Tangible Schizophrenia


Reversals Epilogue: Chance

Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: PG
Pairing: Arthur/Guinevere, Arthur/Lancelot, Tristan/Galahad.
Feedback: Good lines, bad ones, etc.
Disclaimer: These versions aren't mine.
Notes: AU. Instead of the Sarmatians being transplanted to Britain, the Britons were transplanted to Sarmatia. Of necessity I have to mess up history, but will try to keep as much accuracy as I can.
Summary: Life is ragged and open-ended.


Maximus shrugged and shifted uncomfortably in his seat, fingers tapping on the box sitting on the table before him. "You...did an excellent job of shaming us to the point where we couldn't not act, Arthur. Though to be honest, we made it exceedingly easy for you."

"I wasn't expecting to live long enough to have this meeting." Arthur scribbled his signature to the last sheet of parchment and handed it over. As he did, he noticed with some dull amusement that the other man couldn't help but stare, which wasn't entirely incomprehensible. Less than a week had passed since the battle of Camlann, and though Arthur wasn't a vain man, the gauntness of his reflection frightened even himself. "That letter was a last protest before I went out and died on the battlefield."

"But you didn't." Of all the other garrison commandants in Sarmatia, Maximus was the most honorable and least foolish, but with that went a very shallow interpretation of the notion of duty. He followed his orders to the letter and was loath to look beyond that.

One of the cuts on Arthur's arm was beginning to throb; he shifted its bandage just enough to alleviate the pressure, but not enough to shift whatever poultice Merlin had bound onto it. "No. Awkward, I suppose."

On the other hand, Maximus had turned himself around and brought his army up to Arthur's post just in time to help tend the wounded, and with not a single official order in sight. And now he was sitting in Arthur's rooms, taking Arthur's report for personal transportation to the nearest high official. "I...they can't touch you for a victory, even if that was accomplished by a blatant disobeying of orders. Not formally. And you're fortunate that that command to withdrawal came from a governor that's now fallen from the favor of the emperor. But yes, it is awkward."

"My retirement's been postponed long enough, I think." Arthur folded his hands in his lap and stared out the window, watching the sunlight filter down from an overcast sky. It was weak and anemic, sapping his already abused spirit, and so he turned away to face Maximus. "I don't think they would mind refusing me my discharge."

"I was hoping you'd ask for that." With a deft twist of his fingers, Maximus flipped open his box to reveal that it was full of neat little scrolls. He picked out one whose handles were notably more elaborate and passed it to Arthur. "There's about a half dozen more, stowed with my gear. Just about all of your men are due, aren't they?"

In truth, about half had a couple more years to go, but Arthur was hardly going to argue the point. "They're being allowed home?"

"The Empire believes that the presence of a large group of Britons, who've been indoctrinated in the Roman way of life for generations, might help ease tensions in Britain." Maximus settled back in his seat, clearly relieved at the direction of the conversation. "An army's rampaging through Germania right now, and it looks as if we might finally deal with those barbarians once and for all. Until that's certain, I'm to take over this garrison and hold it, but afterwards Rome is withdrawing from Sarmatia for good."

"Nothing here to guard except the border, which is going to disappear. Is that what they're thinking?" Arthur unrolled the scroll just enough to glimpse the words and see that they were the right ones, then rolled it back up again. He didn't need to choke himself on the false platitudes he knew were inside, nor did he need the reassurance of pretty lettering to know that he was a man of free will, able to choose as he would. The responsibility behind that freedom had already left too many scars on him and in him for him not to believe in it.

After a moment of strained silence, Maximus sat up and made to leave. "Well, I'll have the discharges transferred to you and let you get on with wrapping up your term of service."

He started to go, then turned back with a curious look on his face. "Arthur? Where are you going after this?"

"Nowhere," Arthur replied. When he saw the worry steal into Maximus' face, he smiled as best he could and shook his head. "No, I won't be around to get in your way. But...I've found that I've an affinity with Sarmatia. A day's riding and a man can utterly lose himself here."

None of Arthur's words were lies, but neither were they true expressions of what he felt. He simply gazed up at the other man, calm as only the numb could be, and let Maximus read whatever he wanted in that.


Guinevere's burning was far easier than Arthur had feared. He had imagined some wild fancy of muttering, sullen Britons and accusations from all directions, but instead everyone was quiet. Almost serene in the grief that distorted their faces. Merlin had somehow arranged it so the customary Briton taboo on burning the body didn't apply here; Arthur had suspected the man was the Druid of the garrison, but Merlin had been too discreet to be caught at it. After they had come to know each other, and then to trust each other, the matter had ceased to be important to Arthur.

It was only a shell he was watching burn, only flesh he smelled in the smoke. There was nothing of Guinevere's life here: none of her fire or her love or her strength. He'd already seen all that leave, and so this was merely a fulfillment of a promise.

Merlin gave Arthur a few moments alone with the ashes, but in the end, Arthur couldn't think of anything he could say that hadn't already been said, screamed or whispered. He and Guinevere had given their farewells to each other even before she had died, and all that was left was the feeling of warmth. A memory of dark shining hair and a wicked smile.

"It's a long journey," Arthur said as he handed the urn back to Merlin.

"I will keep these safe. And I will keep the story of you pure." The other man bundled the small thing away, then clapped his hand to Arthur's shoulder. A flash of white that might have been a smile went over Merlin's face. "A good life to you."

Arthur nodded, feeling a little of himself open up again. "And to you: officer, advisor, old friend. Merlin-when you reach Britain, can you stop by my parents' graves? I'd-if you could-"

"I'll do it." As it was quite clear that Merlin understood what Arthur couldn't manage to say, Arthur shut up. He squeezed Merlin's hand, then stepped back and let the other man pass.

Merlin had nearly made it back to the garrison walls when a horse nickered behind Arthur. Turning around revealed a nervous, determined Lancelot sitting on a beautiful black stallion, and leading another by the reins. He stared at Arthur as if he was a drowning man and Arthur were a rope. "It's over."

"More or less." And the small crack in Arthur widened a little more as he looked up and saw the heat flickering in the backs of Lancelot's eyes.

Lancelot abruptly thrust the reins of the second horse at Arthur. "Ride with me?"

The wind kicked up, blowing away the last lingering smell of the pyre, and Arthur lifted his face into it. Then he took the reins and mounted, and he slowly led them away from the ashes.


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