While growing up, he had never thought of him as anything other than his brother. Not related by blood, but more connected than brothers of the same blood ever could have been. As children they had shared everything, had known each other’s deepest secrets and dreams. It had continued far into their adulthoods, as well. He had known that Arthur had hated taking up the mantle of king. – Not the responsibility that came with it; rather the fact that it had been thrust upon him for seemingly no reason, apart from pulling the ancient sword from the stone; that people expected him to lead when he had only ever followed Lancelot himself around, never to lead himself.
Yet, he had done splendidly and though, it was apparent that he despised the Magician and all his doings, he had accepted his fate and thrived with the cause. And Lancelot had followed, without question, without doubt in the righteousness of Arthur’s claim. Ever loyal, ever steadfast. – Until Guinevere. The love alone which he had felt for her upon first sight felt like a betrayal to the bond he and Arthur had shared.
Lying there, in the dust of the battlefield, felled by the swords and arrows of Lot’s men during his attempt to redeem himself in Arthur’s eyes, he was sure that he had already been enchanted by Morgana at the point of their meeting. Only now, dying, he did recognise her treachery in the way their acquaintance had been orchestrated. And it had also been visible in Arthur’s reaction when he had seen Lancelot and Guinevere.
Guilt overcame him for giving in to his feelings, for comforting Guinevere in the most innocent way at the wrong place and time. And he must have had conveyed that guilt when Arthur had questioned him. He was sure, had Arthur been of a rational mind, of the cool, calculated thinking he was capable of, the misunderstanding would have never occurred. At least, he would not have doubted Lancelot’s word. And light-headed from the bloodloss, he was quite positive that it was Morgana lurking behind Arthur in the shadows.
The dampness of the ground was slowly seeping into his simple tunic. The moisture making contact with his open wounds, with all the tiny scratches, felt excruciating. Naturally he had been stripped of all that had indicated his knighthood. There had been no armour to provide protection. He had fought like on the fateful day when Arthur’s destiny had been revealed. It was fitting.
Fear for Arthur consumed his heart. How was he to stand against Morgana, when everyone would be gone?
The pain had been reflected in Arthur’s eyes when he had laid them upon Lancelot and Guinevere. It had crushed Lancelot’s heart. Had destroyed something so fragile, yet deeply rooted, he hadn’t even known it existed. It had killed him deep within. And while Arthur had still been lamenting his loss loudly and those he had once called friends had been forcing his numb body to accompany them, he had known that what he had felt for Arthur had been more than the child’s love of their boyhood.
As if he had been doused with the ice cold water of a winter lake, he had been aware of the depths of Morgana’s meddling and twisted planning, her intrigues. Yet, he had not been able to make himself voice the accusations, faced with Arthur’s grief. Nor after his banishment, when Arthur had not been able to follow through with the death penalty he had placed upon them, when he had broken down in front of them and Lancelot had yearned to comfort him. To behold the complete shattering of everything that was his king, unable to react, had cut deeper than the harsh words that had been spat at him, than the blankness in Arthur’s face when he had regained his composure. To see the friend who had only cried once in his adulthood while holding his dead father in his arms cry over him, of all people.
And Lancelot had recognised that his emotions went deeper than mere friendship. Had he not been frozen by the shock of the insight, his collapse, later, when he had been escorted off the premises of Camelot as an outlaw, would have taken place right then. Doubtlessly.
He heard male voices, shouting, carrying over the by now quiet battlefield, searching for survivors, most likely. He was almost entirely sure that it was too late for him; whether they were Lot’s men who would kill him on sight, or Arthur’s men who would leave him to die. He could not bring himself to care; dead he would be either way and he almost preferred a quick death to the torture that was lying in uncertainty for hours, slowly feeling the life seep out of his body. There were worse fates than to die quickly by your enemy’s hand on the battlefield. After all, he had done that for what he had come for - saved his king from peril, when the opposing forces threatened to overwhelm him.
The latter hadn’t noticed Lancelot, his back turned to him and too focused on slaying the enemies in his path and maybe it had been good that way. Lancelot had seen him for one last time without having to endure the look of utter betrayal and non-comprehension in his eyes. It had been worth taking Sir Gareth’s sword through the gut and the arrows piercing his upper leg and shoulder. More than worth it. Better to die with honour than as an outlaw somewhere.
The voices were getting closer, yet, the meaning of what they were saying evaded him. Resigned he closed his eyes. Pain was controlling his every limb, the cold chill of the early morning hours caused him to tremble.
He sighed softly when his head and upper body were moved up suddenly, there was no energy left in him to cry out. While confused by the strange behaviour, he didn't dare to force his eyes to open again. There was no reason to, and when his on-setting delirium made him hallucinate Arthur’s voice, he pleaded with it for forgiveness for the alleged betrayal. Confessed the unthinkable, Beyond imaginable. Never to be spoken of. Then, he knew no more.