A BBC Sherlock Medieval Romance AU Story
Special Thanks: To wearitcounts (Sher_locked_up) for her excellent beta, as always.
To Kay, for translating Captive Hearts in Korean. Please check it out at blog dot naver dot com slash PostList dot nhn?blogId=soonripe&from=postList&categoryNo=27 (shakes head- sorry but just eats up all the links...)
For those interested, I have written a tumblr entry entitled Why I Decided to Mould Captive Hearts in the Tradition of Bodice Rippers. Given Monseigneur's current state of feels, it would be safe to say that the story will dip into dub-con at least (if it hasn't already). Please check the tags before proceeding and as always, I am asking for your patience and faith in the direction this story is taking.
There are lines in the story that have references to series three but no major spoilers.
Authors' notes and a short list of medieval armor and jousting terms are found at the end of the chapter.
As things turned out, a hearty supper and a good night's sleep went a long way to restoring John's sense of equanimity. His head was clear and his heart was much calmer when he awoke early the next day, risen by Billy as the youth moved about in their sleeping quarters, quietly getting dressed. Outside the window, dawn was just breaking.
"John, sir," said Billy, surprised to see John sitting up on his pallet. "There's no need for you to get up so early. You still have half an hour or so to lie down."
"I've slept my fill," John said softly, careful not to raise his voice lest he disturb the others— two young pages unfamiliar to him but obviously Billy's Glasstown friends, lads from good families who were tasked to help Billy attend to Monseigneur during the wedding festivities. Monseigneur's sleeping quarters lay just beyond a small connecting door to the side of their room. While four men had to make do for the night in a room that was little more than the size of a pantry closet, Monseigneur had made it plain that he wanted nobody else sleeping in his spacious chambers last night.
Why? A treacherous voice had whispered resentfully inside John's head when he heard that tidbit from Billy. Does he happen to have someone under the sheets with him?
Shut up! John had snapped at himself irritably.
With or without the Woman by his side, the simplest explanation was that everything was business as usual with Monseigneur: as always, he was being an inconsiderate prat by using his royal prerogative to hog all that bedroom space to himself when the castle, not to mention the entire Gaaldinain capital, was full to overflowing with people.
Down the hall, Lestrade and his family had to share their cramped rooms with their personal servants, with only a curtained bed to provide them some privacy for the night. Outside the rooms, even more servants were to be found sleeping in the corridors. Various ladies-in-waiting were crammed together in narrow rooms all over the palace while some of the knights had decided to stake out parts of the great hall, sleeping on the long wooden benches normally used by diners during mealtimes. Still others, the lower soldiers and retainers, had to find their lodgings outside the castle.
John gave Billy a brief once-over and inquired, "What about you? Did you sleep well?"
If at all, he wanted to add.
Barely a week with his master in Glasstown and fatigue was already etched into the boy's face and under his eyes, hollowing out his cheeks. On any given day, attending to Monseigneur's needs was never the easiest of tasks, yet John suddenly realized that their routine in the Lair was almost like a holiday compared to Monseigneur's rigorous schedule at court.
In answer to his query, Billy merely gave a tired shrug. "I will need to be there when Monseigneur rises," he said.
John was silent for a moment, his lips pursed as he carefully weighed his next words. "So," he said finally, "what's his schedule like today?"
"Monseigneur will be in the jousting grounds for most of the morning. I'm sure he'll send for you there along with my lord uncle after breakfast," said Billy as he pulled a linen shirt down his lean frame. "Then there's dinner with the King at noontime, but before that, quite possibly he will need to accompany His Majesty on his long, daily walk round the gardens."
John raised his brows. "The gardens?"
Billy laughed softly. "It's one of the most dreaded of royal activities— accompanying the King while he tours the gardens at the main palace. It's tedious but His Majesty needs the exercise. Not even Monseigneur can refuse when he is summoned— I mean, invited— to attend along with the other ministers. It's basically a series of state meetings with a bit of socializing thrown in."
John gave a brief smile at the mental image Billy's words had conjured of Monseigneur, sulkily trailing after his brother along the prettily arranged flower beds like a dark raincloud, then said, "So, he's jousting today, is he?"
"Monseigneur? Oh yes, sir. He needs to practice in time for the tournaments to be held immediately after the wedding," said Billy as he finished dressing. "Excuse me, sir, while I wake these gits. Oi! Enough beauty sleep there! Time to rise."
John would have wanted to ask more but Billy was apparently in a hurry, so he settled for watching as Billy nudged at the other two pages none too gently with his foot. The youths rose amid much yawning and muttering but readily followed Billy through the small door on the other side of the room to start their morning chores for Monseigneur.
There wasn't any point in lying back down, so John got up after a moment more and began to get dressed. He was ready for quite some time before a servant of Lestrade came around for him.
Lestrade presided over the brief, informal breakfast with his soldiers clustered loosely together in one of the stone courtyards of the castle. With fresh, warm bread and a cup of ale in hand, they waited for their orders as Lestrade handed out the lists of chores and assignments for the day. When everything had been settled and the group had dispersed, Lestrade said to John, "we'll be meeting Monseigneur in the lists, but I suppose Billy has already told you that."
"Yeah, he did," said John.
"You got your medicines with you, then? I mean, in case you forget, you're officially his doctor now—"
John patted the leather bag that was slung over his shoulder. "I'll never be anywhere without them."
"Good." Lestrade was silent for a moment before he turned to John, eyes wide, as though a thought had just occurred to him. "You've never seen him in a joust before, have you?" he said.
"Well, let's see," said John, affecting to think hard. "There was that time when he was chasing me down that open field and he tripped me up with his lance, but I was too busy running away to really take a good look at him."
Lestrade snorted laughter through his nose. "Yeah, well, that was ages ago."
John's smile was tight. "It seems that way sometimes, doesn't it?"
Lestrade's smile wavered a fraction but he brought a huge hand down to squeeze at John's shoulder reassuringly. "Just remember to arrange your face like I told you," he said as they started down the courtyard toward the stables.
"Meaning?" Queried John.
"You're a smart man, John. Work it out for yourself," said Lestrade and John had to pause for a bit as he realized he was being teased.
Dick, he thought, smiling nevertheless as he followed Lestrade into the stables.
The lists, or jousting grounds, were situated in the open parklands on the very edge of town, away from the teeming crowds. It took Lestrade and John quite some time to get there on horseback as they navigated through Glasstown's busy roads, filled with people going about their morning business amid horses and oxen pulling heavy carts and carriages laden with even more people and produce. All around them, a cacophony of sights and sounds— the shouts of town criers and peddlers competed with the peals of church bells while colorful banners and garlands of flowers hung from buildings and houses.
There was nothing like the bright, festive air of a city rejoicing in a very public and royal wedding. John could not help but feel the excitement as they passed through these happy, bustling scenes, and he and Lestrade were made to stop frequently as the general was hailed by a multitude of people along the way.
"What?" Demanded Lestrade as he caught John staring at him after he received a series of felicitous, not to mention obsequious, greetings from a set of knights on horseback.
John shrugged, smiling. "I didn't realize you were popular," he said.
Lestrade gave a shout of laughter. "You've not seen anything yet, John Watson," he said. "Monseigneur casts a long shadow, but long before I was his man, I was known around these parts as the Silver Paladin."
John struggled not to wince at Lestrade's choice of words, uttered quite literally and innocently. It was not Lestrade's problem that certain phrases could now strike at John like a slap on the face— phrases that had passed through Monseigneur's own lips that had the power to conjure various memories of intense pleasure and pain for John.
"Silver Paladin," mused John, cloaking his momentary discomfiture under a layer of cheek. "What's that supposed to mean, exactly?"
"It means, you'd better know the stations of the people around you enough to behave properly towards them," growled Lestrade. "Monseigneur, for instance. So help me, I'll have you hauled away if I hear you say anything that sounds remotely like 'Sherlock' when you're addressing your royal master in public. You are either to address him as Monseigneur or its equivalent, which is 'my lord', or, as court etiquette dictates, Your Highness. Got that, John?"
"Or I won't be addressing him directly at all, how is that?" said John.
"I'd like to see you try," muttered Lestrade. "And another thing: you will not be speaking to him unless he speaks to you first, and that applies to all the nobles at court."
John was silent for a moment as he chewed on the inside his cheek. Then, he said, "will I be expected to attend to him at every moment?"
"Not every moment, no, but you will be on standby just the same unless he says otherwise," said Lestrade. "As of now he will be extremely busy— he's got wedding rehearsals to attend to, and—"
John snorted laughter despite himself. "Wedding rehearsals?"
"Well, prince of the realm or no, it's only natural that he's got an important function to perform at his brother's wedding!" exclaimed Lestrade. "It would be unthinkable to have anything otherwise."
"And you?" Asked John, his tone turning serious.
"Of course I have my own role in the ceremony," answered Lestrade flatly, staring straight ahead. "Come on, John, let's not dither. We're late enough as it is."
The rest of the ride was marked by a sudden, heavy silence that John thought best not to break. Until now, he had never given much thought about how Lestrade would feel about the wedding of his royal friend who, according to rumor, was dearer to him than was appropriate. If it felt anything at all like how John felt for Sherlock, then Lestrade must be in considerable torment. Yet at all times during the past, except for that episode in the Lair tower when Lestrade lost his temper with John and his insolent remarks, Lestrade's demeanor towards his friend, the King, had been perfectly unassailable, his actual feelings indiscernible.
Now this silence between them was suddenly speaking volumes, yet how admirably Lestrade continued to carry himself as he betrayed nothing to John. Let the silence speak of different things to different people— Lestrade was never going to dignify their assumptions with a response.
There was something here, John realized, that he could learn much from as he dealt with the thorny issue that was Monseigneur: Monseigneur, who had made it clear that he was through with John. Monseigneur, who could still prove to be John's ruin if John were not careful to hold the man at bay.
Yet John knew it would be a difficult task. Or, at least, he should have known. At any rate, he knew immediately what he was up against when they reached the lists and saw Monseigneur in full battle armor, charging down the line astride the Beast with lance drawn and ready to strike at his opponent coming the other way.
A crash of steel reverberated in the still, hot air as the lances met and Lestrade gave out a sharp whistle of appreciation as the opponent's weapon splintered under Monseigneur's strike. There were cheers and applause from the neighboring stands.
"To look at Monseigneur, you wouldn't have thought that he's not been in the lists even once these past months," said Lestrade with a touch of pride in his voice.
John said nothing. Indeed, he found that he could barely utter a word as he watched Monseigneur rein in the Beast.
So this was how he looked like, thought John as he remembered yet again their first, fateful meeting. He'd been too busy running away from him then, but he recalled catching a glimpse of Monseigneur with his head bare, dark curls made wild by the wind and his body encased in that splendid, black armor with a black cape billowing after him as he chased John across that green field, slippery with rain, and tripped him with his lance.
The devil on horseback, darkly magnificent, out hunting for his favorite quarry: a lost soul. He'd captured John and bound him to his person so completely that all throughout these months, John had lost himself over and over to the man and he'd never been able to find his way back.
Lestrade's voice brought him back to the present: "Shut your trap, John; you're drawing flies."
John could feel his face flush as he closed his mouth with an almost audible snap. He could hear Lestrade sniggering as they dismounted from their horses and made their way along the edge of the berfrois to have a better look at the match.
"Wiggins won't stand another assault like that," observed Lestrade, shaking his head as the two opponents were given new lances. "I'd say we're nearly done here."
John stared at Monseigneur's armored figure as attendants swarmed around him and the ever-impatient Beast, also draped in Monseigneur's colors of black and silver.
"Marvellous bastard, isn't he?" remarked Lestrade.
John turned to him, eyes wide, before he realized that Lestrade was talking about the horse.
"He's as wild as they come," said Lestrade, nodding at the Beast as it gave an imperious toss of its massive ebony head, sending a startled attendant scuttling away from him. "Of course, his lineage is impeccable; came from a long line of war horses, he did, but he's got a touch of the devil in him. The first thing the bloody creature did when he arrived at the Lair was to trample on a groom. The fellow almost died and the Beast almost got sent back before Monseigneur could even lay a hand on him. That would surely have been the end of him."
"Except Monseigneur tamed him."
"You won't believe this, but the big brute was actually scared of his own shadow," said Lestrade, grinning at the memory. "That explained why he went crazy whenever he was led out in the mornings and early afternoons with the sun high in the sky. Monseigneur saw the problem almost immediately after he'd interviewed the retainers and he soon broke him in good and proper. All it really took was for Monseigneur to talk to him softly and turn his head away so he wouldn't see his shadow."
"What? And that's it?"
"That's it," said Lestrade. "The Beast was his creature, and only his, from then on."
John let out a soft snort as he shook his head.
"What? You don't believe me?" asked Lestrade. "I was there myself, you know."
"Oh, I believe you," said John briefly. He stopped himself before he could say his thoughts out loud—that Monseigneur was highly adept at breaking his creatures in.
"Well, I dare say that horse and master closely resemble each other," said Lestrade. "Monseigneur himself is an immensely difficult man with more than a touch of the devil in him. There's hardly anyone like him, and I've known many great men. There are people out there who find him an irresistible challenge for that very reason."
John stared at him, hardly believing what he was hearing.
"Of course it's tough, penetrating his armor, and there aren't many chinks in it either," continued Lestrade with a shrug, his tone mild and detached as though he were discussing an academic problem. "Besides, I can imagine that he'll be all claws and bared teeth beneath that armor. Blood will surely be drawn on several occasions, but that hasn't deterred people from pursuing him as though he were some great prize. They're going about it all wrong, of course. Now, your tactic, on the other hand..."
John waited for Lestrade to finish, but when nothing else seemed forthcoming, he said, ""I…I don't understand."
"Don't you, really?" Queried Lestrade, looking at John with brows suggestively raised.
No, I fucking don't! John wanted to say crossly.
Instead, he found himself saying, "The Princess Irene seems to be succeeding in that area. You saw her with him last night. A few days with her and she practically had him eating out of her hand."
Lestrade scoffed. "And you believe that farce, do you?"
"Why? Don't you?" Asked John, startled.
"Hell, no!" Exclaimed Lestrade, and John felt a surge of those emotions he'd never wanted to feel— the ones he'd resolutely tried to keep at bay: a sweeping tide of relief and wild hope, so fearfully unbridled, dangerous in its willingness to be deceived over and over again.
Before John could press Lestrade further, the call to charge was given, and they watched as the two armored fighters clashed in the field once again. John watched as Monseigneur finally delivered the coup de grace, thrusting his lance past his opponent's shield and straight onto his armored chest, sending the man toppling from his horse. Monseigneur was already galloping away when the man landed on the soft, muddy track in a dull crunch of metal and the frenzied neighing of his stunned horse.
"Like I said: game over," announced Lestrade briskly as he turned away from the ensuing commotion. "Come on, John. Pavilion three. Let's get a move on."
It took three men to attend to Monseigneur after the joust: one to receive his shield and lance and two to help him dismount from the Beast.
This, he thought irately as he pulled off his gauntlets, is all Mycroft's fault!
Trust the King to have the bright idea of holding a royal wedding with all its attendant festivities in the middle of the hottest month in Gaaldine. An hour strapped into his armor and Monseigneur felt as though he were being broiled alive. He could only hope the King would feel just as sweaty and uncomfortable in his wedding finery when the big day came.
There were just a few more days to go. It could very well be an eternity away as far as Monseigneur was concerned.
He stalked into the pavilion, pulling off his helmet and tossing it to Billy who followed a few steps behind him. Jerking off the chainmail coif that covered his head, he raised his hands to ruff through his damp curls, aware that John Watson was standing silently by, watching every move he made.
"You're late," Monseigneur growled as he approached Lestrade and John.
"Heavy traffic across town, my lord," replied Lestrade with a straight face.
"Is that so," said Monseigneur, his pale eyes flicking over to scan John's closed face. He could see that John was going to carry on being mulish. Tedious, but he would be better prepared to deal with him today than last night.
"His Majesty has asked us to accompany him for his daily walk," said Monseigneur, "after I've had my bath."
He continued to watch John carefully, noting how John's gaze skimmed along towards the bath being drawn just a few feet away before ducking his head, lips pursed. Monseigneur almost smiled.
This, he thought. He'd missed this, missed all the little games he played with John. He didn't even mind admitting to himself that he'd missed John so much.
For the past few days, he'd been so caught up in the maelstrom of emotions elicited by John that he had not noticed how much he needed him by his side. It finally dawned on him a few moments before when he had caught sight of John talking to Lestrade as they stood at the sidelines, waiting for his match to resume. John had been deep in conversation with Lestrade and at one point he had laughed at Lestrade's words.
That little scene of friendly familiarity between John and Lestrade had set off a wave of jealousy so intense that at that particular moment, Monseigneur would have gladly strangled his trusted general and right-hand man who had served him so faithfully for almost ten years.
And this was just Lestrade; John had yet to meet the ladies at court.
It felt wrong, having John so far away when he should be here, right beside Monseigneur and in happy collusion with him as they discussed what was to be done next. During his calmer moments, he knew he was doing the right thing to exclude John from his plans, but why did it feel wrong?
But this— toying with John, getting him all hot and bothered and struggling to hide his confusion— this was good. Monseigneur felt like he was back on solid, familiar ground. This was what he did best.
Monseigneur turned away and allowed Billy and another page to begin the process of removing his body armor from him.
"For this afternoon, I take it His Majesty will require our presence in the wedding rehearsals, sir," remarked Lestrade as Monseigneur undressed.
Monseigneur scoffed. "How many times does he need to see me go down the aisle with the holy scepter? I've already promised that I won't be dropping it at any time during the procession."
From behind them, Dimmock, Monseigneur's secretary, announced, "The Queen Mother is also arriving in time for dinner, Your Highness."
"Oh joy," remarked Monseigneur dryly. "That would mean supper at her place every night from now on."
Finally stripped bare, Monseigneur moved to stand in front of John, spreading his arms sideways. John blinked and cast an uncertain glance at Lestrade, but before Lestrade could intervene, Monseigneur drawled, "Go ahead, John, and do your duty. You're supposed to examine me and make sure I've not sustained any injury.
"Search carefully," urged Monseigneur as John hesitated, watching Monseigneur's chest rise and fall from all the exercise. Monseigneur could feel the heat roll off him in waves through skin moist and glowing with a patina of sweat. "This was how the killer almost got me last time."
Monseigneur's lips twitched as John cleared his throat and muttered, "Right."
He kept still, arms gracefully spread out, as John tentatively took a step toward him.
"Why are you even jousting when you know the killer might strike again the same way as before?" John asked, voice pitched very low.
"All the quicker to flush him out," murmured Monseigneur. "Though I am quite certain he won't need the joust as cover this time around. A repeat performance is boring and this one likes to keep things novel."
John bit his lip and was silent. Monseigneur gazed down at John as he examined him closely, a little gingerly. John was careful, oh so careful, not to touch him at all. By now John had learned how to hide his own emotions, his eyes not giving anything away as they swept impersonally over the muscled contours of Monseigneur's body.
"You've not shaved this morning," Monseigneur suddenly remarked.
"It's only a bit of stubble. It can wait another day or two," said John as he quickly ran a hand over his jaw. "Besides, I didn't have the equipment this morning to—"
He broke off as Monseigneur moved a hand to touch the side of his face. To his credit, John did not even flinch. In a voice low enough so that only Monseigneur could hear it, he said, "What the hell do you think you're doing?"
"I like my doctors clean-shaven," said Monseigneur, voice a mere breath as he trailed a finger down John's rough cheek in the most fleeting of touches. "Besides, they're not paying any attention to us right now."
He watched as John carefully glanced over his shoulder at Lestrade, who had moved away to speak to Dimmock.
Then, between one breath and the next, something went wrong.
Monseigneur felt again that cold sensation of dread, as though someone had tipped ice water down his back without warning, as he watched John's gaze return to pin him with a reproachful look from under his brows and just like that, he was drawing away.
"All right, stop it now," said John, his voice not so much angry as weary. "Why even bother when we've moved past the old song and dance. I get it, yeah? You've made yourself clear as crystal last night. "
Monseigneur leveled John with a long, cool stare. "Have I?" he drawled.
John gave a soft snort of disbelief, and that thin trickle of icy dread turned into an avalanche as Monseigneur saw, for the first time, a look of contempt flit through John's features.
Lestrade's voice suddenly broke in, dispelling the thin thread of tension that had woven itself between them: "Are you done now, John?"
"Yeah," said John as he took a step back and turned away from Monseigneur. "I'm done."
Through his mounting outrage and the cold feeling of distress that gripped him, Monseigneur sensed another emotion fighting to reach the surface as he heard John's words, brutally simple and startling for its honesty: a kind of awe that was equal parts admiration and respect.
Dear God, this man he loved.
He supposed he'd always admired John, but he never fully realized how much he respected him until now— now when he could no longer deny the pull that John exerted over his nascent heart. Now, when John may no longer want him.
Author's Notes: The story of how Monseigneur tamed the Beast is lifted from the story of Bucephalus, Alexander the Great's legendary war horse. So beloved was he that Alexander named the town in which he was buried after him (Phalia, in Pakistan's Mandi Bahauddin Distrcit) when he died of wounds incurred in the Battle of the Hydaspes in 326 BC.
In terms of build and function, the Beast is probably a destrier (derived from the common Latin term, dextarius, or right-sided), known during Medieval times as the Great Horse. The word destrier did not refer to a specific breed, but to a type of horse. It carried knights and royalty into battles, tournaments and jousts. These horses were usually stallions, known for their size and aggression, thus bred and raised from foalhood specifically for the purposes of war. Being highly prized, destriers were also not very common. Most knights usually rode other horses such as coursers and rounceys. Together, these three types of war horses were often referred to generically as chargers. (Source: Wikipedia)
Terms for medieval armor parts and the Medieval Joust were obtained from Wikipedia and lordsandladies dot org:
Berfrois- grandstand that housed the spectators of a tournament
Coup de Grace- the death blow that a knight delivers to his mortally wounded opponent
Lists- barriers that defined the battlefield or jousting grounds in a tournament
Pavilions- brightly colored, rounded tents that housed the combatants and their attendants and surgeons
And speaking of horses, advanced Happy Lunar New Year to everyone! May the Year of the Horse be a lucky one for us!