Title: To Look and to Listen
Rating: Hmm... I'm a bit confused about the rating system around here. Mostly talking in this chapter, shouldn't be hard to handle?
Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit.
Summary: Dagonet and Tristan find themselves sharing longer looks than might be appropriate...
Arthur rarely slept well during missions, and this night had been no exception. After a couple of hours of fitful sleep, he rose just before dawn. Stretching his back he glanced around the camp. The men all seemed to be fast asleep. Lancelot with one hand on his knife. Bors flat on his back, snoring. Gawain on his stomach, with the long hair almost covering his face. Dagonet curled up on his side, like a child.
As he stood there, Arthur felt a sudden rush of warmth through his chest. He loved these men. He could call it respect or even affection, but that wouldn't suffice. The men lying around him in the cold morning dew was his family now, his friends, his brothers. He depended on them just as much as they depended on him. He was all too aware that they fought enemies that was not their own. That they fought for him, not for some distant authority. He owed them all the strength he possessed. The insight was like a warm blanket to a frozen soul.
After a few moments Arthur realized one of the knights were missing. Galahad was on watch, but were was Tristan? Surveying the area he caught a glimpse of someone sitting in the grass, further down the hill. It was the scout. Arthur made his way over and set down next to him. They sat in silence for a while before Tristan spoke.
"No sleep for you either?"
"Not much." Arthur admitted. "Too much on my mind."
"You and me both," Tristan said with the hint of a smile.
"Sometimes it all seems so futile. Death and despair to no end.," Arthur continued.
Tristan gave him a quizzical look at that statement, but didn't interrupt.
"This life has been forced upon all of you. We have been forced upon each other." Arthur looked his scout straight in the eyes. "But whatever the circumstances, not a day goes by that I am not grateful to be amongst you. I hope I have never given any of you reason to believe otherwise."
"You have not." There was no uncertainty in Tristan's voice. "I believe we all share your sentiment on this matter. The fewer we get, the closer we become." Tristan's eyes grew darker. "Not even I can fight it."
Arthur didn't know how to interpret the scout's words. Was he reading more into it than there was? Did he dare ask?
Turning his eyes to the horizon, Arthur finally said, "No, not even you can fight love, Tristan. Especially when it comes in such a powerful form."
The words hung between them. The pivotal moment.
Tristan remained silent long enough for Arthur to doubt he would ever get a response. But then it came, in a soft whisper.
"He has changed everything."
Arthur looked at Tristan, but the scout let his head hang low, the fringe obscuring his eyes. He whispered again.
"I'm a shadow without him, Arthur." With these words he tilted his head and looked at his commander, with eyes that were so full of agony that Arthur almost recoiled. He suddenly realized there was but one option. Who was he to judge these men? He weighed his words with care.
"I know what is between you and Dagonet. Nothing I have been taught, through religion or upbringing, has led me to believe it to be anything other than the worst of sins. However, that is my problem, and mine alone."
Tristan looked more tormented than ever.
"Tristan," Arthur's voice softened, "I see the way you look at each other. There is more love between the two of you than there are between most husbands and wives. Who am I to say it is wrong?"
Tristan had loved Arthur like a brother for as long as he could remember, and at that moment, he knew precisely why. As they sat there, side by side under the clear morning sky, there was silent understanding and limitless acceptance.
Arthur watched them that day. His knights. He listened as they talked to one another, and saw all the little signs of bonding between them. For the untrained eye they, in all likelihood, would seem hardened and cold, although to Arthur's eye they seemed anything but. The subtle smiles, the quick pats on the back, the discreet words of encouragement. They could talk all they wanted about home, Arthur pondered, but they were home to each other now.
Come nightfall, they once again made camp. A procedure done so many times it ran smoothly as water. This time, it was Dagonet who took Tristan away from the others. They sat down on the edge of the forest, with a clear view of the descending sun.
"I know I'm not the most eloquent of men, but there are things I want to say to you. Things I need you to know."
Dagonet voice was deep and calm, but Tristan could see that he was struggling.
"Whatever my life has become, I have few regrets. I may have done good or evil, that's for others to decide. I've tried to do my duty to the best of my ability, even if that duty was more to Arthur than to Rome. I can not tell who I had become, had I lived a different life. I only know this, Tristan..."
Dagonet looked intently at Tristan with blue eyes.
"When the others think of home, I only think of you. This is not mere convenience for me. You could gather a thousand willing people on this field, and I would still only want you."
Dagonet fell silent. He felt like he already had spoken more than ever before in his life. He tried to read Tristan's face for any reaction.
Tristan felt like crying. Or laughing. It was elation has he never had felt it before. He could make no response that seemed profound enough, so he said the one thing that would make Dagonet comprehend the depth of what he felt.
"Arthur knows. I've told him."
At the camp there were whispers around the fire. Gawain had finally noticed, and so had Galahad, that Dagonet and Tristan seemed very secretive these days.
"I don't know what those two are up to, but it can't be anything good," Galahad said in a low voice.
Gawain concurred. "The two most dangerous men in the land, alone in the woods. At night. Someone is going to get hurt..."
"It would have been impossible to keep it from him, Dag. He knows me and he knows you. He is not blind."
Dagonet looked perturbed. "What did he say?"
"Strange as it might sound, I think he was pleased. Not untroubled, certainly, but accepting."
Dagonet was dumbstruck. He knew his commander to be an intelligent and just man, but this was more than he would expect from anyone.
Tristan took his face between his hands and spoke with fervor. "I don't know what trouble this will lead to, but I'm ready to face it. You're the reason I'm still alive. I care about nothing but you."
"Perhaps they're plotting to kill the woads all by themselves," Galahad mused. "They probably would be able to."
"Or maybe they're only comparing knives. Or scars," Gawain chuckled. "Maybe Dagonet has some tattoos of his own..."
The two men laughed, but somewhere in the back of Gawain's consciousness, there was room for more serious suspicions.
That night Tristan dreamt. He dreamt of birds and of horses and of Dagonet's voice whispering in the dark.