Author: Guede Mazaka
As much as the enemy was despised, it was a foolish fighter who didn't try to put himself in their shoes at least once. But no matter how hard or how many times Lancelot tried, he simply couldn't understand the Christian religion.
Oh, he could comprehend it well enough, after having had its precepts explained to him. And as with all religions, some of those were eminently sensible and some of them were simply bizarre, asking too much of what was, after all, fallible human flesh. But he couldn't feel it the way Arthur obviously could. Lancelot could close his eyes and kneel and put his hands together, but the most he ever got was a cramping in his knees and a deep sense of boredom. Better he go out and practice sword swings; it'd certainly be more productive and useful in the long run.
Damn. He'd left it too long, and Arthur had come back. Lancelot composed his face into a blankness, then slowly turned around. "Arthur. Fancy meeting you here."
"You're in my bedroom." That little arch in his friend's tone was the surest indication of Arthur's good humor, as Arthur had nearly perfected the Stoic's emotionless expression. It was also becoming rarer from day to day, burial to burial. He was only two years older than Lancelot, yet it seemed that Britain aged men at twice the pace of anywhere else.
"So I am. Odd. We've a day free, so I thought I'd go find a girl. Of course, this is the last place I should've looked." Lancelot tacked on his biggest grin to the end of that, but made sure to have a clear shot at an escape route, just in case Arthur decided to take offense. While Lancelot had beaten nearly all the knights at least once, he still hadn't managed to get the better of Arthur. Not only did his friend outweigh him, but Arthur also was surprisingly knowledgeable in the dirtier side of fighting. For a Roman. All the other examples of that people that Lancelot had met had been sorely lacking in imagination.
Arthur didn't seem to be in the mood for wrestling today, or perhaps he was afraid of breaking the nice furniture he'd collected. "You're a poor liar, so it's fortunate that I depend on you for honesty," he said, amused. "I don't think all the Woads in Britain could stop you from saying something, once you'd decided to say it."
He started to push by, heading for the small cross hung up on the far wall, but Lancelot seized his arm and brought him to a halt. Arthur could worship any religion he liked, but not in place of living his life. Whatever hold those sticks had on him, it couldn't possibly compare to being in the middle of a battle, swinging the blade high and then instinctively pulling the blow short before the friend beneath it was consciously recognized. Nightmares had stronger grips than dreams, so any kind of awareness that could penetrate the bloody haze of battle seemed more deserving of respect than anything else Lancelot had encountered.
"I don't remember there being a rule as to how many times a day you should pray. It's a nice day out; come with me and strip off some of that armor." Arthur wasn't wearing any, but then, the metal-and-leather kind hadn't been what Lancelot had had in mind in the first place.
In profile, Arthur's face showed strain at the temples and line of the jaw. "Later. Right now-"
"You're going to babble your cares and worries at a voiceless wall. Of course. Sorry to interrupt your communion." Disgusted and annoyed and faintly hurt, Lancelot dropped his hold on Arthur and spun to go. As he obviously was a superfluous item here.
A hand shot after him and clamped down on his shoulder. Lancelot halted and sucked in his breath.
"don't-don't do this. Look, Lancelot-haven't you ever felt something so much larger than yourself that it seems to burst your skin, make you feel as if all the petty evils in the world can't possibly stand up to it? A vow that life can be better, and a path to get there?"
Arthur's thumb was tucked against the side of Lancelot's throat, pad on the pulse and nail scratching against stubble. It seemed to press all the way through, blocking his voice, and he had to swallow several times before he could speak. "Yes, I have. But not because of what some prophet mumbled a couple centuries ago."
He reached up and took Arthur's arm by the wrist, examining the calluses and lines of the palm. There'd be an old woman, back in Sarmatia, that had sworn by the fates she found in men's hands. Now, Lancelot wished she'd explained the how of it a little better.
A step brought Arthur up behind Lancelot, his breath staining Lancelot's nape and his heat making the leather prickle as if it were still alive. They must look a strange couple, two men in the kind of embrace that was usually reserved for infatuated lovers, Lancelot mused.
The thought stung him, and he quickly threw it away.
"I don't trust you any less because I put faith in belief of my God," Arthur murmured.
"Then talk to someone else besides him. If he's as great a deity as you say, he can hardly begrudge a little-conversation." Lancelot's tongue was clumsy today. He dropped Arthur's hand and turned around to find them almost touching. "What happened?"
Arthur's eyes almost always looked as if they'd been freshly bruised; he took more on himself than he strictly had to, and it showed. He licked his lips, pursed them, and then turned away to sit down. "Nothing much. I received a letter from the house of one of my friends in Rome."
"And he's dead. On the Emperor's orders, though exactly what those orders were, no one seems to know. It happened four months ago...the mail's getting more unreliable all the time." Sighing, Arthur reached back and began to massage his neck.
Lancelot took a seat by him and passed over a pitcher of wine. As annoying as it turned Bors, there wasn't anything better for oiling along a conversation. "And?"