A.N – Okay, so this is a another of my Arthurian oneshots; they can all pretty much stand alone, though they all form a story arc and this one makes a bit more sense when the first one is read.
Claimer: The ideas, and plotline of this story, while influenced by outside stories, are the sole property of WritersRule; it is also a work of fiction so all people, places, and names are used factiously, and resemblance to any real place or person alive or dead is pure coincidence.
"Lancelot, do you think Guinevere is avoiding me?"
The knight glanced at Arthur in surprise, then looked in the direction where his king was gazing longingly to see the queen, Guinevere, turning a corner at the end of the hallway with a few of her ladies-in-waiting. Arthur had called out a greeting, which had been ignored; Lancelot had thought nothing of it, but Arthur was apparently very distressed about it.
"I don't know. Maybe she just didn't hear you," he answered. Arthur shook his head and shot him an exasperated look.
"No, no, not just now!" he exclaimed. "I mean, she's been doing it all week. She hardly looks at me when we speak, she only returns my greetings when she's right in front of me, and she's even been sleeping in one of the other bedrooms, away from me! She told me she needed some space, that it was on her, not me, but I really don't think so." The young king's shoulder's slumped, and he looked for all the world like a love-sick teenager who had just gotten rejected by his crush. Lancelot couldn't help but chuckle at the sight, earning him a half-hearted glare.
"Well, have you done something in the past couple weeks that would make her upset?" the knight asked, deciding he would help figure out what had happened to the royals' relationship. Both Arthur and Guinevere were dear to him, and he would hate to see either in pain.
"No! I can't think of anything!" Arthur wailed, throwing up his hands. Then something seemed to dawn on him and he faced his knight, his blue eyes wide with something akin to panic. "Last week. At the feast. I didn't do anything awful to Guinevere that I was too drunk to remember, did I?"
"Hmm, well that is a possibility," Lancelot mused, placing a finger on his chin. He frowned in thought, then shook his head. "No, I don't think so. But I was probably just as drunk as you were, so I'm really not the best person to ask."
Arthur groaned. "What good are you then? Honestly, I must find someone who isn't susceptible to earthly pleasures and make him a knight – what if we get attacked one night while we're feasting and all my warriors are too drunk to do anything?"
"You would be hard pressed to find such a man," Lancelot returned. "And if that did happen, well, then, our womenfolk would just have to pick up our swords." The king chuckled in response.
"Yes, and I'm sure they would fare better than we would," he replied, a small smile on his face. But then it faded as, no doubt, his thoughts went back to his trouble with his wife. Though King Arthur was confident and charming in battle and politics, he was hopelessly, well, hopeless when it came to romance, believing himself unworthy of Guinevere's love and driving himself insane whenever their marriage hit a rough spot, such as now. Not that Lancelot could completely blame the king; he himself often felt tongue-tied and shy in front of the beautiful queen, and sometimes his envy of his friend was so bad he had to leave Camelot for a while to get himself under control.
Arthur didn't know that was the reason Lancelot requested the most quests from him, of course; if his friend knew how the knight felt about his wife, Lancelot would never be able to show his face for shame again.
"It's probably nothing," the knight said reassuringly to his king. "Women get moody like this sometimes, you know, and it isn't just you she's upset with. She dismissed her sister right after the feast, too, didn't she?"
Arthur's eyes widened. "You're right!" he cried. "Oh, you're absolutely right, Lancelot, thank-you!" Lancelot smiled and bent himself at the waist.
"But of course, my lord," he said. Arthur rolled his eyes.
"I told you not to call me that when we're not at a formal occasion," the monarch admonished. Lancelot made his face go blank, though it was hard to keep his smirk from showing as he replied,
"Oh, yes, do forgive me, Your Majesty."
"Now, that is uncalled for," his friend declared, and Lancelot couldn't keep his mirth contained any longer; bursting into laughter, he threw an arm around the shorter man until Arthur was chortling along with him, and, for the moment, the mystery of Guinevere was forgotten.
It was the evening when Lancelot saw Guinevere next, as he was relieving a guard from duty. She was walking leisurely through the garden that grew in the back of the castle, seeming lost in her own little world; her hair looked like blood in the light of the dying sun, and he felt his throat go dry. Glancing around to see if anyone was watching, he approached her, making sure she heard him so he wouldn't frighten her.
"My lady," he said, dropping to his knee. Guinevere turned to see him, eyes appearing confused for a moment before she smiled.
"Rise, Sir Lancelot," she told him, a hint of amusement in her voice. He did so quickly, nearly falling over, and he felt himself blush. She laughed and he blushed deeper, but it was a sweet sound, free of malice, so he would have been content to have her laugh at him all evening long.
"How fare you at this hour, Lancelot?" she asked, idly running her hand over the blossom of a rose.
"Quite well, Your Majesty, thank-you," he replied, smiling softly at the annoyance that crossed her face.
"I swear, you do that to Arthur and me because you know how much we detest it, don't you?" she accused, poking his chest with her finger. He was a good head taller than her, and she had to look up to playfully glare at him.
"I'm sure I don't know what you mean, Your Majesty," he said, this time breaking into a grin, before sobering up. "But speaking of the king, he is rather worried about you." Surprise flitted across her face, then her her expression became somewhat guarded.
"Why?" she questioned. She raised her chin. "There's nothing wrong with me."
"I didn't say there was," he said quickly, terrified he had displeased her. "No, it's just...he thinks you've been avoiding him, and he doesn't know why. He's afraid he has offended you." She turned away from him abruptly and swallowed hard. Concerned, he placed a hand on her shoulder, which she shrugged off.
She stared into space for a moment before, still looking away from him, she said softly, "No...no, you may tell him he has not offended me."
"Well, if that is true, I don't see why you wouldn't be able to tell him yourself," the knight pointed out. Guinevere looked over her shoulder at him and glared.
"You're so nosy," she muttered angrily. He frowned, a bit hurt by her tone. It might seem as if he had over-stepped his bounds as a servant, but he had known Guinevere since they were both children, and she had always let him get away with things other queens wouldn't. Lancelot had the same relationship with Arthur, too, now that he thought about it.
His hurt must have shown on his face, because her expression softened and she moved closer to him, reaching a hand out to touch his cheek. His complexion matched hers to an extent, and in the right light they might both look like corpses. Not that he felt dead, with her so close to him, and her touch caused everything inside him to be on fire.
"I'm sorry, Lancelot," she said. "I didn't mean to snap at you. Maybe there is something with me, if I'm being cruel to the people I love."
His breath hitched as she started tracing a scar on his left cheek, but she didn't seem to notice, just kept staring at his scar and then his lips. A faint blush colored her cheeks. "I never said you were cruel," he said, voice small. A smile tugged at the queen's mouth.
"Oh, Lancelot, you're sweet," Guinevere replied. "You know, Arthur...Arthur is a good husband to me. I couldn't ask for a better one." Finally she moved her gaze up to his eyes. "Remember that, won't you, Lancelot?"
"Well, yes, I mean, of course. Yes, I, well, I will," the knight stammered, confused at her statement. He was sure he was blushing as well. He should probably move away; the position they were in was rather compromising, and he was supposed to be on watch, after all. But he felt frozen to the spot even as he burned inside, desirous of – yes, to himself, he would admit it – his best friend's wife.
Suddenly Guinevere was reaching up to wrap her arms around his neck. "Arthur is a good man, a good king, and a good husband," she whispered in his ear as he stood there, shocked. "But I am not a good wife."
And then her lips were on his, a searing sweetness he thought he would never get to taste. A forbidden fruit he'd done his best to ignore, but now here she was, offering herself up on a plate, and though everything in him screamed at him to stop, it also begged him to continue. Trembling, he returned the queen's kiss, wrapping his arms around her and deepening it; he heard himself moan.
Turned out, he was a bad friend, too.