in those few moments of silence
when the wrath is smothered
by a blanket of remorse,
I swear I can still hear your voice,
because I was born to love my title,
not to love you.
so now I welcome death—
stop my heart, silence my war cries,
defy the gods and, damn it,
pierce my skin until my life leaks through,
because life is for the living
and I cannot live
when my heart is already burned
and confined within the nameless urn
The resiliency of humans is something Zeldris had never given much thought to before. Yet he must admit they are remarkable. Even as devastating a blow as Rou's betrayal is no match to Arthur's spirit. The first days were somber, uncomfortable, and Arthur had gotten well and fully drunk as he spoke of Gawain into the night. Yet that was all he had needed, and with a solemn burial of the dead the king had turned an even more determined eye towards Escanor.
Zeldris offers what comfort he can. The irony is sharp as Arthur holds him tightly, whispering memories of his friends, his shirt growing damp as he cries out the last of his misery. The lovemaking that follows is at least more familiar; they undress one another, kissing and caressing each other the way they had grown accustomed. Zeldris tastes him for the first time, their movements deliberate, the rush of pleasure cathartic. Thoughts of Gelda tease on the edges of his mind, keeping him from surrendering himself completely to emotion. Thoughts of the Underworld disappear completely.
That is, until the king himself arrives at their camp.
Meliodas' presence is immediate. It had been weeks since the campaign had continued, Arthur and his men securing nearly all of Britannia behind them. All that remains is to remove Escanor from his seat, a battle that is inevitable within a week's time. The camp is busy with preparations, stockpiling food and water as they repair weapons and reinforce armor, when a shadow seems to cross the area. The animals stir and the forge pauses, everyone feeling the same coldness in their hearts.
Then it passes as quickly as it came, life resuming as normal. But Zeldris knows what it means, and he leaves the discussion with the horsemaster and heads towards his own tent, sending out a signature so Meliodas can easily find him.
When he enters the king is there already, sitting in a chair and eating fruit from a plate. "There you are," says Meliodas without looking up.
Zeldris swallows nervously. "I know that I was due back—"
"Ages ago, yes. Estarossa has had some fun covering your duties, but the work builds up." Meliodas stands and rubs his hands together. "Shall we go?"
He looks at the entrance to the tent, and then back to Meliodas. "I can't, I—"
"Having too good a time? Enjoying fighting a war? Playing at loyalty and politics?" Meliodas' tone is dangerous, his eyes darkening while his smile remains passive. "Or is it this boy who wants to be king that has kept you from the Underworld?"
Zeldris bristles, despite being so close to the truth. "I was sent here on an errand by Belios. A favor you asked me to do, if you recall."
With a laugh the king shakes his head. "How shocking. Had I known Belios would send you off to be a cocksucker for the human, I wouldn't have bothered."
He knows he must show deference to the king, but the accusation is so shocking that Zeldris' power whips outwards with his fury. "You don't know what the hell you're talking about!"
I will have his heart for this, Zeldris thinks: the disgusting heart given to him by a goddess. Meliodas dares to rebuke him when this all started because of him and hisperversions for a goddess! His anger turns into knives that aim for the king, and Zeldris is ready to sacrifice everything for revenge. First Gelda, and now this… his pride can only take so much.
The dark power is rebuffed with a wave of the king's hand, and Zeldris remembers himself, pulling his magic back sharply in humiliation. Defeating Meliodas would be impossible; breaking an oath would be the end of him. With deep gasps of air Zeldris tries to settle, until finally a hand is placed on his shoulder. "You've broken our commandments," says Meliodas quietly.
Zeldris snaps up to look into his face. "It is not against our law to be with a human. Estarossa—"
"You interfered with fate," Meliodas replies. His voice softens, and his eyes nearly seem kind, and somehow that is worse. "Arthur was meant to die, and you saved his life. You have interfered with Death's work. His death should have come to pass, but you saved him."
"What?" Zeldris whispers. "No, I—I didn't—"
"I've been watching you," says the king quietly. "You didn't kill him when you arrived. You saved him from the bandits. You killed that human who poisoned the rest of his men." The blood drains from Zeldris' face as it burns with shame. "We cannot interfere in the lives of humans. It is our place to give judgment, but not change their fate."
"You should destroy me then," he whispers harshly. "As you say, I have broken our laws."
Meliodas sighs. "That isn't necessary. Come back with me now, and this whole thing will be settled."
Zeldris clenches his hands into fists, his eyes squeezing shut. Leave, now? Without a word to Arthur? It would have to be this way, of course; no explanation would satisfy him. But not only can he not tell him the truth, he cannot say with any certainty he would leave on his own without Meliodas' presence.
"I can't," Zeldris says. "I know I must but—"
"He is going to battle and I have to stop him!" He looks at Meliodas in fear. "He doesn't know Escanor is really Belios. He doesn't know the trap Merlin has set."
Meliodas growls, "It isn't your concern."
"Merlin has betrayed him, and I've been here, helping him instead of getting my revenge."
The king lifts his chin. "So that's what this is. Revenge for Gelda. You are hoping to draw her out by using her pawn?"
"Yes. No. I don't know." Zeldris shakes his head as if to ward off the impending panic. "I can't go with you. Not this moment. Let me explain to Arthur what is to be done—"
"You don't get it, do you?" Meliodas seizes him by the collar of his coat and gives him a hard shake. "That king is going to die! That is his fate. You have interfered three times and cannot again. Even giving him a warning could change things once again."
Zeldris shakes in the king's grip, pressing his hands on his arm to try to get free. "Then I'll do it myself!" he cries, finally wrenching himself away. "If Arthur is so certain to die, I'll kill him myself and fulfill my promise to Belios. You'll have your favor and at least he won't be tortured to death or die in the mud of the battlefield."
Meliodas studies him, pressing his lips into a fine line. "Very well," he finally says. "You will make sure he dies. I expect your return soon."
The air shifts and the king is swallowed by shadows until nothing remains. Zeldris moves slowly to sit in the chair once occupied by his brother, staring across the tent at the dagger that sits on the top of his trunk.
Arthur is standing and looking over a table of maps when Zeldris enters his tent, well after dark. "There you are," the king says cheerfully without turning around. "Did you get something? I didn't see you at dinner."
"No," he replies.
Zeldris notes the shift in his stance and the slight way his back tenses. "Is this it then?"
"What?" he bites out with a frown.
"Is this it. Are you leaving?" Arthur's face turns slightly, still not looking back at him. "Or did you decide to kill me?"
Heat flushes his neck, his hand moving to the hilt of the dagger now on his hip. His pulse beats wildly as sweat breaks out on his brow. "What do you want from me?" Zeldris hisses.
The king is quiet for a moment before replying, "Just the truth." He turns and looks Zeldris in the eyes. "That's all I ever wanted."
Zeldris scoffs. "All you ever wanted? Is that it, when you were in my bed and you—" He swallows thickly, embarrassed at how unaffected Arthur is. "You don't know anything."
"So tell me." Arthur remains unmoving, stoic, so unlike the man he normally is that Zeldris feels himself reeling. "We both know you aren't here looking for someone. You aren't some sword for hire or a soldier or whatever you pretend to be. You sure as hell didn't join me to help me take my place as king. So why not tell me the damn truth for once, since I've been in your bed?"
His knife is drawn in a flash, and Zeldris has the king by a grip on the front of his shirt. He slams Arthur back against the table, the blade poised at his neck. Arthur does not move, but places his palms on his shoulders to brace himself. Every muscle is tensed, his neck straining, breath coming in short bursts. "So you were sent to kill me," Arthur murmurs.
"You don't know anything," Zeldris replies. "You don't know anything!"
"You're right," Arthur replies.
He closes his eyes, relaxing in Zeldris' grip. Zeldris' eyes go wide as he watches him accept his fate. "What's wrong with you?" he growls. "Do you want to die? Fight me!" Arthur does not answer, so he presses the tip into his skin. "I will kill you!"
"I just want the truth."
Zeldris trembles as he gazes down at him. His eyes search his face, desperate for some clue what to say or do; anything to make him stop feeling again. This whole thing is because of him, his violet eyes and the feel of his skin and the sound of his groans, that for some reason the demon can feel. He's not supposed to feel such things! Zeldris' fist that is pressed on his chest and keeps Arthur pinned to the table tightens. It is his fault this happened: his stupid ambition, his charm, his heart. Doesn't he know there is no place for him in the Underworld?
He bows his head, trying to take a breath. This is not the Underworld; it is Britannia, where men live and die by their own hearts. It is Zeldris who is out of place here, Zeldris' choices that have pushed them both to this moment. As Meliodas had pointed out, his own actions that kept Arthur here instead of going there. All he has to do is push the knife into his throat; so why does he hesitate?
"It's okay," Arthur whispers. Zeldris winces when Arthur presses his palms onto his cheeks. "Did Escanor send you himself?"
"Yes," Zeldris bites out. "But it's not what you think. I'm not—"
"I understand." Then, incredibly, he pulls Zeldris closer, and Arthur brushes his nose along his. "We all must act according to our heart. I thought I had understood yours, even though I couldn't feel it."
"You don't know anything." He can't bear to look at Arthur's face and see those familiar eyes staring back at him, knowing that he will die.
"I know that I love you," Arthur says.
The knife clatters on the table as their arms go around one another. Zeldris opens his mouth under Arthur's, and the kiss is deep, searing, as every inch of their bodies press against one another. He pours the agony that has supplanted his heart into the way his tongue rolls into Arthur's mouth, moaning when Arthur's lungs stutter for breath. "The bed—"
They are there in an instant, Zeldris climbing over him, their mouths remaining connected until Arthur pulls his shirt up and over his head. The rest of their clothes are discarded as hands move over sculpted muscle. Zeldris grips Arthur's thighs as the king slides his palms down Zeldris' chest, reaching in between them to take his cock, now hard and straining, in his hand.
Zeldris lets go a moan as he drags his mouth to Arthur's neck. He tastes the bronzed skin eagerly, kissing down the broad shoulders, his chest, lapping at one stiff nipple. Arthur bucks against him, his own sex grazing Zeldris' as he pumps his hips steadily to fuck into his palm. The king's hand is well coated in moments from the droplets that weep from the tip, allowing him to glide along the slippery length with an easy twisting motion.
They are moving so fast now; too fast, and Zeldris cannot stop himself, even if he wished to. The hand on his sex and the hand in his hair are pulling him closer and closer to ecstacy, and he wants to slow down, to savor and enjoy, the way they had the other times they were like this. From that night when Arthur had gone down on him, each time since has been slow, and tentative, Arthur assuring him he wanted it. He had shown him how to give oral pleasure and how to touch him, and excitement flutters down Zeldris' spine when he thinks of the look on Arthur's face when he had orgasmed in his fist, and once in his mouth, understanding his body's reactions and making him want to do it again and again.
Arthur pushes him over, and he slides down his body to take the demon into his mouth. This is becoming a familiar move, and the king seems insatiable for it. Arthur had told him he tasted unlike anyone else, which had made him almost unbearably embarrassed; but the king's lovely smile and his lips on his neck had swept away those feelings as he brought him release again. That unbearable itch deep inside his core takes hold, and Zeldris plants his heels in the bed to thrust upwards as he grips the amber locks in his fingers.
But there is something else he wants; their argument and Meliodas' demands and this entire doomed campaign weigh heavily on him, and no matter how clever Arthur is with his mouth, the relief he needs stays at bay. His eyes close when Arthur lets him fall away to move over him and cover him with his body. "What is it?" he whispers, brushing Zeldris' hair back from his damp forehead.
Zeldris hates it, hates the easy affection and how it makes him feel safe and treasured, but turns to nuzzle Arthur's cheek. "I'm sorry," he gasps.
Arthur holds him as his arms go around the king's shoulders. He holds himself up on his elbows, their legs entwined as he finds a comfortable position between Zeldris' thighs. "I just want you," Arthur murmurs. "I want you so badly, and I know it's selfish… I don't think I can bear you going away, I can't."
The confession makes his heart twist, so Zeldris presses his palms on the king's lower back, rocking slightly so their cocks slide together. Arthur hums in pleasure, sending his head spinning. The two turn their faces at the same time, meeting in a kiss that is slow and luscious, letting Zeldris forget the rest. Their bodies work to grind against one another, and this time the passion builds in a gradual but steady climb, until Zeldris feels as though he will burst.
"Zeldris, I need to be inside you," Arthur whispers.
Arthur's mouth suctions on his neck as his eyes fly open. Inside him? Possess him that way, take his body for his own? The protest dies on his lips as Arthur's teeth graze his throat, and then the king moves his hand down the firm muscle of his backside to tease along the seam. Zeldris' cock twitches at the sensation, his arms going tighter as Arthur pants against him. He seems to be enjoying this even more than Zeldris, who tilts his knees to allow Arthur's fingers to slip inside and graze against his entrance.
Methodically Arthur kisses him as he strokes him, until there is a sensation that exists inside Zeldris that he had never felt before: he wants to be filled, to be possessed, to belong to another. With Gelda it had been the opposite—he wanted to take her as his own, to hold her and make her his, forever and ever. But with Arthur, he longs to give himself to the king, to leave himself behind and surrender to the pleasure that he senses just beyond his vision.
Then Arthur presses his finger inside of him, and Zeldris arches his back with a long, low moan. "Yes… yes, just like that…" Arthur murmurs, teasing him slowly, stretching his body as Zeldris slowly adjusts to the feeling and relaxes. They kiss again, sloppy this time, both of them distracted by Zeldris' reaction; as if outside of him, Zeldris can feel Arthur's cock wet and hot as it ruts against his backside, and all he can think of is more.
Zeldris is aching now, another finger added, and as Arthur moves deeper he hits a spot inside of him that has Zeldris crying out in surprise. It is as shocking as it is electric, his fingers digging into Arthur's shoulders as he gasps away from the kiss. He sees Arthur smile down at him and whisper something before the king removes his fingers and take hold of his thighs, spreading him wide and pushing the head of his cock inside him.
The king looks breathtaking, beautiful almost, a vision of youth and light as he sinks inside Zeldris. Slowly, slowly, he rocks in and out, his mouth dropping open in pleasure as he presses deeper with each pass. "So good…" he moans, "so tight…" But Zeldris is mesmerized by the way Arthur looks over him, the muscles in his arms and neck straining, the violet eyes that had haunted him locked on his. He is beautiful, Zeldris decides, as the king enters him fully and holds himself there a moment, cursing softly when he slides back.
The pace is deep and hard, but nothing but pleasure. Zeldris twists, holding onto Arthur tightly, not knowing what to do; but the king bites his lips as he thrusts, the friction between them building until Zeldris takes hold of his cock and starts to fist himself quickly. He is burning, everything inside of him strained and reaching for Arthur, and when the king leans up with a quick snap of his hips, Zeldris takes hold of his hair and pulls him down into another kiss. He feels the thick, searing liquid filling him, but he refuses to let go, even when Arthur is whimpering into his mouth, even when his own peak bursts through him like lightning, his seed shooting between them and coating his stomach and hand as Arthur's cock twitches the last of his orgasm. They lay panting together, lips sliding on one another, kissing as two lovers who may never meet again.