Character/s: Uther, Arthur
Summary: The only thing that kept Uther from storming out of the palace, heavily armed and willing to break anyone who got in his way, was the knowledge that doing so was more likely to hurt Arthur than help him. But by God, it was tempting.
Word Count: 894
Prompt: #236: Separation
Author's Notes: Exists in a 'verse but can be read on its own. Also filling the Hurt/Comfort Bingo square: Kidnapping (masterpost here or here).
The only thing that kept Uther from storming out of the palace, heavily armed and willing to break anyone who got in his way, was the knowledge that doing so was more likely to hurt Arthur than help him. But by God, it was tempting.
Since that option was unavailable to him, as was drowning his fears in liquor, all he could do was pace the perimeter of his office waiting for a phone call—from his men, from the kidnapper, anything. Any news at all. He also yelled quite a lot, mostly at the imbecile whose one job had been to keep Arthur safe.
“You let her just walk out of the palace!” he bellowed at the man, who had been stripped of his position immediately and interrogated by Uther’s most trusted security staff to make sure he was only incompetent, not actually involved. Uther trusted their judgement, but he had also trusted Arthur’s nurse and the head of Arthur’s personal detail and that had led to disaster, so he didn’t want the man out of his sight until Arthur was found, safe and whole.
“She had my son. The heir to the throne. My son! And she was gone for an hour before you even noticed!”
He waved the start of the man’s response into silence. It wouldn’t be anything new, because Uther knew that his accusations were repeating themselves, but he didn’t care. Call it the privilege of a king, though really he wouldn’t deny it to any father whose son had been missing, kidnapped, for hours. Arthur was his only son, all he had left of his beloved wife, the most precious thing in all of Uther’s life. If he had to give up his (mostly symbolic) crown for his son’s safe return, he’d do so without pause and parliament be damned.
The worst was not knowing if Arthur was hurt. If he was scared or sad. If Sophia was treating him well and he thought they were just on an adventure, or if he was alone somewhere dark and cold. If there would even be a ransom. If Arthur was still alive.
Uther looked at the remnants of the teacup, a gold-trimmed china piece that was probably priceless, or at least horribly expensive, then he picked up its mate and threw that, too.
“Your Majesty,” the imbecile said shakily.
“Out. Get him out!” Uther raged, even though he’d been the one to insist the man be brought in. He couldn’t stand to look at him anymore. He was hustled out without question, and Uther by that point didn’t care if they turned him loose or threw him in the Tower.
Uther didn’t consider himself a sentimental man. His political opponents and even friends, more than once, had accused him of being heartless. He loved his son, and Arthur knew that, but he didn’t dote or coddle. Nevertheless, he was sure he could feel his heart crumbling, piece by brittle piece, with every moment Arthur was away from him. He hadn’t felt so helpless since Ygraine had chosen their unborn son over her own life; by the time Arthur was born, it had been too late for anything but palliative care.
He understood her choice now more than he ever had at the time. He hated to think of Arthur orphaned, but he’d suffer any death, any indignity, any torture to improve his son’s chances of returning home safely. He ached for Arthur and he ached for Ygraine, and all at once the loneliness threatened to overwhelm him.
Before he could sink too deeply into melancholy, the heat of his anger burnt out, his security chief’s mobile trilled an alert and Uther’s breath caught in his throat as he waited through the brief, one-sided conversation.
“We’ve identified the train they got on,” Lionel said as soon as he disconnected, “and we have video of them in one of the carriages as it pulling out of the last stop, about twenty minutes ago. Prince Arthur was still disguised but appeared to be in good health. We’re going to intercept it at the next station. Clear the platform, sweep the train. We’ll bring him home, Your Majesty.”
“Take me to the station.”
“Sire...” Lionel met his eyes and didn’t bother with the rest of the argument. “Of course, Sire. I’ll arrange a helicopter immediately.”
The ride was quick but also endless. The train arrived at the station before they did, and Lionel kept Uther informed as it was stopped, then as Arthur was secured and Sophia arrested. Those updates were all that kept Uther from losing his mind at the waiting.
And then they were there, and Arthur looked so small and fragile, standing inside a huddle of police and royal security, wearing a lilac frock and bonnet. Uther ran to him, royal dignity and circling press be damned, and the protective circle parted as Arthur burst out, crying, “Father!”
Uther dropped to his knees and swept Arthur into his arms, no longer able to contain the emotion ripping through him; even though it was relief now, tears rolled hot down his face as he clung to his son. He pushed back the bonnet to kiss Arthur’s forehead and hair, he cooed and shushed as Arthur sobbed into his shoulder, and he didn’t let go for a long, long time.