Characters: Uther, Arthur
Pairing: Some Arthur/Morgana
Summary: Morgana means more to the men of the Pendragon line than even she knows.
Even in the warm light of a glowing fire, Morgana’s skin seemed to look ghostly pale in a most unsettling manner. The slowly rising and falling sheets proved that she was still breathing strongly, despite her weakening state, and yet somehow Uther could take no comfort in that. He was losing her, he could feel it in the air. She was slipping away.
He sat in a chair, several feet from her bed, watching her intently whilst he remembered the past.
She’d been such a delightful, pretty little girl when he’d first seen her, raven locks of hair framing an angelic face. Uther only had his son and he’d often wondered what it might have been like to have a daughter too. Perhaps that was why he’d been so easily charmed by her merry ways and sweet smiles, using her to fulfil a wish that could now never come to pass. Her father had joked that Uther didn’t know her fully, that he might not look so kindly upon her if he knew that she could be wilful and stubborn beyond her years. And over time Uther had come to see that for himself, but it somehow hadn’t made her any less lovely in his eyes.
Her father had been like a brother to him, the noblest and most trusted of his knights and a more loyal friend than a man could ever ask for. When his wife had so tragically died, Uther had told him that he and his young daughter could stay in the castle as long as they wished, an escape from the painful reminders of home. It was during this time that her father had first asked Uther to become Morgana’s guardian should anything ever happen to him, his wife’s death clearly having brought his own mortality sharply into focus. It was a request he’d repeated a few years later as he lay dying in Uther’s arms on the field of battle, gripping the king’s arm tightly as blood poured from him, holding on to the last scrap of life as he gasped out his final plea. He’d clung on just long enough to hear Uther swear on all he possessed that he would keep her safe.
And now Uther was in danger of breaking that promise and it was a failure he was finding hard to bear.
He continued to play the last few days over in his mind, wondering if he’d missed any sign or signal of illness that he should have picked up on. Something that would have allowed Gaius to treat her sooner and with more success. But there had been nothing. He’d interrogated her maid servant quite thoroughly on the matter and she had confirmed it; Morgana had gone to bed utterly health but come morning she would not wake.
What could he do in the face of such suddenly illness, so without apparent cause? And he’d done all he was able in the wake of it, delegating the matter to a man who knew more than him in the area, trusting in his judgement of Gaius’s ability. But that also left Uther no choice but to wait and see what her fate was destined to be and that wasn’t something he was good at.
There was one thing he could do for her however; not say goodbye. Until her dying breath he would believe she could be saved and, in his mind, to say his farewells would be to give up all hope. He knew such an attitude had not saved his wife. That he’d lost those last precious moments with her as he’d desperately sought for any man who may have a cure. To this day he still regretted not speaking to her a final time. But it wasn’t in this nature to surrender.
He’d loved Morgana’s father like kin and she was an extension of that. The daughter he’d never been blessed with.
And so he sat, observing from afar, willing her to fight just a little longer, and not trusting his resolve to stay firm if he went to her and took her hand.
The problem, Arthur realised, with being brought up as a fighter was that any matter you were helpless in became very hard to bear. Morgana’s current sickness was the worse such case of this he’d ever encountered. Standing by her bedside looking pensively down at her aided no one, certainly not himself, but what more could he do for her? His uselessness ate at him and he tried to counter it by continuing with his duties as normal, with practicing sword play and training knights. He even took on things his father would normally deal with, the King’s attention obviously focused elsewhere. Morgana had plenty of men standing around fretting about her well being, and Arthur could best serve her by allowing the experts peace to try and save her. But, to be honest, despite his good intentions, he found himself too distracted to do anything useful.
Sitting alone in his rooms was the worst thing. It gave him too much time to think, too much silence to ponder in to. Every footfall outside was sickening to him, his mind instantly fearful that someone was coming to tell him she had lost her battle. That she was gone.
He’d told himself so firmly at first that all would be well. That Gaius would find a cure to whatever ailed her and she would be on her feet again in days. And yet things had not gone according to plan and he was finding it increasingly hard to hide his growing worry.
And so he left his rooms and sought out his father, knowing it was foolishly childish but hoping that Uther could offer him some comfort, some scrap of hope. When he found the King’s rooms empty it wasn’t hard to guess where he might be.
Arthur stood in the doorway of Morgana’s bed chamber for a moment, watching his father. The other man’s eyes seemed fixed intently on the unconscious woman, as though he was counting every breath and could force them to continue with will alone.
When he spoke it was with soft understanding.
“How is she?”
Uther looked up at him, not at all startled. Had he heard him arrive?
“Peaceful,” he replied, as though it was the most positive answer he could come up with.
Arthur frowned, not at her condition but at the man sitting before him. He’d never seen his father look so old or tired before, suddenly appearing every one of his advancing years. It unsettled him greatly and forced him into making a suggestion.
“You should go and eat,” he said, “get some rest. I’ll sit with her until you return.”
He didn’t really want to. He didn’t want to be here alone and watch her every moment with hawk like eyes, wondering if it would be her last, but his father needed the break and he certainly wouldn’t go and just abandon her without anyone to keep watch.
Uther pondered the offer for a moment before nodding, perhaps relieved by the opportunity to clear his mind a little. He rose from the chair.
“You’ll find me if there is any change.”
Uther placed his hand on his son’s shoulder, a gesture of unity, briefly giving Arthur a smile that was more sad than reassuring before he left the room.
Arthur crossed and sat in the abandoned chair, looking across at the bed. He remained there impatiently for several long moments, tapping his foot on the floor, fidgeting in the seat before coming to the conclusion that this really didn’t feel right at all.
He stood again, dragging the chair closer to her bedside, instantly feeling a little better.
Uther had been right he realised as he got closer, she did look peaceful, that was one blessing at least.
He hurriedly shook that thought away though, worried by how much like acceptance of fate that sounded. She would live. He could have it no other way.
He knew he complained about her a great deal and perhaps he wasn’t as nice to her as he always should be. She was hardly an angel herself but he’d forgotten until now the colour and warmth she seemed to bring to his little family. To his life as a whole. He would never admit it to anyone but often when he’d seen of late a small thrill had wound itself through him, his eyes studying her form with an intensity that he had only reserved for fine armour and skilled swordsmanship before. To think that he may never experience that again...well it felt like part of himself was dying along with it.
Uncertain fingers slid their way across the bed covers and rested lightly on one of her hands.
He missed her. The castle felt so empty without her presence. What he wouldn’t give right now to have her open her eyes and say something cutting about that, to tease him for being so daft.
Arthur wasn’t one to give in to emotions, to allow silly feelings to rule him when his sensible head should prevail. Yet he allowed himself a private moment of weakness all the same, leaning close to her and whispering simple words into her ear.
“Come back. Please.”
For once, he prayed she would listen to him.