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Love Me in This Life

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Tristan awoke to an empty tent. It was still early, the dawn just breaking, but too long absence of his lover was a siren call. One could never tell if Galahad had stepped out to answer the call of nature, or to answer another call entirely.

He scared them all, sometimes - the gift of his tribe manifesting in violent and unusual ways. They had nearly lost him to the Woads once, their priests beckoning in a language Galahad was nearly powerless against. Another time it had been a creature of the deep forests far to the north, above Hadrian’s wall - a massive black stag that looked wrong in some way they could not accurately describe. Tristan had been certain it would steal his little love away, and it was an unexpected fight to snap Galahad out of its grasp.

Arthur saw their beliefs in a new light, after having met Galahad. It was easy to believe others might be connected to other forces when faced with a seer like Galahad. It didn’t make the toll an easy one, nor was it always helpful. They learned to trust when their youngest cautioned them, but like all gifts from the spirits, it was unreliable.

The only reliable thing was how unpredictable it was, Tristan mused as he threw on his tunic and exited the tent in search of his lover. The others were stirring, and Gawain wordlessly pointed the way.

Galahad stood maybe a stone’s throw from the camp, clad only in his tunic. He was facing outward towards the rising sun, and Tristan wondered how deep he was in the sight even as he approached.

When Tristan was an arm’s length away, Galahad turned of his own volition and whispered as if in prayer, “You were supposed to leave.”

Tristan paused, shocked, until he looked into his little love’s eyes. Galahad’s stormy blues were clouded over and grey, no awareness lurking within their sight-blind depths.

With a sigh, Tristan grabbed Galahad’s arm to lead the chilled man back to the warmth of the fire. The moment his hand made contact, Galahad flinched. The noise he let out was harsh and guttural, a cry of betrayal and sorrow so thick it cut across the plain and drew the other knights in a defensive rush.

Tristan furrowed his brows and drew Galahad into his arms, attempting comfort. Sometimes it worked to bring the man out of these physical visions. “I’m here, my love, I’m here little one. Hush now.”

Galahad trembled in his hold, gasping and choking as if he were bleeding out. His legs gave a particularly violent lurch, and Tristan fought to make it a controlled descent as Galahad collapsed to the ground. The others called out their concern, cautious of crowding Galahad. Tristan caught their gaze and shook his head, uncertain if their presence would hinder this episode or not - it looked as if they’d just have to wait it out.

Galahad took in a shuddering breath and grit out against Tristan’s shoulder, “Didn’t I?” in that far-away voice that spoke to other worlds. Whatever was happening in places and times only Galahad could see, it didn’t seem to be a pleasant thing.

Why could his little love never be anything more than haunted by his gifts?

“I already did,” Galahad protested as if in challenge to this unseen specter, and then his fear magnified. A litany of ‘no’s and ‘don’t’s poured from his lips as he trembled and sobbed, and Tristan hid his face in Galahad’s sweaty curls as he rocked the trance-beholden man back and forth, unable to comfort him in any other way.

It sounded like Galahad was dying - dying like the men he left disemboweled on the field to bleed out in the open air, twisting and turning and gasping their agony - Tristan never wanted to hear such a thing again.

After far too long a time the sobs stopped, the breathing evened, and Galahad blinked to reveal clear eyes.

“Back with us?” Tristan softly inquired.

Galahad launched up and away, startled like a doe and fighting his hold. Used to Galahad's fight or flight response to recovering his wits, Tristan let Galahad go.

That the younger man saw his face and did not calm, but instead let loose a cry of distress before he scrambled to his feet and bolted into the tree line was something altogether new.

Gawain and Dagonet were immediately on his tail, shadowing the youngest to ensure no harm came to him in this vulnerable state. Tristan sat where he was and watched them disappear, confused and hurt at the fear he had seen in Galahad’s clear eyes. Arthur’s heavy hand on his shoulder was a comfort, and Tristan allowed himself to be guided back to camp, where the chores of packing up in preparation to ride helped him forget the heavy ache in his heart.

They did not ride until Galahad returned, but it was a subdued air that sat upon the group that day. Galahad was sequestered in the middle of the formation, and Arthur sent Tristan ahead to scout. It enabled them both to have the time needed to recover themselves from the morning’s events, and though Tristan had feared he would not see his lover that night Galahad willingly returned to their tent after his watch.

Tristan didn’t know what to say, but Galahad always did. “Hold me,” he nearly begged. “Tell me how much you love me, and don’t stop. Not tonight. Not ever.”

So Tristan took him in his arms, and clutched him tight, and admitted under the cover of night, “You sounded as if you were dying - and I could do no more than vow that I would never allow such sounds to pass your lips again. My heart would tear from my breast and never return if it did - I cannot be capable of life without you, Galahad. My dearest. My little one. I love you more than the crow loved the sun - what can I do to help abate this vision?”

Galahad shivered as if holding back tears, but snuggled closer instead of pulling away. “Nothing can be done here,” he whispered into the darkness. “Not in our time, nor the age to come - a problem for another life. Just-” his voice broke, and his smaller form shivered again, and Tristan shushed him as he stroked those curls in a comforting motion. The next words spoken were nearly too softly quiet for any but the gods to hear, but Tristan heard them and took them as a vow upon his heart more binding than any oath given to gods, to home, or to Arthur: "Just love me in this life - send me into the next with unbreaking memories of days when your touch was gentle and kind, your words harbingers of light and life. Just love me."

Tristan pressed his lips to that gentle ear, that pale appendage that heard so much more than any other mortal alive or dead, and sealed his fate. "Until the stars turn cold."