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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?

Chapter Text

a lot could go wrong, apparently.

merlin had been walking to arthur’s chambers in complete silence, wandering past the familiar faces of camelot as he did so, perhaps even waving and smiling at a few, it was usual behaviour for merlin, but he hadn’t anticipated seeing gwen with their friend, lancelot, behind a wooden structure, completely cosied up.

that made merlin’s stomach churn in the weirdest way possible. he thought it was sweet but it made him want to barf all over the ground he stood upon, not even caring about the odd looks he received from those of the lower town he was walking through.

and anyway, he had thought gwen liked arthur. it was odd to see her with lancelot now that he had returned but he wasn’t necessarily complaining. it was rather sweet that gwen was able to be happy with somebody she very clearly had feelings for. merlin just shrugged it off and continued walking, it wasn’t necessarily his problem for the moment, he had bigger things to deal with, such as convincing arthur to come to ealdor with him.

once he had made his way to the citadel, he passed through easily, mainly due to the fact that all the guards knew he was arthur’s manservant, and continued to make his way to arthur’s private chambers. he actually wasn’t sure how he would convince arthur, usually the two of them just bickered and argued sillily. merlin had never really convinced arthur of much, and even when he tried, it never worked. arthur wasn’t one to listen much when he believed he was correct. that was one thing merlin knew about him for certain.

he had passed through a few halls before making his way up some stairs when he suddenly bumped into morgana, looking at her with a smile.

“morgana!” he exclaimed, smiling happily at her. the two of them had always been good friends, especially since morgana had revealed the secret of her magic to merlin. “do you know if arthur is in his chambers?” he asked.

morgana chuckled softly and shook her head, “aren’t you supposed to know, merlin?” she asked, playfully, “you are his manservant. but yes, i do think he’s in his private chambers. but i must rush to meet gwen by the markets, i’ll see you soon!” she exclaimed, happily, as she walked off, her shoes clicking against the floor with every step.

merlin just laughed to himself, smiling widely as he walked towards arthur’s chambers, watching morgana walk off whilst doing so, having been looking back. what he hadn’t expected, was to knock into a solid chest standing in front of him. and of course, lanky little merlin fell forwards, barely catching himself. as he looked up, he had realised that he had ended up catching himself on prince arthur. the prince arthur. how great.

“arthur!” he exclaimed, quickly getting himself up as he brushed himself down.

“what is it, merlin? i’m tired of you being so clumsy.” he spoke, with sudden truth in his voice, looking merlin up and down.

simply, merlin stated, “i need to speak to you about ealdor.”

arthur raised an eyebrow, doing his signature high pitched sarcastic chuckle. something in merlin’s stomach churned once again and he dismissed it as anger at arthur. what else would it be anyway? it would be ridiculous to be anything else.

“i am not going to ealdor for christmas, merlin. camelot will need me here.” he spoke, calmly, as he crossed his arms and shifted all weight to one leg whilst standing up, picking at the cuff of his red leather jacket that was currently wrapped around himself.

“camelot will have your father and morgana, we both know morgana is strong enough. and ealdor will be defenceless.. they could use you and me?”

arthur snorted. “you? you, merlin? how would you defend ealdor?” he laughed, loudly and obnoxiously, as per usual, “that’s a sight i would pay plenty of gold to see that.” he finished with yet another snort.

merlin raised an eyebrow as he suddenly spoke in protest, forgetting all about the attempt to convince arthur. sure, arthur didn’t know that merlin protected and defended him so much, and he was eager to argue with arthur, as the two usually did, but then again, he soon remembered what he was there for and cleared his throat.

“please, arthur? it would be fun. and my mother would be more than welcoming, i’d even drag a mattress the whole way for you, my mother would give you the same present i get every year!” he asked, sounding closer to begging than he had ever been with arthur. usually he wouldn’t do that to his dignity but he didn’t care. he just wanted to go to ealdor. and protect arthur, of course. it was his destiny, after all.

arthur raised an eyebrow, looking at merlin in silence. he must’ve been taking a while to decide because he was staying quiet for the majority of the time that the two stood there, that even merlin grew uncomfortably awkward, shifting his weight from leg to leg.

“so?” he asked, looking up at arthur with an impatient yet hopeful look on his face, a faint smile of hope dancing across his lips.

arthur opened his mouth as if to say something, but then took a look at merlin and hesitated, closing his mouth quickly. it was odd. merlin hadn’t really seen arthur like that before but he just dismissed it as arthur being pompous as he usually was, once again, what else could it be?

arthur waited a few more seconds once again, before deciding to speak. “okay. but you’re packing my things, merlin. and you will be dragging that mattress.”

merlin’s eyes widened with pure excitement as the smile began to dance much more vigorously across his lips. he couldn’t even emphasise how happy he was at the moment. he hadn’t really believed that arthur would’ve agreed to go to ealdor but then again, arthur hadn’t always necessarily been predictable.

“that’s fine by me, i’ll even go pack now! we leave tomorrow morning though.” merlin explained, quickly gathering himself as he stood properly, looking at arthur, “now go train like you always do, your stuff will be packed when you’re back, seriously.”

arthur scoffed slightly to himself. he knew it wouldn’t all be packed. it was merlin, to be fair. and merlin wasn’t the best manservant when tending to arthur’s needs, but arthur still liked him. and then, he just nodded and walked off out to the courtyard where he would meet the knights and wander off with them to train.

truth be told, another reason why merlin was so happy was because he’d be missing training. he didn’t always look forwards to arthur using a mace on him or throwing a spear at the target on his back whilst he was running. he’d much rather pack. even if he wasn’t very good at it.

so merlin just nodded and made way to arthur’s chambers as arthur made way to training, yet another smile gracing his face as he opened the door to arthur’s chambers.

oh god, he realised.

he had forgotten to clean arthur’s chambers last night since he had been so angry about arthur not wanting to go to ealdor.

so on top of packing, dragging his bag, a mattress and most likely arthur’s things, he would have to clean arthur’s chambers before he got back so he wouldn’t be moody and deny saying he would go to ealdor.

it was safe to say that merlin had a busy day. but he was most definitely used to them ever since he had came to camelot. sure, it was a lot to handle. but merlin was a lot stronger than he looked. well, not physically, but mentally, merlin was very strong. his lanky arms and legs did not exactly help in favour of that point.

he just smiled to himself as he closed the door to arthur’s chambers, looking around the room before kneeling down, beginning to clean.

and by cleaning, merlin didn’t mean proper cleaning, not at all.

yeah, merlin just threw everything behind arthur’s dresser.

the usual.

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merlin was currently stood in the middle of arthur's room. truth be told, he was completely unsure of what stuff he should pack for arthur. whether he should back something bearing the crest of camelot or his simple tunic and bottoms, he wasn't sure at all. so he did the only logical thing he could think of.

he waited for arthur to come back from training. and whilst he did that, he continued to clean. and once again, by merlin's definition of cleaning, he was yet again throwing all the clothes behind a dresser and sorting out the things that rested upon the dresser.

as he was sorting a few things out, he noticed a very small, ornate box by the side of his bed. and it was also unlatched. it was like it had been left there for merlin to see and to look at, and merlin never backed down from a challenge. even if this wasn't necessarily deemed as one.

he walked towards it, ignoring the loud stomps of his footsteps. they weren't actually that loud, merlin was just nervous about arthur coming in at any moment and see him. but then again, merlin always had his trusty excuse for anything suspicious he was doing on arthur's room.

checking for woodworm.

he reached the small box and looked around the room with a silence he wasn't used to. as he ran his fingers across the markings, he felt a small shiver in his body before beginning to open the box. his eyes simply widened at the contents.

inside, was a piece of purple cloth. but in the dead centre of the purple cloth, was a small ring, no bigger than merlin's fingers himself, shining slightly with the lighting of arthur's room. he couldn't help but admire the simple band that had a few words engraved in the inside, where the light shone off of the indents. it looked lovely, he had thought. but he couldn't read the small inscriptions. and being himself, curious merlin, he wanted to be able to read them. it was almost as if it he felt obliged to read the inscriptions. it was interesting to see what arthur had done with a ring, and what he was intending to do with it in the near future. but sure, merlin didn't know.

but that had never stopped him before.

just as merlin was about to gently pick it up and inspect, it with the same eyes full of fascination as previously, he heard a loud, very familiar, yell of his name, resulting in him snapping the box shut and quickly turning just as arthur entered the room. of course arthur would come and interrupt just as things got interesting. that often happened with merlin's life.

he looked over at the box quickly and realised that the lid had popped back once again, and with a sudden look of urgency, his eyes flashed a brilliant gold and it quickly shut, looking back at arthur once again, trying to hide any sense of suspicion that was now lingering on his face, dancing across his crystal blue eyes, dipping past his sharp cheekbones.

"arthur!" he exclaimed, trying his best not to sound suspicious. he thought, even if he looked suspicious, he could feign suspicion with a normal tone of voice. sure, it wasn't convincing, and it seemed odd, but when was merlin ever 100% not odd. it was a rare occurrence and, truth be told, arthur wasn't even sure if he had ever seen that before.

"merlin. you haven't packed?" he asked, raising an eyebrow as he threw his sword down, "i should've known, you're not the best servant." he finished with a cocky smirk, crossing his arms as he watched merlin huff, preparing a snarky retort.

"may not be the best, sire, but i'm pretty good." he replied, somewhat snarkily, "just as you said." he added, grinning goofily at him, as per usual. it wasn't the best bicker he could've begun with arthur, especially due to his pure fascination distracting him at the moment. his mind just kept wandering to the simplistic yet wonderful band ring.

arthur just shook his head, "right on. pack me my normal clothing, merlin. and do it fast if you actually want to leave for ealdor." he spoke, simply, pulling off his chain mail himself since he had decided that merlin actually needed to pack instead of doing something like helping him undress.

merlin just nodded and began to pack quickly, stuffing clothes into bags messily, not even caring as he did so, not noticing the odd and rather annoyed looks that arthur was shooting towards him.

"merlin." he scolded, emphasising the 'mer' as he spoke, a telltale sign of him either being angry or fed up with the young warlock. "pack it properly or i'll have your head." he deadpanned, a playful smirk on his face as he looked merlin up and down. it was slightly funny, truth be told.

merlin nodded and emptied the bag. he was trying his best to be an absolute 'boot licker' so arthur wouldn't change his mind. merlin wanted nothing more than to visit his mother for christmas and to be with her, and to have arthur, his friend, with him, would be something he could've only dreamt of. and he had really wanted it to happen, so he was willing to devote himself to a suck up for just one day, that was all.

arthur watched him in silence, taking his gloves off as he threw them down on his dresser. he noticed the clothing and items merlin had thrown behind it, yet he didn't say a word. he had gotten used to seeing his things thrown behind it, and usually be would've made a sarcastic retort, but he could see how much merlin was willing to do to go to ealdor and even though he would never admit it, arthur knew he had been difficult on him recently. it was time for a break.

arthur hadn't even thought of merlin's well-being when gaius and his father had asked him about going to ealdor. he had just thought that he'd rather spend christmas with those of camelot, to share good will and charitable nature with them all when it was actually accepted by his father, but he hadn't realised that one of the most charitable and good willed things he could do, was to put a simple smile on merlin's face. and he had always kind of liked merlin's smile. it was a bit crooked and funny, but it always lit up a room. he didn't like to admit that, but he knew in his heart that that was true.

so when merlin had came and asked him, and he had seen the faint yet oh so simple smile drifting across merlin's lips, he had found it difficult to say no. anyone would have found it difficult to say no, merlin had a way of convincing people of things that no other could do. it was almost magic, arthur had thought. of course ironically, he never would've thought about merlin and the possibility of him having magic.

and arthur had agreed. if anyone asked him, he would simply say it was the king-like thing to do. to please all those in need. and the one in need just happened to be his kind of friend, manservant. and he didn't mind it at all, he actually rather enjoyed merlin's company. even whilst watching him attempt to fold his clothing cleanly into a bag whilst arthur was standing there watching.

it was actually rather pitiful. merlin could barely fold them without being too excitable and moving onto the next one, shoving them in. arthur just rolled his eyes and stepped forwards, watching him with a closer eye. this made merlin notice what he was doing and he slowed down instantly, peeking over at arthur slightly whilst he began to fold properly.

yeah, he was definitely being a bootlicker but he didn't care. this was what he had put himself up for and if it meant protecting arthur whilst having one of the best moments in his life, he'd do anything. it was his destiny and is happiness all entwined into one and merlin was never one to complain.

okay, he most definitely was. he complained all the time to arthur, despite being told to quit whinging multiple times, but he would just continue. which was why arthur felt somewhat uncomfortable in the room.

the absence of his complaints created an odd and almost empty atmosphere in the room, it was strange to say the least. arthur had always thought he'd rejoice the day when merlin would just shut up and get on with his work, but arthur was unable to lie, he most definitely enjoyed their stupid bickering. it brought them closer as friends and even though arthur would constantly deny that, no matter how much merlin would insist on the fact that they were friends, the two of them both knew it to be true. they were one of eachother's best friend. even if they were much too stubborn to even attempt to admit it.

so, as arthur watched merlin pack his clothing and items, he stood in silence, undressing himself by taking all of his armour off, putting it down by the table so merlin could take it back eventually. he just thought to himself. partially enjoying the silence, and partially despising it. it was a very odd mix.

merlin was using the packing as an excuse to deny how awkward he felt at that very moment. he could feel arthur's gaze burning into the side of his face and felt his face growing warmer with every second, from purely and solely embarrassment, of course, and it bothered him to the largest extent he could imagine. he wasn't even sure why it bothered him.

he was still trying his best to fold correctly, tucking each of arthur's tunics and bottoms in nearly, throwing in a good few pairs of gloves for him, as well as some pairs of socks. he was not going to allow arthur to stay at his mother's home with stinking feet. he knew that all he would be saying is that arthur was minging and he also knew that arthur would bicker back with a much stronger argument.

once merlin had finished, he quickly stood up, brushing himself down with his same, usual crooked smile that everyone seemed to adore so much.

"i'm going to take your armour and sword back, and then i'll get some food from the kitchens for us, i think i'm going to speak to elyan and gwaine too, so you probably won't see me again tonight, sire."

arthur just nodded in response and waved his hand in a dismissive manner, sitting down on his bed as he pulled his boots off.

merlin, once again, flashed his signature smile and grabbed all of arthur's armour, leaving his private chambers with a clumsy wave, before walking down to leave arthur's armour and sword in their usual place, the armoury room.

he thought that after the packing, perhaps his brain would've been free of such intrusive thoughts, but all he could think of was that ring that was sat in the little box on arthur's dresser. something about it was so lovely and he just couldn't place his finger on it. perhaps it was the small green gem encrusted into it that had caught his eye. it was rather enticing, truth be told. merlin could admit that in seconds if it meant arthur wouldn't have known he was most definitely snooping in his room.

but merlin quickly cleared his thoughts as he heard footsteps around the room. he just nodded slightly to himself, as if it were a sort of pick me up to get him going, and he left the armoury room, now heading to see gwaine and elyan, and then to get food for the ride there. he'd also need to get food for the horses.

he just needed to collect the final supplies and then he and arthur would be ready to travel to ealdor for christmas.

he was too busy with excitement to notice all the different christmas decorations around the citadel, little lights hung up in small lanterns, decorated with little green leaves and small red berries.

no, no.

merlin was far too excited to even notice.

Chapter Text

as merlin found his way to gwaine and elyan, both of them walking around the square with other knights, including lancelot, he waved excitedly to the two of them, smiling at lancelot too.

“merlin!” gwaine yelled, “old friend!” he added, his often goofy smile on his face as per usual, ignoring the punch on the arm from elyan as he rolled his eyes.

“hey gwaine, elyan, you two want to help me steal some food from the kitchens?” he asked, a mischievous grin on his face as he did so, crossing his arms expectedly. he was basically making it a challenge, knowing that gwaine and elyan both disliked denying a challenge. neither of them could ever even try to deny one.

the two of them laughed and nodded. it was an often occurrence that the three would steal from the kitchens. elyan and gwaine would lower a little hook and merlin would rush through and hook certain foods onto it, such as freshly cooked chicken or even more divine meats that the two mischievous knights enjoyed very much. merlin was happy to help them as long as he wouldn’t get caught.

as the three made their way to the kitchens, gwaine began to speak, “did you see good old lancey lance and gwen earlier?” he asked, in a playful and jokey tone.

“you’ve condemned us to useless gossip, merlin.” elyan joked, a smirk on his lips. “and no need to talk about my sister in front of me, gwaine. not when we could talk about arthur.” gwaine finished, emphasising the word arthur with an extreme teasing tone.

“arthur?” merlin asked, a confused tone dancing through his voice.

gwaine chuckled simply, “oh, don’t deny it, merlin, you’d love to talk about arthur, just because you-“

“oh, yeah, he’s coming with me to ealdor for christmas, so you guys have to watch over gaius for me, please.” merlin interrupted him, smiling as he spoke at them. it was his signature smile that nobody could say no to, it was too difficult for those to deny.

just as elyan was going to speak, a teasing smirk already tugging upon his lips, they reached the kitchen and merlin quickly hushed them, peeking through the edge of the door. he then turned to them and told them that he’d be back and that they needed to distract the head chef. she was violent when she wanted to be.

before the two could protest, merlin burst through the doors and rushed inside, gwaine and elyan jumping to action as they called her over and began to speak about what was for dinner that night, also letting her know that arthur wouldn’t be needing any food for the night because he was going away with merlin.

merlin looked over at them as he began to stuff bread into his bag, different rolls and pieces of fruit all stuffed into his bag. once he was done, he quickly turned around and motioned for the two knights to turn around so they would hide merlin from her view and they did so, allowing merlin to rush past. they then said goodbye to her and followed after him, laughing loudly.

“did you get anything for us, merlin?” gwaine asked, as the two of them caught up with the young warlock.

merlin snorted, “really? who do you think i am?” he asked, pausing as he pulled a glorious chicken from his bag, grinning at the two of them, “of course i did, you dollopheads.” he grinned.

the two knights laughed before playfully pushing the back of merlin’s head, in a way that arthur usually would after merlin had done something that made him proud.

“i’ve got to go and get the last of the supplies for ealdor, you two, i’ll say goodbye later tonight.” merlin spoke, quickly, clearly rushing throughout his time, wanting to be as fast as possible to sort everything.

merlin just waved and ran off before they could say anything else, holding the bag so that none of the bread or fruit would drop out and be lost. he once again made his way to the armoury, deciding to take just a few weapons, perhaps, just to make sure they’d be safe on the way to ealdor. it was in the land of essetir and it could easily be seen as a threat for the crown prince of camelot to be travelling through. and maybe even emrys if anybody ever knew that. but they didn’t, so for now, it was just crown prince arthur of camelot that would be the threat.

so as he took two swords, one for himself and one for arthur, he also decided that he’d need his magic to defend arthur if anything were to happen, but arthur wouldn’t notice anyway so it was okay, arthur never noticed.

he sheathed the two swords and tucked them under his arms as he walked towards the square, holding all of the things. once he met the horses that they would be riding on, he gently put one sword with each and hung up the snack bag onto his own horse. he then proceeded to very gently pat the horse and then walk back to gaius’ chambers, the court physician area.

once he got there, he picked up his bag and threw it onto his back, walking back to the square. gaius was out picking herbs and he wouldn’t be able to say goodbye, but he had said it that morning before he had left to pick the herbs. so as he walked out to the square, he hadn’t expected to see arthur walking along with sir leon and lancelot, the two of them helping him carry his things down to the horses.

once arthur spotted the young warlock, his nostrils almost flared and he yelled loudly.

“merlin! where have you been! don’t tell me you’ve been in the tavern again-“ he began yelling on, continuously growing annoyed as he kept on complaining, “you weren’t here to help me bring my stuff down and sir leon and lancelot to help me!”

merlin grinned, “you sound like me, sire. always complaining.” he teased, a smug smile dancing across his lips as he quickly took the two bags from leon and lancelot, hooking them up to the horse, knowing they weren’t too heavy for the horse to actually handle.

arthur scoffed and opened his mouth to speak but went silent. and merlin couldn’t help but notice the way he suddenly tucked the very small intricate box into his pocket. and that had confused him. he hadn’t seen it since he saw it last and was suddenly just as fascinated by it, his mind once again going to the beauty of it because it had been so very gorgeous when he had first laid his eyes on it. but he just shook his head quickly as arthur began to speak to the two knights, hand held over the pocket where he had put the ring.

merlin couldn’t help but smile to himself for whatever reason. he didn’t even know why, he was just watching arthur and the way he was talking to the two knights. arthur suddenly punched lancelot’s arm, having seen he was upset and merlin could only think of one thing.

that time he had called the knights thick for being cheered up by that, and a chuckle was caused by the thought of that, whilst he was doing up the girth of both the horses. he didn’t even notice the way that arthur’s head turned suddenly at it. and he didn’t notice the way that arthur watched him with a certain glisten in his eye.

but sir leon and lancelot certainly did, sharing playful smirks between the two of them, definitely knowing they were going to tell gwaine and elyan all about it when they could.

arthur then nodded and patted the two knights on their backs before turning to merlin again. merlin simply smiled at him, his eyes crinkling slightly from severity of the smile.

“ready, sire?” he asked, a gleeful smile once again dancing across his lips, looking at arthur with a jovial glint in his bright blue eyes, outshining the little wrinkles underneath his eyes when he smiled that much.

arthur looked over at him, nodding slightly, looking over at the two knights.

“i’ll see you two later.” he spoke, a rare smile gracing his lips, and merlin couldn’t look away, to be honest with himself.

lancelot and leon just grinned goofily, almost suggestively, at him, clearly being playfully as they shoved arthur’s arm and walked off, going back into the citadel, waving and calling out goodbye to merlin as they walked in.

merlin just smiled, nodded and waved. once they were gone, merlin quickly mounted the horse, smiling down at it as he very softly and gently ran his hand across its neck to pet it.

arthur couldn’t help but watch him with a quiet thought wandering in his brain. he then chose to chase it away as he quickly mounted his horse too, looking over at merlin with a small smile, watching him again.

“are you ready to go, clotpole?” he asked, a playful smirk dressed up on his face.

merlin gasped. “clotpole is my word- you- you- you dollophead!” he yelled, smirking because he had ince again used one of his own words.

“that’s unfortunate, merlin. now let’s go.” he stated, looking over at him before pulling at the stirrups one the horse, kicking it’s side. “hyah!” he yelled, cantering off.

merlin just laughed slightly to himself before doing the same, following after arthur with a happy smile gracing his face, deciding to follow after him closely. mainly because he didn’t want to lose him and also mainly because he wanted to protect him by essetir.

and maybe because he liked being with arthur.

he didn’t really had to have asked arthur to come to ealdor. he would’ve been safe enough with uther and the knights of the round table.

but for some very odd reason, merlin just wanted to ask him.

protecting him was a simple excuse for it.

but it was not one that merlin would admit at all.

Chapter Text

as the two of them began to ride towards ealdor, merlin had once again the same smile on his face. he hadn’t been able to tell his mother that he would be visiting for christmas and he wanted to see her badly, he had missed her dearly since the last time he saw her, about two years ago. it had passed quickly, fulfilled with protecting arthur and keeping him safe. and it wasn’t that he didn’t enjoy protecting his good friend, he just missed his mother. and he couldn’t wait to tell her all about his father. it was beyond excitable to think about.

“what are you thinking about?” arthur asked, interrupting merlin’s thoughts whilst the two continued to ride in deeper within the camelot boundaries, heading towards ealdor with a speed that would get them there in a day, perhaps a day and a half.

merlin continued riding in silence for what would’ve felt like about five minutes, when in actuality, it was less than a minute wait.

“my mother. home. the people of ealdor,” he began, listing off the things that were currently flying around his mind in spinning circles continuously. as things usually did with the young warlock’s thoughts. “christmas day, seeing my mother’s smile, getting my note and fruit. i’m thinking of it all, arthur.” he spoke, an excited tone dancing through his voice as he spoke with a voice that could only be described as hopeful and softly.

arthur looked over at him, watching him as the two of the continued riding. he couldn’t really put his finger onto what he was thinking. he couldn’t help but notice the way that merlin’s eyes were brightened by the sunlight, finding it odd to see how they could look so wonderful. and he hadn’t even seen the gracious gold that would flash across his eyes when he performed magic. not that arthur knew he was magic, of course. uther would have arthur kill merlin himself. so of course arthur wasn’t to know, merlin may have looked like an idiot to those who didn’t know of his secret, but to those who did, merlin was a very smart man.

arthur stayed quiet for a while before deciding to speak out. for some reason, he didn’t like the idea of riding in silence with merlin, most likely because their bickering was beyond enjoyable.

“last christmas, i received a necklace from guinevere.” he spoke, simply, “it was nice, and it looked good.” he added, finishing with a bland sentence.

and once merlin had heard that, his mind instantly flew right back to the ring that was resting in arthur’s pocket. it must’ve been for gwen. she got him a necklace, he’d have gotten her a ring. but he just didn’t understand it because of her and lancelot. they were together, merlin had seen it, all of the knights of the round table had seen it and it was troubling merlin now with this thought.

he couldn’t help but feel it swirl around his brain. was arthur really pining for a woman who’s heart already belonged to another man? his heart churned at the thought of that.

he knew that arthur was caring and loving, even if he hid it by his snarky, jokey and definitely hardened outside. arthur wouldn’t admit to any of his friends that he cared as much as he did about all of them, and that hurt merlin. he would be hurt by this and all that merlin would be able to do was sit by and watch arthur’s heart be broken. and he didn’t want that to happen at all.

“oh. are you getting her anything this christmas in return then?” merlin asked, gently kicking the side of his horse, speeding up slightly once again.

merlin never really liked to kick the horse he rode. most of the horses weren’t really named very well, but the chestnut horse that he was riding had been giving a name the moment merlin had laid his eyes on him. he had called him stark, meaning strong, and it had always made him happy to see him. but nonetheless, he was a horse, and that was how he must move on with her.

arthur continued riding whilst speaking, pulling the stirrups to steer alongside merlin, “no, i don’t think so, i’ll be stuck in ealdor with a horrible servant.” he teased, a smug and playful smirk tugging at his lips as he kicked his horse’s side, yelling out once again loudly, “race you, merlin!”

the two of them burst into a fast canter, trying to beat the other as they rode further and further into the thick woods. merlin hadn’t even noticed the loud laughter that fled past his lips, screaming out from excitement and happiness of the speed and rush of the ride, unable to suppress the joy he felt as the wind flashed past his face, his hair flapping back as he rode on.

arthur didn’t fail to notice though, he looked at merlin whilst going just as fast. his eyes wandered over merlin’s smile and found himself smiling at it himself before turning to face forwards once again, yelling a distinctive ‘hyah’ as he kicked his horse’s sides once again, tugging at the stirrups as he turned to the side to make a short cut.

just as he turned to win, merlin screamed out and went flying off of his horse. with that, arthur stopped and yelled an even more distinctive ‘merlin’.

he instantly rode towards the young warlock, now laying on the floor, and dismounted with an urgency that those close to him would rarely see unless they knew the true arthur. but before arthur could say anything else and pull merlin up, a loud laughter burst from the smaller boy’s lips, flipping around so he was now laying on his back.

arthur scoffed and rolled his eyes.

“merlin!” he yelled, anger throughout his voice as he stood up, brushing his hands down, “i thought you were hurt!”

merlin just wheezed whilst laughing. he was currently holding his side, half from the slight pain of falling and the other from laughing so much. quickly sitting up, merlin’s laughter died down as he finally calmed.

“jesus, sire, i’m a lot tougher than you think.” he spoke, standing up whilst holding his side slightly. he quickly muttered a simple spell under his breath and felt his side mend itself, looking up at arthur.

“debatable, now shut up, merlin.” arthur stated, almost ordering him as he pulled his horse by the stirrups, smirking at merlin as he quickly kicked back against merlin’s leg, then mounting his horse with a cocky smile gracing his lips.

merlin just shook his head slightly and chuckled softly before mounting stark with a little oompf. being considerably smaller than arthur, and most people who rode the horses, it was usually harder for merlin to mount the horses.

“we should set up somewhere for the night soon, sire. i brought snacks from the kitchen.” merlin said, beginning to trot alongside arthur as he held the stirrups closely to himself, looking over at him slightly, “there’s a bit of flat land about ten minutes away, we would make it just before it got too dark for us.”

arthur looked over at him and then nodded, smiling slightly once again. a smile that wasn’t necessarily rare but you would be lucky to witness it if you saw it.

“okay, merlin. lead the way, then.” arthur spoke.

and merlin grinned with a playful manner, he actually got to lead arthur somewhere.

with a cocky grin, once again, merlin spoke in a teasing and jokey manner, clearly joking around as he spoke.

“who’s ordering who now?”

merlin didn’t see the glove that arthur threw at the back of his head after he spoke, but it made him laugh all the same as it would’ve if he had seen it. because it was just easy to laugh and mess around with arthur, even if he had never thought it would be.

that was just the way merlin and arthur were.

Chapter Text

merlin and arthur tugged on their stirrups just as the two of them reached the flat land, an exhausted smile on merlin’s face as he dismounted stark, brushing his clothing down quickly. he looked over to catch arthur dismounting his horse, a grunt flooding past his lips as he did so. his armour was much too heavy for him. merlin didn’t even want him to wear it, but passing through essetir meant armour for the crown prince.

“we’ll set up here?” arthur asked, almost as if he doubted the location before pressing his foot against the ground to make sure it was soft enough to sleep on, “we need firewood.” he decided, with an almost content sigh.

merlin nodded, “i’ll get the firewood for us, sire.”

arthur just waved his hand dismissively, as per usual, and merlin sighed. it was like this always and to say once again, merlin was deeply sick of it. but he just shook his head to himself and grabbed a bottle of water, swinging it around his shoulder with the strap it was attached to, and started walking around to collect dry wood.

he picked up a few pieces occasionally, now further into the woods than he would’ve liked to have been, but it was vital he got properly dry wood, or else the fire would die out much too easily, and neither of the two men wanted that.

so merlin tried his best to get proper wood for the fire. but he hadn’t expected to hear a loud neigh from a horse in the distance, and it sounded as if it were moving in closer. merlin instantly dropped the wood where he was standing, eyes widening with urgency. but once the wood sticks clattered to the floor, a few yells were heard and his eyes widened even more. he hadn’t even expected to see the bandits closing on him already.

he yelled as he began running back to where he thought the camp was, following a trail of broken twigs that he had made himself, yelling loudly for arthur as he ran. but once he realised that he would’ve been putting arthur in danger, he turned to face the bandits who were all running towards him.

as he looked around, trying to find something that could prevent them getting closer, his sight caught onto a large tree, taller than one he had seen before, and he instantly knew what to do. and, as per usual when using his magic, merlin’s eyes flashed that same glorious and brilliant gold, and the tree was falling.

once it had completely fallen, the pure size of it was completely capable of stopping the bandits from passing over and he sighed from relief, looking around before quickly running back to the little camp they set up.

the young warlock hadn’t expected to see a fire already ablaze, or to have seen arthur collecting few small pieces of dry wood around where they had set up. merlin was panting with his hands on his knees, bent over slightly as he attempted to regain his breath. his scrawny build really wasn’t meant for all this running he had to do.

arthur looked up at him and burst out into an obnoxious laughter, “ran ten miles, have you, merlin?” he asked, in a sarcastic and joking way, a smirk spreading across his face as he set off the bickering between the two.

merlin simply rolled his eyes.

“it’s getting dark, sire, and we need to sleep.” he spoke, pulling the blankets from the bag that was currently equipped on the tied up stark.

he laid one of the thin blankets down, bunching you get another to make a comfortable pillow for arthur, and stayed quiet as he watched for his reaction to the bed he’d be having for the night. but arthur had already sat down at it, now just in a tunic and some bottoms. merlin hadn’t even noticed that he had removed his armour.

but merlin just continued anyway, making his own with a considerably thinner blanket and an old pillow that gaius told him to take, since it would be okay if he lost it or anything like that.

merlin sat down on his makeshift bed and laid back against the pillow, looking up at the gradually darkening sky, staying quiet whilst he did so.

he hadn’t even noticed the way that arthur was watching him, with a quipped lip as if he were ready to tease, but he had stayed quiet and watched the young warlock viewing the sky. he didn’t know why but it felt very comfortable to just watch merlin whilst he was quiet. because this quiet was a calm and comfortable one.

not an urgent silence, nor was it an awkward one. it was one of a friendship that didn’t need words to be beautiful. the two of them could sit there and be peaceful and happy and just relax.

“what’re you thinking about?” arthur asked, looking over at him with a certain type of serene tone in his voice, almost as if he were completely content at that exact moment.

the young warlock stayed quiet. he just looked over at arthur for about a minute, smiling slightly before sighing softly, from happiness, and looking back up at the sky. as if it were his sole company. like it was everything to him.

merlin had always had a fascination with the stars. and he loved to watch them as the night passed. it often helped him sleep when out and about with arthur and the knights, and he didn’t mind looking at them without needing a reason to. they were enticing to merlin, it was like they called out to him, and that made him feel warmer and safer than he had before. because there was no home like a beautiful one. no home like one that was everywhere.

but merlin didn’t want arthur to know that, or to make fun of him, so he sighed and decided to speak his mind on something else.

“are you in love with gwen?” he asked, quietly, hesitantly looking over at him with a small reflection off of his face. arthur took a while to notice it was the stars shining down on him, but once he had noticed, he couldn’t unsee it.

“guinevere? merlin, are you crazy?” he asked, almost an offended tone in his voice.

“why?” merlin asked, looking at arthur with confusion enlightening his face, his head tilted to the side slightly, “because she’s a servant?”

“no.” he spoke, very strongly and simply, as if he had known this forever. “i don’t care about that, merlin, it’s not that at all. i don’t have feelings for her, if i were to be in love with somebody, i’d need to have feelings for them, don’t you agree?” he finished, in a snarky and sarcastic tone.

merlin just smiled slightly before looking back up at the stars, a very quiet sigh escaping his lips as he spoke, still looking up at them.

in a whispered, most importantly, merlin began to speak, “sometimes, i believe i’ll never find anybody to have feelings for.” he whispered, staying hushed for a few seconds. “but you’re prince arthur. so you’re sorted.”

arthur scoffed slightly, whispering back, “my father wants me to marry for- for wealth.. personal gain. for everything he wants. i’m not sorted, merlin, i’m far from it. i’d rather marry someone that i truly had feelings for.”

the two of them had laid back against the makeshift beds whilst talking, completely engrossed in the conversation and sight of the stars.

“and is there someone like that?” merlin asked, allowing a curious tone to slip as his mind wandered, once again, back to the small band that arthur had in his pocket. it was annoying that he couldn’t forget about that no matter what he did.

arthur simply sighed. “i don’t know, merlin. perhaps there is.”

merlin tilted his head and then turned it to look at arthur once more, his eyes now drooped slightly from being tired, watching the way arthur looked up at the stars and they reflected against his eyes. merlin hadn’t really thought about arthur’s eyes before, it wasn’t something that crossed his mind. but sitting right there and seeing them in the starlight, merlin had decided that he thought they were nice. and that he wouldn’t mind having a pair of eyes like that.

“don’t look at me like that, idiot.” arthur spoke, quickly kicking his leg out, getting merlin in the side, causing a loud laughter to rip out from the smaller boy, a smile gracing his face as he laughed.

the two of them laughed before merlin yawned, and soon enough, arthur was telling merlin to get some sleep.

the two of them said goodnight to each other, merlin dreaming about the stars in the sky and how gorgeous they were.

but arthur couldn’t get one thing out of his head the whole time that he struggled to sleep, fighting against being awake as much as he possible could.

seeing merlin’s face lit up by the moonlight and starlight was one thing that could not escape his mind, and that was the one thing that had left arthur stumped for many, many years.

he had no idea why.

Chapter Text

arthur had slept peacefully once he fell asleep, not once disturbed. he found the ground rather comfortable and was surprised by the fact that merlin easily went to sleep, thinking he would’ve attempted to bicker slightly more.

but the next morning, arthur woke up to the crunching of twigs around him and he instantly sat up, reaching for his sword quickly, clutching it in his grasp as he looked over to where merlin had been sleeping. he wasn’t there now.

arthur couldn’t help the frown that grew on his face as he slowly rose from his spot, looking around, ready in a defensive stance as he decided to call out for merlin.

“merlin?” he called out, looking around as he held the sword closely, slowly starting to spin so his vision was extended all around him.

as he heard a twig snap in the direction behind him, he turned around quickly, beginning to step closer as he held the sword up defensively, as if he were more than ready to attack, and truth be told, he most definitely let was ready to attack.

suddenly there was a rustling to his side and he thrusted his sword out, eyes widening at the shrill scream of his friend, merlin. arthur instantly pulled his sword back, looking at merlin who was currently holding many dry wood sticks, most likely for the fire.

“what were you doing?” arthur asked, an aggressive tone breaking through his voice.

“looking for wood, sire. what were you doing?” he asked, in a retorting manner, dropping the wood down to the floor.

“just.. thinking about the rest of the journey.” arthur replied, quickly, sheathing his sword with an urgency about him.

“i’ve told you already, arthur, thinking’ll hurt your brain too much.” merlin retorted, smirking playfully at him as he walked over to where the two had slept previously that night, starting to pack up his own makeshift bed and then arthur’s too, deciding to try and get going to ealdor as fast as they could.

arthur raised an eyebrow and sat down by the fire, holding his hands out to it to stay warm, a simple smile on his face as he sat quietly, looking into the fire.

merlin had looked over him halfway between packing the things up, tilting his head as he watched him, a confused look on the young warlock’s face. it was odd to see arthur so concentrated and lost in something out of battle, and merlin thought it was quite peaceful and decided to take advantage of it, packing in a comfortable silence and hooking them up to the horse’s saddles, making sure it was on properly.

he then patted his clothing down and looked over at arthur once more, hesitating slightly before stepping over a few broken twigs, sitting down besides him in front of the fire.

“are you okay?” merlin asked, softly, looking at arthur with a look of concern. which was odd because merlin always denied caring about arthur to others but he really did.

“just thinking, merlin.”

“don’t think too much, i’ve said it before, we don’t want your pea brain getting injured, clotpole.”

arthur couldn’t help but stifle a laughter, rolling his eyes as he began to stand up, stretching out slightly.

“we should get going if we want to reach ealdor before dark, your mother’ll be waiting.”

merlin nodded in agreement and stretched out, looking around before quickly mounting his horse, grabbing onto the stirrups whilst look over at arthur.

quickly, he made a comment, “i did the girths, by the way, it’s tight enough for you to ride safely.”

arthur smiled slightly at the fact that merlin remembered to do that and grabbed his armour, quickly putting it all in a bag before stretching out once more, looking up at merlin with a tilted head. he hesitated.

“thank you, merlin. i guess sometimes you can be a mediocre servant.” he teased, smirking playfully as merlin waved his hand dismissively, taking the mick out of the way that arthur usually would.

“yeah, yeah, now get on and let’s ride.”

“did you just order me?”

merlin snorted, “yes, i did.”

arthur raised an eyebrow before mounting his horse, looking over at merlin as he gripped his stirrups in both hands, holding them closely.

“and you enjoyed that?” he asked, smirking once more as merlin nodded, grabbing an apple from his back and throwing it at the young warlock, laughter rippling and exploding from his mouth as he watched the way merlin squirmed and dropped off of the horse.

merlin took a few seconds to stand up but when he did, arthur couldn’t complain. he currently had horse shit all over his right cheek and in his hair, an exasperated look on his face as his whole body deflated. arthur just smirked again.

“you’ve got a little something on your face.”

“shut up, arthur.” merlin spoke, quickly and almost flustered, quickly mounting stark before kicking his sides, yelling a distinctive hyah before starting to go off, not checking whether arthur was following or not.

merlin wasn’t even sure why it had embarrassed him so much that arthur saw him with horse shit on his face, it was like all of a sudden he cared about looking like an idiot in front of arthur, even though that’s all that merlin tended to look like in front of him. that’s what arthur thought most of the time anyway.

merlin could hear arthur’s horse’s hooves hitting against the floor and he just continued on his way to ealdor, too embarrassed for their usual banter, he just wanted to get to his mother and speak to her about the whole idea of being so embarrassed about it. and it just confused him, to be honest. he didn’t know why at all and he couldn’t even guess.

maybe it was because he had convinced arthur to come and then had looked like a massive idiot in front of him. that made sense, merlin couldn’t help but think that was why.

it must’ve been a few hours of just riding in silence that neither of the two men enjoyed at all. merlin was purely embarrassed and arthur didn’t know why merlin had been so upset about it. it confused the both of them, to be totally honest, and it was annoying that the both of them were much too stubborn to even try to fix it. they just continued to ride their way to ealdor.

arthur stayed behind merlin, mainly because he knew the exact way to ealdor, but also because he could watch him the whole time and make sure he was safe.

arthur would never ever admit that he wanted to keep merlin safe, but he did. over the last few years that he had met merlin and grew close with him, arthur found that he was one of the only people not afraid to share their thoughts with him or to treat him differently because he was to be king soon.

merlin treated him like a friend and he absolutely adored that.

the fact that merlin had even invited him to ealdor for christmas was enough to show that. arthur would even admit he was excited to see what they did in ealdor for christmas. if they decorated trees or hung plants or berries up. what type of presents and love they shared.

but to be completely honest, arthur was just excited to see merlin he so cheerful and happy. because even though arthur often found himself in a bad mood, seeing merlin mess up and laugh and just smile always helped improve his mood.

merlin helped improve his mood.

and arthur was so deep in his thought about the way that merlin would constantly help him and that he never thanked him, that he hadn’t even realised they had reached ealdor.

the only reason he had realised why they got there, was merlin.

he heard merlin’s laughter and instantly knew he had seen something, and as he looked over, he could see merlin waving to people of ealdor who seemed to be awaiting his arrival.

but merlin’s face darkened slightly as he pulled to a stop, looking over at arthur as arthur also slowed down, confused by merlin’s sudden sadness.

“my mother isn’t here.” he spoke, simply. and he was right.

hunith wasn’t there waiting for him.

Chapter Text

merlin’s panic had set in the moment they had arrived at ealdor and to be totally truthful, arthur had no idea how to try and calm him. the crown prince had never really been good with things like that and he wasn’t just going to suddenly be amazing at it. which annoyed him, because he’d have liked to have been there for merlin properly.

the two had dismounted their horses a while ago, having tied them up by a few ran down stables, and had left the bags and things with the horses, the two of them currently looking around stressfully.

no one had seen hunith since the morning which confused merlin beyond imagination. ealdor was a small place and he was sure that someone would’ve seen her, unless something had happened during the night or early morning and that completely stressed his mind. it was safe to say that he was not at ease whatsoever.

“merlin, relax, we’ll find her!” arthur had called out, following after the young warlock with a groan escaping his lips. to be honest, arthur was tired and he wanted to rest. and he doubted anything bad would’ve happened in ealdor of all places. it was the most bland place arthur could imagine. which is also why it shocked him that brilliant, extravagant and overall amazing merlin came from a bland place such as ealdor. that confused him more than most people would think.

“she’ll be here, i’m sure she will, she wouldn’t have just left off without you, she’s your mother, merlin!”

merlin huffed. “no! my mother would’ve been there to meet me- to meet us, she would’ve been excited to have seen you!” he exclaimed, rushing through ealdor to look for her.

just as merlin was about to go off on another fit, the door to one of the small homes swung open and merlin gasped loudly. up ahead, merlin could see the women that he had met a few times. twice properly to be precise, one when he had made camp at ealdor for a quest and the other when hunith asked for help with those of essetir threatening ealdor.

merlin smiled widely, “mother!” he yelled, rushing forwards to her as her smile showed herself melting from happiness, the two of them suddenly embracing each other from pure happiness. arthur couldn’t help but feel slightly jealous at that, but he wouldn’t dare speak on that. it would be unfair.

arthur watched the two with an almost solemn expression, as if he were beginning to mourn for the idea of his mother once again, but was interrupted as hunith looked up from the embrace, eyes widening slightly as she realised that the once and future king was stood in front of them.

“prince arthur, it’s wonderful to see you again!” she smiled, pulling away from merlin to courtesy in his presence. arthur simply smiled cockily at merlin with a raised eyebrow, as if to say ‘look at that.’ and merlin rolled his eyes jokingly.

“just call me arthur, hunith, it’s nice to see you again too.” he replied, with a friendly enough look on his face as he nodded curtly, as if it were also a greeting for her. “thank you for letting me stay here for christmas.”

merlin tilted his head slightly at his words. sure, he knew arthur was going to change the five kingdoms and that he was a good person, but he had forgotten the last time he had heard a please or thank you from the prince and, truth be told, it was rather refreshing to hear. it was odd, in a way, but merlin couldn’t deny that he liked the way it sounded when he spoke in such a polite manner.

“no problem, arthur. now you two should settle in, being your bags to the house.” she said, smiling at them both, “i would have dinner ready but i forgot tonight, so we’ll have breakfast tomorrow.” she added, friendliness radiating from her.

arthur and merlin both nodded and told her it was okay before waving off and making their way back to the two horses. once they reached them, merlin instinctively took arthur’s bags and his own. sure, arthur had agreed to come, but he could also leave at any second so merlin wanted to stay boot-licking him to the best of his ability. and if that meant carrying his bags and blankets to merlin’s home, so be it.

“you’re being helpful today. i don’t like it.” arthur said, looking over at merlin as he nudged his arm with his own.

“i thought you don’t like when i’m not helpful?” merlin asked, a confused brow lifted as he looked over at the prince.

“yes but i don’t like you being helpful either.”

merlin stopped where he was standing, shaking his head almost in disbelief, “there’s just no pleasing you, is there?” he asked, in a sarcastic tone, before continuing to walk.

arthur couldn’t help but laugh and raised his hand, playfully yet still gently hitting the back of his head, a friendly mannerism shared between the two that arthur did the most out of the two of them. and the young warlock found himself laughing alongside arthur, a permanent smile on his face as he just continued to walk.

“you’ll find it easy to settle in, by the way. my mother is very welcoming when she likes to be.” merlin spoke.

the memory of the story of his father and how hunith took him in and fell in love with him flooded his mind, a soft smile ghosting in his lips as he thought about how sweet his mother had been. but then he was thinking about how they had never wed and suddenly, merlin’s mind was back onto that stupid ring that arthur had on him. he didn’t know why but he was completely convinced arthur was going to propose to gwen. and he still felt horrible about that. gwen clearly was not interested in him but apparently that hadn’t stopped his ideas.

the two of them just nipped at each other, cracking jokes and teasing as they made their way back to the home. it was now approaching dark, about three hours away from it and the two of them were very tired. once they had got inside and hunith had wished them a good nights sleep, merlin and arthur both decided to set up some makeshift beds on the floor so neither of them would be confused or in some odd places in the morning.

merlin and arthur were about to begin bickering once more as they sat at the small table in the house as hunith suddenly gasped, rushing in from behind a wall. she had an excited and happy smile on her face, as if she had realised something completely wonderful.

“i remembered, i have some crops still, ill make us some oatmeal!” she exclaimed, quickly beginning to make the bowls of oatmeal for the two young men and herself, happy that she was actually able to provide for the prince.

arthur looked at merlin and struggled to hold a groan back. and merlin couldn’t help but smirk at the prince.

merlin knew how much he hated the oatmeal.

and he found it absolutely hilarious.

Chapter Text

hunith was currently smiling at the two young men sitting, both eating oatmeal. arthur and merlin were currently sat opposite each other, merlin wolfing the oatmeal down with pure joy and happiness as arthur hesitated with every spoonful, trying not to be too disrespectful, having remembered the last time gwen got angry at him for being rude about food.

once merlin had finished, he gave arthur a look, as if to say ‘are you going to finish that?’ and when arthur shook his head, the young warlock waited for the moment his mother’s head turned, and he quickly swapped the bowls, starting to wolf down arthur’s half eaten oatmeal like a dog who hadn’t eaten in years. it was quite a funny sight for arthur to see. he never really got to see merlin eat. he knew he did with gaius but now, seeing merlin eat like that in front of him, he couldn’t help but wonder whether merlin eats enough.

merlin sighed contently as he finished, a happy smile on his face as he saw hunith’s eyes brighten with happiness. she had believed that both the boys had enjoyed the food and was beyond happy that they had both eaten it.

“was that enough for you boys?” she asked, smiling as she put the bowls to the side. the both of them nodded quickly, arthur feigning a fake smile as merlin flashed the brightest one arthur had seen yet. it was quite refreshing to see, actually. even if arthur decided to admit or deny that. but no one needed to know.

well, except hunith, who was watching the looks that arthur was giving her son as he smiled with a smile as wide as an ocean, as bright as the stars. and she couldn’t help but smile to herself, and then give a knowing glance to the two boys. they always said a mother’s instinct was a good instinct and to trust it. and hunith had always trusted hers, which was cause for a smile once again.

merlin hadn’t even noticed the looks he was receiving from both of his company, he was purely too happy to even notice. he was actually at ealdor with arthur, his closest friend, and was going to spend christmas with his mother once again.

hunith smiled slightly once more before speaking in a kind tone, “why don’t you two set up for sleep later tonight and then do something together? maybe go out to the woods and get some berries?” she asked, smiling at both of them with her usual jovial smile, one that she kept on her face solely for her little warlock and her little warlock only. and perhaps his master.

arthur and merlin exchanged a few looks that any other person would’ve seen as just the two looking at each other, but they were basically speaking, with their eyes, about the fact that merlin would be the one who set up all of it and arthur would sit there and watch. but soon, merlin just caved and nodded, looking up at hunith with his signature smile, once again.

“we’ll do that now.” he spoke, standing up quickly. he tugged arthur’s arm up as he stood too, as if to say ‘get a move on’ and smiled once more at hunith before walking to the small area of the little house that merlin and arthur would be able to stay in without distracting hunith at all.

arthur simply looked around the small area and raised an eyebrow, crossing his arms as he leant against the wall.

“i could’ve been in my bed in camelot, but i have to share this minuscule area with an idiot.” he muttered to himself, dropping down his bag of blankets and pillows for merlin to set up. and, as the recent boot licking merlin would do, the young warlock began to set up arthur’s bed, trying his best to make it as comfortable as it could get, being on the floor.

merlin hadn’t even made a retort, which kind of confused arthur. because, truth be told, that was what he had been hoping for. merlin had been a bit odd recently and it had definitely confused him to no end.

“what’s wrong with you, merlin?” he had asked, before his brain could stop his mouth.

merlin looked up, offence spreading across his face, clearly having taken it as arthur saying he had done something wrong, but when arthur assured him that he hadn’t meant it like that, and just how he was feeling, merlin let out a little chuckle and sighed, now moving onto making his bed, which had significantly less blankets and no pillows. just a sand bag underneath where he would be laying his head for the next few nights.

“nothing, really.” he said, simply, almost too simply. and arthur had decided that he didn’t like too simple all that much. how could he with merlin as a servant.

“don’t lie to me, merlin. i’m the crown prince of camelot.”

“and that,” he paused, to let out a sigh as he finished making his bed, “is exactly why i can’t talk to you, arthur. not about this.”

truth be told, merlin was conflicted at the moment. he had come back to ealdor where had felt so free using magic, he could walk two minutes east and use it without anybody bothering him and he had missed it dearly. and being back here had helped him remember those memories, thinking of the days when life was much easier than protecting arthur and trying to save his own life by having to pretend to be who he wasn’t. it was horrible.

but he wouldn’t trade it for the world. which confused him even more. he knew arthur was his destiny, to protect him and help him build albion, but why was it that he felt attached to arthur much more than just by the destiny to protect him. it had confused him on end and he obviously couldn’t say such things to arthur.

arthur. arthur who hated magic just like his father. arthur who liked to make his father proud, who merlin was scared would tell his father. his arthur who was amazing and loyal, but sometimes loyal to the wrong people.

arthur sighed, “merlin, you can talk to me about it.” he said, simply.

“no, i can’t, arthur. now drop it. please.”

arthur went quiet at the use of manners by merlin. merlin had never been one to use please or thank you around arthur. and arthur had usually seen or taken it as merlin being rude or weird, so it was weird to hear those words actually come from his mouth.

but arthur couldn’t say much, he didn’t often use those words either and he could admit openly that they would make him a better person if he did.

arthur just sighed and nodded. if merlin had asked kindly to leave it, arthur would leave it.

most likely because he cared about merlin. or maybe just because he cared about how merlin was feeling, because it would definitely affect his work rate.

okay, no.

arthur cared about merlin. a lot.

Chapter Text

hunith had walked in to the two young men just in time. the awkward tension had been overbearing, merlin still conflicted and arthur just wanting to know what was wrong with his friend. hunith just smiled at the two of them before brushing her clothes down.

“why don’t you two go do something and i’ll set up the rest of your things, it’ll give me something to pass time with.” she had asked, a kind smile evident on her face as she looked between the two of them, not noticing the very unimpressed look on merlin’s face.

arthur shot a quick glance at merlin, looking the young warlock up and down as he stood up, his body weight weighing down on his thin, bony legs. merlin hadn’t even looked at arthur as he had stood up, he had just risen and smiled a little at his mother.

once again, arthur felt a pang of jealousy. it hurt him, just slightly, to see merlin be able to smile at his own mother, and to hold her and to speak to her. the closest thing that arthur had to his mother was his father. cold-hearted uther. and arthur loved him, but sometimes it just wasn’t enough to help the young prince get through his days without struggle, whether he told people about his struggle or not. it was slightly odd, but arthur often kept to himself.

the prince hadn’t even realised that he had drifted away with his thoughts until merlin was clicking his fingers in his face, a confused look on the young warlock’s face, and an almost concerned one on hunith’s.

“did you hear me, arthur?” he asked, tilting his head from confusion, “i was saying we should go for a walk around ealdor and the woods, i could show you ealdor.” he added, explaining with an almost excitable smile on his lips, as if his entire mood had flipped within the last two minutes. that confused arthur a lot. he had no idea how merlin could go from being so dreary and upset to simple, cheerful merlin.

arthur tilted his head but then just simply nodded, agreeing to go on a walk. even though he often denies it, arthur enjoys his time with merlin more than time he enjoys with most people and it was always easy to talk to him and to mess around with him. or to even, sometimes, be completely himself with the young warlock. and that was what arthur found most enticing and loveable about merlin. he didn’t judge. everyone was who they wanted to be and merlin was happy with it.

by the time hunith had fully convinced them to get a move on, merlin had grabbed two water bottles to fill up on the way, and some apples that he stole from the camelot kitchens earlier, tucking them into a small satchel-like bag that he could often be seen wearing. arthur knew it was his usual one because he was so used to seeing merlin reach into it and pull stupid things out, such as things that arthur would soon take and hit him with.

“see you later.” merlin said, to hunith, smiling softly as he waved and stepped out of the door, arthur giving her a curt nod, as if to say goodbye, and following after him.

the two of them began walking in the direction of ealdor’s only water fountain that had been installed after a few men went and stole one from the main lands, installing it so that it connected to a water supply. they had messed up along the way, though, and merlin had to help them, without them knowing, of course.

“so,” arthur began, a quizzical tone in his voice as he did so, “you lived in ealdor since you were born?”

they reached the water fountain and merlin began to pump some of the water into arthur’s water bottle, and then his. he nodded slightly in response.

“yeah. born and raised.”

arthur hesitates slightly. “so why move to camelot?” he asked, as the two of them then began walking, merlin leading the way somewhat, arthur following alongside him.

merlin looked over at arthur, as if he were conflicted with what his answer should be. he didn’t want to lie to arthur and make up some random thing, but he also knew that he wouldn’t be able to tell him the truth. so with a deep breath and a shaky sigh, merlin decided to reply.

“it didn’t feel right here anymore,” he paused to think, using his words carefully, “like i didn’t belong.”

“and do you feel you belong now? in camelot?” arthur asked, sounding almost urgent or desperate, as if he needed or at least wanted to know merlin’s answer.

merlin simply smiled, deciding not to give a response. he knew arthur was bright enough to figure it out himself. of course merlin was happy in camelot. he actually adored his life in camelot, even if it wore him down and tired him out beyond what he could imagine.

as the two walked further into the woods, merlin looking ahead, they conversed lightly. nothing too important, perhaps just some bickering here and there, but merlin was far off. he felt beyond reminiscent and being back in the ealdor forests where he had used his magic to get apples from the trees, or to pick berries and make sure he didn’t get hurt, it was something that he had always loved. and it was amazing to be back. even if he was back with someone who was taught to despise the very thing that was magic. to despise who merlin was.

then, as merlin couldn’t help but think of how arthur had been taught to hate him, he decided to ask arthur a question. an odd one at that. for arthur, at least.

“are you happy with who you are?” he had asked, coming to a standstill as he faced the crown prince, a look of genuine interest dancing across his face, as if he wanted to know the answer as soon as he could. but arthur had always taken a while to think for a smart answer, and now was no exception. merlin decided to add on as he thought, “are you happy to be the next to rule over camelot?”

arthur simply sighed. “i love camelot,” he began, a ghost of a smile spreading across his lips as he thought back to his father’s kingdom, “more than i can say. but when i’m there?” he paused once more, looking over at merlin.

merlin gave him a look, one that was like a small nudge for him to continue, an encouraging and kind smile also, as if to let him know that it would be okay to confide in him.

“sometimes i feel i can hardly breath.” he spoke, looking at merlin still, almost a solemn tone to match his now solemn expression. “everyone expects so much of me.”

merlin nodded slightly, opening his mouth to speak, planning on comforting the crown prince who was currently standing in front of him, looking as if he could burst out into tears at any moment. but arthur spoke once more, before merlin could interrupt.

“but being here with you?” he spoke, a soft, almost gentle tone in his voice, which made merlin’s stomach feel odd in many ways, as if there were butterflies fluttering inside, fighting to get out of his stomach, “i can be myself.” he finished, smiling at merlin with a sort of smile that merlin had never seen before, not from arthur.

“really?” merlin asked, quiet, almost hopeful.

arthur smiled once again, but it was one of his normal smiles now, not the smile that merlin had been blessed to see, whether he realised it or not.

“of course, but i’m going to forever deny saying any of this.”

Chapter Text

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.


“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.

Chapter Text

by the time the two had got back to ealdor, merlin was panting excessively, as if he were beyond tired and had been running for days. merlin wasn’t used to much exercise, not physically like that anyway. most of the energy he exhorted was from his magic, and using way too much of it.

arthur had noticed once he got back and grinned before running at merlin once again, suddenly picking him up by his legs and throwing him over his shoulder. merlin instantly began to kick around and yell in protest, trying to get arthur to let go of him.

“i’m doing you a favour! no wonder why your knees are so bony!” arthur exclaimed, a boisterous laugh flooding past his lips as he did so, beginning to walk back to merlin’s little home, ignoring the looks from those of ealdor as he continued through with him.

“shut up!” merlin yelled, but that resulted in arthur coming to a sudden halt, playfully throwing merlin down to the floor. but he did it in such a way that wouldn’t hurt him, something he had learnt to do since training from such a young age, it was known that arthur was merciful and he would spare anyone he could, and that was why he knew how to gently floor people.

merlin crossed his arms, currently laying on the floor in front of arthur as the crown prince towered over him, a playful and smug smirk tugging at his lips.

“is that any way to treat the crown prince of camelot?” he asked, cockily, “did you know that i could consider that treason?”

“oh sorry, was that rude?” merlin asked, a somewhat cocky tone creeping in his voice, having taken a slight pause before speaking, “shut up, my lord.”

and with that, arthur dived down at him and the two began play wrestling, tossing and turning around the lands of ealdor as they yelled and tugged at each other, yelling and laughing even more somehow. they were even planning on continuing until they both heard a cough, stopping half way between their playful fighting as merlin looked up. and arthur instantly saw the way his eyes brightened with joy.

“will!” merlin yelled, stumbling to get up and hug the boy who was currently standing in front of them.

arthur couldn’t help but feel an odd tug at his stomach as he saw the two hug, he just knew he didn’t like the way the tug felt and huffed, crossing his arms, looking between them both.

“arthur!” merlin yelled, clearly excited, as he pulled away from will, “this is my best friend, will, i’ve known him since i was born!”

arthur nodded and smiles friendlily, trying his best to look kind, and extended his hand for a handshake. but will looked him up and down and then crossed his arms, causing a confused look to form on both merlin and arthur’s faces, the both of them finding it a bit odd.

“what’s the prince of camelot doing here?” will asked, an eyebrow raised.

before merlin could speak, arthur decided to speak for him, “i wanted to be with merlin for christmas. in ealdor.”

“no you d-“

arthur gave merlin a quick shove which instantly caused him to go quiet, nod his head and smile widely, clearly exaggerated. will just raised an eyebrow.

“right. i’ll see you around, merlin.” will spoke, quickly, before looking arthur up and down once more. he then gave a curt nod of his head, as if to say goodbye, and waved to merlin. not arthur. solely merlin. and something about that riled something deep in arthur. something that he needed to hold back or he would absolutely lose it. and he didn’t feel like losing it at a childhood friend of his friend.

arthur raised an eyebrow as he walked off, turning to look at merlin with almost an inquisitive look before a smirk spread across his face.

“he was quite a clotpole.”

“that’s my word!” merlin yelled, eyes wide from arthur having used his word once again.

arthur smirked. “if it is your word, catch me if you can!” and with that, he began running again.

he was pretty sure he had memorised the way back to hunith. ealdor was actually pretty small and he wasn’t sure he could forget the house where merlin had been brought up, that would’ve been silly. so he continued to run in the direction that he remembered to be the way to merlin’s house when suddenly, he tripped over a stick. which he hadn’t seen before.

that was fair though, because running right behind him, a pair of eyes as blue as the ocean had flashed a bright gold and caused the crown prince to trip and fall, allowing the young warlock to pass him and continue running towards his home. arthur yelled as he continued to run after him, the two of them laughing once again, merlin beyond ecstatic to actually be ahead of arthur. because, let’s be honest, that didn’t happen much. arthur would probably deny it ever happening anyway so merlin didn’t get much joy from it.

but merlin reached the house first, a victorious smile bursting across his lips, a look of happiness dancing across every one of his features as he threw his arms up in a celebratory manner, laughing at arthur who had just caught up, quickly pushing at merlin’s hands for him to hold them down.

“you got lucky!” arthur exclaimed, eyes wide from the surprise of merlin actually beating him. it was something that he had never imagined happening when he had started that second race.

“what can i say, sire? i’m a man of many talents.”

“like being an utter idiot, making up words and being able to juggle?” arthur asked, recalling the only teasing things he could think of to insult merlin. it was rather funny actually, to see the insulted expression dance across merlin’s face, before it dissolved into a jokey one.

“at least i’m not a royal prat.”

“why you-“

and with that, merlin ran into the house, an angry pendragon chasing after him, but still bursts of laughter escaping from the young warlock’s mouth.

and hunith, sitting in her room of the house, where she had a small bed, couldn’t help the joy that spread across her own features.

for she had never heard merlin so happy before.

Chapter Text

the next day, arthur had been awake long before merlin. he was currently sat where the two had been sleeping the night before. the crown prince was just fiddling with a bottle of water that he had besides him until the young warlock woke up.

merlin woke up about forty minutes later and huffed sleepily as soon as he heard arthur’s obnoxious and cocky laugh.

“about time.” the crown prince smirked, looking at merlin with a somewhat goofy smile, knowingly teasing him.

merlin rolled his eyes to himself before sitting up. he would’ve thought that arthur would laugh at the way he looked, but arthur simply tilted his head at the sight of the sleepy boy.

merlin’s skin looked as if it were glowing, for starters. and his eyes were shining against the fullness of the room that the two of them were in. and you couldn’t even get started on the way his hair stuck all wildly over the place yet still looked adorable. it was odd yet endearing at the same time.

before arthur could open his mouth to speak, hunith had peeked her head over the wall, smiling at the both of them.

“would you two be okay with sorting out the animals today? and bringing some crops back?” she had asked, smiling kindly as she asked the two of them for the favour.

merlin’s eyes dulled slightly and arthur smirked. although he enjoyed the way that merlin’s eyes usually looked, he couldn’t deprive himself of the joy of seeing merlin complain and whine. it was hilarious. and so he nodded.

“of course, hunith. we’ll do anything to help you out.”

merlin almost let out a groan but arthur quickly slapped a hand over his mouth. without thinking of the outcome, merlin licked his hand. hunith laughed as merlin did so too, arthur quickly wiping the younger boy’s spit across his pillow, huffing.

“we’ll get ready now and then we’ll go.” merlin said, with a smile, as hunith nodded and smiled, before walking out and leaving the two to themselves, allowing merlin to turn to arthur. “seriously? the crops are so boring to do!”

arthur chuckled. “why would i pass up the opportunity to see you suffer?”

merlin just huffed and got up, grabbing his clothes to put on, quickly rushing behind the old fabric screen that had been put up when hunith realised they had to have been close and would need their privacy. merlin changed into a simple pair of bottoms and his normal tunic, yet he left his usual handkerchief scarf and jacket, walking out once he was done.

he then proceeded to help arthur get dressed, as per usual, and he wore his normal boots, bottoms and tunic. the usual outfit he’d be seen wearing. he then grabbed his usual red leather-like jacket and put it on, looking over at merlin.

“ready?” he asked, patting his clothes down to get some dust from the household off.

merlin nodded and, after quickly nabbing some fruit from the bags merlin had brought, the two of them headed up to the fields where they would call two horses in, bring some of the cattle in and shear some of the sheeps. and then they would have to get some of the pre-harvested crops and bring them back to hunith so she would be able to make food for them. arthur didn’t really want that much, mainly due to the fact he strongly disliked the food that hunith had made previously, but he wasn’t fond of being a rude house guest.

and so the two began to work. they first both rode two horses in to the small stables of ealdor. then, the two of them raced around the fields, chasing each other whilst trying their best to bring the cattle in, the two of them laughing so loud that the cattle began to run away from them, conveniently towards where they needed to be, which was very fortunate.

“i don’t want to shear any sheep.” merlin spoke, admittedly, as he looked at arthur once they had finished.

arthur shrugged. “i haven’t done it before so i would be bad at it. should we skip to bringing the crops in?”

merlin nodded and the two were on their way towards the fields of crops now, teasing pushing each other in the sides and messing around together, laughing alongside the other.

“honestly, merlin, i would think you’re an absolute drunkard from all the times you stay in that tavern and slack off.”

“i don’t go to the tavern!” merlin had exclaimed, crossing his arms as they both made their way to the crops. reaching there.

merlin quickly pulled a large sack-like bag, beginning to stuff some crops into it already as arthur rolled his eyes playfully, leant against the small fence, and continued to speak.

“you do. i saw you there last week.”

and okay, that part was true. merlin had been in the tavern last week but that was because there was a sorcerer planning on giving a tincture of belladonna to arthur so he would see things, and be vulnerable. and merlin had needed to stop them. but he couldn’t tell arthur that, not at all. arthur could never know if merlin’s adventures to save his life. that would be far too dangerous for the son of the man who conducted the great purge to know. there was just no way.

but arthur looked over at merlin with a weird look in his eyes, watching the young warlock as he stuffed all of the crops into the bag. arthur hesitated before beginning to help, ignoring the slight look of shock on merlin’s face. even though he thought it was rather endearing to see. but he still planned to avoid it because it would make it much easier to collect all of the crops.

“will your mother be making that oatmeal again?” arthur asked, looking at merlin as he broke the silence.

merlin simply nodded with a playful smirk, knowing arthur would get annoyed. but arthur just continued to look at him and smile in a way merlin had never seen before.

but it couldn’t be.

was arthur smiling at merlin, in a fond way?

Chapter Text

the two of them were now sitting outside of the house, sitting on old tree logs. they had emptied the crops out onto the floor and began to sort through them in silence. as if there were an awkward tension in the air, which completely confused the two of them.

they continued to sit in silence as they sorted the crops until merlin began to talk. which was typical. he could never shut up, and arthur knew that. sometimes he liked that, yet sometimes he absolutely hated it.

“so, do you like it here?” merlin asked, peeking at arthur whilst sorting the crops that he had into three different piles.

arthur shrugged. “it’s just a village.”

“just a village?” merlin asked, eyes wide with what seemed like offence but arthur didn’t see it as that. he just felt amusement and irritating merlin. “ealdor is not just a village.”

arthur raised an eyebrow inquisitively, as if he were asking merlin to continue talking.

“i grew up here. i was a boy here. ealdor is so amazing, and you don’t even see it. you don’t see how tilda helps the local children out because she’s the closest we have to a physician, or how eoin helps milk the cows now that i’ve left. and you don’t get to see the happiness on everyone’s faces when they wake up and see eachother.” he paused, taking in a deep breath, ready to continue talking, “you don’t see how, at ealdor, we all matter. and that we all care for each other. you don’t see that.”

arthur just listened intently, nodding his head along as the younger one of the two spoke.

“but i get to see camelot too.” merlin began, a slight smile on his face once again. “it’s amazing, arthur. you should see the lower town when you’re there. so many people walk around singing carols and some even dance. it’s amazing to see because i rarely see the lower town so happy.”

arthur felt ashamed to say he had never noticed this. he liked to think he was in touch with camelot, and that he knew all about the kingdom that he was to rule over one day. but he had failed to witness the simple joy of it.

and that got him thinking. merlin had witnessed and acknowledged it. something like a true king would be able to do. to see when his people were happy and work on that to keep them happy. it sounded like merlin would be a good king. and, with a weird voice at the back of his head, arthur suddenly thought ‘merlin would be his king.’ and that thought instantly shook him.

merlin just continued speaking. arthur hadn’t even realised he had spaced out with his own thoughts, and was now currently racing around every thought he had, trying to figure out why he had of merlin being his. his king.

“-and christmas is just such an amazing time. it’s the time where all stress can be put to the side and you can enjoy yourself. no destiny, no fate and no responsibilities. just.. happiness.”

arthur nodded slightly. “are you happy?” he paused before realising the sentence didn’t sound right to just leave there, and continued, “when it’s christmas?”

merlin smiled ecstatically and arthur couldn’t help but gaze upon his rosy lips that spread into the smile. and he looked down shamefully, using his hands to sort the crops, attempting to distract himself from the sight of merlin. something he had never imagined himself doing, not in a million of years.

“of course i am.” merlin replied, and even though arthur wasn’t looking at him to notice, he could hear the smile in his voice. “i like it at camelot and at ealdor. and i’m spending it with a friend.”

the way that merlin had said friend felt so heartfelt and soft to arthur, and he couldn’t help but peek up, allowing one gaze at the young warlock before looking down once again. a million thoughts were racing through his head as he sat opposite merlin. absolutely and overwhelmingly confused as he tried his best to distract himself.

“wouldn’t you rather with a girlfriend?” arthur asked, peeking up at him, almost anxiously.

he noticed the way merlin visibly squirmed.

“what’s wrong? too embarrassed to admit you can’t get one?” arthur asked, teasingly. and, admittedly, he was only teasing merlin to try and rid himself of his own thoughts, but it didn’t work when merlin just looked down. “merlin?” arthur asked, a slight tone of concern in his voice.

merlin’s breath wavered as he looked up at arthur again, anxiously fiddling with the sleeves of his tunic. a servant was meant to always be loyal and truthful to their master. and merlin was already hiding enough about being a sorcerer, and more guilt was eating up at him for this.

“i like men, arthur.”

arthur’s world came crashing down at those words. not literally, but his world within merlin. never before had he expected those words to come out of his mouth, yet he was not entirely surprised. he had never seen merlin with a girl, and had seen him take an interest in lancelot before he began courting gwen, and it all began to add up.

“you like lancelot?” arthur asked, a soft tone in his voice, one softer than merlin had heard before.

“no.” he said, simply. “i don’t. can we please talk about christmas again?” he asked.

and arthur knew that the use of please meant that merlin really didn’t want to talk about the topic. and arthur respected that.

“okay, well.. i like christmas. i don’t celebrate it much. but i like this year. because i’m here in ealdor, seeing new christmas traditions.. and i’m here with a friend.” arthur spoke, mirroring merlin’s previous words with a smile. as if this were his way to show that he accepted merlin. and it caused a smile to ripple out on arthur’s face.

yet arthur couldn’t admit the wavering feeling in his chest that he felt as he called merlin his friend. it didn’t feel right to him at all and that felt weird. was merlin not his friend? did he not like merlin at all? if he didn’t like merlin, why was he willing to come to ealdor to keep him happy, to look at him and think he was attractive, to help him out and be kind to his mother. why was he willing to do all of that if they weren’t to be friends?

and that wasn’t something he could debate with himself whilst sitting opposite the boy in question. and suddenly, arthur stood up, dropping the crops he had been sorting.

“arthur?” merlin asked, a confused tone engulfing his voice as arthur walked off, without a word.

and merlin was sat there, watching the crown prince walk off without a word at all.

he knew arthur had been acting a bit strange since they had shown up to ealdor, what with all the strange looks, soft speaking and all the help he gave, but now he was leaving merlin alone, sorting crops out, without saying anything?

merlin didn’t understand it whatsoever, he couldn’t even begin to try to understand it.

but he was going to try his best to.

Chapter Text

once merlin had finally finished sorting out and organising the crops, having done it alone due to arthur’s early and awkward departure, he began to make his way back. he currently had all the oats in the bag thrown over his back, looking around ealdor whilst making it back to his home.

once he reached the small house, he could see arthur going to walk inside, from wherever he had been. but as soon as arthur turned and saw merlin walking that way, he lowered his head quickly and began walking away, leaving the ambrosius household. which absolutely confused merlin.

and at once, he decided he didn’t want arthur ignoring him. so he quickly put the bag of oats down and rushed after arthur, calling his name a few times.

but the blonde crown prince just continued on, ignoring the young warlock, as if his countless calls were to a deaf man. he wasn’t going to listen and merlin realised that once he had passed through some wooden fences and gone into the surrounding woods of ealdor. that just upset merlin further.

now, no longer willing to chase after arthur, even though he absolutely wanted to, merlin sighed from defeat and began wandering back towards his house, all of his thoughts consuming him. it was as if there was no end to the nasty ideas that continuously popped through his head for the suddenness of arthur ignoring merlin, and treating him horribly. it felt like they weren’t friends at all, at the moment, and that was what actually scared merlin the most.

with yet another sigh, he reached the house and picked the bag of oats up that he had left there, holding them over his shoulder. he looked around once again before turning his attention to the small house. that had to be it. hunith could help him out. she was his mother, of course, and she was always so wise. merlin knew he could count on her.

he sighed as he walked into the house, putting the bag of oats down before staring to put them all into the few little jars that hunith kept in the kitchen-like area. his mind and thought wandered off as he did so, wondering whether arthur was ignoring him because he felt uncomfortable about the fact merlin had admitted he liked men, or whether merlin had been weird around him. he had no idea what he had done wrong and that was much much more scarier than knowing what he had done wrong. because that way he could fix it.

“merlin?” he heard, a soft voice approaching. when he looked up, he saw hunith, a soft smile on her face.

she sat down besides merlin and grabbed a jar, beginning to help him put the oats into the multiple jars, staying quiet for a few minutes. merlin could tell she was biting her tongue. and hunith could tell that merlin was too.

merlin desperately wanted to ask, but he didn’t want to seem as if he were a child. or as if he was so pitiful that he needed to beg for help. he just say quietly, still, and continued putting the oats into the jars. but hunith knew him all too well.

she knew when her little warlock was upset, or when he was tired. or if he was overworked or stressed. and she could just about sense all of that in him. and it hurt her badly to feel and see that about her little merlin.

“what’s wrong?” she asked, looking over at her son whilst still helping him, pushing one of the jars to the side as she had finished filling it. she then grabbed another one and continued, making sure to focus on the conversation more than the oats. she knew arthur didn’t like them that much anyway, so it didn’t matter as much. it wouldn’t have anyway if he liked them.

“i told arthur i like men.”

hunith looked over at merlin with a confused look. merlin must’ve thought he had already told her, but he most definitely had not. which confused her further. but she wouldn’t show confusion from the idea of him forgetting he hadn’t told her. because she was his mother and she loved him. she was going to support him and love him, even if she was surprised by the new news. but it didn’t upset her in any way. all she felt was a swelling sense of pride right in her heart, and she knew she was beyond proud of him and who he was.

“how did he react?” she asked, biting her tongue. she clearly wanted to say something else but had to stop herself, knowing it would be better for merlin to continue himself. she just wanted to help him out, and rushing him with what she thought would not help him at all.

“he said christmas was good, spending it with a friend like me. and then he looked at me weirdly and just.. got up and left.” merlin explained, sighing quietly. hunith could tell that he was beyond tired, and upset too. and it hurt her to see him hurt.

hunith raised an eyebrow very slightly, nodding, mainly to herself, as she continued packing the oats into the jars, considerably slower now as she was trying to think. she didn’t want to say anything that would upset merlin. she’d never do that.

“and now? now he’s ignoring me.” merlin said, quickly, “he was going to come inside and then i walked over and he left.”

“he’s stubborn, no?” hunith asked, looking over at merlin as she gradually came to a stop with the oats and jars.

merlin snorted. “of course he is. he’s a pendragon, mother.”

hunith nodded, once again, mainly to herself, and looked over at the young warlock with a thoughtful look. she had thought she had seen it all. the way that merlin and arthur enjoyed each other’s company and were always happy to be together and do work together or tease each other.

she had no idea what to say. she didn’t want to just spill her thoughts onto merlin because that would be unfair on him.

so what would she do?

Chapter Text

“i don’t know what i did.” merlin admitted, sighing as he looked over at hunith.

hunith already knew what was wrong and she knew she should tell the young warlock. but she felt as if she couldn’t. as if it was no longer her place. so she sighed quietly and continued to stuff more and more oats into more jars, beginning to stack them up on the little shelves that she had set up a while back. they were already lined with beans but she knew she needed to put the oats in. and she was keeping her milk in a small glass jug.

merlin continued with the oats too, looking down as he finished putting the last few oats into the last jar. once that was done, he stacked it alongside where hunith had been stacking them on the shelves and sat down once again, cleaning the oats that had unfortunately dropped to the ground or had been completely missed.

“do you want to know what i think?” she asked, a soft, almost cautious, tone in her voice. as if she was beyond hesitant to even speak her mind on the topic, which very slightly confused the young warlock.

he nodded and she continued, “i think arthur means a lot to you. i can see how much he needs you. and how much you need him.” she spoke, quietly, brushing off a few oats from her clothing, speaking every word with the utmost caution, “like i’ve said before.. you’re like two sides of the same coin, merlin.”

merlin nodded a bit. “i know that. i’ve been told that so many times, but i don’t understand it. if we’re destined together to build camelot up, me in secret, why is he ignoring me?” merlin asked.

and suddenly, hunith connected everything. merlin had been told he was destined to build camelot alongside arthur. not in secret. not as a secret sorcerer or warlock. she hadn’t realised how wrong she had interpreted it, but now that merlin had said that, she thought she finally understood.

“you told arthur you like men?” she asked, peeking over at him, receiving a nod in response.

hunith hesitated, once again, before looking down, fiddling with her fingers. she was clearly anxious to tell merlin what she had on her mind and that confused merlin more than he ever thought he could’ve imagined.

“merlin..” she began, speaking calmly and quietly, now as if she were trying to console the young warlock, which once again left him confused. “i think that arthur..” she trailed off.

“yes?” he asked, almost impatiently. whatever she had to say, he wanted to know desperately. he trusted his mother more than most people and her opinion was one of the most important opinions to him, and he’d always do his best to listen to them and heed her words. not that he was very good at that anyway.

“i think that arthur has feelings for you. romantically.”

merlin’s eyes widened, his mouth gaped into an o shape and his whole body went almost rigid from pure and absolute shock. he had never heard his mother say something so ridiculous.

“no, no way. that’s ridiculous.”

“it’s not, merlin,” she began, “you’re destined to build camelot up together. what if that’s in a way we never thought of? and he seemingly cares about you a lot more than you see, but i see it. i see it all.”

“that’s crazy, there’s no way!” he exclaimed, his disbelief consistent as he continued with his protests.

“merlin, listen to me. you and arthur are meant to be together. and you always believed that was you by his side, protecting him with your magic. what if it isn’t just that?” she paused to take a hesitant sigh, as if she were nervous, “i’ve seen the way he looks at you.. and i’ve seen the way you look at him. whether you realise it or not, merlin. i think you’ve fallen in love with him. and i think he’s fallen in love with you too.”

merlin couldn’t bear to listen to anymore of it, he simply got up suddenly, and grabbed the jacket closest to him, quickly rushing out of the door. he hadn’t even realised it was arthur’s red leather one until he was at the start of the woods, but he just sighed from defeat and slid it over his body.

it was much too big for him. merlin wasn’t skinny to the point where he had no muscles, but she wasn’t as large and as strong as arthur. his arms lacked the muscle that arthur’s were full of. and his body definitely lacked the height. merlin’s physique was a lot more boy-ish, whereas arthur’s was manly.

yet another reason why merlin didn’t believe arthur could have feelings for him. arthur had never shown any signs of feelings for any men that merlin could see, and even if he did like men, why would he go for merlin? merlin, who he thinks is an idiot, who constantly makes mistakes around him. merlin who is a boy.

merlin wouldn’t let his thoughts overwhelm him, he simply confused the journey through the woods to the small, bare area of land that he and will used to camp at during night on their birthdays, as an almost party for the two of them.

once he reached the land, he looked around, wanting to make sure that nobody was there. nobody could see him doing this. and arthur was still out there somewhere, and merlin didn’t necessarily fancy getting caught by the crown prince who, currently, apparently is in love with the young warlock, and who hates magic alongside his father. he did not want arthur to see him talking to a dragon at all.

so once he had made sure the area was safe and secure, he stepped towards the middle of the bare land, his feet crunching the leaves that lay under his feet, he looked up at the sky and closed his eyes, taking a deep breath.

and then he was yelling. yelling as loud as he could. calling to his kin, calling for help from the one who had helped guide him from the beginning. who had always given him warnings to heed.

he could hear the faint flapping of wings in the distance.

Chapter Text

kilgharrah set down on the plain land in front of merlin, leaning down closer to him, almost as if he were inspecting him with his bright golden eyes, two that merlin had always found to be calming and relaxing, as if he had known them his whole life. but after all, they were kin.

merlin noticed the way that the old dragon’s wing seemed slightly battered, still looking as if it were fine though, and the way that his eyes still gleamed was brightly as he had seen before. brighter than they had ever been before, whilst kept underneath the castle of camelot under uther’s rule. merlin had decided to release him and knew he had done the right choice once he had been able to get him under his rule. once he had found out that he was the last dragonlord.

“you called me, young warlock.” he spoke out, in a loud and almost boastful voice.

he had never forgotten the way that kilgharrah’s words would run through his spine. as if merlin knew he needed to take heed of them and to trust them, but most of the time, he didn’t do it. merlin was stubborn and did what he believed to be correct, even if the outcome was completely negative. but he always tried his best.

merlin nodded slightly, looking up at the old dragon with an anxious look, as if he was too anxious to even have called him there. which made sense due to the fact that anyone from ealdor could simply walk out and find them. but merlin was confident that they wouldn’t.

“i want to speak to you.”

the great dragon looked at merlin with an intuitive look, yet a knowing one all the same. as if he knew already. most of the time, he did know. kilgharrah knew the most of what happened.

“about arthur?” the dragon asked, slowly kneeling down once more to look at him.

“my mother tells me he has feelings for me. but my destiny is to protect him and build camelot with him.”

“have you interpreted it correctly, young warlock? your destiny is changing.”

merlin tilted his head very slightly, confused on what he had meant by that. the dragon always knew what to say. but he felt as if kilgharrah was mirroring hunith’s previous words. an incorrect interpretation of the meaning of his destiny. it was something he had never considered before, and he didn’t want to consider it now. but as he looked up at the dragon once more, he allowed the confusion to show on his face as bright at the stars he would be able to see at night. as bright as the dragon’s eyes.

“how? how is it changing?” he asked, with an urgency that the dragon had heard from him many times before. kilgharrah was not a stranger to merlin’s urgency and need to know things.

“that is for you to find out, young warlock. but know this, your destinies and intertwined further than i believed. and they are changing.”

“but that’s impossible-“ merlin quickly exclaimed, eyes wide from pure shock. it looked as if he had been more confused than before which annoyed merlin. he hated being confused and that was the one thing that made him angriest.

“no, it is not, young warlock. heed my words, you are going to help arthur build camelot. but not in the way you think.”

“how then?” he asked, frowning from confusion, looking up at him with the same nervous look in his face.

kilgharrah took what seemed like a deep breath, but was most likely just him breathing calmly. “you and arthur are to rule over camelot. together. and bring peace during times meant to be peaceful. you will rebuild christmas. and rebuild arthur’s trust in magic.” it was simple, really. he had spoken calmly, as per usual, and was being overly thoughtful. as he usually was. that was the way he had to be when guiding the future saviour of camelot. future saviour in more than one way.

merlin’s eyes widened all of a sudden. he knew there was no way that that was true whatsoever. he and arthur wouldn’t rule over camelot together. not as kilgharrah was implying. it was mediocre and ridiculous, he couldn’t believe that. he wouldn’t believe that. but before merlin could speak, kilgharrah spoke first.

“you do not believe me?” he began, leaning down once more, “that is one of your many mistakes, young warlock. i have told you before, heed my words. always.”

merlin looked at him, staying quiet for the few seconds he stood there.

“i’ll rule over camelot alongside arthur, his mother did so with uther?”

kilgharrah did nothing but close his eyes and nod his head solemnly. he had already given away too much, but this needed to happen for the future of camelot. the two future leaders of camelot had changed its destiny and their own, and it was time they found their way onto the path of their new destiny. their new destiny which they now absolutely, 100% shared together.

merlin didn’t even know what to say. how could he say anything. he simply just nodded quietly, as if he were trying to make as much sense of the situation that he could at the moment, and it left him more confused than he had been previously.

the young warlock looked up at him, a frown on his face before he quickly turned, rushing off from the great dragon that stood before him.

and he made his way back to ealdor, trying to make his way back as fast as he could. he didn’t want to be in the woods where he had learned of his supposed new destiny. he didn’t want to feel those thoughts engulfing him more and more.

he couldn’t let that happen.

and all he could think of, is that his new destiny was to be a king of camelot. a king of camelot alongside arthur. which involved being in love with arthur. and the only thoughts that were flying around his brain uncontrollably, were ones he didn’t want to imagine were what he’d actually think of.

hunith had been completely correct.

well, at least he thought.

Chapter Text

once kilgharrah had left, merlin realised how stressed he currently was. if kilgharrah had been correct, everything was going to change and he was going to probably lose his mind. but the dragon had never ever been wrong before and that simply upset merlin further. he didn’t want to believe that arthur had feelings for him, because that would’ve been absurd, surely.

and as merlin began to walk back, he took a deep breath before sighing loudly. his mind was so preoccupied that he hadn’t even noticed the trail of broken sticks surrounding his path whilst he slowly wandered back.

not until he heard a loud bang and was knocked to the ground. he gasped suddenly, trying to get as much breath as possible, and quickly rolled to the side, seeing who had got him. he could see a few of cenred’s men standing there and his eyes widened, suddenly muttering a spell to force them back, thrusting his hand forwards as they all smashed back against a few trees.

he quickly stumbled up on his feet and started to run back, looking behind him every few seconds to check, but before he had even realised it, he had tripped up and fell face forwards into the ground. he felt the skin at his forehead split open and could feel the warm blood already pooling at the cut. he just stumbled up once again and continued running, ignoring the metallic red that was slowly running down his face.

once he reached ealdor, he went directly to the small water fountain, pouring some water out into his hands as he splashed it against his face, gently rubbing at the places where he felt that the blood had reached, washing it off to the best of his ability. which wasn’t very good with just his hands, cold water and nothing to see his face with, but he did his best with what he had. that’s how he usually always did such things.

once he had finished cleaning it, he decided that he wanted to try to talk to arthur. not for his own personal gain or anything, just because of cenred’s men having been so close to ealdor during christmas. surely they were planning something. merlin had known cenred as a brutal, unjust and, to be honest, a horrible ruler for sixteen years of his life and he had assumed he would take advantage of whatever he could, even if that meant ealdor.

deep down, merlin knew he wouldn’t. because cenred knew that ealdor had a connection with camelot, he didn’t know that it was because of merlin, but he most likely wouldn’t threaten it during christmas because camelot would be right on their tail, causing them trouble.

but that was yet another thing that merlin realised. whenever he had trouble, arthur was almost always willing to help him. he’d go behind his fathers back and do whatever that would aid merlin, even coming to ealdor for christmas when he didn’t want to.

he had thought arthur would’ve enjoyed being at camelot, seeing the trees that people had hung baked bread on, or the way that they had hung candles along strings as if to make lights, or the way that they hung mistletoe and holly everywhere.

or even inside the castle. where there was a great feast and joyous calls and singing, where morgana would dress up and arthur and her would bicker mindlessly. where merlin would serve until arthur would get too drunk and then tell merlin to sit down and have his own drink. even when people tried to get arthur under the mistletoe, because he and merlin had made a joke about counting how many people would try their best to do it with him due to the fact he was openly single.

once merlin had the idea in his head, that he was going to find arthur, he was dead set on it. he soon began to search around ealdor, going to people’s houses to see if he was helping out, to check the stables or even to see if he was out by the crops again. but he was nowhere to be found and that completely stressed him out.

he just wanted to talk to him.

sure, he was scared. christmas was a time of love and joy, and it was something that merlin would honour in his heart forever, but to have found such a thing out during the build up to christmas, that arthur had feelings from him, was something so unimaginable that he felt as if the bad mood he was currently in, could’ve completely ruined christmas for him.

he loved christmas. and as he thought of the idea of arthur having feelings for him, his head was spinning wildly. and he couldn’t control the way that his thoughts danced around his head viciously, leaving him in an almost dazed and confused state.

once he had decided he wasn’t going to find arthur at all, he just let out a deep sigh and began to head towards his little home in ealdor. he knew that hunith would be out collecting water and helping those of ealdor, so he went straight to the bag of fruit that he had brought from camelot and pulled an apple out, biting into it as he sat down.

and he just let his whirlwind of thoughts consume him. sitting there casually whilst eating an apple.

more thoughts than you could ever count were racing through his mind. arthur, arthur’s feeling, christmas, kilgharrah, cenred’s men, his own feelings, arthur knowing he likes men, his magic, missing camelot, not being with gaius, how good the apple was.

everything was just racing through, whether it was relevant to his current thought process or not. but he just knew that at this very moment, he couldn’t think straight at all.

not that he usually could at christmas. he was often either upset to be without hunith or way too excited to be with her.

so he just sighed and closed his eyes whilst sitting down, taking a deep breath before allowing himself to relax, attempting to calm his thoughts as well as he could.

that was something that arthur had taught him to do.

Chapter Text

as merlin sat inside the small room, he let out a deep sigh and looked around. he noticed the small jars that his mother had placed in the room since he had left, and smiled at them. he remembered the way he’d tuck away all the christmas notes that he got from her and then suddenly, an idea struck his head and he knew what he wanted to do.

if he could just write arthur a christmas letter, surely it would be okay. he could explain everything and wouldn’t even need to give it to him. so, pulling it out of the physician bag that gaius allowed merlin to borrow for the trip, merlin grabbed a piece of paper and a pen, trying to think through what to write.

once he had a brief idea of the things he wanted to say, he connected the pen to paper and allowed the words to flow out of his head and onto the paper.

‘dear arthur,

happy christmas. this is the first christmas i’ve really spent in ealdor with my mother since i traveled to camelot and became your servant. or friend.

i just wanted to say thank you, i don’t say it a lot. you won’t even think this letter is from me because of the things that you’ll hear from me in this, but this is truly and wholly merlin ambrosius and only merlin ambrosius. i don’t even know if you remembered that was my last name.

i’ve enjoyed being your manservant and becoming your friend. and i’ve enjoyed the jokes we have and the way that we are now good friends. you’ve been very good to me, better than most of nobility are to servants, because of a previous track record of such things.

you, arthur, are someone i should thank more than a thousand times. you’ve given me a place in camelot where i feel as if i belong. i told you that i didn’t feel i belonged in ealdor and now that i’m in camelot, i feel more comfort and happiness. i feel like i’m there for a purpose and i’m happy to serve you until the day i die. you’re my friend, and i wouldn’t have it any other way.

when we first met, i thought you were an utter prat. a royal prat, dollophead and clotpole. you were perhaps one of the most obnoxious people i had met, and i didn’t like you at first. but then your father made me your manservant after i saved you at that dinner and your father rewarded me as your manservant.

i’ve been confused recently, about quite a lot. i spoke to my mother about why you’ve been so odd with me. and maybe if it was because i told you that i like men. i don’t know why but my mother seems to think you have feelings for me. which confuses me a lot.

you, arthur pendragon, having feelings for me would be crazy. your father would go crazy if he discovered that. and not only that, but we’re both men. and i think that would be unforgivable in the eyes of your father.

i guess it makes sense, really.

you do a lot of stuff to please me. you came to ealdor when you didn’t want to because i wasn’t going to go without you. and you went to find that flower thing when i drank the poison for you.

i always thought it was my job to protect you, even if you don’t believe that’s my job. i like being by your side, arthur. and i’m willing to be by your side until the day i die.

and i suppose that’s maybe even the reason why i told you that i like men. because i trust you, more than most people in camelot. only gaius and gwen know that like men, and now you do. mainly because gwen kissed me by accident and i told her i didn’t like it.

but anyway, i trust you arthur. and maybe a bit of me wanted you to know that i like men, because maybe i thought something would come out of it.

sitting here, writing this, is difficult. i’m starting to realise things that i hadn’t realised before.

like your eyes. i hadn’t noticed them much before, to be honest. but they’re a nice blue. and when you look at me. it’s kind of nice to see that someone with such nice eyes is paying attention to me. and even your smile which is kind of weird.

i guess i like when you look at me. and i guess i really like’

merlin stopped writing after that, as if he had made one too many realisations. and he sighed before tucking the little letter into his pocket.

he then laid back onto the bed he had made previously with arthur and closed his eyes. he didn’t want to be awake at the moment, not when arthur was likely to return soon.

he didn’t want to meet his eyes after writing such things about them.

and he didn’t want to hear his voice.

Chapter Text

merlin woke up the next morning and looked around the little room, noticing that the bed arthur had slept on had definitely been slept in, but he was long gone by now, which caused merlin to be upset once again.

he sighed and sat up, looking over at the empty and ruffled bed, letting out a deep sigh.

he looked around in the room before sighing and standing up. he didn’t even want to look at after or find or see him if he was even there. he felt as if he needed to avoid the crown prince today, especially after writing the letter and getting so deep into it.

at the thought of the letter, his hand went straight to the pocket that the letter was currently tucked into, gently patting it with an anxious sigh, looking around once again.

he had already decided he was going to do the crops for the day.

and that was it.

he just did the crops.

Chapter Text

after merlin had finished with the crops, he decided that he most likely needed to go and see and feed the animals, mainly because that had been his job before he had realised arthur wasn’t going to show up to do the crops.

he just sighed and stood up, looking around with a content yet still unsatisfied look dancing across his face.

he could spot everything that he loved. the green trees that circled ealdor, and the brown dirt that he and his mother used to plant crops in, even the hole in the field that he would often fall in with his childhood friend for a laugh. he could see it all and had thought that he would be the happiest he could be. but, for some reason, he was more distressed than he thought he could ever be.

but again, he knew he had to put it behind him and continue working. sure, he had come to ealdor for the delights of christmas, but home was work, still. he actually didn’t have to do anything, but helping at ealdor made him feel even more at home than the friends he had there, in an odd way.

so, as he shuffled over to the small, broken down shed that they had by the field, he tossed a bag of crops in and brushed his hands down on his clothes. looking around with a quiet sigh.

he missed arthur. and he was willing to admit that right now.

arthur was currently sat in the middle of the woods that enclosed ealdor from the rest of others, holding his sword in his hand as he slashed at bushes and plenty of different things.

his head was spinning with absolutely wild thoughts and he couldn’t comprehend any of them, because he knew that all of the thoughts in his head were so wrong. not to him, but to his father.

his father could never condone him with a peasant, he just wouldn’t allow it. to see a servant as his son’s significant other would make uther lose his mind, and arthur was afraid to see that. purely afraid to see that.

but worse of all? his father would most likely have him hanged for that servant being a specific man. his own manservant. uther would probably have merlin’s head and then arthur’s.

but at least arthur could now admit to himself what he had been so afraid to admit before.

after seeing merlin so vulnerable, watching how softly he spoke about ealdor, how scared he was to admit he liked men and how kind he had been to arthur, there was simply no denying it. no matter how much it scared arthur and rocked him to the core.

arthur pendragon had feelings for merlin ambrosius.

and as that final confession danced around arthur’s head, pushing all other thoughts away as that was the one that wholly consumed him, he couldn’t hell but want to get as far away as possible from it. and to do that, he had to get as far away from merlin as possible. and he was most definitely willing to do that.

merlin had been walking towards the animals when he bumped into his friend, will, and had smiled slightly. not as brightly and widely as usual, but a smile was a smile, and merlin was at least trying to show that he was okay at the moment.

“merlin!” will exclaimed, smiling at him. but his smile faded a little as he noticed that merlin wasn’t okay. and that his smile was fake, “what’s wrong?”

“wrong?” merlin asked, feigning a confused tone as he looked at will with mock surprise, “i’m perfectly fine!”

will raised an eyebrow, looking at him with complete suspicion. he knew merlin wasn’t okay, and the last time he didn’t ask him, merlin left. and he didn’t want merlin to do anything drastic.

“what’s actually wrong, merlin? i know you.”

merlin sighed, “arthur.”

will looked angered almost instantly, like he instantly knew arthur had done something like hit merlin or hurt him. or even yelled at him. but merlin sighed once more.

“not like that, will. i like him.”

“of course you like him, dollophead, you’re his servant.”

“okay first of all, dollophead is my word, and second of all? not like that, will. like.. i have feelings for him.” merlin admitted, in an almost shaky tone.

he knew how much will despised noblemen ever since his father died in a fight against them, and he also knew that will took every chance to defy or offend any noblemen that he came across. and he had barely been respectful enough to arthur, and after hearing this? merlin was scared that will wouldn’t even want to be his friend anymore. or that he would treat arthur horrible after learning the news.

“oh.” will said, simply. “i thought that was obvious?”

“what?” merlin asked, a sudden urgency and shock in his voice as he looked as his best friend, face very visibly drowning in confusion.

“i assumed you two were together. i thought we were all just meant to know and not say anything, because he’s noble and all.” and even though will was trying to sound kind, he still spat out the word ‘noble’ with a tone which could only be described as full of distaste and anger.

“i know you don’t like him, will. but i do. i think i do. i think i love him.” merlin spoke, almost frantically, suddenly confessing everything that had been in his brain, “i really love his smile, will, and the way he looks at me with his eyes. and even the way he reacts when i call him fat.”

“you called him fat? awesome!” will exclaimed, lifting his hand up for a high five that merlin responded to almost instantly. it was basically their thing.

“help me, will.”

will raised an eyebrow. “you want my honest and brutal opinion?”

merlin simply nodded at that, knowing will would be truthful to him.

“i think you’re in love with arthur and i think he’s in love with you. and i hate noblemen, i hate them all. but this one is decent, i think. he helped your mother with the crops and that’s more than most would do. so don’t just stand here and confess how much you love him to me. confess it to him.”

and with that, merlin smiled widely, nodded and thanked will.

and then he was on his way back to the little home in ealdor that he hoped and hoped that arthur was currently in, his smile wide. he couldn’t wait to see arthur there.

he was so excited that he didn’t even consider the idea that something could go so terribly wrong at the last moment.

but he was always quite the optimist.

even if it never helped.

Chapter Text

merlin made his way back to the home quickly, ready to speak to arthur about what he could.

his feet stumbled and he nearly feel with every step, rushing towards his little house with a look of excitement and pure happiness on his face as he continued moving.

he looked around as he rushed towards the home and couldn’t help but notice the smiles on people’s faces. he noticed how one of will’s new friends was hanging holly up on their home, and how olwyn was cooking her usual christmas pudding with the oats and milk that her son, madoc, would go and buy from camelot when he had the time to venture up.

he saw the happiness everywhere, and even on his own face as he passed a mirror outside of olwyn’s home. there was a wide smile dancing across his lips and tugging at his cheeks, he could even see the way that his cheeks wrinkled into little dimples as he was smiling so widely. and it was all because he was ready to admit what he had been feeling to arthur for a long, long time. sure, he hadn’t realised that he had feelings for him before, but merlin knew how good he felt when he was with arthur, and it was an undeniable feeling.

he couldn’t help but suddenly stop. with the thought of arthur causing his complete happiness, merlin’s heart raced and stopped all at the same time. had he been in too over his head? he lived in camelot. a time where it was ruled by a spiteful and hateful king, who was angered with anything unnatural. if the king was so easily angered by magic, something which was woven deep into the fabrics of the earth, how would he react to a lowly servant confessing his love for his one and only son. his only chance for grandchildren.

and as he sat there, he thought of all the crazy possibilities. that he could even be able to confess to arthur. but if it was his destiny, his true and rightful destiny, surely they would be able to overcome the struggles.

“merlin!” he heard, as he was standing dead centre of the land of ealdor. he turned his head and saw olwyn and madoc, the two of them holding one christmas pudding each, in a small bowl.

he smiled. he had always liked olwyn and madoc, the two of them were constantly kind to him when he was younger, and madoc taught him how to shear sheep and to pick and sort crops. madoc was like an older brother to merlin. and thought was strengthened as madoc and his mother walked over, madoc throwing a playful arm over merlin’s shoulder, holding the pudding with his other hand.

“i missed you, buddy. i didn’t know you were back until will came and told me about your prince.” madoc snickered, grinning as olwyn rolled her eyes playfully, “so, mother and i thought we’d give you a pudding, one for you and hunith, and one for arthur.”

merlin’s gaze softened and he smiled at the both of them with a happy smile, as per usual. he could smell the pudding full of oats and with fresh berries picked from the bushes surrounding ealdor, smiling at the sweet smell of them both, the smell wafting through the air.

“thank you so much, olwyn, madoc. it’s really sweet of you both, he’ll love the pudding.” merlin said, quickly, holding the two puddings in one hand each, keeping them close to his chest. he could feel the heat radiating off of them. and it made him feel warmer than he already was feeling.

“now go on,” olwyn began, a soft and gentle tone in her voice, “go find your prince, merlin. and make ealdor proud.”

merlin looked between the mother and son before nodding his head quickly, smiling once more before rushing off, still clutching the pudding close.

and even though merlin knew he had to see arthur and talk to him, he found it extremely difficult to resist the amazing smell of the ealdor’s famous olwyn christmas pudding. he hadn’t had it in about three years and he was craving it badly. but he knew it had to wait and he continued on.

once he reached home, he rushed to the small dining area, where he placed both puddings down on the table, and looked around quickly. he noticed arthur hadn’t been in there at all, because there was a bowl of cold, uneaten porridge, and no matter how much arthur despised the taste of the rather bland oats, in his opinion, he had enough manner to not just leave it there for hunith to discover and realise that he disliked the food that she had been preparing for him.

merlin very carefully grabbed two cloths, placing them both over one pudding each, so that they wouldn’t go cold, and pushed them over near the jars of oats that he had previously packed up with hunith before. he then took another look around, checking the table, before heading to the room where the two had been staying in.

he had expected to see arthur sitting there, something like his head in his hands. he had thought he’d see arthur look up at him and smile so widely that the skin around his eyes creased and his eyes looked brighter than they already had. or he at least thought he’d get a playful comment and a ruffle of the hair, even a stupid, snide punch to the arm.

but all merlin saw was his blanket, his pillow and his bag. arthur’s stuff was gone. his things had clearly been packed away and he had even taken his own things. which left merlin to wonder. where had he gone? had he just lost him. at that thought, his heart sunk. and his mind went back to that ring.

it must’ve been that. arthur had probably agreed to come to ealdor to see how a servants life worked. because he must’ve been proposing to gwen. and wanted to see how her life was.

but no, that couldn’t be right. arthur was merlin’s destiny, merlin was to be a king of camelot alongside arthur. and he knew that now. he not only trusted in his instinct, but in his mother’s, kilgharrah’s, will’s, olwyn’s and madoc’s. he trusted in his friends. and he trusted in himself.

he wasn’t going to let arthur slip through his fingers so easily, not when he had finally come to terms to the feelings he felt for him.

no, not that easily.

Chapter Text

merlin had been pacing around the little home for the last twenty minutes. he knew he had to go after arthur, but to leave his mother the night before christmas? he just wasn’t sure how he could do that without seeing a disappointed look on her face.

so he waited for hunith to come back. and when she did, she was rushing in with eyes wide full from what seemed to be shock.

“merlin!” she called out, rushing over to him. “merlin, it’s arthur! he left!”

merlin frowned. “i know..”

at that, hunith calmed. and she went quiet as she always was. looking at merlin with a solemn expression, she hesitated and stepped back. motioning that she’d be just a second with one finger, she moved into where her bed was and pulled something wrapped in brown paper and then tied with some string. she handed it to him carefully.

“merry christmas, my little ambrosius. now go find arthur. he’ll need you on christmas day.”

merlin looked down at the small brown paper and very slowly ripped at it to open it. when he saw what was inside, he gasped a little, looking up at hunith with a smile. it was the usual. she had given him his usual orange and note. he pulled the note out and tucked it into his pocket, to keep it safe, and handed the orange back to her.

“here, you eat this. i’m sure you’ll appreciate it more than i will.”

hunith smiled softly at him, holding it between both of her hands before looking down at it. she let out what seemed like a happy sigh and gently handed it back to him. she was still smiling.

“give it to arthur when you see him,” she said, smiling with the same smile as he usually did. “from me.”

merlin gave a curt nod and then kissed her cheek quickly. he then rushed into the room where he had his makeshift bed set up and began to pack it away in one of his bags. once he had finished packing everything away, he took one last look around the room. the gorgeous box he had seen only days ago was sat in the corner of the room and merlin’s eyes widened.

arthur must’ve dropped it or forgotten it. he leant down slowly and looked around cautiously, as if arthur would pop out and yell at him, but he never did. because he had left.

when he carefully picked up the intricately carved small box, he tucked it into his pocket immediately. he didn’t want to look at the precious, yet simply band, with the small green stone in it. not when it had entranced him so easily previously. he knew how gorgeous it was and he didn’t want his mind to get caught up on such thoughts once again.

he sighed and looked around the small, cramped room once more, and then threw the bag over his shoulder, clutching it closely in his hand.

the young warlock then looked down, sighed, and stepped out of the room. hunith was standing there smiling.

“are you ready to go?” she asked, looking him up and down quickly to make sure he looked nice enough to see arthur. “i brought your horse, stark, out, it’s waiting outside, eoin did the girth and everything for you.”

merlin couldn’t help but smile at that and he nodded, stepping outside of the small house.

he hadn’t expected to see the majority of ealdor standing there, smiling and waving at him. he simply smiled back, his heart melting on the spot.

he waved to a few of his friends, especially will, madoc and olwyn, and then quickly mounted stark, rubbing the side of her neck softly to let her know it was all safe.

just as he was about to kick the sides of stark to get the chestnut horse moving, hunith yelled out and rushed outside.

“merlin! merlin! don’t forget the pudding!”

hearing that, his face went red and he gave olwyn a look as if to show that he was forgetful, and smiled sheepishly as hunith handed the two to him, both wrapped up in cloth and string.

“thank you.” he said, simply, before tucking them into his back.

merlin then quickly kicked the side of stark, listening to the horse whinny before it began moving, and he waved off as he rode off into the woods.

he could hear all of his friends calling out goodbyes and good lucks to him, and it was suddenly aware to him how obvious that he had been in love with arthur was to all of them. he didn’t even know but everyone did.

whilst riding out, he looked around all of the woods that he had grown up venturing into, and he could only imagine going on a picnic with arthur in them. or throwing mud at arthur and him chasing after him.

and just as he turned to face forwards, stark whinnied louder and started cantering faster than before, and merlin smiled to himself.

he was excited to see arthur. he was still nervous and scared, worried about messing up, but he had been told countless times that arthur was his destiny in more than one way and he wasn’t going to give up now, not after he had realised how he had felt for arthur. he couldn’t go back now, not after what he knew about himself and arthur.

and just once more, he let his mind wander back to the ring. if he was destined to rule alongside arthur, as a king, was the ring for him? could he even imagine himself wearing such a beautiful thing. he couldn’t even muster up the strength to think that arthur could, one day, put such a ring on his finger.

he couldn’t believe that arthur would want to put a ring on any man’s finger, but he was willing to risk it all to see arthur and to confess. because arthur was one of the most important people in his life, and he had been able to admit that for a while. but to finally be able to admit and realise that he had feelings for the soon to be king was a whole new thing.

and truthfully? merlin couldn’t wait for it. he couldn’t wait for the validation it would bring, whether arthur reacted positively or negatively, because merlin would have yet another massive secret off of his back. for years, he had lied about liking women and his magic. and he had been so oblivious to his feelings.

but now? at this very moment, as merlin was riding back to his home, his real home, and could feel the wind flying through his hair at hitting his face, gusts of fresh air flying through his lungs, merlin would admit it.

he finally felt free. more free than ever before.

and it was all because of arthur.

Chapter Text

merlin continued riding down to camelot, clutching onto his bag closely, looking around with an almost frantic yet excited look. he was so close to camelot, definitely less than an hour ride, and he was beyond excited.

he could hear the loud singing from the lower towns from such a distance away. at least he thought he could, it was most likely the excitement getting to his head.

he loved ealdor at christmas, it was something he wouldn’t trade for the world. it was so homely and loving, and everybody knew everybody, but at camelot? at camelot, life was new and different. seeing all the lower townspeople celebrate and be happy, it was a completely new atmosphere and it made merlin beyond happy.

it was early morning. the dewy sun was slowly rising and merlin could feel it shining against his face, and he knew he was about to get red in the face, perhaps from embarrassment and sunburn, either one worked and would definitely happen.

he held onto the stirrups of stark tightly, not too close to him to restrict the horse’s movement, and continued riding on, seeing the castle of camelot not too far away.

only then did merlin realise it was actually christmas. he had rode through the whole of christmas eve and it was now christmas morning. yet he continued to ride with the orange, ring and letter he had wrote and forgotten about in his pocket. he let his mind run free whilst riding on, a rising trot which helped him see the castle up ahead.

once he rode into camelot, he reached the square where a knight was waiting there, an eyebrow raised. merlin recognised it as lancelot.

“merlin!” he yelled, quickly stepping forwards to the young warlock. “what are you doing here?” he added, looking at merlin.

“i need to see arthur!”

“it’s christmas, merlin, you’re meant to be in ealdor with hunith!” lancelot exclaimed, completely confused.

not only was he confused by the arrival of merlin, but he had previously been confused about the arrival of arthur, who had shown up in a horrible mood, on christmas eve, without merlin.

arthur has shown up and dismounted his horse, walking inside to his chambers without a word to anyone, and, from lancelot’s knowledge, he hadn’t left since then.

“lancelot, i have to go see arthur, it’s important.”

lancelot’s eyes widened, and he looked as if he had seen a ghost. instantly, his mind went to the worse.

“oh my god,” he paused, leaning down and whispering quickly, “did he find out you have magic? is that why he came back? merlin! why are you back here if he knows!”

“no,” merlin quickly exclaimed, looking at lancelot with eyes wide as his had been, “he doesn’t know about that, okay?”

“oh. you finally realised you’re in love with him?” he asked, looking at merlin with an expectant look.

merlin’s eyes widened once again, looking at lancelot with a look of fake surprise and shock, a playful smile on his face.

“a man never tells his secrets.”

“merlin, i know you have magic. that’s your biggest secret.”

merlin rolled his eyes playfully and then shoved lancelot’s arm in a playful manner, but he couldn’t hide the smile from his face as he knew how lancelot already knew.

and then almost everything clicked. the teasing that elyan and gwaine had participated in, and the way that everyone would give the two of them looks when they were together, even gaius. they all knew that merlin was completely in love with arthur. before merlin even got to know himself.

but he did know it now.

he knew how he loved the way that arthur’s eyes wrinkled slightly when he laughed, and how loud and comforting his laugh was, even if it was boastful, or even how his eyes looked in the sunlight because the light would reflect off of the dazzling blue, or even the way that his teeth were slightly crooked but it just made his smile so much better. merlin had completely fallen for the soon to be king and he hadn’t even realised it.

sure, he had known it was his destiny to look after arthur. but to be honest, merlin wouldn’t have done so much for him if he didn’t feel so deeply for him. and he was finally realising that, with the help of all those who were able to offer it. it melted merlin’s heart to actually think that he had realised he was in love with arthur. and to be so close to admitting it was something that he never thought he’d do, never mind admitting that he actually fancied the guy to himself.

“i need to go speak to him.”

lancelot nodded slightly, hiding his excitement within him. he had seen his two friends pine over each other for a long, long time, and it was amazing to see that the two of them finally had an actual chance, and it excited him beyond words that were explainable.

“he’s in his chambers. he hasn’t left since he got back.” lancelot explained, looking at merlin with a somewhat solemn look, looking at him calmly. “he arrived in an awful mood, left his horse right out in the open and rushed up to his chambers. didn’t even explain anything. i just assumed that it was about your magic.”

merlin hesitated slightly.

“i’m going to speak to morgana, i’ll be back.”

and with that, he rushed up to morgana’s chambers. he passed gwen on the way and smiled and waved at her. he then got to her chambers and knocked onto the door, entering once he heard morgana call out a soft ‘come in!’

when he stepped in, morgana tilted her head, purely confused. she was most likely confused that merlin was back.

“what are you doing here? you and arthur are meant to be in ealdor?”

“i’m in love with arthur.” merlin said, quickly, before he could stop himself, looking at morgana with a hesitant look. “and i need your help.”

and with that, morgana gave him the best advice she could, whilst smiling softly and happily at him, glad that the young warlock had finally realised his feelings, and on christmas at most.

merlin thanked her and moved forwards to give her a hug but saw mistletoe above them, and his eyes widened, causing morgana to chuckle softly.

she leant forwards and kissed his cheek, smiling softly at him once again.

“good luck, merlin.”

and with that, he nodded and rushed off, ready to finally admit to arthur something that had taken himself to admit for so long.

he was no longer scared.

Chapter Text

as merlin was on his way to go see arthur at his chambers, and to confess his feelings for him, he took a deep breath and began heading down to the square. he realised he needed to put stark away.

once he got to the chestnut horse, he took hold of its reigns and walked it to the stables, going over what he would say to arthur in his head, having wanting it to be perfect. once he got to the stables, he took the riding equipment off of stark, and put it all away gently patting him on the side of his neck. he then smiled and whispered a quick ‘wish me luck, starky.’

he then smiled at stark and looked around the stables. it was almost as if he were savouring the time he had in there. he just had an undeniably horrible feeling in his gut and was scared in case something went horrible and he wasn’t allowed to be near arthur or in these stables.

but as he looked up and saw a little piece of mistletoe hanging from stark’s stable, he couldn’t help but smile. and he felt like it was a sign that he needed to rush straight to arthur and tell him exactly how he felt. most people probably wouldn’t interpret it that way but after hearing morgana’s advice, merlin would interpret anything like that.

“oh merlin,” she had said, “you’re in love with arthur. soon enough, you’ll look at everything and it’ll tell you about arthur. you’ll think about him and feel the need to speak with him. it’s how love works, here, and you’ll feel it once you’ve realised it. now go talk to him and tell him how you feel, you’d be a great king.”

merlin had smiled at her and listened. he hasn’t necessarily taken it seriously but now, looking at that mistletoe and the few red beads scattered around in strings, merlin couldn’t help but think of how arthur hadn’t had a proper christmas before, and he then realised that it was happening.

morgana had been absolutely correct, merlin would look at anything and be reminded of arthur. because of course he would, he was in love with the soon to be king. and the young warlock felt the need to waste time no longer, he needed to get it off of his chest.

merlin then gently patted stark once more before looking around, beginning to head back to gaius’ chambers, where he had left his bags. he knew gaius was out getting herbs and that he wouldn’t see him, which was perfectly fine by merlin.

when he got to the chambers, he rushed to his bag and rummaged in it, pulling out the two christmas puddings. he took the cloth off of one and folded it, placing the cloth and pudding on the dining table so gaius would have a treat to come back to, and he held the other pudding closely in his arms, already knowing that he wanted to give it to arthur.

he then quickly felt around his jacket pocket to make sure he had the ring and sighed from relief when he realised he did. he wasn’t even sure if it was for him but he knew that arthur wouldn’t be too happy about losing a ring so simplistic yet so beautiful. it must’ve cost him a lot of money no matter what, and merlin knew that the right thing would be to give it back to him.

so, holding the pudding in his arms, merlin walked out of the court physician’s chambers and made his way to arthur’s chambers instead.

and he tried his best to avoid everyone on the way, because he knew his cheeks would burn bright red if he was stopped by anyone and they asked what he was doing or why he was back so early. he also knew that they’d know immediately and he couldn’t take such embarrassment if arthur were to reject him.

before he could even think of it, the young warlock was stood in front of arthur’s chambers.

he knew arthur had been inside since he had gotten back to camelot, and to be honest, he was slightly scared to open the door, or even knock in it. he noticed that arthur had placed a small wreath on it though, and that made him smile slightly. the crown prince was getting in the christmas spirit. and as if that were enough for merlin to be confident, he took a big, deep breath, and raised his hand, readying to knock on the door.

what he hadn’t expected, however, was for the door to swing right open just as he moved to knock. and because of that, he fell forwards.

“oomf-“ he grunted out, as he fell into a solid chest. he didn’t even think about moving up or moving off of said person, he just huffed.

“merlin?” he heard, and he quickly jumped up, blue eyes meeting blue eyes. and suddenly there was a storm of thoughts in both of their heads, both unable to control such things dancing so violently yet gorgeously through each of their minds.

merlin noticed the way that arthur’s gaze softened when the soon to be king noticed the look of anxiousness on the young warlock’s face, and the way that merlin scrambled off of him as if he were nervous to touch him.

“what are you doing here?” arthur asked, confused as to why merlin wasn’t at ealdor, and also slightly nervous to be near him after realising his feelings for him.

“it’s christmas. and i’d like to spend christmas with a friend.” merlin began, hesitantly, “and i realised, while we were in ealdor, that it wasn’t just a friend i liked spending christmas with. i liked spending christmas with you.”

arthur’s mouth opened to speak but merlin simply continued, the way he always did when he couldn’t stop talking, “and i told you i like men, arthur. but i didn’t tell you.. that i like you. that i love you.. or- or that i’m in love with you.”

arthur was in complete shock, looking down at the man he had fallen for as he confessed the same feelings to his face.

“and you left this in ealdor.” merlin said, quickly, pulling the ring out and handing it to arthur. arthur just ran his fingers across the box.

what merlin hadn’t noticed, was that the letter he had previously written for arthur had dropped out, and arthur had leant down to pick it up. merlin’s eyes widened as the blonde began to read the letter, eyes scanning it as he did so.

merlin had expected him to react negatively, or to make fun of the young warlock, but his smile just grew and his eyes brightened slightly.

when he looked up from the letter and to merlin, he noticed the pudding wrapped in cloth that was in his arms, and asked what it was. merlin had told him it was a christmas special and handed it to him shyly. which was weird for arthur to see because he had never seen merlin act so shy before.

and as arthur stepped forwards to say something, his head hit a little thing above the door. the two of them both looked up at it and smiled.

“s’pose i have to kiss you now?” arthur asked, grinning. “because i want to.”

“no, you don’t kiss under that, you clotpole.” but before merlin could reply, arthur had pulled him close and dipped him back.

he connected their lips in a soft, and long awaited kiss, a smile spreading across both of their lips as they smiled against each other.

and even though it wasn’t the norm, and arthur had completely mistaken it as a branch of mistletoe for the two to kiss under.

the young warlock and once and future king shared a kind and loving kiss.

underneath a sprig of holly.