Author: Guede Mazaka
For the third time in the hour, Bors thumped his mug on the table. Beer promptly slopped over the rim and baptized his hand in wasted drink, which did nothing for his temper. "As sure as I'm about to wallop your mouth shut, I swear I'm telling the truth."
"I still can't believe you," Galahad stubbornly insisted. Behind him, Gawain was losing a desperate struggle not to roll his eyes, while beside him, Lancelot had long ago fell foul of a laughing fit.
"Well, not my problem. But it did happen." Bors washed out his mouth with a long draught, then skittered the empty mug down the table. A passing fine redhead deftly caught it before it went over the edge, and tossed him a glance full of irked passion into the bargain. He winked at her, caught the edge of her hidden smile, and then turned back to the fluff-headed twit arguing with him. "Arthur was fourteen, younger even than you, and from the looks of things, was holding his first parade. 'course, even at that age he wasn't spindly like you, two years older and still-"
Fury rising along with his body, Galahad looked nearly ready to try a punch. Fortunately for him, Gawain darted in and shoved him down, then wriggled aside Lancelot so he could clamp an arm over Galahad's shoulders. Bravery Galahad didn't lack in the least, but he didn't have the sense the gods gave water. Never went for the easier, lower path. For that matter, never went for the path at all. It was a good thing Arthur had never let him lead again after that one time, else they'd probably have wandered all over Britain by now.
"-but. But he was still a boy, and we were all watching him, wondering why the fuck Rome would send a commander whose balls hadn't even dropped yet." The memory blazed a fond smile across Bors' face. "Nearly a year of this bastard whose voice could drop birds from the sky, and then Arthur. Who opened his mouth for a right good bellow and came out with this...this screeching womanish shriek. I tell you, we nearly about died trying to hold it in."
Dagonet was in the far corner, carving some little nonsense, but when Bors had spoken, he lifted his head for a brief grin. Lancelot had almost recovered his breath, but as soon as he met Bors' eyes, he was off again.
"You're going to choke yourself to death like that," Gawain muttered. He thumped Lancelot's back a few times, but it did no good and in the end, he gave up in favor of keeping a snickering Galahad from tumbling off the bench.
After a while, Galahad managed to calm himself enough for speech. "So then what?"
"So what do you think? He went white, then red, and we were all expecting him to have about half of us hauled off and whipped for insolence. Except...oddest thing. He started laughing himself." A reaction that Bors still didn't quite understand, though by now he respected the kind of internal effort it would take. And the meaning that he could feel behind it. "Told us no one else wanted to go to Britain and so that was why they'd sent such a young one, but he'd come and he wasn't leaving till he'd done his duty. That even a boy like him knew the weight of responsibility, and honored it. So voice aside, he'd work like a man until it caught up with the rest of him."
Quiet gradually insinuated itself among them, stifling Lancelot's humor and sobering Galahad's temper. The young ones still didn't quite see, but they would-and the thought of that suddenly made Bors feel older than his twenty years. He'd been an angry one when Arthur had come, furious because he made no secret of his desire to go home and furious because he'd been punished for that. Length of servitude extended for bad behavior, and he'd thought he would die in wet, contrary, hellish Britain.
He still thought he would, but if it were for Arthur, the death wouldn't be so hopeless. That man was a leader of which Bors was proud, having been around to see the growth himself.
"does sound like him," Lancelot finally said. He flashed a smirk. "And next time we're sparring, I'll have to see if the story sounds like him, too."
"More than likely he'll take your balls," Bors snorted. "Featherweight."
One eyebrow arched cockiness. "Oh? I believe I beat you not two days ago."
"That's because I was hung-over. And stop making eyes at that redhead-first try is mine by seniority, pup." Bors wiped his mouth and stood up, done with the conversation. Behind the bar, paradise was fluttering pretty lashes.
"Already had her," Lancelot muttered. Patent lie, and some day Bors was going to put a permanent cork in that boy's mouth. "Hey, Gawain. Seen Arthur around? I think I'm going to go see if he admits to having had an eunuch's voice."