DISCLAIMER: Don't own it!
The exasperated shout echoed through the forest, the hoofbeats of a fleeing deer slowly fading away. Crouching behind a wall of shrubbery, a sheepish Merlin grinned and shifted his feet as he ducked to avoid a swat from Arthur.
"Sorry," he said, not sounding it in the slightest. "It was an accident."
"Honestly, Merlin, you somehow manage to accidentally find the driest pile of sticks in the whole forest and accidentally step on them hard enough to accidentally make a noise loud enough to scare away all the prey in this area!" Though Arthur's brows were furrowed angrily, there was a playful lilt to his voice. "I think you do it deliberately."
Merlin spluttered a few times as he hefted a crossbow onto his back and straightened up. "Why would I do something like that?"
"Because you're a complete ninny, that's why." Arthur swatted at him again. When the slap landed on Merlin's shoulder – drawing an indignant "Ow!" – he didn't move his hand away, instead clasping the servant's arm and pulling him back towards the trail leading to Camelot.
"I'm not a ninny!"
"Yes you are! Arthur, don't kill the nice rabbit! What if it has a family? Arthur, what did that deer ever do to you?" He mimicked in a high-pitched mockery of Merlin's voice.
Merlin raised his eyebrows. "Arthur, don't kill the unicorn, it's bad luck," he said pointedly, and Arthur rolled his eyes.
"There is an unspoken agreement not to talk about the unicorn," he pointed out gruffly, and Merlin let out a huff of laughter before they returned to walking in silence. But the unicorn was stuck in his mind, now – the memory of how Arthur had been willing to drink poison for him, to die for him, even though at that early point in their relationship they were nowhere near as close as they were now.
The thought warmed his heart, and he found himself glancing at his friend with undisguised affection.
"Stop making the sappy eyes," Arthur ordered from up ahead, without turning around.
Merlin laughed again and skipped to catch up with him. One day, he'd be honest with Arthur. Tell him everything and be confident that it wouldn't ruin their whole relationship.
- fin -
A/N: And so it ends! I'll keep this short: for personal reasons I couldn't review-reply this round, but a massive thank you to everyone who has reviewed, fav'd and alerted, especially those who've been reviewing every chapter since the start. I hope you all enjoyed the story; it's been a pleasure and a learning experience for me.
There will be further Merlin stories from me, including oneshots and I just watched the finale today and am planning on writing an alternate ending. Like many I was a bit miffed at how it ended.
Thank you everyone! :)