It was the sweat gleaming on his shoulder blades that gave her pause, and made her stop near the door. She watched as he jogged lightly on the treadmill, his legs keeping perfect rhythm, until with an anticlimactic beep he slowed and walked lightly to a halt. Reaching forward, he picked up a bottle of Gatorade and drank half of it down, wiping at his face with the towel hanging over his neck as he stepped down from the treadmill. Turning, he saw her standing at the door staring, and gave her a smile, raising an eyebrow.
"Having a good morning, Gwen?"
Gwen smiled at his twinkling crystal blue eyes. "Good morning Lance."
He grinned back. "Where are you off to today? Need a lift home?"
"That'd be lovely. I'll just wait in the carpark, will I?" she asked, and without waiting for a reply strolled out the automatic glass doors of the gym.
Lance watched her walk out and smiled before walking back over to the treadmill and picking up his bag. He signed the book at the door, and walked out into the carpark, making his way to the silver BMW near the tennis courts. Standing next to the passenger's door, her face flushed a delicate pink, was Gwen.
With a click, Lance deactivated the car alarm and watched as Gwen quickly slid into the front seat of the car, before he threw his bag into the boot and climbed into the driver's side. Slipping the key into the ignition, he turned to look at Gwen. Her face was still pink, her tongue protruding. She looked at him, and slowly licked her lips. Lance turned the key.
"So. Your place?"

* * *

"Oh fuck."
"What, again already?" Gwen stretched, her blonde hair tangled over her white shoulders. "Frisky after gym, aren't we?"
"Get dressed. We've got to go," Lance said, hunting for his boxer shorts.
Gwen's brow furrowed. "What are you talking about Lance? We've got all day, he's not due home until after six."
"You don't understand, Gwen," Lance replied, pulling on his jeans. "It broke." He stood, grabbing his shirt from the chair over which it was hanging, and began to button it up.
Gwen's blinked, her eyebrows furrowed.
"Oh my god."

* * *

Lance turned into his park and pulled on the handbrake, then looked over at Gwen. Her face was pale, a faint sheen of fluid touching her temples and between her eyes.
"Relax," he said, patting her hand. "It'll be fine."
"What if he's here today? We should have gone somewhere else."
Lance shook his head. "Nowhere else close. Besides, he's in meetings all day today. Come on."
Lance got out of the car, and Gwen followed. Clicking his central locking remote, Lance pointed at the empty space marked "Director" and smiled at Gwen.
"See? Told you he's not here."
Gwen's shoulders shook for a moment, her lower lip shaking, then she straightened and walked into the med centre. Lance followed her, his hands in the pockets of his suede jacket, and leaned casually against the wall. He smiled at the nurse at the desk, and saluted a pair of orderlies wheeling a trolley stacked with sample jars.
"Morning Doctor Loth," one called back, and Lance gave another wave. At the desk, Gwen was talking with the dispenser, who was showing a professionally concerned face. Catching the dispenser's eye briefly, Lance wrinkled his nose, a smile flickering across her face as she continued to talk with Gwen.
"Lance! What are you doing, coming in on your day off?" he heard a familiar voice from behind him. Gwen stiffened slightly in front of him, as Lance swung around casually.
"Director! You got out of the meetings then?"
"Don't 'Director' me, Lance," the man laughed. "You know me well enough by now. Especially when you're off duty."
"Sure thing, Arthur," Lance replied.
Arthur looked over at the desk, where Gwen was watching him. She gave a small smile, and walked over to the two men, reaching up to kiss Arthur lightly on the lips.
"Hi honey," he said, his voice curious. "Why are you down here this morning?"
"I dropped those files by your place this morning, and Gwen asked if I could give her a lift down here," Lance interposed, leaning back against the wall.
"My thyroid's acting up a bit, and I needed a new set of pills," Gwen explained, her hand lightly resting on Arthur's arm.
Arthur looked over at the girl on the desk, filling in her paperwork.
"Ellen," he called. "Don't bother charging my wife for her meds, just put the slip on my desk, I'll expense it. Anyway," he turned back to Lance, "I've got to run. Just ducking through to see how the installation of the new MRI is going."
Lance smiled, and slapped Arthur on the back. "See you tonight for dinner, right?"
Arthur grinned. "Absolutely. My place at seven, don't be late. See you at six honey," and he kissed Gwen, before walking quickly off towards a door marked 'Staff Only,' giving a wave as he walked through it.
Gwen looked over at Lance, who raised an eyebrow, before she walked back to the desk. Ellen lifted up a small white tube with a bright green lid.
"Four Levonelle emergency contraceptives, ma'am. I'll expense them for you then?" she asked, her face a friendly mask.
Gwen sighed. "No," she said, reaching into her purse. "I'll pay for them."


in explanation

The legends of King Arthur and his Knights of the Round Table are some of the most famous in the English language. In French retellings of the legends, collectively termed the Vulgate Cycle, the character of Lancelot as the Queen's Champion is introduced. He is normally the best friend and heroic companion of Arthur, and is almost always also the lover of Arthur's Queen, Gwenhwyfar (or Guinevere). This story resets the characters and the affair between Lancelot and Gwenhwyfar into a modern location and context. This piece is specifically written as 'microfiction' - that is, a very short short story. So my apologies for the brevity at times. ^^

Note: The title of this piece, 'Ex-Camelot,' stems from Excalibur (Latin. ex calibus: cut steel). It is a play on the usage of the sword's name. It is also a play on the word 'cut' in terms of the sword name Camelot itself has been 'cut' to reform a new shape; also, Camelot has been 'cut' in terms of being satirized. Also, the meaning of the word 'Ex' to denote something which is now gone or different is fitting with the concept of a transposed myth that is now different from the original.

© 2006 Ben Thomas. All rights reserved.