Title: A Minor Detour, Part 24
Rating: PG-13 this part / R overall
Character/s: Arthur, Uther, Morgana, Merlin
Summary: Arthur had to have misheard. The Commissioner—Commissioner Pendragon—couldn’t really have called Uther father. But no matter how many times he replayed the statement in his mind, it came out the same.
Word Count: 1,000
Prompt: #296: Revelation
Author's Notes: Previous parts on AO3
Arthur had to have misheard. The Commissioner—Commissioner Pendragon—couldn’t really have called Uther father. But no matter how many times he replayed the statement in his mind, it came out the same. His understanding was confirmed by the way Merlin’s face, moments ago so bright and relieved at the sight of him, fell into shock as he whipped his head around to stare at Morgana.
She wasn’t paying attention to him or to Uther, though. Her eyes, sharp and as endlessly cold as the cosmos, were fixed on Arthur.
“You didn’t know.” It wasn’t a question, though Arthur shook his head anyway; his own movement was the only thing he felt he had any control over anymore, and he needed that. Still not a question, she followed up, “And you don’t remember me.”
Arthur shook his head again. “We’ve met?”
He credited Uther for the lack of uncertainty in his voice, but refused to be grateful for it. Uther himself hadn’t held his composure against being confronted with her; it was just another weakness he allowed himself yet had forced out of his son through years of criticism and disapproval. That was enough to brand him a hypocrite and a tyrant, even if it had taken Arthur far too long to realize it; but if it were true, if Uther had another child that he’d treated so poorly that she ended up commanding the Wayfarers’ Wander and hating him as she so clearly did, then things were even worse than that.
“It was a very long time ago,” Morgana said, still assessing him. “We were children.”
Like running headfirst into a forcefield, the memory slammed into him: coming to the Wander, trying to sit still while his father talked about boring things to another man, watching a dark-haired girl in the corner study schematics and wishing he could talk to her instead. Eventually he had, slipping out of his too-tall chair when the adults were arguing about something and going over to pester her. She’d been bigger than he was, and rolled her eyes at him, but entertained his childish questions anyway.
“You showed me how the Wander was made.”
Morgana’s face gave nothing away, but now that he knew what he was looking for, it was easy to search back in his memories for more stolen moments like that one.
“And later, you showed me how to use a blaster when my—when Uther thought I was too young. We were friends,” he said, finally hearing a waver in his own voice and not caring in the least. His whole life was spinning off-course as he desperately tried to recalibrate with no nav systems or viewscreens. “How did I forget that?”
For the briefest of moments, her expression softened; he recognized her, then, a grown version of the girl from his memories. But the frost of the void slid right back into place as Uther barked, “Because I told you to, and you hadn’t yet lost your mind enough to ignore me. She’s always been a manipulative little thief, she’ll say anything to turn you against me—”
“Is it true?” he asked over Uther’s bluster, which died in the wake of his question. He turned away from her, back to stare down Uther’s ashen expression, and asked again, “Is she telling the truth? Is she your daughter? My sister?”
“It’s more complicated than that,” protested Uther, which was all the answer Arthur needed to dismiss him once and for all.
He turned his back on Uther, walked away from him figuratively and literally, to round the table and stand in front of Morgana instead. The move put him close to Merlin, as well, and he didn’t even think before reaching out to take Merlin’s hand in his. Merlin took it without hesitation, squeezing reassuringly and stepping in to Arthur’s side.
Words were rarely hard to find for Arthur. They had been with Merlin when things got heavy with emotion, when he was still struggling to come to terms with feelings he thought he had to deny himself. It felt like that again, a different kind of intimacy that he craved and feared at the same time.
He’d never known his mother, and Uther had always been more of a commanding officer than a father. But his crew filled in for his family’s absence, and not even a newly-revealed sibling could overcome that. Their safety had to come first.
“As a man,” he said, “as your brother, I’d wish for an opportunity to know you better. I want to catch up on the years we’ve missed and know your story. But I know you must have other considerations, as I do. As a former Captain of Camelot’s Albion, I request refuge for my men and myself. We’ve been betrayed by our command, by Admiral Pendragon himself, and we have nowhere else to go.”
“You chose your argument poorly, brother. As Commissioner, I have no interest in the internal drama of Camelot’s fleet or what unfair treatment may befall you from it. But as your sister...”
She closed the distance between them, wrapping her arm around his shoulder opposite Merlin and turning the three of them together—awkward, in the small space, but neither she nor Arthur ran into anything the way Merlin did—to face Uther. He’d never looked so small.
“As the disgraced illegitimate daughter of Uther Pendragon, nothing would please me more than to spite him by accepting you. You, your lover,”—Merlin’s fingers twitched in his—“and any men who swear loyalty to you over him can claim sanctuary.”
Uther trembled with impotent rage; Camelot would never let him move against the Wander for a personal vendetta. “I should have killed you years go, you worthless station rat,” he hissed at Merlin. “This is all your fault.”
“The worthless station rat saved your life,” Morgana corrected. “If he hadn’t given me this way to hurt you, you’d be drifting in the void by now.”