Understanding

Pairings: Uther/Morgana, Uther/Arthur, Morgana/Arthur (future!sex)

Warnings: Non con, incest, sexuality - slash and het.

Summary: A terrible secret brings Morgana and Arthur together. Arthur understands Morgana more than she thinks.

This story is dedicated to The Fake Apollo. Thanks for encouraging me to continue writing. I hope you find this story to your satisfaction.


It was another boring banquet. They feasted so often it wasn't really a cause for celebration. Every time a lord or lady arrived, every time a sorcerer or sorceress was executed, every birthday and on and on it went. Tonight they are celebrating the arrival of Lord Durnhelm. If it weren't the fact that it would be unladylike to do so, Morgana would get as drunk as the Knights. Or maybe even more so. Why not? Why should the men get all the fun? There were some things she wouldn't mind putting out of her mind for a while in the happy haze of wine.

"So beautiful", he whispers into her ear before readjusting his crown and leaving her in the dark, bruised and broken.

Instead, Morgana sat there with her face impassive, still and beautiful like a statue that belonged to the castle. Uther always liked it when she was dressed up and here she is in a beautiful dress, fully covered but sheer at just the right parts. It accentuated her slim form, making her irresistible. She saw the way Lord Durnhelm cast his gaze at her but she regretted that he could never have her. Someone had her already, she knew grimly, unable to forget the bars of her invisible prison – longing to be free.

For a Lord, Durnhelm was exceptionally well-mannered. He had modestly indulged as it would be a diplomatic offense for him to abstain at his own feast but he wasn't intoxicated. He has his full attention on her. He was not inclined to showing off his fighting prowess or his riches. Morgana discovered that he is a charming conversation partner after Uther had stopped capitalising her conversation and retired for the night. She felt sorry for him. The poor Lord was caught between an invisible crossfire and he didn't even know there was a battle going on. She wished that maybe she could accompany Lord Durnhelm for a moonlit walk but it wasn't worth the risk. Not if he found out.

"If I may be so bold to ask my Lady Morgana, will you allow me the privilege of escorting you back to you chambers to retire for the night? It must have been a long day for you," Lord Durnhelm said with a hopeful smile.

"Thank you, Knight Durnhelm, you have been a most gracious guest tonight. I'm afraid that I have something to discuss with Arthur about the court tomorrow. I should accompany Arthur to make sure he does not lose his way," Morgana laughed, lying smoothly and trying to make a joke of it. From here she could see Arthur swaying slightly, obviously trying to hide it, but he was standing a few feet from her, holding the wall. Or was the wall holding him?

"Of course, my Lady, I understand." There was not a hint of sarcasm or bitterness in Durnhelm's tone and Morgana really was sorry that she could not be more responsive to his attentions. The noble kissed her hand, wished her goodnight and then bowed and retreated quietly.

Morgana smoothed out the wrinkles in her skirt, downing the last of the wine. She looked over at Arthur and sighed. He was intoxicated again. She could tell "Arthur," she said commandingly, "Come on, let's go." She bent his arm for him and grabbed it. "You idiot," she mumbled under her breath so that only he could hear, "If your father hears about you..."

Arthur seemed to straighten up almost instantly and swivelled around to look at her like he had just woken up from a deep sleep. "Morgana?"

"Yes, it's me," Morgana said in a biting tone however her grip on his waist was gentle and she guided him as he tried not to weave in the corridors leading to their chambers. In the moonlight, she could see that the crown had tousled his golden hair. His face was waxen and his eyes were flat but he was still the handsome crown prince that all the ladies wanted. The tiredness lining his body showed the cracks in his icy facade. On a closer look, Arthur looked slightly gaunt. Morgana sighed and wished that he would take care of himself better instead of relying on others to take care of him.

Arthur stepped on her dress twice and she admonished him but she was not truly angry. Arthur was arrogant and spoilt and irritating but she knew him well enough to know that he had a lot on his shoulders. Uther pressured him mercilessly, more of a king than a father so Arthur was as good as an orphan. To sit on a throne was to carry all the burdens of the kingdom and she did not envy Arthur. She pitied him. Not that she would let him know, it would hurt his masculine pride. Oh if the people knew that their prince was just a boy who tried his best to please a demanding father, what would they think then?

Morgana had been so lost in her thoughts that she barely realised it when she reached their wing. It was deserted. She could call up Gwen or Merlin but they had been given leave for tonight. No, she could handle this. She smirked. Usually the man was supposed to take the lady to her chambers first. She steered Arthur towards his own bed.

He resisted, his body locking up, stiff. "Almost there, Arthur," she huffed. "Help me." She tried to guide him with one hand, pulling up the hem of her flowing skirts with the other.

With Morgana's verbal prompt, Arthur regained his step and nudged her towards her chamber, gentlemanly even in his inebriation. Morgana understood and started to head towards her chamber relieved that he was not leaning as heavily on her.

"I know why you won't let anyone touch you," he said suddenly in a quiet voice when they were at her doorway. He leant against it casually though Morgana could see that he was still feeling the effects of the wine.

Morgana thought she should humour him. "Pray tell, Prince Arthur." She rolled her eyes as she headed for the privacy screen in the corner of the room. There was a long silence as she helped herself out of the elaborate, silk gown and the layered skirts. She slipped on a plain cotton long-sleeved nightdress. It was cold tonight and there was no point in putting on a flimsy slip. She hated those anyway.

She's interrupted by Arthur's voice. Quiet but authoritative. She thought he'd left. "I've seen the way he lusts after you."

"Who? You'd know all about lust wouldn't you, Arthur?" Morgana responded, shuffling back into Arthur's view.

Arthur stared at her intensely, "Don't." She could see the blueness of his eyes even in dim light from the window. "Don't play games with me."

Morgana ignored him, undoing her hair at the dresser. Ringlets of hair descended on her shoulders.

"You can't pretend you don't know what I'm talking about." She could see him clenching and unclenching his fists, his jaw set stubbornly. "Like it didn't happen."

She sighed loudly, picking the jewelled pins out of her dark hair and scattering them on the wooden table with more force than was necessary. Turning to him, she said flatly, "You're drunk, Arthur. Just go." Then she softened, "Go to sleep."

"He fucks you at night," Arthur said crudely.

Morgana hardened and said in her steeliest tones, slashing at her brother with her words like a sword. "I don't know what you're on about." But even she could hear the slight waver, the trace of doubt.

"Stop pretending. Ignorance doesn't become you, Morgana. Don't act all innocent." Arthur pulled his handsome face into a hurtful sneer. "You're not, are you?"

"Get out," Morgana ordered. "GET OUT!" she screamed, shoving him with as much force as possible but she barely moved him. She threw her hairbrush at him and it hit him but he doesn't even defend himself. There was a hysterical edge to her tone. She felt her tenuous control crack, the wine singing in her blood. She hoped that it was only them left in the wing and that all the servants had gone. She didn't want anyone to gossip about this. "You. Don't. Know. What. You're. Talking. About," she breathed slowly, trying to regain her calm.

Arthur turns his back on her then, disgusted. "I do," he insisted with a bitter laugh. "Father dearest of course," he said into the corridor, not even looking at her so she couldn't see his expression.

She was shocked. Beyond shocked. Then she too laughed in the same hollow, mirthless way he did. "Very funny," she said. "You're so sick, Arthur." She watched him as she went to close the door to her chambers. To end this horrible night. To turn a new page and try to forget this madness.

He's holding her down and she's struggling but she can't break free of his grip. He pushes into her, smothering her lips with his.

"Sick is the right word," Arthur half-turned to respond to her. She had to strain to hear him and when she looked at him now, he's different. He had that pained look etched into him, like he'd been defeated in a tournament. The moonlight cast a grey net around him and he ages so much. He looked older than his father and bags sagged from his eyes, accentuated by the shadows. "You know however many sleep tonics you take, you can't stop the nightmares. The nightmares are real and it's like you're awake but you're not in control of your body. You start to lose track of when you sleep and when it's real but it doesn't matter. You can't tell anyone and sometimes you don't know if it's actually happened or it's all in your mind. That's what it's like. You never get any rest from it."

For a moment, Morgana was angry, thinking that he was mocking her again. But his slumped figure haunted her and she knew that this was one of the times that he is being sincere. She doesn't know how he knows, but he does know even if it pained him to admit the King he is loyal to is...dishonourable. The least she could do now was to hand the victory to him, maybe then, he would feel better about it. "Arthur," she said uncertainly before he turned away again. She'd been hoping for someone to share her pain with and she has found it, on the most unlikely night of nights with the most unlikely person in her mind. She hopes that he will remember so maybe they will be able to find this connection again but she also hoped that maybe he'd be too drunk to remember. Then she could pretend this was just another night. "You were right," she said with a smile that doesn't quite reach her eyes. "It is sick." And then it hit her. If Arthur knows, who else knows? Did he tell someone? Does everyone know? She cursed herself for having been so careless. Uther...if he knew...

Arthur must have anticipated her panic, seeing her face pale even more. He walked the distance between them and squeezed one of her shoulders reassuringly. "No one else knows. It is not your fault. Your secret is safe with me."

"Then how? How do you know?" Morgana was instantly curious. How could he know that it was not her fault? Arthur did not even seem to be shocked. Arthur was always loyal to Uther, loyal to a fault. How could he sound so calm when he was insinuating that Uther was to blame?

"I know you."

Morgana scoffed but she wondered if Arthur was more observant than she gave him credit for. He would make a good king. For the first time, she was glad that he was going to be a king one day. Even if he was Uther Pendragon's son. Even if this was Arthur the spoiled brat of a prince she was referring to.

"I sleep in the same wing after all," he added pointedly.

Then she realised it made perfect sense. He might have been able to hear Uther then.

She nodded numbly and threw her slim arms around him to embrace him goodnight. It was unusual for them both to be so affectionate but then tonight is different and she acknowledges that. It is when she has Arthur fully enclosed within her arms, when she can feel his breath on her cheek, when she can feel the warmth emanating from him that she whispered in his ear, "Liar."

He stiffened and his eyes snapped immediately to hers, his face inches away. His calmness was leaving him, she could see the tension flooding back in.

She saw it so clearly in her mind, like one of her special dreams.

He yanks the shaggy golden locks and forces the Arthur onto his knees. Later, he grinds the angelic face roughly into the mattress, grunting with satisfaction. "So beautiful," he hisses into Arthur's ear, teeth grazing the sensitive shell. "Like your mother."

"You," she began.

"No." Fear and dread showed in his eyes. It was not something she would ever associate with a Pendragon. More like the beasts they were so fond of hunting. But he has the unmistakeable look of the hunted, like he wanted to flee. "Please, Morgana." His eyes pleaded for him and Morgana felt a strange pull to protect him. Arthur never pleaded with her before because he said that a King never begs.

But she could not resist snatching the veil off when she was so close to the truth. He hurt her tonight she justifies lamely in her mind. But more importantly, she wanted no she needed insurance. A lady needs to protect herself. This knowledge, this shame could ruin her forever. "He did it to you too," Morgana blurted out before she can stop it.

The look on his face horrified her even more than the images she saw in her mind. She felt like she had taken the spear through herself and plunged it into him also. She felt cold, like her blood was running out of her. A bloody bond between them indeed.

Arthur is left gaping, breathing heavily like it took all the breath out of him to gather himself. He tried to deny it but it was too late. He pushed Morgana away and headed for his room. The silence was so much more damning than words.

"Wait, Arthur!"

The hands are rough and yet he lets him. Uther doesn't have to force him anymore.

He does not stop at her call, instead he increased his pace. He was the one pretending to be deaf now.

Morgana knows she just broke through his walls. Broke him. Her conscience would not allow her to just leave him like that. So wrapping her arms around her to shield her from the chill, she made the decision to go after him. She could only hope that he was too distracted, too distraught to lock his door.

She closed the door behind her but he was not facing her.

Arthur had taken his crown off gently, slowly undressing as if he was not awake. His fingers fumbled with the elaborate lacing of his ceremonial tunic, in his haste to get it off, he ripped it. It broke his trance and he was violently shredding his tunic now, tearing his sword off his hip and not even bothering with the leggings as he collapsed into bed with his hands covering his face. Morgana sat on the edge of the huge bed, with her hand resting softly on his shoulder as he curled up into a tight ball. What could she say to him to make him feel better? What can you say in such a fucked up situation? I'm sorry your father raped you like he raped me? I'm sorry I found out?

His voice sounded hoarse when he finally spoke again. "Sorry."

Who would have thought Arthur Pendragon would admit he was wrong? A week or even a day ago, she might have paid to hear this but now, Morgana only felt sorrow at this admission. "Me too," she said, tracing circles into his back. He seemed so small now, beside her. So young again.

"I can't tell anyone. I want someone else to understand," Arthur explained painfully. He spoke slowly, unsure of himself perhaps for the first time in a long time. "I mean not that I wanted someone to be hurt," he added quickly. "But it was like..."

"You didn't want to be alone," Morgana finished for him. She struggled to find the words too but she understands now. The pain, the sorrow, the secrecy. She almost choked with it all. "All those times, I could hear his footsteps and thought, hoped that it wouldn't be tonight that he wouldn't...want...it was you." It seemed like a question and a confession of the darkest kind. Yet Morgana felt guilty about feeling a release with the pain. Like something had been lifted from her and she hoped that Arthur could feel it too.

Perhaps he did because he rolled over, giving her more room. Morgana took it for the invitation it was. Pendragons, she thought, they don't say it in as much words as they do it. A flash of shame burned in her for putting him in the same category as his father. No, he is not his father. He is Arthur and he is her brother. Perhaps the only one who could understand the pain that she went though. Is going through. Because he has it too.

As she slips down next to him, in the warmth where he lay before, she had a sudden horrible thought of Uther being there. But she banished it. He's going hunting tomorrow. He won't come for me. Or Arthur, she thought protectively.

Arthur is facing her now, his face clenched in misery.

She grabbed his free hand, shifting to try and get comfortable. "How can you stand it? All those ladies..." she trailed off. She knew she wasn't making much sense.

He swallowed loudly. He understood exactly what she was talking about. He is known for attracting the ladies and it was easy. The men too, he thought with a shudder. But it meant nothing to him. He just wanted to forget. He knows it's a selfish thing but he doesn't think he has enough of himself to share around anymore. He tries to lighten the heaviness that had fallen between him and Morgana, "How can you stand being alone? Not letting anyone touch you..."

She jerks defensively and he squeezed her hand to let her know that he was not making fun of her. He had been so desperate.

"Uther," they both said quietly, reaching the conclusion in mutual agreement. It was all that they could do to let go of that terrible secret.

"We cope differently I guess," Morgana stated blandly but she felt her walls cracking too and she didn't know how long she can continue going on like this. But at least, maybe, it'll get easier now, she hoped.

Arthur brought her hand near the light and pushed her sleeve up gently, revealing the ugly purple bruises on her wrist that she had hidden at the banquet with an ornate bracelet. A present from Uther she thought ironically. "You still fight him," he commented with a note of admiration and perhaps sadness.

Morgana wondered what would be worse – to find a matching bruise on his wrist or to find none at all? Icy veins of fear ran through her. She read the defeat in Arthur's eyes. He must have stopped fighting. She wanted to tell him to fight, fight with her, fight for her but she cannot. It is perhaps the first time she thinks Arthur might be even more broken than she is, that he has suffered longer and that he is better at hiding his injuries. She wondered maybe if there are bruises that only she can see on him or inside him. She knew so very well that sometimes injuries leave no visible marks and those can hurt the most.

"You're still brave," she said when she can't think of anything else to say. She stroked his face with her hand. She could feel his shoulders trembling, him gritting his teeth, his hand squeezing hers so tightly it hurt. "It'll be alright," she lied, with the confidence you would to a comfort a child. Or perhaps a grieving friend. She knows it's a lie but it is one she would have wanted to hear, the one she had always wished that someone would say to her so she could believe it just for that moment, that yes, everything will be ok in the morning. She refrained from saying anything for a long time, just rubbing circles with the thumb of her hand, stroking his hair, his face, holding his hand.

Sometime between a second and eternity, Arthur buried his face in her shoulder and his carefully shielded emotions shattered like a lance piercing through chain mail.

Perhaps someday, they will find solace in each other. Even love. Perhaps he will lay with her forever and they will not have to face the world alone again. Perhaps they will free themselves from the chains that bind them. Perhaps she will not be broken and him defeated but they both emerge from the debris, an allied victory. Perhaps she will lay a kiss to his forehead, keeping her eyes on him as she undressed him. Perhaps he will gaze on her with tenderness as he cherishes her like no other.

Perhaps.

But for now, Morgana holds Arthur tightly as he sobs quietly in the privacy of his chambers. She does not know if it is his tears that fall on her face or perhaps they are her own. They are safe. They can rest, knowing that there is another in the world that understands how much this means.

All criticism welcome.