The Quality of Mercy 1 of 4

A/N: Written for Round 1 of the merlincapfics challenge on LiveJournal. I picked prompts 16, 50, and 64 of the original prompt table.

This fic was not supposed to be this freakin' long, but it blew up on me, and I'm honestly not really sure how it happened.

Pairings: Arthur/Merlin, Igraine/Uther, Igraine/Nimueh/Uther, Nimueh/Uther friendship


It all started when Uther caught Arthur's manservant reading.

Since when do commoners even know how to read? Let alone read through the great tome before…whatever his name is, with the ease he is reading it with.

He saw the servant jump slightly as he closed the door, but he didn't look up.

Oh, bloody hell, he was even writing something.

He quietly walked up to right behind the boy – he may not have been fighting with his knights in quite a while, but hasn't forgotten how to be one – and said out of the blue, "What are you doing?"

The servant jumped again and whipped around in his chair, and nearly fell off of it in the process, before scrambling to stand up and bowing, as he asked, "Sire?"

"Since when can a servant read? And write?"

"M-my mother taught me," the nervous servant said. That didn't change the fact that most commoners couldn't read, and especially not well enough to read…the book appeared to be history tome of some kind, of Camelot.

Why the hell was a commoner reading a history tome?

Maybe he wasn't a commoner…not a normal one. Some kind of plan, of a distant noble? Or maybe a well trained spy, trying to research details about Camelot…

Though imaging this bumbling idiot as a mastermind or spy of any kind was pushing the limits, really.

"And where did she learn?"

"I'm not sure, sire. I think she learned from wherever Gaius learned – they're siblings and all – and I guess he stuck around to be court physician and she started going around teaching-"

"Teaching?" Uther asked, eyes narrowed.

"Yea, I mean, yes, sire," the idiot servant said, bowing his head slightly every time he used the title. He looked ridiculous, but Uther wasn't about to stop him. He wasn't Morgana. Or Arthur.

Or Igraine.

"What, exactly, do you mean by that?"

"Er…my mother used to say being able to read and write was being able to give and take knowledge beyond your normal bounds and that everyone deserved to have more and more knowledge so when she learned she would go around to all the villages and start by teaching some of the children how to read and how to write and then some of the adults would usually try to learn, some, too and she went across a bunch of kingdoms, but only a few villages usually because it takes a while to learn and she settled down in Ealdor when she gave birth to me-"

"You're rambling," Uther said, coldly. Goddamn, this boy was as bad as Morgana's maidservant, maybe even worse.

The servant's mouth shut abruptly.

"So your mother…is a teacher?"

The servant nodded again. "Ealdor – our village – is the best educated village in Northumbria. Everyone in it can read and write – everyone. My mother has made sure of it."

Even though the boy made an attempt to keep a humble and straight face, the pride in his voice shone through.

Uther's eyes narrowed and he pulled the parchment and book towards him.

"Why, exactly, are you researching Camelot architecture?" Was he looking for a weak spot in the castle?

"My village took some damage from the raiders, and the recent storms made it all worse. They were thinking of rebuilding the village with more proper houses, rather than just huts, and I thought I'd send them some of the ways Camelot was built to help them because the city is really strong and Ealdor is close to the border so it gets attacked a lot and…"

With a cold look from Uther, the servant shut his mouth again.

Internally, the king was rolling his eyes. The boy was like a dog. Whenever he chose an object for loyalty, he went the entire length of it, giving his life and possibly his sanity for them. Useful when it was Arthur. Amusing when it was his mother.

Looking around, he said, "Just how well can you read? And write?"

"Er…" He looked hesitant, before pushing the letter forwards.

It was…he refused to let his true feelings on to his face, but he really did find it quite…

"Impressive," he said, coolly.

The servant looked rather shocked, but smiled and bowed again as he said, "Thank you, sire."

The boy's handwriting was neat, much neater than most commoners who knew how to read or write at all, and in surprisingly straight lines. Disturbingly enough, the penmanship was actually better than some of the nobles. It seemed to basically be a summary of some of the building methods. Hm…it was actually adjusted for a village.

This boy may have some usefulness in him, yes. Except…

"Stop fidgeting," he commanded. The boy stopped, except now he looked doubly nervous.

This was rather amusing, actually. Hm. He was starting to see why Arthur kept him around.

"As for reading?" Uther asked. "Even teachers, I suspect, don't read so well."

"Er…"

Uther immediately pushed the tome towards him and pointed towards the beginning paragraph. "Outloud."

Swallowing, the servant looked down, and began reading. The words slid effortlessly off his tongue, and apparently, the boy could read very well.

Keeping his face neutral, he grabbed a Latin book and opened it to a random page. "Well?"

"I don't know Latin," the boy said. "Just some Old Welsh-"

"You know the Old Tongue?" Uther asked, his eyes narrowed, this time.

The servant swallowed again, and nodded. "Yes, sire."

Uther frowned, before shoving the Latin text at the servant – what the hell was his name again? – and saying, "Read it out loud." Just how good was the servant?

The words were stilted and somewhat awkward, this time, but fairly solid, nonetheless, considering the alphabets were the same.

And when Uther grabbed an Old Tongue book, the reading was more sure. The boy couldn't read the Greek at all, and Uther studied the boy carefully.

"How is it you can read and write better than half the nobles, and yet make for such a terrible manservant?"

Another nervous swallow. "I…I just like to read a lot of books? Hard not to, sire, between Gaius and my mother. And I'm good with languages, to be honest, sire."

That rang a far too familiar tone in his head. Abruptly shutting the tomes and putting them back in their places, he said, "Where's Geoffrey?"

"Down having lunch with Gaius, sire," the servant said. "That's why I'm here…help if anyone needs anything…"

"Geoffrey actually trusts you with these things?" Geoffrey guarded these books like the Sphinx did treasure.

"I'm in here all the time," the servant said. "I help him sort and such, and I…I like to read."

Uther thinks back to the last time he can so easily remember Geoffrey trusting someone so low in rank with his books, and abruptly feels as if he has taken this entire thing too far.

"Replace these books to their appropriate shelves," Uther said, turning on his heel and leaving the confused boy in his wake, deciding that crop records could wait just a few more hours.


"Igraine?" Uther calls out, as he wanders into the library.

His future wife looks up from where a book was laid out before her and some strange young girl, dressed as a lady in waiting, and looking furthest from the part.

"Uther," she says, smiling. "How are you?"

"Well," he says, carefully eyeing the young girl. "Who is this?"

"My new lady in waiting," Igraine says, and Uther cut her off with,

"A commoner?"

"Ex-slave, to be exact," she says, and gives Uther a big, wide grin, again. According to her, his ban on slavery and laws concerning treatment of indentured servants were what made her fall in love with him.

Win-win for him, really.

"So you…made her a lady in waiting?" Uther asks. "She is obviously far from nobility-"

"She deserves it," Igraine says. "And she has power that far outmatches anything nobility can dream of."

"Oh?"

Igraine gives the girl an encouraging smile, who up until now has ducked her head with a steady blush as they talked about her. Her eyes widen at whatever Igraine's silent suggestion, but with a slight squeak, she nods.

The windows close themselves, spontaneously, and candles all light at once, while the books and papers around the room organize themselves alarmingly neatly on the shelves and tables around them, and all the while, the girl's eyes go from blue to a terrifying and hypnotic black.

"Oh," Uther says, looking about the room as the candle-flames disappear, the windows reopen, and the last of the papers fly to their spots on the shelves.

"Yes, oh," Igraine says, smiling at the girl fondly. "She's learning how to read. Soon, she can master anything in the magic books with absolute ease."

"Sounds like all is well," Uther says, having by now forgotten what he came here for to begin with.

"Thank you, milady," the girl says, shyly, immediately looking down again, blush growing as Igraine strokes her face, fondness in both their smiles.

"Nothing to thank, my dear," Igraine says, a soft smile on her face. "You will one day be a powerful sorceress, Nimueh – I can feel it."


It doesn't stop with just the servant reading.

He was outside the armory, mostly focusing on the two knives in his hand, but shifted focus when he hears the sound of laughter from inside.

Unguarded, un-arrogant, simple, joyous laughter.

He hasn't heard that from Arthur in years.

"Do that again," Arthur said, still laughing, sounding almost like a child, and Uther feels a moment of nostalgia for when he showed Arthur how to shoot a crossbow from behind his back. He and Arthur had spent all day on learning that little trick, for no reason than because it was amusing and, with almost no true usefulness in it.

There is a sound of scraping metal, and Uther couldn't even begin to guess what that servant – what the hell was his name again? – was doing, but Arthur was laughing again, and Uther was yet again reminded of Arthur's childhood.

And…his own past.

"C'mon, Merlin, surely you can go higher than that!" Arthur said.

Uther marveled at the ability of someone – anyone – being able to bring out that pure joy in Arthur. It has been years, a decade, since he has been able to do that, himself, and despite the king in him knowing he should find out and curb the source of this, the father in him can only smile, and want to award a title and estate to the servant for the laughter ringing in his ears.

There unintelligible muttering, and more scraping, and more laughter from both boys, before suddenly, the scraping sounds stop, and another sound takes over.

The sounds of lips crashing together, mouths moaning into each other, and the sound of something Uther really did not need to walk into – especially not with his own son. (And even more especially after that particular incident of walking in on Arthur and Sir Kay's 'experimentation' when Arthur was much younger – he definitely had not needed to walk in on that).

Turning on his heel and smiling to himself, he found himself caught between happy for Arthur, and the need to send that servant away to protect Arthur's heart in the long run.

Such were the woes of royalty.


Uther blinks as he steps into the room. Nimueh is standing on a tailor's stool, her hands fidgeting but otherwise still, as Igraine sews something into the back of her old dress that Nimueh is now wearing.

Except Igraine is much taller than Nimueh – and the dress is being fitted.

"What the hell…?"

Nimueh blushed, while Igraine smiled. "I wanted to give her some better clothes."

"My other clothes are just fine," Nimueh says, rather indignantly.

"Pft!" Igraine says. "They were atrocious. Half those rags you got from your time in slavery! I will not allow such a powerful friend like you wander around in rags!"

Nimueh's blush grows, and she mutters, "They weren't rags…"

Uther shakes his head, suppressing laughter. "Just let her. I don't think she got too many dolls as a child, and now she's making up for it."

Nimueh snorts in her failed attempt to suppress laughter, while Igraine stands back and glares.

"You're next, Uther Pendragon!"

"I'm a king, now, remember?" Uther says, jutting his chin up and leaning on the door. "You can't order me around."

"Ah, king though you may be, you are still my husband, which means I have every right to order you around!"

"There's nothing you can do to make me," Uther says, calmly, with a gentle smile.

"I suppose not…Nimueh, dear, how long do you think Uther can last without making love to me?"

Uther and Nimueh's eyes widen as he cries out, "Igraine!"

Igraine grins. "Women generally can last longer, I'll have you know."

Nimueh is blushing furiously, now, fidgeting on the stool. "Can I get off, now?"

"No," Igraine says sternly. "We have quite a few more dresses to go."

"I thought you said I just needed a few?"

"It is a few," Igraine says. "Just a few feast dresses, a nice ceremonial dress, a set of dinner dresses, a luncheon dresses-"

"That's a few?!" Nimueh cries out, and Uther takes one look at her face can't help it: he laughs. Igraine smiles, and Nimueh scowls, good naturedly, but continues to fidget, while Uther can only shake his head. Igraine and her vastly inappropriate love of clothing. Uther would stake his crown that she would have been a seamstress if she had her way.

Most days, she usually did end up making her own clothing, anyway.

Shaking his head, he said, "I suppose this would end up being my answer about whether you will both be attending the Beltane feast tonight?"

"I should hope so," Igraine said. "She will be sitting right beside me."

"I what?!" Nimueh yelps, turning again, only turning back to her original position with a slap on her rear from Igraine.

"You are no longer to be just my maid servant – you will be my lady in waiting, and you are going to be Court Sorcerer, one day. Get used to it."

Nimueh whimpers in fear, and Uther laughed again. Servants, these days, were so amusing…


The next time he really notices the servant – Merlin, that's his name – is during a feast celebrating Arthur winning another tournament. Arthur had apparently seen fit to give Merlin a new livery, which was less humiliating for Merlin, but really drew far more attention, making the boy fidget quite amusingly. The breeches were will fitted, tunic swathing his shoulders, tabard loose and revealing. The boy actually looked quite good. Nice change.

And, really, the fidgeting was still amusing.

That, and considering the particular fit of the clothes, and the leers in Arthur's and many nobles' eyes made, it all almost as entertaining as the dancers had been.

Rolling his eyes to himself, he happily turned a blind eye as Merlin filled Arthur's goblet, before whispering furiously in Arthur's ear. With a bit of surreptitious strain, he could hear them.

"…feel ridiculous!"

"You are ridiculous, Merlin. It's your fault for tearing the old livery."

"You tore it, you bloody prat, because someone couldn't wait and had to go at it in the armory and someone was too impatient to let me get our clothes off, myself-"

"You love me tearing them off and you know it," Arthur said, and Uther remembers how much Igraine used to love going through the trouble of undressing Uther, herself. He was never quite sure how she could make the simple act of undressing so torturously erotic. "Besides, you can mend them with a snap of your fingers. Literally."

…what the hell did that mean?

"Is that what this is? You want to see my eyes go gold, so you give me more to do?"

…gold? Forget the snapping, what did that mean?

"Do you have any idea how you look when they do?" Arthur asked, cheekily.

Merlin laughed lowly, leaning in to Arthur's ear, and Arthur gets a flushed look on his face Uther remembers all too well from his own youth. He can't hear what they are saying, anymore, but Morgana can, and she has a rather devious smirk on her face from it, and gives her maidservant a look similar to those that many nobles are giving Merlin's rear, and guessing fairly well just what Merlin is murmuring into Arthur's ear, Uther fought the urge to roll his eyes at the follies of youth.

If only he could've claimed to have done better in his own youth.

Arthur pointed out someone to Merlin, the visiting Lord Aldwyn, dancing on the floor, who lost early in the tournament but is still quite arrogant, and Arthur seemed to mutter some kind of request to Merlin.

Merlin ducked his head, muttered something else which doesn't seem to be to anyone in particular…

And then suddenly, Lord Aldwyn tripped over himself, staring down at his boots in shock as he fell over, taking the Lady he was dancing with down with him, both of them landing on the floor.

The lady got up indignantly, while Aldwyn spluttered about, but it was too late, and she was off in a huff, while the entire court pretended to not be laughing.

But Uther was focused on Merlin, who looked smugly at Arthur, who's eyes were locked on Merlin's, a lustful gaze which reminds Uther far too much of Igraine.

Except that look wasn't always reserved for Uther. The one other person who Igraine used to direct it to…

…was Nimueh.

And suddenly, Arthur's manservant has Uther's full attention.

Which, of course, the witless idiot didn't even know.


Uther sighs in relief as his breeches were finally pulled away, but it is short lived as Igraine pushes him back, so he is sprawled across the bed, before her mischievously sensuous fingers are on his legs, his hips, his thighs, but damnit, never his cock!

"I…I…Igraine!" Uther gasps out. "Please-"

"Sh!" Igraine says, evil smirk on her face. "My game, my rules."

Uther swallows and nods, his head falling back as her thumb rubs over the tip, and the back of her nails around the head, before her tongue is in his navel, traveling up, her hands now busy holding his down.

"Mmm…" Igraine moans out, the sound going down his spine and straight to his warm, warm, hot groin, and damnit, she knows it! "I wish I could have shown you the way you looked out in the practice field, today. You looked magnificent."

"Some…someone…is excited," he gasps, not quite able to form coherent thought with her doing that with her hand, her breasts on his thighs, and it was just his wrist her hands were on, but bloody hell-

She chuckles a bit sadistically, and Uther's hips buck as she finally, finally takes him into her mouth.

"Oh, God…" he cries out.

"Sorry, just me," she says, cheekily. And he almost huffs in amusement at that (because kings never snorted), but it comes out as a strangled moan, and-

The door opens.

"Oh!"

Uther's eyes widen in shock at Igraine's cry around his dick, and he turns his head to see who was interrupting, who could possibly…

Nimueh is blushing furiously, but with a sad look on her face at Igraine, and Uther hates it as Igraine pulls her mouth off of him to sigh.

"I-I-I'm sorry, milady," Nimueh says, for some odd reason glaring at Uther. He knows that Igraine was quite close to Nimueh, but surely…?

"Leave," he commands coldly, acting like he wasn't naked and with a slick, wet hard-on standing to attention.

The girl starts to nod, and Igraine said, "Oh, don't be such an arse."

"What, do you want her to stay?" Uther grinds out.

And Igraine smirks, and he already regretted his words as she said, "Yes."

Nimueh's eyes widen, and she says, "There's no need, milady, I know you and your husband-"

"My husband? Really? Come, now, Nimueh…" Igraine pats the bed beside them, and Uther slams his head back, what the hell was she thinking, inviting the up and coming court sorcerer into their bed with them, and with them both, because really…

"Uther?" Igraine says. "You agree with me, don't you?"

He gives Nimueh a look that said anything but, willing her to leave…except it backfires.

Severely.

With a hint of challenge in her eyes, she raises her hand and snaps her fingers, and suddenly, the girl is just as naked as the royals in the bed.

And then she looks at Igraine, and she's just Nimueh, again, and slightly unsure of herself.

Smiling, Igraine says simply, "Come here," and promptly goes back to sucking Uther.

It's a struggle, but Uther manages to keep his eyes on the girl as she approaches, even with everything Igraine is doing to him. Nimueh clambers onto the bed, and it feels so wrong, but Uther can't muster up the energy to try and kick her back out again, as Igraine writhes, and laps at his cock like it's some obscene treat, before she disengages and turns to Nimueh.

"Would you like to try?"

And Uther's eyes widen in shock, and so do Nimueh's. Well, at least they can agree on one thing.

"Igraine!" they both yelp, and Uther gives her a strange look for being so familiar with the Queen, but Igraine, herself, is laughing.

"Oh, you two," she says, shaking her head, as if their reactions were the antics of two particularly playful children. With a sideways smile at them, she puts her hand on the back of Uther's neck and directs him to follow her as she lies back, using her other hand to beckon Nimueh over, those slender fingers stroking up and down Nimueh's body as she nears.

She turns to Uther, and guides his hips to hers, saying, "Fuck me," and Uther complies, just as she turns her head back to Nimueh, pulls her close, and kisses her strongly, pulling their bodies flush together where the logistics allow it.

And watching the two kiss so passionately, their lips locked in a dance Uther can see but cannot understand, makes Uther change the angle of his hips, work harder, but hitting that spot inside Igraine he knows drives her insane.

And it works – she screams into Nimueh's mouth, moaning in ecstasy, and Nimueh is glaring at the smirking Uther, before her fingers went up Igraine's sides, and they are massaging, stroking, groping, in some strange pattern Uther can't see, which makes Igraine hiss out in pleasure.

Not to be out done, he slides his fingers down the crease where Igraine's leg and body meet, still pounding away, braced on one arm, and Nimueh runs her fingers between Igraine's breasts, her own hips moving to her mistress's cries, and Uther has to bite his lip against screaming as he reaches his climax, but does not stop pounding, not for his own satisfaction, nor for Nimueh's moans as she reaches a bizarre release just from pleasuring Igraine, alone, and he does not stop until Igraine has peaked and passed, and her own hips have stilled with her climax.

Nimueh stretches out languidly by Igraine's side, his wife's hand brushing over the girl's hips, while Uther collapses on the other side.

Igraine is smiling at them with an amused look in her eyes, her voice thick and lazy as she speaks: "I should have done this much sooner. You two are so adorable when you get competitive like this."

Uther and Nimueh both give her rather incredulous looks, before glaring at each other.

It's Nimueh's fault he's being called adorable.

Then Nimueh blushes as Igraine's hand explores her rear, right in Uther's full view, before the sorceress over the mess of sweat and other fluids on their bodies. "Áthierre."

He feels his body tingle, and then he is fresh and dry again, and Igraine smiles as Nimueh cleans them off, before shutting her eyes and settling into the pillow.

"Go to sleep, both of you."

And Uther wraps an arm around Igraine as they settle in, while Nimueh does much the same, her and Uther's arms brushing and almost overlapping.

Igraine opens her eyes long enough to roll them at the two sharing her bed, before shutting them again, this time falling asleep for sure.

Ironically enough, despite Nimueh's presence, Uther is not far behind.


A few days later, and Uther was caught in a web of sorcery again. The council meeting ended, including the witch's sentence, but Arthur has anger and rebellion in his eyes.

Uther stayed behind with his son.

"She's just a child!" Arthur yelled, as soon as the hall doors closed behind the last councilor.

"She was using magic," Uther said, not bothering to hide the venom in his voice, studying Arthur's reaction to the word.

Nothing.

He wasn't entirely sure what that meant.

"For god's sake, she was trying to heal a bloody puppy, certainly nothing evil about it!"

"Nothing evil yet," Uther said, coldly. "But that power goes to sorcerer's heads. The magic may be harmless, now, but it does nothing but corrupt. Next she starts controlling the puppy to 'play' with her, then make it attack people who happen to make her angry, then she realizes she can control them – and with magic, it won't occur to her to stop, either!"

"How do you know?" Arthur asked venomously. "You've killed all the sorcerers in Camelot before being able to truly understand them!"

I understood Nimueh. I saw how she changed, how magic changes everybody. What do you know?

Except part of him wonders, and might already know the answer.

"You were not-"

"I know I was not here!" Arthur said, coldly. "When sorcerers were overrunning the land and trying to destroy Camelot, but today-"

"Today, every time we run into one, they are trying to kill one of us or destroy our kingdom!"

"Of course they are!" Arthur said. "You have been persecuting them for decades-"

"Are you saying that this is all my fault?"

"Yes," Arthur hissed. "I am, because it is. You killed a man and tried to kill a little boy for buying some bloody herbs in a market!"

"They were Druids-"

"Who were seeking supplies and nothing else-"

"And you would rather I let members of the people trying to destroy my kingdom run rampant?" Uther yelled, slamming his hand on the table.

"I would rather innocent people not die! And yet you insist on killing this child-"

"Who is innocent now, but will not remain that way!" Uther said. "Would you rather I kill her after she kills someone innocent?"

"You don't know she will!" Arthur said. "For all you know – and hell, considering that bloody puppy, most likely – she could become a healer, or a crop magician, or-"

"A sorceress bent upon destroying the kingdom-"

"She will be because of you trying to kill her!" Arthur said. "A few sorcerers just a few decades ago may have wanted to bring down Camelot, but certainly not all, and you made it worse!"

"Have you ever met a sorcerer?" Uther asked, coldly. "Man to man?"

"No," Arthur admits, just as coldly, even as Uther can see his eyes say yes. "Have you? Met one that wasn't on trial? One that you weren't about to kill?"

Uther fights down the urge to take his hand to Arthur's cheek, and he wonders if Arthur can see the yes in his eyes, and says, "Leave, now."

Arthur does so, and Uther can see the way Arthur critically eyes the guards, and the light outside, and how Merlin is at his side when Arthur is leaving, having waited just outside the doors, and he sees a slight panic in Merlin's eyes as he and Arthur whisper to each other urgently.

At this moment, he does not see what he once looked for in the boy. Arthur is making a summoning motion of out Uther's line of sight, and the servant follows, and the secretive way they glance at each other make Uther rather suspicious.

He does not feel glad that the witch he is killing is a child, young enough that her chest was still flat and her hair in braids by her father, but he knows this is necessary, feels it.

He remembered Nimueh. He didn't know her at that age – considering her background, he rather doubted anyone did, really and truly – but he remembers her in their youth, and how young she still looked when he saw her last – how hadn't she aged? – and thinks, and wishes, that what he had seen were real, the innocence he once knew about her.

What Uther felt in his bones at the thought of magic, he already knew Arthur did not feel it, nor Morgana, dear Morgana. He remembered Morgana saving the little Druid boy, how he could hear her hidden words when she 'apologized' to him the next day, how none of them were surprised at the little boys' second escape.

That night, he stayed in his chambers, but did not sleep. He doubted he was the only one.

The next day, he feigned surprise when the little girl is discovered missing. Arthur listlessly sent the guards to search for her. Morgana's maidservant was the one helping Arthur for the day, while Morgana herself, and Merlin, were nowhere to be seen.


"Gaius!" Uther says in relief as he closes the door to the physician's chambers behind him. "Igraine's gone mad!"

"Now what?" Gaius asks, humoring his lord, but not bothering to look up from his potion. Namely because Igraine went mad pretty much every other week.

"I should have foreseen this," Uther says, with a moan, sliding into a bench by Gaius's work table. "What was I thinking, a tailor's fair while she was here? She must've bought a quarter of the entire market, herself. She's turned the castle seamstresses into an army!"

"Is that so?" Gaius asks, distractedly. Uther knows Gaius didn't really hear him, and if he were to ask his friend, the man would not be able to tell Uther what he just said. But it's nice to release his tension on someone.

"She just tried to get me to wear some ridiculous feasting robes, all covered in sigils, supposedly for good luck, and how the hell does she expect me to wear it? If I had stayed, it would have taken two servants just to don in the first place! Not to mention how inconvenient it-"

KNOCK-KNOCK

Uther's eyes widen, and again without looking up, Gaius points to the bedchambers he never uses unless Uther makes him, and Uther hides behind the door without shame, as Gaius calls, "Yes?"

The door immediately opens, and closes shut again, and Gaius gives an exasperated sigh, as Uther hears Nimueh's voice yelp, "Hide me!"

"Igraine?"

"You have no idea how Igraine has gone- yes. How did you know?"

"Because the King of Camelot is currently hiding in my bedchambers," Gaius says with an amused but frustrated sigh, as if putting up with two small children.

"Gaius!" Uther says in mock-betrayal, as he steps out, before looking at Nimueh, who has managed to slip into one of her more preferred, simple dresses, but looking harried for it.

"The enemy of my enemy is my friend," Gaius says simply. "And before you two ask, I have no intention of sleeping, today, so while Igraine invades the castle's textile stores, you two may hide in here."

Nimueh looks just as relieved as Uther feels, and with a grateful tone, says, "Thank you, Gaius."

With that, she quickly slips into the small bedchambers, as well, and Uther closes the door, halfway, saying, "I can't believe I'm hiding from my own wife."

"Your own terrifying wife," Nimueh says, flicking her wrist a few times, the room tidying itself, the bed remaking itself, and much of the dust clearing itself out from the room and out the window that was fluttering in the still air, providing the slightest of breezes in the midspring warmth. "She tried to make me wear a dress with beads and flowers on it!"

"Did it look nice?" Uther asks, amused.

"Well, yes, but still – I don't know how you royals put up with it, all the uncomfortable clothing."

Uther rolls his eyes, and closes the door all the way upon hearing another knock on the physician's door, and lies on the bed as Nimueh stands by the window, looking out over the city.

"Aren't you supposed to be meeting with the new king of Mercia? Negotiating with the hostile Druids and all that?" Nimueh asks, conversationally, after a few moments of comfortable silence, and Uther ponders just when things with Nimueh became this comfortable.

"He is out hunting," he says. "I had initially stayed behind to spend some time with Igraine, but that was before I knew she had gone mad."

"How on earth could you have missed it?"

"Because I have spent the last three days straight trying to keep from strangling that idiot Bayard. Taxes your system to deny yourself for that long, you know," Uther says.

Nimueh laughs, and turns from the window and comes to sit on the edge of Gaius's bed, laying back across his hips, until her head is on his chest, her shoulders draping off his stomach, as he moves to make room for her on the bed.

There are a bunch of dried flowers on the window sill, and Nimueh holds her hand out to them and says, "Frícath ac me."

As the flowers start drifting and twirling in lazy circles above them, Uther asks, "What does it mean? That spell?"

"Dance for me," Nimueh says.

Uther laughed, slightly, and felt Nimueh's responding mirth against his own stomach. "Wonderful," he says. "Maybe you can get Igraine's dresses to dance for her, one day."

"I'll stick with these for now, Uther."

And the flowers dance.