Three hours. He had three hours to get this right. With painstakingly slow movements, Arthur moved his pocket knife to the block of wood. It had the vaguest outlines of a dragon forming in the ridges, but he wasn’t convinced it looked anything like it was supposed to. For months, he had gone through block after small block of wood, trying to replicate the small figurine he had heard Merlin talk about time and time again.
Layers of wood peeled forward underneath the blade of his knife, flicking quietly into the trashcan in front of him in methodical fashion. Arthur’s brow knit in concentration as he carved around a leg, carefully shaping it as best he could. He repeated the process with the other leg, moving at a much slower pace than he was happy with. “Argh!” he sighed, frustrated. “How does one muster the patience do carve such intricate figurines?” Arthur pondered this for the rest of his whittling session, eventually ending when he had a rather rough looking dragon figurine in his hands. At least it remotely resembled the intended creature this time. It had small, curved wings, spindly legs, and a small head with pointed ears, complete with a long tail. The figurine was carved out of the lightest wood Arthur could find at the hardware store, and he hoped it would do. It was nothing like the prized trinket that had been left behind in Camelot so many years ago, but alas, he tried.
Click. Rattle. Click. The blonde’s mutterings were interrupted by the sound of an apartment door opening and a lock turning. With hurried steps, Arthur flicked the knife shut and shoved the small figurine behind a few objects in the cabinet nearby. He would find a box to put it in later, when Merlin was distracted.
“Arthur?” the voice came floating questionably down the hall, and at the thought of the person attached to that voice, Arthur had to take a moment to catch his breath. “Yes, love?” He called back, rustling around in the cabinet of the spare bedroom before walking out into the kitchen. His raven-haired love was busily rummaging around in his knapsack, pulling out work related objects, searching. Walking up behind him, the blonde wrapped his arms around Merlin’s waist. “Looking for something?” he inquired. With a chuckle, Merlin leaned his head back against Arthur’s shoulder.
“Nothing you need to know about right now!” the raven grinned.
“Oh, and why is that?” the blonde countered.
“Have you forgotten the day? Silly boy!”
“Why of course not, what do you take me for, a clotpole?”
“Hey! That’s my word!” Merlin laughed and gently shoved Arthur away, leaving his knapsack in favor of cooking utensils. “Alright, it’s almost dinner time, and considering the day, I think it’s your turn to cook, oh master chef!” He tossed a spatula at Arthur, who caught it with ease.
“Very well! I shall cook us the most magnificent valentine’s dinner in the history of valentine’s dinners!” With a flick of his wrist, the blonde gestured his spatula at the doorframe to the living room. “I hereby banish you to the sitting room until dinner is finished!”
“Alright, alright, I’m going, I’m going!” Merlin chuckled, rolling his eyes in mock terror and holding his hands up in a defensive posture. As much as this made Arthur want to drop the spatula and scoop his boyfriend up in a silly mushy gesture, he refrained, focusing on the dinner he had been planning and gathering for all week. Grabbing some ingredients out of the refrigerator, he began. Chopping vegetables and stirring pots, the blonde juggled a full stove, all the while fending off an intruding Merlin, who just wanted to see what was going on.
“Arthur, what’s that smell? Did you burn something?!”
“No, no! Calm down, Merlin! I can cook!”
“I highly doubt that…”
One hour (and many interruptions) later, dinner was done. Arthur placed the food on low heat to keep it warm, and snuck out to get his gift. When he was safely in the guest bedroom, the blonde opened the second cabinet on the wall and pulled out a small red box, just big enough for the figurine. He tied it with a small gold bow, and stuffed it in the pocket of his hoodie, before heading back out. Stopping in the hallway, Arthur realized he couldn’t hear the sound of the tv anymore, and the sitting room seemed strangely dark. “Merlin? Merlin?” He called questioningly. No response. Cautiously, the blonde ventured out into the sitting room, where he noticed the glow coming from the kitchen.
“Arthur, come here, please!” Merlin called from the kitchen. Arthur did as he was told, stopping in the doorframe to catch his breath. His raven haired love was standing at their kitchen table, but it looked like the farthest thing from the table that stood there not five minutes ago. The plain pine table had been covered in a deep red tablecloth, and adorned with two candles, a set of goblets, small silver serving dishes with Arthur’s dinner, and two place settings directly across from each other. The raven haired boy grinned at him as he stood in the doorway, illuminated by the soft glow of the candles.
After a moment, the blonde regained his composure, and stepped in to the room. “W-Wow.” Was all he could say, stepping closer to Merlin, who could only giggle like a little girl at the astonished look on his boyfriend’s face. When Arthur dipped his head in for a kiss, Merlin quietly pressed his finger to Arthur’s lips. “Dinner first.” He whispered, before gently pushing a reluctant Arthur towards his seat. Mock grump-facing, Arthur sat down and waited patiently while Merlin poured their drinks and served their food.
Dinner passed quickly, filled with starry eyes and small talk about each of their days. Both boys had grins on their faces by the time everything was put away, and Arthur was bursting at the seams to give Merlin his gift.
“Merlin..” he began, grabbing the raven’s hand from where it was reaching for a sponge, and spinning him around so he was pressed gently against the counter. “I have something for you.”
“Ah, ah! Not until I give you my gift.” The raven grinned. Arthur rolled his eyes, but stepped back so Merlin could reach into his jeans pocket. A small gold box tied with a red bow emerged from his hand, and it was pressed into Arthur’s palm before he could protest. “Open it.” Slowly, the blonde slid the ribbon off the box and tipped the lid back. Blue eyes clouded with tears as the box fell to the floor, and a shaking hand held up a beautiful necklace. It was a small sword, not more than two inches long, silver inlaid with delicate gold paneling that shimmered in the candlelight. “Excalibur!” Arthur exclaimed, examining the necklace in his hand. He recognized his sword immediately, with a look in his eye of a king reunited with his best weapon. Merlin smiled, his eyes bright as a glimpse of Arthur’s past came flashing back. The sword a king had loved so much was finally reunited, in miniature form, with its owner.
“Merlin, how can I ever thank you?” Arthur stammered, his slightly shaking hand still holding the necklace. The mop of raven hair just looked up at him with a set of piercing blue eyes, before gently taking the necklace from his companion’s hand. Turning him around, Merlin unclipped the necklace and placed it around Arthur’s neck. “No thanks needed.” He said simply. Arthur turned back around so he was facing Merlin, and pressed him gently against the counter again. With quick movements, he extracted the box from his pocket and pressed it into Merlin’s palm. “Here. It’s no…it’s no…” he stammered, but he was silenced by Merlin’s hand against his chest, gently pushing him back so he could open the box. Sliding the gold ribbon off, and pulling the lid off the box, Merlin was speechless. Inside, the most beautiful little white dragon lay. It was made of pale wood, and looked just like the one he had lost in Camelot so long ago. Tears brimmed in his eyes as he looked up, and he saw the immediate concern on his lover’s face.
“Merlin? Merlin are you alright?” he asked anxiously, wrapping him in a hug. “I know, I know it’s not expensive or anything but…but it’s—“ the words were cut off as warm lips pressed against his own, soft and sweet. He pulled back in surprise, to meet a pair of eyes so filled with love he almost choked. “It’s perfect, Arthur. Thank you.”
Before he knew what was happening, the candles were out and the king was being dragged out of the kitchen, his fingertips firmly held onto by his faithful servant. When they reached the bedroom, Merlin led the way inside, and the door shut quietly behind them. There was the gentle thud of a wooden object being placed on a bedside table, and the clink of something metal being placed around it, and then all that could be heard was indistinguishable mumbling that carried on late into the night.
Morning light dawned on a sleeping pair, all tangled in their blankets. On the bedside table sat one small wooden dragon, a sword pendant placed carefully around its neck.