Title: Inbetween

Author: littleotter73

Fandom: Merlin

Characters: Uther Pendragon, Arthur Pendragon

Setting: Missing scene from season 4 ep 3

A/N: Written for DracoFidus for his birthday. Many happy returns, Draco, I hope you like it.

He stood in the far corner of the room mostly encased in shadow, betrayed only by the moonlight as it revealed half his profile. In the low light, Uther Pendragon still resembled the strong king he once had been, his features set and foreboding. It didn't expose the sorrow, the disappointment, or regret that was on display for his family and personal household during the day, nor did it reveal the heartbreak lurking behind his pale green eyes.

Tired and haunted eyes that had witnessed countless deaths over the years, often at his own command and sometimes by his own hand. He was a warrior king after all, Camelot was his by right of arms. Kingship was a burden, even to the most prideful of men - most would never understand that, thinking it was about vanity and greed, but Uther loved this land and had sworn to protect it and its people... his people. Sitting on a throne was also an extremely lonesome affair and once he'd lost his wife, there had been no one to share his burdens... but that was a lifetime ago.

His gaze shifted to the sleeping figure in the bed across the room, blond hair tussled against the pillow. Arthur wasn't a boy anymore, hadn't been for a long time. He'd grown up fair and just, and proven himself a capable warrior, ready to take the crown. The kingdom was in good hands.

Years ago Uther had often set up a nightly vigil over his young son's slumber, wondering what sort of king the little boy would become. It had been something so remarkable, watching him grow from a helpless infant and a gangly child, all knees and elbows, into the hero and prince his people deserved.

Arthur would be taking his place soon. Uther knew it well. Even if he could dust off the depression that plagued him so, the people deserved a strong king, a young king. Camelot's enemies wouldn't stop their attacks knowing that the elder Pendragon was vulnerable. The people wouldn't accept him back without some sort of test of strength to prove his fitness to rule, and in truth, Uther's heart was no longer in it.

Morgana's betrayal had broken him. He'd raised her as his ward in honor of her late father. Gorlois had been a hero and he adored his little dark haired spitfire. There was no need to expose her parentage and make a cuckold of his dearest friend and staunchest ally, even in death. Uther couldn't do that, but he loved Morgana as his own, even if he couldn't acknowledge her. Over the years, he'd found that she was much more of his temperament than Arthur was. Underneath all the bravado, Arthur possessed Ygraine's cool levelheadedness.

His eyes filled with tears. She'd never asked why, she'd just disowned him, betrayed him, and tried to rip his kingdom away from him. She'd succeeded, even if she didn't wear Camelot's crown. It was Arthur's now. The Morgana he knew, or thought he had known, was gone. She'd repeated his mistakes, doomed herself to repeat even more, and she was a threat to his son and rightful heir. Kinship meant nothing to her. Love meant nothing to her. Pity. Even Uther had had love, the love of a wife, a son and a daughter (for she had loved him once), and even his subjects. Sometimes his methods were draconian, but they were meant to keep his kingdom together and his people safe. Power, greed, and the humiliation of those who refused to help her were all that mattered to Morgana now, and Camelot a pawn in her plot for revenge.

Shifting his focus back to his son, Uther bit back the pain, looking on Arthur's face and making a decision. In two days' time it would be the anniversary of the prince's birth. It was time to live again, for Arthur and for himself. He hated the inbetween state in which he had existed over the last year, and he knew the toll it was taking on his son. But he could not come back as king, no, he would pass that mantle on to Arthur at first opportunity and act as his advisor. It wouldn't be easy, but he'd always put Camelot's best interests first, and this time would be no different. Arthur was more than ready, and most of all, he could beat Morgana where Uther could not, even still.

As he emerged quietly from the shadows and approached the bed, the old king reached out to touch his son's cheek, changing his mind and pulling back before his fingers ghosted the sun-kissed skin. Heading towards the door, Uther opened it and checked to make sure the hall was clear before turning back, "Until tomorrow, Arthur... my son."