Title: amidst this bitterness
Pairing(s)/Character(s): Gaius, Uther
Summary: Gaius knows the choice is coming soon, the choice between his king and his future.
Warnings (if any): None
Total word count: ~1,100
Original prompt number: 159 - Submitted by oldwickedsongs
Disclaimer: This story/artwork is based on characters and situations created and owned by the BBC and Shine TV. No money is being made and no copyright or trademark infringement is intended.
Author's/artist's notes (if any): I had originally intended this to be Gaius/Uther, but somehow, this emerged instead. *g*
I never meant for any of this to happen.
When I saw Uther crumble after the loss of his wife, I felt all my previous convictions melt away. Magic did that to Uther. He was the strongest man I had ever known; he's still the strongest man I know, but he lost something that night when Ygraine died. He hasn't been the same since. Ygraine made him laugh; she made him a better man in a way that I never could.
I was so sure that we didn't need magic. It killed my friend's wife. If Nimueh wielded it with such careless abandon, then it couldn't be a good thing. Or least, that was what I told myself. I convinced myself that I had been misguided for so many years and that it was only now, after Ygraine's death, that I could see Nimueh's true colours.
I was fooling myself.
Truth be told, given the choice between Uther and magic, I'd made the conscious decision to choose my friend. Right or wrong, Uther was my king and my friend. I couldn't have made a different choice.
Of course, I didn't predict the result of Uther's actions. I couldn't have predicted the smell of blood on the street, the children who were drowned, and the terror of the people. Those who were my friends felt betrayed by my actions and those who weren't my friends feared me. I was the very epitome of everything Uther had told them to fear and hate, yet here I was, alive and well.
"I'll protect you," Uther told me as he placed his hand on my arm. There's so much left unsaid in that one small motion. "You made the right choice, Gaius. You won't regret this."
"Yes, sire," I responded automatically.
Uther's eyes were hollow as he turned to look at me. "Without magic, Ygraine would still be alive."
I opened my mouth to mention baby Arthur, but then I closed it again. "I'm sorry, sire," I said. "I should have known."
"You couldn't have known the evil that lay within Nimueh's heart," Uther said harshly. "This was her doing. The people need to see that magic twists people. It seems like the easy way, but it will only bring more pain in the long run."
That was true enough, but I couldn't help but suspect that I should have known. Everything has a price and even the miracles of magic aren't free. I should have warned Uther, but I couldn't. Not after I saw the joy on his and Ygraine's faces when Nimueh promised them a child. It was my weakness that led to this. My desire to see Uther happy.
I laid a hand on Uther's shoulder. "I am still sorry, sire."
Uther nodded. "She will pay."
The purges happened so quickly that most people didn't even have the chance to react. The druids managed to help some escape, and I did my part in turning a blind eye towards my former friends and colleagues running for their lives. But it wasn't enough. Too many people still died.
Camelot changed overnight.
Friends grew suspicious of one another. What was normal now was reviled. And while this happened, I spent my time throwing away most traces of my former life. I tried to start anew and told myself that this would be easy.
All through this, Uther looked out at the world through tormented eyes. I watched as he ordered former friends to be killed. I watched as his guards patrolled the streets. I watched as he stared dry-eyed while servants packed up Ygraine's belongings. I watched as Uther used his pain and loss to reshape history.
Magic was now the villain.
Prince Arthur would know no other world. This saddened me.
Now, when I see Merlin together with Prince Arthur, my heart aches for them. They're both so young, yet the fate of Camelot rests on both their shoulders. They remind me of Uther and I in our youth, when the world was still a bright, beautiful place and Uther was our beloved king of a magnificent kingdom.
Camelot's still magnificent, but I fear for Uther. He doesn't let anybody close any more, not even me. Ygraine was the only one he would truly listen to. I see Arthur wavering between his own beliefs and those of his father's. Uther loves his son, and sometimes, he even listens to Arthur. But nothing will replace his love for Ygraine.
"Don't be a dolt," Arthur's voice floats back to me on the breeze.
I look up from where I'm chopping herbs to see Merlin laugh. "I'm not a dolt," he protests.
So young. Like little puppies tumbling out of a basket.
I turn back to my herbs. Sometimes, I fear that Merlin will make the same mistake I did. I see the way he is with Arthur; I see the way they look at each other, and then I pray that Merlin will never have to make the choice I made.
I know now that I was wrong, but it's too late for me. Merlin's the future now and I need to protect him. I close my eyes. There's a great battle coming. I can feel it in my old bones, and I know that one of these days, I will have to choose between my king and my future.
Merlin thinks it'll be an easy choice, but I'm not so sure. I would give up my life to save Merlin. I'd defend him with the last breath in my body. Yet Uther's still my king, and I'm still his friend. For all of Uther's faults, I don't know if I can give up on him. Merlin sees Arthur on the throne already; he sees the day of Uther's death as being inevitable and I know he doesn't care how it happens. Is it so wrong that I wish Uther's death to be a peaceful one of old age in his bed? But I've been around too long to believe in that. The rebirth of magic will be just as bloody as its suppression and I fear that Uther will be one of its victims.
I suppose it's only fitting. Hundreds died from Uther's decree. Magic will be reborn in a bloody revolution, and Uther will suffer for his sins.
I shake my head.
I know the choice is coming; I just hope I'll have the strength to make the right one.