Author's note: I own no one. Copyright infringement is never intended.
A year after the battle at Baddon Hill, Lancelot (who has survived) is in desperate love with Queen Guinevere. Taking the chance to leave on a dangerous mission, will he find his way back home?
Rated Pg for now.
Pairing: L/G, A/G
This one's gonna be a monster, folks. Bear with me.
Feedback is welcome!
Coughing up copious amounts of blood, the dark haired knight moaned as he was carried on swift feet to the darkened chamber, where hushed voices and soft movements caused him to cry out in confusion.
A cool hand was on his brow, and he relaxed slightly, gaping at the pain still present in his chest.
Someone has to hold him…we have to pull the arrow out.
We'll do it.
The wounded knight vaguely felt the pressure of hands on his arms and legs, and then a bolt of anguish so severe it felt as if his heart had exploded into dust inside his body.
He bucked, trying to get free of the pain, and suceeding in opening one eye.
Colors whirled bright and fast, and the ground was suddenly there, blessedly chilly under his hot cheek.
One year later.
The ramparts at the edge of the fortress carried their new sigul at last- the ancient cross and the eagle that made up the banner of King Artorius Castus of Britain.
A lone knight, minus his battle gear, sat at the edge of the wall, hanging his feet over the side.
It wasn't the most respectful of gestures, but no one was there to see him do it.
And frankly, even if they had been, he wouldn't have cared.
The entire village and Keep were busy preparing for the upcoming wedding, and broody knights had no place inside the walls on this day.
Flowers festooned the entire place, and their smell was making the knight somewhat queasy. He also knew he was being childish, and yet that fact pleased him secretly.
He had known this day was going to come from the moment they had pulled Guinevere out of the dank prison they had found her in, and he had seen the way Arthur's whole expression had changed when he met her eyes.
What he hadn't known was how much it would truly break him.
Had he known, he wouldn't have stayed.
Two months previous.
"…well, man, what say you?"
Lancelot stared at Arthur, a faux joy on his weathered face, a true grief in his soul.
"I say that it's been too long in coming," he answered finally, and his friend cracked a smile at last.
"I was worried you wouldn't think it a matter important enough to bother with," Arthur said, and Lancelot laughed.
"Arthur, you are already joined. I don't know why you insist on doing this," the younger knight answered.
"Because, my friend, It would do the people good to see their King and Queen truly united, in front of God, and the whole of Britain. It is a gesture of faith, from both of us, for all Britons and for the good of the populace."
Lancelot hesitated. He faced away from Arthur, thinking carefully. It's now or never…tell him you're leaving.
"Arthur, I," he started, and turned back to the other man, who had stepped up next to him.
"Will you stand with me?" Arthur asked in a quiet, solemn voice. Lancelot's throat closed on the statement he had ready to spout out.
"You are my brother, Lancelot, and the only thing I have left like a family. So I must ask you, will you stand at my side when I marry Guinevere?"
Oh God. Oh God, not this.
"You honor me, Arthur. I would be remiss not to be there."
A huge smile burst over Arthur's stubbled face, and Lancelot's heart shredded at the sight of it.
Clapping the younger man on his shoulder, Arthur grinned again.
"You honor me, my friend. I will tell my lady, she will be most pleased."
He left the hall, striding purposefully toward the yard, where he knew Guinevere to be practicing her archery.
Lancelot sat bonelessly in the edge of a large open window, staring at the tops of the trees blowing gently in the spring breeze.
Aye, my brother, I will stand with you, and listen as you pledge your troth to the woman I love.
A great commotion disturbed Lancelot from his wall-top thoughts, and he turned in time to see Guinevere come out onto the walk, her cheeks flushed with either exertion or anger, he couldn't tell.
"I am no maid…I do not understand why these women do not hear me on this," she muttered angrily, crossing her arms in front of her chest.
Lancelot quirked a half smile at her consternation.
"My lady, are you well?" he asked, and she jumped, noticing him for the first time.
"Oh, I…I'm sorry, I didn't realize you were here," she stammered, a blush coloring her cheeks. The simple long men's tunic and riding pants she wore were covered in dust, and her hair was bound tightly to the back of her neck. A small dagger was tucked into a sheath she wore at her wrist.
He had never seen anything so beautiful.
Sighing, he stood, executing a small bow.
"I shall leave you to your privacy, lady," he said, and as he made to pass her, she put up a hand, stopping him by pressing it to his chest.
"No…it's alright, stay, please…Lancelot," she said, his name escaping her lips in a puff of air. He halted his motion, her hand staying on his chest, the heat of the palm echoing through his body.
Their eyes met, and traveled together down to the spot where she was touching him, just underneath his heart.
"Does it still ache?" she whispered.
"Everyday," he answered truthfully. "But more so at certain times."
"Oh…I have a potion that could ease that…my father's people were expert healers. You should have told me earlier," she answered, not moving her hand.
"I think no potion could ease this ache," he said, wincing slightly as her eyes widened, sadness spilling into them like wine into a goblet.
"You said you wouldn't," she echoed his sigh. He closed his eyes, not willing to make himself look at her.
"I must. It kills me to see you here, now, knowing what's coming, what the future holds," he answered miserably.
"The future holds nothing, Lancelot, but my destiny as Queen of Britain, and Arthur's wife," she murmured back. "You know it is the only way."
"You think I've forgotten that? That I can't have you? That I have to listen to him tell me everyday how much he loves you, how it was God, or fate, or whoever, that brought him to you? That it was because of you that I lived to stay with him? Do you think I enjoy hearing my heart whisper to me to take you and leave, not caring who we hurt? I love him, Guinevere, but gods help me, I love you more."
Her lip was quivering, but her eyes remained dry. She clutched at the rough linen of her shirt, hands shaking at his words, and as Lancelot stepped close to her, he realized it was Arthur's shirt she wore.
"What do you want me to say? We've been over this. My duty, my charge, is to my land, and my people. Arthur can lead them to greatness, and he needs me, Lancelot. I cannot abandon him for the folly of love," she told him, her teeth clenched to keep from crying out his name.
"We cannot have love, Lancelot. The land already possesses us. I have nothing left to give you."
"How did this happen?" he hissed, voice cracked and weak. "How did we let it?"
She had no answer for him.
He whirled, disgusted with himself, and decended the stairs back down to the main hall, leaving her behind, her thin arms wrapped about herself a poor replacement for his.
That night, the entire village and Keep turned out to celebrate the upcoming nuptuals. Lancelot was briefly cheered to see his old friend Bors, who had spent some months traveling south after his time for Rome was done.
His entire family in attendance, Bors looked every inch the retired knight, still burly and tough, but calmer in effect and bearing than the younger knight had ever seen him.
"Hey, you! Broody bastard!" Bors greeted him loudly, calling across the great hall, shouting to be heard over the music and laughter. "Looking as tired and skinny as ever, boy," he added, handing Lancelot a full cup of wine, clinking it to his.
"Bors," Lancelot had laughed to see him, "I see Fenora has kept you too busy to put on all that retirement weight you so fondly talked about."
Bors shook his head, smiling wistfully at the thought.
"Aye, my boy, aye. Too busy traveling and dragging the bastards everywhere. How fare you?" He turned a seasoned eye on his friend, pulling him to a quiet corner of the hall.
"I fare well, and I thank you for asking. How are Fenora and the children?" Lancelot asked, avoiding Bors' real question.
"As wild a bunch as ever. And very good," he answered, leaning into the younger man. "But I can see some things have changed…although not for the good, yes?"
"What do you mean?" Lancelot asked, not meeting the other man's eyes.
"I saw the way you looked at them when they came in," Bors stated plainly. He never was one for beating around the bush. "When did you start loving her, boy?"
"I take offense at that, Bors," Lancelot snapped. "You know not of what you speak." He drained his cup, setting on a nearby table.
"If you'll excuse me, I have duties to attend to before this night comes to a close. I am still captain of the King's guard," he spit, turning on his heel and striding away.
Bors watched him go, noting the look of sadness that had envaded his young friends eyes.
What bothered him even more than the sadness was the emptiness he saw in their brown depths- the same emptiness he had seen when greeting Guinevere earlier.
Four days later.
Arthur, newly (re)married King of Britain, was alone in his hall. Alone with his thoughts, and his maps, and the Round Table.
He gazed about him, noting the low burning coals in the large, round brazier in the center of the table. The atmosphere was comfortable, calm. A mockery of his current feelings.
Saxons. Again, Saxons raiding from the North. Had they not had enough the first time?
Arthur supposed that no good commander would ever give up a conquest, not if they were determined to succeed. He knew he wouldn't.
Trouble was, he wasn't sure if he could spare who he would like to spare for this mission.
He had almost lost Lancelot once. He shuddered to think of it happening again.
So he bent over his maps, and tried to think of another way.
The door banged open, allowing entrance of his four remaining closest friends and confidants.
Gawain and Galahad, joking together, hailed him in the middle of their own good natured argument.
Bors and Lancelot, looking slightly angry at each other, simply made their way to empty seats without saying a word to Arthur.
"Well met, knights," Arthur said finally, looking up. They all smiled at him, save Lancelot, whose eyebrows were drawn together, his lips pinched tightly. Arthur took silent note of how black the circles were under his friend's eyes, and how gaunt he looked.
"Arthur, what say you? What is the news from the North?" Gawain asked.
"The same news as before. Saxon incursions, war and pillaging. Except this time, they will meet with a far more united resistance."
At the word Saxon, the four knights groaned aloud. Bors spit into the glowing coals, causing a hissing sound.
"Again? Well, never say die, right, boys?" the others nodded. "What do you require of us, Arthur?"
"I need a small band of men, lead by one of you, to travel North, and see how far and how vast the damage is. Report back in a weeks time, and I will have the main army ready and waiting. I have a scout, Amaidis, ready to go. I only require one more man…"
He looked around at each of them, and knew each one would gladly go. But…
"I will do it, Arthur."
The King turned his head toward the sound of the voice he hadn't wanted to hear. He put out a hand.
"Are you certain, Lancelot? You have many important duties here…as captain of my guard, it would be your responsibility to protect the fortress and the Queen while I am gone," he said, trying to think of a way to dissuade his closest friend from doing this. He knew that Gawain or Bors would have readily volunteered, and while he did not want harm to come to any of his men, the idea of putting Lancelot in danger was a hideous one to his mind.
"Who better? I haven't had a mission away from the Wall since I was wounded…and besides, I have no little bastards who would miss me if I didn't return," Lancelot said wrily. Bors began to protest, but the younger knight waved him off.
"I would consider it an honor if you would allow me to go, my Lord," Lancelot added quietly, tilting his head toward Arthur in a gesture of loyalty and respect.
"Very well, then. Meet with Amaidis tonight. You leave at dawn," Arthur told him, his heart heavy.
After some light strategy discussion, Arthur dismissed the men for the evening, and they slipped out of the hall slowly, sensing a growing unease between the King and Lancelot.
At last the two men were alone.
Lancelot rose stiffly, his hand straying to his ribcage, the familiar ache flaring briefly. The scar would fade eventually, as all scars did, but he wasn't sure he wanted it to. He wanted to carry the memory of what he had done and why he had done it with him always, in case he never got to see her face again.
"Lancelot, will you stay a moment?" Arthur asked suddenly. The curly haired knight nodded, sitting back down. Surprising him, Arthur walked to him, and kneeled on the floor so his face was level with Lancelot's.
"Why do you do this, brother?" Arthur said. Misery was evident in his expression, and Lancelot was ashamed to be the cause of it.
If only you knew my true desire, Arthur…would you be so quick to love me?
"Because you need the most capable man, the best horseman, and the deadliest fighter. I am all of those things and more," the younger knight replied. He could have added because I love your wife and I must leave before I shame us all, but he knew it would be folly were he to do so.
"Lancelot…if you do this, you must promise me something," the King said.
"Aye, my Lord, whatever you wish."
"Do not die. The Queen would not take too kindly to me sending you to your death," Arthur said softly, his voice cracking slightly with the emotion of his words. Lancelot started, opened his mouth, then shut it, feeling like a gaping fish.
"And the truth is, my friend, you who know me best of all, I would not take it too kindly if you were to die, either," he added. "You must swear it to me, on our blood, that you will do nothing foolhardy or rash. Do you swear it?"
Lancelot sighed, grasping the King's forearm in a hard grip. His eyes burned and his stomach twisted at the love he saw shining from Arthur's eyes.
I do not deserve him.
"I will do my duty, Arthur, and will do my best not to get killed," he answered. The King nodded, and stood, pulling Lancelot with him.
"I cannot do this without your support, Lancelot. With you at my side, I feel as if I can accomplish anything. I would deem to keep it so," he said, placing his hand warm and calloused on Lancelot's neck. The knight squeezed his eyes shut briefly, then opened them, smiling at his friend.
"You honor me. I shall do my best to keep our bargain."
"I would expect nothing less," the King answered, a grin breaking out on his stubbled face. His green eyes sparked in the dim firelight, and Lancelot's gut spasmed, as if an invisible hand had clenched it.
"I take my leave, Arthur. I will find Amaidis, and will be ready to depart in the morning."
"Get some sleep, my friend. You will probably not get much on the road," Arthur said, his attention gone back to his maps. Lancelot nodded, and strode toward the large doors.
"You as well, my Lord," he replied. Arthur was in his own world again, the firelight flickering on his armor like fairy lights.
Lancelot let the door swing shut behind him, collapsing against it. He slid his eyes shut, his mind resolute, unchanging.
He had made the right decision. He knew that the mission was a dangerous one, but it was the only way.
He was a knight, after all, and had served under one of the most famous, most feared leaders in Roman and Briton history. The infamous Sarmatian knights were not to be trifled with.
He knew also that if the only way to get the Queen out of his mind was to leave, then he would have to leave. And this was the perfect opportunity to do so.
Gods help him if he didn't do something. And soon.
He pushed away from the door at last, and trod with quick steps toward the stable, and the waiting scout.