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Written for the Camelot_Drabble challenge then I thought I would extend it a touch and post it on here as I've been quiet lightly. Hope you like it.
"Are you sure this is what you want?"
Uther glared at his physician. Gaius shouldn't be questioning him, he should be hurrying to do as his king commanded.
"Make the arrangements. I want the letters sent out tonight."
"Is there a problem, Gaius?" Uther knew his tone was not one to be crossed and Gaius' gaze dropped. The king gained no satisfaction from it though. Nothing touched him right now. It was too soon; the pain too raw. The funeral was barely over, the whole kingdom was in mourning for its beloved queen. Uther didn't care though. He didn't care about the people, he didn't care about those he had considered friends and he certainly didn't care about his new son. All he could focus on was the pain and anger in his heart, knowing he had brought it upon himself.
"He's an infant, My Lord," Gaius protested, having found his voice again. "You can't foster him off now. At least wait until your son is older."
"He is not my son," Uther spat, turning his gaze onto the fireplace so to avoid looking at the man he had called friend just a few days ago. "He's my heir and he has no place here until he is of some use to me. We both know that won't be for several years. Now I will not tell you again. Send the knights out to the nobles as I have instructed. I expect their answers within the week."
Gaius bowed and left. The room was in darkness, only a few embers attempting to glow softly in the fireplace. The coldness had come shortly after the fire had gone out, but the king couldn't bring himself to do anything about it. He should have asked Gaius or even called his servant in. But Gaius' company had been taxing enough, he certainly couldn't face having a servant bumbling around the room. Besides, it wasn't like he truly felt the cold, not anymore. What difference could the temperature make when someone had frozen his heart?
He knew the kingdom was holding its breath, waiting to see what would happen. He had heard the rumours; some believed he would disinherit the child due to the pain the boy had caused. But Uther couldn't do that. His son was the only thing he had left of his wife right now. She had given her life so that he might live, and Uther would not ignore that fact.
But it didn't stop the guilt from twisting in his gut. She hadn't known that she would have to give her life for her son. There had been no doubt in her eyes when she realised she was paying the price over who should live and who should die, but that shouldn't have been a choice she was forced to make. It was that look in her eye that haunted him now and it was why he wanted the boy gone. How could he look on the child day after day and know what the cost of his life had been? Gaius was right, he was an infant now. But he would grow… And Uther was sure he would display some of the characteristics he had inherited from his mother. The king didn't feel that any length of time would be enough to heal the wounds and he wasn't prepared to deal with that.
As he sat there, brooding, a noise came to Uther's attention. He was sure he was imagining it for he had given strict instructions that the boy's room should be nowhere near him. But he was convinced that he could hear the cries of a new baby. From what he had heard – or rather, what Gaius had insisted on telling him – was that the child would not settle for any length of time. It was fine for now, he clearly felt the loss of his mother. If it continued, however, it could make him weak, sick even. Uther had made it apparent that was Gaius' responsibility, not his. He wanted to be left in peace, wanted this time to grieve without having to think of his new responsibility as a father.
Did a king deal with their son anyway? He didn't know, it wasn't as if his father had been a king. Then again, his father had made it clear from the very beginning that Uther was nothing to him. Or was he supposed to just sit back and let the nurses deal with him, the boy had enough, after all. Igraine would have known what to do. The boy would have never left her arms and Uther was quite sure that he wouldn't have even started crying in his mother's hold, let alone refuse to stop. No nursemaid would take her place, Igraine had been quite insistent on it.
Regardless of whether he was imaging it or not, the cry continued and Uther found himself standing. Annoyance was coursing through him. The rest of the kingdom had accepted their king needed time to grieve. Why couldn't his own son follow their lead and give him some peace?
He grabbed his cloak as he moved towards the door, trying to rationalise his behaviour to himself. He would tell the women to keep the boy quiet; inform them that if they could not, they would move his rooms to the other side of the castle. Uther didn't care if it was colder on the other side, he had had enough of being disturbed. He could already picture Gaius' face insisting a baby could not be scolded into silence. But if there was one thing Uther was used to now, it was being obeyed. His son would learn to listen and he would start right now.
The corridors were empty as Uther strode along them, the flickering torches casting long shadows around him. In the next corridor he could hear the sounds of the guards patrolling and knew it would only be a matter of moments before they turned down this path. Uther quickened his pace. He didn't want them to see him, to question why the king wasn't resting but instead roaming the corridors. He certainly didn't want them knowing that he was going to the boy. While he wasn't sure how much a king should interact with his child, he knew that walking the corridors at night to see him was not a done thing. No. Not to see him. To silence him. He wanted nothing to do with the boy.
Somehow, Uther felt as if he was telling himself that to make him believe it. Did he want to see his son?
He made it out of the corridor before the guards and remained undetected as he strode the passageways. The cries had dwindled now. No doubt the child was exhausted. He could see the soft light glowing from the boy's room, the fires still being lit to make sure the infant prince was warm enough. He could hear the murmur of voices as he moved closer and a maid darted out, looking flustered. She didn't even notice the king, and Uther made a note to make sure there was a guard stationed on the boy's door at all times.
Then he told himself he was being foolish. He would be gone by the following week, there was no need to change a schedule for such a short amount of time.
But then the king entered his son's rooms for the first time since he had been born.
The nursemaid had the squirming bundle in her arms, looking as if she was still trying to desperately soothe the prince even though his cries had weakened. She spun, alarmed at the sound of his heavy tread and then dropped awkwardly into a curtsey while holding the infant.
"What's wrong with him?" Uther didn't look at the child, but instead found himself looking around the room. His heart skipped a beat and he had to force his expression into one of disinterest.
"He won't settle, Sire. I've sent the girl to fetch some honey from the kitchens, it might help him."
"Then go and tell her to hurry up," Uther snapped. The woman looked startled and quickly placed the boy back in the cot. She paused at the door as the wails started again, but then fled at the look Uther was giving her.
The king sighed at the increased noise, striding over to the elaborate crib. It had Igraine's design all over it, the whole room did. Somehow, he knew that Gaius had made sure what the queen had wanted for her child was being honoured and Uther was smiling before he knew it. The pain in his chest lessened and he didn't feel quite as detached as he moved closer.
The boy was still crying, his face and hands screwed up as he expressed his displeasure at his experience of the world so far. Uther let his hand drift in and rested on the chest of his infant son, who seemed to swallow his next cry in surprise. Uther forced himself to look. Then he reached in and picked up the baby, holding him awkwardly.
"A prince must know when to be quiet," he said sternly. But the bundle in his arms didn't appreciate his tone, for he let out another cry and Uther shifted his grip.
"Hush, Arthur," he murmured, holding him closer. "You just be quiet now and go to sleep."
Not realising his tone had softened or that it was the first time he had acknowledged Arthur by name, Uther could only stare in astonishment as the baby blinked up at him before seeming to let out a sigh and his eyes drifted softly shut. For what felt like the first time since he had been born, Arthur finally stopped crying and fell asleep.
Not thinking about how much the maid would no doubt panic, Uther found himself leaving the room. There was a chill in the air and he instantly drew his cloak closer, making sure that Arthur was covered now he had finally fallen asleep. Uther didn't realise he had made any sort of decision until he found himself outside of Gaius' chambers and barged in. Technically speaking, the man should have been at the stables making sure the knights were riding out. But somehow it came as no surprise that he was sitting at his bench, his head in his hands. He slowly looked up when the king entered.
"Have the riders left?"
Earlier that evening, Uther knew he would have lashed out at Gaius for his tone. But for now, he was too busy adjusting his position as he felt Arthur moving in his sleep.
"They have no need to ride now," Uther said, his tone dismissive.
"Sire?" Gaius made it to his feet just as Arthur gave a small whimper and Uther drew back his cloak in order to see what was wrong this time. "Uther…"
"My son stays here, in the castle," Uther said firmly, his mind made up. Glancing up, he saw the wide smile on the physician's face even though Gaius' gaze was locked on the prince.
"Yes, Sire," he whispered, moving forward. If it was anyone else, Uther would have reminded them he was king and was not to be approached in such a manner. But as it was Gaius, he simply shifted his arms until Gaius' hand rested lightly on Arthur's head.
"He will make a fine prince," the physician whispered and Uther found himself making a noise of agreement before he registered that was what he was doing. Unable to stop himself, he gazed down at the bundle in his arms.
"He will," he said. He suddenly thought back to what had crossed his mind early and shifted Arthur until the new prince was in Gaius' arms. Arthur let out a startled noise in his sleep before he sighed and settled against the old man.
"Take him back to his room. I need to organise a guard for my prince."
Uther strode from the room without looking back. He didn't know what the evening had brought, but he did know that he was keeping Arthur where he could see him. It was the only way he could guarantee the boy's safety. No matter what it took, no matter what he had to do, he would keep Igraine's child safe.