Merlin shivered as he raced from Gaius' quarters with his gift for Arthur. It was so cold and he wanted nothing more than to be in bed, under the covers as soon as he could. Gaius' rooms were the only place he knew that Arthur wouldn't find his present. Merlin had learned that the first year they'd been together; that Arthur was like a combination of little boy and blood hound when it came to presents.
Gwen had tried to help the second year, giggling as she hid the present in her rooms, but Arthur had found them. Merlin was pretty sure the only reason Arthur didn't dare look around Gaius' quarters was because the older man had threatened him in some way reminiscent of when he'd been a boy. Merlin hadn't asked, he'd just been glad to have a safe place.
It still astounded him, five years on, that they were all still together and safe and happy. For too long of a time, he hadn't believed any of their friendships would survive, especially not after his magic had been revealed. Merlin knew he had Gwen to thank for Arthur's forgiveness, even though she'd never said one way or another. He also had her to thank for not making things difficult between Arthur and himself on a far more intimate level. She could have, so easily, demanded that Arthur choose between them, but her generous heart hadn't allowed her to divide them.
Merlin skidded to a halt outside the chambers he shared with Arthur and took a few seconds to catch his breath. The door opened before he could and Arthur stood there, impatience on his face and his gaze narrowing instantly on the box in Merlin's hands. Arthur grabbed Merlin's shirt and yanked him inside.
Merlin squawked, unbalanced, and stumbled into the room. “Hey!”
Arthur pinned him to the door and took his mouth in a hungry kiss that immediately soothed Merlin's irritation. It was almost annoying, really; all Arthur had to do was kiss him and he still melted like an untried boy. Arthur pulled back and took the gaily wrapped box with him, shaking it against his ear and demanding, “What is it? What did you get me?”
Merlin couldn't help but smile broadly at that. Arthur looked so eager, blue eyes sparking and blond hair flopped onto his forehead, it was endearing. “Open it and see.”
Arthur pulled him to the bed and then shoved him not gently onto it. He whirled around and picked a box up off the table and tossed it at Merlin, who just barely caught it. Arthur rolled his eyes. “Mightiest sorcerer in the land and you still can't catch.”
“I could always take that back,” Merlin threatened sternly.
Eyes widening, Arthur held the box to his chest. “You can't! I already have it!”
Merlin softened and patted the bed. “I was joking, Arthur. Come on, then. Let's open at the same time.”
Arthur jumped on the bed, smiling as he settled cross-legged and began tearing at the ribbons. Merlin watched fondly, heart full, as colored paper flew all over. Arthur didn't realize how expensive the paper itself was, but Merlin had no intention of telling him; half of the pleasure was in watching Arthur open the present in the first place.
Arthut frowned and then said flatly, “You got me a box.”
Merlin giggled, and then cleared his throat, turning it into a more manly chuckle. “Open that one, dollophead.”
Arthur rolled his eyes, but dug into the next box, which was smaller. And then the third box. At the fourth box, his jaw flexed in honest irritation. “Really?”
Merlin laughed loudly and said, “Last one, promise.”
Arthur gave him a suspicious look, but proceeded to open the last box. Turning shining eyes to him, Arthur murmured, “Merlin.”
Merlin flushed at having that pleasure turned on him and then urged, “Try it on!”
Arthur took out the signet ring with its etched dragon and sapphire, the color of Arthur's eyes had been difficult to create, and pushed it onto his forefinger. It fit a little loose, so Merlin clasped Arthur's hand in his and murmured a few words until it fit perfectly. Then he kissed his palm and said, “Happy Solstice, Arthur.”
Arthur took his mouth in a sweet, long kiss. Then he poked Merlin hard enough to smart, prompting a gasp of pain. “You did it again! You always wait until I'm done!”
Merlin rubbed his chest with a minor scowl. “Fine. No need to maul me.”
“Merlin, that was hardly mauling.”
“I bet I bruise.”
“Oh you big girl, just open it!
Merlin glared at him, but opened the wooden, unwrapped box, and then just stared. It was a pendant, a heavy gold chain with sturdy links, and the gold circle that dangled from it held the Pendragon symbol on one side and a rough etching of Arthur on the other. Really, the artist had been quite skilled because the likeness was very good. He immediately pulled it over his head and then grabbed hold of Arthur's shirt to pull him in for a kiss.
Arthur smiled against him, their teeth clicking until he pulled back enough to stare into Merlin's eyes and say, “You like it, then?”
“I love it,” Merlin said. And then he wrapped his arms around Arthur and held tight as he murmured, “But you're still the best present ever.”
Arthur made a suspiciously choked noise as his arms tightened around Merlin in return. Merlin hung on for a few seconds. Right until Arthur said, “I was right all along. You really are a girl.”
Merlin slapped him upside the back of the head and muttered affectionately, “Dollophead.”