Author: Guede Mazaka
"Damn it!" Frustrated beyond belief, Galahad tried to twist all his anger into the hilt of his sword. Unfortunately, it wouldn't leech into the metal and stubbornly stayed put in his body, which seemed entirely too small to contain his fury. It was. With a violent suddenness, he flung the sword away from him.
As soon as it left his fingers, he instantly regretted his actions. Good weapons were expensive, and the pay was already bad.
"Whoa!" Arthur's shocked face appeared before the sword, then dropped out of sight.
Shit. Even worse if Galahad killed his leader. "Sir? Sir? Sir!"
He ran over, nearly tripping over a stray pebble as he did, and jumped over the intervening crates, praying all the while that he wouldn't find a body. "Sir?"
A head abruptly popped up before him, causing him to stumble backward nearly as quickly as he'd come. The same damned rock found itself beneath his foot, only this time it succeeded in knocking him to the ground. "Fuck!"
"No, Arthur." A hesitantly joking smile graced Custis' face. He held out a hand, which Galahad at first couldn't quite recognize. Undaunted by the pause, Arthur grabbed Galahad by the arm and pulled him to his feet. "You're lucky no one else saw that."
"Sorry, sir." Galahad ducked his head to hide his blush, but was forced to look up at Custis' cough.
His commander's face was stern and hard-too much so for his years. The unnatural maturity set oddly on the youth's still-forming features, and Galahad had seen more than one older Roman officer back down before it, doubtless unnerved by the incongruity. "Arthur."
Confused, Galahad stared dumbly back.
"It feels...too strange to be called 'sir.' Especially when I'm not that much older." And then Arthur looked his age, smile fresh with brilliance. "So why were you throwing your sword around? You're not Tristan."
It took a moment for Galahad to assimilate everything, as he didn't have Tristan's perception or Lancelot's odd connection to Arthur. Moreover, as the youngest knight he rarely had the chance to voice his opinion without receiving some kind of counter-argument, and with the other knights, that usually was followed up by a physical reinforcement. Which brought Galahad back to Arthur's question. He took a quick glance around, but they were alone, and Arthur still hadn't betrayed any sign of anger.
Well, Galahad wasn't a coward. "Because, Arthur, the damn thing's too heavy. I'm not weak-I can bring back just as much from hunts as the rest of them, but this...it's too long, anyway. A good fighter could just duck a swing, get in, and stab."
"My sword's that long." But Arthur's voice was mild, and his gaze considering as it looked over Galahad. "You've got a point, though. There are...you've heard of gladiators?"
"Saw a couple, on the way here." Galahad didn't bother to keep the bitterness from the last word. He desperately missed home, and he didn't care who knew. In fact, better if everyone knew.
Arthur stooped to the ground and picked up the sword, turning it over in his hand. Then he seemed to come to a decision, tucking it under his arm and gesturing Galahad to accompany himself somewhere.
They ended up at the commissary, where a reluctantly fascinated Galahad was witness to Arthur's charm at work. The laughing guards gave up the keys, and in a few minutes, they were in the armory, strolling up and down racks of weapons. "Gladiators come in several types, each with their own weapons and armor, and their own strengths and weaknesses," Arthur thoughtfully said. He occasionally stopped to examine a blade. "I met a man once that ran gladiatorial training schools-he told me that it's actually the physique of the gladiator that determines what kind he finally becomes. Oh, here. Try this."
Arthur set Galahad's sword aside and handed over a shorter blade, somewhat longer than a dagger but not a full-size broadsword. It was much, much easier to lift and maneuver. In fact, after a few minutes of practice swings, Galahad was almost convinced that he'd been born with it.
"Better," Arthur pronounced. "Your training's sunk in; you just had the wrong weapon."
A clump of awkward words stuck to the roof of Galahad's mouth, making his tongue feel clumsy. Once again, his cheeks were flushing hot, but this time it was with conflicting emotions. On the one hand, he still wasn't sure about Arthur. On the other, his commander had taken the time to listen and fix and...and...well, be understanding. It was strange behavior for a soldier; usually, the attitude was learn or die.
Galahad finally settled for a change of subject. "This is more like what I'm used to having. Back in Sarmatia."
"You miss it more than the others." Arthur was storing Galahad's old sword in one of the racks, and he had his back turned to Galahad. Off-guard. "None of the legionaries seem to miss Rome as much as I do. Then again, they're older."
"It doesn't matter how old I get. I won't forget Sarmatia." The oddness of the transaction that had just passed held Galahad until Arthur turned around and the chance was lost. If it had really been a chance; it was hard to think that way about someone who'd just given aid. "Besides, I thought you were born here-I mean, that's what's said."
Arthur flicked a cooler glance at Galahad, then motioned for them to leave. "I was. But what I...like remembering is Rome. I'm not a Briton in thinking."
"No. You don't strip down and plaster yourself in blue paint." Too far, Galahad thought immediately after he'd spoken.
However, Arthur just laughed. "No, I don't. Gawain!"
Who was walking nearby. When he heard Arthur's call, he detoured and joined them, a curious look on his face. "Yes?"
A hand landed on Galahad's shoulder, but was off a moment later. Arthur nodded to each of them, obviously taking his leave. "Galahad's changed weapons. See that his training is altered accordingly."
When he and Gawain were almost back to the practice rings, Galahad suddenly realized. "I never said thank you."
Snickering, Gawain ruffled his hair, then dropped an arm around his shoulder. "Just kill some more Woads. That's the best thank you."