To Breathe Freedom
Author's notes:I wrote this for the songfic challenge over at KAfanfic. I became obssesed with LAncelot's thoughts about his freedom and the 'to breathe the free air once more' from LOTR. And then this plot bunny came running in draggin songlyrics and Arthur and a cuple of graves and this fic was born rather painfully at 2 am. So please show some respect for my lack of sleep and tell me what you think
Disclaimer: Do I look like Jerry Bruckeimer? NO. So what's the answer? Yeah that's right, I don't own it! Geez... Rub it in why don't you!
If you wanna archive drop me a line and I'll say 'Yipee!'
It'sgot a rating of PG-13 cause people die. Yeah I know... Sad.
Now stop reading this... and read the story!
The Cemetery the night before the Battle
The parchment was soft and clean feeling in hands accustomed to dirt and gore. Lancelot's hands shook slightly as they brushed at the parchment; he turned it over and over in his hands. The words scripted on this paper made him free. Free.
A bitter smile crossed his handsome features. What was freedom after all these years? For some it meant everything, it was there dream and hope, all they had wanted all these long years. For others it was nothing. Devoid of any future they would move on because there was nothing else for them to do, to be. They would go home, they would father sons to fight for Rome and mourn their children if they did not return. And then they would die.
That would be his fate now. For just a moment he thought of what might have been. To die here, in a land he hated, for the commander he served, for a cause he despised.
For a moment it seemed almost preferable. But only for a moment. He wanted to live, to survive, but not to become an accomplice to Rome by having sons.
He realised he never expected to live to be free, to given an opportunity to live as he wished, rather than as he was commanded.
Lancelot's dark eyes traced the gold-white parchment and then lifted to the fresh mound of earth speared by Dagonet's sword. It was past midnight and only the stars shone high above him, but he could see well the handprints in the freshly displaced dirt, he could feel the cold wind as it blew mournfully through the graves of fallen knights.
He had told Arthur not bury him there, in this pitiful cemetery. A testament to the blood shed by Sarmation knights for their Roman masters. He laughed bitterly as a tear fell down his cheek. The sound was hollow and dark. To soft and yet too loud in the dark night.
Lancelot gripped the parchment tighter, causing it to crackle and crumple slightly. Its words were meaningless; they didn't free those imprisoned in the earth of a foreign nation, nor free him of his years of enforced servitude. They couldn't remove the scars from his skin, nor the shackles that held his people in the Romans thrall. The carefully chosen words could not remove the years of pain and suffering from Galahad's young shoulders, nor make Tristan a happy man again. They could not give Lancelot Freedom, because he could never have it.
Wiping at the escaped tears he turned his cold face back to the parchment's clean dryness. And found it marred by a drop of wetness. A tear darkened its golden yellow surface, as blood had darkened his spirit. He shuddered as he turned back towards the wall and his waiting bed. He stopped. He looked up at the dark cloaked specter at the edge of the graveyard, his blood turning to ice in his veins at the man's silent approach.
"Lancelot." The vice was warm and rich with a slight lilting accent. He felt relief at the familiar voice. He knew it voice as well as he knew his own. Yet his relief was short, for he still quivered with anger at their last parting, he turned slightly away and started past his friend. He had only passed a few steps away from his friend when Arthur spoke.
"Don't-" Lancelot paused at Arthur's voice, his muscles taut with tension and anger. "Don't turn away." Arthur finished softly. Lancelot turned back towards his friend and watched a puff of misty breath exhale into the air. A silent sigh. Lancelot could not speak, his friend's face was turned towards him, it's profile as Roman as ever, but the sadness that clung to his very being was as palpable as any tears Lancelot might have seen.
"I didn't turn away." He said after a pause, his voice a choked whisper. Arthur stiffened at the soft reproach, turning further to face his friend, his eyes wide with a strange affliction. "You did." Added Lancelot after a moment.
"Never." Came Arthur's reply, his voice seemed gentled by sadness, as though he were speaking to a child. The word brought a bitter smile to Lancelot's lips. "But this time I must go alone Lancelot. You have a life to live, you h-"
"I have nothing!" Lancelot interrupted harshly, his voice a hard and broken and caused him to flinch at the sound of his own voice. He was shaking as his breath came in quick puffs of whiteness that faded swiftly into the cool breeze. Arthur's eyes were watching him, steady and sure. He could feel them as he turned his back, not wanting his greatest friend and commander to see the tears in his eyes, the tears that spilled onto his cold cheeks.
A warm hand brushed his neck and onto his shoulder. Gently turning him around.
"Don't turn away from me." Arthur repeated softly. Hie eyes as wet as Lancelot's. "For fifteen years," he began as Lancelot's breathing calmed. "We have fought as one, we have even breathed as one. You are my finest knight and truest friend." Lancelot shivered at the earnest words speaking things he knew were felt but had never heard voiced before. "I have saved your life so you might be free, I have led you as well as I could so you might be free, free to live as you should Lancelot." Arthur whispered as he leaned closer, a glimmering tear falling down his careworn face.
"And I will not have you deny everything-" he choked on his own words. Land brought his ands up to cup his knights face, they were warm against Lancelot's cool face. "I want you to walk away. I want you to be free, my knight. To taste and breathe and feel the freedom you should have been born with. The freedom God gave you." Lancelot snorted sharply.
"You and your god!" he said derisively, yet there was no real anger or humor in his voice, just sadness and pain. As though the bitter parting that morning would bring was inevitable. He could hear the defeat in his own voice, could feel it inside, the bonds of his brotherhood with Arthur were being painfully ripped away, and by the man himself. He was sacrificing himself for a people who would gladly have killed had it not suited them better to have him live.
Slowly he pulled away from his friend, the feeling of separation grew deeper as he pulled back. Yet still Arthur held his cheeks, even after his fingers had lost contact they remained outstretched. As though they could hold him there by will alone. He paused just beyond their reach, he swayed forwards a moment wanting desperately to feel those warm hands on his face again, wishing he was not there, that this was all a nightmare, that the last few weeks had been a nightmare and that he would wake son. Even though he knew he would not.
It took every ounce of his willpower to turn away from those outstretched hands and walk away from Arthur and the graves of fallen knights.
He took a deep breath as he paused at the bottom of the hill, his fingers tight around the parchment. Free. He was free. Not completely, but then who could be free of their feelings? But he was free. Free now t leave, to start a new life, though where or what he might do was beyond him there seemed a faint possibility that he would wake from this nightmare into a new day. A day in which he could breathe the free air for the first time.
Arthur watched the knight straighten, saw the way the shoulders became prouder, more upright as though a burden had been lifted. Then the knight strolled across the valley below the hill, his strides long and purposeful. Arthur's breaths had become silent sobs, his lips pressed firmly shut to stop the wrds that pleaded to be released. He longed to call his friend back. He was cold suddenly, and his stomach riled. But not in anticipation, but rather in dread. It had been so long since Arthur had fought without Lancelot nearby, each watching out for the other, trying to keep together, to survive another day...
Lancelot would survive another day, Arthur had ensured it by coming to him tonight. The knight would g now, there would be no last minute return, no heroics, no savior to save Arthur now. Only an army of Saxons vying for his blood.
"Oh Lancelot!" he whispered, knowing he might never see his knight again. Hoping he would never see him again even as he longed to have his friend beside him. "I pray you've heard the words I've spoken!" he added after a moment.
The Battle of Bardon Hill
The sword slashed towards him, a glittering red arc that bit into his side with a nauseating wave of pain. Arthur stumbled and fell, his knees striking the wet earth. He took a breath, another. But then another strike arched his back. He fell forwards his face hitting the mixture of dirt and blood the ground had become. The Saxon said something before moving on. Arthur pushed himself over. His breath struggling now. His eyes unfocused as they looked upwards.
It was over. He felt his vision closing in, a darkness that was burning through him as he choked. He was confused. Why was he choking. He was dying, but where? Why? He felt so confused, he couldn't seem to think straight. He was suddenly cold, ever so cold. The darkness was coming for him, it was swallowing him up little by little.
Then just before he fell away into suffocating blackness he heard a cry, he felt his heart lift, Lancelot. He felt a smile grace his lips as he felt a warmth suffuse him. He was with his friend, and thus nothing could harm him, for Lancelot would protect him.
Lancelot quickly staunched the bold flow, his eyes were smarting with tears, and he could barely hear or think as his pulse raced and blood pounded in his ears. He stared at the plugged hole on the right side of his friend's chest and then noticed the blood bubbling to his friend's lips and cursed. As the prickling in his eyes became worse he turned his friend over slightly. He saw another deep gash on his friend's back. He cursed again and leaned over his friend's face. Arthur's eyes were flickering again as a cough caused Arthur's body to shake slightly.
Suddenly Arthur's eyes opened further. They focused on Lancelot, and a smile crossed his lips, as dark gray-green eyes focused on Lancelot's face. His lips moved and a bloodstained hand reached up waveringly to touch Lancelot's face. A tear dripped onto Lancelot's cheek as his friend coughed weakly again, blood ran onto his cheek as Arthur tried to pull himself upwards, his lips moving again.
Then he fell backwards and Lancelot cursed. With shaking fingers he undid Arthur's armor. After a time, he didn't know how long, the other knight's were with him, helping him treat their leaders injuries. Pulling away his clothes and treating his wounds, washing them and binding them carefully till Arthur lay there wrapped in the knight's cloak, his skin ashen and blood still upon his lips. Lancelot finally looked up and around himself. The fires were still burning, but the battle was over, he watched at the wounded, bloodied survivors gathered, some f them looking at those who lay on the ground.
He saw Woads gathering around them. He helped the others lift their commander up. They took him across the field, taking him inside the great stone edifice of the wall. Through halls of coldness and darkness into the vaulted surgery the knight's knew well.
Lancelot felt further tears falling down his cheeks as they carefully laid their commander, his friend... upon a cold stone bench. Around him the knight's flurried with activity despite several bearing their own injuries, laboring to save Arthur Castas, their Roman Lord.
Lancelot watched Arthur's wan brow brake out in swat again. He brushed a soft cloth across Arthur's brow. Before cooling it with another cloth soaked in water. Nearby lay several Woads, including the grievously wounded Guinevere. He glanced at the young woman for only a moment before turning back to Arthur. He gasped as he saw green eyes watching him.
"Lancelot." The sound was too soft and raspy to possibly be Arthur's.
"Arthur!" he whispered choking on his own words. Leaning close to his friend he saw something in those green eyes, a weakness, he had never seen before.
"You... you came back..." said Arthur, his words seemed even weaker than before.
"You said not to turn away Arthur, I'll never turn away." He said the words with every ounce of heart and conviction he could muster in the face of his closest friend's weakened state. "You wanted me to breathe again on my own, but Arthur, I couldn't walk away." The whisper was harsh against his own ears. "I couldn't leave you behind." Arthur nodded slightly. Green eyes closed for a moment as another weakened breath fled Arthur's chest. They opened again a moment later.
"I feel so... weak." Arthur croaked. Lancelot acknowledged the words with a nod. Lowering his head and looking down at Arthur's hand on his arm. The hand was shaking slightly, it was pale and seemed so weak compared with how strong it had been just days ago when it had gripped him tightly, warm on his skin, strong and caring. "I'll need your... strength to get me through this Lancelot." Lancelot looked back up at Arthur's face, his eyes seemed so determined.
"I won't let the darkness cover me again." Arthur whispered and Lancelot felt a momentary hope in his heart despite Arthur's terrible wounds, Arthur was so determined it seemed anything could be possible...
"Lancelot, we will breathe free air together..." Arthur added with a slight smile. Arthur lay back n the pale sheets, and his green eyes closed. Lancelot watched his chest rise and fall once again. And then it was still.
More tears coursed down Lancelot's cheeks as he waited beside the still body for what seemed an eternity.
As dawn light filled the little roomhe whispered the words he had heard spoken before.
"May the grace of God light your way home." The words were not spoken in Latin as they should, but rather in his native Sarmation dialect. It was softly spoken, and with great reverence. More reverence than he had ever shown to Arthur's religion before.