Title: Cause for Concern
Character/s: Uther, Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Uther wants to be sure that Arthur is dating someone suitable.
Word Count: 987
Author's Notes: First time posting here. Hello!
"Have you been dating anyone, Arthur?" Uther Pendragon asked. It was his son's last year at university, and they had just finished their dinner at the restaurant in Uther's hotel.
Arthur pulled at the collar of his dress shirt. The way his eyes darted around the room made Uther think of a nervous squirrel.
It wouldn't do.
"It's important for you to start planning for the future," Uther said. "It would provide you with some stability to find an appropriate young lady with whom to share your life."
"Er, well," Arthur said, but he didn't continue. His eyes met Uther's; his cheeks were bright red.
"I see. You have found someone, then?" Uther asked.
Arthur didn't answer. His fingers were skittering on the tablecloth now in an incessant rhythm. It was infuriating just to watch him. Uther rubbed a hand across his forehead.
"You have, but you don't think I'll approve," Uther said. He peered intently at Arthur.
"What is it, boy? Is she plain?" Uther asked.
Arthur shook his head quickly, a glimmer of something Uther couldn't recognize in his eyes. Then he nodded again. "I suspect you'll think so, yes," Arthur said.
"Ah. Well, that's no matter. Is she poor? Lazy?" Uther asked. Laziness was something Uther found impossible to forgive.
Arthur's smile was small and rueful. "Definitely poor, but not at all lazy. Quite the opposite, in fact," he said.
"I see," Uther said, relieved. "Tell me, Arthur. Have you only just met her? Why have you not spoken of her before?"
Arthur furrowed his brow and looked down at the table again. "We've been together for a while. I haven't mentioned it because I know you won't approve," he said quietly. "But we've been very happy."
"I'm sure she has many fine qualities. I must insist on meeting her while I'm in town. Will she be free for breakfast tomorrow?" Uther said.
"Er, I doubt it. The doctor training program keeps even an undergrad very busy," Arthur said. He was still fidgeting. It didn't suit him.
"Perhaps lunch or dinner, then?" Uther asked. A doctor, Uther thought, would certainly make a fine wife for his son.
Arthur huffed a small laugh. "I think the clothing required for the style of dining you prefer might be difficult to obtain on such short notice," he said. He froze, then, inexplicably. "Well, that is to say, it would be hard to find anything in the proper size."
"Nonsense," Uther said. Perhaps the girl was particularly heavy or tall, but surely there were specialty boutiques in this city. He produced his wallet. "Take my card. Every young lady enjoys shopping, I'm sure of it. Have her buy something to wear, and tell her to spare no expense. She'll be delighted, I assure you."
Arthur stared at the card with wide eyes. He shook his head. "Thank you, Father, but I know the gesture wouldn't be appreciated. We've argued before when I attempted to be overly generous."
But that's a good sign, Uther thought.
He didn't understand Arthur's reluctance to introduce them. He remembered his own parents' objections to his marriage to his late wife, but he wouldn't be the man he was today without Ygraine's faith in him. He owed it to Arthur to give him the same opportunity.
He chose his next words carefully. "Sometimes, we must risk the disapproval of our family in order to make our own way in life," he said.
Arthur looked back at him, his eyes full of fear. He looked far younger than his age, not like a man ready to start his life at all. Disappointment lay heavy in Uther's stomach, and the last of his patience abandoned him.
"You have given me nothing but excuses today, Arthur," Uther said. "You are not behaving like a Pendragon. I am ashamed of you, that you think so little of your own young lady, someone you say makes you happy."
Arthur's mouth fell open and his eyebrows shot up. "Ashamed of me? You're ashamed of me, for that?"
Arthur began to laugh and seemed unable to stop. The sound was so tinged with hysteria that Uther wouldn't have been surprised to hear it turn into a sob. It was unseemly. The heads of other diners turned their way.
"That's enough, Arthur," Uther said. "Stop this at once."
Arthur's laughter trickled away slowly. "Fine, Father. That's fine. You know how I'd hate to ever let you down. I'll call him," he said.
"Him? Did you misspeak?" Uther asked.
"No, Father. Everything I've told you is true, save that the object of my affections is not a young lady, but a young man," Arthur said. "His name is Merlin."
Uther furrowed his brow, considering.
"A young man, you say? Not greedy or lazy, and training to become a doctor?" Uther said. He hadn't expected this revelation, but his opinion of the situation didn't change.
"Yes!" Arthur said. "Yes, that's who he is exactly. He is handsome, but his clothes are shabby and his haircut's ridiculous. He had to work hard for the chance to attend university, and it can honestly be difficult to tear him away from his studies. He loves me with just the same dedication. And I love him."
As Arthur met his eyes, then, Uther was proud to recognize the defiance in his gaze.
"By all means, Arthur, do call him. Invite him to a late breakfast. We can dine somewhere casual if he'd be more comfortable," Uther said.
"Do you not have any problem with this?" Arthur said, incredulous.
"I fail to see a cause for concern. I do expect you, however, to be more considerate towards this man, in future," Uther said.
Arthur looked bewildered.
"For now, I think I'll return to my room. I'll meet you in the lobby at 10 am tomorrow," Uther said. "Do not make me wait for you."
Uther strode away.