AN: EDIT: I'm really upset because I realized that I originally posted an older version of this chapter and it was missing some of the details... so now I've replaced it for everyone who reads it for the first time and everyone who comes back to read it again and I apologize. Anyway...
This is it! The last chapter! We finally get to figure out what happened to Gwaine and I know you're all eager so without further ado:
Merlin lay on his bed, alone in his room, surrounded by foreign objects that made no sense to him. He did not understand where any of this came from, this other life. He just wanted to throw it all out the window.
He winced as he shifted his legs. It had been four days since the fire, and the burns on his legs were nearly unbearable. It seemed unfair that he had to suffer for a choice he did not even remember making. He glared up at the ceiling. Despite Leon's warning, Merlin had spent much of his time trying to remember, and even becoming angry and shutting out those around him. He had spent the majority of the past few days closed up in his room, listening to the silence of his own mind.
The old man, Gaius, was kind, and Merlin felt that he should know him, but since he did not, even being around the man was difficult. The woman, Guinevere, was perhaps the hardest of all though. She was so sweet to him and always doing things for him, yet she was a queen, and he was supposed to be a servant. How could they ever have been such close friends?
Percival had been near until the day Leon left. Merlin had only managed to sneak past him that night to visit the courtyard. He did not tell anyone that he had seen Leon. No one even knew he was aware of who Leon was. Arthur had called him a coward, running away from his mistakes. Percival had been glad to see him go, but Elyan and Guinevere just seemed sad. None went after him, though, Merlin wished they could have seen the remorse he had seen in Leon's eyes that night. He had folded up the cloak and kept it beneath his bed, under a board with other treasured objects that meant nothing to him now.
He was beginning to remember his magic and that had become his only friend. He could move things around without even thinking about it, light fires just by looking at them, and he was even beginning to remember some words, with the help of the magic book he had found underneath the floorboards.
The book now sat neatly under his bed as he stared at the ceiling, tired of reading. Magic was instinctual for him. Most of his instincts had remained, simple things like how to speak, the drive to eat and survive, remembering how his body moved. Things that were all a part of him, so deeply ingrained they could not be forgotten. Like his desire to protect Arthur.
Arthur was the only one he really felt comfortable around. He had assumed at first it was because Arthur was the first person he had met upon waking up, but now he saw that there was something deeper to it than that. It was quite accidentally that he stumbled upon the desire. Arthur had stood up to leave the room after Merlin first awakened and the King groaned in pain at his many wounds, and just like that the fire was reignited. Merlin had fussed over him until Arthur escaped out of the room. After he had left, Merlin lay back thinking about the feeling. There was something more… something at the edge of his mind and memory. A light, pure and blue, guiding Arthur up a treacherous cliff face.
Merlin had shrugged the image off and rolled over to go to sleep. That was a few days ago and now he lay awake, bored but not wanting to move for the pain that it would cause, and finding no desire to do anything else, not even to read his book of magic.
There was a knock at his door all of a sudden, and as much as he just wanted to ignore it, Leon's warning still rang in his ears.
"Come in," he said, not moving, just staring at the wall.
The door opened, and as he glanced over, he suddenly shot into a sitting position.
"Arthur!" he exclaimed.
Arthur gave Merlin a small smile and moved to sit down next to the warlock.
"Merlin," he greeted. "How are you feeling?"
Merlin grimaced at his legs. "I'd like to say I've been better, but I don't really remember if I have," he muttered.
Arthur laughed out loud, startling Merlin who stared at him with wide eyes.
"You haven't changed, Merlin," Arthur chuckled. "Still always finding something to complain about."
Merlin felt that he should be offended, but instead found himself smiling at Arthur.
"I guess so."
Arthur's broad smile slowly slipped from his face.
"I've come to talk to you about a grave matter," Arthur stated, taking a deep breath as Merlin watched him in anticipation. "I did not tell you this when you first awoke because I did not want to upset you."
Merlin nodded encouraging the king to go on. "There was a man who jumped on the pyre that day. He saved both our lives." Merlin's eyes widened, wondering who Arthur was talking about, hardly believing that there was someone who would risk so much for Merlin's life.
"What happened to him?" Merlin asked.
Arthur took another breath before replying.
"He was badly injured," Arthur said. "He…" Arthur dropped his head trying to control his own emotions. "Gaius does not believe he is going to make it."
Merlin felt a sudden lump in his throat. A man that Merlin did not even know existed had risked his life to save Merlin… and now he was going to die.
Arthur looked up at Merlin, his eyes moist, but not quite teary.
"He… he keeps asking to see you. We told him it was over, but we have not told him about your memory. We did not want to upset him."
Merlin sat in silence for a long time.
"What's his name?" he asked.
"Gwaine," Arthur said. "He's a knight."
Another knight. How many knight friends did Merlin have? Had he not been just a servant?
"I'll see him," Merlin said.
Arthur nodded. "Sooner would be better."
"Let's go now," Merlin suggested.
Arthur hesitated before nodding and standing up, offering a hand to pull Merlin up and out of bed. He still could not wear shoes, but the bottoms of his feet were well enough for walking.
It did not take them long to reach the room Gwaine was in. When they entered, there were several people in the room, some Merlin recognized, other's he did not. Elyan he had seen once when Guinevere was visiting, but hardly after that. He guessed that the knight had chosen to stay with his friend. Percival obviously had become a permanent fixture here after Leon left. Guinevere was here now, but Merlin knew she came and went because she had come to visit Merlin often.
Other knights were scattered around the room, but with a look from Arthur they all left. Arthur patted Merlin's shoulder and made his leave as well, leaving Merlin alone with the bandaged figure lying on the bed.
As he moved forward, Merlin noted how the room smelled of foul herbs and medicines, but they could not quite block out the charred smell of skin. As he drew closer the figure on the bed shifted, still asleep, but waking momentarily.
His hair was cut short, close to his scalp, at least half his face was bandaged, covering up the right side of his mouth and his right eye. The left side of his face was untouched showing the handsome features that used to be mirrored on the other side as well. Merlin gulped slightly as he saw the vestiges of burns that were not completely covered.
The one eye slipped open, blinked a few times before focusing on Merlin. The left corner of his mouth turned upwards weakly.
"Merlin," the voice croaked out before coughing a few times. "Good to see you."
"You as well," Merlin stated softly, still looking the injured knight over. The damage to his face was reflected through the rest of his body. For the most part, the right side of his body was bandaged and the left side left mostly unmarred except for a few scrapes and small burns here and there.
"Is he gone, Merlin? Is he really gone?" Gwaine asked.
Merlin had to stare for a few moments as he tried to figure out what Gwaine was asking. "Yes," he murmured. "He's gone."
Gwaine studied him, staring at him until Merlin shifted uncomfortably.
"You're gone too," he whispered.
Merlin opened his mouth, but didn't know what he was going to say. Would he protest? Deny that he had forgotten his entire life. Gwaine would figure it out if he did. His mouth snapped shut, and he nodded.
Gwaine continued to stare. "What do you remember?" he asked.
Merlin shook his head. "Nothing."
Gwaine dropped his head back onto his pillow, looking away from Merlin. "So after all that… we still couldn't save you."
Merlin frowned. "I'm here now," he said strongly, and Gwaine's eye rolled back to look at Merlin. "I might not be exactly who I was before, but I am thankful to be alive nonetheless."
"I'm glad you're alive, Merlin. Don't get me wrong, I just wish we could have done more."
Merlin did not have a response to that so Gwaine just sighed and looked away. The sigh was too much for his burned lungs and he began coughing uncontrollably. Merlin moved around to Gwaine's left side and helped support him through the worst of it.
When it was finally over Gwaine looked weaker than before.
"I'm not long for this world, my friend," Gwaine said looking towards Merlin. "They've all given up hope that I'm going to live."
Merlin did not need to ask who 'they' were. He had seen the hopeless looks as Arthur and the knights had left the room. He knew that none of them probably admitted to losing hope, but Gwaine was obviously a perceptive man.
"I'm sorry," he said, and he was. He felt a strange attachment to the dying man, and the feeling was the closest thing he had to a memory.
Gwaine waved weakly with his good hand.
"That's life, you live, you do some good, hopefully, and then you die." He was trying to be nonchalant about it, but Merlin could hear the fear in his voice.
Tears pricked the corner of Merlin's eyes, much to his surprise, and then dripped down his face. Tears for a man he didn't even know.
"I don't…" his voice caught. "You're not going to die," Merlin whispered.
He rose to his feet and lifted a hand towards Gwaine, who watched him suspiciously and then with awe as Merlin spoke and his eyes lit up. A glowing light settled over Gwaine's body. He let out a sigh of relief as the worst of his burns began to heal and the infection was chased from his body.
Merlin began to breathe heavily as the magic took hold of him, draining his energy. It wasn't long before he had to stop. Gwaine's burns were not completely healed and still covered the majority of his body, but they were no longer life threatening as they had been before.
Merlin collapsed into a chair by the bed as Gwaine stared at him in amazement. Merlin stared back, his eyes questioning. According to Arthur no one had known of his magic before the burning. He was not quite sure what to expect from Gwaine now.
"Merlin… I… thank you." He could heard the relief in Gwaine's voice and understood just how truly afraid the man had been of dying.
Merlin let out a breath, smiled at Gwaine uncomfortably, and then stood up and moved towards the door.
"Merlin… you didn't let go of me, even when everyone else did, why?" Gwaine asked. "You don't even remember who I am."
Words trickled into Merlin's head, he didn't know where they came from but they seemed appropriate. He turned and looked at Gwaine, one hand on the door.
"Friends never give up…" Merlin said, staring into space absentmindedly, "and they never let go."
He frowned at Gwaine in confusion, as though Gwaine could explain where the words had come from, but the knight gazed at him in amazement. Slowly a smile that was almost too big for his face stretched across his features.
"Right," he said and then tilted his head back and laughed. Merlin smiled and then opened the door.
Arthur and Guinevere and the knights waited eagerly outside the door, their faces somber and anxious as they stared at Merlin. His face broke into a smile and they all frowned in response. "I…" Merlin hesitated and swallowed loudly. "He's going to be alright now," he told them.
Their eyes widened in surprise. Arthur tried to peek around him into the room and Merlin stepped back to let them all in. They all rushed to Gwaine's bedside to verify what Merlin said was true. Sure enough the man looked much healthier.
"Welcome back." Percival said.
Gwaine scoffed. "Like I could leave," he joked. "Someone's got to look after you."
Every single member of the group had smiles so wide they stretched out their faces. Someone told a joke and they laughed. Arthur looked back at Merlin who stood leaning against the door. His smile shrank slightly and he nodded his head indicating his gratitude.
Merlin's eyes watered, but he did not cry, strangely touched by the gesture. It was more than thankfulness, it was acceptance. Arthur accepted what Merlin was and what he could do and somewhere deep inside Merlin felt like that was something he had been anticipating for a very long time.
Do not give up hope. If there is even a hint of a memory, perhaps the rest will return as well.
Arthur held out an arm and Merlin hesitated only a moment before walking closer to the group. The arm looped around his neck pulling him into the circle of friends roughly. Merlin glanced around, so many of the faces still so strange to him, could he really build a life among these people?
"Hey Merlin… what else can you do with that magic of yours?" Gwaine asked, his eyes lighting up mischievously. Laughter circled around and Merlin could not help, but join in. Maybe, just maybe, he could find what he had lost.
And if not you will create new memories.
AN: So what did you think? Did you like it? I know it's not the happiest of endings but like I wrote before there will be a sequel which promises a happier ending. Unfortunately I have no idea when it will be finished, it might be quite some time as I have to write the prequel to this story first.
Fortunately, however, since I am done with this story I will have much more time to work on the other two.
Anyway, I really do hope you guys enjoyed this story, it had a lot of emotional feels in it that I loved to write about and I cannot wait to continue it in the sequel. Hope to see you all soon!