Written for Merthur Week 2020.
"What are you hiding Merlin?" + Fun
Arthur stared at the neatly packed flute that lay on his desk with bewilderment and slight mistrust.
It's not that he didn't like the gift, because he did. The musical instrument was finely carved out of some sort of white wood the blond had never seen in his life, and the case in which it had come in was also made of another type of wood he didn't recognize, the Pendragon sigil carved onto it with extreme detail.
Well, Arthur was wary because it looked exactly like the flute he'd received on his 8th name day from Leon's now late father, and that had subsequently been thrown out by his father when the little Prince expressed interest in wanting to learn to play the instrument more efficiently. His tutor had told him he had talent-
"Kings don't go dandling around playing music, Arthur" Uther had sternly said as the small flute burned in the fireplace on Arthur's chambers, while his son lay next to him trying hard not to cry as the beautiful instrument was reduced to ashes.
Blinking against the memory, the new King carefully reached onto the flute, finding it surprisingly light to carry.
Just as he remembered the brief present to have been.
Arthur wanted to be suspicious, he did.
After all, he'd been King for only a month, and Merlin had just jested that it was surprising that no-one had tried an assassination attempt yet.
Then again, Merlin would have most likely known if the flute was a threat to Arthur-
"Pretty, isn't it?"
Speaking of the warlock.
Arthur turned to look at his friend, who was looking at him with some sort of pretend disinterest, raising an eyebrow at him.
Well, if Merlin didn't look suspicious…
"You're not going to go at it saying it's enchanted to make me fall in love with my reflection or how if I play it I'll die?" he asked anyway with bemusement, twirling the flute on his hands, admiring the craftsmanship.
"Nah, it's ordinary" Merlin said, grinning. There was a glint in his eyes that Arthur couldn't put his finger on, "Also, look! There's a note!" he added a little too excitedly, pointing at the case.
The blond blinked in response, turning to the box, and indeed, there was a small piece of parchment on the bottom, nearly hidden by the silk fabric that covered the inside of the case.
"I hope you finally get to play to your hearts content"
Arthur narrowed his eyes at the note, the feeling of suspicion coming back.
Whoever had gifted him the flute, had somehow known about the previous one. Or heard about the incident.
"Are you sure it's safe?" Arthur asked, gripping the object tightly. He'd only been holding it for less than half a candle mark and the childish urge to play it was back.
"It is" Merlin confirmed, his smile softening as he came up next him, "Is just a normal lute for you to play, stop being a clotpole and accept it" he added.
"I… I'm a little rusty" the King admitted, feeling awkward. He hadn't tried playing a flute ever since the first gifted had met the flames and be replaced by a sword.
"Practice makes perfect, my lord" the raven softly said, giving him an encouraging look.
When Arthur finally mustered the courage to play the flute later that night, he was pleasantly surprised to find out the notes came flowing with ease.
Arthur doesn't expect a second anonymous gift the next day.
He comes back from the council meeting nursing a small headache from hearing the problems the final touches the Yule feast was having, and mourning that Merlin left his side to go fetch a tonic from Gaius's chambers when he notices the packed rectangle inclined next to the bed.
It's wrapped in a soft red linen and braided cord, another small parchment hanging by the end of it.
The King actually takes a step back away from the gift at first.
He has nothing against gifts, really, he doesn't, but the thought of someone sneaking into his chambers settles something unpleasant on his stomach.
"You take after her"
It's all the note reads.
Cautiously, Arthur grabs the dagger he tends to hide in his boot before carefully approaching again to cut the strings, allowing the fabric to fall-
Ygraine Pendragon smiles gently at him, her eyes gleaming with fondness while she holds herself up in a delicate regal manner as much as the heavy swell of her stomach allows her to.
It's a portrait of his mother.
Arthur pokes the painting.
And more time just in case.
It's still there.
His fingers trail the outline of his mother's check as his vision goes blurry with tears.
He'd thought his father had destroyed them all-
And then he's bursting into laughter.
Whoever his anonymous sender is, they must have magic. There's no other fucking way of explaining it.
So Arthur does the logical thing and goes out running to find Merlin, so that way his friend will investigate and Arthur will be able to thank the person profoundly because honestly this is probably the best present ever and also he wants to show his mother to Merlin because that vision Morgause conjured doesn't count-
He nearly crashes onto someone in his haste.
Oh, look, it's Merlin.
"You have to come to my chambers" Arthur begins to say, not even bothering to hide his excitement, "I have to show you- hey what behind your back?"
He's just noticed that the raven is clearly hiding something, and memories of the flower incident come to mind.
Merlin, on the other hand, takes a step back, clearly fighting a grin.
"One hand" he shuffles his limps, "My other hand"
The King rolled his eyes.
Seriously, his friend was so predictable sometimes.
"Riiiiiiiight. What do you have there?" he asked, making a move towards Merlin, who expertly sidestepped him, coming to face Arthur with a wide grin and hands still behind his back.
"Nothing, sire" the warlock claimed.
The blond squinted his eyes at him, not believing him for a second.
"What are you hiding Merlin?" Arthur asked, trying to guess while attempting to once again take a look at whatever he was keeping behind his back.
Merlin simply let out a nervous laugh, his eyes looking slightly panicked as the raven evaded the King.
"Stuff" he said.
"Stuff" Arthur drawled.
"Stuff" Merlin nodded, "I think Gaius is calling me"
And he began running.
Never breaking his stare with Arthur before turning away to avoid falling from the stairs.
The blond manages to catch sight of a small wooden box anyway.
The new gift is in his bed this time, and Arthur nearly sat on it.
The note is simple.
"My King, I've seen the small drawings you make"
Great, the mysterious sender knew about Arthur's habit of sometimes doodling on some stray parchment.
He shouldn't be surprised to unpack a small drawing kit, with a little leather bound book with blank pages and a dozen different colored pencils waiting to be used.
But there is one thing that Arthur notices about the gift that makes the excitement die down.
It was disturbingly familiar to the box Merlin had been carrying yesterday.
On the morning of Yule, Arthur pretends to be asleep.
He's sure it's been Merlin the anonymous sender, there was no other way to explain it. Arthur had confided with him years ago about all the things Uther had prohibited the blond from getting or enjoying, and every single gift had been an exact replica of the objects Arthur had yearned for and been destroyed.
And damn, Merlin liked to compliment the little drawings he made!
And Merlin was powerful enough to conjure up the gifts.
So here he is now, pretending to be asleep as Merlin enters the room, quietly making shushing sounds to- something.
Arthur opens his eyes by a slit, seeing his dear friend, exiting the antechamber, making another shushing sound to the gift as he closes the door-
"Not going to hand it to me yourself?"
Arthur had to bite his cheek to avoid laughing when Merlin let out a startled yelp and turned to face him with panic, pressing himself to the door.
"Arthur!" Merlin's voice came out in a high pitch, "You're awake!"
"Astute observation, Merlin" the blond said, leaning back onto his pillows-
And shooting himself upwards when a small bark echoed from inside the antechamber.
"What was that?" he asked, eyes wide.
"A bird" Merlin blurted.
Arthur gave him a look.
"Fine!" the raven exclaimed, "It's the last item on my 'let's give Uther one last fuck you' list" he mumbled, clearly embarrassed at getting caught.
"… What?" Arthur whispered.
"I wanted to gift you things Uther never let you have or enjoy" Merlin explained, playing with his fingers and biting his lip, "Because… well, you're my friend, and I hated how miserable you looked when you told me what Uther did to the lute and the portraits of your mother and the pencils and-" he took a deep breath, "I like to see you happy"
Arthur was about to answer when another, louder bark came from the antechamber. The warlock glared at the door before letting out a defeated sigh.
"What are you hiding Merlin?" he asks once again the question from two days ago, bemused as he hears another small bark.
"… I think you know" Merlin finally answers, giving him a wry smile.
"Pretend I'm the dollophead you claim I am"
The warlock laughed, giving the King a nervous look before turning to open the antechamber-
And a puppy excitedly came out, the most obnoxiously largest bow attached to their next making the dog look like some sort of wandering flower.
The small animal made a direct beeline to Arthur, who could only stare at the puppy in shock.
Like all of the previous gifts, identical to something Uther got rid of-
"Happy Yule" Merlin's shy voice prevented the blond from the traumatic memory.
Swallowing, Arthur went to pick up the puppy, who happily yapped at him while trying to lick at his face, wriggling in his hold. He stared back at the raven in awe, the words not passing from his lips.
There was so much he wanted to say.
"Her name is Ciara" Merlin added.
Arthur let out a watery laugh, because off course, the idiot- the wonderful idiot- remembered that Arthur was fond of the name.
"Did you-" the blond gulped, scratching the puppy- Ciara's ears in an attempt to ground himself, "Did you create her with your magic?"
The warlock nodded, looking timid.
"Wasn't easy, and I think I should warn you that there's about a 80% chance she'll end up talking, because I swear you never know why my magic sometimes and from all the gifts this one was the hardest cause I nearly drove Gaius and Leon mad trying to make them remember how the dog looked like and I feared you would hate her and-"
Arthur decided to shut him up by kissing him.
It was supposed to be brief, the blond was just about to separate, mortified at forcing himself at his friend and ready to apologize, when Merlin took hold of his tunic and enthusiastically returned the kiss.
"So that means you liked it?" Merlin asked breathlessly after being separated by a yelping Ciara.
"I have" Arthur whispered, feeling tears falling from his eyes, "I've loved all your gifts" he looked down to their puppy in his arms, "Although did you have to wrap poor Ciara in this? She looks like some sort of pegasus" he teased, raising her up to make the dog look as she were flying before placing her gently on the ground.
"I was trying to be festive, you prat" Merlin laughed, wiping away the tears that had fallen off Arthur's eyes.
The blond let him, placing stolen kisses on his fingers before pulling the warlock close to him, kissing his beloved once again, this time more passionately.
"How about we do one more thing that will make my father roll on his grave?" Arthur asked panting once they separated.
Merlin smirked, allowing the King to carry him to the bed.
AN: I see a lot of 'Merlin's magic accidentally leaving gifts for Arthur' and not enough of 'Merlin purposely giving Arthur gifts with magic'