“Take this,” Arthur says, reaching his hand across the table into the puddle of light spilled from the one guttering candle, lit against the chill sideways rain that’s whipped by the wind through the thin window of the damp, dark sod hut. “And eat.”
Lancelot takes the bread automatically, wipes his dirty fingers on his dirtier tunic, and bites it without thinking. He has ridden five days, hard and without pausing, and on his boots there is still Percevale’s blood, though it has rained every day since his death.
Arthur watches him until he swallows, and takes another bite of bread. Arthur is impassive, half in shadow and outside the wind picks up until it sounds like the hissing of arrows. Lancelot chews and swallows the bred, chews and swallows, chews and swallows until it is gone and his hands are empty.
“How many?” Arthur asks, leaning over the candle. Light hits his face from below and casts circles beneath his eyes.
Lancelot presses his lips together hard and says, “Enough, I’d say. Enough to kill five of us, and far enough south of your damned wall that it proves the damned thing’s worthless.”
“Five?” Arthur repeats, stilling abruptly.
He closes his eyes, and leans his head back against the soft, wet wall. It weeps water from the rain into his hair, down his shoulders, and he shakes his head, wordless.
There’s the sound of Arthur’s fist coming down hard on the unsturdy table, his armor rustling as he stands, and a murmur of prayer before Arthur finally clears his throat.
He doesn’t have to ask the names; they’ve done this often enough that Lancelot simply recites them without opening his eyes.
“Percevale,” an arrow to the head, his white blonde hair darkening with blood, his young eyes staring up, face to face with the thickening sky.
“Bedivere,” a flimsy Woad knife thrown hard into his neck from behind the cover of wet-dark trees.
“Kay,” an arrow again, to his unprotected thigh. He’d fought well until his bloodless arms had been too weak to raise his sword, and Lancelot had lost track of him when he’d fallen from his horse.
“Uwayne,” a club to his temple, and the one that did it couldn’t have been more than a child, his hand like a small blue painted spider against the thick handle of the weapon.
“Lionell,” and Lancelot didn’t see him die, but saw his corpse, smooth faced and bloodied beneath the still flank of his gutted horse.
He presses the palms of his hands to his eyes, and clenches his teeth, and when Arthur touches his elbow, he flinches.
“The others?” Arthur asks, hovering above the flame, half standing and half sitting. “What of the others?” There is, Lancelot notices, a track of blood along the stubbled line of Arthur’s chin, and Lancelot dimly remembers Arthur’d said there had been fighting when Lancelot walked into the shack, an hour before.
“I sent them on, to the village. It’s friendly, they’ll find healers there and dry beds, which is more than I can say for us.” Arthur opens his mouth again, his fingers tightening on Lancelot’s arm when Lancelot says ‘healers,’ so he shakes his head and says “Not bad, any of them. They’ll live, though Bors will bear the signs of that battle for the rest of his life.”
Arthur’s hand gentles on Lancelot’s arm, loosens and drops to Lancelot’s wrist, where Arthur’s thumb feels out the hollow of his palm. The corner of Lancelot’s mouth moves, and he can’t tell whether he is any closer to a smile than he is to wretching up the dry bread that sticks in his throat.
“And you?” Arthur asks him.
Lancelot shakes his head. “I’m whole,” he tells Arthur, and Arthur’s eyes hunt for the truth of that. The rain keeps falling, and Lancelot watches Arthur watch him, until Arthur drops his gaze, and hands Lancelot a wineskin.
“Take this,” Arthur says, “and drink it.”
The wine is sour and necessary as Lancelot gulps it, and Arthur’s looking now, looking again through his dark lashes and he, too, is whole, his breath steaming in the cold, his hands raw and dirty and his face, his beloved face, just as Lancelot has remembered it the past few weeks.
They are lucky, Lancelot realizes, they are lucky to have survived this long. They are lucky to be both here, both safe, Arthur warm and vital across the table instead of blue and unmoving in the thick mud and if it was to be Percevale or Arthur, Lancelot knows his choice well enough. When he puts the wineskin down, he murmurs, “May the gods’ will be done,” and Arthur’s lips shape the word “Amen”.
Unbeaten or betaed, comments/crit very welcome. Also, hi. I guess I officially just wrote KA, didn't I?