Author: Guede Mazaka
Whenever Guinevere surprised Arthur at his work-desk, Lancelot was only a few steps behind with some urgent matter that needed immediate attention. Whenever Lancelot was having Arthur check on the recovery of his wounds, Guinevere showed up with a sweet smile and Merlin as a vaguely ornery but effective doctor. And whenever they were both in the same room, it didn't take long for the sarcasm and not-so-veiled insults to start flying. Apparently, Guinevere enjoyed the same reputation for a sharp tongue among her people as Lancelot did among the knights.
It was a perpetual wonder to Arthur that he simply didn't go mad. As a military commander, he could've exercised disciplinary measures that would have seen the swift end to the altercations. As king and friend and soon-to-be husband, he had to be diplomatic and patient and smiling nicely until his jaw ached well into the night.
And that was outside the council chamber.
"Well, I'm sure that a bold knight such as yourself has no problem with persuading others. After all, those swords you carry are very formidable," Guinevere purred, a dangerous spark in her eyes.
"You should know; you received a firsthand look when I kept that Saxon from splitting open that pretty skull of yours." No less belligerent, Lancelot laid a hand on Arthur's shoulder and turned to offer a brilliantly wheedling smile. "In fact, I believe that I could easily beat you. Isn't that right, Arthur?"
As her eyebrows shot up to her hairline, Guinevere's lips took on a hard twist. "Really? Arthur, what's your opinion on this…claim?"
"My opinion is that I'm leaving, and you two can settle it yourselves, for all that I care," Arthur snapped, temper finally stretched beyond its limits. He shook off Lancelot, cold-shouldered Guinevere's hasty exclamation, and betook himself to somewhere that didn't have two catty opponents constantly trying to lever him against each other.
Gawain blinked, not used to seeing a red-faced, slightly panting Arthur appear on his doorstep. "Problems? Should I get my armor?"
"No. I don't want them dead." Arthur was clearly furious, but still waited for Gawain to wave him in before entering. "I would, however, like for them to shut. Up. Of all the…we were discussing a lamed horse!"
Oh. Lancelot and Guinevere. Though there probably wasn't enough, Gawain still got out what ale he had and passed some to Arthur. His friend, now king, drank with uncharacteristic sloppiness in his haste.
"Well…" Gawain began, not quite sure how he should handle this. Battles were easy. Quarrels, on the other hand, were tangled and tricky, and he did his level best to keep himself out of them.
"What is wrong with them? They fought together on the battlefield-in fact, whenever there's a common enemy, they make the best partners I've ever had-but the moment peace appears, they act as if it's their duty to wreck it." On the last word, Arthur banged his mug on the table, sloshing the ale over his hand. He stared at it as if only just realizing what he was doing. "Damn it. I'm sorry, Gawain. You don't deserve this."
Shrugging, Gawain flipped a seat around and sat in. "Maybe not, but it's funny." He snorted at the annoyed look Arthur threw him. "It is. Wait a few minutes and you'll think so, too."
"Perhaps, but I have to go back to it." The familiar brooding expression settled on Arthur's face, which worried Gawain. That particular look hadn't made its appearance since the battle of Badon Hill. "I can't see why…"
As a stalling tactic, coughing didn't work very well. It only drew Arthur's suspicions to Gawain, who was having trouble deciding whether or not he wanted to involve himself this much in others' arguments.
Then again, they were his brothers-in-arms. And Guinevere wasn't bad, either; she did seem to make Arthur happy.
Gawain cleared his throat again. "Arthur…about Lancelot…he's…well…how does your Christian doctrine feel about…"
"I prefer not to follow doctrine now. True faith, I've come to find, is something that varies from person to person and life to life, so what holds for one person can hardly hold for another." Arthur looked at his ale as if all his arguments rested in it. If he'd been Bors, that probably would've been right. "Besides, God wouldn't have given men the right to make their own decisions if He hadn't wanted them to."
"Oh." That was somewhat encouraging, Gawain thought. "So…Lancelot has a reason for acting about Guinevere as he does. He…well, with you he…"
A pair of sharp eyes drilled into Gawain, obliterating all the words. Then Arthur closed his eyes and leaned back in his chair, suddenly looking very tired. "I know. He's been flirting for ages."
"You what?" The surprise took Gawain half out of his seat, and it was only with great difficulty that he kept himself from completely overturning the table. He did let himself grab Arthur's arm. "But-why didn't you-"
"Because he wasn't free. He had his fifteen years to serve, and during those no choice of his could be completely his own." Arthur spoke with a conviction that rang of long knowledge and even longer thought on the subject. When Gawain looked closer, he also noticed a rather large dollop of regret and faint frustration in his friend's face. "I wasn't about to…without absolutely knowing that it wasn't because of some reason besides his own will."
Wind completely taken out of him, Gawain plopped back in his chair. He desperately wished Dagonet had been still around, or one of the knights that'd been more conversant in the ways of Arthur's mind. Of course, there was Lancelot-"And now?"
"And now he's too busy fighting with Guinevere," Arthur growled, dropping his gaze again. "I can't do without either of them, but-Gawain, if they even see each other around me, the hackles start rising. It's infuriating."
Nothing that Gawain could say to that. He silently picked up the pitcher and poured Arthur another mug of sympathy.
"That was harsh." Guinevere had sullenly crossed her arms across her chest when Arthur had left, but her expression was more concerned than surly. She glared at Lancelot. "I think you truly upset him this time."
"I. Upset. Him." Lancelot forced his fists to unclench and counted to ten before he spoke again. "It wasn't only me doing the talking, my queen."
This time, the heat in her eyes could've lit a woodpile from a mile away. "Considering how you seem to resent my continued existence, I find it hard to understand why you bothered helping me in the first place, my knight."
The insult was on the tip of his tongue when the realization caught up with Lancelot. Disconsolate dismay instantly replaced irritation, and he heavily dropped into the nearest chair.
Arthur had run away. From both of them. Arthur never ran away from anything.
"Lancelot?" Sounding puzzled, Guinevere took a step nearer.
Without looking up, he answered her implied question. "Because you didn't deserve to die there. Because we were allies."
"By Arthur's choice," she noted. Her dress rustled against the edge of the table, not fooling Lancelot for an instant into thinking her as delicate.
"His choice is mine; you should know that by now." He propped his chin on his hands, trying to formulate a quick way to get back into Arthur's good graces. "You've spent enough time around him."
A couple fingers lightly touched his shoulder, then flickered away. "I do. He honors you above all the others." A kind of twisted, ironical respect tinged Guinevere's next words. "Though you are temperamental, difficult, and easily roused to envy."
"And you are the only woman I've ever seen him show steady affection for," Lancelot grudgingly acknowledged. He briefly grinned up at her, savoring his coming statement. "Though you are arrogant, somewhat immature in certain areas, and prone to slop yourself in unappealing blue dye."
"Bitch." But her tone held none of the rancor from before.
Lancelot favored her with a half-hearted glower. "And you're one of the most annoying bastards I've met, lovely bosom notwithstanding. But that still doesn't bring Arthur back here."
Guinevere made an elegant shrug, her flowing sleeves whispering over Lancelot's knees. She had come closer still, and he found himself leaning toward her as if an invisible winch was drawing them together. "He has to return. He left his sword behind."
Something about that-possibly the sheer simplicity of its truth-struck Lancelot as uproariously funny. He laughed. Gave in to a sudden impulse and pulled her onto his lap as both of them smiled a tentative truce. "I'm probably the only man that could do this and not end up with Excalibur buried in my heart."
"You could probably do something else, too," she muttered, fingers twining into his clothes. "Damned man…sometimes I don't know whether I want to kill you or kiss you."
"Arthur said that to me once." It'd been spoken in jest, but by the sudden gleam in Guinevere's eyes, she didn't take it that way. A little wary, Lancelot leaned away. "You actually think he'd-Guinevere. He's a Roman."
Her one hand slipped down his collar while her other skated over it to land between his legs. "No, he's a Briton. And I think he might be so relieved that we've stopped fighting-"
Lancelot stopped her mouth with his own, stayed there long enough to taste the apples on her breath, and then drew away. He gave her a bland expression. "Well, I think I could just about tolerate it."
"Tolerate--" Hissing, she threw her weight to the side and knocked them to the floor.
Arthur had a little trouble opening the door, which he hoped wasn't due to the blockage of any corpses.
Teeth fixed to Lancelot's shoulder, Guinevere let out a muffled snarl and jerked several times, then fell back to the floor. Above her, Lancelot continued moving for a few more seconds. It wasn't until he had also come and collapsed that they were in a position to notice Arthur.
Guinevere's eyes instantly bloomed with fear, while Lancelot awkwardly rolled off and stuttered something that vaguely resembled an apology.
For his part, Arthur was quietly asking God why he couldn't have one day of perfect peace. He'd never been prone to headaches, but lately, the possibility of that changing seemed very likely.
"Arthur?" Guinevere slowly reached out and touched his knee.
The ceiling could use a few repairs, he noted. Some of the cracks were large enough to allow rain to seep through, and of course that was a constant threat in Britain.
"We're…well, we didn't kill each other," Lancelot offered.
"Thank Heaven for small mercies," Arthur drawled, more fatigue in his voice than angry heat. In all honesty, he was simply hoping that life would settle down into some kind of normality and give him a chance at rest. "Sorry for the interruption."
He turned around to leave, but something collided with his ankle and sent him toppling forward. Fortunately, he managed to get his palms out in time to break his fall, but the impact of the stone still jarred his bones from fingers to shoulders.
"Sorry for the interruption?" Guinevere repeated, incredulous. She grabbed handfuls of Arthur's clothing and used it to haul him back, all the while hissing exasperation at him. "Sorry for the interruption? And you were just going to give me up like that?"
Lancelot was laughing behind them. Rolling his eyes, Arthur twisted around and seized her by the wrists, trying to hold her still. She refused to cooperate, however, and instead they ended up rolling around as she did her best to wriggle away and he did his best to keep her in one place, away from her weapons.
"I'm beginning to doubt the strength of your feelings," Guinevere whispered, tongue flicking lightly at Arthur's ear with every word. Her hands slowly stopped pushing at him and started to pull at his clothing, while his fingers somehow found themselves snaking under the bunched-up skirts of her dress. Ripping sounds filled the air.
"Damned stuff never lasts." Confronted with yet another problem, Arthur felt his natural unflappability finally give way. He distracted Guinevere with a hand delicately playing over her quim, then stripped her while she was taken with shivery moans. "I think I almost prefer your Woad clothing."
More laughter. Lancelot swept away the flimsy dress from where Arthur had thrown it. "There's certainly less of it."
"You both-" Guinevere smacked Arthur in the chest, then turned quicksilver-like to grab Lancelot's ankle. One fierce tug sent the other man onto his back, and as Guinevere had done with Arthur, she reeled Lancelot in hand-over-hand.
"Hey-" And smooth bare chest bumped against Arthur's arm. Lancelot didn't look quite so amused when Arthur casually leaned over and rested his arms on the other man. "Arthur…look, what happened…"
What happened was actually the best possible result, and now that Arthur had absorbed its impact, he had to admit that he was quite happy about it. But that didn't mean that he'd forgotten about all the grief caused along the way. Completely irritating pair of them. Dealing with them was like being seventeen all over again.
Which wasn't such a bad thing, he supposed. "I wasn't gone that long."
Beside him, Guinevere stiffened a little. "Ah…"
"And you two made up fairly quickly, compared to how much aggravation you've put me through. If I'd known that that was all it would take, I would've locked you both in a stall weeks ago." Arthur tried to keep a straight face, but the corners of his mouth insisted on twitching upward.
A contemptuous snort signaled Guinevere's recovery, and she once again pressed close to Arthur, her breasts soft and warm against his ribs. "I would've killed-well, someone--if you'd done that."
"I can't believe you didn't say anything," complained Lancelot, whose hands were drifting up Arthur's arms and wandering into his loosened clothes. "I've been trying to get you to look for ages."
"He wasn't going to do it when you had to obey him." Guinevere met Arthur's surprised look with an arched eyebrow, as if saying that he wasn't the only observant one around. She dropped a kiss on his jaw, then moved up to suddenly knot Lancelot's wrists together with a belt. When Lancelot exclaimed a protest and tried to rise, Arthur pushed him back down and watched Guinevere kiss his friend-and a little something else now-into complacency. It was nice to know that Arthur wasn't the only one with that kind of weak spot for her.
And…the blood warmed fast in his cheeks as she lifted a little, letting him see the wet twine of tongues, the nipping of lips. Smirking, Guinevere sat on Lancelot's wrists, stretching him out. She coyly tilted her head, eyes lighted with mischief as she looked at Arthur. "Want him?"
"Now I'm beginning to think you're the one with failing affections," Arthur muttered. He quickly took care of his clothes and threw the balled-up wad at the door, which was creaking open a little.
"Your Majesties?" came a puzzled, tentative voice from the other side.
Guinevere pursed her lips, annoyed. "We're fine. Please close the door and keep anyone from disturbing us for the next…two hours."
"Two hours?" Lancelot craned up his head, thus putting him in the perfect position for Arthur.
When they were done with that first exploration, Arthur moved back to catch his breath. "If she says two hours, then two hours. Don't start arguing again."
"Keep doing that and I won't," Lancelot gasped, eyelids just fluttering open. His voice had gone rough and thick, betraying an old longing that made Arthur look at him much more closely. But Lancelot wouldn't meet his eyes for more than a second, shying away even when Arthur cupped those high cheekbones in his hands and ran soothing fingers down their flush.
"You grew up together…" Guinevere murmured, recalling something Arthur had mentioned once.
A chuckle bubbled past the knot in Arthur's throat. "Most irritating bastard ever, even when he was nothing but bony knees and snotty attitude."
For a moment, sarcasm peeked from the tip of Lancelot's tongue, but in the end, he turned his head and began kissing at the inside of Arthur's wrist. Almost tickling, setting the skin there to sparking. Arthur bent down again and buried his face in Lancelot's neck, scenting musk and dirt and sweat. He kept going, taking deep whiffs and dropping the occasional kiss until he reached the newest scar, only just healed. Still pink, uneven beneath his tongue, which bathed the spot until Lancelot's knees began restlessly shoving at Arthur's sides.
Another head bumped against Arthur's, and he glanced up to see Guinevere paying great attention to Lancelot's nipple. Seemed like a decent idea, given the muffled groanings that resulted, so he shifted over and kissed her around it. Nicked Lancelot with a canine, but that didn't seem to have any negative effect on his ardor. Rather the opposite, actually.
"There's oil in the lamp," Guinevere whispered, teeth tugging at Arthur's earlobe.
"I wish you two would stop plotting and start doing something." Lancelot's legs abruptly fell apart, then closed on Arthur's waist. Forced him down so his erection became less a thing in-progress than an urgent matter that needed immediate address. "This is not a comfortable position."
Arthur gave him a reproving bite across one rib, dragging teeth till Lancelot bucked. "Notice that he never shuts up."
"If I shut up, then you'd never get out of your own head. You think-" up-jerk, then slide of flesh on flesh "-entirely too much."
"Oil." Guinevere grabbed Arthur's hand and thoroughly coated it in said substance. Then she assumed a haughty air as she regarded the suddenly-wary Lancelot. "Why do I have the feeling that he wasn't given nearly as many whippings as he should have when he was a boy?"
As he was somewhat busy prying himself away from Lancelot, Arthur didn't answer till he'd worked his hand around the base of the other man's cock. Gave it a few good pulls while he was there, just to watch Lancelot gasp, before moving his fingers southward. "Probably because he didn't. Clever, you know-just enough on this side of obedience that discipline wasn't quite merited."
For his part, Lancelot hissed and whined and whipped himself down on Arthur's fingers, shocking both of them. His head fell back into Guinevere's lap, sweat streaming from his blushing fine skin to her beautiful thighs. Arthur had to bit down on his lip in order to keep himself from taking Lancelot right then. Not yet-he wasn't about to have hurt as part of this first time. Though damn the length of time needed for preparations, and damn the way time decided to crawl along.
Guinevere suddenly startled, then glared down. Her hips were shifting, and her breath sped up. "That wasn't funny."
Lancelot grinned and did something with his hands, which were still under her. "No?"
"Be respectful to the queen," Arthur admonished, smiling. He finally judged things ready and lifted Lancelot's legs, then plunged in.
Tight. First thing his mind registered after it stopped hiccupping. Then heat, and slickrough, and God.
"We need to work on that Christian tendency he has," Guinevere said, her voice distantly sardonic.
Ignoring her, ignoring his own inadvertent exclamations, Arthur concentrated on not losing his grip and not losing his sense of rhythm and very definitely losing himself in all of that glorious clenching bliss. Somewhere beyond him, Lancelot was babbling in a fragmented quilt of languages, keening voice drawing Arthur down until he suddenly collided with the whole fierce burning twisting reality. Air slammed in and out of his chest, driving his hips and hands and back, and skin raked over his own. His mouth dove down, found another, and stayed there through the mounting recklessness, through the sharp fall, and even until the world caught up to them.
His head fell to one side of Lancelot's, allowing ragged pants to pass the other man's lips. "My…king," Lancelot mumbled, only a little sarcastic.
"Maybe you should try that again. You almost wore him into silence." Guinevere's voice was edged with an impatient lust that made Arthur flinch.
Tired as he was, he carefully climbed off Lancelot and took her by the waist, pulling her against his chest. "You're both determined to wear me into an early grave, I see," he said as he kissed her neck, as his fingers slowly crept downwards to satisfy her.
"You'll get used to it." Lancelot slowly sat up, moving almost drunkenly, and used his teeth to untie himself. Then he crawled over and spooned behind Guinevere, his fingers tangling with Arthur's between her legs. Once she was crying out, soft and birdlike, into Arthur's shoulder, he leaned forward and rested his cheek against Arthur's for a moment. "Thank you."
"Stop arguing so much. That's all I ask." Arthur turned his face to prolong the contact as the other man drew back.
Between them, Guinevere lifted her head to show that while exhausted, she certainly wasn't beaten. "But I like this way of making up."