Title: A Decision for Christmas
Character/s: Gwaine, Gwen, Merlin
Summary: While Merlin and Gwen search the Christmas market for gifts, Gwaine unexpectedly stumbles across the one gift he (didn't know he) needed.
Warnings: Modern AU
Word Count: 1,444
Prompt: #390 - Shopping
Author's Notes: Apologies for the length. I had too much fun describing things.
Merlin raised his bag-laden arms to check his list.
"I still have Morgana, Freya, and Elyan," he said, looking up from his notebook.
Gwen, bearing fewer bags than Merlin, glanced around before pointing off in the distance.
"There's a stand selling pocket knives up ahead," she said with a smile. "Elyan was just talking about how he needed a new pocket knife."
Merlin returned her smile. "That's perfect. Gwaine! We're going this way!"
Gwaine nodded and waved his hand, unable to verbally respond due to the handful of chocolate and peppermint popcorn he'd just thrown in his mouth. Merlin laughed and headed off with Gwen, leaving Gwaine to peruse the market at his own pace.
Christmas gifts were less of a concern for Gwaine than they were for most people. He simplified the concept by giving all of his friends the same gift every year: a photography session of their choice with unlimited prints and touch ups. Not that Gwaine would ever charge his friends for his services; it was more of a gesture, an annual reminder that they could call on him whenever they needed a photographer. He was always happy to shoot their birthday parties and weddings and parents' anniversaries. It was a good arrangement that worked for everyone involved: Gwaine felt useful, he never had to worry about Christmas shopping, and his friends were happy with the free family photos every year.
There was still Leon to shop for but one gift down from many really helped take the stress off. Gwaine could enjoy the trip to the Christmas market simply for the company and the food.
He continued to munch on popcorn while he wandered through the aisle. Many of the stands offered interesting items for sale but nothing Gwaine needed or wanted enough to pull him away from his snack. He looked at his bag of popcorn; another few handfuls and the bag would be more than halfway gone. It was very good but it was starting to leave a sticky dryness in his throat. Gwaine glanced around, catching the scent of cider in the air, and happily turned the corner towards the warm, cinnamony smell.
He stopped three stands away from the cider booth when something shiny caught his eye.
Gwaine studied the display case in front of him, unsure of what he was looking at. He looked up at the sign hanging above his head. The sign bore only the words 'The Forge' etched into a thin sheet of metal projecting perpendicularly from the tent. He looked back down at the display case containing rows of pins, broaches, necklaces, and rings. They were organized by metal type: silver, gold, rose gold, and the section that had caused him to stop in the first place.
A woman approached him from within in the stand. She wore a heavy grey apron and her hair was tied back and covered with a candy cane printed bandanna.
"Good morning," she said warmly. "I'm Rene. Can I help you?"
"Good morning." Gwaine pointed at the case with his non-sticky hand. "What are these made of?"
Rene smiled at his choice. She unlocked the case and brought the section Gwaine had pointed at up and onto the case.
"These are all made of modern Damascus steel," she said, pride evident in her tone. "They're made with a technique called billet welding where two or more metals are welded together and then worked thin and folded, over and over again, to produce the layers you see here. It's a technique used to simulate the look of ancient Damascus steel sword blades."
Gwaine smiled at Rene's explanation. She was clearly very proud of her work and for good reason. Each and every piece in the display case was beautiful and elegantly crafted - particularly the ones made of modern Damascus steel. The material looked as unique as it sounded: although all of the pieces were silver, the hue and pattern varied on each and every one. On some pieces the pattern was eye-catching and wide like tiger stripes or wood grain; on others the pattern was soft and subtle like water ripples or fingerprints. Gwaine couldn't help but stare, a somewhat dormant thought asking questions in the back of his mind.
"Is this gold?" he asked, pointing at one ring in particular.
"Yes," Rene nodded. She picked up the ring to show Gwaine the details. "This is a 14 karat gold inlay set in the modern Damascus steel. Would you like to look at it?"
Gwaine looked down at his hands and gestured sheepishly with the bag of popcorn. "Probably better that I don't," he chuckled.
Rene laughed. She held onto the ring as she turned away for a moment, returning with a damp cloth.
Gwaine set the popcorn bag down at his feet and wiped his hands carefully until he was sure they weren't sticky.
"Sorry about that," he said, returning the cloth.
Rene smiled, gentle and genuine. "It's not a problem," she assured him. She took the cloth and offered him the ring. "The layered pattern on this one is more subtle. That comes from working and folding the metal into more and more layers. I would say I folded at least two hundred and fifty layers in this batch."
Gwaine nodded, wanting to acknowledge her skill even though he was distracted from the moment the ring touched his hand.
The gold inlay took up most of the outside surface of the ring. It had a brushed finish and a soft pale yellow hue which gave the ring a simple and modern look. It appeared gold from afar but up close the details of the modern Damascus steel could be seen, wrapping the simple in something special.
It was the one gift Gwaine needed.
Gwaine's head snapped up and he saw Gwen coming towards him from the direction of the cider booth. She was carrying more bags than she had been before.
"There you are," she said, setting a few of her purchases down. "We were wondering where you went. Do you feel like lunch or did you fill up on popcorn... oh."
Gwaine saw her eyes fall to the ring. "What do you think?"
Gwen stepped closer, lifting Gwaine's hand so she could see the details. "It's beautiful. Is it..." She paused, looking at Gwaine closely. "When did... Are you going to propose to Leon?"
Gwaine looked down at the ring which was both the question and the answer. He hadn't planned on making that decision today but the ring was here and it couldn't be ignored.
"Yes," he said, laughing at how Gwen's face lit up. He could feel the world shift on the crux of that one decision.
"How long have you been planning this?"
"I haven't. I mean, I've been thinking about it," he explained, "but not seriously."
"Why not?" Gwen asked.
"Because I knew I'd have to buy a ring and I don't know anything about that stuff. I didn't know where to start. But this..." Gwaine held the ring up, feeling hopeful just being in its presence. "He'll like this, right?"
Gwen took him by the arm. "Gwaine, he'll love it."
Gwaine could feel himself grinning and it was unlikely he'd stop any time soon. He was going to propose to Leon. He was going to ask Leon to marry him with this ring. The thought made him feel anxious and excited with a splash of fear and it was thrilling in its own way.
He turned to Rene for the moment of truth.
"How much is this one?" he asked hesitantly.
Rene pointed to the small sign next to the empty slot in the tray. "I'm offering a Christmas market special today: ten percent off all purchases, twenty percent off if you have an item engraved."
Gwaine looked at the price tag and let out a long sigh of relief.
"Rene," he laughed, nervous energy spilling out of him. "You're too good at what you do. That's perfect. I can afford that."
Rene smiled warmly. "I'm happy to help."
"I'd like to get this one, please," Gwaine said, handing her the ring. He could feel Gwen radiating excitement beside him.
"Of course," Rene nodded. She took the ring and placed it in a small black box. She placed a piece of paper and a pen beside the box. "Would you like to have it engraved? That would get you the better discount."
"Do you know what you'd like it to say?"
Gwaine grinned, reaching for the pen. Every decision seemed simple after deciding to ask Leon to marry him.
"Yes, I do."