A hug, a kiss, a glare, a scolding, and a thousand slaps on the back were what Merlin received upon reentering the gates of Camelot, nearly three weeks after departing.
A hasty lie, an uneasy grin, a glare at Gaius, and more than a few apologies where what Merlin gave before he slipped away from the group of overjoyed friends and into his chambers.
After the long walk home, the young man wanted nothing more than to collapse into a dreamless sleep.
Fate was not on the warlock's side, however, for as soon as Merlin touched his long missed bed there came a rap at his door.
There stood before the king of Camelot the most guilt-ridden, fidgety servant that had ever been seen. Every minute of silence that passed, save for the rapping of Arthur's fingers on the desk, seemed to cause Merlin to grow redder and more embarrassed. And every time Arthur thought about ending the poor boy's torment, he would rethink and let Merlin squirm for a bit more.
Finally, Arthur spoke, very slowly, very calmly, "Never again."
Merlin bit back a smile and lowered his eyes.
"Yes Sire," he promised and didn't miss the smug (but relieved) look that crossed Arthur's face.