Title: Best Present Ever
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Arthur celebrates Merlin's birthday the in his own special way--by teasing him.
Word Count: 972
Author's Notes: Thank you to inspired_being for the beta. This fic follows Missing Manservant, but can stand on its own if you haven't read that. Set in Season 3.
At last, today was the day--the first day of the new year and Merlin's birthday. Ever since Arthur's own birthday over two months ago, he had been thinking about how to celebrate Merlin's birthday. There would be a gathering of friends, of course, and the special gift Arthur had for him. But before that, Arthur had plans--plans to tease Merlin.
The door to Arthur's chambers flew open and Merlin backed into the room, carrying the breakfast tray. As he opened the curtains, he called out, "Rise and shine, Arthur. It's time to get up."
With one eye open, Arthur groaned "You're early, Merlin."
"Well, today's a special day," Merlin replied.
"Oh, that's right." Arthur smirked into his pillow as Merlin played right into his hands. "It's the first day of the new year."
Merlin's face fell a bit, but he quickly regained his usual cheerful morning face. "Anything else?" he asked, hoping Arthur would remember his birthday was today.
"Yes, we're going out for sword practice this morning." Arthur knew that wasn't what Merlin was asking.
"But Arthur, there was snow overnight and more is threatening to fall." Merlin said, doing his best to make it not sound like he was whining.
"A snowstorm is a perfect time for our enemies to attack, so I need to be ready to fight in the snow."
"This is really just an excuse to physically abuse me, isn't it?"
"You'll be practicing your shield work. You definitely need practice.”
"Right," Merlin replied sarcastically, adding under his breath, "Clotpole."
"I heard that."
Arthur spent the morning trouncing Merlin; whacking his shield aside and banging his helmet repeatedly. At last, Arthur called a halt to practice, declaring Merlin no longer presented any challenge.
"Where are the knights? Can’t you beat them up instead of me," Merlin protested.
"Leon took them out on patrol yesterday. They should be back this afternoon." Arthur frowned and looked skyward. "Unless the weather delays them." He really hoped they would return in time for the festivities or Merlin wouldn't get his present in time.
"Let's go back inside and you can scrub the floor in my chambers. Then once you’ve finished that, you’ll need to polish my armour."
"Umm, Arthur, I was thinking, maybe you could give me the afternoon off from doing chores." Merlin coaxed. Surely Arthur would remember it was a special day for Merlin.
Straight-faced, Arthur replied, "Why on earth would I do that?"
Merlin stammered, "Er, um, well, I don't know,” then quickly offered, “Because you're not always a prat?" Merlin was hurt somewhat that his birthday wasn't something Arthur recalled, but he was adamant he wouldn't tell Arthur if he couldn't remember it on his own.
"Merlin, you are my servant. It's your job to do chores, you idiot."
It had taken Merlin most of the afternoon to clean Arthur's chambers, including washing the floor, but he still had to work on polishing the armour. Before he headed down to the armoury, he asked, "Will that be all then, Arthur?"
"No, I'm having a private dinner with my father here in my chambers tonight. I'll need you to serve."
"Here? In your chambers? But you’ve never--."
"Yes, that is what I said," interrupted Arthur in a tone that would not tolerate further questioning.
Arthur responded to the knock with, "Come in...Oh, it's you Merlin. Set the dishes over there," he said indicating the sideboard.
Merlin laid out the dishes: roast partridge, fresh bread, green beans and a lovely apple pudding. There was mulled wine to drink. Merlin's mouth watered and his stomach growled in appreciation. Pudding was his favorite. The thought of Gaius' stew, which he would likely not eat for some hours, paled in comparison.
"Merlin, try to keep your stomach quiet during dinner," Arthur admonished.
"Well, I haven't eaten since breakfast...if I had something to eat now, it would be quiet." He looked at the food spread on the sideboard hopefully.
Before Arthur could reply, there was another knock at the door. "Merlin, answer that," Arthur directed.
Merlin opened the door with his head bowed to the King like a proper servant. Only when he lifted his head, it wasn't Uther, but his mother, Hunith.
"Mother, what are you doing here?" Merlin exclaimed with joy as he swept her into a hug. Behind Hunith, he could see Gauis, Gwen, Leon and the rest of the knights beaming.
"Happy Birthday, Merlin!” Hunith said, returning Merlin’s hug. “Arthur sent his knights to bring me to visit you"
Arthur proclaimed, "Come in, all of you. We're going to have a feast to celebrate Merlin’s birthday. He will be the guest of honor.” Arthur steered Merlin to sit at the head of the table.
Rendered speechless for once, Merlin could only stare gape-mouthed at Arthur as the rest of the party filed in. They offered their 'Congratulations' and 'Happy Birthday’s to Merlin as they seated themselves around the table.
Regaining his power of speech, Merlin turned to Arthur. "And here I thought all day what a huge prat you were for not remembering today was my birthday. The whole time you were ignoring my little hints, you had this planned. Well, you’re still a prat."
Arthur grinned widely. "It was fun."
Merlin’s face broke into his own cheeky grin and said, "Well, that all depends on your definition of 'fun’. But, Arthur…thank you. This is the best present ever."