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[personal profile] red_cortina
Title: His time
Themes and/or Prompt/s: Catharsis
Rating: PG
Word count: 1,851
Characters/Pairings: Arthur/Gwen
Spoilers/Warnings: Spoilers for everything up to the end of S3. Character death.
Disclaimer: Owned by Shine/BBC
Summary: An unexpected revelation forces Arthur to confront his feelings after his father dies. Written for [livejournal.com profile] ag_fics's short challenge, in which I came second. Hooray!

As Arthur sobs into Guinevere’s hair and neck, tears falling onto her shoulder, he’s distantly aware that he’s not acting in a manner which befits a knight of Camelot but he also knows that it doesn’t matter, because it’s Guinevere, and he’s safe.

He hadn’t cried when his father had been carried back to Camelot, motionless and unconscious after a horse-riding accident. He hadn’t cried when Gaius had told him there was nothing he could do, and that he should prepare himself for the worst, and he hadn’t cried when Uther had finally slipped from unconsciousness into death two days later. He’d remained stoic at the funeral, accepting the commiserations of visiting kings and members of Camelot’s court with calm words of thanks.

It’s not even sadness which is making him cry for his father now, not really. Merlin had come to him late the previous night, shifting from foot to foot and looking agitated – well, even more agitated than usual – and had told him the incredible and yet strangely believable secret that he was a sorcerer. He’d said that he wanted Arthur to know before his coronation and offered to leave Camelot, but Arthur, after a moment’s thought, had instructed him to tell him everything. As it turned out, there had been a lot to tell, and he and Merlin had talked all night; he’d learnt new aspects to stories he’d thought he’d known perfectly well to begin with, from afancs to questing beasts, from Nimueh to Morgause to dragons and Balinor. Of course, he’d always known Merlin was loyal, but the extent of his loyalty had staggered Arthur, as had the knowledge that he wasn’t just a sorcerer, but an extremely powerful and increasingly knowledgeable one.

By the time he’d finally dismissed Merlin, telling him to get some sleep and that he’d see him later in the day, dawn was already breaking over Camelot. He’d sat down heavily on the edge of his bed, rubbing his face with his hands, unable to really process the enormity of everything Merlin had told him. What had driven him to Guinevere, though, was the sudden wave of relief that his father was no longer alive, that he would have no say over Merlin’s fate. Immediately following this was a wave of crashing guilt at feeling relieved that his father was dead, and he’d suddenly needed to see her.

She’d evidently already been up despite the early hour and had taken one look at his face before pulling him into her cottage and putting her arms around him. She hadn’t asked him any questions, hadn’t told him it would be alright, but had just let him cry and cry.

It seemed relief over Merlin had opened the floodgates, forcing him to acknowledge all the other reasons he was relieved his father was dead, and the knowledge and the guilt made him cry all the more. After Morgana’s betrayal, his father had been subdued and ineffective, keeping to his chambers and leaving the running of the kingdom to Arthur. They’d been relatively carefree days for Arthur as he’d taken various knights out to the outlying villages, repairing the damage caused by Morgana’s army of immortals. He’d brought Merlin and Gwen along too, ostensibly to help the sick and injured, but it hadn’t taken Merlin long to work out his ulterior motive.

“You’re introducing her,” he’d said smugly one evening as he polished Arthur’s armour in his chambers.

“Who?” Arthur had asked, despite knowing exactly what Merlin had meant.

“Gwen.” Merlin had looked ridiculously pleased, although it wasn’t clear whether he was pleased for Gwen, pleased with Arthur for thinking of it, or just pleased with himself for having noticed. “You’re introducing her to the knights and the villagers as your future queen.”

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, Merlin,” Arthur had attempted, but Merlin had just grinned.

However, it hadn’t been long before his father had emerged from his self-imposed solitude and announced that Morgana’s betrayal was proof that sorcery corrupted, and that they should be prepared to fight it more than ever. Guinevere, as Morgana’s maid, had come under suspicion, and Arthur had been forced to watch helplessly, terrified that intervening might do more harm than good, as his father had interrogated her. He had managed to ensure that Sir Leon was present to give evidence on her behalf, though, and eventually his father had been forced to release her. Arthur had forced himself not to look at her as she left the throne room, but had sent Merlin to check that she was alright as soon as he could.

Arthur had been run ragged trying to counter his father’s more extreme orders without being seen to undermine his authority while a toxic atmosphere of fear and recriminations seeped into Camelot, and he’d found himself thinking that he hadn’t rescued his father from Morgana for this before hastily shutting off the thought, knowing it was treason.

His father’s imprisonment had weakened him, though, and it was while he was riding out to the outlying villages with Sir Leon and some of the other knights to check that his counter-sorcery measures had been put in place that he’d had the fatal accident. Arthur had suggested that he should go instead, but his father had refused, claiming he couldn’t trust him after he’d protested against his intention to make every citizen of Camelot denounce somebody else as a sorcerer, on pain of being arrested as sorcerers themselves. Uther had genuinely seemed to believe that all of his subjects knew of sorcerers that they were protecting with their silence and had become enraged when Arthur had pointed out that, fearing for their lives and their families, the people would point the finger at innocent men and women.

Arthur had immediately put his father’s counter-sorcery measures on hold and had ordered the rations of everyone being held in the dungeons to be doubled. As his father had lain dying, he’d questioned the prisoners one by one, swiftly coming to the conclusion that there wasn’t a single sorcerer or traitor amongst them. He’d told Gaius in the past that he’d never give up on his father, but as he released prisoner after prisoner he found himself hoping that Gaius was right and that his father wouldn’t recover: who knew what he’d do faced with what he’d see as Arthur’s insubordination? He’d hastily repressed that thought as well, and since his father’s death it seemed that there hadn’t been time to think any more about it; he’d had the funeral to prepare for and countless visiting dignitaries to house, as well as planning his coronation. Even now that there was no risk that his father would find out and banish her or worse, he’d barely seen Guinevere, although he had had Geoffrey confirm that there was no legal reason that he shouldn’t marry her.

He isn’t sure how long it is before he pulls back from Guinevere; it could be hours, but a quick glance to the window reassures him that the sun is still low in the sky. He mumbles an apology, but she shakes her head and kisses him unhurriedly. He luxuriates in the touch of her lips against his; he feels peaceful, calmer than he has done in days or maybe weeks.

“He wronged you – so many times,” Arthur murmurs when Guinevere pulls back.

“He was still your father,” she replies, stroking the back of his neck and looking at him seriously.

As he looks back, Arthur is suddenly more convinced than ever that his father had been wrong: there was nothing that would make him a stronger king than having Guinevere at his side to anchor him and comfort him and advise him.

“Do you still want to marry me?” he asks her impulsively.

She smiles at that. “Of course I do.”

He grins back at her. “I want to propose to you at the coronation.”

“What?” she gasps.

“I’m not hiding my feelings any more,” he insists, putting his arms round her waist and pulling her closer.

The bright, sincere smile she gives him makes her look even more beautiful than ever as she says simply, “Alright.”

She’s still smiling against his lips as he kisses her again, and he can’t help answering it with a smile of his own.

“People won’t like it,” she warns him, pulling back.

Arthur shrugs. “I’ll set Merlin on them,” he suggests and she laughs. He’d somehow forgotten that she doesn’t yet know what he knows about Merlin; still, there will be plenty of time to tell her, or better yet, get Merlin to tell her himself.

***


Arthur looks out over the packed Great Hall as his subjects applaud his coronation. Individual faces leap out at him from amongst the throng – Elena, clapping enthusiastically, having stayed at Camelot after the funeral to await the coronation; Leon, smiling broadly; Merlin, grinning in a way which threatens to break his face in two. Mostly, though, he looks at Guinevere; he’s thrilled to see that she looks as proud of him as she frequently says she is. She’s almost glowing with suppressed excitement, although he knows that she’s nervous of the reaction they might get.

As the applause dies down, Arthur launches into his prepared speech, promising to do his best to be just and fair, and to protect Camelot and its people from their enemies – given Merlin’s revelation, he doesn’t mention sorcery. He gets more applause at that, and then he takes a deep breath, and says, “I have always said that I will be a better and stronger king with the woman I love by my side. With that in mind” – he approaches Guinevere, who has taken up a place in the front row as he’d asked her to, and kneels in front of her – “I would like to ask you, Guinevere, to do me the honour of being my wife.”

She’s gone rather pink – as he’s sure he has too – and although he can hear her “yes”, for the rest of the Great Hall it’s presumably drowned out by the loud and raucous cheer coming from the direction of the knights. She pulls him to his feet and they both turn to look as the cheer spreads throughout the hall; something makes him glance at Merlin as his eyes turn gold and countless white petals begin to fall from the ceiling. He looks anxious but relaxes as Arthur grins at him, and gives him an oddly solemn nod before clapping and cheering with everyone else.

As he and Guinevere begin to slowly make their way out of the Great Hall, pausing frequently to accept congratulations, Arthur looks around at the sea of smiling faces, so different from the way they’d looked during the last months of his father’s reign. A cheer goes up from the crowds waiting in the courtyard - the news must have been passed on to them- and Arthur feels his heart swell. It’s his kingdom now, his people, and he will rule them as he thinks is best.

His time has come.


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May 2011

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