M/M, Fantasy, Erotic Romance
[36 Pages / 8,100 Words]
Arthur knows he is destined to die at Camlann. But when the Lady Merlin enlists a powerful enchantment to save him—an enchantment to tether Arthur's life to Lancelot's—the magic carries unintended consequences. Lancelot's strength could be Arthur's salvation, but what of the deeper connection that now binds the king to his most loyal knight? The connection is only temporary, but when Arthur learns the truth of Lancelot's feelings for him, their friendship could change forever.
Originally published in Nights of the Round Table
under the title 'Wonderly Wroth', Circlet Press, Cambridge, MA, 2015.
His eyes cut away, and he glimpses a golden chain at Lancelot's throat. The chain—a necklace, really—has slipped free from the collar of Lancelot's tunic, and at the end hangs a purple jewel Arthur doesn't recognize. Lancelot has never favored gems, but the incongruity isn't what stops Arthur short.
The jewel is glowing. Not just glowing, he realizes, but pulsing with a rapid rhythm.
A rhythm that matches the suddenly-racing heartbeats twining in Arthur's chest.
He reaches without thought. The gold-set gem is warm to the touch, and heavy in his hand. Arthur stares at it for several seconds, mesmerized by the intimate pulse of light. Lancelot is motionless, still holding him inescapably against the chamber door, and Arthur does his best not to think about anything beyond the bauble in his hand.
It seems an eternity later when Lancelot speaks. "If we had lost you, Sire..." He doesn't finish the sentence. Maybe he can't. Arthur's own voice is trapped somewhere, and it's with unexpected difficulty that he raises his eyes to find Lancelot watching him. The air is suddenly too thick to breathe, and Arthur is drowning in a tangle of emotions that aren't his own.
Then, in a jarring instant, one clear feeling breaks through.
Arthur recognizes the feeling: warm, sharp, fiercely intimate, and far more complicated than the simple loyalty of friendship.
It's almost an exact match for the things Arthur feels for Lancelot, when he's alone and weak and tired of being a king.
Arthur is too startled to guard his expression as these understandings find him. Lancelot's eyes widen, and Arthur doesn't know if it's in answer to the comprehension on his face or if Lancelot is sharing Arthur's feelings in the same disjointed way. Both, perhaps. The amulet falls forgotten from Arthur's fingers, and he raises his hand to Lancelot's face.
Arthur's touch is hesitant, and hopeful, and a little bit terrified.
It's enough to snap Lancelot free of the panic freezing him in place. He jerks back as though Arthur has burned him, guiltily taking his hands off of his king. His retreat takes him to the farthest corner of the room, between the enormous desk and the narrow window behind it. He turns his back to Arthur, bracing his palms against the stone ledge. When Arthur follows, Lancelot doesn't acknowledge him except to tense where he stands.
Lancelot continues to stare fiercely out the window, even when Arthur stops beside him. The hand Arthur sets to Lancelot's arm is both thoughtless and selfish. He has no right to seek out Lancelot's private feelings. This intimacy is temporary, an uninvited side effect of Merlin's magic, and to reach for it this way is unfair. Guilt knocks into Arthur's chest. A moment later comes a stranger sensation—a subtle blur of distance—as though Lancelot is trying to guard his feelings. Building a wall between them that Arthur doesn't dare assail.
He drops his hand. His sense of Lancelot softens, but doesn't disappear. Arthur is still painfully aware of the deliberate distance Lancelot is struggling to hold between them.
"Forgive me," Lancelot says when Arthur is no longer touching him. "I know it's not my place. And you must believe, I would never..."
But he tapers off without finishing, and after an uncertain moment Arthur asks, "Never what?"
The question makes Lancelot flinch, but he lets go of the window. A moment later and he actually looks at Arthur, wounded resignation in the cloudy gray of his eyes. The wall crumbles. Only a little at first, then in a rushing cascade as Lancelot's feelings burn through.
"You are my king," Lancelot answers helplessly, and the ache beneath the words almost sends Arthur to his knees.
(Art by Yana Goya, cover by Yolande Kleinn)
ISBN 978-1-31066-006-1 (Smashwords)
ISBN 978-1-946316-00-4 (Mobi)
ISBN 978-1-946316-01-1 (Epub)