Summary: Merlin/Arthur. At Christmas there is light and love and... fluff

For Daily, have a wonderful Christmas omouto-chan xoxo

(I'm not entirely sure they have Christmas in the Merlinverse... nevertheless...)

Give and Take

Arthur couldn't help smiling as he blinked his eyes open to see a very different room to the one he fell asleep in. For once Merlin had gone above and beyond the task Arthur had given him and it made the Prince wonder if his servant was going to be more useless than usual for the rest of the day to return order to the universe. The entirety of Arthur's bedchamber was strewn with garlands of holly, tastefully decorative leaves, pinecones and sweet-smelling flowers that filled the room with the fresh scent of the woods; the scent that Arthur associated with freedom from so many mornings waking to it while out hunting. Delicate, shining silver and gold foil creations that Arthur made a note to ask Merlin about later hung strategically to catch the first rays of sunlight filtering from the window, the rays setting their every edge afire and lighting the dust motes. The air shimmered.

Arthur sat admiring his surroundings as he slowly shook away the heavy mantle of sleep, another task effortlessly achieved when Merlin quite literally banged into the room. Rubbing the shoulder that had accidentally impacted with the heavy wooden door, Merlin looked to the bed to see Arthur sitting up and looking back at him. Merlin grinned.

"Awake then?"

"Obviously. No one could sleep through the noises you make."

Merlin laughed as he made his way across the room to prepare Arthur's clothes for the day. "Yeah, I could tell by the way you slept through this," he said as he waved a hand absently at the decorated room.

"I might have been pretending. You don't know I wasn't!" He added at Merlin's snort.

"I trust the room is up to standards sire?" Merlin asked with a knowing smile tugging at his mouth as he set out Arthur's clothes.

"I suppose it will do," Arthur said aloofly, glaring when Merlin smirked. He attempted a forbidding expression but thought the grin that wouldn't stop tugging his lips up at the corners probably ruined the effect. "What are these?" Arthur asked partly as a distraction, partly out of curiosity as he indicated the hanging foil decorations with an upwards nod. Merlin looked as if he had to think for a moment – something which never boded well – before answering.

"Something Mum and I always had around at Christmas. Don't know exactly how they're made."

"What do you mean; you put them all over my chambers! You have to know how they're made!"

He didn't hear Merlin's murmur about how Arthur wasn't one to talk because the things Arthur didn't know could fill several of Gaius' most massive medical books. Lucky for Merlin that he wasn't heard really.

Spying the pile of presents that sat innocuously in the corner, Arthur's eyes lit up and he bounded forward... as regally as possible, forgetting his argument because it was Christmas morning and he had presents. The mound of gifts was large and he spied several he knew to be from his father, Morgana and Gwen amongst others sent by various noblemen and women. The one that caught his eye and quickly occupied all of his attention was the small, sparkling present – badly wrapped so the gift tag was unnecessary. It was an odd shape and covered with the same shiny foil that hung in strange twisting balls from the ceiling. Intrigued Arthur bent and reached for it, weighing it in his hands more carefully than he might have had he realised the gentleness of his own actions. He was so transfixed he missed the way Merlin stiffened, surprised tension written in every line of his body. With slightly clumsy fingers that were more used to the heavy weight of a sword than the wafer-thin foil he was gradually unpeeling, Arthur tried not to tear the wrapping as he uncovered his present.

Tipping the egg-shaped object from his left hand to his right and absently fingering the foil wrapper before putting it down on the closest surface to hand, Arthur's eyes roved the object curiously. It was obviously a pinecone, or had been at some point, but the usually coarse texture had been replaced with absolutely flawlessly smooth planes and curves. Smaller than a normal pinecone, each detail was none the less perfectly captured. What had so transfixed the Prince however was its translucency. It was like ice, completely clear so that he could see his slightly distorted hand through the latticework of pinecone fronds and yet it wasn't glass, couldn't have been; there was too much detail, fibres under the surface that no craftsman could have consciously created. Lifting it with both hands Arthur stepped to the window and watched as sunlight poured through the small structure, making it glow and casting specks of rainbow light across his palms.

He was only brought back to reality when he heard his breakfast tray being set on the table across the room and, turning, saw Merlin setting the table and trying to be covert as he studied the Prince for his reaction. Arthur almost thought he saw something akin to panic or fear chase the other emotions across Merlin's face and was struck by how much of an open book his manservant... his friend was. He really could hide nothing from Arthur.

"Where did you come across this?" Arthur was slightly alarmed at how breathless his voice sounded. Merlin may have been an open book but Arthur was supposed to be a Prince; impassive, unemotional. And here he was sounding like a girl. "I mean, did you buy it or make it or..." He was so pleased that his voice was relatively normal that time that he didn't notice Merlin floundering for an answer. He did notice the affected nonchalance of his reply. Merlin must have really cared about his reaction. Poor thing.

"Well, I sort of came across it..."

"Came across it where?"

Merlin clearly knew that tone of voice. It was the I'm-amused-but-don't-push-me voice. Arthur watched – not transfixed thank you very much – as Merlin swallowed heavily.

"It was something I brought from Ealdor." Merlin paused and Arthur watched as another emotion joined the myriad of others in Merlin's expressive blue eyes. Wistfulness? Longing? "I..."

"What?" Arthur prompted softly, because this was Merlin and he didn't have to be The Prince with Merlin – who barely paid heed to the title anyway – and Merlin was always so emotional. Arthur hardly knew how he'd managed to be so closed off before he'd met Merlin.

"It was my mum's. She gave it to me before I left home to come here. She said it was to bring me luck and light and..."


"Well... it does and I thought you might have better use of it than me, seems you're risking your neck every other day."

And there was that grin, the one that Arthur always responded to whether he wanted to or not and whether Merlin or anyone else noticed or not because he couldn't not react to that epitome of pure, unadulterated happiness. It fairly radiated off of Merlin when he smiled like that and Arthur found himself smiling back, he couldn't have stopped it and because he didn't have to be anything other than himself here he didn't try to. Merlin had given his luck to Arthur for Christmas. He'd given Arthur his light. But no, he hadn't, because Arthur could still see it in Merlin. And Merlin had been right; Arthur needed that in his life.

"Thank you."

Merlin beamed and Arthur – ignoring his embarrassment about the breathlessness that had made a sneaky reappearance – smiled back, cradling the sunlit pinecone in his hands and idly fingering the spiny edges.

There were many things Arthur didn't know. Arthur didn't know that Merlin honestly had no idea how the foil creations hanging from Arthur's ceiling were made because he was no scientist – Merlin couldn't explain how his magic worked. Arthur didn't know that the reason Hunith had had the pinecone in the first place was because Merlin had moulded it from snowflakes for her when he was five, willing it into existence with all the bright, happy feelings and good intentions of a child. Arthur didn't know that Hunith had found great comfort in it for years, seeing it as a source of luck and light and love, a son's love which had warmed her heart every time she'd seen it. A mother's love which had given Merlin the courage to leave his home when she had passed it back into her son's hands. The light which reminded him of all the good in the world when he thought he might drown in the bad. The luck which had led him here, to these rooms and these people. This person.

And now it held something new but no less powerful.

And Arthur didn't know that Merlin's Christmas was made perfect the second Arthur smiled at him.

But then, what Arthur didn't know could fill several books.

It's such a sentimental time of year... and shiny... very shiny... I like shiny...

Merry Christmas :) x