Title: Everything Changes|
Author: Juxian Tang
Fandom: King Arthur
Disclaimer: Not mine. Too bad.
Summary: They have a ritual but nothing can stay unchanged, no matter how much they want it to
Every his wound has a memory of its own. Of the rough fingers tracing it, not touching stitches or bandages, careful enough for it not to hurt but close enough to send shivers akin to pain through his body. And the palm, hot and hard, calluses on it like little pads of wood, sliding over his skin, warm pressure of it melting something in him, building and building, till he has no control left.
And then he rises, forgetting his injury, not thinking any more, just acting - wrapping his arms around the man, toppling him over, onto the bed, pressing him down with his weight, tearing the buckles of the jacket and unlacing the shirt, until his fingers find smooth hot skin under it.
Lancelot's chest is flat and hard, muscles straining - and his eyes in the darkness are huge, black and blazing, like there is fire burning in the depth of them.
Arthur's fingers get caught into his hair every time he tries to comb through the strands, so tangled they are. And Lancelot's mouth tastes so hot, so scorching it seems to burn away any other taste. And his body, hot and strong, struggles under Arthur, both resisting and trying to get closer, to get more, as Lancelot's cock butts against his through the thin cloth of their pants and he arches towards Arthur's mouth clamping on his nipples.
This struggle sometimes ends in him being overthrown, and Lancelot grips his wrists, his hands like vice, holding him down. Then Arthur looks up at Lancelot rising over him, and his face, dark-eyed, has the expression Arthur cannot figure out. Just as Lancelot's voice is strange, hoarse and low, demanding something, as he says looking down at Arthur:
"Tell me. Arthur."
It snaps something in Arthur's mind, and he turns them over again, and now Lancelot doesn't resist any more but opens under him, his legs clutching around Arthur's waist with the strength of a rider.
His eyes laugh as he looks at Arthur and his voice is still husky and low as he says:
"What do you want? Tell me."
And all Arthur can do is breathe out, on the edge of his strength: "It," - and it includes everything - Lancelot's spread legs, and the heat of his skin, and the maddening not-comfort of his touches, and their cocks pushing against each other.
"Then take it," Lancelot says.
* * *
It all started years ago, with a wound Arthur had got from a Woad archer - and it, or rather a very insistent healer, put him to bed. And his friends, his knights, kept him company in his chamber, talked and drank - until finally all of them left, except for Lancelot.
Was it wine or loss of blood that made Arthur lightheaded and agitated, not tired at all - but he wanted to keep talking, and Lancelot's eyes were like dark fire meeting his gaze. They quarreled about some location and Arthur jumped out of the bed and leaned over the map - as he was, shirtless and barefoot, just with the bandages covering his chest.
And Lancelot was near, looking, and smiling, and more than once their hands touched but Arthur didn't know. He didn't know until Lancelot came up to him from behind, and put his arms around his chest, pressing all his body to Arthur's - and Arthur felt the hard cock against his backside and his breath was caught, and it seemed Lancelot was not breathing either - and Arthur's cock was so hard too.
After that everything was easy - so easy that Arthur couldn't understand why he hadn't got it earlier - candle blown out, his arms wrapped around Lancelot, the bed, frenzied shedding of clothes - and Lancelot's touches were as needful as his when he opened to Arthur. It was heat and strength and satisfaction - and it seemed to Arthur he'd never known anything so intense before.
Later they lay there, together, and voices of his other knights reached him, Galahad and Gawain, Dagonet and Bors, and many more, who were alive then but later left him forever - Caradoc and Owain, Geraint and Bohort, Lionel and Lucas.
Then Arthur fell asleep - and when he woke, Lancelot wasn't there any more. And so it was every time, he never saw Lancelot's sleeping face on the pillow next to him.
* * *
In a way, it is easier this way. It the morning, Arthur usually feels repentant, quite sure that what he is doing doesn't please God.
He doesn't hope that a sin can stop being a sin just because it is committed in the darkness and once in a while. But still, can it be really be that bad that they take comfort in each other from time to time? He and Lancelot, they are comrades, they share nearly everything - and what if they share a little more?
It doesn't change anything, after all.
"What will you do in Rome?" Lancelot's arms are like a warm hard ring around his chest and his eyes stare at Arthur, dark and unfathomable.
"I'll settle down. Have a house, a family. You can come visit me any day."
"I don't think I'll like it much in Rome."
Not Rome, Arthur thinks, you can come visit me. But he never says it because he knows it will be a lie. In Rome there will be nothing for them.
And maybe there is no 'them' at all.
* * *
"This was a close call today."
A slash on his side is deep and long, stitched and bandaged, and Arthur seems to still feel a Woad's sword cutting into his ribs. The fingers tracing it wake up this sensation but the husky, deep voice seems to soothe it.
"Yes. If not for you..."
Locked in the fight with two Woads, bleeding, and knowing there was the third one coming and he'd probably not have dexterity and strength to parry this blow... And then Lancelot was suddenly there - from nowhere, his horse tearing at full speed and him seeming to be one with his horse, his swords bared.
"Someone has to protect your valiant ass." A smug chuckle sounds in the darkness. "You can count on me."
"Yes." Lancelot's voice goes quiet and strangely serious. "Always."
It doesn't change anything. Arthur keeps telling it to himself. It doesn't mean anything.
He is too afraid to believe in something else.
Because then he will have to admit that one of his knights and comrades means for him more than others, that they are not equal in his eyes, that the death of this one will bring him more grief than death of others.
And he can't afford it - how can he, riding side by side with them into a battle year after year? They all are equally precious for him.
And what happens between him and Lancelot sometimes at night is... is just that.
Just a ritual they developed - only for special nights. And Arthur remembers his wounds not by what weapon and when they were inflicted - but by a little moan Lancelot made as Arthur's mouth fastened on his nipple, and by the purple bruises on his sides that Arthur stroked - a Woad grabbed him from behind today, and Lancelot stabbed him backwards even before Arthur had time to get worried - and by the trembling of his body, taut like a string, as Arthur's fingers entered him.
* * *
"Talk to me."
Lancelot's head lies on his shoulder, and Arthur tries to fight sleep away, no matter how exhausted with wound and their sex he is - just because he wants to prolong these minutes a little more.
"What about? Well. I think Tristan knows."
"Yes. I saw him looking."
Tristan with his dark intent eyes that never miss anything. Arthur shrugs.
"Yes. He probably does."
"Does it bother you?"
Lancelot shifts and there is something in his voice that Arthur can't decipher - and he thinks about the question. No one else knows, and Tristan won't tell. And anyway, it doesn't matter. Times are hard, and men need comfort wherever they can get it.
And he and Lancelot are friends, just that.
And one day there will be a woman, a special one, and then it will end.
"No. Not particularly," he says and adds, after a pause. "And you?"
Lancelot's chuckle is soft and husky in the darkness.
"I wouldn't be here if it did, right?"
* * *
Arthur breaks their ritual, once, so taken with that woman, with her smiling face and pretty voice, that he thinks she might be the one. And it is her fingers caressing his back as he lies in bed, recovering from his wound. Lancelot doesn't come, not even to visit him. And everything is wrong, and Arthur feels cranky and ill and sends the woman away next morning.
And when the night comes again, he waits - but Lancelot doesn't come, and of course it is right, it is not like their rules are - but Arthur still waits, and this waiting is more unbearable with every minute.
He gets up and walks to the yard where others drink and laugh - and Lancelot is there, a red-haired girl on his lap - and Arthur feels like a spear of cold is thrust into his chest.
He's never seen Lancelot with a woman before. He talks about them, granted - all the time, and it is all right, talking doesn't matter. But seeing them together - his smiling lips nearly touching her ear as he whispers something to her, his hands patting the front of her skirt - it is different. It is real.
Resentment is like a cold stone inside his chest, and it doesn't matter that only yesterday he was so much in love with his own woman that he decided he could skip one time.
Others see him and cheer - and Lancelot's look at him is brief and polite - and then Arthur can't bear it any more.
"Lancelot. Come with me."
His knights look up, surprised with his snapping tone and maybe a bit worried - and Lancelot doesn't seem concerned at all - getting up slowly, saying something to the girl - and Tristan's dark eyes slide over Arthur as he keeps talking softly to his hawk.
He barely can wait till they reach his chamber, and then Lancelot is in his arms, and there are no words, just his lips opening for Arthur, his hands pulling him closer as Arthur holds onto him.
Lancelot's mouth tastes with wine and with the lips of that wench, and Arthur can feel her smell on him but it doesn't matter, Lancelot is his, this night, just his, and it is fast and hard and needy, and he cries out despite biting his lip - and Lancelot's hands are where they belong, stroking his back, soothing him, bringing him peace.
"You're right, Tristan knows," he says later. And Lancelot chuckles, that wonderful, deep, intoxicating sound that makes Arthur feel like something aches in his chest sweetly.
"Tristan has no life."
"You just resent him because he has no lady you can claim to have seduced," Arthur says, and they both laugh - and he thinks that he'll never, never again do anything so stupid like breaking their ritual.
It doesn't change anything - but these nights after a battle will always belong to Lancelot, he decides.
He takes this for granted, what a fool he is - that when they part, it will be on his conditions. It will be Rome for him and a village in Sarmatia for Lancelot - and even in Rome he will know that somewhere, very far away, Lancelot lives and so it is not so impossible to meet again.
He knows no one is invulnerable, and he prays for his people to live - but deep in heart he believes that if one ever has to stand over the other's grave, it will be Lancelot standing over his.
He wants it this way.
* * *
He will always remember it - even when different fingers touch his skin, tracing old scars and fresh wounds - the fingers that are also long and callused, but in a different way, and their touch gentler - under the whispering trees of the ancient forest - and Guinevere's long hair whispering over his skin.
It will never be the same.