Tangible Schizophrenia


Strong East Wind

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: R
Pairing: Arthur/Lancelot
Feedback: Spelling errors to character analysis.
Disclaimer: Versions from the movie.
Notes: Second-person pov. Companion piece to Penitent Ashes.
Summary: Lancelot on pre-battle jitters.


You always think youíll die on the field. At the beginning of every battle, youíre secretly shaking in your boots and wondering if anyone will notice if you step back for one last piss. Of course they will, of course you canít, even if there werenít officers around to yell you back in line. Even if you finally are an officer yourself, and thatís much less than it seems because that means youíre farthest forward of them all. Have to set an example for the rest.

If anyone ever says no, says that they look ahead to when the battle is over and thatís how they stay aliveótheyíre lying. Theyíre tossing you the same horseshit they eat in order to stay sane. Itís Britain. The land curves into treasonous gullies and steep cliffsides. The trees always have at least two shadows, one much smaller and usually armed with arrows. The mist gobbles up the world every night so that even though youíre not particularly attached to any god, you momentarily see the wisdom in praying for the sun to have enough strength to rise again. No, everyone looks out at the battlefield, whether it really is a field or is a mule-path winding through a high narrow valley, and they see themselves dead and riddled with wounds and bloating with rot.

The amusing thing is, eventually you grow used to seeing yourself like that. So when the call finally comes and you kick your heels into your horseís side, you know that youíve already seen the worst of it. And when the fighting ebbs to a stop, the surprise you feel at finding yourself alive amongst the bodies is almost sweet.

It is sweet, for that moment in between the lowering of your sword and the taking up of your drinking partnerís arms. If heís wounded, then itís a dash for the surgeons and hoping that theyíre not already swamped. If heís dead, then itís a slow trudge to the wagons with the prospect of another dreary, bitter-wind funeral to not look forward to.

If heís Arthur, then he shakes you off before you can see more than the ragged gash in his bicep and the deeper wounds that are his over-conscious eyes, and he goes off to organize the clean-up. You curse under your breath and follow, scratching at the drying gore on your face and tugging at your armor so it doesnít sit quite so heavily on the bruises and abrasions. He hasnít been killed yet, obviously, but nevertheless you always see his body lying hacked at and motionless in the uneasy stirring before engagement. If youíre in a high, nervous mood heís right next to you and with a hand limp over your sideónice touch, you always sarcastically tell your imaginationóand if youíre in a grim uncaring one heís yards away where he was cut down before you could get to him.

But you shake yourself out of that, for the battle is over, and there he is alive and walking the field to count the casualties.

You met a girl once that claimed lovemaking was sweetest after a battle, after the man had touched death and found it wanting. You thought she was a fool then, and you still do. And youíve also met a girl once that said, lying cozily between you and Arthur: ďI hate the smell of blood. But Iíve forgotten how to smell anything else, so I tell myself I like it.Ē

That one you liked, the way you sometimes enjoy Tristanís teasing of Galahad or the quiet Dagonet spreads about him. But you never went to her more than thrice because you disliked meeting her hollow eyes and because she always settled in between you and Arthur. Anyway she caught fever from the river and died some months back.

The truth is, the fucking comes anywhere from late that night to days afterward, once youíve established a defense of your victoryís gains or once youíve carried your broken and bloody selves back to the garrison. Youíre cavalry; you spend most of your life in the saddle. The slightest scratch affects how well you sit the saddle, how quickly you can signal turns with just the twist of your knees and thighs and the pressure of your weight, how well you can manage having both hands off the horse and grappling with a pack of opponents. Most of the time you canít afford to willingly tire out yourself. Most of the time, youíre sitting and watching the others like a hawk for breaks in their handling of the horse, for hidden wounds and for evidence of off-time brawls, because if they fail or react too slow when charging then the line might break, and if the line breaks then itís every man for himself. If the line breaks then itís you choking on your blood over on one side of the field and Arthur dying beneath a Woadís sword on the other and then you wake.

Itís a recurring nightmare of yours. Keeps you company through the three days of aftermath that follow every few hours of battle, through the two weeks of feverish preparation that precedes every clashing of arms. Youíve learned to greet it with a smile and wave it towards the side where already wait your frustration and your fatigue and your fucking deep want to peel all the armor off of Arthur and to press your cheek against his chest, listening for the heartbeat, and to run your hands over his skin to remind yourself that you are not--yet--living that nightmare.

And when you finally do get those few moments alone, that space in between responsibility and resentment, you almost donít know how to touch him. Your hands shake and in order to hide that youíre rough and you rake your filthy chipped nails over his skin, your mouth twists with too many words and so you keep it never still, brushing it over his mouth and his shoulders and his back. He lets you do it, his hands strip the clothes just as roughly from you, and he ignores all the harsh undeserved words you muffle in his flesh. Sometimes, like the bite of a sliver-cut, it steals into your mind to wonder at why, but only sometimes and not for long because then you finally have his breath steaming your face, his pulse fluttering against your mouth and his body joined to yours so tightly and deeply that you canít doubt heís alive. Heís here, with you.

When youíre tangled around him, breathless with the movement of his flesh deep within you, everything else is forgotten. You donít think about the fear before battle, the knowing looks of other soldiers watching your awkward riding. You donít think about how you have to separate eventually, and how every time it takes a little longer to stumble back together. All you know is that you have him.

The reason youójust you, as far as you knowósee yourself dead before every battle is because in those last few moments you canít think of anything but of him dying and thus you canít see yourself alive.