Title: For You
Warnings: I cranked up the rating from PG because the story deals with a SLASH (homosexual) relationship between Arthur and Lancelot. Don't like slash? Alas, I fear we have reached a parting of ways - bye! Aside from that, the rest of the story is fairly mild, nothing graphic.
Summary: Lancelot reflects on his infatuation with Arthur through their years together, and on the untimely arrival of Guinevere. Mild Arthur-Lancelot slash.
Author's Notes: First off, I really AM working on finishing my LOTR and Troy fanfics. And I'm working on the Troy fanfiction website I emailed several authors about a few weeks –cringe- ago. If you've emailed me regarding either of those two topics, I apologize for not having gotten back to you and will endeavor to do so once my schedule calms itself.
I am well aware that Arthur and Lancelot most likely weren't in a slash relationship, but I'm writing it anyway. I normally don't, but that movie was just too deliciously slashy to resist!
Guinevere, she had introduced herself as, Guinevere of the Woads.
And from the moment he had seen Arthur lay eyes on her, he had known she was a rival.
Lancelot was of the opinion he should have killed her when he could have. Not only because she was one of the savage Woads, but also because in hardly a few days' time, she had captured Arthur's heart. And in truth, who could blame Arthur? Guinevere was beautiful, alluringly so, and she possessed a brilliant warrior's mind. She walked with an easy grace, and her movements were quick, her aim true. Lancelot knew all this and he hated, for Guinevere had claimed so easily that which he had worked fifteen years for: Arthur's heart.
For he knew, even if Arthur did not, that Arthur loved her. How could he miss the sly glances he stole her way, the genuine smile that snuck onto his rugged features whenever he thought nobody was watching? How could he fail to recognize the desire in his commander's eyes, his open fondness for the woman? Oh the unfairness of it all.
Fifteen years have I worked for him to love wholly someone other than his God, Lancelot thought wretchedly, and now that I have finally succeeded, his love has been gifted to another.
It had all begun over a decade ago.
"I am Arthur," the older man had said, offering his gloved hand.
"Lancelot," he had replied tersely, his eyes averted to the snow-dusted grass. Although his forefathers had sworn him to fifteen years of service, nowhere in his oath had he promised his enthusiasm. Glaring steadily at the ground, intent on showing his hatred of the duty, he had reached forward and gripped Arthur's hand out of propriety.
The mere touch had electrified him. There had been so much unbridled strength in Arthur's grasp, yet at the heart, a deep compassion and loyalty. Unbidden, Lancelot had looked up, his shocked dark eyes meeting Arthur's hazel ones. What he had seen had awed him, for there had been intelligence behind those stern eyes, an ever-calculating gaze and tactical mind.
Arthur hadn't smiled, but something in his austere countenance had relaxed. "Well-met, Lancelot," he had murmured, releasing Lancelot's hand. For a moment, his eyes had lingered on Lancelot's face, absorbing every detail. Lancelot had scarcely found air to breathe; so penetrating, so binding was Arthur's gaze.
Then the other man had inclined his head respectfully and moved aside to greet another who would one day be a member of the famed Sarmatian Knights. However Lancelot's eyes had still been affixed to Arthur and he'd been mesmerized by the power and respect his commander wielded.
He still was.
During the fifteen years the two had served Rome together, Lancelot's respect for Arthur had only grown. He was a formidable knight and commander, for the man's instincts were well honed and he – all the Knights – trusted them implicitly. Not only that, he was a noble man, a man of his word, and told nothing but the truth. He was good and kind and all the things Lancelot aspired to be: a leader, a scholar, and a soldier.
More than anything, he was a good friend.
"Lancelot," Arthur had called one night, a night marking the third year since Lancelot had left his kin in Sarmatia. "You look in need of company."
He had demurred a response, but Arthur had been strangely insistent. "Let us go for a walk," he had said firmly, placing a hand on Lancelot's broadening shoulders. From his tone, Lancelot had realized that the request had been no request, but rather an order. With a sigh, he had forced himself to his feet and followed Arthur through the brush. The two had walked in silence, until they had been well out of hearing range of the other knights.
Arthur had spoken then, softly. "You should feel no shame in missing them."
Such wisdom in a man hardly four years older than himself! Lancelot had flushed red. "I do not miss them," he had lied brusquely.
Arthur had turned, his gaze piercing. He had allowed the tense silence to lumber before inquiring gently, "Are you certain?"
At those three words, Lancelot had found his throat closing on him, a deep sorrow rising from the depths of his heart. And at Arthur's inviting gaze, he had unburdened a portion of that sorrow. For long minutes he had talked, the words spilling forth and reverberating against the night air. Throughout it all, Arthur had listened. He had not spoken. He had not needed to.
Finally Lancelot had wearied of words and in the silence that had extended over the pair, colored deeply. His last word seemed to fall flatly in the air and he had suddenly been ashamed, ashamed he had displayed such weakness before one he thought so highly of. Oh but surely Arthur must think him a weak fool now, he had thought bitterly. What sort of a man longed for home every waking moment of every waking day when there were battles to fight? What sort of man spent every night reminiscing of the times in Sarmatia, rubbing a carving of a rat? And even if a man did all those things, surely no man whined about those feelings to a commanding officer.
His face had burned with shame. "Forgive me."
Arthur's reply had been noncommittal. "Forgive what?"
Lancelot had stared at him, bewildered. He had looked as surprised as if the Pope himself had suddenly materialized and handed him his discharge paper twelve years early.
"Close your mouth, Lancelot. It is most unbecoming for the ladies," Arthur had said, his tone amused. A faint smile had touched the edges of his lips, so faint a smile that Lancelot thought he must have been dreaming it. He had continued, "Tell me, Lancelot, what do you wish for me to forgive? To forgive that you were taken from your home at the age of fifteen? To forgive that you miss your family? To forgive you for answering my question?" He had turned his head, then, studying Lancelot with unnerving intensity. His voice had dropped a notch. "So I ask, what is there to forgive?"
Lancelot had had no answer.
Ten more years had passed, each as long as the last. The Round Table that had once sat so many promising young knights now sat fourteen. The war had been hard, the Woads fierce. Yet through the battles, Lancelot had not only survived but also flourished. The battles had been his greatest teacher, Arthur his greatest encourager and friend. Under the tutelage of both, Lancelot had established himself as a powerful fighter amongst the Sarmatian Knights, second only to Arthur.
"I wonder who would win in a fight between you and Arthur," Tristan had mused after a particularly trying battle. The two men had been seated on a log, shielding their faces from the rain with their bare hands and allowing the rain to cleanse the blood off their arms.
Lancelot had glared at him. "I would never fight Arthur." The defensive words had slipped past his tongue quickly, too quickly. A mistake.
The ever-perceptive Tristan had winked at him. "Fight him, perhaps not. But there are other things you would like to do to him, are there not?"
"Tristan!" Lancelot had blurted, aghast. His eyes had darted around the camp quickly and he had suddenly been grateful most of the knights had chosen to find refuge under trees. None should have been close enough to hear.
"Ah, so I am right," Tristan had said, his teeth gleaming in the rain. With an ambiguous smile, he had risen and sloped off, the rain dripping from his tattered overcoat.
Muttering to himself, Lancelot had stared off into the distance, his mind in turmoil. Tristan had just voiced his every thought regarding Arthur over the past few years. When exactly friendship had become something else was still an enigma to Lancelot. All he had known was that he wanted the other man, wanted to feel his strong and protective arms encasing his own body, wanted to hear his cultured voice in his ear, reassuring, his warm lips upon his trembling flesh -
As always when his mind dared entertain such thoughts, Lancelot had quickly clamped down on them. Such thoughts were inappropriate. He was a man. He loved women, he had firmly reminded himself. Not men. Certainly not a commander and most certainly not Arthur.
"What will you do when you leave the military?" Lancelot had asked, during one of the afternoon patrols through Britain's sprawling countryside.
"Set aside my sword," Arthur had responded, never breaking pace on his horse.
"Do you dislike fighting so much?"
Arthur's brow had furrowed. "I get no joy from battle."
"Then what do you fight for, if not joy? For your god?" Inwardly, Lancelot had winced at his words. He had not meant to sound so aggressive about Arthur's god. Rather he'd known he ought to be grateful that Arthur had never attempted to force his strange religion upon any of knights, but he simply hadn't been able imagine one so strong and noble as Arthur kneeling before some religious manifestation.
"God does not will His children to fight."
"So you refute His will whenever you lead us into battle?"
Something dark had flashed in Arthur's eyes and he had turned a stern look upon Lancelot. "That is not how it is," he had said, "Sometimes it is necessary to do battle, to spill another's blood. However if given the chance to kill or let live, I would choose the latter."
Lancelot had absorbed the answer and Arthur's anger. "You still have not answered my question. Why do you fight? For what do you fight?"
To his surprise, Arthur had chuckled, but his laugh had been devoid of real mirth. "I fight for a dream, some would say," he had said, "And everyday I pray to God that it is no dream. I fight for a day without a battlefield, a day in which peace may reign and all may live without the blood of another tainting his hands."
"An idyllic hope. That day could never come." Again, Lancelot had winced. He had not intended for his response to sound so boorish, but years of pent-up frustration and stress had been beginning to fray his tact. How was it this man could believe so whole-heartedly in God's love…and not his? How could a man love and trust so unconditionally a God whom he had never seen?
Arthur's face had turned to stone. "So say many," he had said, his tone a trace cooler than usual.
Mortified by his own behavior, Lancelot had looked away. "I - " he had said awkwardly, intending to apologize. However when he had raised his head to look at Arthur, the familiar handsome face had taken his breath away. Jealousy had surged anew through his veins and quite impulsively, he had sneered, "I go on my knees to no god."
"That is ever your choice." Again, he had spoken in the same aloof tone. Lancelot had simmered with frustration.
"Good," he had snapped, before driving his heels into his horse, sending the animal flying ahead.
"Lancelot!" Arthur had called after him, his voice sharp.
He had ignored him.
Hours later, exhaustion and hunger had forced Lancelot to ride back to the Sarmatian Knights' camp. He had ridden up on his horse as nonchalantly as possible, his dark expression forestalling questions. From most of the knights, at least.
Either unaware of Lancelot's foul mood or choosing to ignore it, Tristan had fallen into step beside him, casually skinning a rabbit with his knife. "Arthur has been looking for you," he had remarked. "He is most displeased."
"I do not care," Lancelot had said scathingly. With a smooth movement, he had swung off his horse and begun absentmindedly stroking the animal, merely to do something to avoid Tristan's knowing smile. He knew he had lied. He cared. He cared too much what Arthur thought of him and therein laid his problem. Releasing a soft oath, he had lead his horse under the shelter of a tree and began preparing him for the night, ignoring the curious eyes of those around him. Finally the eyes had ceased their probing and Lancelot had allowed himself to relax against the shadows of the tree. He had been weary, so weary.
That was when Arthur had decided to arrive. He had approached silently, his leather boots rustling no leaves and only when he had spoken, had Lancelot realized he was no longer alone. He had raised his head and seen Arthur, silhouetted against the moonlight. The other man's expression had been serene, but Lancelot had seen the faintest gleam of anger behind Arthur's eyes.
"Good evening," Arthur had said, flatly. "I see you have decided to join us again."
Lancelot had crossed his arms and nodded, waiting for the reprimand.
"What the bloody hells were you thinking?" Arthur had asked abruptly, causing Lancelot's eyebrows to shoot up. In the thirteen years he had been in Arthur's company, never before had he heard Arthur swear, and in his shock, he had only managed a shrug.
If anything, Arthur's displeasure had seemed to multiply ten-fold at his response. The man had stepped forward, soundlessly, and then crouched down to peer closely at Lancelot. "Answer me," he had ordered quietly, his face only inches from Lancelot's. Lancelot had closed his eyes, struggling to rein in his feelings. Being in such close proximity with this man - his heart had been pounding wildly, his palms sweating.
"I was angry," he had muttered.
Arthur had studied him for a long moment, disappointment and anger etched on his features. "Look around at the men, Lancelot," he had said finally. "We number hardly fourteen. If a man rode off every time he lost control of his emotions, we would be far less. You had a responsibility to this company, to be here, to protect your fellow Knights and to allow them to protect you." He had paused then, his eyes raking. "You did a foolish thing, Lancelot, riding off by yourself. We are in Woad territory and they would have loved nothing more than to place an arrow through your heart."
Flushing darkly, Lancelot had said, "Do not sound as if you cared, my lord."
Arthur's reply had been quick and dangerous. "Pardon?"
"Sounding as though you were worried I was gone," Lancelot had spat. "All your heart cares for is your God, not your men."
Stunned by the accusation, Arthur had rocked back on his heels. No swift reply had come to him and when he had spoken next, his words had been chosen with care. "Why would you think that? For thirteen years my men have fought by my side, bled alongside me. I value my men above anything else on this earth."
"But not your God."
"God cannot be compared to men."
"Yet you love Him like a man."
"I love Him like a god, Lancelot!" Arthur had said, sounding plainly frustrated. "What are you saying? You were angry because I love God?"
At Arthur's words, only too true, Lancelot had swallowed hard and looked away. What was he supposed to say? That yes indeed, he had been angry because Arthur loved God? That he had been jealous some God reaped so much of Arthur's love and attention and he, a mere knight under Arthur's command, did not? "I was angry," he had said. "Leave it at that."
After a moment's hesitation, Arthur had nodded tersely and risen. "Then I bid you good night, Lancelot," he had said quietly. "But I leave you with a warning. Should you ever endanger your life again as you did tonight, you will feel well the full extent of my displeasure." As he had turned to go, however, he had added, "Do not think I did not care. I was worried, my friend."
That night, Lancelot had slept little, his mind racing with thoughts.
Arthur had said he'd cared.
Lancelot was sleeping.
Or rather, he was pretending to sleep. Through his eyelashes, he peeked at Arthur, who was nestled against a tree a few feet away, head tilted into the crook of the tree, legs drawn to his chest. As usual, his great sword Excalibur lay across his knees, ready to be drawn at the slightest sign of danger. In sleep, his face was less wearied, more carefree, and rather reminiscent of the young man Lancelot had first met. How many hours, how many nights, had Lancelot contented himself to simply watch Arthur, to be mesmerized by the man's beauty and strength? Too many, too many to recall.
The slightest sound of a leaf crackling brought both men immediately to alert. With knight's instincts, Lancelot looked around quickly, one hand already settling on the hilt of a sword. When he saw who had made the sound, he relaxed, albeit only a fraction. Guinevere. Of course it would be Guinevere. No one else would dare wake Arthur by moving about foolishly. Lancelot clenched his teeth, watching as Arthur rose to join Guinevere.
The great man walked right past him without seeing him.
He had eyes only for Guinevere.
Fighting back disappointment, Lancelot's hands tightened around the carving he had received from his sister fifteen years ago. However as he rubbed the carving, his eyes remained firmly on Author and Guinevere. Even from a distance, even without Tristan's keen eyesight, he could see the burning passion in Arthur's eyes.
The two were so close. Their hands brushed.
Lancelot closed his eyes painfully. How long had he dreamed Arthur to look upon him as he was now to Guinevere? It was everything he had ever fantasized and yet it was not happening to him.
He had been a fool to think Arthur could ever love him.
When he had first seen the Saxons burning the serfs' homes and crops, he had wanted to lie, to hide it from Arthur. For he knew too well how Arthur would react, how Guinevere had manipulated his commander into believing there was something on the island to fight for. But there was nothing on the island worth fighting for, let alone dying for! Nothing in all of Britain compared to a mere acre of Sarmatia.
Yet it was too late now and Arthur had seen the Saxons. Worse, he believed he had found his duty. Curse that woman Guinevere, Lancelot thought angrily, clenching his fist. She did not love Arthur as he did. He wanted to protect the man from all harm, at any cost. For fifteen years, he had been first to Arthur's aid, serving as his strongest and most loyal ally. Yet what of Guinevere? She would willingly risk Arthur's life for her pathetic cause and even more dismal homeland. Arthur was not bound to fight for Britain; he was bound to enjoy the freedom he had worked fifteen years for. Why did she not see that? Why did he not see that?
But he had to see it, the folly! Lancelot thought, his hands tightening on the stone of Hadrian's Wall as his determination grew. If Arthur would not listen to the voice of reason by his own will, then by every force on the world, Lancelot would force him to listen, before he destroyed himself in such a ludicrous cause.
"Arthur!" he called, clattering down the steps after the other man. "This is not Rome's fight. It is not your fight."
He reached the bottom of the stairs and hastened his pace to match Arthur's long strides. "All those long years we've been together, the trials we've faced, the blood we've shed - "
He was certain Arthur could hear him, but the other man kept walking. Undeterred, Lancelot continued, his voice steadily rising in pitch, "What was it all for, if not for the reward of freedom?"
"And now when we are so close! When it is finally in our grasp – " he continued, his frustration palpably building as Arthur continued to ignore him. In an impulsive move, he reached out and grabbed Arthur's arm, wrenching him around and forcing Arthur to acknowledge his words. "Look at me!" he demanded angrily, his eyes beseechingly searching Arthur's face for realization. "Does it all count for nothing?" he nearly whispered, desperate.
Arthur inhaled sharply. "You ask me that," he hissed. "You who know me best of all?"
Lancelot stopped in his tracks, stunned, and taking advantage of the moment, Arthur brushed past the younger man. However at the touch of Arthur's rich cloak against his arm, Lancelot shook himself out of his surprise and darted before Arthur, again forcing his commander to a halt. He caught the slightest glimpse of annoyance dash across Arthur's face before the words were flowing from his lips. "Then do not do this! Only certain death awaits you here. Arthur!" he blinked away a sudden surge of fear, a fear of losing one whom he cared so much for. "I beg you! For our friendship's sake, I beg you - "
"You be my friend now and do not dissuade me," Arthur interrupted fiercely, grabbing the younger man's shoulder as a physical demand for silence. "Seize the freedom you have earned and live it for the both of us." Unblinking, he emphasized harshly, "I cannot follow you, Lancelot."
At the determined look on Arthur's face, all protests froze on Lancelot's lips. He wanted to argue, oh how he wanted it, but all words failed him. What could he possibly say to undo Guinevere's poisonous words? All he could muster was a shake of his head, a silent plea.
"I now know that all the blood I have shed, all the lives I have taken…have led me to this moment," continued Arthur, his words heavy, his eyes darting across Lancelot's dejected face. And in Arthur's eyes, Lancelot saw. He saw that he had lost, that Guinevere had engrained the sense of duty too strongly in Arthur. He had lost him to her. Hardly able to stand, let alone speak, Lancelot nodded mutely, his head bowed with the weight of his failure.
Yet Arthur did not take his leave immediately. To Lancelot's surprise, he felt Arthur's strong hands cup around his face briefly, comfortingly. For a fleeting moment, Lancelot felt great warmth, but as Arthur's hands began to slide off his face, a sudden gust of wind was colder than ever on his flesh. He raised his own hand, grasped Arthur's arm as if he could forcibly keep the older man by his side, but Arthur was like water, his step quick and purposeful, and Lancelot found he was holding nothing but air.
When he made his way to Arthur's quarters later that night, he was acting on a force beyond himself. And when Arthur opened the door and their eyes met, he saw that Arthur too, was not quite himself.
"Lancelot," Arthur quietly acknowledged. "Why have you come?"
Lancelot stepped inside, and then paused with awe at how the very essence of Arthur simply filled the room. The man's scent, husky, lingered on his nose and he inhaled deeply, savoring a moment's relaxation with Arthur, perhaps the last ever they would share.
"I did not come to argue with you further," he said, noting Arthur's tense muscles. "I am through attempting to turn your mind from folly."
Arthur's eyes glinted at the implied message, but he did not speak and Lancelot was too distracted by his tortured thoughts to notice. Finally he spoke again, steadily. "I ask your permission to speak freely this night, my lord."
Arthur's sigh was audible. "Speak."
Lancelot hesitated a second, fifteen years of desire and caution wrestling for control. This was, after all, his last chance to ever tell Arthur how he had felt ever since the pair had met. This would be his only chance to ever unburden this dark part of his heart. Indeed he had already waited too long, already allowed Guinevere to destroy too much, but at least Arthur would know. That would have to be comfort enough for the rest of his days.
He drew in a ragged breath and then looked up, directly at Arthur. "I love you."
Arthur stared back at him, his expression unreadable. His eyebrows drew together, albeit very slightly, and he opened his mouth once to speak, lacked words, and closed it. Finally, he asked awkwardly, "I beg your pardon?"
"You heard me." Lancelot began to pace, years of tension and crushing knowledge of defeat driving his movements. "You do not feel the same way, this I know, Artorious. I know also that my feelings are those of a fool." He paused, staring at Arthur's still figure. "But that is how I feel now and how I have felt for the past fifteen bloody years."
Arthur's lips moved, very slightly and slowly. "Why now, Lancelot? Why now after so long?"
His reply was bitter. "Does it matter?"
"As you command." Lancelot smiled mirthlessly. "You ride to battle tomorrow and to death. When else would you have me speak? When I look upon your corpse on the battlefield, when I brush your lifeless face, when I kiss your cold lips?"
"Enough." Arthur moved, jerkily.
Lancelot retreated a step and bowed. "I apologize. I will take your leave."
"Stay, Lancelot." The command was weary.
After a long silence, Arthur spoke again, but much of his composure had been shattered. "Guinevere," he said, almost helplessly. "I love her."
Lancelot flinched. "I know." He watched as Arthur sat down on his bed, his shoulders hunched, a much-conflicted expression on his face. Arthur was such a private man that Lancelot knew his turmoil must be great indeed if he could see it. The knowledge that he, Lancelot, Arthur's right-hand man, had caused Arthur so much pain and trouble stung. It quite literally felt like a wound to see Arthur so troubled, so forlorn.
"What would you have me do, Lancelot?" Arthur said, his voice hollow.
Another sliver of guilt stabbed at Lancelot and compelling obligation to protect Arthur made the decision for him. "I would you forget this night, Artorious," he said, tonelessly. "I would have your heart turn to Guinevere and your mind turn to tomorrow's battle."
Arthur rose, looking startled. "Lancelot – "
"No," Lancelot interrupted. "You heard nothing from me this night." His limbs shaking from stress and tension, he turned to go, but as he had grabbed Arthur on the shoulder earlier, the older man now grabbed him. Lancelot could see every line on Arthur's lordly face, every scar. He could feel the warmth on his face from Arthur's breath, could lose himself forever in Arthur's intense gaze...
He was losing himself.
Closing his eyes, he pressed his lips against Arthur's, and found they had been waiting for him. They met, Lancelot aggressively and Arthur passively, and for an ephemeral moment, they were one.
When the tender kiss was reluctantly broken, Lancelot stepped back, flushing, his lips still tingling. Wordlessly, without allowing their eyes to meet, he turned and left, enveloping himself in the icy embrace of the night.
Arthur stared after him, stunned, until the knight had disappeared from sight. Then, slowly, one of his hands rose to touch his lips.
When Arthur came across Lancelot's body on the battlefield, he knew. He knew immediately what had transpired even before Guinevere had told him. Lancelot had ridden to her rescue.
Arthur fell to his knees in Lancelot's blood. His grief threatened to choke him. Why, he wanted to scream, why were you so noble, so foolish, Lancelot? Why trade your life for that of one whom you detested?
The grass shifted, the leaves rustled, and the wind whispered:
Because I loved you, Arthur.
Because she loved you, you loved her, and I would have given anything for your happiness.
You know the drill. This is where the place where I ask all you wonderful readers (if you've made it this far down, I'm grateful) to click the "Go!" button and share comments, questions, constructive criticism, etc. So, please?