A/N: Merry (nearly) Belated Christmas! This would've been up this morning but ff wouldn't let me sign in :/
Thank you so much for reading and reviewing- sorry I haven't been keeping up with replies in all this mess, I promise it's nothing personal!
Anyway- this has been great guys and I should have a couple more presents ready for you soon after I regain internet at home :)
Merlin shifted nervously from one foot to the other, hovering outside the royal chambers. Clutched to his chest was a long, slim bundle- a present for Arthur made through his and Elyan's combined efforts. He'd just finished putting the last layer of spells on it last night in the armory, the energy expenditure causing him to fall asleep whilst polishing.
His face warmed at the memory of waking, covered in Camelot red, to find Leon completing his work. The knight had simply smiled and informed the servant he had the rest of the night off, but it was still embarrassing.
Clearing his throat and squaring his shoulders, Merlin walked in to find the king and queen just finishing up the breakfast he and Sefa had delivered not an hour past.
"Merlin," Arthur greeted, clearly surprised to see him, "didn't I just give you the morning off?"
"Ah, yes," he fidgeted.
"So why are you here, then?" The royal prompted.
"Well, you see I..." he gave up on explaining, simply sticking the package out in front of himself. "Here."
"You-" the blond blinked and coughed lightly into his fist. "You didn't have to get me anything, Merlin."
"I know," the servant agreed, now all-but pushing the object into his friend's arms.
"Just take it, Arthur," Guinevere advised, grinning at the two of them.
Hesitant fingers gripped the slender bundle, removing the fabric covering to reveal a red leather sheath with gleaming metal fittings. Arthur gasped at the beauty of it, staring closely at the fine etchings and patterns stamped into the leather. It almost looked like script the way the design flowed...
"It's for Excalibur," Merlin's shy voice interrupted his study.
Excalibur? Ah, yes, the idiot had taken to calling his sword by that name, completely ignoring all protests. Not that he actually disapproved- it felt right, actually- but he still felt compelled to object.
"This is fine work, Merlin. Where did you find it?"
"Oh, em, Elyan and I made it together."
Golden eyebrows rose, thoughts escaping before he could rein them in, "I'm impressed!"
Merlin beamed at him, then stared at the floor and shuffled his feet awkwardly, "Glad you like it."
When the silence between the two of them began to drag on Gwen came to the rescue.
"We have a gift for you as well, Merlin," she looked pointedly at her husband.
"Ah, yes. I had meant to leave it for this evening, but I suppose now will do." Carefully placing the sheath on the table he moved over to the changing screen and dragged a chest out from behind. "I'll have someone bring this to your chambers later, but go ahead and have a look."
He would have been suspicious, but this was from Gwen as well so the servant stepped forward and flipped the lid open to reveal stacks of winter gear. New blankets, warm clothes, and even a fur-lined cloak were neatly folded to pack the chest to the brim.
"I..." his lips opened and closed a few times, words failing him. "Thank you."
"Don't mention it," Arthur clapped him on the shoulder. "Can't have you freezing to death."
Guinevere had also risen from her chair, now enveloping her friend in a warm embrace. "Thank you, Merlin."
The warlock smiled, leaning down to whisper in her ear, "Your gift will have to wait, but for now I'll let you know that Arthur's new sheath will ensure he never bleeds so long as he wears it."
The queen turned her head and kissed his hair. She had known Merlin's secret for years now and had never regretted helping him keep it.
"Perhaps sometime soon you can tell him that."
"I hope so too," he replied, smile growing wistful.
"What are you two whispering about?" Arthur inquired, now standing right next to the pair.
"Wouldn't you like to know?" Merlin answered mischievously.
The king rolled his eyes, "Just get on with it before I change my mind and have you muck out the stables."
"Of course, My Liege," the servant gave an exaggerated bow and made good his escape.
That afternoon many poor families discovered mysterious packages outside their doors, opening them to find food and hardy winter clothing. The peasants had taken to calling it a miracle of the season, having no idea where the items had appeared from, and had promptly put the gifts to use.
Arthur had suspected this might happen. Well, Guinevere had, but it was the king who had Gwaine spy on the servant during his time off. No matter, he had prepared for this once his wife had mentioned the possibility. Thus that evening found him summoning the manservant to the stables.
"You can't possibly be expecting me to work in the stables now- there's no way I'll have time to wash before the feast!"
"Shut up and come here, Merlin," he moved over to the third stall, gesturing toward the roan mare within. "What do you think?"
The younger man cast a cursory glance at the beast, "Lovely. Now what's this about?"
Arthur sighed, "Take a better look than that, will you?"
Eyes wary, the servant slipped into the stall, greeting the softly nickering horse and petting her nose before giving a more thorough investigation.
"She's a fine animal, maybe even better than yours- in speed, anyway. Whose is she?"
"She's yours, Merlin."
"But- you've already given me a present."
"Which you then distributed to the populace;" he held up a hand to forestall excuse or denial, "this, on the other hand, is a gift you cannot sell or give away. She has the royal brand- as does the tack I had made for you."
"Arthur... this is too much, I can't-"
"Just accept it, Merlin," the king insisted, mirroring his wife's instruction from that morning.
"Thank you," the servant's voice was rough and he buried his face in the horse's mane to hide the tears in his eyes.
Arthur smiled and ruffled the servant's hair before turning toward the castle, calling over his shoulder, "Don't thank me yet- you haven't seen what you're wearing to the feast!"