Disclaimer: Characters and situations owned by the BBC.
Thanks to: Kathy, for beta-reading.
Spoilers: Until and including 2.08. Sins of the Father.
„You're not to blame," Uther tells his son after Arthur attempted to kill him, but he needs to blame someone, and it definitely won't be himself. He nearly died today, at the hands of the person he loves more than anything in the world, and someone has to pay for this. Unfortunately, Morgause is out of reach.
It's not that Uther minds coming close to death. That is common for a warrior and a king. He is also ready to give his life for his son, has been the last time Nimueh came to torment him with the past. But today's events were different, in a way that has him shaking with grief, fear and rage once everyone is out of the room, and there are no more prying eyes. He gains enough of a hold on himself to make sure the boy keeps his mouth shut, Arthur's servant who certainly has proven himself loyal but in a way that says something disquieting about the importance his son places on him. If Arthur was past listening to his father, he certainly shouldn't have been able to listen to a serving boy.
My son. My son.
Uther briefly considers talking to Gaius, but that is not an option right now. Something has shifted since Aredian, since Gaius did not accept Uther's apology. Now Gaius admits to having kept secrets, of lying to Uther about Gorlois' other daughter, and doesn't even apologize for it, as if Uther's forgiveness for these deceptions is something Uther owes him, and the hell of it is, Uther can't bring himself to disabuse Gaius of such a notion. Not with that memory of Aredian in mind. But he can't trust Gaius with what is in his heart again, either.
There used to be Morgana, but he does not even consider talking to her, not today. If she found out what happened, and reacted in anything but horror, Uther does not want to see it. He wants to believe she would be appalled to learn he had nearly died at his son's hand, but he can no longer be sure, and as bitter as this is to admit, it's still better than putting it to the test.
You are a hypocrite and a liar. Arthur should never have been able to say these words. That had been worse than the drawn sword, or the fact that his son is now able to overpower him as easily as if Uther were an opponent in a tournament. Uther has always known Arthur is both his reward and his punishment, but the punishment was supposed to consist only of the pain he felt when looking at his son and seeing his son's dead mother. Not of rejection. Judgment, even. A fortnight ago Uther hadn't even known Morgause was still alive, but now she rivals Nimueh in his hatred for making him hear these words from his son. He tries to drive the memory away with what came next, Arthur kneeling in front of him, remorseful, broken, trusting again, as he should be. But it had needed another outsider to accomplish this, and for a moment, he's almost as resentful of Merlin as he is of Morgause.
Morgause is not here to punish, but it occurs to Uther that he does have a magical creature in his power. For the first time in many years, he takes a torch and makes his way down to the foundation of his castle, where the dragon dwells. The foul beast looks exactly like Uther remembers it, and why not? It is magic, deeply unnatural, and will not age.
"Uther," it says, and the hate in its voice is deeply gratifying.
"If you think my death will change anything for you," Uther says, making sure he stays out of reach of the Dragon's breath, "for any of you, you're wrong." He's not simply talking to the dragon. He's talking to Nimueh, wherever she may be, Morgause, and all the treacherous embodiments of the magic which strives to take all that Uther holds dear from him, and always has. "I had him for twenty years, you understand? He's mine. Not yours. I made him."
"You appear to be talking of your son," the dragon replies, and his voice becomes taunting. "Who, as I recall, was made of magic."
"That was my sin," Uther says. "But I redeemed him from it. There is not a thought in his head I have not formed. His soul is mine, beast, and if I died tomorrow, it will still be mine."
It's difficult to tell with an inhuman creature like the dragon, but these words seem to have impact. At least the dragon does not reply immediately but stares at Uther. Uther's own heart begins to lift. Clearly, he has done the right thing, coming here, finding the words to transform today's events from an humiliating horror into a triumph. "He'll be the king I taught him to be. He never had another teacher, and now he is a man, and he never will have. He is my legacy and my immortality."
At last, the dragon speaks again. "What has your son done today, Uther Pendragon," it asks, "that you feel the need to tell me this?"
Oh, it is clever. But Uther is a match for its wiles.
"What counts is what he did not do, and what that proves. You and your kind, you might wish to separate us. You might try. But he is my son, and you'll never be able to take this from him, or from me. His heart and his soul are mine, and if you try to rip it out, you will be left with nothing. Look at me, dragon, and know I am not just the past but also the future."
"We shall see," the dragon says, and flies away, evidently out of arguments. It is not a little satisfying to know it can't fly very far. It's magic, but subdued and subjected, and will never rise to freedom again. What happened today was just like the dragon's pretense at flight, one vain attempt by vile sorcery to take Uther's son from him, and maybe not even the last, but just as the dragon is confined and has to return to the ground Uther bound it to, again and again, Arthur has returned to the lessons Uther taught, and always will. Reassured, Uther leaves the caverns behind and climbs upwards again. He feels triumphant enough to imagine Morgause's face, wishing he had paid more attention when she was actually in the castle. Maybe then he wouldn't have needed Gaius to recognize who she truly was, and she would have been in chains now, like the dragon, never having had the chance to spew her poison into Arthur's ears. Though Morgause does not look like Gorlois, not the way Morgana does, so it is not surprising Uther had no idea. In fact, if Morgause resembles anyone, it would be…
Uther puts an hasty end to that line of thought, for Morgause does not resemble Ygraine, or Arthur himself. There is no connection; there never was, there never will be. When he's back in his chambers, he sends a servant to tell Arthur they will share supper today. He does not phrase this as a request; there will be no chance of a misunderstanding. They will share food and wine, and talk about the new knights, because everything is normal once more. Arthur will not ask about his mother again, because now he feels too guilty for what he almost did to address the subject. Uther will look at him and not see Ygraine, or, most ridiculous notion of all, his own self-created death. He will see his son, who loves him unconditionally. And if his hands, placed on Arthur's shoulder, hold on a little tighter than usual tonight, dig a little deeper, painfully deep, it will be due to the shared wine and the lateness of the hour, for no other reason.
No matter which member of the staff will bring in their meal and serve during dinner, though, Uther will make sure it won't be that boy, Arthur's servant. There has been quite enough interference today.