Title: Spring Campaign
Character/s: Arthur, Uther, Gaius
Summary: Uther shapes Arthur's life as much by his absence as by his presence.
Word Count: 570w
Prompt: 321 Three Words (Child, Spring, Window)
Author's Notes: This started with an image in my head, but since I couldn't draw it, I decided to write it instead.
Spring was when the new campaigns started, as soon as the winter snows began to melt and the weather started to turn. Arthur watched from the castle windows as his father rode out at the head of a long column of men, and Gaius stood beside him, one hand on the shoulder of his tiny charge as he watched the prince endeavour not to cry.
Arthur’s first lesson from Uther had been on the futility of tears; his second, how to stab someone with a knife, which Gaius thought was far too advanced for a child of Arthur’s tender years. Still, that was how it was with kings and princes, and he couldn’t argue with Uther’s desire to keep the boy safe, even if he did think ‘run and hide’ and ‘find an adult’ would have been more effective tenets in that regard.
“Why does my father fight?” Arthur asked him that evening, when Gaius came to administer his tonic at bedtime. “Is it because he’s angry?”
The old physician paused in the act of unstoppering the bottle and considered.
“I think it is partly because he is angry, yes,” he said finally, after a long moment had passed. He set the bottle of liquid carefully on the shelf and turned back towards the prince. “But I think it is also because he is afraid.”
The child looked at him with large, dark eyes. “My father is never afraid,” he said.
“Do you think so?” Gaius sat down on the overlarge bed beside him, resisting the urge to draw the boy into a hug. He was a prickly child, no doubt because of his upbringing, and he did not seek comfort like other boys his age, perhaps believing that it would make him appear weak in his father’s eyes. He did not appreciate being treated like a child, although he was one. “I think your father has many fears. Chief among them is losing you.”
“He fights to keep you safe,” Gaius said, watching the small, solemn face as Arthur struggled to absorb this information. “He fights to keep us all safe. That is his purpose.”
This, at least, it seemed that Arthur understood. “Because he is a knight,” he said, nodding.
“Because he is your father,” Gaius corrected him gently. “And because he is our king.”
He knew Arthur had grasped the significance of this because he let out a breath of realisation, as if Gaius had answered a question that he had been struggling with for some time. He settled back against the pillows at his back and smoothed the covers at his chest with his hands, as though considering.
“Will you take your tonic now, sire?” Gaius asked, sensing that the time for lessons was over. “You know your father wants you to grow up big and strong.”
“Yes, Gaius,” Arthur said obediently. He opened his mouth to the spoonful of amber liquid, and only grimaced a little as he swallowed it down—far cry from his usual protestations at the taste. He didn’t say anything else as Gaius packed up his things and made to leave, but before the old physician had reached the door the boy called him back.
“Thank you,” he said haltingly. The words were formal, as was the regal inclination of his head, but when Gaius smiled and said, “You’re welcome, sire,” the smile that he received in response was blinding.