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Our Farewell

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Title: Our Farewell
Author: A Lanart
Fandom: Merlin/Highlander
Characters/pairing: Gaius, Uther, Leon, Gwen (past Gaius/Uther)
Rating/Spoilers: Rating G. Major spoiler for Merlin S4 ep 3 "The Wicked Day"
Warnings: none (but see spoiler alert)

~*~

Our Farewell

*

They were finally alone together, truly alone, for the first time in months, but it brought no joy to Gaius. He reached out with a shaking hand and ran his fingers across the cooling, waxy skin of Uther's face, a face that looked surprisingly at peace after the heartache of the last year. For all Uther had only just died, Gaius felt that his King had lost the battle to remain alive when Morgana broke his spirit; watching him die by degrees over the last year had been torture of the highest degree. If he'd dealt with curses, he would have devised a very special, very painful one for Morgana but even in the depths of his anger and grief he couldn't bring himself to seriously consider it. He'd forsworn magic for this man, given up the life magic would have given him, merely to remain at Uther's side; there was no way he could break that trust, even though Uther's death technically freed him from his oath. He would do it all again, nine times over, just to be in Uther's life in some way. He brushed the hair away from Uther's forehead, blinking to stop his tears from falling.

"Do you remember the first time we met?" Whispered Gaius. "You were so young, so determined that a measly forest and its 4-legged inhabitants wouldn't get the better of you, even though one of them had already killed your horse. I knew then, that…" There was a commotion at the door and what seemed like a veritable horde of women trouped in, with Gwen following though she looked helpless, frustrated and apologetic; no doubt she'd tried her best to give him some privacy and failed.

Gaius straightened his shoulders and stood, with his best glare firmly in place as he turned to face the women; he hoped they wouldn't see the remnants of the tears in his eyes.

"What is the meaning of this disrespectful cacophony?" Gaius snapped. The women halted en masse, staring at him with gaping mouths and various expressions of incredulity. One of them, the smallest and child of a druid father and one of the hill people if Gaius remembered rightly, stepped forward.

"If you please, sir, we mean no disrespect but the King must be prepared for his lying in state."

"The King was a warrior and used to the presence of men, I do not think he'd take kindly to being surrounded by chattering women. I am more than capable of undertaking the task."

"But sir, you…" the woman bit her lip and looked at her feet.

"I'm what? Too old? I assure you I have more than enough life and strength to treat my King with the respect he deserves." Gaius glanced up, over the downcast heads of the women to the open door; he was reassured to see Sir Leon, who gave him a brief but firm and heartfelt nod. "And if I do require help, all I need to do is call on Sir Leon. As someone whose family has served the Pendragons for generations, he is more than entitled to assist." It wasn't *exactly* an untruth – Leon's family had served for generations, even though every uncle or cousin had in fact been Leon himself – and Gaius couldn't think of anyone he would rather call upon than Leon, who had after all been present at his first meeting with Uther. He unconsciously rubbed at the faded Watchers tattoo on his arm; Leon had been his first, and only, field assignment as a Watcher. You weren't supposed to become friendly with the immortals you Watched and when Leon had to move on before people noticed he wasn't aging, Gaius had been encouraged to remain behind, with Uther; he hadn't argued.

"If you're sure…"

"Of course I'm sure. Now out, out, all of you." Gaius made shooing gestures at the women, grateful when Gwen herded them all out of the door, though not before she had ensured they left their burdens of linen, sweet oil and water behind. Leon closed the door behind them and Gaius sighed with relief.

"I can stay if you wish," Leon said. Gaius shook his head, but gave Leon as much of a smile as he could muster under the circumstances.

"This will be my only chance to say my goodbyes, the last time we can be simply Gaius and Uther; after this he will forever be the King."

Leon nodded. "I understand," he said.

"I'll call when I need you, let you say your own goodbyes. At least you will remember him as he was even after the rest of us are dust and long forgotten."

"While I live, the name of Uther Pendragon will *never* be forgotten," said Leon.

"Even when his reign is eclipsed by that of his son?"

"Especially then."

"Thank you, Leon. You have my eternal gratitude."

Leon stepped forward from his position by the door and laid a heavy but gentle hand on Gaius' shoulder. "I loved him too."

Gaius raised his other hand to rest over Leon's where it lay on his shoulder, and squeezed the strong fingers gently.

"I know you did," he said. "And you love Arthur just as much. I could never bear the burden you immortals do; this life has held more than enough pain and sorrow and joy for me. This," Gaius gestured at the room and Uther's lifeless body, "is an untimely ending, but I still have my hope for the future." Gaius let his hand drop but glanced up at Leon when he felt the immortal's hand press harder for a moment.

"There is always hope, Gaius."

Gaius didn't turn to watch as Leon headed toward the door with heavy tread but remained standing until he heard the door open and close behind him. The candles seemed to flare brighter for a moment, then Gaius made his way back to the bed and his dead King, friend and beloved.

"You should not have died before me, Uther." Gaius bent and kissed Uther softly on the lips that had given so much pleasure when they were both younger; it was an old man's kiss, chaste and dry, empty of all but goodbye. "You shouldn't have left me alone." Gaius sank into the chair beside the bed, clasped Uther's cold hand in his own, and finally let himself weep for all that was lost.