Tangible Schizophrenia



Author: Guede Mazaka
Rating: R
Pairing: Gawain/Galahad/Tristan, implied Arthur/Lancelot
Feedback: Good lines, bad lines, etc. Specific explanations always welcome, as is anything else.
Disclaimer: Not my versions.
Notes: Imping: sewing a grafted feather on in place of an injured one.
Summary: Communication isn't in the words. Sometimes, it isn't even in the understanding.


Gawain thinks that he knows all the knights fairly well. They've fought together, whored together-hell, shat together, too. Because it's a filthy, bloody, roaring life they have, and there's not room nor time for the niceties of civilized life. Besides, in Britain the weather's always too bad for real civilization.

Arthur tries, and he mostly succeeds. He remembers his Rome with his carefully-kept books that he dries out over a brazier so they don't mold into moist spongy dust, with his seals of men that have the leisure to do nothing but talk about how the world should be. He's gotten his knights to think of higher causes once in a while, like how sometimes a bird will fly by in the middle of battle and Gawain will realize once again that not everything is a battlefield. True, they do it mainly for his sake because he's welded his principles to his sword and his sword is what they follow, but they do think about it. That's more than they had started with.

At least, that is what Gawain feels, and that is what he suspects the other knights feel as well. Most of them. There are still a few whose eyes he can stare into and still cannot truly see.

His gut tells him that Lancelot has other reasons that hold more weight with him than the cause of bettering humanity. Something about the way that one keeps an eye out for how Arthur's exhaustion seep out from under the commander's façade.

Maybe Gawain is wrong. Maybe not. Because Tristan watches that pair as well, slight smile occasionally flickering across his face. And Tristan never watches anything that isn't worth the effort. Nor does he smile at much else.

He used to smile at Gawain, back when they were still more boys than soldiers, and he used to speak as well. Now…words still come out of his mouth, but they might as well not. Gawain can tell a fake when he comes across one, and when Tristan talks to him now, it's not really a conversation. It's an exchange of sentences that just happen to relate to each other.

"You're slow tonight. Stomach trouble?" Galahad slides up beside Gawain and slouches onto the bench. He's less sullen than usual, and the mockery in his voice is even good-natured.

"Yesterday was because of that disgusting stew. Which we didn't have today, so my health is fine." Gawain thinks that all the bitterness in Galahad stems from his inability to understand that a man can forget home when enough time passes.

And regretfully, Gawain has. He tried at first to hang on to the fragments of steppe wind, the raspy dry grass and the tents looking so small against the huge sweep of rock, but they've slipped away into the treacherous but familiar mists of Britain. When he thinks of Sarmatia now, it's as a symbol of what could have been. Not what was, even though that's actually the truth.

"Well, you're still not drinking much. Moping? Get cheated out of the girl you wanted?" Galahad flips around to rest his back against the table, props his elbows on the top. It's a damp night and his hair is frizzing out like sheep's wool. He looks about twelve years old and Gawain ends up finishing off his drink so he won't reach over and ruffle Galahad's hair. That would earn him a snarl and a slap, anyway.

Almost as cocky as Lancelot sometimes. Gawain wonders why he ever decided to put up with the annoying brat, let alone take him in hand and teach him how to survive. "Has it ever occurred to you that maybe I don't feel like waking up with an aching head?"

"What, and miss out of one of the few pleasures we've got?" The edge on Galahad's voice is starting to turn nasty; too late Gawain notices the high flush in the other man's cheeks. The problem with not washing very often is that it's hard to tell whether the beer stench is from this week or last. "That makes this fucking place tolerable?"


And down goes the mug to shatter against the table. "I hate how we-"

"Hey, there! You'll not be breaking my crockery without paying for it!" Vanora's seven months pregnant and less than happy with the side-effects. According to Bors, who'd been nursing a nice black eye at the time, she was having a hard one.

"Oh, shut up, you fucking bit-"

Which is when Bors looks up, rage rising fast, and when Gawain thinks that a screaming fight in the morning is better than picking Galahad-bits out of the bar. So Gawain grabs Galahad and slaps his hand over the idiot's mouth while frantically smiling an apology. "Nothing, nothing. Just charge it to me, Vanora, and very sorry about the mug."

"Well…" Bors looks as if he wouldn't mind a bit of brawling. Perhaps Lancelot will oblige him-if Arthur's busy with other things tonight-but it won't be Galahad.

"At least some of you know how to handle a woman," Vanora snorts, waddling back to her place behind the bar.

Galahad finally wrestles himself out of Gawain's arms, glaring and cursing and generally acting as if Gawain had just betrayed him to the Woads. "Get the hell off of me."

"Fine." Which clearly surprises Galahad, but Gawain isn't in a fighting mood tonight. Actually, a little bit of peace and quiet would do him well enough. They spend enough of their lives with weapons in their hands for him to cherish the moments when they don't have to.

That's something else Galahad doesn't quite understand, for all that he dreams of the day they're discharged. He doesn't see that the line between soldier and man isn't quite that distinct, doesn't see that the two can and do coexist. In his mind, he's nothing but a fighting pawn, and he can't possibly be anything else until the Romans have released their hold on him.

Gawain gets up and wanders away, only stopping to pay Vanora. For a moment, he thinks Galahad might follow and they might actually be able to sit down and talk without anything like drinks or other knights or commonsense in the way. But then Galahad pointedly turns his back and swipes another mug from one of the other tables, and Gawain temporarily gives up. He can't help but keep trying, but he also can't help but get tired of it once in a while. He's only a man, after all.


When his feet take him to a familiar, isolated little hillock, Gawain is somewhat less than surprised. It's probably the one spot in Britain about which he doesn't have memories of guts and death and despair; knights have died on the fields outside, at the gates, in the stables and in the barracks, but not here.

He is surprised to see that someone else remembered. It seems that Tristan isn't interested in inebriation, either.

As Gawain approaches, Tristan gives his hawk one last caress before throwing it high in the air. He's sitting cross-legged, and when he leans back to watch the bird soar into the night and blot out of view, the hair falls from his cheeks to disclose a much younger face than Gawain had expected. "Better now," Tristan mutters. "Her wing's able."

A vague memory of seeing Tristan messing with discarded feathers, sticky pastes and his hawk a few weeks ago comes to mind. Gawain thinks a little more as he sits down and comes up with a word. "Imping."

Tristan casts him a look as piercing as those of his pet. "You remembered."

"Why wouldn't I?" The afternoon Gawain had tried to help Tristan repair a damaged flight feather on the hawk's left wing had been one of the most memorable in his life, after all. He was still missing a tiny chip of his ear.

Instead of the dry humor Gawain had been hoping for, Tristan merely rolls his shoulders in dismissal.

It's hard to think of how to restart a conversation once it's died, and the afternoons they'd spent together in the past really had been nothing more than one long conversation, more and more frequently interrupted by Woads and Arthur and Romans and Galahad.

Galahad, with whom Gawain has spent so much time without much return. It's beginning to look as if Galahad will always be that angry young boy Rome wrenched into battle, and as sympathetic as Gawain is to that, he doesn't want to waste all his energy on Rome. If he devotes every waking moment of his life to hating something he can't help, then he's more Rome's creature than he is his own man.

He regrets letting Tristan's company drop away, Gawain suddenly realizes. And he wants to say that somehow, because obviously no one's taken up his place and Tristan's been left without even the companionship that the other knights have, but it's a difficult thing to put into words. Besides, words are not Gawain's strength. They're Arthur's and Lancelot's.

For all that skill, sometimes those two don't seem to be in much better shape. While Gawain is no prophet, he can see the paths to a great battle between that pair coming to cross somewhere in the future, and he fears.

"Galahad should have calmed himself by now," Tristan abruptly says. He's still scanning the sky as if he can see something in that glimmer-studded inkiness. Maybe he can; his abilities as a scout have occasioned more than one sideways glance and campfire whisper.

Gawain's never really listened to those. It's hard to do that and not laugh when he can remember a time that Tristan was all elbows and knees, fumbling about as much as the rest of them. He got through that stage faster than most, but he still went through it. "Probably. Well, it'll do him good to have to drag himself back to his cot once or twice."

"You're not going after him?" So that's what will surprise Tristan. Not ambushes, but just Gawain.

It's an interesting thought. One that chews at Gawain for a good long time, but refuses to yield up something that's solid and certain and defined.

He's been letting Tristan wait for an answer. A little annoyed with himself, Gawain replies: "No. Not this time. He's been a grown man for a while. He can watch himself."

"I thought you…" Tristan cuts himself off, and it's such an odd thing to come from him that Gawain immediately twists about to stare at him.

The tattoos on Tristan's cheeks are raised and darker on dark, but when the starlight hits them, they seem outlined with silver. Vague curiosity motivating him, Gawain lifts his fingers to them, and Tristan goes stiff, but doesn't move.

Scar tissue more than it is dye stuffed into the skin, but it's softer than expected, and the texture is something like leather worn to the point of cracking. Gawain puts the heel of his other hand against the other pair of markings and gently presses down to feel the tattoos groove into his skin.

Never looking away, Tristan leans over and kisses him.


Some day, Gawain needs to ask exactly what Tristan's seen out there in the woods. What he maybe has learned just from observation. Because while Gawain knows generally where things go and what happens and what to do, he definitely isn't the expert here. It would be embarrassing how quickly Tristan manages to get him on his back and squirming and spilling out like a callow youth…except when Gawain finally catches his breath and returns the favors, the sudden change in Tristan's eyes is like the difference between a full and a new moon.

He has a feeling that no one, living or dead, has ever seen Tristan like this, and it's a humbling thought.

But nails are digging into Gawain's clothes, slipping in between hems to scratch and pet and rub, and warm breath buries itself deep into the curve of his neck, and he discovers that there's still room in between all the brooding for pleasure. Tristan's mouth tastes like pinewood smoke mixed with some earthy herb, and Tristan's skin bends and flexes against Gawain's lips like a prayer made flesh. Gawain has an idea about those scars and tattoos, and he's rather happy to have it confirmed when a shudder sends Tristan's body skittering against his every time he licks.

It's too damned dark and he makes a few mistakes, bumps and scuffles it, but in the end he thinks that he's given Tristan something to remember. If not, he can always try again.

Gawain has to laugh a little when he notices that he wants to try again. Frowning, Tristan looks up at him-gets a drop of sweat in the eye-and asks, "What?"

"Nothing. I'm going to have grass in my ass for days." When Gawain touches his lips to Tristan's, he feels the beginnings of a smile.


It's a matter of pride that, although the number of knights have gone down, the number of rooms assigned to them haven't decreased. No idiot legionary knowing and caring little to nothing about the men who regularly rescue his head is going to take over the spaces where the Samaritans have lived and suffered and rejoiced. And occasionally died. In the room that Gawain has mostly to himself, there's a dark reddish stain on one wall that he can't scour off.

The room is only mostly to himself because right now, Tristan is a tight ball in the corner of Gawain's cot and Galahad is standing in the doorway when Gawain answers the knocking. "Morning. I-"

Gawain watches Galahad's face freeze, then turns and finds Tristan's sword hanging from the chair behind him. The sleeping hawk is perched next to it.

Because Gawain left the tavern early last night, he's perfectly sober and well this morning, and his mind is capable of making connections that he wishes a little that it couldn't. "Morning."

"What's this?" Galahad demands, and he's much too angry for it to just be annoyance that for once, Gawain wasn't taking care of him.

He, however, is not the only one who's irritated. "I got tired of waiting," Gawain snaps. "If you're going to start a fight, then go soak your head first; you look like you slept in a haybale."

"I was sleeping in the stable." The furious hurt flares up in Galahad's eyes and Gawain gets ready to block a sloppy punch, but surprisingly enough, Galahad reins himself in. His shoulders slump and his gaze dulls. "By your horse. You usually go for a ride when you're mad at me."

Gawain's tongue tangles in the confusion and unwilling comprehension and…irony. A lucky thing, he supposes, because his gut tells him that anything he could say would only make matters worse.

Rustling from behind alerts him to the fact that Tristan's not only woken up, but has somehow gotten dressed and is on his way out the window. It's like a bad retelling of a whoring adventure, and Gawain wonders why he would have this land on him the one time he was sensible and didn't drink.

"Running away?" Galahad pushes past him and enters the room, fists clenched against his hips as his glare meets Tristan's cool shuttered gaze. "You're always doing that. Hiding in the forest-makes me think that you'd like the Woads better than us."

"I'm not running. I'm leaving." Tristan is frozen with one foot dangling outside and the other balanced on the windowsill. He's not carrying the hawk.

Gawain waits for Tristan's eyes to flick over to his-improbably-still-sleeping bird, then lunges forward and yanks the other man back in. They hit the floor and his spine won't forgive him any time soon, but Gawain's fingers are wound tightly enough into Tristan's clothing that unless the other man kills him, no one will be leaving.

Actually, if Tristan did kill him, Galahad would still be there, and already not kindly disposed toward Tristan. So things are looking up, relatively speaking. "No, you're not," Gawain says. "Galahad, would you stop being a bastard and an idiot?"

"I thought I was doing that, coming here and…" An expression that Gawain doesn't recognize passes over Galahad's face, and the other man grows quiet. He squats down beside them, hands hanging loosely between his knees, and Gawain has enough time to identify the emotion as thoughtful before Galahad speaks again. "I still don't understand you."

He's talking to Tristan. Gawain blinks and looks again, but that fact is still true.

"Don't ever tease my hawk," is Tristan's equally strange answer. He slowly uncoils and pushes himself off of Gawain. As he's moving toward the bed instead of the window, Gawain lets him.

Tristan goes to soothe his hawk, which had woken at the crash of two men hitting the floor, and Galahad grabs Gawain by the arm and hauls him up. "Don't keep lying there. You're going to miss breakfast.

Gawain has little idea of what has just happened, but it hasn't resulted in any dead bodies and for that, he's very grateful. "Tristan?"

"I'll be out in a minute."

"You'd better. That's as long as I'm going to wait," Galahad mutters. He pulls on Gawain's arm again. "Come on."

And Gawain goes, confused and still a little worried, but also content.