, wondering if he should throw some fire at him when he came back to test his reaction time.

All those years he spent searching for the Prime Merlinian, never allowing himself a personal life, never allowing himself to have attachments of any kind – it all seemed so wasteful now that he was training the boy. After all, searching through the deserts and the forests and going to every remote village he heard about had been in vain. It was when he was no longer actively searching that Dave had appeared, coincidentally, in his shop.

Smiling slightly, Balthazar remembered the perverted pleasure he had taken in scaring the boy. First, he had told him the story about the urn, and then pretended to read his mind. And Dave had been – and still was – a dreadful liar. Balthazar's eyes narrowed as he looked up toward the stairs again. How long had Dave been gone, exactly?

Balthazar put down the Incantus and busied himself with brewing some tea. He sat down and picked up Don Quixote, which he had picked up at Dave's school earlier that day. He had not read it in a few hundred years, and looked forward to reading it once again.

Before he knew it, Balthazar had finished drinking an entire pot of tea. He considered making another one, but found himself suddenly strangely drawn to the Incantus. He picked it up and opened it to a random page. Coincidence brought him to the history section of the book. More specifically, he opened the book to a page that was about Dave.

Brow furrowing, Balthazar began reading over the page. It was essentially a summary of Dave's life, from when he had obtained Merlin's dragon ring in the Arcana Cabana to the present, and it was the present that began to worry him. More accurately, it was the lack of a present that concerned him. The final line of the page read:

Dave Stutler took off the Dragon Ring.

The history kept up in time with the present, but this last line made Balthazar strangely nervous. The fact that it ended on such a note meant that Dave had not only taken off the ring, but had either chosen to leave it, and magic, all behind forever, or that he was fully intending to do so.

Now Balthazar looked up towards the entrance to Dave's lab with real worry. If Dave really chose to abandon his destiny to be Prime Merlinian, then Balthazar, and the rest of the world, had a problem. No one else could defeat Morgana le Fay. Balthazar stared at the last line of Dave's history again, waiting for it to change, to give him some indication that Dave was going to return to him to continue his training.

And again Balthazar paced, feeling impatient and anxious despite his usual iron control over his own emotions. If Dave really had left him for good, then there was not only no chance of defeating Morgana, but there was even less hope for his saving Veronica. Balthazar stopped in his tracks and stared at the seemingly empty space on the table where the Grimhold sat. Both the love of his life and his enemy were trapped.

Balthazar forced himself to flip back to the defensive spells and search for more possibilities to teach Dave as soon as his apprentice returned. He stared at the same page so long his eyes watered before he realized that he had not even read the first sentence yet. In frustration, he dropped the book to the ground, glaring at it as though the whole situation was the Intantus' fault.

He had to get himself under control. A sorcerer had to control himself in order to control his magic. It was a simple, straightforward truth that Balthazar had understood long ago. Dave would return; he had to, because he was the Prime Merlinian, and the Prime Merlinian had to train in order to defeat Morgana and save the world. Balthazar needed to regain control and be patient. After all, if Dave really was leaving magic all behind, Balthazar worrying about it would not change his mind. Balthazar would need to become prepared to face Morgana himself, and attempting to attain that much power and ability would require absolute focus. He could not afford to worry about Dave, or even Veronica.

Love was a distraction. He should never have developed a fondness for the boy. He was the master, and Dave was the apprentice. It seemed so simple at first. What had he been thinking, allowing himself to become emotionally attached to Dave? Balthazar had even begun thinking of Dave as more than his apprentice, but as his friend.

It was bad enough Balthazar spent his seemingly endless years of living hell longing for Veronica, the woman who had sacrificed herself to save his life all those centuries ago. He had told himself that his search for the Prime Merlinian was all to save the world from Morgana, but in truth, for him it was all about saving Veronica. And now he had begun to see himself in Dave's love for Rebecca.

Balthazar picked up the Incantus again, wondering if he should reopen it to Dave's history page, when he heard footsteps approaching down the stairs.

"Hey."

It was Dave.

"Hello." Balthazar focused all his concentration on keeping calm and holding back the flood of feelings filling his heart from revealing themselves to Dave. His apprentice had returned. Everything was going to be all right now. Morgana would be defeated, and Veronica would be saved.

"I'm sorry. I think you and I need to have a talk," said Dave as he came down the stairs.

Oh, Dave, there is no need to apologize. I'm just thankful you've returned. So thankful.

"No apology necessary. Let us move on," Balthazar said as emotionlessly as possible to mask his feelings.

"You're a diamond, mate!" Dave said with a bright smile…and a British accent.

Balthazar's brow furrowed at the sudden change in Dave's attitude and voice, his eyes focusing on the hands gripping the railing of the staircase. The nails were black.

Far too late, Balthazar raised his hands to defend himself against the imposter. He soon found himself hanging from part of Dave's Tesla coil experiment, with thick bronze wires wrapping around his wrists and ankles. Dave transformed into a man with spiky blond hair who was dressed in a rather ridiculous outfit. But Balthazar had no time to worry about this new adversary.

"You seem to have a rather soft spot for that boy," said Maxim Horvath, the man who had, once upon a time, been his best friend. Everything had changed when Veronica had revealed her love for Balthazar instead of Horvath.

Even when Balthazar freed himself from the bronze coils trapping him, he was at a disadvantage. Horvath and his new recruit attacked him fiercely, and without giving Balthazar time to recover, Horvath sent a set of daggers flying at Balthazar's head.

Balthazar did not have time to fight back. He merely turned away, closing his eyes and picturing Veronica, the woman he would never have the opportunity to save.

But the daggers never reached their mark.

Balthazar looked up to see Dave pointing his glowing dragon ring at him, holding the daggers at bay. Even when the daggers fell harmlessly to the ground, Balthazar could not move as he gazed up at his apprentice, every emotion from fear to delirious happiness jolting through his body like lightning.

As Horvath and the blond man ran off, Dave rushed to Balthazar's side, helping him to his feet. It took all Balthazar's willpower to keep from embracing his apprentice.

Balthazar held Dave's gaze, half-willing him to realize the emotions raging inside his master, and half-hoping his apprentice would be too preoccupied to notice.

"Nice catch."