Arthur kept to his word and stayed with Merlin to make sure he was absolutely fine while the young warlock had a much-needed rest. He just stood by the door watching his friend sleep, relishing the sight of him being alive. Merlin’s face was strangely peaceful for someone who had gone through the worst birthday of his life.
Gaius woke Merlin a while later after he discovered some news from his research that he though his nephew should know about.
Arthur had fallen asleep in a chair, arms folded and chin of chest, snoring quietly so they left him there and went into Gaius’s workshop.
“There’s not much written about The NightmareChild but from what there is I gathered that Nimueh, Jethro and Koran’s souls are trapped in the cube for good …hopefully.” Gaius said as Merlin peered bleary eyed at the book before them on the table, “Your soul did go there for a time but because it wasn’t for long you were released. Just to be on the safe side, however, I think it would be best if the cube were disposed of properly.”
“We can throw it back into the sea at Brinkwell.” A voice suddenly said over their shoulder and they whipped around, “You know, return it to where it came from and all that.” Arthur suggested breezily.
“How long have you been there?” Gaius demanded, wondering if he’s heard the bit about Merlin’s soul.
“Just long enough.” The prince replied and turned to Merlin, “We’ll go to Brinkwell tomorrow.” He turned to leave but then seemed to remember something, “Oh, and by the way, happy birthday.”
The next day in the early hours they set off back to Brinkwell and got there just as the sun peeped over the horizon and cast a warm light over the small town. A few seagulls flew overhead in the white sky and foamy waves crashed against the rocks while some children poked around in a small pool, finding a crab and putting it in a bucket, laughing merrily and skipping over the sand to show their mother.
The two young men made their way up to the end of the long and empty pier to the furthest end where the wind was most wild. It whipped Arthur’s hair erratically as he pulled the broken cube from his pocket and held it firmly in his hand.
Merlin stood a little way back, watching him.
Arthur looked at the cube with azure eyes once more, thinking how neither he nor Merlin would ever have to suffer at it hand again, before hurling it with all his might into the sea where it disappeared behind the waves.
Merlin went to stand beside him, just brushing his shoulder, as they gazed over the vast ocean spread before them and a faint salty spray filled the crisp clean air.
“It’s gone.” Arthur said quietly.
Merlin didn’t need to reply so he said nothing.
The prince looked down at his friend’s injured arm guiltily, a look of self disappointment written on his face. Merlin noticed and put his hands behind his back so he couldn’t see it. He hated how Arthur has inwardly beating himself up about it, especially when it had been an accident.
Arthur sighed and looked away again.
“What’s up?” Asked Merlin, looking at his friend but Arthur didn’t reply, “Are you okay?”
Arthur couldn’t tell Merlin what he had felt when he had thought him to be dead, that wasn’t something the prince of Camelot would do. But Merlin was there, looking at him, worried for him, even when he wasn’t fully recovered himself and should be more concerned for his own welfare.
“I…I was worried about you but you’re fine. I’m glad.” Arthur turned around and started walking away. He needed to be alone for a while but Merlin’s voice froze him just there.
“Thank you, for everything, Arthur.”
The young prince felt something strange inside his heart. Something warm, something familiar when listening to Merlin. He didn’t say a word – Merlin would only start laughing but it was true. Arthur felt different for Merlin. He wasn’t his servant anymore. He would never be able to think of him as anything other than a friend now.
“You destroyed the cube. I would be dead if you hadn’t…” Merlin said but trailed off, not wanting or needing to finish the sentence.
Arthur turned around again, his eyes found Merlin’s and suddenly, as it was the proper thing to do, Arthur smiled at him.
“Sorry, but your the hero here, Merlin. You saved me, you gave your life for me because I was just a stupid, arrogant idiot who never listens.” He said with slight bitterness, “I’m sorry nobody will know. Everyone will say that I, the prince, save your life.” He went on and started walking again.
“I know.” Merlin said; speaking so low that Arthur couldn’t hear him. “I do love you, my friend.”
“Did you say something?”
“Yeah, I’m hungry.” Merlin muttered, smiling at the ground, “Let’s get something to eat.”
He fell into step beside Arthur and for once, they walked together as equals not master and manservant.