Tangible Schizophrenia


Dark Ages

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: PG-13. Graphic imagery.
Pairing: Implied Gawain/Tristan
Disclaimer: Versions from the movie.
Notes: A conservative rule-of-thumb among military historians looking at pre-WWI warfare is that, for every man reported dead, there are at least seven wounded. The Romans tended to burn the dead on the battlefield as a matter of course; it reduced chances of an epidemic breaking out.
Summary: After the battle is when the worst comes.


He looked right and blood spray from an amputation surgery nearly blinded him. He looked left, tired of seeing mangled hands and arms and feet drop wetly to the ground, and his eyes lighted upon a trickle of green pus from a black-fringed wound. When he drew his sharp breath, the air was too thick with moans to bring him any relief.

It stuck in his throat, even after he’d stumbled out and bent down to grind hands on knees. His head was dizzy with the sweetish scent of rot and he struggled to press it out, to cut it away so he could think. The bile rose in his throat, sour harshness slicing at his consciousness, but not fast enough. He retched and the force would have toppled him over, if not for the hand that clamped down on his shoulder. It pulled against his weight and held it balanced till he was looking clear-eyed at the yellow lumpy mess blending into the mud and his head was calm and his voice was freed. “I hate this part the worst. Scouting must be nice to have now—fresher air.”

Tristan’s fingers squeezed once before he tugged and let go, leaving Gawain to stand up by himself. He turned to stare at the sky, half-black and half blue. “But you can still see the smoke from the pyres,” he said. “You come back to them.”

“No, you come back to me.” Gawain wiped at the vomit clinging to his mouth. His voice was rasping and weak, and he wanted to repeat what he’d said more strongly. But the words he wanted to deny were all around them in the stench, the sounds, the sights they weren’t looking at now but would have to soon enough. They had duties to perform, and they had to perform them as long as they were able no matter what the conditions.

“You almost said ‘for now,’ didn’t you?” The other man looked at the sky a moment longer, then brushed past Gawain. Light as a whisper, a finger ran over Gawain’s shoulder and touched the back of his neck before it fell away. “I won’t come back to a dead man.”

Then Tristan was rounding the corner, and the surgeons were calling for help in restraining the delirious wounded. But Gawain stayed and watched the other man leave. He tasted bile again, but he gulped it down, for fear that it’d be taken for sickness. Or that it would become sickness if he let it. “Then I’d better live,” he muttered, turning back inside.