Title: To Look and to Listen
Rating: Some violence and holding of hands, but nothing graphic.
Disclaimer: Not mine, no profit.
Summary: Dagonet and Tristan find themselves sharing longer looks than might be appropriate...
In the bleak morning light there was mayhem. The woads had come at dawn, far too many of them. Gawain had been on watch, and woke the others up only moments before the attack. Now they fought ferociously.
Lancelot wielded his twin swords with speed and precision and Gawain had hacked his way through the turmoil to stand by Galahad, both men now slashing away at the blue-painted men.
Dagonet was at the center of the fight, killing and maiming with forceful strokes of his blade. He saw Arthur to his left, vicious and feral. To the right he caught a glimpse of Bors who, relying heavily on brute force, threw himself at the woads without hesitation.
Suddenly Dagonet felt something pressing against his back. Tristan.
"Move with me," the scout hissed.
Although they sometimes practiced fighting like this, they rarely used it in battle. Dagonet let himself gradually adapt to Tristan's pace and soon they were moving as one being. Back to back they held the woads at bay.
Slowly but surely the knight's frantic efforts began to have an effect. The enemy may have outnumbered them many times over, but Arthur's men fought with the strength of desperation. The woads were losing men at a gruesome speed, and fear came creeping.
Just when Arthur felt the first sense of despair as he saw his men tiring, the woads started to fall back. With a final arrow, promptly ducked by Lancelot, they disappeared back into the woods. The men stood panting with raised swords for a few moments, until Arthur found his voice.
"Knights! We ride for the wall."
Throwing together what belongings they had, the men hurriedly saddled their horses and headed west.
After riding hard for quite some time, Arthur let their pace slow until they came to a halt. He looked around at his men. They were all covered in blood and sweat. He could see their muscles trembling as they forced themselves not to give in to exhaustion. Arthur realized he probably looked much the same.
"Are any of you harmed?" he asked. He knew fully well that they all had cuts and bruises, but he prayed none had worse injuries. The knights were used to pain and knew how to hide it, if need be. When he was satisfied they were all whole, he let himself breathe again.
"We will rest her for a while," he said and got off his horse. On shaking legs they all sat down in a clearing and tried to calm their wearied bodies. Arthur and his men had fought in hundreds of battles, but this one had been quicker and fiercer than most. Now they began to properly feel the tiredness.
After calming his labored breathing for a few seconds, Tristan turned to Dagonet and whispered, "If I dared, I would kiss you right now."
Dagonet almost choked on his water.
"As it is," the scout continued, "I can only thank the gods that you are alive."
Hoping that the others were to worn out to notice, he put his hand on Dagonet's leg and let it rest there.
"I think you saved both of our lives back there," the tall man whispered back. "And," he laid his hand over Tristan's, "...if I dared I would love you right here, in the grass."
Now it was Tristan's turn to choke. Somehow it seemed almost more intimate to talk about such things, than to act on them.
"You can love me anywhere you please," he answered, turning his hand to hold the other man's.
"I already do." Dagonet looked Tristan straight in the eyes.
Admittedly I know what to look for, Arthur thought, but that little display was too damned blatant to miss. Trying to draw any attention away from Tristan and Dagonet, he engaged the others in conversation as best he could.
They didn't rest for long. Soon it was back on the horses again and heading for refuge behind the wall. Arthur was in front, talking to Tristan.
"I do not know where the woads came from, but we are too few to chance a second encounter," Arthur said gravely.
"I'll do what I can to find safe passage," the scout looked reassuringly at his commander.
"I don't doubt that for a second."
The men continued in silence, everyone on high alert. They were all well aware of how narrow their escape had been.
By dusk they had made good way, and despite the knight's assurances that they were fit to keep going, Arthur opted for camp.
"We will rest for a few hours and continue at first light."
The scout, who had been gone most of the day, offered to take the first watch. He had never needed much sleep and didn't mind it. He actually appreciated the darkness and silence of nights like these. The air was agreeably warm, with a soft wind moving the trees.
Tristan wasn't a sentimental man, by any standards, but this night he let himself think of past years. He remembered those they had lost and reflected on those still left. He tried, not for the first time, to make sense of his feelings for Dagonet. The transition from friendship to something more felt seamless to him. He couldn't tell when it had started to change, but it seemed like ages ago. It made him feel agonizingly vulnerable and curiously safe at the same time. He realized he had rarely felt love or even lust in his life. Now he felt both, to the point of physical discomfort.
After a couple of hours, Gawain woke with a start. He rose and went to find Tristan.
"I'll take over, you go sleep if you can," he told the scout.
For once, Tristan didn't protest. He even thanked him, which was a rare occurrence. What really perplexed Gawain, though, was seeing Tristan move through the camp and, ever so tenderly, putting a blanket over Dagonet's sleeping form.
Even before the sun had begun to show itself, the knights were all awake and wasted no time. They rode through somewhat familiar country as they drew nearer the wall. By midday they were clear of the woods and looking out on fields of grass. Halting at the top of a hill they turned around to take their bearings, when they suddenly saw Tristan racing towards them. He hadn't been away for very long and came from a position only slightly north of them. He rode hard.
Then they all saw it, the shadow of a man, at the edge of the forest. He released an arrow a split second before Galahad ended his life. He missed Tristan, but hit his horse instead. The destrier fell in mid stride, taking the scout down with him.
Before Tristan touched the ground, Dagonet were already halfway there. The knights all had their bows up, but no more woads were to be seen. When Dagonet reached the scout, he all but threw himself from the horse.
Tristan was heaving himself up off the ground, looking a little unstable. He reached for Dag's arm to steady himself.
"The forest is crawling with woads. We must make haste."
By now, the others was at their side and Arthur turned to Lancelot, who was silently patting Tristan's fallen horse. The commander raised his eyebrows, wordlessly asking the question.
"There is nothing to be done," Lancelot said. With a downhearted look he added, "I'm sorry, Tristan."
Tristan went over to the beast and crouched down next to Lancelot. The two men took another moment to comfort the animal, before the scout ended its suffering with a swift stroke of his blade. They both looked equally dejected. Even though it was Tristan's loss, Lancelot had a bigger heart than any of them when it came to the horses. Sensing the urgency, they returned to the others.
"You can ride with me," Dagonet almost managed to look completely straightforward saying this, but his eyes deceived him. He knew it was bold, but the thought of having Tristan so close made him careless.
The scout didn't dare to look at Dagonet, but simply nodded in agreement.
Soon Arthur and his knights were, once again, heading for the wall and for safety.