There is a long cold river tipped with the petals from God only knows what flowers; nothing grows on the banks but grass. The sun is bright but not as warm as it should be, and the air is delicate. Long languid moments of time are caught in pebbles and the shadows sketch out a sense of expectation sans impatience.
Lying on his back with his eyes closed and his bare feet dangling in the river, Galahad du Lac is forgiving his mother her madness. It is difficult, but easier than he expected it to be; drop by bitter drop it all drains away through the soles of his feet and is lost among the petals and the fast-flowing current.
Something blocks the sun; in the exact moment that he notices this, there is a sharp and familiar inhalation, and then an even sharper silence.
"I was not," Mordred Pendragon says finally, "expecting a river."
"Neither was I." Galahad's smile is sudden and has the appearance of novelty, a slender collection of pinprick joys arranged to form an innovative constellation of relief.
"How long have you been here?"
Galahad opens his eyes, which are two shades warmer than the sky above their heads, and a little less vivid, but just as calm. "As of this moment: exactly long enough, my lord."
"This isn't --"
"No." Galahad pushes himself upright and shakes his head. "It's a waiting place. For things to be...shed. For the unquiet."
"Unquiet," Mordred says, the word slow but not sardonic. He sits down in the grass next to the knight, very close. "It is what they say about ghosts, isn't it?"
Galahad laughs: it is not a wild laugh, or a mad one, or a loud one. A young man of twenty-one with his life ahead of him might laugh like that, if he had found something private and fond to be amused at. "And teenage princes, as far as I recall."
The cool sun teases a shine from something silver that rests in the hollow of his neck, something both symbol and object. The shine catches Mordred's golden eyes and holds them in place.
"Are you angry?" Galahad asks at length. Already the angle of his chin has changed in response to Mordred's gaze. "That I left without you?"
The prince gives a soft snort of his own laughter. "I thought I might be. But I'm not." He moves his eyes, looks straight ahead and watches the light spin off the river. "I think someone's cheating."
"A familiar call, my lord Pendragon."
Mordred grins, seemingly without thinking, and the sunlight dances upwards to frame the tight sarcastic beauty of his expression. "I never meant it, 'Ala. I knew you were the better swordsman."
"Bien sûr," Galahad says comfortably.
"Well." Mordred sighs, dramatic, almost wicked. "How does one begin this shedding, my lord du Lac? Is there any ritual nudity involved?"
"You're incorrigible." Galahad takes his hand and gives a light tug. "I think the river is important."
There is a visible twitch as Mordred registers the chill of the water, but he leaves his feet submerged up to the ankles and begins, after a moment, to create lazy swirling ripples.
"This," he says, and now the dry amusement can be registered once more, "could take some time."
Galahad du Lac lifts his hand to brush a careful kiss across the knuckles of Mordred Pendragon -- fealty, and a promise -- and his feet creates ripples of their own; there are minute battles of waveform and momentum where they intersect, and then a stillness.
"D'accord," he says. "I'm not in any hurry."