Author: Guede Mazaka
“You’ve should’ve made him stay,” the girl laughed, low and teasing. Her hair was the same color as the straw on which she and Lancelot were lying. His hand was still restless between her sticky thighs and when he tickled her, she gasped and protested and pretended she wasn’t just as ready as him for the next round. “Oh…but what was the matter with him? Doesn’t he like blondes?”
Lancelot pressed himself against her long soft warmth and felt the breath of her giggle prickling his neck. “Arthur? No, he just has bad taste. Now, then, I’ve that other coin to spend…”
* * *
It took Lancelot a long time to notice. In his defense, his lanky frame had finally put on muscle and his cheeks had garnered enough beard to mask his childish prettiness, so the girls had been thick and his attention distracted.
Besides, Arthur’s behavior had always been a little peculiar. The specific kind of peculiarity had changed over the years, but what remained the same was his inability to act like other men. Other men wouldn’t probably have insisted on sharing their women with their undergrown friends who hadn’t the money or the looks to get one for themselves. Nor would other men have failed to be jealous once their friends had grown into competition.
On the surface, it did seem only as if considerate Arthur was trying to give Lancelot room of his own. Instead of showing Lancelot the way to correct his stance or see to his lamed horse, he merely stood back and offered advice. When it came to women and drinking, Arthur now partook lightly and left early. “Responsibilities,” was his constant excuse.
“And that’s why it doesn’t pay to be an officer, and rising fast,” Bors belched. Nonetheless he raised a good-natured toast to Arthur’s back.
“Only if you don’t want it to pay.” Galahad was flushing red and already smearing his words. “The infantry officers live like kings. If a king would want to rule this place.”
Arthur, of course, wasn’t a king and had no such ambitions to be. But he did want to be a good officer, as he’d explained many times, and so Lancelot figured it for nothing more than over-dedication.
* * *
The sparring, however, Lancelot did miss. Once upon a time he and Arthur could while away an afternoon hacking at each other with practice swords, or trying desperately to smash each other into the dirt. It was painful and certainly the after-effects were unpleasant, but it did stop Arthur from thinking himself into the grave. More often than not, the bout would end with Lancelot laughing over nothing and with a slow smile creeping over Arthur’s face.
But now, every time he ducked his head into Arthur’s rooms, it was always, “I would love to, but the barracks need to be inspected—you did clean off that stain, didn’t you?” or “I doubt that I can still do you justice as a sparring partner, considering how much your skills have grown.”
Nice compliment, but an outright lie and they both knew it. Lancelot wasn’t about to deny that he was better than Arthur when it came to swinging a sword around, but fighting wasn’t all about sword-swinging. He could beat any of the other knights because they were either too far below his level or because they couldn’t out-smart him. Arthur wasn’t that much less skilled than Lancelot, and he could…well…out-smart Lancelot. When it came to tactics and strategy.
“In that case, you could use the practice. And the break,” Lancelot once retorted. He had taken the other man, who’d already been turning back to his desk, by the arm and had pulled Arthur towards him. Maybe he’d pulled a little too hard, for Arthur stumbled into him, nose bumping Lancelot’s forehead.
Then an odd thing had happened. Arthur had frozen in place. His tongue had flicked out to run along his lip, which wasn’t one of his usual nervous tics.
The next moment, he had withdrawn and he looked as he always did when making excuses: slightly-stooped, eyes so earnestly apologetic that one couldn’t meet them. Remembering afterwards, Lancelot thought Arthur might have been more stiff than usual, but the other man had politely shooed him out so quickly that he hadn’t had time to make sure.
Shooed out. Like a stray dog.
So it started with annoyance, Lancelot supposed.
* * *
For all Arthur’s claims that he was available for a hearing at any time, he never seemed to be near to talk with Lancelot. Or to even just share a gallop on one of the rare sunny days Britain tossed out in order to stay irritatingly unpredictable.
Lancelot idled near the favorite hangouts of the Roman officers, on the off-chance that Arthur’s new position was forcing him to socialize more with them. Nothing. Next was the church, but pointed questioning of the priest revealed that not only was it not religion, but also that Arthur had actually been showing up less than normal. Third possibility was that Arthur was implementing some new training plan with the older knights, but Lancelot quickly dismissed that one. Bors spent far too much time doing odd jobs around Vanora’s tavern, and even if he were skipping out on drills in favor of that, Dagonet would never and Dagonet appeared to have as much free time as Bors.
At that point, Lancelot had temporarily run dry of ideas. So he’d retreated to a back-corner of the tavern with a moderate helping of ale and a notable lack of soft female on his lap. Damn Arthur for being such a difficult problem—now he was affecting Lancelot’s ability to enjoy himself.
After several minutes of fruitless speculation, Lancelot noticed that a shadow had thrown itself over him. He hadn’t heard anyone approach, which meant…“And what can I do for you, Tristan?”
“Nothing I can’t do for myself.” Someday Tristan was going to inflate too much with that amused condescension and burst. “I see Galahad is finally getting a turn at chasing the women tonight.”
“I was feeling generous. Why, did you have your eye on him?” Lancelot was being sarcastic, but a tiny part of him was wondering if maybe…no one really had enough knowledge of Tristan to figure out whether he went for women or men, or if he and his hawk had some unnatural relationship. Well, Gawain might know, but he disliked that kind of gossip and refused to partake in it.
Tristan made an unimpressed noise. “You could use lessons on how to read people.”
When Lancelot turned around, the other man was gone. But his words remained, and…reading. Formerly Arthur had mentioned whenever he’d gotten something new to read, but that of course had stopped when he’d started avoiding Lancelot. So to the bedroom.
* * *
There was dust on the scrolls and books. Dust. Not only present in the rooms of compulsively neat Arthur, but also present on some of Arthur’s most valuable possessions. Lancelot’s annoyance slowly receded, and in its place appeared genuine worry.
What Lancelot did felt like his muscles were spasming and going limp at the same time. He nearly knocked one scroll from the shelf with his flailing hand, then hit it back into place with his jerking elbow. “Arthur! Don’t do that!”
“Sorry about that. I’ll—I need to go check—”
The only thing more ridiculous than how Lancelot had probably looked flapping about in surprise was Arthur running out of his own bedroom. So Lancelot did the other man a favor and whirled about to seize Arthur’s arm. “May your God help you if you ever have a real thief. Honestly…what?”
Arthur was staring at him. Not in shock or anger or apology, but in a way that…his eyes were dark and deep, and they made Lancelot’s gut twist around itself in odd ways. But then Arthur shook himself, blinked, and when he looked at Lancelot again, his gaze was impeccably courteous. “You’re blushing.”
Lancelot almost put up his hand to hide the burning in his cheeks, but at the last moment he remembered he wasn’t a boy anymore and didn’t. “No, I’m flushing. Because you had to startle me like that.”
What should have happened next was Arthur laughing and gently teasing Lancelot, but instead Arthur remained solemn. The muscles of his arm that were under Lancelot’s hand were all stiff, as if he were completely repulsed by Lancelot’s touch. “Look, if there’s something between us, I’d appreciate knowing what it is.”
“What would that be? Did you have a complaint?” Now Arthur was raising his brows and making his voice conciliatory, as if this were another ordinary dispute to arbitrate. He sounded about as natural as a Sarmatian in Britain.
“It’s not a complaint if I can’t find you to tell you it, is it?” Lancelot snapped. Then he winced, hoping that his temper hadn’t just ruined the first chance in months to seriously talk to Arthur. “Never mind. Just…come on, that new blonde girl has been dying to meet you. And you look like you’ll snap if someone breathes on you wrong.”
That odd something flashed through Arthur’s eyes again. He tried to slip his arm out from Lancelot’s grip, but Lancelot wasn’t about to let him get away that easily. A tug back and Arthur stopped, but Arthur also half-raised his arm so that Lancelot glimpsed Arthur’s fist uncurling. The fingers were still whitish from being clenched so tightly.
“I don’t think that would be a good idea,” Arthur finally said, very low and very tired. But he was weakening. One more try and Lancelot knew the other man would give in.
Tact demanded that Lancelot didn’t try, but then he wouldn’t be any sort of friend to Arthur. “Why not? I’m starting to think you find me repulsive.”
He was expecting Arthur to capitulate without much protest, but to his surprise, Arthur’s jaw clenched and his head suddenly went up. The look in his eyes wasn’t directed at Lancelot but at the wall, and it resembled that of a man being forced to dive off the edge of the earth. “Fine. I’ll go.”
* * *
It had started well. The girl’s eyelashes started fluttering the moment she saw Arthur, and they kept it up all the way until the three of them stumbled into an empty stall. She was more than attentive enough to make any man forget his troubles and it seemed as if Arthur appreciated it, considering how hard he took her mouth. Gotten a squeal from her and a sudden clawing at Arthur’s shoulders that hadn’t been acting at all, which had made Lancelot a little jealous. He’d already had her a few times and he hadn’t been able to get that kind of reaction from her.
But he soon let it go in favor of sliding in behind her so her plump warm ass wriggled pleasantly against his prick. He passed his hands over her sides, occasionally dipping beneath her breasts, while Arthur buried his face in her neck and pressed his fingers down her belly. Sometimes Arthur’s hands overlapped with Lancelot’s, but Lancelot had long since grown used to that.
She knew her trade and soon the warm pressure of her body had Lancelot yanking at his trousers. A twitch of her hips trapped his hand between his thigh and hers; she giggled at his frustrated growl. “Oh, do you need some help?”
“I think I can make do,” he panted. Twisted his fingers up till they were teasing squirms from her. That in turn got her weight onto Arthur, who suddenly stepped up his ravaging.
The other man was going a little too fast, but since the girl wasn’t protesting, Lancelot decided to just concentrate on freeing himself of his clothing. He could only slide his trousers down a few finger-widths before the hard rocking of her and Arthur pinned him in place. Then it was breathless moaning before Arthur got hold of himself enough to pull her back and Lancelot could try for another couple of inches. Awkward, but more than pleasurable enough to make up for that.
When the girl and Arthur pressed down, Lancelot had just managed to get his legs free and so he was moving back more slowly. And Arthur didn’t quite remember to pull his hand out from between the girl’s legs.
Sharing a woman wasn’t like sharing a room; one couldn’t make clear delineations. True, the first time Lancelot and Arthur had done it and Lancelot had accidentally brushed his hand against Arthur’s prick, it had nearly been enough to finish off Lancelot’s already tense nerves. But that had been two years ago. So the back of Arthur’s hand being pressed against Lancelot’s cock by the girl’s weight shouldn’t have been disturbing in the least.
But it was. Arthur ripped himself from the girl so quickly that she would have fallen if Lancelot hadn’t caught her. Instead of apologizing, which should’ve been Arthur’s first reaction, he stabbed his hands through the hay and hunched over, breathing hard with eyes squeezed shut. The muscles in his shoulders ticked and jumped like fleas.
“I shouldn’t have…” The rest of Arthur’s mutter was cut off by the sharp way he stood and walked out, clutching his unfastened clothing to himself.
* * *
It might’ve been better if Lancelot had gone after Arthur right away, but the ideal world also didn’t have insulted women who needed to be placated, lest they decide to turn their nails on Lancelot in Arthur’s place. So he stayed, and he had the whore twice since she’d been paid for two, and then he stomped after Arthur.
Honestly, he had taken so much time and trouble to hold out his hand; Arthur could at least give a good reason for not reciprocating.
What was the problem, anyway? It couldn’t be on Lancelot’s side because they hadn’t had any serious arguments before it had started, and he hadn’t had a chance to offend Arthur afterward because Arthur hadn’t let him even get close enough to call to him. In fact, it couldn’t have been anything definite because Lancelot couldn’t remember when it had started. There wasn’t a clear point in time that he could blame; the two of them had merely drifted apart.
Merely wasn’t the right word. If they were drifting, then that was even worse because then Lancelot had no idea how to make it stop. And he didn’t want to lose Arthur. The man could be a goad, a weight, an inspiration and a comfort, and because of that he had become one of the most essential parts of Lancelot’s life.
“And the most annoying,” Lancelot muttered. He’d checked nearly all of the garrison and was now heading into a maze of little-used alleys between barracks and storerooms out of sheer desperation. In all likelihood, Arthur had probably circled back to his rooms by now to pray or isolate himself in his philosophers.
Some couple was having a nice time somewhere to Lancelot’s left. They were trying hard to stay quiet, but at least one of them was in a hurry and so couldn’t choke down the groans.
Morbid curiosity turned him into the alley, and then pure shock held him in place.
“Shit…” breathed one profile. Male voice. He sagged down the wall and hung by his arms from what had to be another man, given the bulk of the body. “Thank God infantry doesn’t have to ride.”
It was one of the infantry commanders—Aulus Hirtius, who was tolerable for a Roman. Mostly because his posting to Britain hadn’t been a punishment, but a sort of extended training exercise before he went off to the eastern provinces to make his fortune. Whenever the knights had to coordinate with legionaries, they all hoped it would be his vexillation because at least then they didn’t have to worry about incompetence.
The other man Lancelot would’ve known anywhere, under any conditions.
Aulus started to lean forward, presumably for a kiss, but Arthur drew back. He started to say something, but Aulus shook his head. “No, I forgot. My fault. Christ…what happened to you tonight? Someone actually turn you down?”
“Not quite,” Arthur muttered. He pushed Aulus against the wall, and after a moment, backed off a whole pace. The shadows of his fingers merged with his chest, then detached to address his trousers. “Thank you.”
“Any time. Especially if you’re going to come like that.” The lewd appreciation in Aulus’ voice was unaffected and sincere and absolutely infuriating.
Lancelot suddenly realized his nails were drawing blood from his palms. He hastily unclenched his hands and rubbed at the hurt, only to discover that the pain was actually in his jaw as well because of how hard he was gritting his teeth.
But when Arthur turned to leave, Lancelot didn’t confront him. Instead he slipped away to try and figure out why he cared.
* * *
Up in the stable loft was a good place to think, as long as Tristan wasn’t already occupying the space. Today he wasn’t, so Lancelot drew up the ladder after himself and flopped down on the hay to think.
Arthur…liked both sexes. All right. That was surprising because it was Arthur and he had a habit of shunning anything enjoyable, but it wasn’t in and of itself anything special. Most of the knights would take what they could get, when they could get it. After all, no one wanted to die without a good last night on earth, and there weren’t always women available before a battle.
Arthur had fucked Aulus enough for them to be familiar in a way that made Lancelot’s temper itch for a fight. At least it hadn’t been the other way around, because then Lancelot’s snarling about Arthur whoring himself to Rome would have stopped being careless rage and painful concern and would have started being sickening truth.
But it hadn’t been familiar like how Bors was with Vanora. Actually, it’d sounded as if…
…which was where Lancelot didn’t want to think any more, because something in his gut started to squirm and his face began to grow hot, and it was all uncomfortably like how he’d gotten around girls years ago when he’d first started to notice them. But Arthur was his friend and commander, and it was entirely…it didn’t…he couldn’t see the other man that way.
He thought. Lancelot didn’t think he could do it. Arthur kept his hair cropped short, and while his face was clean-shaven, it certainly didn’t have any feminine airs about it. He was tall and broad and definitely not shaped like a woman. Picturing breasts on Arthur made Lancelot cough and choke till his chest hurt. No, if anyone was going to look at Arthur, it was best that they do it by looking at him for what he was: a handsome, well-built man who could irritate and delight in the same breath. Who had too many principles and too little strength, but who tried to make it stretch to support everything anyway. Who apparently would rather go to a bastard Roman for a fuck than try looking Lancelot in the eye. Whose voice when speaking to Aulus had been like a rough rake down Lancelot’s back, so hard that first its tracks in the skin were numb and then they burned--
A moment later, Lancelot sat up and rubbed at his shins. When they and his elbows and his jaw stopped hurting, he’d pick out all the hay that’d taken advantage of his surprised jolt-tangle-flop to stab into his hair. “Don’t you make sounds anymore, or have you decided to take up Tristan’s philosophy?”
“That was the second time I called you,” Arthur replied. His voice strained with the effort he was making to control himself, and he hadn’t apologized for startling Lancelot. Nor did it sound like he was planning to. “Do you have the ladder up there?”
If Lancelot said no, that’d only delay things while Arthur found another one. So he said something else. “Why?”
The pause that ensued was long enough to worry him; he quietly rolled over and peeked down at the ground. Arthur was dressed as if he’d just come in from training with his horse, and by the look of how damp his shirt was, he’d been at it for a while. The front drooped open and the folds stuck to his skin so the outlines of scars were faintly visible. He was leaning against a stall door and his hands were kneading the edge of it. When he saw Lancelot, his fingers clamped down and his eyes went blank.
“I need to explain about last night. Will you put down the ladder?” What emotion there was on Arthur’s face seemed to be anger.
The sides of the ladder were sliding through Lancelot’s hands almost before he realized what he was doing. When its ends thumped on the ground, the small noise made him jump so hard he nearly lost his balance. He knelt by the ladder, his hands cupping the top ends, and watched Arthur climb up.
Maybe he could think about Arthur like that. But then that was a completely different set of worries. It was hard enough being Arthur’s friend without risking any more. And…he was thinking about Arthur like…
“Thank you,” was the first thing Arthur said when he reached the top. He put his hand down on the loft planking as if to pull himself over, but Lancelot was still busy with a frozen mind and didn’t move right away. By the time he noticed what Arthur was trying to do, the other man had backed off. Arthur lifted a hand and opened his mouth, then stopped. Squeezed his eyes shut, and that was when Lancelot realized whatever anger Arthur held was toward himself. There was fear in the other man’s face as well. “I…while I appreciate what you were trying to do, I cannot accept such—”
Kissing him was a stupid thing to do. But then, the past few weeks had proved Lancelot’s intelligence broke down around Arthur.
* * *
“No, and that’s final!” Now Arthur’s irritation was clearly directed at Lancelot. He barked out the words while shimmying down the ladder so fast his palms had to be burning. “You’re seventeen, you’re too young to have any idea what you’re doing—”
“I’m seventeen and I have a good idea of what you’ve been doing while you’re avoiding me. I know how to kill men, fuck women, and how to find you when you don’t want to be found,” Lancelot snapped back, hurrying down the ladder. His feet touched dirt just as Arthur was turning to stalk away. He twisted to hook his fingers around the other man’s arm, but Arthur shook him off. Undaunted, he jogged up to Arthur and kept talking. “What? It can’t be because you didn’t like it. You were going to put your tongue in my—”
Arthur spun and was staring down at Lancelot before a heartbeat had passed, so close that the smell of his sweat crowded out the—quite strong—stable scent. His sleeves had originally been pushed up above his elbows, but one had fallen down and now it slapped about when he gestured. “It is exactly because I don’t like it.”
“At least you’re not telling me it’s because I’m too young, or because it’s the Church, or Rome, or anything else that doesn’t seem to make a difference to our friendship.” Lancelot emphasized the last word by hitting Arthur’s shoulder with the back of his hand. His fingers camp away with a palpable moist warmth coating them, courtesy of Arthur’s sodden shirt.
He dropped his hand behind him and pressed it to his back, trying to ignore how it prickled and itched and wanted him to rub it. In his cheeks a similar feeling was growing in strength; he cursed it and willed himself not to flush.
The silence stretched on. Once Arthur lifted his hand, sleeve brushing against Lancelot’s shoulder, and started to speak, but his first word died in a painful croak. The anger and fear and everything else in his face slowly faded to a sadness that echoed as an ache behind Lancelot’s ribs. “I don’t say this to insult you,” Arthur finally said.
“I’m too young, so you have to protect me? I’m not twelve anymore.” Behind his back, Lancelot’s hand slowly curled to dig nails through his shirt.
“No, you’re not twelve. But you’re not thirty, either.” A touch of exasperation entered Arthur’s voice. His hand rose again and almost landed on Lancelot’s shoulder, the way it had before whenever Arthur wanted to stress a point, but at the last moment it diverted to brace itself against a post. “Would it satisfy you if I told you it was because I didn’t like it? Because you can’t kiss? Because I don’t want some boy playing at being what he isn’t in my bed?”
Every word cut to the bone and carved out a harsh gasp.
By the time Lancelot regained enough air to lift his head and speak, Arthur was gone. But he could hear Arthur’s heavy tread depressing the ground, so if he wanted to go after the other man, he could have.
* * *
What Lancelot did was go about the next few days as if everything was normal. He drank with the others, laughed at their jokes and winked at the women. Didn’t sleep with one, but he told himself it was because he really couldn’t afford it at the moment. Getting that blonde to handle two at once had wiped out much of his spare coin, to no point.
Outside it was fine. Inside…Arthur’s words stewed till their bite had leached from them into Lancelot’s gut and churned it into a seething, poisonous brew of fury and hurt and humiliation and fear.
* * *
“I told you I always know where to find you,” was Lancelot’s savage opening shot. He stalked down the alley, taking care to check all its recesses and niches before he finally stopped in front of Arthur. “Oh, did I catch you coming or going to—”
“You’re drunk.” Arthur had his hand around Lancelot’s wrist and was dragging them out of the alley before Lancelot could even turn properly. The only reason Lancelot didn’t topple over was because Arthur seized his elbow and yanked him back up.
They weren’t anywhere near there, Lancelot suddenly realized. He had known where to find Arthur, but he hadn’t exactly told himself where he was going to do that. So yes, maybe he was drunk. But that wasn’t his fault.
He clawed his way up Arthur’s arm, got his elbow around Arthur’s neck and swung his weight to the side so hard that Arthur couldn’t keep his balance. They stumbled back into another dark corner, a join of two buildings that met at an acute angle. Nice trysting spot. Lancelot had used it before, when he’d had more amiable company.
“Lancelot…” Damned Arthur was already having second thoughts, all apologetic about jerking Lancelot aside.
“I am not a bad kisser,” Lancelot snarled. That hadn’t been how he’d meant to continue. He’d had a whole speech planned out over the course of many beers, but somehow when it came time to delivering it, the first half simply dropped out of his head.
What remained stiffened Arthur and brought his temper flaring into view. “It’s not about your damned pride, Lancelot.”
“Then what is it about?” When an answer wasn’t immediately forthcoming, Lancelot stepped forward and pushed for it. He let himself dangle from the arm he had around Arthur’s neck and craned his head, looking up through his lashes in a deliberate parody. “What?”
Arthur’s fingers spasmed tight on Lancelot’s arm.
And then Lancelot’s hips and shoulderblades hit the wall, impact shaking down to his feet that were kicking air because Arthur was that strong and was angry enough to take advantage of it. He gasped and Arthur didn’t let him close his mouth, didn’t let him breath because every time a little bit of air forced its way out, a flick of tongue curled it away or a rasp of teeth and nothing was allowed in its place. The alcohol seared away, leaving too much awareness. Hand beneath his thigh, five hot streaks lashing his muscles so he squirmed higher on the wall. Nails raking his scalp when he moved one way, yanking his hair till white spots appeared in his vision. No air. Nothing but—
--nothing, and plenty of air. Lancelot shoved his spine into the join of the buildings and jabbed his elbows at the sides, levering himself upright only by the barest thread. He felt as if he’d been dragged into another life. “Oh.”
“Oh,” Arthur echoed, snarling and choking. He turned on his heel and left, shoulders sloping lower farther with every step.
* * *
The door to Arthur’s rooms was locked, but he’d forgotten about the windows. When Lancelot hauled himself over the sill, Arthur was sitting on the floor with two thick books on one side of him, four more on the other and one in his lap, from which he lifted bloodshot eyes. Gladness, frustration and resignation flicked across his face in quick succession. He didn’t say a word.
“I’m not drunk now.” Lancelot shut and locked the shutters. Then he slowly crouched down and went onto his hands and knees. He made his way over to Arthur, but was careful to stop well short of the other man so as to not provoke him into anything.
Arthur sighed and closed his book.
“I’m not in the dark about everything, and I’ve had a little time to get used to it.” Another two inches forward, all the while watching Arthur’s face. Since Lancelot didn’t see any reaction, he decided he could risk shuffling up a further handspan. Now he was close enough to lay a hand on Arthur’s knee, if he wanted to.
He wanted to, so he did. The joint jerked, but otherwise Arthur held his stillness.
“You could say something. You’re making me nervous.” Lancelot drew up the rest of himself and, after a moment, slid his hand up Arthur’s leg.
He was promptly stopped by Arthur’s hand pinning his in place. “I am not a woman, neither are you, and this isn’t as simple as trying it without the girl.”
“I know that. You don’t think I know how complicated this is? I don’t even know how we’d…what we’d…” So much for not blushing. By anyone’s measure, Lancelot wasn’t an innocent, but it wasn’t like he’d ever gone looking to see the difference between men’s stories about men and the truth. Nearly everything he’d been told about having a woman had turned out to be false, so—never mind. First get Arthur to stop staring at him like that, and then worry about the rest. “The point is—I wasn’t intending to try this. Not with you.”
Arthur held his gaze for a long time. Then the other man looked down at Lancelot’s hand. Scooped his own under it and picked it up, rolling the ball of his thumb over the hollow of the palm. That little gesture was surprisingly soothing; Lancelot exhaled and let his shoulders loosen, drop.
Then he was on his back again.
* * *
His shoulders were going to be sore in the morning, and probably his hips as well, considering how he couldn’t seem to find a sensible rhythm for their jerking. Every time they started to settle into one, Arthur would do something to Lancelot’s neck that made his whole body shake and so he lost track of what he was supposed to be doing. He hadn’t even known what that was in the first place.
Hands sliding up and down the inside of his thighs. Constant smooth pressure, forcing out the wild shudders that frequently seized hold of them and refusing to go any higher, no matter how Lancelot tried to twist himself into them. His tongue seemed permanently glued to the roof of his mouth and so nearly the only sound he could make was an embarrassing whine. “Oh…shit…lower…oh…no, damn it aaaaa-Arthur, wait—what…?”
“Would’ve thought you’d developed some patience by now.” Arthur leaned back to pull his shirt over his head. When Lancelot belatedly reached for his own, Arthur bumped Lancelot’s hands out of the way with his head and—and licked off the shirt.
No, not really. Just felt like it—he was nuzzling his way up the center of Lancelot’s stomach and then chest, rumpling the fabric off with his nose and applying the flat of his tongue to every single sensitive spot that was exposed. “Stop…insulting me.”
Mouth on his nipple, and hands back on his thighs. Lancelot had been about to sit up, but his head smacked back on the floor before Arthur had even done more than suck. It was ridiculous. Not nearly as clever or professional as a few of the whores…yet in a few moments it had destroyed more of Lancelot’s ability to move than any of them had after multiple tries.
He eventually managed to claw his hands off the floor and strip his shirt off. But his arms were limp and disobedient, so it took him far too long. And suddenly Arthur disappeared, which made him frantic and frantic meant he botched it and—
“—calm down. Do I have to repeat everything I said the first time you visited a whore?” Laughing. Arthur was laughing. He was also untangling Lancelot from his shirt, but that didn’t mitigate the sheer audacity of the man.
As soon as he was free, Lancelot pressed himself up against Arthur and rubbed his leg against the other man’s prick, which certainly enjoyed that. He wasn’t exactly sure what to do after that, but the hitch in Arthur’s breath told him he might not have to do anything more. “I’m beginning to think you don’t want this all that—”
No air. But breathing and tasting Arthur was a far more intoxicating experience.
“Your pride,” Arthur softly snorted. He was cupping Lancelot’s face and his thumbs stroked from Lancelot’s mouth to the underside of his jaw and then back again. The tip of one slid a little between Lancelot’s lips and he tentatively tried sucking it in to nibble around the nail, the way it’d been done once to him by a red-haired girl from north Britain.
It seemed like Arthur liked it just as much as Lancelot had. But when Lancelot went to repeat it, Arthur withdrew his hands. Passed them over Lancelot’s shoulders and down his back where Lancelot had expected them to stop, but instead they kept moving to shape his buttocks and tease between his legs. He squirmed and dug his fingers into Arthur’s arms. “Did you fuck Aulus?”
Arthur flinched, but only a little. By now he should’ve been able to guess that Lancelot knew. “You were a colt, you know. Nothing but knees and legs and temper. Then one day I turn around, and not only is there a stallion, but he’s already sniffing at the mares’ tails.”
“You did.” Lancelot let go of Arthur’s arms and curled fingers around Arthur’s neck. “I’m not putting up with any Roman except you.” He hesitated, thinking about the last girl he’d had, and then made up his mind. “And the mares’ tails can go to Galahad as long as we never use that metaphor again. And you start doing something…”
As they went down, Arthur’s chuckle tickled Lancelot’s throat. Then it was Arthur’s lips, carefully tracing the veins and tendons. “I’m appreciating something I didn’t think I’d have,” he murmured.
It stung. Light as Arthur’s tone was, his words still stung and so Lancelot’s hands were goaded into stroking Arthur’s hair, petting down his sides and running quietly along the scars.
In a little while, Arthur lifted his head. He sounded rather more breathless than before. “So what ‘something’ did you have in mind?”
“You’re mocking me.” Annoyed, Lancelot stopped tugging off Arthur’s trousers and glared.
“I’m not. I’m not going to force this.” And Arthur really meant it. He glanced at the…the oil-bottle—which was why he’d disappeared for those few seconds—then back at Lancelot, clear-eyed and patient and deferential.
It would figure that the one time Arthur was prepared to follow Lancelot’s opinion without debate, Lancelot didn’t know what—no, he knew what to say. However, he didn’t know how to say it. At least, not how to say it in a way that he was certain wouldn’t show how embarrassingly uninformed and nervous he was. The crude words of the tavern tales somehow didn’t seem right, either.
This time, he didn’t bother fighting the new heat in his face. He slowly turned over on his elbows and knees, then looked over his shoulder at Arthur. Hopefully, Arthur got—
--Arthur got the point. And just the look in his eyes made Lancelot shiver.
* * *
Lancelot had no idea what Arthur was doing back there. Actually, he had no idea at all, other than melting. His knees were melting and still solid enough to skid wildly on the floor with every jerk he made, his face wanted to merge with the stone, and the only sound he could make was gurgling.
Lips trailed up to the small of his back. “Stay relaxed.”
And then there was something jabbing inside of him, and while it didn’t precisely hurt, the odd pressure was enough to make all of Lancelot’s muscles snap from liquid to tense wire. He hissed.
Arthur went still. Then he bent down and…and…that was his tongue wriggling around his knuckle, which was attached to the finger that was slowly twisting a sliver of pleasure out of Lancelot. Still the uncomfortable pressure, but the rest of it was…was distracting. Melting. Slipping around while Lancelot’s head went down on his arms and his mouth locked in a series of long, harsh pants.
More fingers, he faintly registered. Then: “Fuck!”
His knees sprawled and he went down so Arthur slid nearly all the way out of him. Lancelot caught himself with an inch between his stomach and the ground, which actually wasn’t so bad because that way his prick was rubbed and squeezed without him having to pry his hand from by his head to do it. Then Arthur pushed back in.
“Not quite yet.” How Arthur could still make distinctions was beyond Lancelot.
The world had shrunk. It expanded somewhat when Arthur’s hips moved away, but when they snugged up against Lancelot, everything collapsed to dancing black pinpoints. Groaning seemed to be a good idea, a temporary way to release the pressure that was still there. Though now it’d somehow turned into something good and to be clutched at; it was building up and as it did it only felt better, so Lancelot found himself rolling his hips back, rushing to follow whenever Arthur withdrew. That was for shorter and shorter times, till they all seemed to blend together in one continuous undulating press, but the slightest space was painful. Couldn’t be borne. So Lancelot didn’t.
He arched and a hand scrabbled beneath him, plastered itself against his belly. A few moments and a long haze later, it’d found its way to his prick and then he really thought the world had let them be. Maybe for that one blinding moment it had.
* * *
“You have a very, very nice bed. Didn’t realize—maybe I would’ve shown up earlier if I’d realized what kind of stock you officers get.” Lancelot was grinning, but inside he was holding his breath.
Thankfully, Arthur took it as the joke it was supposed to be and only smiled against Lancelot’s stomach.
He’d better be smiling. Considering how long after Lancelot it’d taken him to come, Lancelot obviously had work to do. And with all the work he’d put into improving his endurance with women…it was almost depressing that none of it had carried over. But then again, it was reassuring in a way; it meant that Lancelot hadn’t been lying when he’d said he knew this was different.
Though he had no idea if it was the same for Arthur. For all he knew, Arthur might have ended up with a boy playing around on his floor after all.
As if sensing the change in mood, Arthur pushed himself up to nip at Lancelot’s mouth. “If you were just showing up for the bed, I would’ve thrown you out. You’re the only other person besides me that’s been on it.”
Lancelot couldn’t say anything for a moment, but could only press his lips to Arthur’s.
Of course, that changed the mood right back. He slung himself against Arthur and grinned, but less mockingly and more…inviting. “Not that I’ve properly been introduced to it…”