I shot the Albatross...I did not shoot the deputy (sarmajere) wrote,
I shot the Albatross...I did not shoot the deputy

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Fic: The Care And Feeding Of Squires, Arthurian

Title: The Care And Feeding Of Squires
Characters: Agravaine, Gawain, OC
Summary: Agravaine and his new squire, Anwas have some issues relating to each other. Agravaine seeks some advice...

Agravaine was in over his head. It was rather too late to make a house call but then the knight was desperate and Gawain had said to come at any time he needed him. Perhaps he had not quite meant 'come at two am" but by the time Anwas had casually waltzed back into their shared quarters at a good deal past midnight. By the time the ensuing argument and screaming match on his squire's part had been quieted by Agravaine's ignoring him to go to bed, informing the boy they'd speak of it in the morning, and finding that he couldn't sleep, it was already getting on past one. After another several minutes of lying there in the dark trying to calm his nerves, there had been only one thing for it, which was how Agravaine now found himself slipping to the outskirts of the court and pounding on his brother's door as if this were the greatest of emergencies that had ever been. To Agravaine's own mind it truly was. Already he was failing the boy, should never have asked him if he'd be his squire, should never have chosen to take one on in the first place or waited a few years or....something, anything. But that was too late now.

"Gawain!" he repeated, pounding harder. "I know you have to be awake, people with babies don't actually sleep at night." Gawain and Ragnell had certainly never slept before this one was born either though they'd been in bed....but....that was hardly the right thing to add just now. "I know it's late but I..."

"Let me guess." an unamused fairly scowling Gawain practically ripped the door off its hinges. "You've had a nightmare."

"In more ways than one." Agravaine answered, pushing, or attempting to push his way past his brother into the small house. "You have to help me fix it, you're the only one with any real experience about this sort of thing at Court right now..."

"Has Lancelot been stalking you again?" It was a testament to...something, Agravaine thought, that his brother was completely serious about that fact. "I'd say that was your own fault for encouraging the man, though God knows I never asked for him to..."

"Oh it's you he wants, we all of us know that." Agravaine cut in, trying and failing to smile. No, there wasn't time for that sort of thing now, not with Anwas being...and the way he'd managed to allow himself to be drawn into arguing, even if he hadn't shouted back. "Not that this has anything to do with him." he added, feeling the need to clarify. "It's more I've done something that's turned out to be stupid in the scheme of things. You know..." No, by the way Agravaine knew he was rambling, Gawain probably didn't. "And since you're the one who actually knows how this kind of thing goes, I mean you are the only person here who has actual children and..."

"I'm not going to believe you've gotten someone pregnant." Gawain was blunt as ever. "At least I didn't think you favored anyone at court lately." he added, ushering Agravaine into the kitchen and towards the table. "Sit down before you keep rambling. Get some air. You'll manage to make sense then."

At any other time, Agravaine would have protested the treatment, informed his brother that he was hardly Gaheris, too stupid to comprehend most things, or Gareth, who besides being capable of taking care of himself was youngest and inspired this sort of thing on Gawain's part. That sort of role had never occurred to Agravaine before. Mostly he and Gawain tended to hit each other. But...

"I never thought..." he heard himself saying as Gawain set water on, presumably for some tea of Ragnell's or other. "Of just how hard it is to be responsible for someone else entirely. I don't understand," he looked up as Gawain sat across from him. "How you manage it and keep your sanity intact. I think my squire's out to kill me."

"How...what?" Gawain blinked as the last part finally came out. Agravaine could almost see him sighing with relief and then, he did what was to Agravaine, unthinkable. He smirked. Agravaine glared.

"How can you think this is funny?" he demanded, giving his brother his best wounded expression. "Tonight I didn't even see him until well past midnight. You of all people ought to know how terrifying that is. Or should, though none of your sons do that." That Gawain knew about at least and Agravaine wasn't telling. Ragnell probably knew of course but then she knew everything and that was quite beside the point besides. "And then he was angry when I tried to talk to him about it and...dammit." Agravaine didn't like to admit the next part but he sort of felt he had to.

"I may have snapped at him also." he admitted, though he'd really been a lot more restrained than his first urge to shake the boy had suggested. "I know he's testing limits or...something but..."

"Well do you know what those are?" Gawain interrupted, rising as he fetched the boiling water, pouring it over tea leaves before passing Agravaine a cup. "God knows neither of us actually had those."

"Well..." damned if Agravaine really didn't know. "I would first suggest that they appealed to both his sanity and safety. Tonight alone...out there in the dark for all hours..." he hated the thought of that one especially, knowing what he did about people and their nature, though there were no specific ones in his mind. "Who is to know what may have happened?" Agravaine continued, "Wild animals, secret enemy attacks..."

If neither of those were exactly likely, at least Gawain said nothing, merely raised an eyebrow, obviously content to let his brother continue.

"Someone drunk enough." Agravaine went on, and here it got to the heart of the issue he'd been hinting at all along. "to start something he is not prepared to finish. And God knows he ought to get some sort of sleep. When I was twelve..."

Here, Gawain did interrupt the little departure with a loud snort. "When you were twelve?" he repeated, smirking so broadly that Agravaine wanted to slap the expression right off his brother's face. "Funny, I seem to remember that time quite differently than that. Though...I suppose you did have your reasons. God knows Morgause and her lovers..."

"They deserved all that they got from me and worse." Even years later, Agravaine would stand by that, though he did not wish to spend much time tonight discussing his mother the whore. It was an old conversation, one in which nothing was ever solved and he doubted it ever would be. Doubtlessly, Morgause the whore was better than Morgause the witch at least, and he could keep that one in mind.

"Be that as it may." Gawain continued, sipping at his tea a moment, scrunching up his forehead as he looked straight at his brother. "That still does not mean that some of it at least was not some misguided attempt at gaining yourself some attention." he went on, still smug, Agravaine thought with a sigh, and more than that, a little right. "What were you thinking at that time anyway?" Gawain pressed, plainly curious now.

What had he been thinking? Ten years later, Agravaine found that he was not entirely sure. It wasn't as if anyone had much cared what he did, a fact that hadn't really changed so much at Camelot, though he'd at least come to learn what he might judge for himself in the time he'd been here. The look on Gawain's face, now softening to sympathetic smile made him nod a little as he now considered it.

"And your Anwas." Gawain went on, "Where does the boy come from then? We've barely met, save for the feast last month. Where does he come from then and why did you take him on? Twenty two is fairly young for your first personal squire. Most just borrow for the lists until they are older."

"I always have to be different?" Agravaine quipped, though the joke was hardly funny. But how did he go about explaining that when he'd met the boy and been asked not to tell Cai where he was hiding, he had been amused, when he'd found out Anwas had no proper father and had been at court since he was young and left to the devices of Cai mostly but had managed to come out of that without being insane as the King's Steward himself, while taking away the biting sarcasm that was Cai's best feature, and possessed a frankness Agravaine wished he could have...He'd thought then the boy would make a proper squire for a proper knight, that was until he'd found his purse missing.

"Despite the good in him, he has his share of problems." Agravaine said now, turning his attention back to Gawain and the present. "I think they would have kept him from being taken on by anyone specific and that could well have made him worse. Someone like Cai, someone like you, despite what you could teach him, would be too impatient with those faults we're working to correct, Someone like Lancelot..." he shook his head. "We all know Lancelot wouldn't much care one way or the other."

"You imply that Lancelot is in a position to care for anyone." Gawain grinned a little, his tones amused again. "Least of all himself. And how am I impatient?"

"Not so much in normal circumstances." Agravaine put in quickly, and this was true enough. "But with Anwas, well...your approach I think, would be too fast, wouldn't allow him time to understand why things are done the way they are, why others are not and what is wrong with them. I'm not saying I intend to tolerate most of it, or that I have so far." Indeed, there had been many a sullen glance, many a fit of sulking, much hair pulling and sighing on Agravaine's own fault, though he was careful to sound patient and never to shout, even when he most wished to. "But I think it better he be eased into this slowly. Who knows what all of the unclaimed squires managed to get up to, to teach each other living as they do? They hardly have much supervision, though there's not so much any of us can do about that one. Saving who we can well..." Agravaine shrugged a little. "It is something anyway, though it takes so much effort that sometimes, I think I wasn't ready. Still, there is so much in him I'd like to save..."

"Some people do have that." Gawain agreed, "Though I confess I don't see it so much with him. Still...it's usually the case, isn't it, that only one person sees at first?"

"Something like that." Agravaine nodded. "It's there if you look hard enough, Gawain, or know what it is you're looking for."

"Something like yourself." Gawain considered, giving his brother a nod. "At least I would say that he resembles you."

"A little..." Agravaine found himself nodding. "That probably is part of the reason...I suppose I almost know a little, I'd like to make it easier, bring out what I know he's hiding."

"And do you think you can?" Gawain's question was simple enough, and his smile softened enough, that it seemed he already knew his brother's answer, though Agravaine wasn't sure how he DID that.

"No." Agravaine was serious along these lines. "I know I can't. But..."

"But you have to." Gawain nodded. "And not even for your own sake."

"Exactly." Agravaine relaxed a little, glad Gawain actually did understand as he had suspected he would before he'd snuck out here. "I don't care much about letting myself down, but for Anwas...I couldn't do that. It isn't right to fail him in that way."

"Then you'll remember it." Gawain answered, with all the wisdom that a father and husband who had been there could muster up. "When you have that in mind, you're hardly able to fail them."

"No." Agravaine found that he was actually smiling now. "It seems I can't. That does however raise the question of how I am supposed to deal with this. If the morning is anything like tonight, explaining my reasons won't do much good, he doesn't seem in the mood to listen to any reason right now." He shook his head. "I suppose I do have options, but its all so hard to organize." Clearly, cleary he needed to establish something of a system now, before things got too far. Perhaps if Gawain...

"I'm not doing your work for you." Gawain informed him with another oh so slight smirk. "It depends on where you place value, what you want him to learn most, where you find the problems that he needs to work on are..."

"I'd like for him to trust me first off." Agravaine mused now thinking out loud. If there was one thing he really didn't like about his squire it was the way he managed to find out about everything the boy had managed to get into secondhand. He could understand that well enough, it made sense in the way of..."If this is as you suggest, some attempt at gaining my attention...you don't suppose that he's intending some of this as a test?"

"He may." Gawain agreed, "He may not even know he's doing it...How much time do you spend with him most days?"

"Mornings, sometimes breakfast, he's usually off by then to whatever needs doing around here, unless I've got something specific, we did go out hunting last week. Lancelot's hawk was getting destructive again and he was otherwise occupied so..." Agravaine shrugged a little. For the life of him, he couldn't figure out why Lancelot had kept the thing, other than that it had been one of those strange gifts of Arthur's..."It was sort of stupid." he continued with a little laugh. "I think both of us thought so. We did have fun at least." That was easy enough to say, he thought, grinning a little at the memory. "You'd not believe his sense of humor. So twisted for someone his age. We've done a little sparring too, maybe not so much lately..."

That was true too, the past week had seemed rather like a blur of one table meeting after another, riding out to investigate some charges he'd not felt comfortable about a twelve year old overhearing, running around trying to locate people, dealing with the smith, waiting for the hilt of his sword to be repaired...

"Hardly so much lately." Agravaine corrected himself, a little guilty now as he ducked his head. "It seems that things conspire...that's hardly an excuse on my part but..." he could kick himself, he thought now, not exactly wanting to look at Gawain anymore.

"It's been my fault all along, now hasn't it?"

"A balance then." Gawain jumped in. "You're both going to need that to survive this. Not that I think I'm good at that myself. Ragnell could tell, she probably has, but there are< ways to make that better. I've been trying when I can. Some nights you just can't help but get back late. Occupational hazards...knights do have to face them but there's making it up, or trying to, the other times. It never does become too late for that one, or to make amends."

Dangerously close, Agravaine thought, to urging him into Christianity with the tenants he'd not believed in ever. Close enough that it was almost uncomfortable. Sighing, Agravaine poured out more tear, taking a long sip before considering his next answer.

"We do need that, the both of us. But the rest of what you seem to be suggestion. You know that I'll not be a hypocrite, Gawain."

"Even if that is best for him?"

Agravaine blinked, then blinked again. He took another sip of tea, attempting to understand what it was Gawain suggested. There was something there beyond face...oh.

"Then you think I should take him to the mass?" Agravaine asked, though he now knew very well that this was what Gawain had meant. "I suppose it would give him some structure again, wouldn't it?" And if by some chance, the Christians all turned out to be right..."It's not fair that I do risk sending him to Hell." he did agree. "I don't think he's even been, since escaping the rest of them, but it's not that he doesn't seem to believe..."

"He'd be trying to impress you." Gawain offered. Rather bluntly, Agravaine thought privately. "The more you mention it...everything that seems to be a problem. Well you have been fairly...you've earned yourself a reputation at this court he would be well aware of. Strive to emulate though that isn't the thing for anyone. It could always be worse but still..."

"He is twelve." Agravaine shook his head. "Impressionable and with me as his influence...I'm not the best by far." How did someone go about becoming better then? Clearly that was what he needed, clearly that was what Anwas needed, clearly he had no idea exactly what he had to do to get there.

"Tell him you're having some problems too." Gawain prompted, overly patient, as if he were used to this conversation, or degrees of it. "That you want to work on them together. He is your squire, he's supposed to be helping you isn't he? Besides..." he added, this time with a little wink, "He'll love to catch you in your faults and point them out. I'd suggest you do that soon, when you talk to him in the morning. Maybe then you can discuss the rest of it too, if you have time."

"I'll make the time." Agravaine could spare that much, certainly. "Lancelot can handle my patrol tomorrow, he owes me a few favors, Anwas doesn't have any pressing errands to run..." it would be well worth it, he decided, giving Gawain another smile. "I needed this." He confirmed, setting down his cup. "And I don't mean the tea."

"Any time that I can help." Gawain's tone was actually still sincere, though Agravaine would have expected strangulation by this point. "Next time before midnight unless someone is bleeding or there's been a fire but...I'll be here."

"I know." Agravaine agreed, pushing back his chair now, retying his cloak and starting for the door. "I'll owe you one." he added, over his shoulder, heading out into the night and back up toward the castle.

Halfway there, a cloaked figure bumped into him with a little squeak. Agravaine blinked as his eyes readjusted and he recognized his squire.

"You were gone when I came out to...to tell you I'd been wrong." Anwas said simply, his voice shaking a little, though not so much as Agravaine might have expected with his next words. "I don't understand why but...I'd thought you wanted to be rid of me, couldn't stand being there another minute because I...I suppose I'm going to be packing in the morning aren't I?"

"Hardly." Agravaine said simply, placing an arm around his squire's thin shoulders. "We're going to have a talk then, yes, but not just about this, and not just about you. When you think about it...well we both have things to work through. A lot of things, some rather serious but...we can see each other through them, don't you think?" he added, squeezing the boy's shoulder lightly.

When Anwas nodded, Agravaine found himself grinning. Somehow, for the first in a long time, he actually thought they would. This squire thing wouldn't be so bad after all...

And look! Vaine even has an icon now! We'd known he was Jack Davenport for a while but had not found the right pics! Now however...*G*
Tags: agravaine, arthurian, fic
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