And then I see you completely distraught
Claiming to be all the things that you're not
- Headstones, Won't Wait Again
Sometimes it hurt to watch Galahad.
Most of the time it was a good hurt. There was no doubt that Gawain loved to watch his friend, seeing the changes in his body, the way he had grown from a gangly boy with big, scared eyes to a strong and self-assured man with legs that Gawain wanted wrapped around his body.
He had long gotten over any qualms he might have harboured when he first realized that the pleasure he took in looking at Galahad had nothing to do with brotherly pride, although that was still there whenever he saw Galahad fight with moves he had learned from Gawain. In his years as one of Arthur's Knights he had seen much worse than warriors taking comfort with each other. He had even considered approaching Galahad now that he had shaken off the last remnants of his childhood, to find out whether he might be amenable to cross the boundaries of friendship.
They had been back at the fort for an unusual three weeks. All wounds from the last patrol had healed, kegs of ale had been drunk, acquaintances with various women had been started and dissolved, and everyone had started to get a bit restless again as they sat around one of Vanora's tables.
"I can't believe we actually want to get back out there," Bors grumbled. "Arthur, you bastard, you really have us whipped!"
"Then I have done a good job after all," Arthur laughed before calmly turning back to the book he was reading.
But Tristan came up behind Bors and whacked him on the head. "Speak for yourself, Bors. Although, I always thought Vanora was the one holding your whip..." Vanora's laugh could be heard from somewhere, and Bors roused himself with a low roar, ready to launch himself at Tristan, but he was distracted when Lancelot threw a cup in his direction.
"I think I wouldn't mind Vanora holding my whip in the least. As a matter of fact, I recall one night last winter, when you were out fixing that roof..."
At this point Gawain, who had been watching his friends while sharpening his axe, stopped paying attention and rose to find Galahad, who was inexplicably missing. Maybe he was bored enough that he would agree to Gawain's more unorthodox ideas... Sneaking away he felt Tristan‘s eyes on him over the scuffling Bors and Lancelot, watchful as always, but Gawain was prepared to accept some lewd comments the next morning - especially if they were justified.
He found Galahad in the stables, cleaning his horse.
"You were out?"
Galahad jumped in surprise. "Gawain! I didn't hear you come in."
"Haven't you learned yet that you always have to be aware of your surroundings?" Gawain laughed, making it clear that he had not come here to lecture. Galahad still tended to resent what he perceived to be patronizing behavior. So young... and so gorgeous when he grinned like this.
"I guess my teachers weren't very good." Patting his horse on the rump he joined Gawain at the stable door. He leaned against the wall, apparently unwilling to join the crowd in the square. "I just had to get out for a bit - we've been cooped up here for too long."
"Yes, we have. Bors has been complaining about nothing else, and I think Tristan gets nervous when he can't kill someone regularly." Gawain rested a hand lightly on Galahad's bare arm, feeling his chuckled agreement more than he heard it. The skin beneath his fingers was cool from the fresh autumn air, reminding him that Galahad never wore clothing that befit the weather if Gawain didn't make him. "You're cold. We should go back to the fire."
Galahad looked at him - down at him, something that Gawain still had not gotten used to - and smiled that smile that Gawain had always found impossible to resist. "But I don't feel like being beaten at knives yet again by Tristan. So why don't we stay here for a bit longer?"
There was something in his eyes that made Gawain's mouth go dry. Things were going much better than he had hoped for, and he'd be a fool to waste this opportunity. And he was no fool.
"Want me to keep you warm, Galahad?" he grinned, giving Galahad the opportunity to laugh it off as a joke if he wanted to. But his hand was still resting on Galahad's arm, warming it with soft strokes of his fingers.
"Maybe." Galahad was teasing him, laughter dancing in his eyes as he leaned even closer until their breaths, faintly visible in the night air, mingled. Gawain held back, a part of him shocked that dream was about to become reality. Galahad's mouth, the focus of his attention, twitched impatiently.
That was the last straw. Gawain stopped thinking and pressed his lips to Galahad's. There was a sharp intake of breath, as if Galahad had not expected him to go through with it, despite all his posturing. Slowly his mouth softened and the press of lips turned into a proper kiss, giving Gawain the chance to discover the taste of Galahad.
Yet Galahad seemed to hold back something, not at all keeping with his usual impulsiveness, something that Gawain could feel in the skin he was touching, in the mouth he was exploring. Therefore he pulled back a lot earlier than he would have had it been anyone but Galahad.
"Everything alright?" he inquired, feeling heat rush through his body at the sight of Galahad, lips parted and breath coming fast. Delicious - and it could be all his. But Galahad looked at him with wide eyes, face impossibly young, and Gawain felt something like nausea coil in his stomach.
He reached out, tracing Galahad's face with the softest touch, feeling him quiver lightly. But he did not pull back, and Gawain relaxed a bit. They would be all right, and he might even taste those soft lips again before the night was out.
But then, just as Galahad started to draw closer again, a well-known, mocking voice came from the darkness behind them.
"So, has young Galahad finally seen what's been in front of his nose for years?"
Gawain felt Galahad stiffen, and now there was no denying the almost violent jerk with which he freed his face from Gawain's grasp. Damn it, how had Tristan found them - and why?
Gawain would have gladly killed the other knight right now. If only because the anger felt better than the pain at seeing the closed look on Galahad's face and the way he held his body rigidly away from Gawain. It was hard to reconcile this angry, blustering young knight with the soft smile of the man Gawain had just kissed.
Even worse was the way Galahad spat out the next words: "Don't be ridiculous, Tristan - I prefer a pretty lass anytime! Haven't you noticed how hairy Gawain is?" With a dismissive laugh Galahad stalked away without looking back, leaving Gawain to meet Tristan's surprisingly soft gaze, which only made things worse somehow.
Unwilling to talk about it, he resolutely lowered his eyes to his axe, took out his whetting stone and started sharpening the blades again with long angry strokes.
"One of these days you won't have a blade left to sharpen." Tristan's hand rested briefly on his shoulder, and Gawain stilled. "You better take that anger out on the trainings field - maybe with a certain young knight who has yet to figure out what is best for him. He will eventually, I'm sure - he's a smart boy, just too impulsive for his own good."
Gawain looked up, forcing a light tone and a carefree grin. "Careful, Tristan, one could start to suspect that you had feelings."
The murderous look on Tristan's face was much more familiar. "And you know what would happen to you if you talked about it, don't you - friend?"
This time the grin on Gawain's face felt natural. "Only if you find a way to make it look like an accident, otherwise Arthur will have your head. And if you manage to avoid my axe splitting you in two, of course."
Their eyes locked, and Gawain felt the pain of watching Galahad walk away ease slowly. Young men grew up - and Galahad might not be the only one worth looking at. At least for the time being.