Tangible Schizophrenia


Causality Prologue: Recall

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: PG-13. Violence.
Pairing: Arthur/Lancelot. More later.
Feedback: Good lines, bad lines, etc.
Disclaimer: Not mine.
Notes: Modern-day AU. Crossover with Kill Bill; spoilers for both volumes.
Summary: Somewhere in not-so-innocent suburbia…


Guinevere opened the door to see a sword coming at her head.

Instead of ducking, which would have put her chin into a knee coming up hard and fast, she spun sideways and grabbed the wrist as it passed her, yanking whoever it was in and trying to swing them into the staircase. But they were good, twisting around and skidding to a stop just before they would’ve hit the railing.

“Good morning.” The sword-holder was a man. Tall, lean, handsome. Dark curly hair, sarcastic eyes, and the newspaper in his other hand. He nonchalantly threw it at her feet, then drew out a second sword. There must be sheathes hidden under his suit-jacket, she absently noted. “Page three’s got an interesting story on a gangland revenge killing.”

“I prefer the editorials.” She slowly put out her foot and edged the unfolding newspaper to the side, while her arm went down to her sides and let the knife drop out.

He gave a little supercilious nod, attention clearly elsewhere. Checking out the surroundings, which unfortunately weren’t too disadvantageous for a fight: spare with little that Guinevere could knock around. And the nearest gun was on his side of the room. “Is Arthur in?”

“Why? Were you aiming at his head?” Careful to keep her side presented to him, she slowly stepped out in as wide a circle as she could around him. Hopefully, he’d think she was trying to duck in under his guard, and not to get past him.

“Of course not! I can’t see him if his skull’s spilling brains across the floor, can I?” The way he was smiling reminded her a little of a wolf snarling, but much more of the stupid youths that pestered her whenever she did a grocery run.

Guinevere raised her eyebrow and flicked her knife out front, while her other hand curled fingers back to tug just the first loop of leather from her sleeve. “You want to see him?”

“Don’t you?” Despite the two swords out, his pose was casual and he made no attempt to keep his profile to her, which would have minimized the target area that he presented. Arrogant bastard.

“What the hell are you talking about?” The moment surprise flickered over his face, she started to lunge. But halfway across, her peripheral vision caught a flash of metal and she dove sideways. Reflexively threw up her arm to block the splinters the bullet threw up from the floor, then rolled to avoid the sword as well. She snapped out a leg and caught the first man, but before she could pounce on him, the second one moved out of the stairwell.

Sniper. Must have come in through a window on the second story. That, Guinevere figured out while she was leaping back. A blade flashed by her left arm, and she bit down on her instinct to move even further towards the wall. Not wanting to be trapped, she rushed up and got in a slam to the sword-man’s stomach. Got a stunning blow off one of his hilts as she withdrew, but she ignored her screaming shoulder and whipped out her garrote so it wrapped around his wrist. A quick jerk, and he was down to one sword.

Not to mention that the other man couldn’t shoot her as long as she kept the first one between her and him. “What do you want with him?” she hissed, striking out with her knife.

The first man dodged back, straining the leather till the flesh of his wrist turned white, and then whipped around so they were pulled up against each other. He tried to swing his hilt at her head, but she shoved him off-balance.

That was a mistake. They both went over onto the floor, Guinevere on top so she presented a clear shot. Panic beginning to collect sourness in her throat, she twisted around as fast as she could and tossed her knife. It just knocked the second man’s rifle out of his hands, and the shot ricocheted into the ceiling.

But the first man recovered blindingly fast, and he got his sword edge up against her throat just as her hands grabbed at his. “I need to see him,” he grated out, no longer joking around. “And I’ll be damned if you get to him first.”

“You—you think I’m here to kill him?” Guinevere asked, disbelieving. Also a little choked, because she had to strain to keep her chin off the razor-sharp blade.

“We were told he lives alone,” said the second man. When Guinevere turned to look at him, cold steel shoved against her temple and the familiar outlines of a semiautomatic mostly blocked out a cool, considering face. “It seems like a reasonable assumption.”

Every time she thought she’d seen the worst Arthur’s past could throw at them, she found herself being corrected. For the nth time, Guinevere made a resolution to sit the man down and get a full biography. “Well, your information was wrong. I live here.”

“And where’s Arthur?” The first man was pushing himself up, and thus was also slowly forcing Guinevere back. “Listen, greeting aside, I really would rather not kill y—”

The steel suddenly dropped away from Guinevere’s head, and she reared back just enough to drop under the sword. Her fingers, which had been slipping off the man’s throat, latched back on; she pinched his arteries and pinned him down with one hand while her other grabbed his wrist. “Arthur?”

“Oh, my God.” He’d never sounded shocked before. Startled, resigned, guilty and regretful, yes, but not shocked.

And then he was dropping down beside her, yanking off her hands so fast it burned, and grabbing at the man’s shoulders. Fingers trembling, face nothing but naked disbelief, he was cradling the man’s chin and turning it this way and that as if to examine every single inch of the man’s face. Not that he was being met with any struggles, aside from some coughing as the man gasped for air.

That reminded Guinevere; she took out the gun that nestled under Arthur’s shoulder and aimed it over his back at the other man, who was down but not out. Slightly concussed eyes met hers as the man registered everything that had happened. When he looked at Arthur, the opaqueness of his gaze briefly turned transparent, but that vanished as soon as he caught Guinevere staring. The man gave her a slight, damnably indifferent smile and raised his hands in the air as if he was doing her a favor.

“Arthur. Care to tell me why these two pricks just ruined the foyer?” She eased up on her knees, still keeping the gun leveled at the sniper.

Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Arthur flinch at her words. He dragged in a breath, hissed it out like it was poison, and bowed his head in the peculiar way that let her know things were about to shift very fast, very hard. Interestingly enough, the other man seemed perfectly content to lie under Arthur and wait. He wasn’t even moving to rub his throat, though Guinevere could see some considerable bruising developing there.

Finally, Arthur lifted his head and got off of the sword-man, then offered a hand. The other man took it without hesitating, gaze locked on Arthur’s face, and so didn’t even notice when Arthur whipped out his other hand and chopped it down on the back of his neck. As Arthur caught the unconscious man, he winced like bullets were being dug out of him.

The second man started up, clearly stunned by what had happened. That made it very easy for Guinevere to snatch up his rifle from the floor and belt him in the back of the head with its butt. She reluctantly grabbed him before he hit the floor and hefted his considerable dead weight. “Arthur. For the last time.”

“I’ve got Lancelot. That’s Tristan you have.” For an awkward moment, Arthur merely stood in place, holding Lancelot with a strange care that Guinevere had never seen before. It hurt—but then Arthur’s face firmed with a bleak determination she recognized all too well, and that hurt even more. Damn it, but she’d thought he’d begun to forget about that. “Where’s the rope and the cuffs?”

“Are they from when you were…” She didn’t need to finish to see the answer in his face. “I take it we’re moving again. Are they both going to fit in the trunk?”

Arthur gingerly tilted Lancelot so the other man’s head rested on his shoulder, then picked up the limp body and made for the garage. He paused at the doorway so Guinevere, who of course couldn’t do the same, could figure out how best to drag Tristan. It would’ve been easier if she didn’t have to worry about banging him around, but something in Arthur’s edginess told her that that would be a brilliantly bad idea.

“We would have been moving anyway,” he said, once they’d gotten the men bound and tucked into the backseat instead of the trunk. Dark-tinted windows notwithstanding, Guinevere was dubious about the wisdom of that, but Arthur insisted. “I had another visit—that’s why I was late coming back. But it’ll be easier to explain that once we meet up with Beatrix.”

Now, that name Guinevere not only recognized, but knew well enough to know that the sudden freezing sensation inside her gut was perfectly reasonable. “The Bride? The Bride came to see you? Oh—they must have thought I was her. They thought I was here to kill you.”

“She’s here?”

Startled, Guinevere had the gun shoved up under Lancelot’s chin before she really thought that through. A half-second later, she was yelping as her wrist was being brutally twisted away. “Ow! Arthur!”

His grip instantly loosened, and he stared first at her wrist, then at Lancelot as if coming out of a daze. Then he shook himself and rubbed at tension wrinkles gathering at the top of his nose. “Sorry.”

Lancelot, meanwhile, was angrily shoving himself up into a sitting position. He jerked at his wrists, which were tied behind his back, and leaned forward so his snarl was only inches from Arthur’s face. Guinevere had to actually grab her sore wrist to keep herself from belting him with the gun. “Arthur, what the hell is this? Who’s she? And what—”

“She’s not involved—” Arthur started to say, raking his hand through his hair.

“Yes, I damned well am. Explain on your own time, but you are going to explain this to me,” Guinevere snapped. She started to reach for Lancelot, but Arthur gave her a look that was pleading and commanding and completely irresistible. “Oh—damn it. Just…damn it.”

Before she could do anything to touch off Arthur’s clearly stressed nerves, she stood up and rounded the car. Tristan still appeared to be unconscious, but after Lancelot’s fast revival, she wasn’t going to take that as gospel.

She hadn’t gone even a step before Arthur turned back to Lancelot, taking the other man by the shoulders and speaking in a low, urgent voice. “Lancelot, it’s been five years. What are you doing here?”

“Seeing you,” was the curt reply, which inflections seemed to backhand Arthur in the face. Lancelot began to say something else, but bit down on it and chewed his lip. He glanced at the ground between them, then looked up. More softly, he went on. “Look, I don’t want to get into that right now. We’re here because Bill’s dead.”

“I know.” Arthur spoke so quietly that Guinevere, now on the other side of the car, could barely hear.

As silently as she could, she opened the door and shifted Tristan’s hips out of the way so she could climb in. The man’s eyelids twitched. In a spontaneous burst of frustration, she dug her nails into his waist as hard as she could, then put her hand on the seat.

His mouth flicked into a half-smile, and he opened his eyes to concede the point. But then Lancelot was talking again, and both their attentions were on him.

“When the king falls, the dogs come out to squabble.” Lancelot let out a sarcastic chuckle and bent forward a little more. The shift made Arthur’s fingers slide from the man’s shoulders to his neck, and then Arthur deliberately moved his fingers up farther, rubbing at the bruises Guinevere had left. “They’re coming for you. Fatale knit together what she could of Bill’s Asian holdings, and she’s going after anyone who helped the Bride, or was even just neutral.”

“I…retired before any of that even started.” A flash of resentment lit up Arthur’s eyes, but it was quickly subsumed in a welling of fault-finding. “Damn it. Beatrix said she’d settled nearly everything.”

The lines of Lancelot’s back went stiff as coffin wood, and his fingers twisted tight around his bonds. “You’re still talking to her? I thought you two parted ways, same as you did with everyone else.”

That stabbed Arthur deep, but his face closed in on itself before Guinevere could see where. He let his hands drift off of Lancelot’s face and moved away, starting to shut the door. “That’s enough. Guin, wait here. I’m going back in to make sure we didn’t forget anything, and then we’ll go.”

“Arthur!” Lancelot threw himself nearly out of the car, neatly preventing Arthur from closing the door. “Goddamn it, why won’t you—”

“You came into my house without prior warning and attacked my friend. Lancelot--five years.” Arthur cracked his words like a barbed whip, sending Lancelot reeling back in. But Guinevere could see the deepening slump in Arthur’s shoulders, and the way his eyes shaded from green to pallid gray. “The last time we talked, we nearly ended up killing each other.”

Tristan’s expression hadn’t changed at all, Guinevere suddenly noticed. But the intensity of his gaze had gotten stronger and stronger, and his hands had curled into fists.

“You left,” Lancelot muttered, slumped against the seat. He looked up at Arthur, and Arthur leaned on the car and stared down. “You were the one that left.”

“I had to. I…Guinevere. Watch them.” For a moment longer, Arthur hesitated, but after that he shut the door.

Lancelot let him. While Arthur walked to the door, the other man merely slouched and glared at the back of the seat before him. When the footsteps receded out of hearing, Lancelot mumbled something to himself. Then he jerked up and violently kicked the seat. “Goddamn it! Goddamn bastard—he doesn’t fucking trust me. He doesn’t trust us. Us!”

“Well, I can understand that,” Guinevere said dryly, meeting his glower with one of her own. “I still don’t know what’s going on, but what I do know explains a lot.”

“Does it.” At last, Tristan deigned to move, and he did so with a grace that shouldn’t be possible when bound and suffering at least two concussions. It was almost disgusting to watch him pull himself upright. “What would that be?”

She snarled to herself and took out her gun, checking over it in order to have an excuse for not facing them. “Why I shouldn’t even have bothered with the make-up and the short skirts. He really isn’t interested, is he?”

“No.” The expression on Lancelot’s face would have looked at home on a pugnacious five-year-old claiming the sandbox.

“Fine. I don’t put up with his past trying to cut my head in half just because I want him in bed.” Guinevere flicked off his vicious look and ignored Tristan’s near-laugh. “As he said, we are friends. And I will put as many bullets as I think necessary into your head to keep you from hurting him.”

She made a note on the apparent quickness Lancelot applied to everything, including taking of offense. “Don’t even open your mouth, all right? I’ve been around for the past year and a half, and I’ve seen him having nightmares.”

“Nightmares?” Lancelot said the word like he had no idea what it meant. It was almost funny to watch his mounting rage deflate as he visibly reassessed a few things.

“In that case, you shouldn’t shoot Lancelot.” Casual and calm, Tristan stretched out his legs and settled himself on the seat while Guinevere and Lancelot gave him odd looks. He glanced at Guinevere, then dropped his gaze to her gun. “It wouldn’t be in your best interests. Trust me.”

She arched her eyebrow. “Why?”

“Because I know what’s going on.” His tone was matter-of-fact and not smug in the least, but Guinevere nevertheless found it vastly more irritating than Lancelot’s restless aggravation. It was probably because she knew she was ruffling Lancelot as badly as he was her, whereas Tristan didn’t seem to care.

Arthur came back out into the garage and Lancelot’s attention instantly went to him. Guinevere could tell Arthur knew from the way his cheek muscle was ticking, but he didn’t acknowledge the other man’s stare in the least as he got in the car. Even when they were on the road to somewhere only Arthur and the Bride knew, the two men didn’t talk.

“This is not a good day,” Guinevere mumbled, resigning herself to a long, tense drive.

“We’ve seen worse,” Tristan replied. She wished he would stop smiling whenever she glared at him.

Then Arthur had a thought, and her wish changed to him being able to do that without killing them.

The car came very close to slewing off the road before Arthur yanked it straight. He glanced over his shoulder at the swearing backseat, clearly not concerned about that. “Lancelot? Tell me you didn’t have anyone tracking Beatrix.”

Lancelot looked at Arthur like Arthur should know something.

“Damn it, you--Guinevere, please hand me the cell phone.” For the first time since Guinevere had met him, Arthur slammed down on the acceleration without having anyone shoot at him first.

* * *

Elle had been in and out of hospitals enough to know all their sterile little secrets, all their covert stains and chinks. Or so she had thought. She’d never known a hospital from the view of a patient, and after this, she never wanted to again.

Right on the dot, the door creaked open for her twice-daily pimping. Fucking God, but if she ever got out of her damn cuffs, she was going on a rampage through this place and she wasn’t leaving a single dick untouched. And not in the customary way. “Go fuck your hand, darling. It’ll bite less.”

Instead of the usual puerile reply and face-slap, what she got was a swishing sound and a wet gurgle. She strained her hearing till it threatened to pop out and leave two more holes in her head, but no clicking of heels followed.

Padding of shoes. Either B had downgraded her taste in fashion, or they were men. Foreigners, too, because they were muttering some guttural language she didn’t recognize. “Fatale?” Elle tried, lip curling.

Someone else walked in, and then there were clashing swords. Still didn’t sound like B, but Elle had had enough of this impenetrable dark confusion shit. She might be blind, but she was still in possession of most of her rationality, and she wasn’t ready to lie down in the dirt just yet.

The chains that held her to the bed, ostensibly to keep her from hurting herself, were good steel and tight, but the food had ceased being palatable weeks ago. In between that and the goddamned male fuckasses they called nurses, she probably looked like a shriveled skeleton. One more thing to cut into their entrails, but at the moment, it did mean she could almost slide out of her cuffs. Almost.

Something slammed against the side of her bed and sent it screeching towards the far wall. Her IV popped out and left a small stinging spot on her arm, which she reflexively grabbed at. Thus ducking whatever sliced up her sheets where she’d just been.

“Wrong damn reflexes.” She should’ve been ducking because she knew the fucking sword was coming, and shit, this was a cock party of epic proportions. And Elle had no garden shears.

She popped her thumb out of the joint. Then had to bite down on the little squeal that rose in her throat as she popped the second one. Getting the cuffs off was…much easier after that. The next time the fight neared the bed, she rolled off and kicked out. Somebody hit the ground cursing, and the resulting tangle gave her enough time to shove her thumbs back in place.

Hot liquid splattered over her face; some dripped into her mouth, and that was when she knew it was blood. Elle shoved back and tried to scrambled to her feet, but her fucking muscles were being complete shits and refused. “Goddamn…B walked out just fine—”

Singing of a sword that knew exactly what it was doing. “Yeah, princess, but I was patient enough to learn what Pai Mei had to teach me.”

“Fuck,” said a man.

“Beatrix, I asked you to wait—” And fucking hell, but it really was a reunion. “Elle? I thought you said you killed her.”

If she’d still had an eye to roll, Elle would have. “Arthur, you are and always have been an invariable optimist. Killing Bill—” that bitch had dared “—and killing me are two very, very different propositions for dear B here. So--”

“Arthur!” interrupted a second man.

“Gawain and Galahad. Ah, God…” It was very easy to remember how Arthur would pinch at his nose, as if he could sneeze out all his troubles if he could only work up enough snot. “Where’s Bors and Dagonet?”

To the accompaniment of a sword-tip’s slight swish, boots were tapping their way towards Elle. She belatedly lashed out with her foot, but B trapped that with a painfully pointed heel and grabbed Elle’s wrist, twisting it up behind her back and using that to make her stand. “Later, Arthur. If Fatale’s already gotten this far, then we need to move.”

“Jesus, Joseph and Mary. You really need to learn how to clean up after yourself, B—” Elle was expecting the blow to the head, but it still hurt like a bastard and she still went kicking and screaming into unconscious. Waking up wasn’t going to be pleasant for anybody.


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