Characters: Uther, Morgana
Genre: Gen, Angst
Spoilers: Through 4x03, "The Wicked Day"
Summary: AU. A different choice, a different ending. For yessikg and anyone else who's in denial about "The Wicked Day." Stay strong, my dears. ♥
Morgana knew that Uther suffered, and that was enough. For a time. She wanted to see for herself, but the ever-practical Morgause told her not to go. It was nothing but wise and sensible counsel, but still. Sometimes when they spoke of Uther, Morgana thought her sisterd looked...hurt, was it? Or jealous? Naturally, there was nothing to be hurt or jealous about. Morgana simply wished to savor his pain, like wine aged to its most poignant.
The first time she visited him, she thought it would be the last.
Magic made getting to the king's chamber was simple. She didn't kill the guards, but put them to sleep. She knew how the castle worked, and she knew that guards who'd been sleeping on the job would keep their mouths shut and their heads on their shoulders. Dead guards, on the other hand, would be something of an obvious clue.
As Agravaine had told her, Uther looked half-dead already. He sat staring out a window, shivering in the early-evening cold. A neatly-folded quilt was draped over the back of his chair. No supper tray, no fire. Gwen would be here soon.
Morgana cupped her palms and whispered an incantation. She moved over to Uther and opened them to reveal a little orange ball of flame. He looked confused. She snuffed it out with a thought. He looked up at her, dully surprised.
"I'm sorry," he said slowly. It seemed to take a lot of effort, as if he were dragging the words from his throat with a bit of barbed wire.
"You can never be sorry enough," she said. "No amount of suffering could ever redeem you."
His eyes slipped out of focus and he was gone, wherever it was that he hid now. She said a few more of the things that had been bubbling continuously in her mind, but he showed no sign of hearing. Gaius must have drugged him to hide the truth of his madness, as he had drugged Morgana to hide the truth of her prophetic dreams.
She turned to go. He grabbed her hand.
"Come back soon," he whispered.
Later she convinced herself that it was a trick, that he was lying to trap her. But in the moment she simply left, too surprised to respond.
The second night, she thought she knew what she was doing.
She came at midnight, giving Gaius's draught time to wear off.
He was in bed, the room tidy and fire lit. The unmistakable mark of Gwen's presence. Morgana scowled. Gwen hated the old man as much as Morgana did, yet she cared for him as though he were her own father. Perhaps she enjoyed being victimized; Morgana did not.
She sat on the side of the bed, watching him sleep.
It was really just a childish mistake, but there was a time when she had thought she might share a bed with him one day, because she had shared a bed with him one night. He had been away, leading the army to war in some far-off locale. Arthur was still too young to go along. Morgana was anxious, hardly eating or sleeping the entire time, wondering if Uther would die in battle as her father - Gorlois - had. Then came the nightmares. For days at a time she hardly slept, spending her nights shivering in terror and praying for daybreak. Gaius noticed, tried to help, but his potions had no effect.
One night when she was beginning to doubt her own sanity, she heard the clatter of hoofbeats that signaled the army's return. She hugged her pillow and hoped that her nightmares would end with the fighting. Not long after, her door opened. It was Uther. She had never seen him looking so exhausted. His eyes were glazed and bloodshot, one hand was bandaged. His feet dragged when he walked.
Without a word, he joined her in bed and wrapped his arms around her. So near, she could smell fresh soap and feel the softness of his tunic against her skin. She didn't know what to do. What was he expecting? Before she could formulate a coherent thought, she realized his breathing had slowed. He was asleep. She wiggled a little, but his strong arms were holding her steady. Suddenly feeling warm and very sleepy herself, Morgana drifted off to her first good night's sleep in a week.
Back in the present, she shook her head. Why had she thought of that? Uther might have pretended to care for her, but Morgause explained that he could never love her without knowing her true self. Since he hated magic, and Morgana was magic, therefore he must hate her. When her sister laid it out so clearly, Morgana couldn't help but see it.
She jolted him awake with a little burst of energy and smiled down at him.
"I thought you should know that Arthur is planning to use magic on you. He thinks he's going to save you."
Uther ran a dry tongue over dry lips. "I cannot fault him for doing what he thinks is right."
Morgana's face twisted in anger, looking monstrous in the flickering firelight. So, she was evil incarnate and Arthur could do no wrong. If that was how things would be, why should she even try to be good? "His efforts will destroy you. I've made sure of it."
Uther's eyes drifted and she was afraid she had pushed him too far again, but he returned to her.
"Do what you must," he said.
"What?" Morgana growled.
The room seemed to tilt from side to side like a ship on the high sea. What kind of thing was that to say to your hated enemy? The embodiment of all your wrongs, everything you wished to destroy? Was he trying to manipulate her, even now?
"Do what you think is right," he said, stronger and more clearly now, "And I will be proud of you."
"I'm going to kill Arthur and take the throne of Camelot for my own," she said, louder than she intended. She was lashing out, hitting him where she knew he was weakest - his two favorite things in the world, his precious kingdom and his precious son.
"Don't," said Uther. He looked pained, even a bit frightened. That set Morgana's world back on its axis. Once again, she knew her place: the scorned and discarded illegitimate princess, determined to punish her enemies as she had been punished.
Then he went on.
"Arthur will kill you if you threaten Camelot," said Uther. "Do not challenge him."
It took Morgana a few seconds to understand that his concern was with her and not Arthur. Her whole body reacted, her face flushing and hot tears pricking at her eyes. She was humiliated by his assumption that Arthur would win, and yet more by her own response to his concern. It made her yearn for home, for the days when the whole kingdom surrounded and protected her, like a pearl at the center of an oyster.
Nearly blind with tears, she snatched the amulet from his neck and swept out.
"Terrible news, my lady," said Agravaine, the next morning.
"I know. Arthur's idiotic scheme succeeded." Morgana scowled into a boiling cauldron. She had felt Uther's wounds heal even as it happened, but she wasn't about to tell Agravaine that. Let him wonder.
"I placed the amulet as you said, but there was no trace of it this morning."
The dark man looked her over shrewdly, searchingly, watching her reaction closely. She favored him with her best contemptuous glare.
"Likely it was Gwen or Merlin. Perhaps you should start there," she said coldly.
Agravaine drew his dark cloak around himself. "As you say." He bowed stiffly and took his leave.
She forgot about him as soon as he left her sight. He didn't matter.
The third night, she was sure she didn't know why she was there.
Uther was in bed, unhappily asleep. He had caused her nightmares, and she had returned the favor.
She slipped under the bedclothes and wrapped her arms around him, feeling his shuddering quiet under her steady hands.
Tomorrow, perhaps, she would resume her battle. But for tonight, she had enough.