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sprig of holly

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merlin and arthur has been walking for about an hour before they found an area to sit at. they had just been wandering around, enjoying each other’s company, before settling for a drink and a few snacks.

merlin sat down on a slightly wet patch of grass as arthur sat down, leaning against a tall rock. the young warlock looked over at arthur and smiled slightly. but then he caught himself smiling and shook it off, like he was a weirdo. because he was. what weirdo randomly just smiles at their friends, not merlin. well, actually merlin, but he wouldn’t like to admit that, to be totally honest. he would deny being a weirdo until the day he died.

“so,” merlin began, downing a gulp of his water before putting it besides him, “what did you do for christmas as a child?”

arthur looked over at merlin with a confused look, a bit of an odd one too. “i never really celebrated christmas, we just looked after the city on christmas day and that was it.”

merlin’s eyes widened, ready to become full blown dramatic. “you don’t celebrate christmas? not even- not even the stupid things? like mistletoe?” merlin asked, eyes wide still.

“mistletoe?” arthur had asked, a confused look on his face.

“those berry leaf things! if two people stand under one, they have to kiss- do you seriously not know any of this?” merlin had asked, somewhat urgently, and only received a shake of the head as a response.

arthur was looking at merlin, thinking through what he was saying. mistletoe, christmas celebrations. he felt as if he had definitely missed out in a way. and he also knew it was because he remembered gaius once telling him that his mother adored christmas, and once ygraine passed away, uther had never really enjoyed christmas, which made sense. it also explained why arthur hadn’t really had a proper christmas.

“don’t you worry, sire, you’ll have the best first christmas in ealdor you could imagine!” merlin spoke, beyond excitedly, his eyes shining against the light of the sky, something that arthur would have missed, if it was not for a his few glances at the young warlock whilst he spoke.

arthur hesitated. “does your mother give you presents? my father often gives me a new blade and that’s the most festivities-like he’ll be.”

merlin raised an eyebrow, “a blade?” he asked, a high pitch tone of his voice. “i usually get a piece of fruit and a letter from my mother, to take back with me to camelot.”

“just fruit and a letter?” arthur asked, tilting his head slightly as he looked at the young warlock, anticipating his response.

“yeah,” merlin said, simply, “it’s a christmas tradition. she always starts it off with ‘to my little ambrosius’ and it’s really sweet.” he explained, not even thinking of the possibility that arthur would probably make fun of him for his mother calling him little. but to his surprise, he didn’t.

he actually sounded interested.

“ambrosius?”

“it’s my last name.” merlin quickly said, smiling, giving arthur context, “she always uses that, i don’t know why.”

arthur smiled. “it’s very sweet, i like that it’s personal. your mother is a good person.”

merlin chuckled softly, not patronising in any way. he just knew his mother was a good person. she was strong and happy and confident, and she knew what she needed to do for merlin’s safety and happiness, as well as other people’s happiness. she was a strong woman and merlin couldn’t have been more proud to call her his mother.

“gaius once told me my mother loved christmas.” arthur had said, in a quick tone, as if he were nervous to say it. “but my father’s love died down after she passed away. and i don’t think he loves it anymore.”

merlin nodded slightly, looking at the crown prince with a sympathetic smile. he wasn’t very good with cheering arthur up to make him feel better, not about his mother anyway. but he took a deep breath.

“i know how it feels,” he began. “to lose a parent. i’ve never met my father.”

arthur looked over at merlin with a look of almost shock, almost surprise on his face, as if he couldn’t believe that merlin hadn’t met his father. and in all honesty, he couldn’t believe it. he had always assumed that his father and mother were together and that merlin had both parents. he seemed so happy all the time and arthur didn’t associate that with the loss of a parent.

“i think he’s still alive,” he continued, “but it’s all the same, i suppose. he doesn’t want to be found, and i don’t think i’ll seek after him.”

arthur nodded slightly. “i like to imagine that my mother is happy, and that she can see me. it sounds cheesy, i know, but it would be nice.”

merlin hummed softly in agreement before deciding he should most likely give a verbal response, considering the sensitive topic of the conversation and sighed softly.

“it would be. i’m sure she is happy, sire.”

arthur smiled a little, looking over at merlin once again before deciding that there had simply been way too much softness and fond talk recently, it had made his head ache and he didn’t want his head to ache any longer, nor did he want his stomach to. it felt odd.

and so, because of that, he playfully pushed merlin’s shoulder, watching the smaller boy topple to the side slightly, seeing the laughter ripple from his lips as he playfully kicked arthur back.

“what was that?” arthur asked, feigning a serious tone.

merlin’s eyes widened and he suddenly stood up, grabbing his water bottle and clutching it close. arthur simply grinned and got up after him, a playfully smirk dancing on his lips.

“i’ll give you five seconds.”

“but, sire, i didn’t-“

“FIVE!” arthur yelled, suddenly running after merlin as he began to run.

the two of them were engulfed by each other’s laughter, merlin trying his best not to get caught. they hadn’t even realised that the day was growing old, the two of them too deep in the joy of the other’s company that they just ran and ran, finding their way back to ealdor with a fun game.

the two of them just laughed whilst running, and there wasn’t a worry in the world for either of them.

well, besides the worry that was nagging at arthur at the back of his head, where he had pushed it back.

but he could leave it back there a while longer, just to enjoy his time chasing merlin and laughing with him.

just a while longer.