TITLE: Meaningful Gaze
AUTHOR: Angel Starbeam
SUMMARY: Arthur was distracted and Uther noticed.

The banquet was successful. Then again, when free wine and ale is provided in great quantity, gatherings are usually successful. Uther sat in his chair at the head of the dining table reserved only for the king, mildly regretting that he will soon have to get up and converse to his honorable guests. It was a necessary evil.

When the time of mingling and dancing came, Uther prolonged his getting up from his chair. He walked briskly and stately to the King Geraint of Dumnonia and engaged in the discussion of their respective borders and trade interests. For a moment, his eyes found his son and heir. The moment's glance gave Uther the knowledge that Arthur was distracted. When Geraint excused himself for a spell (his wife was castrating a particularly rude young man), he inspected what might have distracted Arthur so.

Uther followed where his son's focus was. If his speculation was correct, it would go to- Yes.

There, tending to the ladies of the court, was the servant girl and Morgana's former maid Guinevere. She caught Arthur's intense gaze and smiled. Uther discreetly cocked an eyebrow at the improper display. She then bowed her head, as if bashful, and continued filling a lady's goblet.

As the banquet came to the time where there was noise and careless carousing , to a point where no one really noticed nor cared if some should leave, Arthur did just so. As did the girl.

Uther, now back in his chair, handled his goblet and thought about this coincidence and how it was accompanied by too many other coincidences.

Suspicions came about after Arthur went to save the girl from Hengist, with only his manservant and without his knights and the king's approval. When he returned, Arthur endured the lashing Uther was waiting to give him ever since he found out his disobedience (For a servant!). Arthur then calmly stated his reasons for his actions- first and foremost, Morgana would never forgive either of them for not doing anything for a much trusted and loyal friend. Second, he felt he had to deal with Hengist now rather than later. After all, the outlaw attacked the king's ward and killed his men. The situation demanded retribution and justice, and it received just that- Hengist was now dead, killed by his own execution beast and his brigands, leaderless and divided, scattered.

Uther saw the foolhardy logic from Arthur, dismissed him but he did not believe him. There was more to his son going on a suicide mission than trying to appease a sister-friend and his own undeveloped sense of justice and it had to with that girl. He did not deal with then; it was put in the back of his mind when other matters came (acts of sorcery, a bitter betrayal, robberies, potential war, and his short term marriage to a troll woman). Then, years later, He saw Arthur coming out of an alcove. That was strange enough, but he recalled that earlier, he passed the girl carrying a haphazard basket of laundry and smile on her face, identical to his son's.

Suspicions back, he was observant ever since.

Uther had done discreet reports on Guinevere, many of which were commendable. She was hard worker, never complained, friendly and charitable with the little she had. Even after she was accused of witchcraft, no one scorned her. Many believed it was a graved misunderstanding because Gwen would never ever do such a horrid thing as cause sickness (It had even been rumored that the Lady Morgana probably healed her father Tom, after it was discovered she was a witch). No one scorned her when her father executed. Even he allowed for it to be arranged for the girl to keep her house and her job at the castle (he remembered that Arthur did all the arrangements out of his own pocket).

In short, Gwen was a modest well-behaved girl who, for most of her life, was a loyal citizen of Camelot. So why was this girl sneaking off at the same time as his son, the crown prince? The answer was obvious, especially with Arthur paying such attention to her.

Aside from the insane debacle with the penniless noble Sophia, Arthur had been sensible with matters of the fairer sex. Uther believed Arthur would not lose his head so easily again. He hoped that he can hold on to that belief.

This girl did not even have the benefit of noble blood, a common tradesman's daughter and an orphan.

Perhaps he was making too much of this. She may just be a dalliance, a favorite but not serious. After all, Arthur was a young man, a privileged one at that. One could not blame for…experiencing pleasures of life and stress release. But there are still potential repercussions from such arrangements- illegitimate grandchildren was a forefront horror of Uther's. May it never come to that or else Arthur will have to explain the situation to any future wife of his.

It had been nearly an hour when Arthur had reappeared, taking company with a small group of knights and motioned for his manservant for a goblet. Then the girl came and started to resume her duties clearing the tables. Arthur still looked at her, with the same intensity.

This will be a problem.