Author: Guede Mazaka
The battle had been too short.
An odd thought for Arthur to have, but nevertheless he was having it in between his struggles with his temper. The blood was thick, drying, and it clung in itchy splashes to his skin. He wanted to scrape off everything to the muscle, and then cut out all the jumping nerves as well. His sword was less an extension of himself than a tempting invitation to wreck havoc, and it almost seemed to twist in his hand, seeking the nearest source of breath.
He forced himself to sheath his blade and slowly, calmly mount. The only living left were his own knights, and by the grace of God, he hadn't lost any today. It was a better thought upon which he could concentrate, but his eyes kept straying to the sword hilt and his mind seemed determined to fixate on the way the blood ooze-flaked from between his fingers. "Serious injuries?" he called, voice sounding like it'd been smoked for hours.
"No," Bors grunted, still swinging from side-to-side as if he were facing a dozen well-armed men. His eyes were narrowed to inflamed slits. "No. Bastards fell like wheat. No fight in them at all. No fight."
"Guess we must be getting to the dregs," Lancelot laughed, lips back in a wolf-smile. He swung up into his saddle with a razor-quick movement and drummed his fingers on the reins, almost dancing where he sat. "Bad news, Arthur. We're running out of Woads. Maybe they'll send us back home?"
His eyes sliced to Arthur, who felt an instant replying flash of hot annoyance. The man was always daring and brave, but with that came an irritating tendency to skate too close to the edge of Arthur's patience. Which was perilously thin at this moment. "Mount up. And try not to frighten too many women when we get back."
"He doesn't agree." Tristan, the only serene one of them, quietly clucked his horse forward to the road. As he passed Lancelot, the other man let out a sudden bark of laughter, which nearly startled Tristan's horse into leaping sideways. The exchange of looks the two of them had could have heated iron for forging.
Cursing his sluggish responses, Arthur spurred forward and slotted himself between Lancelot and the rest, who would settle down given a little time to ease and drink. His best knight, however, was often prone to after-battle explosions that were capable of putting just as many men in the sick wards as the actual fighting did.
"Sorry, am I offending?" Lancelot's face was innocent enough, but the dark fire in his eyes told a different story. So did the way he leaned over, letting Arthur steep in the double-thick scent of blood and sweat and lust for violence.
"After we've seen to the horses, stay behind for a word," Arthur curtly replied, striving to keep his mood from showing. The last time he'd seen Lancelot like this, he'd managed to divert his friend with a furious debate on the value of Christianity, ending in a drinking bout and a rather cheeky redhead who hadn't been averse to sharing. The time before that, Lancelot and Bors had come very close to killing each other. They hadn't meant to, they'd said, but Arthur wasn't about to see a repeat if he could help it.
Yet another chuckle, dangerously laced with the kind of fighting madness that both helped and hindered the knights. "As you wish, sir."
Words didn't seem to reach Lancelot-at least, not any part that was peaceful. As they worked together to cool and stable their chargers, he was constantly turning Arthur's overtures into aggressive baiting. It was rapidly demolishing what was left of Arthur's temper.
"But I've seen it done. It is possible, and you can't deny that." Arthur started through gritted teeth. He yanked at his armor and set it aside, then stripped to the waist, hoping to lose some of the heat that alternately baked and melted his insides. His sword he kept for the moment, as he needed to clean it before the foulnesses on it dried and hardened.
"Oh, I never did. I just deny its possibility here. All men aren't the same, even if they might be born equal." Lancelot seemed nothing but taunting grin now. He rasped and jeered even as his motions slowed with fatigue, even as his hands scraped away the dirt and stains to expose pale skin. The sun wasn't strong here. Not nearly strong enough to burn clean everything that happened under it. "Arthur, Arthur, Arthur. When will you learn? People are people, not ideas."
Before he could help himself, a growl of aggravation escaped Arthur. He looked down and found his hand white-knuckled around his sword hilt. The realization of what that meant horrified Arthur just enough for him to regain his hold on himself. Barely. Once loosed, it was impossible to completely dispel the urge to strike out. He needed to do something before it grew beyond his grasp. He needed to have had a better opponent.
When he glanced up again, Lancelot had both swords in hand, points idly downward, and was eying the space around them. "Not much room."
"Should keep us from doing too much damage." A tiny part of Arthur's mind pointed out that this was foolhardy and undignified and definitely harmful without just cause. A larger part responded that at the moment, that was exactly what he would like.
He and Lancelot met each other's eyes, and that was all they needed. The next move either of them made was to lash out with their swords.
When their blades met for the first time, crash trembling through Arthur's body, it felt as if he were shaking off a great weight.
Lancelot was disarmed, on his knees and wheezing with exhaustion, yet when Arthur matched gazes with those burning eyes, he somehow felt as if he were the one who'd lost. He licked his lips, but only managed to dry out his voice to a harsh pant. "Enough sparring?"
"I think so." But Lancelot didn't get up. In fact, he seemed to crouch further to the ground, head up and back a long sinuous curve behind it. The sharpness of his smile almost qualified as a third sword. "Not much for the gloating part of victory, are you? No exploitation of the upper hand? I thought a good strategist always followed up his advance."
Arthur blinked, and in the second of that blink, Lancelot pressed his cheek to the side of Arthur's blade. So slowly time audibly dragged its claws, the grin slid up toward Arthur. "Lancelot..."
"You've won." Hands came forward to support the crawl, landing on Arthur's boots. The fingers played round the heavy leather, molding it to Arthur's ankles. "I concede."
However, Arthur had a feeling that the fight had just begun. He tried to breathe and discovered that he hadn't been for several seconds, he tried to step away and found Lancelot's face pressed to his sword-hand. Something hot and wet dripped into the gap between gauntlet and sleeve; Lancelot was bleeding, thin cut etching out one cheekbone.
For the first time since he was a boy, Arthur dropped his father's sword. Its clatter broke the haze that bathed his vision, and he dove for the sword, hastily yanking it away from Lancelot's leg. "Have you lost your mind?" he hissed, grabbing the other man by the shoulder.
Shaking Lancelot did nothing to rid his face of that exasperating, enigmatic smile.
Letting go did. Barely a heartbeat after Arthur released him, Lancelot lunged forward and seized Arthur's arms. He overbalanced, sending his knee into Arthur's side. Perhaps it was purposeful, perhaps not, but either way it was the last spark. Arthur's patience had no more quenching balm to pour onto his rising frustration.
When next he came to himself, weapons and armor were flung carelessly about the room, making it a wonder that they hadn't accidentally stabbed themselves as they wrestled. Arthur's trousers were sticking to him, clinging heavy like a coat of lead, and in his hands two wrists were being ground to pieces.
Lancelot wasn't smiling anymore. His eyes flashed as fiercely as the lash of his tongue bit. "And what would you have me do? Go out, find a maid, and half-rip her to shreds in my mood? I'm not fit for gentleness right now."
"We're men. Not animals, damn you." Sweat dripped into Arthur's eyes, momentarily blinding him with pain. He kissed Lancelot through it, probing past the hurt and the twisting aches until the slow searing inside started to cauterize the open wounds.
Drawing back, he glimpsed a flicker of wonder in the middle of Lancelot's rage. But then the man turned slyly provocative again, jerking in Arthur's grip. Bucking and almost knocking Arthur off of him. "Now-Arthur, now--we're closer to them than to your philosophers. Did your wise men ever pick up a sword and not put it down till the blood was an inch thick on it?"
"God damn you. God damn this." And the sudden welling of fury inside Arthur refused to be controlled any longer. His sight blurred, reddened, and his mouth found Lancelot's again, ravaging it until the other man was struggling in an entirely different way. "Damn-hold still."
"Make me." Smirk again, jagged curve of white. It begged to be smudged out of existence.
They still had their belts. Arthur shifted his hold on Lancelot to one hand and with the other whipped his from his waist to Lancelot's wrists. He needn't have bothered; Lancelot wasn't resisting. Much. When Arthur leaned over again, he received a sharp bite to his lower lip.
"They're going to be asking about that." A wicked tongue snaked sin into Arthur's ear. "Did you even close the door?"
"Do you or don't you want me to stay?" Arthur hissed back. It wasn't a point for discussion-he could no more remove his hands from the ferocious sullen marvel currently in them than his heart could stop beating.
He was still strangely gratified to see a hint of fear in Lancelot's eyes. Sometimes his friend didn't seem human: standing with heaving chest and glazed smile over a victorious battlefield, Lancelot resembled more a visitation from the old gods of war. Whom he probably preferred to Rome's Christian God.
Arms slung around Arthur's neck and a belt-buckle scratched his back. Lancelot scrabbled up, shoving them together so their bodies met from groin to shoulder, and then he snickered. Rubbed himself against Arthur, shameless and hard and Arthur suddenly ran out of swear words. He tried to catch Lancelot, to still the man, but it wouldn't happen. In the end, Arthur slammed Lancelot up against the nearest vertical surface and pinned Lancelot's hips. Groan in his face, into his mouth, and slight nibbling at his torn lip. "Better, isn't it?" Lancelot murmured.
"Trousers." Arthur's voice was thick as half-frozen honey, but it tasted like soured wine. His head spun into Lancelot's neck, where he couldn't seem to get enough of the feel of skin against tongue. Marks. Red marks where his teeth had been, and more coming into being every moment. Something was not quite right about that, but it was unexpectedly fine skin, and then the surprise of a scar nubbing past his mouth, and the writhe-twist-grind of someone who knew exactly where to fit what.
"Yours are falling. Haven't you been eating?" The genuine note of concern in Lancelot's voice fluttered disturbances through Arthur, but at the moment, he was going too fast to stop for it.
A second to brace Lancelot between him and the wall, another to shove Lancelot's trousers down to his knees, and then Arthur was chewing and licking his way down gasping handfuls of flushed, hot flesh. "I'm working on it."
"Did you just make a joke?" Lancelot's disbelieving words had more than a little tinge of reflex to them; it would figure that his mouth could function even without his mind's active engagement.
"For once, would you shut up?" And with that, Arthur wedged his head between Lancelot's legs and swirled his tongue as far back as it would reach. The body above him shivered and cried out, soft but high like Tristan's hawk, and hands raked at his hair. Failed to find a grip because it was too short. Arthur traced the shape of his grin onto Lancelot with his tongue-tip.
Garbled noises answered him, pleading and desperate, and Arthur's minute particle of rationality mentioned that he appeared to have succeeded. The rest of him ruthlessly plundered Lancelot, not ceasing even when the man's knees began to buckle. He simply put his palms on Lancelot's weak joints and shoved until they clicked straight.
"Arthur-" and then Lancelot broke into a different language, harshly musical. Its gutterality grated down Arthur's skin, flaying his nerves into screaming. He abruptly ran out of breath and had to pull away, leaving Lancelot to topple to the floor.
Sprawled out, wrists bound and legs hampered by the bunched trousers, dirty boots at cockeyed angles to each other and skin covered in sweat. Angel in the filth. Arthur stared. "You look like-"
"A whore?" Fine frizzed curls stuck to the sides of Lancelot's brow, garnishing his sly look. He hauled himself over Arthur and started to nip at the underside of Arthur's chin.
"-like my worst impulse," Arthur finished, diving into the other man once more. His hands finally tore at the straining front of his own trousers, and then he gratefully ground his free cock against Lancelot's thigh. They flipped over and over, Arthur's mouth fixed to one of Lancelot's nipples. With every graze of teeth, another violent tremble took the other man. His vicious shakes threatened to send Arthur across the aisle.
"Still." Arthur's hand went out and came back with a dagger. He laid the flat against Lancelot's hip, which froze along with the rest of Lancelot. Except for the pupils, which expanded until Arthur thought they could swallow the whole world. He tentatively shaved some of the sweat off of Lancelot, careful to not break the skin, and received a slight buck.
Lancelot's hands slid down-difficult to do, given how closely they were intertwined-and began to play over Arthur's cock. "I much prefer being your worst impulse. At least then, you might listen to me."
"I'm always listening to you. But I don't always follow you. Especially when you're being a hotheaded fool." Arthur tossed the dagger well free and curved his hands around the swell of Lancelot's buttocks, making them move in a more rhythmic motion that was infinitely more satisfying than the previous wild jerking.
Just before Arthur's mind tipped over the precipice, Lancelot reared up and confronted him with a beatific smile. "Feel better?"
"They're going to notice. We should probably get up." Arthur didn't move.
"The horses were rather loud, yet no one came. I have a feeling they know better than to look." Lancelot shrugged, a long liquid roll of his entire limp body. As he was lying on top of Arthur, every inch of it was felt. "Or they're…busy."
In spite of his lingering annoyance, Arthur returned the smile. He raised his hand and began to run them through Lancelot's hair, roughly taming the tangles. "That was better."
"It was, wasn't it?" A finger jabbed triumphantly at Arthur's chest. "See? You should give into your worst impulses more often."
"And you should learn to manage yourself. At least until we make it to something softer," Arthur muttered, letting his head fall back and his eyes close.
A soft tongue wiped the blood from his still-bleeding lip. "I prefer it harder."