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sprig of holly

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merlin had been running around for arthur the whole day. he had to wash his chain mail and polish his boots and he just couldn’t help but feel continuously exhausted. between arthur, gaius and his magic, merlin rarely had time to himself, where he could rest and not be disturbed. that was almost impossible for him. half the time, all he heard was arthur yelling his name.

this morning, in particular, had been very difficult. it had started off with arthur yelling for merlin whilst he was walking within the castle. merlin instantly ran towards his private chambers, swinging the door open with a sudden movement, looking at him.

“yes sire?” he asked, stepping into his chambers. he could see that arthur was sat on his bed, watching merlin quietly as he walked in, an eyebrow raised. which was odd, he was used to seeing gaius like that, but not arthur.

but before merlin could even say anything, arthur just waved him off, rolling his eyes, “get out, merlin. i don’t want you in here.” he spoke, admittedly, sitting up properly as he stood up from his bed, brushing himself down.

“but arth-“

“shut up, merlin!” he yelled, motioning with his hand once again for merlin to leave.

merlin had left once the night had fallen, and he went to sleep easily. he was purely exhausted and arthur’s aimless calling was a pain in the arse, merlin couldn’t take the stupid walks to his chambers and then back to gaius, it was far too stressful.

but that was how it had been since merlin had been made his manservant. arthur this, arthur that. it was definitely difficult for merlin, especially when he knew he couldn’t tell arthur to just stick it up his arse. no, arthur was his destiny. that was what kilgharrah had told him. multiple times. merlin understood it the majority of the time, but kilgharrah had always been an ominous figure and merlin wasn’t sure if he truly meant what he would always say.

but the work, still, was tiring. merlin was still considered to be only a boy, and a serving one at that. no one knew of his powers except gaius, and it was difficult to maintain them as a secret, to save arthur’s life constantly, to aid gaius as court physician and to cater to arthur’s needs. like polishing his stupid boots. god, merlin hated polishing them boots. they would be ruined within and hour once again and the stench of them constantly bothered him. although, he wasn’t sure whether that was the mud or just the musky smell of arthur’s godforsaken, rotten feet.

he was sick and tired of it, of course he couldn’t admit that but still. especially since it was nearing christmas. he absolutely adored christmas and what it brought. back in ealdor, he and his mother could not afford much, so she would give him a small note she had hand written, and a piece of fruit from the outlying forests that she had made sure was safe.

merlin was desperate to go back to his mother, just for christmas, but he knew he couldn’t leave arthur, not when the camelot gates were open and friendly. no, not in this charitable, jovial and gleeful time of merriness. it was simply unthinkable. until gaius had suggested an idea to him one morning.

“if you miss hunith so much, why don’t you just offer to take arthur to ealdor with you?” he had asked, that one dewy morning whilst the sun was still rising, the two of them sitting opposite whilst eating their breakfast.

merlin raised an eyebrow, “ask arthur? to come to ealdor with me? are you mad, gaius?” he asked, trying his best not to snort, “uther wouldn’t allow it anyway.” he finished, looking at gaius as he shoveled some breakfast into his mouth, shrugging slightly before stirring the oaty milk in his bowl, using the spoon that looked a lot like the one he had used to scrape dried remedies off of the floor the night before. with that, he lost his appetite and put it down.

“hear me out, my boy,” gaius began, putting his spoon down as he meant forwards to convince the young warlock, “it’ll be seen as a sign of peace, i may be able to convince uther that it would make him a more just king when it is time.”

with that and a bit more convincing, merlin had agreed. truth be told, he wasn’t even sure why gaius had been so keen on convincing him to invite arthur. it was slightly mad, he wouldn’t have thought that gaius would be the one to convince him of such an idea, but he wouldn’t have thought that gaius was aware of such things that young merlin wasn’t. of course he was, gaius was much older and more experienced, his intuition was purely a gift. an indescribable one at that.

and so, the next day, gaius had went to speak to uther whilst merlin had begun to pack. gaius had convinced him that arthur would be allowed to go and had almost practically forced him into packing. it was fascinating to see gaius in such a way but merlin just found it endearing in an odd way. strictly platonic, of course, gaius was old enough to be his grandfather and everyone knew that. so merlin just continued to pack, stuffing some of his clothes into a bag he had, quickly putting it on his back as he rolled up an old blanket, hooking it to the belt that adorned his waist.

once merlin had double checked that he would be able to carry his things, he took them off and put them down by the broken down, wooden door. once he double checked he had the majority of his stuff in there, he sat down to rest. he had been twiddling his thumbs for a good twenty minutes before gaius walked in, a sorrowful look on his face.

“i’m sorry, my boy,” he spoke, as he shook his head sadly, “uther thinks it would be okay, but arthur does not want to spend christmas away from camelot. he’s already decided that.”

“what?” merlin asked, eyes wide with a look that could only be described as what gaius saw as absolute and total despair, “but i need to see my mother on christmas, she needs to give me my christmas note and my fruit!” he exclaimed, loudly, suddenly standing up from where he had sat. “i even- i even packed my bags, gaius!” he yelled, finishing at that before he sat down once again, sighing quietly.

“i think, merlin, that you may have to speak to arthur yourself. he seems to listen to you more than you know.” gaius explained, with a calamity in his voice that merlin had grown all too accustomed to. sometimes, he truly hated it. but other times, it did help him.

merlin huffed, “that’s ridiculous. arthur may be a good man but i don’t think he listens to me as much as you think, gaius.”

“i need not think again, my boy. just try it. what could go wrong? arthur could simply say no and that would be all.”

merlin looked at gaius for a second, hesitating evident on his face before standing up once again, a determined smile gracing his face as he stepped towards the door. if he could just convince arthur, maybe they could go. and he was sure arthur would enjoy it, in some weird way, of course.

as he did so, he called out in a thankful tone, a smile still dancing on his lips. “thanks gaius, you’re completely right!”

and he was on the way to arthur’s private chambers. he also chose to ignore the mutter from gaius about how he hadn’t finished his breakfast. he never did, really. so he was used to those sort of mutters from gaius.

he had even learned to tune them out.

it was a merlin thing.

and hey, gaius could be right.

what could go wrong?