A/N: Thought, hey, I haven't seen any fictions about one of the knights being an evil SOB yet. Maybe I'll get a chance at being faintly original. So here I am.
WARNING: Implied slash and non-consensual future activities. If it isn't your piece of cake, hit the back button.
DISCLAIMER: Arthur was actually my great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great, great aunt Emily, reincarnated. I therefore proclaim to own them all.
If I told you how I felt, things would be different. Change is so often considered good, but the change this revelation would bring if ever brought to light would be disastrous. Dark would be darker still and the world would be as Britain is to me now: cold, festering with hatred and death, meaningless, godless…
I am a coward. I am not fit to be known as a knight of the round table. If I had the turn of mind of Arthur, or Lancelot mayhap, I would tell you how I felt. But I can't. To do so would be a baring of my soul, and my soul is certainly not clean enough, tainted as it has been over the years, for such an occurrence.
But He knows. His sharp eyes that miss so little have been watching me. Watching me watching you. And He knows I know. And He won't stop until I give Him what He wants. Something I can't possibly give, but something I can't refuse. Because He will tell you if I deny Him. He will strip my unwilling soul for all to see and everything will be lost in the maddening blackness.
And I hate Him for it.
Galahad was sat at a table in the small, open, alehouse at Hadrian's Wall. Slouched on the wooden bench, he drank deeply from his cup, allowing a real smile to grace his lips for the first time in weeks. In a matter of hours, he would be free. He could escape from this god-forsaken land. Go back to Samatia.
He could try and forget.
He placed his empty cup back on the stained and pitted table, and wiped the foam from his beard with the back of his bare hand. Looking up, he gestured to one of the serving wenches, Katrina, he was sure her name was, for a refill. The buxom brunette smiled winningly at him and gracefully made her way over to his side, somehow managing to avoid the rest of the entangled flesh of humanity in the small room. She leant over the table, giving the young knight ample opportunity for a sight of her large bosom as she poured the dark ale, then straightened up and gave him a suggestive wink, full of promise, before walking away, swaying her hips from side to side.
Galahad swallowed uncomfortably and quickly took up his drink again, welcoming the increasingly displaced feeling deep within his gut, and how his mind slowly began to relax.
When he finally removed the tankard from his mouth and replaced it on the table, his eyes met with the warm, blue gaze of the man sitting opposite him.
Gawain gave him a wink, eyes laughing. "She seemed interested," he said, jerking his head in the direction Katrina had departed in.
"They all are," came the nonchalant reply.
Galahad was rewarded with a loud guffaw from his drinking partner.
"You've been spending far too much of your life around Lancelot, you know that?"
"Yep," Galahad intoned, raising his pewter vessel once more. "Fifteen years is far too long. But not any longer. Now we are free men. And the Romans can rot in their Christian hell."
Gawain smiled slightly, though his eyes held no mirth, "Always bitter?"
"Always. As is my right."
The younger knight took a strong mouthful of ale and swallowed heavily, put down his drink and picked up the knife next to him, studying it closely with his eyes and running deft, battle-calloused fingers over the bone handle, unwilling to meet his friend's gaze. Knowing the disappointment he would see in their depths.
There was a heavy silence between the two, a silence made all the more deafening by the warm, busy backdrop of the loud tavern. Everywhere was noise: men loudly laughing, the flirtatious shrieks of wenches, beer sloshing, the chink of pewter vessels, music, raucous singing… and their table was silent.
Galahad hated it. And he knew the blame lay entirely upon his shoulders – this hated awkwardness. Gawain couldn't possibly fathom Galahad's unwanted emotions and thoughts – his feelings – and, if he ever did, the situation would be countless times worse. The awkwardness would turn to hate and that would be the end of everything.
You can't hope to tell someone you love them and expect your friendship to be the same afterwards.
It was an impossible stalemate, one that only time could possibly solve; burying his emotions in minutes and hours and weeks and years until he was aware of them no more. But even time wasn't a viable option now. Not when someone else knew. Not when they wanted something in return for their silence…
Galahad turned his body stiffly and glanced behind him, wondering if Tristan was still there, knowing he would be, wondering why the hope that he would have left was still deeply embedded within him after three weeks of constant surveillance.
His gaze met with the scout's dark features; Tristan eyes already on his face, watching him steadily, unblinking. Galahad felt hatred well up in his chest and he sneered at the other man, wishing fervently that he could just draw his sword and finish this once and for all.
Tristan smiled slightly, coldly, as if he could read the other man's thoughts, and his eyes moved lazily to capture Gawain in his sight, his smile broadening slowly. A clear message. A warning. His eyes flickered back to Galahad's face and he cocked his head to the side, giving him the choice, reminding him, watching the other man's reactions intently.
Galahad kept his gaze for a moment, then swallowed painfully and looked away, unable to take the intensity of the other man, cursing him under his breath fluently. He turned jerkily round to his beer once more, refusing to give the man the answer he wanted. Unable to take the shame of the inevitable quite yet.
Galahad crushed the urge to reach for his alcohol, knowing it only brought temporary respite, and knowing that, soon, he would be free to walk away. Walk away from everything he had grown to despise, walk away from Tristan, and, as painful as it was, to walk away from everything he loved as well. There was no other choice. Better fond memories kept than harsh reality flaunted.
He flickered his eyes quickly to Gawain's face, then down again, something clenching in his chest.
Gawain hadn't noticed his and the other knight's exchange, his eyes fixed thoughtfully on the knife his drinking companion was still idly playing with. He picked up his own knife, lying next to him on the table, and fingered it lightly as well, testing the edge on his palm, then glanced about the crowded room, his eyes coming to rest on the back of a chair. His face split into a handsome grin and he turned to his friend.
"A bet," he announced, proudly, as if he alone had found a way to liven up the evening.
"What?" Galahad asked, confused, flicking his eyes up to regard the other man and staring for slightly too long. When he realised his folly, he coughed uncomfortably and immediately removed his gaze, feeling the eyes behind him burn into his back.
"A bet," Gawain said again, slower this time, as if his friend was an infant. He was still smiling. He pointed across the room. "See that chair? Bet I can get my knife in the upright of it better than you can."
Galahad shrugged noncommitedly. "What are the stakes?"
Gawain pondered for a moment. "Loser cleans the winner's armour… and weapons if they want. Horse and tack as well," he added, as an afterthought.
The younger knight nodded, "Fine. You got yourself a bet."
They shook hands on it, grinning conspiratorially.
Galahad gestured to the chair. "Elders first," he said, still grinning. "You need the bigger target."
Gawain looked at him, raising one eyebrow. "You need to stop fantasising, boy. I was the one that taught you to throw in the first place."
"Yeah," Galahad agreed. "I then had to promptly unlearn everything you told me so I had at least a hope at throwing straight."
"You amuse me, you really do," came the dry reply.
The older knight stood and, holding the blade of his knife deftly in his right hand, took aim and, with a flicking motion of his wrist, let go, sending the pointed implement spinning through the air until it hit the chair and embedded itself deep within the wood with a satisfying 'thunk'.
He turned back to Galahad and smiled. "Try and beat that," he said, proudly. "Get your knife above mine and I'll concede you're better than me. If not, that'll be your last drink and you'll be finishing this night by polishing my boots."
The dark haired man rolled his eyes at the idle threat. "Watch and learn," he simply said, taking one final swig of his drink and standing up.
Picking up his knife, he quickly sighted along it, aiming carefully, then threw it, smiling with satisfaction when it hit the wood in exactly the desired spot, right above the other's.
"You were saying?" he asked, turning to Gawain who was staring at the wood, a slightly surprised look on his face. "I think you better finish that drink quickly and get yourself to the stables. My horse could do with a good rub down."
"Damn you, Galahad," the older knight said, good naturedly. "Is that the way a true friend would…?"
Another loud 'thunk' interrupted his words. Both heads turned to the chair.
The third knife was still quivering from the force of the throw, embedded, impossibly, within the handle of Galahad's knife, a tiny target. Somehow the blade had managed to pierce solid bone, a near miraculous feat at such a throwing distance, and it's momentum had actually forced the knife under it even further into the wood.
The pair both stared at it in disbelief for a moment. Then Gawain turned slowly to look at the owner of the knife behind them. Galahad didn't move. He felt like retching. There was only one man who could have possibly thrown that knife. He shut his eyes and clenched his fists on the tabletop, trying to shut out the implications of Tristan's blade embedded deep within the handle of his own, and failing miserably.
"How on earth do you do that, Tristan?" Gawain asked, almost in awe, to the scout, who was leaning against the great wall.
Tristan shrugged slightly, the corner of his mouth twitching up into a slight smile, then moved to the table and casually placed his hand lightly on Galahad's shoulder, revelling in the man's slight intake of breath and the muscles tensing reflexively underneath his touch.
There was something deeply compelling about watching a knight of the famous round table, a brother in blood soaked arms, nervously squirm beneath his hand.
"Do I win then?" he asked, softly.
"Bloody right you do," Gawain said, still shaking his head, incredulous. "Suppose that means I'm cleaning your armour tonight rather than Galahad's." He sighed dejectedly.
"Ah," came the soft reply, "but you weren't the only one to lose." The dark knight paused, considering, and the youngest man knew what was coming. "You continue cleaning Galahad's and he can clean my own. You lost to him and he lost to me. It's fair."
Gawain nodded thoughtfully, not noticing Galahad's pale and angered face. "How pragmatic of you, brother. We are in accord then, and I, once again, have come off the worst for a night of drinking." He staggered upwards. "Though to leave is a sin, I fear I must if I am to leave before midday tomorrow with all the extra work I have." He drained his drink and muttered, "Fare thee well," before stumbling off.
Galahad didn't move, sitting stiffly in his seat, not acknowledging Tristan's presence behind him, or the hand that was still placed firmly on his shoulder. His eyes flickered slightly as the other man moved and sat down opposite him in the place Gawain had just vacated, but otherwise he made no sign that he was even aware of him.
Tristan smiled to himself, his dark eyes regarding the other man's handsome, bearded, angry face, and leant forward slightly, watching, greatly amused, as Galahad started involuntarily.
"Time is running out," he said, lightly, a slight vein of menace running through his words, poisoning them. "And if you do not make your choice soon, I will be forced to make it for you." Tristan paused, calculating, noting Galahad's stubbornly blank face and being displeased with the lack of emotion. "What would Gawain say if he knew?"
That got him his reaction alright.
Galahad leant forward, his eyes flashing in anger, fists clenched on the table. "How dare you?" he whispered fiercely, unwilling to let anyone else be privy to their conversation. "You know nothing of Gawain. Nothing. You're twisted and evil and if I could I'd…"
"You'd what?" came the calm reply, heavy lidded eyes watching him, humouring him. "Kill me?" Galahad gritted his teeth and looked away. Tristan smiled darkly, "No, I didn't think so. You're too weak, in heart and body. I would crush you."
He leant back and regarded the young man in front of him, one eyebrow slightly raised. "I could take you right now, Galahad, and you wouldn't be able to stop me." He lightly traced his fingers across the knife sheaths under his shirt, tracing the cool, deadly metal. "I'd have you on the floor with my knife to your neck before you could even move. Your life in my hands." Galahad looked up and swallowed, their eyes meeting for a moment. "And I would take your innocence."
The younger knight had heard enough. Swiftly, he stood, pushing back from the table, his teeth clenched in barely controlled anger and, though he would never admit it, fear. But, before he could move away, Tristan's hand was on his wrist, dragging him back down, his voice at his ear.
"But there's no need for me to use force, is there?" he whispered, silkily, breath ghosting across Galahad's cheek. "Not when I know your dirty little secret." Galahad shut his eyes, trying to block out the other's words. "A man in love with his ignorant best friend." Tristan chuckled heavily. "It's better than all the wealth of the Roman empire."
"Damn you, Tristan."
"You're the one that's damned, Galahad. But I am gracious enough to allow you to pick your poison." His eyes hardened, the long fingers that were still wrapped around the other's wrist tightening. "But you foolishly think that I am stupid enough to not comprehend your stalling tactics. I have been patient with you, too patient, and tonight, our last night together as comrades, you will finally answer to me."
"Like hell I will –"
Galahad's angry retort was cut across by the loud shout of "Arthur!" from behind them.
They both turned, then stood at the presence of their leader; Galahad quickly picking up his flagon and making his way towards the other man, trying to get as far away from Tristan as he possibly could.
His mind was working furiously. Arthur was undoubtedly here to tell them of their discharges. If he could just get his papers, then he would be free and he would leave, immediately, making sure that Tristan didn't follow him. He could avoid the scout's threats. He could leave this accursed isle with his heart and soul as intact as they had ever been. Yes, fleeing was his only option.
But Arthur wasn't here to give them the news of their freedom. As the man spoke their new orders of crossing over the wall, the words hammering into Galahad's very core, anger and fear and loathing bubbled up uncontrollably inside of him.
He couldn't stay here. He wouldn't. He refused to destroy his own life for the unjust orders of the Romans. If he stayed, Tristan would have him and the thought of what he would do to him lodged deeply within his throat, choking him. All he wanted was to go home. Why couldn't anyone just let him? Was it really too much to ask?
Angry words spilled from his mouth, words of denial and curses, words of hatred and refusal. He saw the sympathy reflected in Arthur's eyes and hated him for it. He had no idea of what he was going through! How could any of them judge his actions when they couldn't even hope to grasp his reasons? How could they possibly ask him to stay in this terrible place for one moment longer?
But Gawain stepped forward, obviously having returned after hearing of the arrival of his commander, placing a conciliatory hand on Galahad's shoulder. He listened to Arthur's words, not without grief, but nodded firmly, his blue eyes shining with determination of this final battle.
"I am with you. Galahad as well."
And with those seven words, the young knight was defeated.
I know I will have to give myself to Him. I have no choice. He gives me none. For if I don't, I stand the chance of losing you. Of hurting you. And I would rather die than to let that happen.
This mission does not scare me: not the Saxons nor the Woads have a chance of destroying me as He will. Nor will they take such pleasure whilst doing it. He will take my pride and honour and He will laugh when He shreds them.
Tonight I will go to Him. Tonight He will take me. And I fear it, I promise you. But I will survive it. I will live. And I will grieve.
For the bitter irony that it is you that is keeping me here, on these vile shores, tears at me like nothing else should. You trap me and yet you know nothing of it. And it hurts.
And I despair.
A/N: Oh, I'm a sadistic one, aren't I? Hope that wasn't overly confusing. Dunno if this is a standalone or not yet. Depends whether I feel up to writing a bit of coerced slash.
Reviews would be greatly appreciated. I tend to steer well clear of any historical genre, 'cause it's damned fiddly getting facts and dialogue right, so I would love to know how you all thought I did.
Side note: I know that my writing was not an accurate depiction of the same scene in the movie. I tried to remember as much as I could but I've only seen the film once. And I was rather distracted by all the lovely boys…
…namely the three mentioned above. ::grins::