Disclaimer: Buffy the Vampire Slayer and King Arthur belong to their respective creators, Joss Whedon and Jerry Bruckheimer/Antoine Fuqua/Touchstone Pictures/David Franzoni/lots of other people who aren't me.
In the end, it is always the wolf.
The Woad woman is trouble. I could smell it on her from a league away. It's in her walk, in her expressions, in the way she glances at Arthur from the corners of her eyes. You see it simmering between them, the heat of a man and a woman, but the more dangerous thing is the cause that she lives for, breathes for, that you can see burning in her eyes like you can see his God burning in his. She wants him for more than he can give, for more than herself alone, and cares for nothing else in her need.
He does not understand that he is losing Buffy. He does not understand that she sees the fever between him and the Woad female, that she is not the kind of woman who can ignore it or knows what to do about it. She is too unsure of herself in this, she whom I've seen take an arrow to the breast for his sake, and that he should so openly show how affected he is by Guinevere wounds her beyond the telling.
The fort is a sight for our sore and wind-stung eyes when we finally ride in, the carriage of the Romans cradled between us. The bishop waits, arms outstretched for his Pope's darling.
Buffy is blue with cold, frozen near to death. The battle at the lake almost killed her, so desperately she fought. Dagonet rides beside her, the arrow-gash in his shoulder paining him not at all, and his eyes are all for her who saved his life.
Arthur does not hesitate, but immediately goes in to speak with the bishop. Before that, he sees to the care of the people we brought with us with such effort, especially to Guinevere's, who gives him a smile of dark-eyed sweetness.
He barely looks at Buffy, and does not speak to her. I can tell that he is still beside himself with worry and rage, still angry and terror-struck in his heart by Buffy's reckless actions against the Saxons. He does not trust himself to speak, and so does not, which is the kind of man Arthur is.
I understand this because I know Arthur, perhaps better than any man but Lancelot, and better than Lancelot when Arthur is silent. This does not hold true for Buffy. Her face as she looks after him is like an open wound, stricken to her marrow by his indifference. A man would have to be blind not to see that she is hurt to the heart, and even Bors is not so shortsighted.
Dagonet reaches out, as if he would put a hand to her shoulder, but Buffy wheels her horse and gives him his head for the stables. Her back is straight, her head held high, and her hair crackles in the chill as it moves.
Lancelot follows her, and the others look at each other and decide to keep the horses outside for the time being. I wait with them.
Scarcely moments later, Lancelot returns, and he shakes his head when the others look at him. I listen to them talk in low tones for a while, listen to them growling over Arthur's unusual heartlessness, and then I slip away and go to the stables.
She has removed the harness from her horse, rubbed him down, and put him in his stall, with plenty of feed to keep him content. She has taken no such care with herself, sitting in the straw still wet in her gear, her back to the wall. When I come in, she spears me with her look, suffering turned to temper.
“I don't need your pity,” she whispers, and I see that coldness rising in her, the coldness only I seem able to see.
I ignore her. There is a blanket in her pack, sitting on the ground. I shake it out, can smell the faint scent of her hair and body in its folds, and take it to where she sits. She watches me warily, like a fox poised in the snow, as I kneel beside her.
Her hands are white with cold. When I take them in my handfuls of cloth, I can feel the ice in her flesh like a bitter sting on my skin, and I wonder that she is not taken by frostbite.
I rub her flesh back to life the same as I would do for a horse, and this calms and soothes her until her eyes flutter as she tries to stay awake. I do not attempt to take her out of her sodden clothes or even remove her belt or boots, for this is not what I am trying to do.
“I'll send Vanora,” I tell her, standing, and she does not have the strength to even protest. This alone tells me how close to death she was, this creature who hates above all to be weak.
Outside, I find Gawain waiting. He eyes me like a dog would eye a bigger animal he is unsure will not bite.
“She needs rest,” I say. “I am sending Vanora.”
I walk away, toward the gate to fetch Bors's woman so that she might come and scold Buffy into resting, and I do not need to look back to know that Gawain stands there, looking at the stables, but does not go in.