Uther rises from table later than his custom, and (plain to see) unsteadily. With scarcely a word of parting to Arthur and Morgana, he takes to his rooms. He walks unaided, but only just. No one will be given audience tonight. There will be no meetings, no reports. The King is not well. The day and the night preceding have taken their toll on him, and he succumbs to what old warriors call “post battle sickness.” It is the condition of a man who has driven himself past his limits, has prepared himself for death, hollowed his soul of fear and desire in order to do what he must, only to find himself alive, the danger passed, his soul still empty. The fear creeps back first, seeping through his being, a quiet dread of the futility of all things, and there is nothing for it but to numb himself until it becomes possible to take his cure in sleep.
Time was, even numbed with drink, Uther would have exhausted himself with women before attempting sleep on such a night. But his years are with him more than ever and after a day and a half on his feet, he is too bone weary to bother. Truth be told, he hasn't bothered with women much in years. All his energies have been consumed by the affairs of his Kingdom and invested in the training of his son. He hardly thinks tonight is the night to take the habit back up again. As long as it's been and as deep as he is in his cups, Uther thinks, the attempt might only mar this victorious day with a night of embarrassing failure. As the night grows later; however, and sleep continues to evade him, he wonders if he should have made the effort after all.
He could probably still have someone, though he can't think immediately who it would be. Perhaps that young servant, Maggie? She is just to the pretty side of plain if a bit thin, and lodged close enough to be summoned without alerting the whole castle. He thinks of her adequately round, though not over ample, buttocks as he has occasionally seen them when she is on her knees cleaning the floors, shaking from side to side and rustling her skirts with the motion of her scrubbing. That is enough to let him know that he's not impotent at least. He slides one hand inside the loose linen pants he sleeps in and rubs his manhood lazily, enjoying the sensation as it becomes increasingly firm in his hand. At some point, idle rubbing becomes purposeful stroking and the image of Maggie is replaced by less accessible but more desirable women. Vivienne's ample breasts, Ygraine's milky thighs. But thoughts of Ygraine threaten to run too deep, frustrating rather than serving his purpose, and Vivienne's image soon predominates.
Moment's from sweet release and the sure promise of sleep to follow, Uther's concentration is broken by the sound of his chamber door opening. The King frees his hands and stills himself, tension instantly refocused. Nerves taunt, he quiets his breathing, alert to the possibility of an assassin. Few else would dare to enter a king's bedchamber without announcing themselves, especially at night. Arthur might dare, but he would hardly bother with stealth. His personal servants certainly know better than to intrude without being called. Gaius might, if he thought his wounds needed further tending, but his familiar shuffling steps would have been impossible to mistake, especially if he was attempting to be quiet.
The King's fingers are curled on the coverlet, prepared to leap from his bed if need be and lunge for the nearest sword, when the soft swish of satin slippers across his floor gives him his answer. Morgana.
Uther feels a strange thrill, some emotion he can't identify. Unless it is some resonant echo of his interrupted lust, ebbing back through his blood now that his fear has left him at this sudden shock. On impulse, he remains still, watching her. At first she is a shadow upon shadow, but as she draws near, the moonlight catches her profile and for a moment it is as if Uther's fantasy has answered to his summoning. Vivienne has stepped from his dreams into his chamber, alive again.
But then Morgana gasps, spoiling the illusion. Clearly she has noticed his open eyes because she stares into them a moment, making him feel discovered. Uther isn't sure if he's annoyed with her or with himself as she makes her nervous apologies, ringing her hands in a way that reminds him much less pleasingly of her mother. “I'm sorry, My Lord,” she whispers. “I didn't mean to wake you.”
“Then what, pray tell, did you intend?” Uther asks dryly, propping himself on his side, the better to see her features and thereby the workings of her mind. But the light is dim and both her features and her motives remain obscure to him. She does not answer immediately. Instead she bites her lip. One of Vivienne's more appealing habits. It is an expression he has seen a hundred times on each of their faces, most often in innocent, pensive concentration. But seeing it now Uther is struck with the memory of Vivienne biting her lip just so as deep, ragged breaths rattle in and out through her nose, steeling herself against the temptation to cry out in pleasure as he moves slow and deep within her in the secret hours of the night.
A chill runs down Uther's spine, much nearer to true terror than he has ever felt in battle save for the moment that Tristain's howling wraith was unmasked before him. And yet, he finds, the stiffness that he only now realizes has been slowly returning to his cock since he first learned his midnight visitor was no assassin continues unabated. Maybe it's the strangeness of the day. Maybe it's his lack of sleep. Maybe it's his drunkenness. But for some reason, the utter and complete inappropriateness of his arousal, the obscenity of it, arouses him all the more. Feeling unwholesome in a delicious, lascivious way that he hasn't felt in ages, Uther lets himself enjoy the thrill of his secret stiffness and of her innocence of it.
But once again, Morgana ruins the moment, when she bleats out her obvious concern. “I just wanted to make sure you were alright.”
Uther sighs and levers himself up to a full sitting position. The pains this causes in his shoulders and the concentration it takes to endure them without any noise of complaint seem to contribute to the rapid deflation of his royal member, for which, Uther supposes, he should be grateful. After all, taking childish delight in a naughty secret no better befits a king's dignity that whimpering and mewling over the aches and pains of battle. Uther congratulates himself on conquering both weaknesses as he blandly assures his daughter, “I'm fine, Morgana. Barely even a scratch, and Gaius has tended to that. You may rest free of worry for my old bones.” There you old rascal, he says to himself, now she can be safely on her way back to her own chamber and that's an end to your foolishness.
But Morgana does not nod and beg pardon and leave to go, as a good ward would do. Like the daughter of her stubborn father, she plants herself on the edge of his bed and broods, unwilling to be beguiled of her worries so easily. As she sits there staring down at her folded hands in her lap, Uther watches her breast rise and fall with two quick breaths and knows she is working herself up to say something more. He almost laughs at the fleeting thought that he should preempt her, stop her mouth with a kiss rather than wait for the coming storm of temper. Clearly, he is still very drunk, to think such foolish things. How shocked and horrified she would be! Though Morgana has not an inkling of the fact that he has fathered her, she sees him in quite the same light as if she knew. Which is only further proved by her otherwise inexcusable scolding of the King of Camelot, “What you did today was very foolish! You could have been killed!”
This at least gives Uther an excuse to release his laughter. “Protecting my son from certain death was foolish? Do not try to convince me of that, My Dear, or you will be the foolish one.”
And now Morgana raises her head, her eyes shining in defiance, as unafraid to challenge him as ever. “Arthur is the better warrior,” she skewers his pride without mercy. “He is younger, stronger and far more quick and agile. If you could defeat the wraith, surely it would have presented him no great challenge.”
“Then why do you not disturb his rest with your songs of praise?” Uther teases, laughing all the more.
“Because I am not interested in Arthur!” she replies exasperatedly, and for a moment, they are both shocked. Discomfited. “I mean, I am not worried for Arthur,” Morgana clarifies miserably, clearly embarrassed by her poor choice of words, but still, as ever, gravely concerned. “You could have died,” she points out yet a gain, tediously, needlessly, as if he could have forgotten. But then, she is not to know that he began this day fully expecting to die.
“And yet I did not,” he hears himself saying, unsure if he has answered Morgana or his own thoughts. Seeing that she is uncomforted, Uther leans toward her, meaning to reach for her hand. Pains he has forgotten to expect catch him off guard and he gasps and winces. “Truly, Morgana, I'm fine,” he tries to assure her when it is clear she means to fuss again. But his words are unconvincing, spoken through a grimace that had been intended as a smile.
“My Lord!” Morgana clutches at his shoulder, “You are hurt, aren't you?” Once again she is all aflutter, breasts rising and falling. Once again she bites her lip like her mother. And here they sit, the two of them. King and Subject. Father and Daughter. Male and female. Man and Woman. On his bed. In their night clothes. Thighs touching in almost total darkness. An involuntary groan of miserable, futile frustration escapes Uther's lips, making his pain appear even worse than it is, which is bad enough.
“It's nothing,” he lies unconvincingly, trying to wish she would take her hand from his shoulder. “Just a bit of strain. Here all I need is a little of this...” he fumbles at his bedside table for the bottle of ointment Gaius has left him. But his hand meets flesh instead of glass.
Uther's hand is wrapped around Morgana's, which is wrapped around the bottle. Her other hand still rest on his shoulder so that they are practically facing each other though still seated side by side. Thigh to thigh. It is difficult to keep his breathing steady as she gently whispers, “Here, My Lord. Let me help you.”
“It is not necessary,” he tries to protest, and yet he lets her take the bottle. Uther's sore muscles are throbbing for a soothing touch. And the ointment would be difficult to apply himself, that much is true. But he could call for a servant at any time. He could call for Maggie. He probably should. But he doesn't. He wants to feel Morgana's hands on his body. And being that she has a good and pure purpose for putting them there, he reasons with himself, there is truly no sin in it. It will do her no harm. For all she knows or can imagine, his thoughts will be as pure as her own. In fact, it will do her troubled spirit good to be of help to him. And then, perhaps, they both can finally sleep, can put this hellish day behind them.
Uther makes one last proforma objection that such service is importer for the King's ward, secure in the knowledge that this will only incite Morgana to insist more forcefully. “Take off your shirt and lie on your chest,” she commands. And there is that thrill again, that terror-laced excitement. God, she would make a marvelous queen! Uther obeys her, though his arms protest.
The air is chill on his naked back, making her slick hands feel like hot coals in contrast. Which is a good enough excuse for the hiss of satisfaction that escapes him as she begins to caress and knead his flesh. Her burning fingers sear something far deeper than his skin as they move across his back and shoulders, doing more than applying ointment, working the tension from his muscles firmly and with purpose. Were she not destined to be a queen, Uther reflects, she might just as well become a great physician. There is something in her touch, an instinctive, healing grace that Gaius has not learned in all his years of practice.
As Morgana smooths the oil into his skin all the way down to the edge of his sleep pants, Uther is glad to be lying on his belly so that neither his face nor any other far too expressive part of his body is in a position to frighten her with the knowledge of how good she is making him feel. Inappropriate isn't the word for it. This is wickedness. It truly is. Morgana is his child for God's sake. He should put an end to this, should thank her and send her on her way. But her thumb trips over a tight band just above his buttocks and he groans instead. He's not sure whether it is pain or pleasure that he feels, but it is definitely bliss, and he finds he cannot help but writhe and moan beneath her touch. He murmurs encouragement and appreciation as she returns to that same sweet spot again and again with an enthusiasm that almost makes him doubt her pure intentions.
When Morgana finally stops rubbing, she doesn't remove her hands right away. Uther struggles to slow his breathing, caught between pleasure an embarrassment. He has to remind himself again that she is only a concerned young woman rendering loving aide to an injured family member. If she has been wonderfully responsive to his moans and murmurs, it is only because she believes he is signaling nothing more than joyful relief of aching muscles, not rutting against his mattress like a young boar after a sow in heat.
He nearly panics when she commands him, “Turn over. I need to do your chest.”
“Morgana, I don't—” Uther begins to protest desperately. Hiding his secret thrill of arousal from her may be childish, obscene, and undignified; but revealing it would be practically criminal, to say nothing of the distress it would cause her.
But Morgana is insistent. Stubborn. “Turn. Over.” she demands, punctuation her words with two sharp jabs to the ribs so that he has no choice but to obey or else strain something in his struggle to resist her attacks.
While Uther settles into this new position, hoping the sheet he clutches to his waist, combined with the dimness of the room is enough to keep his secret, Morgana pours more ointment into her hands. She begins by rubbing the front of his shoulders, then works her way down his upper arms. Uther begins to relax, though to do so, he has to close his eyes against the sight of long, dark tresses framing a shadowy face that could be Vivienne's but isn't. Here, where the weight of the wraiths strikes were concentrated, her ministrations are truly needed. And yet the aches her touch relieves in his arms are nothing to those she causes in his soul. Especially when her hands move to his chest, beginning just below his collar bones in smooth, even strokes.
When her fingers begin to ghost over his nipples all hope of relaxation leaves him and he's back to moaning helplessly, struggling not to writhe in this much more exposed position. He thinks he must be imagining the little sighs of reciprocal pleasure that begin to escape Morgana's lips, or at least misinterpreting them. When she draws her hands away, he lets out a deep sigh and dares to open his eyes, smiling at the thought that he has survived his second trial of the day. But the smile of sly challenge that she returns him is as unmistakable as the purposeful movement of her hand as she reaches for the sheet that preserves his thin pretense at dignity and pure intentions.
Biting back a curse of frustration, Uther is forced to grab her wrist. “Yes, thank you. That was most, most helpful,” he manages to choke out, “but, now I need my rest.” Uther is aware that he sounds both dull witted and abrupt, undiplomatic. But eloquence and courtesy are the least of his concerns. His arousal is no longer a secret, nor is Morgana's reciprocal desire. And the secrets he still holds are no child's game, naughty or otherwise. The fact that his blood courses through her veins is of deadly serious import. Being ignorant of this, Morgana is quite as deceived as to the identity of the man she is trying to bed as if he were a total stranger, or worse, a hated enemy disguised in a familiar form. God help him, Uther finds that this thought excites him more, but he feels honor bound to resist temptation. He has made a promise to Gerlois, and to so deceive Morgana would be a second betrayal nearly as disgraceful as the first, though perhaps also as pleasurable.
Morgana rolls her wrist against his grip and Uther lets her, thinking she means to stand. Swallowing his childish disappointment that she has backed down so easily, he comforts himself that at least he is doing the right thing. As for the parts of his body that protest, that are still dying for a good stroking... he thinks perhaps he might call for Maggie after all. Just as soon as Morgana is safely gone.
But Morgana does not stand, does not go. Instead she curls her hands around his arms and uses them to lever her body forward so that her breasts rest against his chest, their flesh separated only by her much too thin gown, now damp with oil and sweat. Uther's heart leaps and his body shivers with excitement. Her lips are an inch from his, their eyes locked together as she pleads, “Please don't send me away, My Lord.” Her plea is most childlike, and yet Uther knows she is a child no more. Her treachery in the matter of the Druid boy, her perseverance in the teeth of his judgment (through to whatever unprovable means she must have actually used to thwart him in the end) has shown that. No, she is a woman fully grown with a will as strong as any man's. Stronger than his own. And now her body shifts purposefully against him, proving that she knows exactly what she wants in this as well as any other matter. Her pelvis grinds against him, against his undeniably hard cock and she smiles in knowing, wanton, lascivious triumph.
Her hair smells of lavender and rose. It surrounds him as she leans forward, separating them from all the world, making them an Eden of their own. And what is a vow, mere words, against such power as this? Morgana needs no one's protection. And she was never Gerlois' treasure to protect. Uther's blood flows in her veins. She has always been his. And if this is what she wants, if she knows nothing about the circumstances which could cause her distress, who then will truly be wronged?
Abandoning doubt and scruple, his judgment set, tangling one hand in her hair, sliding the other up her thigh, under her night dress, Uther pulls Morgana to him, into a bruising kiss. She doesn't protest his roughness. Far from it! Morgana returns his kiss with equal fire. Morgana who has always known what she wanted, never been afraid to go after it, is certainly showing no reluctance now. She rolls to the side pulling Uther on top of her. His back and shoulders burn, but he ignores the pain, preferring to focus on pleasure, and there is plenty of that.
Their bodies are closely pressed together now, indeed, half bound by a tangle of bedclothes and night dress. Uther grabs great handfuls of both, pulling them up to expose more of Morgana's body to his hands and eyes. Much as her soft flesh, her luminous skin, her dark hair all remind him of Vivienne; at this moment she puts him in mind more of Ygraine. She has that same fire in her spirit, that same tight grip on Uther's heart. But now her greedy fingers make a grab for his pants, getting a tight grip on his manhood through the thin, smooth cloth and from this point on, he can think of no one else.
“You are my Eve,” he whispers, “the only woman in the world.”
“Oh, My Lord,” she sighs, “My King. You are all the world to me. I would not lose you for all the world! I could not bear... I could not bear—” Her voice breaks with a passion that is more and less than desire. She seems suddenly near tears. This time Uther does stop her mouth with a kiss, afraid his resolve will fail him if he hears her weep, no longer willing to be tempted to relent. She has drawn him too far into his desires and he must have her now. Grabbing the bunched up nightdress at her waist, he pulls it roughly over her head, forcing her to raise her arms to let it pass.
But when her body is fully exposed to the pale light of the moon at last, Uther cannot help but pull back and stare down at her, suddenly stilled. Her beauty almost stops his heart. He has never seen her equal. Morgana is as perfect as a goddess sculpted in the finest marble. Yet she lives and breathes and stirs before him, burning with lust for him. Uther almost laughs at this absurdity. The moment breaks and he tumbles joyfully from the heights of awe into the depths of pleasure. He lowers his head and breathes in the damp scent of her, enjoying the way she squirms with anticipation.
“You're sure you haven't changed you mind?” he teases. And now it is Morgana who laughs.
“If I say yes, will you let me go?” she teases him right back.
“I very much doubt it,” he admits, lying forward, his hands on her breasts, his mouth at her throat, his body lodged between her thighs, parted beneath him.
“Then it's lucky for me I haven't,” Morgana whispers, still pretending they are trading jests, but the tremor in her voice tells him she believes what he has said. She should. Uther has accepted her challenge and the battle is already joined. The time to withdraw is past. This can only end with blood.
But Uther isn't ready to end anything yet. He's only just begun. Somewhere in the depths of his soul, a distant, muted voice whispers that he will be many long years regretting this night and he had best enjoy it while he can. Hands sliding between her thighs, he lowers his head and catches her breast between his teeth, rolling the nipple against his tongue. Crying out in mingled pain and desire, she pulls him closer, rolling her hips against his gently stroking fingers as they teasingly caress her outer folds, finding them hot and damp. Not yet willing to give her the satisfaction she is wordlessly begging for, enjoying the knowledge that he is driving her mad with anticipation, Uther takes his hands from between Morgana's legs and raises them to her breasts, pinching and twisting her nipples as they share another hungry kiss.
But Morgana will not be denied. She pulls forcefully at his flimsy sleeping pants and before he can say yea or nay, has them down to his knees, squeezing and stroking his manhood with eager though unpracticed hands. Her scent is strong. Ready and wanting. Once again the King bows to her superior will, unable to deny her a moment longer, even for the hope of savoring their coming union all the more. Pushing her knees back so that her hips are tilted slightly upwards, just at the perfect angle for entry, he presses into her with one quick, deep thrust.
Uther feels her barrier breach, hears her gaps in shock at that slight, sharp pain, and knows his daughter is a maid no more. As her body tenses, with distress and uncertainty, he feels another startling thrill of that same mingled excitement and terror that he felt when he first dared to think of having her, what now seems like hours ago. Days. More. Inappropriate is not the word for it. Obscenity too falls short. This is true wickedness. But with his stiff cock throbbing inside Morgana's hot, tight channel, the knowledge of his depravity excites more than disturbs him. “You have no idea,” he murmurs against her throat, as he begins to move slowly, purposefully within her, “God, you have no idea.”
“No,” she agrees with her own misinterpretation of his words, her voice shaking. “It isn't always so... so painful?” she implores.
“Just the once,” he assures her, “And it will quickly pass.” And this is all it takes for her to relax, breathe deeply and allow him his pleasure. Soon she is once again seeking her own, instinctively grinding her hips against him. Uther keeps moving, deep and fast now, building more speed as he goes. His ears fill with her gasps and whimpers, her moans and cries. When the grinding of her hips turns to helpless jerking and her fingers bite like claws into his still burning shoulders, Uther knows that he has conquered her completely and has earned his reward.
Thrusting all the more madly, he seeks his own release, and quickly finds it. For a moment, it is as though the world explodes with light. Uther's tongue finds the only word it knows for power so intense. It falls, unbidden from his lips. “Magic,” and they are plunged into darkness once more.
Uther pulls out of Morgana, before his seed is finished spilling. It runs down her thighs and mars the bedclothes. Frightened, confused, she tries to cling to him, but he pushes her away. Suddenly, he is angry and ashamed. His whole body aches, remembering his first trial of the day. A conquest equally unjust, denying Ygraine's champion the vengeance that has long been due her.
“My Lord?” Morgana quaver's uncertainly, edging closer once more, once more attempting to embrace him.
“What more do you want of me?” Uther demands harshly, pushing her away so forcefully that she nearly tumbles from the bed. “Are you not satisfied?”
“What mean you by this?” Morgana counters, sitting up. Her confusion mingles with anger and distress and she begins to weep. “What could I have possibly done to so displease you?” she sobs. “How have I earned such a vile epithet as left your lips the moment you had had your use of me?”
“Nothing,” Uther answers, his voice tight. “The pain in my shoulders still vexes me. That's all. And I am wearier than ever. Go and let me have my rest.”
At this, Morgana sobs harder than ever. “I feared I would lose you today, My Lord. I felt I had lost you already. Last night I dreamed you dead and woke myself with terror! But how? How can I lose you by letting you have me?”
The justice of her complaint pierces Uther to the heart and he resents her weeping all the more. “Nonsense, no one has lost anyone,” he says briskly. “But you had best get back to your chambers, else the whole Court will be gossiping and then I'll never be able to make you a decent marriage without adding half my kingdom to your dowry.”
“A marriage, My Lord?” She is still more shocked, more confused. “But I thought—”
“What?” Uther demands, seizing on the opportunity to lay blame outside himself for her suffering. “That I would marry you? That you could have my throne for no more than one night's drunken pleasure?”
“What? No, of course not, but—My Lord!”
“You may as well know,” Uther informs her, reaching a sudden resolution, “that King Lott has been asking after you quite seriously for some time and we could do worse than to ally ourselves with the Kingdom of Lothian.”
“Uther, please,” she begs, seizing hold of him at last, refusing to be shaken off, “Camelot is my home. Please don't send me away!” Uther bolts from the bed, dragging the desperately clinging Morgana with him, causing her to fall to the floor.
“Get up, Morgana!” he demands, rage restoring his dignity. “I am your King and your guardian and I will make whatever arrangements for your future welfare that I see fit to make! Now return to your chambers at once and speak of this to no one, do you understand me!?!”
His words hang in the air a heavy moment as Morgana slowly rises. “Only too well, My King,” she whispers, her voice suddenly cool and poisonous. Turning to the bed, she gropes among the damp sheets for her nightdress and pulls it on. As she quietly lets herself out, Uther sinks back to the bed, feeling sick and empty. Morgana has stayed too long in Camelot, he thinks. That is the real cause of this unseemly incident. She is older than Arthur, who is a man by any measure. She should have had a husband to satisfy her long ago. Then her lust would not have festered so and become a temptation to trap him.
Yes, King Lott should have her, definitely. He is old and has no sons. Morgana will make his kingdom a fine monarch when he is gone. That will be better for all concerned.