I’m participating in Whumptober this year, which means I’m writing one fic 500-1,000 words, each day for the month of October. I like doing these fast-paced challenges because they test my ability to consistently produce work, and surprising things often come out when you’re writing a story every single day.
Much of what I’m writing is fanfiction, but I’ve done two original fic prompts, and I’ll likely do a few more before this challenge is over. I love visiting my characters. It’s like seeing old friends. This time I visited Galahad and Iseult in a little missing scene from The Deep Woods.
“I’m too sensitive—you know it’s true.” Galahad throws the words down like a gauntlet, but he refuses to meet Iseult’s eyes. He stares out the window instead, eyes fixed on the horizon, toward the sea he can just barely see past the tops of the trees.
“I know no such thing,” Iseult says. “You are how you are. Do you begrudge me my nature?”
“No,” Galahad says at once, turning around at last, the shock of Iseult’s words prompting him to meet her eyes. “Of course not.”
“Then why would I begrudge you yours?”
He looks away again. He hates it sometimes—how reasonable Iseult is, how calm and measured. He’s the hot-headed one of the pair of them, he knows, but even he can bite his tongue when need be. He doesn’t say it. It wouldn’t do to repay Iseult’s kindness with his own ill temper.
He looks out the window instead, eyes drawn to the shout of their father’s men in the courtyard below. They’re sparring, fighting in chalked circles, grappling in close quarters. They use real swords, blunted though they may be. He’s momentarily blinded by the glint, a blade catching the sun and throwing it into his eyes.
He feels a light touch on his shoulder. “Gal.”
He shakes his head. Iseult’s hand falls away after a time, but she remains at his back, watching the soldiers at their rough play. Galahad flexes his hand as he picks a man to follow and silently critiques his fighting technique. His hands, too, are callused now.
The summer air is warm and thick. It would bring him to drowse, if he was of a mind to allow it—if his nerves weren’t strung to a tense key. It’s quiet between them.
“Do you remember how it used to be?” Galahad asks. It’s a common question between them—a maudlin one when he says it.
“Of course,” Iseult says immediately. “Endless summer days with the wind in our hair and dirt beneath our feet. Those were halcyon times.” She looks down at Galahad where he sits perched by the window, a soft smile creasing her face. “They can be happy times still.”
“Can they?” he asks, meaning for once to be convinced. He looks to her—Iseult, tall and fair. Her clear blue eyes are at once old and young, the mirror of his own, he knows, though his doubts his eyes contain half her concealed wisdom. He wants so desperately to believe what she says.
“Of course,” she says again, her voice soft and sweet and filled with mercy. She reaches out and touches his face, and Galahad leans into the soft silk of her hand.
He closes his eyes and lets himself feel. For an instant, they’re in the orchards again, the scent of apple blossoms and damp grass rising all around them. For a second, it’s vitally important that he not tip his head too far this way or that, even as he runs, lest he undo the work of Iseult’s hands braiding flowers into his loose hair.
He opens his eyes, and it’s all gone again, but Iseult remains. She studies him with kind, curious eyes, and Galahad brings a work-roughened hand up to clasp the hand she keeps cupped around his face. He catches her fingers in his and brings her hand to his mouth, pressing a kiss to the flat, smooth shell of her palm.