Disclaimer: The characters in this fiction belong to the BBC, Julian Murphy and Julian Jones.
Uther regrets many things but most of all, he regrets that his son is a stranger.
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The corridors are as cold as the night outside; one would have thought the amount of bracketed torches would warm the castle up, but every fibre of his being felt like ice. That was one thing he hated to admit about life, or his life. How cold he was all the time, his blood was like ice, running thick and hard through his veins, freezing his heart and making his wrinkled face appear so much older and so much harsher than he would have liked to have been. There had been a time when he thought he'd never feel the icy, death-like hand of war; he thought he'd never feel anger if only he could stay in that moment, in that time. But he, he was the King and he had responsibility and he had always thought the responsibility of kingdom outweighed his responsibilities of a husband or of a father.
But finally he stops at the door he stops at every night. His guards ignore him as always, granting him the privacy he so desperately needed. He hated weakness and every night he showed it, at the same time, the same place and for the same reason… He doesn't pause as he pushes the door open and steps inside, letting the heavy oak slide shut, he presses the lock down and walks through the large room before stopping at the four-poster bed and drawing back the right-hand curtain. He inhales sharply, taking in a deep breath, the air suddenly warmer; then he smiles softly before moving to sit down on the edge of the large, king-size bed.
He places his hand to Arthur's cheek, he is warm and it sends shots of heat through Uther's body and he doesn't move it, not even when Arthur groans in his sleep and shifts so that he is no longer on his back. He has turned, facing his father, his legs ever so slightly curled upward. Only when his son has settled back down does he brush the same hand through his blond hair.
There were of course many things he regretted over the course of his life, he doesn't know how to mend the one thing left to change and yet he knows he must. He would die soon, he'd be no more than a memory and above all he wanted Arthur to know just how proud he was, even if he did not show it in the fatherly way he was supposed to. He had always looked upon Arthur as a King would, not as a father should. He had never told Arthur that he loved him, he hadn't ever told anyone he loved them, not even his darling wife who he had, with all his heart, loved.
Arthur grumbled in his sleep, his face scrunching up for a moment before he relaxes. Once again Uther moves his hand from the young Prince's hair, letting it rest on his arm, which is thrown out carelessly over the side of the bed, his hands hanging low over the wooden under-frame.
It never ceased to amaze him just how much Arthur looked like his mother, had her hair, her nose, her mouth… A mouth that was now smiling at whatever he was dreaming of. That was likely the biggest reason he couldn't bare to love Arthur publicly, as a son rather than an heir. How could he lose his son just as he had lost his wife?
He hated to admit it, but he still bore the scars of the feelings he had soon after the Queen's death. She had died from an infection that even Gaius could not mend, an infection caused during Labour. She had lived for a few weeks, but she had been in so much pain that Uther couldn't bring himself to visit her often. She had remained in the Nursery the whole time, had died with Arthur snuggled into her, he had been fast asleep just as he was now and had not woken until he had wanted feeding; not even when his wet-nurse had picked him up away from the corpse of his mother.
At the memory, Uther frowned. He had allowed harsh emotions to come between a relationship he had promised her he would have. Her words were the clearest in his mind every day, he heard them every waking moment and knew he would till the day he had died, and yet he had still let her down. He hadn't done anything he had promised.
He remembered it as clear as day. She had been sat in a large, comfortable bed, her pregnant belly so prominent under the scarlet covers. He had been sat in a high backed chair beside her, his larger, rough hands wrapped around her small, soft, paler ones. She had been smiling as her free hand stroked her large bump.
"I shall give you an Heir, Uther." She smiled brighter, "He'll be a most wonderful Prince, you shall teach him to fight and ride and rule… I shall love him and teach him to read and write." She patted her belly then turned to beam brightly at him. He had merely smiled in return. He knew then he was not a father, the heir would be taught by Knight's and training men, by teachers… He would not have any part in the boy's upbringing; that was her job.
"He'll be so beautiful. He'll be perfect, Uther."
He knew she could not determine whether or not she birthed a boy or a girl and so he had nodded, humouring her as he always did when she spoke of the baby. If she had lived long enough, she'd have been such a wonderful mother. She would spend hours fantasising. She had decided he'd have Uther's light brown hair, her blue eyes, her soft lips for she had berated Uther countless at how rough his lips were to kiss, chapped from years of enduring the chill of the outside. He never took a word of hers seriously, he missed her though. Every fibre of his being wished for her to be here, to see the son she produced. She had not been far off in her descriptions of what he'd look like, just the hair.
He reached up and soothed Arthur's hair once again. The past few months he had found himself here; Ever since that hag had threatened Arthur's life for the life of her son Thomas. He hadn't admitted it but when he had seen the dagger his heart had plunged to the pits of his stomach, he had been unable to move, to even breath until that servant boy of Gaius' suddenly jumped out of know where and knocked him to the floor.
Ever since that night he had found himself checking on Arthur, watching him sleep and remembering how much his mother would have loved to have been here to do the same. If only she had not been taken ill, Arthur had been born earlier and in the drama of it all she had caught an infection.
Loving his son was a lot harder than he had ever thought possible, but if he was to change just one thing. It would be how Arthur saw him, he had wasted too much time of Arthur's life, had not comforted him when he was a small child and had not shown him the sort of love that others showed their own children. Just after Arthur's birth he remembered a market boy screaming to the square that his wife had given birth to two healthy little girls. Had celebrated, had shown them off. Arthur on the other hand had been kept away from the public eye till he was well into his first year.
Again Arthur mumbled in his sleep. He turned again, pulling the covers as best he could whilst his father pinned them down. Uther stands up and lets the covers ride up Arthur's shoulders as he turns his back, still blissfully unaware of his father's presence. He beds over the blond one last time, presses a kiss to his temple before leaving as silently as he came in. Arthur would be King sooner than he would really like but he knew, with more training of course, his son would make him proud. He always did, all that was left was for him to somehow make Arthur proud of him; a hard thing to do when he knew nothing more than the basics about his beloved heir.
But he could try; all he could do was try. And as he lay back in his bed; the moonlight flooding his room and the chill returning to deep within him. Uther knew there and then that he had failed but he had time to amend it.