Word Count: 759
Spoilers: Through series 2; series 3 speculation
Summary: Morgana returns to Camelot.
Author's Note: For vega_ofthe_lyre's prompt 'Victory, Uther/Morgana.' Ah, ship, so messed up! I love you.
"I have known no greater victory," Uther says to her on the night of her return, "than getting you back. Not one."
"I have prayed for this. And I swore never again to pray, after -- after Igraine, but--"
"I am glad you brought me home," Morgana says to quiet him. All a lie, of course. This is not home, not anymore, and besides, she walked into this castle all on her own. He had nothing to do with it.
Well, she amends. Perhaps a little something. There is something from him she needs. (His blood, his dying, his last ugly desperate choking breath. She could be called an expert now, in that.)
Uther stares at her with such open thankfulness. She wants both to laugh and to look down like a timid child, and finds she cannot choose between the impulses. And so she simply stares back. His eyes are wet and bright. She wonders if perhaps he has gone a little mad.
"This time, you will stay," he declares. The words themselves tremble, as if awed by the importance of the promise they make. "You will not leave again, and I will make sure that no harm comes to you here."
"I'm no child," Morgana reminds him. She does not mean to. It is instinct; it is falling back into old patterns, old parts. "And I'm certainly not some animal to be caged."
She waits for his customary rage. She is his ward; he is her king; she would do well to learn obedience. She knows that speech deep down into her bones. Annoyance prickles in her before he even opens his mouth.
"I know," he says instead, surprising her. He looks at her with such weakness, such a fond and tired joy. "I know, Morgana. I'm sorry. I know that I -- I have never quite treated you with the respect you deserve, and have never acknowledged your strength as I ought to have."
There are a few feet of empty space between them. He'd used to stand nearer to her before, but now he seems afraid to kill the distance, as if she might go up in smoke at his one misstep. It is almost like love, this new foolishness -- not the kind she has always known from him, the dutiful false father's affection, but the sort that leaves men wasting on barren hillsides, babbling of long-gone enchantresses with their last pitiful breaths. She wonders what she has become to him in her absence, what sort of creature he has dreamt her into.
A new idea strikes her, lightning-sharp and bright. She had meant to kill him. It is what she and Morgause have planned for a year. But suppose (she thinks, considering him, the new lines of white in his hair, his weary wrinkled face) she went about securing Camelot a different way. He would make a good puppet. Her fingers curl at the imagined tug of his strings.
She recalls something Gwen said to her once, about Morgana seeming made to be queen. It was nothing more than gentle flattery, a kind reaction to a pretty new dress, but the remark is suddenly interesting. She can practically hear it in her head, in Gwen's sweet voice. It echoes like prophecy.
"Uther," she tries, and he starts at his name, "you have always been good to me, in your way."
"It was not enough," he protests. "It took you from me."
"Well," Morgana says, and steps closer, "I'm back now."
"Yes," he mumbles. He looks at her with such earnest hunger. There is nothing frightening in it. She thinks he will never even try to touch her again, unless she allows it. The guilt is plain in his eyes, his face, his shoulders. She is young and beautiful and his (in a sense), and he has failed her. She holds the power now.
She presses her fingers lightly to his cheek, in careful imitation of the way he used to touch her. He inhales sharply. She imagines he could collapse at any moment. Fall to his knees before her.
She presses a kiss to his cheek the way that any daughter might. Never mind if she lingers.
"I'm not going anywhere," she promises gently into his ear. She loops her arms around him in an embrace, thinking of nooses and cages and puppet strings.
"Good," he murmurs. He drops his head onto her shoulder. His breathing shakes against her body. She almost feels sorry for him, the poor old fool.