TITLE: The Beginning of a Beautiful Friendship
WORD COUNT: 2032 words
CHARACTERS/PAIRINGS: Leon, Percival
SPOILERS/WARNINGS: Only specifically through S3, though projects into S4 based on filming photos.
DISCLAIMER: Oh, how I wish they were, but no, they are not mine.
NOTES: Written for a KMM prompt based on S4 filming photos.
SUMMARY: Genfic. Friendships have to start somewhere.
Though he hadn’t lied about why he would join in Arthur’s fight, Percival hadn’t told Lancelot the whole truth. Admitting his loneliness would be a sign of weakness. He hadn’t had a friend like Lancelot in a very long time, and the last thing he wanted was to jeopardize it by being less than what Lancelot needed.
But then they found the others, and Lancelot was distracted by his old friends. Percival had the battle to stave off the return of his solitude, but it was over too quickly—not that he’d ever say such a thing to Arthur—and he had only his thoughts for company. Again.
Leaving Camelot to forge his own way was not an option. He’d made a vow to Arthur, and he’d rather die than forsake it. This was his home now. This was his family. To replace the one Cenred had ripped away from him.
So he trained harder than ever. Day. Night. Light. Dark. The sweat and aches blotted out the worst of his melancholy, giving him focus, blinding him to the lives the other knights seemed lucky to lead. Sometimes, he couldn’t help but watch them go off, to drink, to carouse, to laugh, but those moments always came on the heels of further hours spent on the training field.
If he could not be the popular knight, he would at the very least be the strongest.
One night, when the moon danced with the clouds, a shadow flickered at the edge of the field. His blade’s slice through the air followed through to its wooden target, but his gaze shifted to the side, watching the darkness bleed away from the trees, solidifying into a new form. He stiffened. Ready. Alert. Some might consider it an honor to take down a knight of Camelot, especially separated from the rest.
Percival would never give one the satisfaction.
“You are always the easiest of them all to find.”
At the sound of Leon’s voice, his grip relaxed, though his shoulders remained too straight. He did not know Leon well, though he suspected most of the men could say that. The seasoned knight was a figure of mild awe amongst them, for all his years in service to Camelot, for even having died and been brought back to life to fight again another day. He didn’t participate in many of the antics that struck Gwaine and Elyan, instead disappearing to his own devices when their services were not needed.
Percival had never questioned why. It wasn’t his place.
“Is there trouble?”
Leon hesitated. The night shielded him from closer scrutiny. “I need some assistance. I’d hoped I might enlist your aid.”
“Of course. I’m here to serve.”
But his faithful steps forward were met by an unmoving Leon. “It’s not for Camelot. This is…personal.”
The last words he would’ve expected to hear, but they did nothing to change his answer. “Whatever you need.”
“It requires discretion. Can you promise me that?”
“Yes.” He swallowed his disappointment. That must have been the reason Leon had sought him out rather than Gwaine or Elyan. That, and the fact that they were likely scarce at the moment. Percival wasn’t actually a choice. He was an only option.
Leon glanced at his sword. “You won’t be needing that.”
“Oh.” He sheathed it quickly and fell into place when Leon began striding back in the direction from which he’d come. “What is it you need for me to do?”
Though Leon had emerged from the trees rimming the far end of the training fields, he didn’t head to either the citadel or the knights’ quarters as Percival expected. Instead, he led them toward the lower town, through dark paths behind darker corners. The specific way was unclear. Percival’s explorations hadn’t ventured much beyond what the other knights talked about, though he suspected from the sounds of it that Elyan and Gwaine both spent quite a bit of time around people Arthur might not necessarily approve of.
They walked in silence, but beyond his uncertainty about what was to come, Percival didn’t find it uncomfortable. Perhaps because Leon didn’t ask awkward questions he wasn’t sure how to answer, or make grandiose claims that no man could possibly achieve. They were merely two men, setting upon a task in tandem. He could find a modicum of solace in that.
Leon circumvented what seemed like the more populated area of the lower town to angle toward a small cluster of cottages on the very periphery. A baby cried, only to be hastily shushed. Leon walked faster, forcing Percival to lengthen his stride to keep up.
The first cottage didn’t have a proper door. Instead, a tattered blanket had been strung up on the inside, stopping several feet too short and fluttering in the gentle night breeze. Leon caught the edge and pulled it to the side, then flattened a hand on Percival’s chest to stop him from entering just yet.
“No mention of the knights,” he murmured. “Here, you are only Percival.”
He was always only Percival, regardless of the title Arthur had deigned to give him, but he nodded anyway, knowing from the look on Leon’s face that he needed the assurance, not the argument.
Leon relaxed and dropped his hand. He entered first, ducking to clear the doorway. Percival had to duck, too.
People huddled along the far wall, or what would’ve been the far wall if it hadn’t been falling down around their ears. As Percival’s gaze swept over the small space, fussily tidy in spite of its exposure to the elements, he realized none of its occupants were men. Even the two children hiding behind the women’s skirts were girls. The lone exception might have been the babe suckling at its mother’s breast, but considering the others, he doubted it.
“It’s all right,” Leon said. His smile was friendly, his tone soothing. He rested a hand on Percival’s shoulder. “I brought someone to help me with the repairs tonight.”
The oldest of the women, a brunette with the saddest dark eyes Percival had ever seen, nodded. “Thank you.”
Leon turned to Percival. “This way.”
As they approached the broken wall, the women scattered like mice. He wanted to reassure them they had nothing to fear from him, but when he began to turn to say something, he caught Leon shaking his head.
“I have supplies to fix it in the back,” Leon said. “But it will take two of us to make everything secure.”
“Whatever you need.”
His questions would have to wait. For the moment, he set to the task at hand.
Light was minimal, though the women were generous in quenching their thirst as they worked. The brunette was the only one who spoke to them, or rather, to Leon. Percival was the object of sideways glances that were always directed elsewhere when he attempted to meet them. He eventually gave up. Repairing the wall demanded his full attention anyway.
Everyone but the brunette was asleep when they finished, curled up around each other on pallets. She motioned for them to join her outside, then gave both men wet cloths to wash away the dust clinging to their sweaty skin.
“Are you ever going to allow me to pay you, Leon?” she asked.
Leon squeezed the water out of the rag over his head, so he could run his fingers through his tangled hair. “We’ve discussed this, Enid. No payment is necessary.”
“A man should be compensated for his work.”
“Only if it’s a job.”
Her lips thinned. “You labor harder than any man I have ever known. But you’re also the most stubborn.”
He offered a small smile. “I’ll take that as a compliment.” He handed back the cloth. “I can’t promise I’ll be able to come tomorrow to work on the stores, though. I’ll send you word in the morning.”
She nodded and slid her gaze to Percival. “I suppose you’re as stubborn as your friend here.”
Payment had never entered his mind. Even if he wanted one, however, he would never take it from those who so clearly needed it for themselves. “I’m simply glad to be of service.”
A sigh escaped her. With a nod, she took back Percival’s damp cloth and retreated to the doorway. “Thank you, then. I just wish my gratitude could be exchanged for something worthy.”
“It is already something worthy, Enid.”
Her sad eyes rested on Leon before she disappeared back inside the cottage. A moment later, the interior fell dark.
Neither spoke as they made their way back to their quarters. Though Percival’s questions refused to go away, he bit them all back. Leon had asked only for his strength and his discretion. He would give them both willingly, and be glad he’d had the opportunity to do something of value.
“There is no one else to help them.” Leon spoke without prompting, his low voice encouraging confidentiality. “Thank you for tonight.”
“They have no family?”
“They are their own family.”
“But surely Arthur—”
Leon grabbed his arm. “Arthur mustn’t know about them, do you understand? They would be banished.”
Silence. They were ensconced in shadows, too far away from the citadel to benefit from the few torches that would light the path. He had no idea what Leon was thinking.
“There are laws he must abide by. He would have no choice.”
“But they afford no threat.”
“Which is why he would banish them rather than burn them as Uther would have done.”
He hadn’t seen any of the burnings, but he had heard the stories, whispers between the guards or among the maids, even tales told around the campfires. Lancelot had tried to allay his fears, but he’d never understood how his friend could be so blasé about magic. Hadn’t Morgana’s brief reign proved its corruption?
“But they seem harmless.”
“But if they have—”
“They don’t. Well, they suspect the baby does, but she’s too young for them to be certain.”
“Then why would Arthur banish them?”
“The baby’s father had magic. He was one of Cenred’s men that Morgause brought with her. He was also one of the few who helped us.” Leon sighed and let Percival go. “Until Morgana had him executed. She would have executed Enid and the others as well if Arthur hadn’t managed to reclaim Camelot.”
He thought he was beginning to understand. “So you are helping her, because she has no one else.”
“I’m helping her because it’s the right thing to do. Her neighbors…they still see her as the enemy.”
“So why doesn’t she leave?”
“And go where? Cenred’s kingdom is in chaos, and her family is here now. Camelot is home, whether it’s easy or not.”
“I think Arthur would understand.”
Leon shook his head. “I can’t take that risk. If you’re uncomfortable lending a hand, I’ll understand, but please, not a word to the others. For Enid’s sake.”
He wouldn’t have told even without Leon’s final plea. Whether Leon realized it or not, Percival understood Enid’s plight. He had nowhere else to go, either. The knights were his family, just like Leon was a part of hers.
“She is safe with me,” Percival said. “And I will help, in any way I can.”
He thought he saw Leon smile. “I’d hoped you would say that.” They resumed walking. “That was why I chose to ask you for aid rather than any of the others.”
Percival nearly stumbled. “You chose me?”
“Lancelot told us what Cenred did to your family. I thought if anyone would be sympathetic to Enid, it would be you. And you’re a good man, Percival. Camelot is lucky to have you.”
His flesh began to warm, starting with a dull, slow burn deep in his gut. He had not gone in search of compliments, and it wasn’t really those that dispelled the loneliness in his bones now. It was the knowledge that Leon respected him. For more than his strength of body.
They reached their quarters without another word passing between them.
And when Leon asked Percival to accompany him the following day, Percival did so gladly.