The Shortest Day (2016)
Summary: Based in Arthurian/Roman/Sarmatian legend (as depicted by the 2004 King Arthur movie), two knights celebrate the solstice together.
Warnings: Mature Content. Embarrassingly gross historical inaccuracies, Male/Male romance, Requited Crush/Love.
“Why must they take absolutely everything!” Galahad kicked the empty pale next to the stable door, sending it flying into an empty stall.
Tristan’s horse startled but settled immediately, with the man’s calming hands on it’s bridle as he stepped into Galahad’s view.
“And what have the Romans done now to make you so grumpy, pup?” something near amusement there.
“Never mind.” Galahad grumbled. He’d hoped to find Gawain to share in his misery. Or ply him with alcohol until he forgot it. Tristan was the last of the knights he had wanted to see, the one he was least friendly with. If anything their relationship could be categorised as cold at best. Galahad always suspected Tristan teased him as he had realised the silly boyhood crush Galahad had on him years before. His face burned remembering it, of course, he didn’t think of Tristan that way now…
“I mind, if it is enough for you to spook my horse. She, who has done nothing to you, and occasionally speaks well of you.” He grinned.
Galahad looked at the knight, unsure whether he was angry or not beneath his teasing. It was always difficult to tell with Tristan - so aloof but for when he was making fun of him. The only time Galahad was ever sure how Tristan truly felt was when the man was angry and spitting his words like venom. Usually at, or about, the Romans. He had no more love for them than the rest of the Sarmatian Knights.
Galahad huffed out a sigh. “Today is the Solstice.”
“I am aware.” Tristan responded with a raised brow.
“And yet it goes unmarked!” Galahad started to pace, still angry from this exact conversation with Lancelot ten minutes earlier. He had told him to celebrate it in his own way, but away from the Romans lest it irked them. Irked them! They, who were consumed with drinking and revelling already and still there were several days before their own winter celebration - the birth of their Saviour.
Tristan was stood looking at him now, his horse stabled. “And what is it you would have the Sarmatians do? They think our religion backward as it is. To celebrate our own holiday so close to theirs would only anger the fools. Are you prepared to brawl over it?”
Galahad let out another sigh, more defeated in tone now. “I just want it to be… I remember how it was when I was little. The shortest day, the darkness lit by torches to welcome in the rebirth of the Gods. Would it hurt them if we lit torches?”
“We are not in those lands anymore, pup. You must keep our Gods in your own way, don’t bother the local’s with it.” Tristan waved a dismissive hand, which now held an apple from one of the horses feedbags - he turned away as he took a bite.
Galahad huffed. He had no idea why he bothered saying anything to Tristan. They barely ever spoke and when they did the man was so dismissive of him, other times bizarrely overprotective - either way, he was treated as a child. Galahad stomped off, deciding he was better off discussing this with a jug of warm mead instead.
Galahad had stayed only for half a cup. The over-excitable and, in some cases, aggressively drunken, celebratory Romans were enough to drive him from the tavern looking for peace. He grabbed up the remainder of the jug and stalked out, wondering if he might just steal some of the torches and light them anyway - Romans be damned! He had to pass near the supply sheds so perhaps…
When he drew close to them he was still undecided, but then he could see a glow coming from behind the small hillock to the left. His bed was waiting for him just off to the right, but the glow intrigued him and he continued onward in the biting cold.
As he cleared the ridge he could see a shadowy figure lighting a torch, the last of three that had been planted in the ground. As the torch ignited he could see that the man, old snow underfoot, was Tristan.
“What are you doing?” Galahad near yelled as he sloshed the mead jug at him when he reached the bottom of the incline. He had the feeling he was being made fun of but didn’t quite get the joke.
“I thought I would keep the Gods with you tonight.” Tristan’s smile was small but warming as he looked first at Galahad and then beyond to the barracks - the windows of Galahad’s quarters faced this land. He would have seen the torches from his room.
Galahad frowned. “Why?”
“Don’t you know?” Tristan’s smile was almost bashful which deepened Galahad’s frown. What was this trick? Tristan moved closer to him, eyes cast down as he continued. “Sometimes I forget that you were so young. Those of us who are older remember more of our lives back home, and that can make it painful to recall. Perhaps it’s why we don’t bluster as you do. But… You reminded me that there are things that it can be good to remember. Celebrating the Gods is as much the same as celebrating family.” Tristan looked up then, capturing Galahad’s gaze as he also caught his hand. “I would keep the Gods with you every night if you would let me.”
“Oh... I see.” Galahad bit out the words and snatched back his hand. “Did Gawain put you up to this mockery?” He started to stalk back up the incline. “It’s beneath you, Tristan!”
The floor was wet with sludge and ice, as Galahad found when his feet went from under him.
The jug hit the ground and rolled but did not smash - a small mercy amongst no others. He huffed out an exasperated breath, and lay flat on the cold, wet grass. Defeated by this day.
Galahad found himself roughly rolled and then Tristan was atop him, hands either side of his head, but bodies pressed together from the waist down. Galahad remembered his teenage imaginings and blushed first before he angered again and started to struggle.
“And now you are beneath me, pup.” Another tease.
“Why taunt me Tristan?” Galahad snapped angrily.
“Surely you can feel that I don’t taunt you.” Tristan chuckled, pressing closer into Galahad so that the younger knight was in no doubt as to his true affection. He leaned in and captured Galahad’s mouth. Galahad resisted for a moment, thinking it must still be some jest. But then Tristan was kissing him so deeply and with such feeling, he melted into it, not caring that his cloak was starting to become sodden beneath him.
By the time they broke apart, Tristan was moving slowly against him - their bodies rutting gently together - both of their desires now clear.
“Let me take you to your rooms?” Tristan was breathless as he muttered the words against Galahad’s lips. Galahad swallowed and nodded in response.
“But… Why Tristan? Why now, I thought…”
“You thought I did not notice the way you look at me. Just as you have never noticed the way I look at you?” Tristan huffed a laugh into Galahad’s neck, where he began to nuzzle at the sensitive flesh there.
“And yet you have ignored those looks until now?” Galahad breathed out the words.
“I…” Tristan pulled back and smiled down at Galahad. “Today marks the death and birth of another year. Another year in which we both remain yet living when so many have fallen. Perhaps I realised that I did not want another year to pass not having known you.”
“Perhaps-” Galahad grinned “-you just find me irresistible when I'm grumpy.”
“Yes. That too.” Tristan returned the grin before pulling Galahad up with him and all but carrying the knight to his quarters. Their retreat lit by the devotional torches to the Gods that continued to see them live.