The sky was dark; night long since fallen. The wind that had blown all day without ceasing did not penetrate the low chamber where the Commander took refuge, awaiting the inevitable. He did not have to wait long.

"Not on your knees tonight, Arthur?" The mocking words rang clear through the small, sparse chamber. The man they addressed did not look up, dark head remaining firmly bent over the paper held in his hand.

"I was just on my way to bed," the pointed response came a few moments later, as Arthur Castus finally raised his eyes to meet those of his friend. "It is late."

"Alone?" the next relentless barb short forth. "What's this - tired of the girl already?" Arthur sighed, scrubbing a hand tiredly over his face. He had spoken the truth; it was late. But this moment had been a long time in coming, and it seemed it could not be put off any longer. Steeling himself, Arthur straightened fully, crossing the space that separated him from the headstrong knight.

"What is it you want from me, Lancelot?" Face to face as they were he could see the very lines of the other man's face, read each flicker of emotion that passed over the strong features. You are an open book my friend... he thought with a pang. Perhaps if my heart were also so clear we would not have come to this place...

Lancelot's gaze darkened; words bursting forth filled with bitter resentment.

"Something neither yourself nor your God would ever allow you to give."

And there it was laid open between them; a burning accusation. You do not love me as I love you. Why will you not love me? Pain. Anguish. All so needless...

"You can be so sure?" Arthur spoke carefully, injecting all the scorn he could muster into his words. "How is that, when you have not ever found the courage to ask?"

Brown eyes locked with green, surprise overtaken by something darker as Arthur continued, course set now, goading shamelessly.

"I did not take you for a coward, Lancelot."

"You dare to say that? You, who has always..."

The knight continued no further, words choked off with a growl as Lancelot caught the face of his leader and friend between hands that trembled with something long denied. Desire coupled with an unmistakable need clouded the handsome face, but Arthur did not pull back. Could not.

"I would give my life for you – did you really think I would begrudge you this?"

Whatever answer Lancelot might have given was lost as his mouth closed over Arthur's, hard and bruising. Arthur gave no quarter, returning the kiss with the same passion it was given, hands raking through unruly curls. See, my brother – you are not the only one who burns...

Minutes, hours, an eternity they stood there, locked in a battle more ancient than any they had fought before. Lancelot pushed his hips shamelessly against Arthur, the heat of his desire burning through the clothing that held him. With steady hands, Arthur answered the unspoken entreaty, deftly unlacing constraining garments as his tongue continued to duel hotly. A battle of his choosing, Lancelot had said – and none had he chosen more surely than this. He would give him what he had come for.

A sharp inhalation was all that marked the moment Arthur reached lower, fingers closing around their goal. If he had ever thought to falter in his task that time was long past; ensnared, now all that existed was touch and taste and hard heated skin beneath his hands.

The kiss came to an end as Lancelot growled deep in his throat; head dropping forward against the broad shoulder before him.

"Arthur..." the breathless plea muffled by fabric was barely discernable, but the man so beseeched paid heed. Swiftly and firmly Arthur continued in his task, strong, hard strokes that caused the man in his arms to groan once more.

On and on, each touch adding to the last in ever increasing intensity. It could not last forever. Finally Lancelot tensed, shuddering against him before with a cry he fell still, gasping against Arthur's neck. Arthur held him, cradling the dark head as he smoothed hair from a forehead damp with exertion.

"Be at peace," Arthur heard himself murmur, allowing his cheek to rest against the other's for a long moment, eyes closed. Wetness registered on his skin, a stray tear the other man could not keep in check. The eyes that met his a moment later however were shining with something far from sorrow; love and devotion mingled with a promise that made Arthur's breath catch to see.

"Take me to bed," came the murmured reply, "And I just might..."

Arthur laughed, allowing the sound and Lancelot's words to cleanse; to heal all that had led them there.

And then there was no more need for words.