Title: Keep Up
Character/s: Gwaine, Leon, Arthur, Elyan, Percival, Merlin, Gaius
Summary: It has been three weeks since Morgana lost control of Camelot and fled, and Uther isn't the only one having problems.
Warnings: anxiety, problems with food, post-trauma
Word Count: 1,042
Prompt: #284 angst month: anxiety
Author's Notes: Whoops… I accidentally combined the end of season 3 (Morgana and Morgause take over, and Morgana breaks Uther’s heart and spirit) with the end of season 4 (Morgana has Gwaine, Elyan, and Gaius in the cells, and she pulls Gwaine out to fight over and over again for her amusement). Do me/this story a favor and pretend that those things (Uther’s broken-spiritedness and Gwaine’s repetitive fighting-in-captivity) can possibly have happened in the same Morgana-takeover-of-Camelot? Thanks a lot. :) ...It has been far too long since I had access to this show, and things are starting to blur together. *cries*
It has been three weeks since Morgana lost control of Camelot and fled, and Uther isn't the only one having problems.
As a knight, Gwaine's accommodations are the best he has experienced since he left home. He has a furnished room all to himself inside the castle. This is probably the reason nobody has noticed.
Every day, Gwaine performs protective knight duties in and around Camelot. Every day, he meets with the other knights for whatever training sessions Arthur deems necessary. Every day, he attends strategy meetings, or helps rebuild someone's life in some way, or has the time to walk around town to see where help might be needed.
There is more to it, though.
Every morning before Gwaine even gets out of bed, he wakes up with his heart pounding. His eyes fly open, and he has to visually check his surroundings to make sure there are no immediate threats. Only once he sees his room undisturbed can he persuade his arms and legs to move.
Gwaine sits on the edge of his bed to put on his shoes before any other item of clothing. More than anything, he needs to be prepared for what might happen. Additionally, though, touching the cold stone floor with his bare feet makes him feel nauseated. Best to avoid that if he wants to have any chance of eating in the morning.
Next, Gwaine washes and clothes himself. On some days, shirts make him feel sticky. His skin rebels, and sometimes he has to take the shirts off to feel right again. It was worse at the beginning, though: there are small scars, some still healing, from too-deep scratching on his shoulders and upper arms from before he realized he should just take the shirts off.
If everything goes to plan and Gwaine only has to dress once, he might make it to the hall in time for breakfast.
First he will unlock and open his door, look both ways down the hallway, and slowly step out. Then he will lock his door from the outside and walk to the left.
He will take a route that is out of the way and less frequented so he can keep track of the sounds he hears and the people who pass him. He will stop one corridor away from the breakfast hall in an alcove with a window. There, he will stare blindly out the window while he convinces himself it is necessary to go into that hall to eat even though all the people in there will expect him to be normal. He isn't normal. He can't fake normal well anymore; his mask is slipping. They will look at him, and Gwaine knows they will see what is really going on. They will look at him and see him screaming and thrashing in a swirling gray wind that does not abate. They won't like it. They won't let him perform his duties. They won't let him stay. They won't want him around anymore. If any of them, but especially his friends, see him as less than the man they all think he is, Gwaine's mask will fall for sure.
Gwaine stays frozen in that alcove for as long as it takes for his mind and feet to agree on a direction.
Some days, he has to settle for sneaking something or begging - in the form of flirting, of course - with a cook for something to eat from the kitchens.
Some days, he leaves and does not eat. Those days always make him angry at himself, because he has starved and knows how important regular eating is to his body and mind.
Most days, he can convince himself that he needs to go into the breakfast hall for another reason in addition to eating, like to talk to Leon about the day's patrol. He will take whatever small reason there is that he can convince himself absolutely must be done in there. If the whole table good-naturedly turns on him about not waiting until after they've eaten to discuss business, that is something he can accept. He tries not to worry that they'll notice that he was never quite so committed to daily duties before.
Before. Before, he paid attention to his surroundings, even while drinking. Now, he is hyper-aware of everything going on for as far as his senses can stretch. He has received compliments on his especially fine-tuned form from others, and even from Arthur, when there is a knight training session and they're all together to practice, study, and improve. He has been the reason some small sound or shadow tipped off his patrol when there was trouble around. He cannot deny that the awareness he experiences now has been useful, but it makes his heart beat wildly and his limbs tremble.
When Gwaine has to attend meetings in the throne room, he tries to stand to the right of the throne where the stained-glass windows throw their patterns on the floor. He is always cold in that room. At the beginning, he blamed it on the draft. Now, for the sake of appearances, he tries not to rub his hands together for warmth. They remain clenched together behind his back, or they stay practically glued to whatever object he is asked to hold.
When Gwaine's schedule takes him and other knights to someone's destroyed property to help them rebuild, his imagination provides him with images of life-threatening scenarios about his friends while they help. Is there a hot spot in the fire still that is going to burn Percival alive? Is that beam going to fall down and crush Elyan? Should Leon be breathing in all this dust, or will it all gather in his lungs until he suffocates?
That last thought has Gwaine marching himself up to see Gaius late one afternoon to ask that very question.
When he arrives, Merlin is there to tell him Gaius is out seeing Ellette and Acca, Thea and Nodin’s girls, for coughs.
This only worries Gwaine more, but he can’t seem to get the words out to ask Merlin if he knows anything about possibly deadly amounts of dust in the lungs. Gwaine stands just inside the doorway staring at Merlin.