Chapter 1: Present the First
Coming of Age
Merlin stared at the wrapped parcel in his hands and then tilted his head up to stare at Arthur. King Arthur. Who had just handed him a present. He felt like fainting for surely this was another one of those enchantments that some sorceress (it was always women that targeted Arthur most) put on Arthur. Perhaps the parcel is meant to explode in his face when he opens it and kill them all. Or maybe it had an evil devil in it that will possess him and make him try to kill Arthur. Again.
His king looked nervous (I never get nervous Merlin) and was smiling at him in that awkward way that made him look a little constipated. He looked back down at the present he was holding that was wrapped in red silk (who wraps presents in red silk) tied with gold ribbon and then looked back at Arthur.
"Arthur, you wrapped these in red silk?"
Arthur was looking even worse for wear at his manservant's comment and Merlin just stared him, still trying to process the fact that he had used silk to wrap his gifts. His silence seemed to make Arthur even more nervous and so he decided to be gracious and put his king out of his misery by opening the gift.
He unwrapped the present slowly and knew the moment that he started that Arthur had wrapped the gift himself. The fabric was not wrapped in a particular way (in other words it was a mess) and when he finally got the knot in the ribbon to let go, the fabric fell away and revealed itself to be badly cut with uneven edges. Arthur had wrapped it. Arthur never wraps things. Merlin was shocked.
Then he saw the object that had been wrapped inside the red silk and felt his heart give a jolt. The present wasn't overly expensive or romantic or even that special. It was a pair of brown boots that was sold in the shoe shop owned by Lady Ruth's maid's brother and although it wasn't cheap, it was nowhere near as expensive as Arthur's boots.
But Merlin remembered two Saturdays ago when he had gone to the market with Arthur and had expressed his love for the particular pair of boots, he remembered how Arthur had called him stupid and told him to just buy it for goodness sake and stop ogling it like he wanted to consume it. He had told Arthur about how he couldn't afford it since he had to save his money to buy food in winter for him and Gaius.
He remembered how Arthur had said, "Don't be an idiot Merlin, winter's coming up and your boots look like they're going to fall apart any second now."Merlin had glared at him and then defended his boots in a loud, high pitched voice that attracted a little (a lot) of attention.
He's never complained about how little he gets paid but he shared everything (but his magic) with Arthur and he hadn't known that those few words would start a whole week of Arthur bugging him about his pay. So with his boots was a letter from the Castle Steward stating that he now had a better pay and that his meals would be covered by the castle.
He grinned at the presents and said, "Thank you Arthur, these are great!"
Arthur looked a bit uncomfortable and replied in a small voice, "It isn't much, I didn't really know what you'd want." And looked really, really nervous as if Merlin held the world in his hands and was going to crush it any second now.
But it wasn't about the price or value of the object, Merlin was pleased because Arthur obviously remembered how Merlin had admired the boots and he had obviously thought long and hard about what to get his (friend) manservant. The gifts were personalised and he felt appreciated that Arthur would go and get the things that he specifically liked instead of just ordering a pair of those expensive boots that were fit for a king.
He smiled at Arthur's still nervous expression and went for a hug. He felt Arthur stiffen and he didn't let go until he felt Arthur hug him back. He grinned at the man in front of him and said sincerely, "I love them Arthur, I'm surprised a prat like you even know how to get presents and silk? Really Arthur could you be any more of a dollop-head?"
"How is me using silk making me a dollop-head?"
He made an outrageous expression and smacked Merlin on the arm. Merlin grinned and said merrily, "Well it's my coming of age so whatever I say counts."
Arthur gave him an incredulous look and said warily, "And I suppose if you said the sky was red then it would be true because it is your coming of age today?"
Merlin replied with a simple, "Yes." And then grinned his silly grin at Arthur and laughed.
"Come on then, you royal prat, Gwaine said to meet him at the tavern, apparently coming of age is a drinking occasion."
He reached out and dragged his king out of his room and shouted to Gaius, "We're heading to the tavern, don't wait up!" While Arthur said behind him, "Merlin, Gwaine thinks that every occasion is a drinking occasion."
Merlin would never forget the night Arthur gave him his first present.
(Mostly because Gwaine got everyone so drunk that none of them could even sit up properly for a whole day without feeling like the world will explode.)
Chapter 2: Present the Second
The trouble of being king and having a manservant who has friends.
Midwinter's Day is a Good Name Day
Arthur really hated Merlin. No, that wasn't quite right; he really hated getting presents for Merlin.
He could still remember the horrible weeks before Merlin's coming of age where he spent days thinking and worrying over what to get his manservant of all people. As king he didn't need to get Merlin anything but he had learnt from Gwaine (amidst his drunken half sentences) that everyone in his bloody castle gave Merlin a present. Apart from him.
Granted, his definition of everyone really just included Leon, Percival, Lancelot, Gwaine, Elyan, Gwen and Gaius but still, everyone that was friends with Merlin gave him a present for his birthdays. Arthur had never even thought of giving his manservant anything (he didn't even know the date of Merlin's birth) and to learn that the first time he had decided to give Merlin something happened to be his coming of age had freaked him out.
Now he faced the beast of Midwinter. No doubt everyone will be getting Merlin something again and he'll probably have to get everyone else something too because they'll get him something and it's all a big annoying circle of giving and receiving. But the thing about Merlin is that he couldn't just give him anything, he had to actually think about what to get Merlin.
For example his knights he could just give them some stuff to do with weapons or hunting, Gwen he could just get something girly and Gaius he had already bought a rare book about herbs from a trader the other day so that left Merlin. He knew that if he got something impersonal for Merlin then his manservant will be disappointed while not trying to be disappointed and probably will make his time at the festival hell.
So he needed to think of something to get Merlin that shows that he's thought a lot about it. He considered getting him a cloak, he was always shivering since his clothes are so thin, but decided it wasn't good enough so he thought of getting some thicker clothes for him. Then he remembered the boots he gave Merlin for his coming of age and decided that to give more clothes would show that he wasn't smart enough to think of other things.
The problem was, he really wasn't smart enough to think of something else (though he'd never admit that not even if five million arrows were pointed at him and he was threatened with a painful, horrifying death). He doubt Merlin would be happy with a new dagger or sword and he probably wouldn't appreciate a shiny hair pin or fabric for a new dress. He had the idea of getting him a new horse but remembered that Merlin liked Blaze (his current horse) even though she was getting slow and tended to trip on objects when trying to jump them.
He never planned to get Merlin what he ended up getting him but he had been out in the market with Merlin again and when he had seen how his manservant had cooed over them, he had decided to get them for him. It only made him more determined when he had seen how sad Merlin had been to be parted from them, muttering about how he wished he had a larger room.
So that is how he came to be in the position of standing in the corner of his great hall and his Midwinter feast with a strip of red silk in hand, fidgeting nervously. He never could figure out why his manservant (who couldn't hurt a fly) could make him more nervous than he would have been facing down a five-headed lion.
He watched as Merlin laughed at Gwaine's joke (no doubt inappropriate for such an occasion) and purposefully headed in his direction. He stopped near their table and said like a true king, "Merlin, come with me."
Merlin looked up from the goblet of wine in his hands and stopped laughing.
"Uh, okay Arthur, just a sec."
Arthur scowled like the good master he was and waited impatiently for his manservant to get up and follow him like he had been told.
Once they got outside of the great hall and started heading down the hallway towards the hall of unused bedchambers, Merlin asked in a manner unbefitting of a manservant.
"Where are we going? Its Midwinter Arthur can't your horse wait 'til tomorrow to have their stables mucked?"
"Merlin why would I be coming with you if you were going to muck the stables?"
He looked at his manservant questioningly and smirked when he got no reply.
Merlin looked around where he stood and ask, "What are we doing Arthur? There's nothing here!"
He received a suspicious look from Merlin and he said sharply without any real heat, "Can't you do what you're told for once in your life!"
It hadn't been a question but Merlin answered stubbornly, "No."
Arthur threw his hands up in annoyance and glared at the lanky man in front of him. He grabbed him by the shoulders and twisted him around, ignoring the protesting, "Hey!"
He wrapped the red silk snugly around his manservant's head, temporarily blinding him, and started leading him down the corridor of doors. He once again ignored the displeased noises and protests from Merlin and continued until he reached a certain oak door. He opened the room without using his key since he had left it unlocked the last time he came to check up on them.
He turned Merlin to face his present and asked, "Ready?"
"For what you great prat!"
"I'll take that as a yes."
And he proceeded to take the blindfold off Merlin's eyes. He smiled as the other man gasped at the site and he grinned when Merlin started heading towards the presents, each with a mini red silk bow on their neck.
Merlin turned to him and said, "Arthur you didn't."
He grinned and then gave a smirk and raised his eyebrows, "But I did."
He felt a knot in his stomach come undone as he watched the happiness shine from his manservant's face and he was so, so glad that he chose the right present once again. He watched as Merlin played with them and then he startled when the raven head suddenly tensed.
"Arthur… what is this room for?"
Arthur grinned again and gave a shrug, "Them, I figured since you do have room, they could just take up one of these rooms. No one lives around here anyways and it has a door that connects outside. I even fenced off the area outside so they won't run away."
Merlin looked at him unbelievingly and asked, "You fenced off this area?"
Arthur looked a bit guilty at that and said warily, "Well the knights did help-"
"You mean they did everything."
The king looked scandalised at that and said outrageously, "No! I helped but I, eh, didn't do everything by myself is all."
Merlin grunted at that and then he seemed to realise what it was that Arthur had just said and looked panicked.
"This, this whole room and the outside area is for them?"
"Well, yes. I thought that they would want some fresh air in the day time so I thought that by fencing it off they won't run away and get lost."
Arthur felt nervous again and asked slowly and unsurely, "You do like this right?"
"Of course you big prat! It's wonderful!"
Arthur smiled happily and said, "Happy Midwinter Merlin."
Merlin grinned back at him and he felt himself blush (why was he blushing?) at the joyful grin.
"Happy Midwinter Arthur. Oh, and" he turned towards them and said, "Happy Midwinter Merthur and Arlin!"
Arthur gaped at him and said, "They're girls Merlin!"
"You can't name them Merthur and Arlin!"
In their comfortable homes, two little white bunnies happily nibbled on their carrots and listened to their papas arguing over their names.
(On that Midwinter's day the names Merthur and Arlin officially became suitable names for girls.)
Chapter 3: Present the Third
Revelation of a Lifetime
The expression on Merlin’s face when he opened his present (“Silk again, Arthur!” “Yes silk, Merlin”) was priceless.
It was the first anniversary of King Arthur’s coronation when Arthur surprised Merlin with a bundle of red silk. He hadn’t even bothered to use ribbon to secure the silk in his haste to get it to Merlin and Merlin (stupid, moronic Merlin) had dropped the bundle before it even reached his hands (“That’s why it dropped because you hadn’t even handed it to me yet!”) which lead to the silk falling off the object and for Merlin to freeze with a stillness that he had never achieved before.
Arthur was not impressed.
“Well, pick it up.”
The tone he used was like the one he would have used had he been talking to a simpleton and he pronounced the words like Merlin was a bit touched in the head (Arthur has proof that it’s true).
Merlin, like the true idiot he was, continued to stand there in shock. Arthur disliked this situation more and more. Finally, Merlin picked up the object and read the words on the front.
“A Book of Dark Magic and How to Defeat It Using Magic, Potions and Charms.”
His eyes were round like those of a deer and Arthur felt the nerves he had tried to store away creep up on him again. He still didn’t know why he wanted Merlin to like his present but he just did and when Merlin seemed to dislike them, he felt like the world was going to end.
“You… like it right? I mean, Gaius doesn’t already have one?”
He looked flustered and Merlin would have laughed if he hadn’t felt so panicked (and omigod he knows).
“The trader said it was very rare and that it’s hard to find one with this much information, in fact he told me this was the only copy.”
Arthur swallowed hard and asked tentatively, “Should I get you another? Do you dislike it?”
He berated himself for letting his nerves get the better of him again (this was getting out of hand, the king of Camelot couldn’t become a nervous wreck every time he gifted something to his manservant) and tried harder to hide his nervousness and fear of Merlin’s reaction.
“Arthur… yo-you gave me a book on magic and you’re worried if I dislike it?”
Merlin still had a dazed look on his face and he slowly met Arthur’s eyes.
“You knew! You knew all this time and you never told me?!”
Arthur opened his mouth to apologise (he wouldn’t admit this if said dark magic was used against him and turned his into a full donkey) before he realised that Merlin should be the one apologising not him.
“I knew all this time and never told you! How about you’ve been practising magic under my nose and you never told me!”
He unleashed the anger he had held within him all this time but when he saw the terrified look in his manservant’s eyes, he felt all his anger deflate and he sighed.
“Look, just tell me if you have the bloody book already and if you do then I can go kill that trader for lying to me.”
Merlin got a determined looked on his face and Arthur thought ‘Uh oh, not good, so not good’.
“One: There will be no killing. Two: Since when have you known about my magic?”
His voice was strong but Arthur, who had known him for over four years, could hear the lingering of fear in his voice.
“I suspected since Ealdor but I never could confirm it until the Dorocha.” He took a breath and plunged on; remembering the terrifying moments when he had thought his best friend dead.
“I was so, so scared when you were dead (or at least seemed it) and I remember wishing, wishing that you did have magic and that you’d done a spell to protect yourself or something before you jumped in front of that Dorocha!”
He calmed himself and carried on, “Anyways, you didn’t die and for the first time I was grateful for magic and I knew right then that you definitely had magic and that I owe magic a debt that can’t be paid.”
“No Merlin, your life is worth more than the world to me and for those few moments that I had thought you lost forever, I felt like the world was lost to me too. Merlin,” he gulped and continued, choosing his words carefully, “I care deeply for you and I can see that magic is a big part of you, I don’t know why you chose to study it but I am glad. It kept you safe and alive when I couldn’t and for that I owe magic everything.”
“Arthur… I-I didn’t chose this,” Merlin swallowed visably, “I was born like this and when I came to Camelot, I saw your father execute someone on suspicion of magic and I felt panicked. I never liked you much at first-“
“You thought of me as a prat.”
“You are a prat. Anyways, when I actually started to like you and think of you as a friend, I was scared that you would turn me in because I wasn’t sure you thought of me as a friend. Then when I knew for sure you cared for me, I didn’t want to hurt you by making you choose between me and your father. Morgana happened next and I knew you didn’t and wouldn’t trust magic again so I kept quiet and slowly it felt like you’d hate me more for keeping it from you for so long. I was scared that you’d think that I couldn’t trust you.”
A tear escaped his eye and Arthur wanted to brush it way, take away all his sadness and give him joy, but he restrained himself. He wanted to know more (he wanted to know why Merlin still seemed so scared when he had shown him the magic book).
“I had moments where I really wanted to tell you, when I almost did, but someone or something always interrupted us. Then Morgana happened again and I saw your hatred to not only magic, but those who kept secrets from you. Since Uther’s death I was never scared you’d kill me, I was scared you’d hate me.”
He finished in a small voice and his face was covered in tears, his eyes red and he moved his gaze, from the vase he had somehow came to stare at, to Arthur’s face.
Arthur looked at the tears and pain on Merlin’s face and couldn’t stand to look at him in so much pain, all because of Arthur. So like a true friend, he pulled the other man into his arms and hugged him tightly, letting him soak his royal shirt with his tears. He held Merlin as he sobbed and rocked him back and forth, gently, like he was holding a child.
The king and his warlock stayed like that until the sun set and the moon rose in its place. Merlin spent the night telling Arthur about his magic and all he had done, and Arthur for the first time in his life, did nothing but listen.
(That was the day King Arthur of Camelot realised he was in love with the warlock Merlin.)
Chapter 4: Present the Fourth
Swords, Magic and a Bit of Love
When Merlin and Arthur woke up that day after Arthur’s coronation anniversary, they both realised that they were in Arthur’s bed. Together. However their clothes were still on and Arthur felt a surge of disappointment before he calmly stated, “I’ve given you your present, you have yet to give me mine.”
Merlin looked at him like he was out of his mind and he said slower this time, “My coronation anniversary present.”
“Ergh, can’t it wait ‘til later.”
He pulled the covers over his head and disappeared under it, moaning about annoying kings and their love for presents (Arthur really wanted him to be moaning about something else but he strategically kept his mouth shut).
“No it cannot because it is already late and I want it before breakfast.”
Merlin’s head popped up and he glared at his king.
“What are you? Five?”
“Nope but if you don’t get it in my hands in the next five minutes then you can spend the whole of today mucking out every stable in this castle.”
He received another glared and then he watched Merlin stumble out his door, heading towards Gaius’s chambers. Figures that the idiot left his present in his rooms when he should have brought it with him the day before.
To tell the truth Arthur really just needed some time to himself while he tried to sort through everything that Merlin had told him last night. He had to admit that he manservant wasn’t exactly useless (that isn’t to say that he wasn’t an idiot) and that perhaps he may even be a bit powerful. Alright. A lot powerful.
To learn that he had the most powerful warlock as his best friend when his kingdom still hated magic was a bit, overwhelming. He had known about Merlin’s magic, yes, but he never knew the true extent of his powers or how much he had done to save Camelot and him.
He woke from his musings when Merlin came tumbling in through the door, nearly dropping the large bundle of red in his hands. Arthur stared at him unimpressed and then squinted at the red object in his manservant’s arms (wait, is that silk?).
“Merlin,” he dragged out, “is that red silk I see in your hands?” He raised a mocking eyebrow and Merlin scowled at him.
“Well I didn’t want to waste the beautiful red silk you gave me with my boots now did I sire?”
The ‘sire’ was said in a way that sounded like ‘annoying, pompous prat’ and Merlin raised a mocking eyebrow back at his king. He grinned at the astonished look on Arthur’s face and hummed in reply when Arthur said, “You gave me my gift wrapped in silk that I had given you?”
Arthur stared at him in disbelief and Merlin kept on grinning. Then he stopped and demanded, “Well, are you going to open it?”
The King of Camelot looked a bit uncertain as he reached for the red parcel. Just before he was about to touch it he retreated his hand, glaring at his manservant suspiciously.
“You didn’t put frogs or spiders or something evil in there did you?”
“Arthur,” Merlin drew out, “Why oh why would I put frogs in your present? And I wouldn’t put spiders in there, everyone knows how you fear them. I wouldn’t want you to die of a heart attack from the scare now wou-“
A pillow smashed into his face and Arthur screamed out, “I AM NOT SCARED OF SPIDERS!”
Merlin gave him an indulging looked and mutter, “Uh huh, whatever you say sire.”
Arthur grabbed his present roughly and near ripped the ribbon around the silk to pieces in his haste to unwrapped his present. He stared at the object in his hand and said slowly, “Merlin… you gave me a scabbard…”
“Yes, for your sword.”
“For Excalibur. I wasn’t going to tell you what with you not knowing of the magic and all but the sheath is meant to protect you from any physical weapon while you’re wearing it.”
Arthur looked at him as if he was stupid and he said indignantly, “It’s true, it really does protect you from any physical weapon!”
“Oh and I suppose we have imaginary weapons too that could kill us too!”
“What I meant is that it won’t protect against magic!”
Arthur had his mouth open, about to shout something or rather back when he realised that the argument had gone off in the wrong direction.
“This isn’t what I wanted to say in the first place, I was going to ask you how in the world you were going to explain that no weapon can touch me when I’m wearing the scabbard you got me.”
Arthur raised a questioning eyebrow (he felt a bit like Gaius when he did this) at Merlin and waited for an answer. No doubt the warlock (a true idiot) had never thought of this little problem before he had given it to him.
Merlin thought of what to say before giving up and saying sharply, “Well do you want it or not?!”
He had been exhausted after his talk all night with Arthur and he would never be so snappy to Arthur (even though Arthur was always snappish to him) but he was losing his patience and he just wanted to go back to sleep.
Arthur sighed and said, “I love it, thank you Merlin.”
His smile was bright and happy and Merlin grinned back, relieved that Arthur had liked his present. Then he promptly fell onto his royal pratness’s bed and went back to sleep. Arthur made an exasperated noise but let his manservant sleep, he looked truly adorable when sleeping and Arthur stood at the end of the bed and admired the view for a few minutes before getting a passing servant in the hallway to get him his breakfast.
(Merlin dreamt of bunnies and deer and a future that was blurry but cheerful)
Chapter 5: Present the Fifth
A New Time
The next time Arthur gave Merlin a present, it was eight months following the day he had revealed his knowledge of Merlin’s magic. He was certain that his friend would like this present so he wasn’t quite as nervous, but old habits die hard and he had a tiny niggling doubt that Merlin would hate it. He knew that there was no reason for him to dislike it, but Arthur had grown to rely on Merlin so much in the past year that he wouldn’t know what to do if Merlin rejected him.
Not that he was proposing marriage or such.
He would like to think that one day he will propose but he has no idea whether Merlin returned his feelings or not. The last eight months has made him realise that he is in love with the idiot and not just normal love, but ‘I can’t live without you’ love. He can remember the day two months ago when he woke up peacefully and without Merlin bumbling around in his room, he could still remember the feeling of panic that rose in his chest as he realised that it was midday and that Merlin hadn’t appeared.
The memory of him running towards Gaius’s (and Merlin’s) quarters was not a pleasant one for he could remember all the possible things he had thought of that could have happened to his dear Merlin. He remembered bursting into Gaius’s room in his sleep clothes and yelling in a panicked voice for Merlin.
Gaius, calm as ever, explained that Merlin was out collecting herbs. He had said that Merlin had left the night before because the particular herb he had needed was rare and hard to find, so he had sent Merlin off to find it before winter came. Arthur, being the over protective fool, had gone on about how it was getting chilly and how there were beasts in the forest and imagined Merlin falling off a cliff.
So like the true knight in shining armour he was, he rode off into the horizon with Gwaine and Percival in search of Merlin. Leon and Eylan stayed behind to mind the castle and train the knights, wishing them luck with their quest.
It was a week and a half later that they returned, Arthur with a terrible cold and Gwaine grumbling about how annoying and pratish Arthur was. However they did not return with Merlin and they all jumped in surprise when Merlin greeted them at the stairs of the castle, giving them reproving looks and telling them off for staying in the cold for so long.
Arthur had felt Merlin’s wrath the following weeks as he recovered from the fever he had obtained and realised that Merlin could probably look after himself just fine. But that didn’t stop him from worrying.
It was just a week before this very day that Arthur realised that he not only loved Merlin, but he had fallen long and hard for his manservant, that Merlin had somehow become his everything and that the world would mean nothing to him if Merlin was gone.
Arthur disliked the thought.
He couldn’t do anything about it.
So here he was, standing in the middle of his own chambers waiting for Merlin to arrive to present him with his present. He did not like the fluttering in his stomach and he wished it would go away. Merlin would like his present. He’d be an idiot not to (but then Arthur did call him an idiot a lot).
He startled when Merlin opened his door without any grace what so ever and banged the door loudly, dropping objects onto the ground. The ringing of his armour echoed in his chambers as Merlin kneeled to pick up the things he had dropped when he had tripped (how does one trip when opening the door?). In the process of doing so, he dropped more armour onto the ground making Arthur’s ears hurt from the clank of armour meeting the floor (for no doubt the millionth time today). He told himself the reason he bent to help Merlin was because his ears could take no more of this torture, NOT because he felt guilty seeing Merlin struggle like that. There was absolutely nothing for him to be guilty about (he had every right to make the most powerful sorcerer in the world clean his armour and scrub his floor).
Merlin’s happy smile made his heart skip a beat and he had to remind himself to breath. He returned the smile without even meaning to and found himself grinning like a lunatic at his manservant with a bunch of armour in his arms.
“What are you doing here? Aren’t you meant to be doing kingly things right now?”
Arthur cleared his throat and explained, “I have something to give you.”
His good cheer deflated at the pained noise Merlin made.
Had Merlin not liked his previous gifts?
He panicked and felt almost as if he was five again when his pet turtle had died.
“More chores?! Can’t you do anything yourself you annoying pompous arse!”
Arthur breathed a sigh of relief and made a surprised sound.
“No, no. I have a gift for you.”
He hastily handed the scroll in his hand to Merlin before he chickened out. His eyes followed the movement of Merlin’s hands as he untied the red silk around the scroll and started to read. He waited. And waited. And waited.
Merlin stammered and when he finally looked up from the scroll, he blushed and asked in a small voice.
“Is this real?”
Arthur laughed and pulled him in for a hug.
“Of course it is you idiot!”
Then it dawned on him what he had done and he didn’t know whether to keep on hugging the man he loved or to let go and pretend it never happened. He had shared a tiny amount of hugs with Merlin before this moment but now that he knew he had feelings for him, it somehow felt different.
He blushed and Merlin solved the problem by pulling away first. Then he grinned at Arthur like he had just given him the world and more. Arthur found himself enticed by that grin and he had to keep on thinking to breathe.
“So you’re really going to repeal the law against magic for us sorcerers?”
Arthur didn’t even think before replying, “For you.” And when he heard what he said, he blushed like a maiden and watched as Merlin turned a beautiful shade of pink too.
King Arthur and the warlock Merlin stood together in front of Camelot to announce the news that magic was no longer illegal and that sorcerers were once more welcome in Camelot.
(That was the first day the Once and Future King stood together with Emrys to represent Camelot and from that day on, they will always stand together and no mountain or sea could never part them)
Chapter 6: Present the Sixth
A Last Minute Surprise
It’s Merlin’s birthday again and Arthur is royally screwed.
He’d thought of every single thing that he could give and nothing seemed good enough. He wanted to show Merlin that he cared, that he appreciated him and if he was brave enough, he might even tell Merlin that he loved him.
He had named Merlin as his Court Sorcerer and now there wasn’t anything that Merlin really needed. He considered getting clothes (he always considers clothes because what Merlin wears is atrocious) but when Merlin became Court Sorcerer and got enough money to get a wardrobe like the king’s, he had insisted that he liked simple and plain clothes.
Arthur then considered getting Merlin a hat just to be funny but he wanted this to be serious and he really, really needed to tell Merlin his feelings. He had observed his friend on many occasions and he has come to the conclusion that Merlin might, possibly, maybe return his feelings. It was better than nothing.
The knights had been talking about how they gift flowers and trinkets to their beloved but Arthur doubted that Merlin would appreciate some shiny bracelet and Arthur didn’t want to give flowers because then Merlin would just think he was teasing him about being a girl.
Then Sir Evyn said he was giving his beloved Lady Kelly a new dress to wear for when he escorted her to the royal feast and Arthur had considered getting Merlin something elaborate to wear for his birthday feast. He considered telling Merlin his feelings at the feast but he wouldn’t want all his knights and the nobles to see him get rejected (he hoped and wished that Merlin wouldn’t reject him).
So then he started to plan a feast for Merlin’s birthday but he didn’t know who to invite. Sure he’d invite Gwen, Gwaine, Leon, Elyan, Percival, Gaius and himself but he didn’t know if Merlin had other friends that he would want to be there. Sometimes Arthur thought that the people of Camelot loved Merlin more than him and he didn’t want to invite the whole serving staff in case there were people that Merlin didn’t like.
He was getting a headache and just this morning he had snapped at Merlin and it was his birthday.
Arthur felt like a big, insufferable prat.
He had never left Merlin’s presents till the last minute but it was the very morning of the special day and he still had nothing.
Merthur and Arlin were residing in his chambers at the moment since some maid was cleaning their chambers so Arthur was stuck thinking of gifts with the two rabbits nibbling on his trousers. His bare feet tickled when Arlin (the smaller one) rubbed against it and he considered getting Merlin more rabbits.
But he didn’t want to repeat his gifts so he let that idea go.
When lunch came around he was in full panic mode because it was six hours before the feast he had planned three days before and he still had nothing to give.
He considered dressing himself in red silk and gifting himself to Merlin but the image was ridiculous and he groaned. He was stuck and all because of an annoying idiot who stole his heart. Perhaps he should just give Merlin his crown and be done with it but then he thought of the poor citizens who would be under Merlin’s rule (for Merlin was kind but a little stupid when it came to running a kingdom) and decided that his crown would definitely not be what he gifted.
Images of belts, hats, jewels, horses, pigs, ink, trees, paper, soup, peaches and sweets flowed through his head but he deemed them all unacceptable and started again.
He looked out his window, cradling Merthur in his arms and stroking her fur. He watched the people below run around trying to finish their jobs and then he spotted it. In the midst of all the chaos was a druid man and Arthur shouted for a servant to look after Merthur and Arlin before running down the stairs towards the man.
He arrived back just in time for the feast but didn’t get a chance to change so he ran into the throne room with mud all over his clothes and his hair in a disarray from the blowing wind. Everyone turned to look at him and he grinned, saying, “Happy Birthday Merlin!”
Gaius was giving him his eyebrow look and scanning the state of his clothes with his eyes. Arthur kept on grinning and then realised that everyone was still staring at him. He stopped and asked, “What?”
“You’re not wearing shoes Arthur.”
That was Gwen and then Gwaine added, “And your feet is covered in mud, in fact, so is the ground that you stepped on.”
He looked behind him and found a trail of mud leading down the hallway and he said, “Ah.”
Merlin was in the process of unwrapping Gwaine’s gift so he simply gave Arthur a look that said ‘I’m not cleaning it up’ and then went back to unwrapping.
He watched as Merlin beamed at the gift Gwaine had given him (is that a teapot?), he walked to the table in the middle and saw that the kitchen had done what he had asked. All the food were Merlin’s favourites and there were a lot (too much) dessert. He watched the way Merlin smiled and laughed, feeling warmth spread through his body.
If Merlin didn’t return his feelings, then he’d be happy just to see the joy on his face every day. He might not be ecstatic that Merlin rejected him (he’d probably want to kill himself) but he would be happy that Merlin was happy. With that thought in mind he wondered if he should tell Merlin because what if Merlin became all awkward around him afterwards.
He pushed his doubts and worries away and tried to join in with the laughter and fun everyone was having.
“Come on then Arthur, show us what you got for Merlin.”
Arthur didn’t know whether to thank Gwaine or murder him, instead he just said, “Merlin’s gift is in his chambers, I will show him later.”
The knights made wolf whistles and Arthur blushed a deep red. He went for the nearest goblet and drowned all its contents.
When the feast was over he supported a slightly tipsy Merlin back to his chambers. He had consumed some wine himself but unlike Merlin, he could actually walk in a straight line.
“Arthur,” a giggle, “what’d you ge-get me?”
Arthur sighed and didn’t answer his slightly drunk friend (he hoped that Merlin was only slightly drunk).
He pushed open his Court Sorcerer’s chamber’s doors and dropped Merlin onto the nearest chair. He walked over to where a cage was covered but red silk and tried to get Merlin’s attention. When his friend finally looked his way, he pulled the silk off revealing an owl sitting inside the cage.
Arthur asked confused. Had Merlin already met the owl?
“His name is Archimedes.”
Merlin didn’t look tipsy at all now and was instead staring at the owl in fascination.
“How do you know its name?”
Arthur looked even more confused and asked again, “What?”
“It’s a male. And he can talk to me in my head.”
His voice was full of wonder when he said the last part and Arthur remembered what the druid had told him.
“This owl is a creature of the old religion and he is part of Emry’s destiny. The owl is no simple owl and together, he and Emry’s shall change magic forever. Emry’s has power over nature itself, this owl will provide him with wisdom and knowledge to be able to use his power.”
Arthur had no idea what the druid had been babbling about so he had just nodded and thanked him, now he knew what the man had been talking about and he stared at Merlin. He had thought he had fallen in love with a sorcerer only to find out he is the most powerful sorcerer of all and now he could change nature itself? Arthur was stunned but trusted Merlin to bring the world no harm.
He smiled and said, “I take it you like him then.”
Merlin was still staring at the owl, Archimedes, in wonder and then he turned to Arthur.
He didn’t think before touching Merlin’s lips with his own, it felt natural and good, so good. When he stopped thinking about how nice Merlin’s lips was he realised he was kissing Merlin and panicked. Then he realised that Merlin was kissing him back (he’s kissing me back!) and he smiled into the kiss, deepening it.
(That was one gift he wouldn’t mind repeating and the following days saw the King and Court Sorcerer sneaking each other kisses of love and affection)
Chapter 7: Present the Seventh
Do Not Avoid Me (Because I Love You)
It’s been seven weeks since Arthur had first kissed Merlin and he wanted to make their relationship official. The problem was that every time he made a move to kiss Merlin in public or even hold his hand when sitting next to him during council meetings, he gets rejected. He’d been trying for a whole week, giving Merlin little touches in front of the knights and leaning in close when they are talking.
The first time he tried for a kiss Merlin simply turned his head away and exclaimed, “I’ll go polish your armour!” Conveniently forgetting that Arthur was wearing his armour, later Leon had asked Arthur if Merlin was okay. He had then got a stern telling off from Gwaine because it was ‘obvious that Arthur had worked Merlin to the point of madness’. He had nearly chopped off Gwaine’s head with his sword.
He decided that he had to work it up and so in the middle of a council meeting, he reached to take Merlin’s hand in his but instead found himself gripping a goblet of wine, Merlin’s hand long gone. Arthur concluded that he must have aimed wrong so he took the goblet and drank a little.
Next he tried to put his arm around Merlin’s waist when they were walking with Gwen down the hallway but Merlin suddenly raced forward to praise a painting. A very ugly painting. It was then that Arthur realised that Merlin was avoiding his show of affection in public and his heart seemed to deflate.
There were a number of possible reasons as to why Merlin doesn’t want their friends (or anybody) to know about their relationship but somehow Arthur keeps thinking about how maybe Merlin doesn’t want them to know because it won’t last. Every time he kisses Merlin in private he thinks about how it might be their last, how Merlin might come in tomorrow and wake him up telling him that ‘it was fun and all but I don’t really fancy you like that’.
They hadn’t gotten to the, ah, sex part of the relationship and Arthur doesn’t want to have it just yet. One of his other musings is that Merlin simply wants to have sex with a royal and he’s terrified that after the sex Merlin would just up and leave. He knows that Merlin isn’t the kind to do something like that but he is still terrified of the thought of Merlin leaving him. When he used to have wet dreams about Merlin at night he now had nightmares about Merlin leaving him for someone better, someone nicer and someone who doesn’t have trouble admitting his love for Merlin.
He had bought Merlin a new neckerchief, because for some reason that idiot always wears one (but they are good to hide the love bites). He had hope that Merlin would wear it tonight and he could escort him to the midwinter feast, but he was terrified that Merlin would reject him and laugh at his idea.
Sir Evyn had said that his Lady Kelly had loved the thought of him buying her a dress and that the mission to please his lady had been a complete success so Arthur thought he ought the try it himself. However he wasn’t so sure that Merlin would want him to reveal their relationship and by the time Merlin arrived to his chambers in a stunning blue shirt and deliciously tight pants Arthur had thought of all the possible bad outcomes and scared himself to hell and back.
Merlin had taken one look at him and asked him what was wrong and before he realised it he was saying, “Why don’t you want our relationship to become public?”
His mouth had turned traitorous when he had fallen for Merlin for now it said things all the time without his consent. Just the other day he had been watching Merlin tend to the fire and said ‘your arse is truly amazing it makes me feel all kinds of wonders’. He didn’t know where the words had come from because it didn’t even sound like him (who the hell would say such a thing?) but he had blushed a furious red and dismissed Merlin before he made even more of a fool of himself.
Merlin was currently staring at him with his mouth hanging open, he looked to be in shock and Arthur swallowed, uncertain.
“I-I’m-I never said I don’t want it to become public.”
“Then why do you always avoid me when I try to kiss you or hold you when there are other people?!”
Merlin was still staring at him in shock and he realised he might have been a tad loud and that Merlin probably didn’t deserve to be yelled at, but he was so confused and he just wanted to know why.
”I just thought, that you know, you weren’t ready for everyone to know. ‘Cause you’re king and all and I thought that maybe you wanted to break the news to your council slowly that you love a man and that man happens to be the most powerful sorcerer alive. It’s a big thing and I didn’t want our relationship to ruin everything.”
“Our relationship could never ruin anything Merlin, you idiot! I don’t care if those stuffy old lords don’t like the fact that I love a man but it’s my life and my kingdom so if they don’t fancy it then they can leave!”
“You don’t mean that.”
Arther glared at Merlin who was looking at him with raised eyebrows.
“I can mean whatever I bloody want!”
“Arthur… that doesn’t even make sense.”
“It so does!”
The king was puffing now, as if he had just sparred with one of his knights. Merlin watched in amusement as his lover glared at him like a child who got denied sweets.
“Plus they’ll be ecstatic that the most powerful sorcerer is allied with us.”
Merlin gave Arthur another look that said ‘what an idiot’.
“I’m already allied with you.”
“But they don’t know that!”
Merlin slowed his speech as if he was talking to a little child.
“Arthur I. Am. Your. Court Sorcerer. How can I not be allied with you?”
“Yes but now you’ll be more allied with us.”
Then the prat grinned at him as if he had just solved all the problems in their land. Merlin just gave him a ‘whatever you say sire’ look and turned to walk out the door.
Merlin jumped and turned back abruptly, tripping over his own feet and crashing to the ground.
Arthur raced to help Merlin up and check for injuries, cursing himself for forgetting that Merlin has the skill to trip over his own feet.
When Merlin finally looked up at him, he found Arthur holding a piece of red silk in his hand. He immediately started searching the floor thinking that the present had fallen out in Arthur’s haste to ‘save’ Merlin.
“Erh, what are you doing?”
“Looking for the present of course.”
“It’s right here…”
Merlin looked in the direction of Arthur’s gaze and saw nothing but red silk in his royal pratness’s hands.
“Oh… it’s, ah, lovely Arthur…”
He furrowed his brow and gave Arthur a tentative smile.
“Well, try it on.”
“Try what on?”
“Oh! It’s a neckerchief… why did you get me a neckerchief?”
Arthur grinned and announced, “So that you can wear it for when I escort you to the feast!”
Merlin nodded once and said, “Right.”
He decided not to question Arthur about the ‘escorting’ business because he was probably still sensitive about the whole ‘revealing our relationship’ thing.
“But Arthur.. I already have a red neckerchief…”
“But not a red silk neckerchief… right?”
He looked so uncertain that Merlin just grinned and cheerily said, “You’re right! And I love it!”
Arthur grinned back and then helped Merlin put his new neckerchief on. While Arthur did that Merlin watched him with a loving expression, he loved the man in front of him and warmth blossomed in his chest as he saw how Arthur loved him back. In the end, Arthur didn’t have to say the words ‘I love you’ for Merlin to understand that the annoying clot-pole of a man in front of him loved him with all his heart.
(The very next day King Arthur blurted out “I love you” to the Court Sorcerer of Camelot in the middle of a court session where a man and wife were arguing about lilies and cows)
Chapter 8: Present the Eight
Present the Eighth: An Accidental Surprise
Merlin was used to Arthur giving him gifts at random moments. The king always gave his lover something for every celebration in Camelot but he sometimes also liked to give Merlin surprises. On this particular sunny day, Merlin was busy in his workrooms trying to make a potion to cure the plague that had come to Camelot.
The whole castle now knew of his relationship with their king so he no longer had his own bedchambers, he shared the royal bedchamber with Arthur and he was happy. However Arthur had given him a workroom of his own after that time when he had been trying to practise a spell to conjure chopped up wood and ended up cutting their bed in half.
The new plague that had formed was disastrous and so far incurable. It had yet to reach the castle but it had already started to spread through the lower town. Arthur had received a report five days ago that an entire village in the south had been wiped out because of the plague. Merlin had not thought it to be possible and had started to think that the plague was magic induced but the druids had informed him that it was not. So far, none of the druid clans had a cure either.
Most diseases were curable by magic, although some require too much magic for one sorcerer to cure. However this plague didn’t seem curable even if all the magic users in the kingdom came together to try and heal someone. The only thing that magic could do was to help prevent someone from getting the plague. Merlin had found that almost no magic users had been infected and some who fell ill became better faster if they had magic.
However it seemed to depend on how much magic you have. Some people have the potential to be a great sorcerer or sorceress but have never practised magic are still protected from the plague. Others who have practised magic for years but only have so much power didn’t get as much protection as others with more power, even if they didn’t know it.
It was handy that Merlin could sense someone’s magic or potential for magic but it seemed that magic can only protect its holder. Merlin had tried to protect the people in the lower town who were not already infected with a spell, but it didn’t work. He didn’t know if it was the spell’s problem or if the magic could only its user or holder. He was fairly sure it was the latter but now that he had tried every spell possible, he had turned to potions.
While some people without magic could make some simple potions, as Emrys Merlin was able to make strong potions that no one has ever made before. Unlike how he had first predicted it to be, making new potions was harder than making new spells. With spells he just had to say things in the old tongue but to make potions, he needed ingredients too. Gaius was helping him by working in the lower town and trying to find herbs that help with the recovery but it seemed that something that worked on one person won’t work on the next four.
Merlin was on the edge of madness when Arthur burst into his workroom. He was about to tell his lover of his failure when he spotted a young girl around the age of five behind Arthur. He looked at her for a second before becoming enraged and he started to shout at Arthur in a tone that he had never used on Arthur before.
“Arthur Pendragon! You cannot gift a person you complete idiot! Take the girl back to her home immediately and you can go sleep in the guest chambers for a month for being so selfish! Just because you are king does not mean that you can kidnap little girls and give them to people! You-“
“I DIDN’T KIDNAP HER!”
“YOU STILL CAN’T GIVE PEOPLE AS GIFTS!”
Merlin was red in the face when he was done and he smiled at the little girl when he looked at her. She smiled back and said in a pretty voice, “Arthur didn’t steal me, he saved me.”
That startled Merlin and he asked slowly, “So you aren’t here against your free will?”
The girl stared at him and said tentatively, “Yes?”
“You didn’t understand what I just said did you?”
“Yeah I thought so.”
Merlin cleared his throat and asked in a tone that was not screaming and screeching, “It she isn’t a surprise gift for me why is she dressed in red silk?”
Arthur looked at him and then snorted.
“Its cotton you idiot. Lady Heather was kind enough to give Evie here her daughter’s dress that she no longer wore.”
Merlin ignored him and instead kneeled to face the little girl, “So your name is Evie?”
She smiled and two little dimples formed on her cheeks.
Merlin grinned and said, “I’m called Merlin, how old are you?”
Her voice was sweet and she was a little small for a seven year old but Merlin just kept grinning and asked kindly, “What are you doing with Arthur?”
“Arthur said he would take me to my new home because momma and papa have gone away.”
Merlin’s grin faltered and he looked up at Arthur. Arthur gave him a look that said ‘they’re dead, she needs a home’. Merlin figured that Arthur brought her here because he wanted Merlin to become her ‘new home’.
He could see the magic that glowed from within her and he asked softly, “Evie, did you know that you can do magic?”
She looked at him in confusion and Merlin took that as a no.
Arthur was also staring at him in shock and Merlin just grinned cheekily back at his king and lover. Then he reached out and took Evie’s hand, leading her to a chair and desk that was only half covered in magical books and scrolls. He asked her quietly if she was hungry or thirsty and she answered both with a no. To give her something to do, he searched around for the most basic magic book, he had been sorting all the magic books in the castle before the plague came and now his room was covered with them.
When he handed the book to Evie, she shook her head and told him in a small voice that she could not read. He blushed and then looked around for something else for her to do, he found none and then looked at her apologising.
“Sorry Evie, I don’t have anything for you to do.”
He gave her a sad smile but before he could go off and talk with Arthur, she asked in a small voice, “Is there anything that you need sown? Momma taught me to sew and she says I am good at it.”
Merlin doubted that she could be that good when she’s only seven years old but he knew a mother’s love and a mother would praise their child even if they are not anywhere near good. He did want Evie to feel comfortable though so he searched around in his room again for his jacket which he had ripped the other day while rushing to get to the council meeting.
He then teleported the sewing kit in his room to his workroom with a flash of gold and handed Evie the objects. She didn’t react too much to the show of magic and Merlin relaxed with her. He headed in Arthur’s direction and they stepped out of the room, closing the door softly behind them.
“So she can do magic?”
“She has the ability to learn magic.”
Merlin corrected Arthur and the king made an un-kingly gesture as if to say ‘whatever’. Not that the king acted very kingly with Merlin.
“Will you teach her then?”
That threw Merlin off course and he considered the idea. He had not thought of it before but it would make sense for him to teach her, what with being the most powerful warlock alive and everything. However he was terrified of being responsible for her education, what if he was the worst teacher ever?
“Stop that, you’ll be great.”
Arthur gave him an encouraging smile and Merlin smiled back, happy that his lover believed in him.
“Did her parents die because of the plague?”
Arthur heaved a sigh and said tiredly, “Yes, she’s from the village in Blackthorn, her mother got it first but her father refused to leave her so he got it too. She didn’t get it and I thought it was luck but obviously it’s because she has magic.”
He gave another sigh and rubbed his eyes. Merlin knew that Arthur was running around the kingdom trying to save every possible person but he was only one person and could only do so much. He had already spread the word to his people that travelling is not advised since there is yet to be a cure and some people get better themselves after an amount of time.
Arthur was not the type of king to lie to his people but at first he hadn’t released the news of there being no cure but when sick people went off to bigger towns to find physicians and spreading the plague around in the process, he had release the information in hope that the uninfected areas would stay that way.
Merlin watched Arthur try to keep his eyes open and keep from yawning, and decided that his questions about Evie could wait until later. He told Arthur to go and rest and when his king refused, he ordered him and with a sigh, Arthur headed off for their chambers. Merlin might not be the king of Camelot, but he was an equal in their relationship and Arthur often listened to Merlin when it came to things regarding themselves.
When Merlin headed back into the room, he found Evie sitting obediently on the chair at the desk, but she was not sewing and he thought that perhaps she had gotten bored but was scared to explore in a sorcerer’s rooms. By the time he reached her side, he was able to see that what he thought was not true. The jacket was back in one piece and had no holes; the sewing excellent and way better than what Merlin would have managed. There was also a cup of water on the desk that had not been there before and he near jumped when Evie whispered, “Sorry, I did not know whether I could move or not but I was thirsty after sewing.”
She looked afraid and Merlin bent to reach her eye level.
“It’s alright Evie, you can move in this room and you don’t need to ask me if you want to get something.”
He smiled gently and took her hand.
“Come on, let’s find you a bedchamber and then I’ll introduce you to Merthur and Arlin.”
“Are they your children?”
Merlin grinned and replied cheerfully, “No they’re my rabbits.”
(That was the day Princess Evie met her two fathers for the first time and fell in love with rabbits)