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May 1185

The aftermath of battle was never pretty. Even in a skirmish, there were injuries, the inevitable chaos that comes when men shoot at one another with bows or hit one another with swords. And this had been a series of skirmishes, over the better part of a week, with Richard's forces harrying Geoffrey's along the border between Normandy and Brittany, engaging them before being driven back by the marshy terrain that clawed at their horses' hooves, circling back to higher ground only to be confronted by another volley of Breton arrows, and doing it all again.

At last, on the seventh day, they rested, and as evening approached, Geoffrey came to Richard's camp under the banner of truce.

"Do you not trust me to keep the Sabbath's peace?" Richard asked when he saw his brother's approach, surrounded by a squadron of guards.

"Not for a moment, Richard. You'd stab a baby on Christmas morn before Mass if you thought it would help your cause."

"It depends on the baby," Richard said idly. He gestured for Geoffrey to join him in his pavilion, and after a moment's consideration Geoff did so, nodding to his guards that they should remain nearby.

The canvas tent was a spacious but plain affair, the kind of thing meant for a war-leader always on the move, not a pampered prince. As Richard strode into it, Geoffrey noticed that he was favouring his left side but trying to hide it. "An old wound acting up, or a fresh one?" he inquired with a more-than-academic curiosity.

"A thorn in my side," Richard replied, grimacing.

"You are being especially belligerent, even for you," Geoffrey told him. "And after we had such a nice visit over Easter, too. What's changed?"

"Nothing has changed." Richard paced the limited confines of the tent, but stopped and held a hand to his hip, wincing. "You're still a deceptive, conniving, manipulative bastard."

"Now," Geoffrey said mildly, holding up a hand in protest. "I may be many of those things, but I'm confident our parents were well and truly wedded at the time of my birth. Unless Henry's had the Pope retroactively disown us, and I haven't heard?"

"Not yet," Richard sighed. "He's been busy seeing John off to inflict himself on Ireland."

"Our baby brother is well underway - Henry is on his way here," Geoff said. Partly, perhaps, it was an instinct to prove to Richard that he always knew more, knew first, knew best. But at its basest level, it was a threat, a warning. A child's tattling warning - 'Father will punish you when he finds out what you've done.'

It hadn't been effective when they were nine and ten years old, and it wasn't effective now. Richard looked supremely unmoved by the news, if it was even news to him. "Why are you here?" he asked, sounding weary more than anything.

"I thought it was worth finding out why you're attacking me this time," Geoff replied. "That is, if there's a reason beyond your usual thwarted desires because I have something you don't."

"You have any number of things I don't, Geoff," Richard said. "A wife, children, a duchy that no one's tried to take away from you --"

"Apart from you," Geoff pointed out, with a slight wave of his hand that encompassed the military encampment that surrounded them.

"I mean Henry and Eleanor," said Richard. "I've held and lost the Aquitaine so many times I'm never sure when I wake up each morning if I'm a duke or not."

"It must be very hard on your rest. No wonder you look so tired." Geoff let his voice convey a brotherly concern because he knew it would annoy Richard.

"Shouldn't you be in Paris, kissing Philip's ring?"

"Richard, how filthy," Geoff smiled. "I've kissed many parts of him, but not there..."

"He made you his seneschal," Richard almost spat. "After he -- after I thought we..."

"Thought we what? Had an agreement? Had Geoff right where we wanted him? Crawling to you on the floor, humbled? You let yourself be fooled because you wanted to be," Geoffrey retorted. "You're like a strand of wool on a spindle - wrap you around my finger, set you spinning, and let you fall so that you do most of the work of twisting yourself up." To most observers, his voice would have sounded even, but Richard could detect a barely-suppressed tremor in it. "Philip finds you too stubborn to sway, but he doesn't have my decades of practice."

"So was it your idea, that night at Rouen?" Richard circled around behind Geoffrey, pacing like a lion, and Geoff turned with him, unwilling to let his brother have unfettered access to his back for easier knife placement. "You played a part --"

"I played you like a lute, dear brother," Geoffrey said. "Or perhaps a flute is more appropriate, given our relative positions at the time..." He didn't have a chance to finish his sentence, as Richard lunged at him, striking him a blow that knocked the breath out of him, bruising or perhaps even breaking a rib as he hit the ground. Richard stood over him, imposing and cruel and deadly, and for a moment Geoffrey wondered whether he had at last pushed his elder brother too far. Even if he called for his guards now, they wouldn't get there in time to save him.

Then he noticed the red stain that was spreading across Richard's side, soaking through the wool of his tunic. "You're bleeding," he said, even as Richard's face went pale and he sank slowly to the ground.

Geoff scrambled over to him, pushing his tunic up hastily. The wound there, obviously inflicted a day or two ago, had been stitched up by the camp chirurgeon but Richard had torn it partly open again. "Idiot, what did you do to yourself?" Geoff muttered, pressing his palm against the injured flesh to staunch the fresh flow of blood. His own pain was momentarily forgotten as he tended to his brother's injury.

Richard winced and tried to push him away, but either couldn't muster the strength or wasn't trying too hard. "Call for the physician," he muttered, but Geoffrey shook his head.

"What am I going to say, that you ripped your stitches open trying to beat me up, like we were a pair of schoolboys?"

"No one would be surprised," Richard grumbled, but he allowed Geoffrey to help him up carefully and, leaning on one another, they made their way slowly over to the bed. Geoff made Richard strip off his tunic and tights and lie down, then found some clean linen strips to make a fresh bandage for him. He wrapped it carefully around his body while Richard griped but more or less complied with his ministrations.

When at last he had Richard securely bandaged up, and it seemed like the bleeding had mostly stopped, Geoff crawled into bed beside him, curling up next to him the way they had when they were young and one or the other had been scared of some noise or shadow in the night. "Go away," Richard said, but he sounded tired more than angry now. "Why would you think I'd want you here?"

"Who else do you have left?" Geoffrey drew close, wrapping his arm around Richard (careful to avoid his injured side, and still favouring his own bruised ribs as well). "Take me or leave me, but the offer won't be made again."

They lay there, still as paired statues on a tomb, each contemplating the convoluted path that had brought them to this point. Then, with a grimace of discomfort, Richard turned towards his brother, struggling to help him remove his clothing as well. "Don't over-exert yourself," Geoff told him, and sat up to shrug his tunic off. Leaning back over Richard, his hand resting lightly on his stomach, Geoff bowed his head to lick one of Richard's nipples, gently coaxing it into hardness before switching to the other one. He could feel the tension in Richard's muscles, the way his stomach quivered at the sensation, the breath held fast in his lungs as though he was drowning.

Geoffrey took his time in teasing his brother, as the ruddy glow of the sunset that was faintly visible through the canvas of the tent faded and darkened, replaced with the pinpoint gleams of torches and campfires. He trusted that the general clamour of a military encampment at night would conceal any sounds that might betray them. For once Richard was quiet in any case, giving only the occasional hushed moan as Geoff ran his tongue over his skin.

After a time, though, Richard grew impatient, tangling his fingers in Geoffrey's hair and tugging him up, forcing him to crane his neck and look at him. Geoffrey's eyes were large and wide, and for a heartbeat they gazed at one another, unable to mask their feelings quite as well as usual.

"Enough of that," Richard said gruffly, the first to avert his eyes. "You'll make me feel like a damned wetnurse."

"At least it can't possibly remind me of Mother," Geoff replied. "It's not as though she ever suckled any of us."

"And spoil her figure? Not likely," Richard scoffed. He loosened his grip on Geoffrey's hair, and let his fingers trail down the side of his face instead. Geoff turned into the touch with a sigh that would have been verging on contentment if it weren't so needy. "Stop trying so hard to please me and just take what you want," Richard told him quietly, running his callused thumb along Geoff's parted lips.

"Whatever I want?" he breathed. They both knew what was being offered, a favour never before granted.

"Do it before I change my mind," Richard said with a frown. "There's oil in the casket on the table."

Geoff, being Geoff, couldn't quite resist pressing him, even as he rose from the bed to retrieve the stoppered flask, and to tug off his leggings on the way back across the tent. "Did you ever do this for Philip...?"

"It's not too late for me to murder you with my bare hands, little brother," Richard warned him. "Ask him when next you meet, if you want to know so badly. Gorge yourself on answers and choke."

"It's how I've always wanted to go," Geoffrey replied, slipping naked into bed. He helped Richard roll onto his good side, propping him with cushions to keep him steady as he drew up one of his legs far enough to spread himself. Then, cautiously but efficiently as always, he poured a trickle of oil over his fingers and began working them into Richard's waiting arse.

It was hot, tight, and almost achingly intimate. Undistracted by his own cock's urges (though he couldn't deny it was painfully hard), all he had to focus his attention on was Richard, the sounds he made, the way he trembled and tightened before relaxing further with each slow thrust. For although Richard had told him to take what he wanted, Geoffrey couldn't quite give up on his desperate need to please his older brother. He wanted to hear him beg, wanted to undo him if he could. He kept on fingering him patiently - patience was one of Geoff's great virtues, and he was going to exploit it for all it was worth.

Richard squirmed, unaccustomed to such painstaking care. "Come on already," he muttered.

"Ask nicely," Geoff replied, twisting his wrist slightly so that Richard gave a sudden gasp. "Use those pretty manners you were taught. You can even say it in verse if you prefer."

"Fuck you," Richard retorted, then let out a strangled moan as Geoff found a particular spot inside him and pressed. "Ahh, Geoff! Please!"

Geoffrey leaned down to whisper against his brother's ear. "You can do better than that."

Richard clenched his jaw shut, stubborn, but at last he couldn't bear the steady thrust of those clever fingers any longer. "Fuck me, Geoff, please, fuck me hard..." The words were barely audible above a whisper, but the desperate vulnerability was good enough for what he wanted to hear.

Geoff lined himself up to let his cock take the place his hand had so recently occupied, making the transition so seamlessly that Richard was only empty for a moment. He tried to keep from crying aloud at the feeling of being sheathed inside his brother's slick hole, but he couldn't. Instead he stifled his moans against Richard's shoulder, pressed against his back so close that a strand of silk couldn't have fit between them. Geoff could barely move at first, Richard was clutching him so tight, but soon he was able to begin to gradually rock his hips, giving him long, slow strokes to start with. Now that his own pleasure was engaged, he knew he wouldn't be able to maintain such control for long.

Richard gave a harsh grunt as Geoffrey thrust into him more roughly, and pushed back in response. Geoff let his hand creep around Richard's hip, sliding down to grasp his cock as he continued fucking him. This time Richard didn't protest that he didn't need such measures, but laid his own hand over top of his brother's to guide his strokes. Geoff responded by reaming him harder yet, exorcising years of pent-up bitterness and resentment with each brutal thrust. Richard made no protest, but suffered it willingly, begging for more, either enjoying the rough treatment, or at least believing that he deserved it. Perhaps there was little difference for any of them, when love and hate were so intertwined.

Before long, Geoff could feel his release coiling inside his body, the tension heightened with every stroke. He shuddered hard inside Richard, unleashing that normally cautious control with a rush that left him shivering when it finally passed. When he slid out of him, Richard gave a whimper that wasn't pleasure, and Geoff felt something warm and sticky on his skin. In the darkness he couldn't see it clearly, but the coppery smell told him it was blood, not semen. "I hurt you," he said, still dazed.

"It's nothing, I've had worse," Richard said. If he was lying, for once Geoff couldn't tell. His normal compass had spun out of control - now that he had fucked Richard, held him in his power, made him beg, hurt him, then he no longer knew which way was north or where the sun would rise tomorrow. Perhaps it wouldn't rise at all, and this night would herald the start of the Apocalypse. It seemed about as likely.

"Let me take care of you," he heard himself saying, though the words sounded unnatural on his tongue. He was younger, Richard was the one who took care of him - or had once, at least, though those days were long since vanished. He had lost his grip on Richard's cock during the buildup to his own climax, but now he sought it out again, renewing his ambitions. Richard groaned, this time in a more pleasurable way, and gave a few feeble thrusts, matching his brother's pace. His tightly-wrapped bandages and the pain of his injuries kept him from moving as freely as he would wish, however, and soon he simply lay back and let Geoff handle things. Under that expert touch, it didn't take long before he was drawn back up to the heights of ecstasy, and then permitted to plummet, dizzyingly, towards his own release.

Afterwards, a fresh awkwardness fell over them both. Geoffrey rose and dressed, wishing for a looking glass to know whether his hair was a mess, his face as flushed as it felt. Richard remained in his bed, but drew a blanket over himself to hide any telltale signs of what had happened that night. "Don't worry," Geoffrey told his brother, "if anyone asks, I'll tell them we had a fight and I won."

"At least make up something convincing," Richard said. "No one will believe that."

Geoffrey turned back to him for a moment, silhouetted against the darkness. "Well, if I tell them you won, then surely you have no reason to keep attacking me. What sort of valiant prince pursues a beaten enemy?"

"Fine," Richard said, and Geoff could hear the eyeroll in his voice. "Take your men and retreat - we won't follow. For now."

"Make sure the physician sees you in the morning," Geoff said as he made to depart. "I'd hate to find out later that I'd fucked you to death. I might even feel guilty." He didn't wait around to hear Richard's reply, but made his way off to rejoin his guards and spin another set of lies.