"The longer you continue to deny how you feel the most painful it will be for you."

The king stopped dead outside Arthur's chambers at the sound of that idiot boy. He very rarely went in search of his son himself—he usually had servants to do that for him—but he had been passing and thought he might as well knock on the door. He needed to find out what time Arthur would be on guard duty that night.

"Merlin, I wish you would drop it..." Arthur's voice came.

Uther stood in the light of the door and saw Arthur sitting by his fireplace with Merlin hovering around him.

"I will not drop it!" the manservant said. "I've never seen you so... so vulnerable. The way you shrink away from your feelings; it doesn't solve or resolve the issue."

"There is no issue to resolve," Arthur said, his voice more solemn and painful than his father had ever heard him. "And I am not denying anything," he added with a murmur, "I told you the truth, didn't I? And you swore never to tell anyone..."

It didn't take Uther long to realise what the idiot boy was talking about—Arthur had affections for some lady-friend. He was naturally curious as to what lady in question. After the debacle with Sophia he didn't trust his son not to do something foolish, as he nearly did then. But this was eerily different as Arthur seemed resigned to his feelings as if they were in vain. The tone of his voice indicated an inner torture, a longing for this girl...

It was one Uther recognised but never in Arthur's voice. He had never loved anyone so...

"And I haven't told anyone," Merlin replied, crouching in front of Arthur. "But I still think you should tell her."

Arthur made a pained sighed and shook his head. "What good would it do? You saw the way she was; she does not return my feelings..."

"You don't know that!"

"You saw it!"

"Yes I saw it!" the younger man snapped back, annoyed by Arthur's awkwardness. "I also saw the way she looked at you then and the way she looks at you now."

Arthur looked down. "If that's true then why doesn't she say anything?"

"The same reason you don't say anything," Merlin scolded him. "Besides... it's not her position to approach you on that subject. She's not an idiot."

Arthur slouched forward in his chair and buried his face in his hands. It all hurt so much. "I hate this... I hate feelings so inept! I hate not being able to do anything..."

"If you tell her that could change—"

"Oh shut up, Merlin!" Arthur snapped, looking up at his servant with an angry eye. "Nothing can happen. Oh yes—when I'm king is all very well, but it might be years, decades before that time! I don't expect Guinevere to wait for me..." the prince paused. "And she has proved that she doesn't mind either way..."

There was silence from the room. Guinevere, thought the king. He knew the name but did not know where. It was only from Merlin he realised the truth.

"Gwen probably only went for Lancelot because she couldn't have you..."

"You can't know that for sure."

"Neither can you until you ask her..."

The king listed to no more. He backed away from the door and walked on down the corridor, completely forgetting why he had been there in the first place. The girl's name was ringing in his head, sounding the warning bells. Guinevere. Gwen. Morgana's maid. That was completely unacceptable. Uther was troubled by his son's state of mind but grateful for his sense.

Uther sighed.

There was no way this romance would ever bear fruit. The girl would find another man, this other one Arthur was lamenting about and she would forget Arthur. The common people were notoriously flighty, after all. Then Arthur would recover from his illness and move on. He felt pity for them but it was for the best. And if the girl didn't move on and did hold out for Arthur... well, there was still the wait. Uther had faith that once Arthur 'had his way' with the girl, he would lose interest. All he needed was to vent his tension.

No, it shall never come to anything... sad though it was.