Chapter 1: Daydreams are just Sun Lies
Lies, Uther has learned, are different in the daytime than they are during the night At night, they’re cloaked in shadow and hide in whispers, light as a feather tickling at the back of your throat, and they’re so easy to believe until the sun comes up.
In the day though, lies are heavy. They glitter against the earlobes and wedge themselves between molars. They’re loud and hard to swallow, but if they are believed they have a funny little habit of becoming the truth.
At night, Uther tells himself he will be a good King. He thinks of the women his father has paraded in front of him, and he tells himself how beautiful the silken yellow locks are, how shiney the raven curls were that bounced. He tells himself soft lips and painted cheeks and bosoms that bounce are the things he dreams of, and as he drifts he sees skirts in pinks and purple and he almost, almost want them. During the day, when his eyes track the knights, it is only because he needs to make sure their form is proper. He reminds himself he will soon be a proper King, one with a crown and a kingdom and subjects who might love him, or who might want his head. With the sun beating down on him, he tells himself that any outcome will be the best.
Uther tells himself he never lies. He tells himself that every word he breaths is the truth, because even though a prince must understand the difference between a day-lie and a moon-lie, he must never find himself caught in those webs. He must know they difference, how to spot a day lie and a night lie, and he must learn what they are worth, but he must never himself fall prey to one.
This then is Uther’s truth. He fell for a boy who was far too young and far too beautiful and far too pure. He fell, and he fell hard, and it cost him the skin on both their backs. This is the story Uther wrote beneath the sun, one where the boy was set in the stocks, were grown men mocked him and wanted to touch him, and where Uther nearly lost his crown trying to keep them away.
In the evening, when the moon is hiding, Uther cradles the boy in his arms. The boy whispers how he has grown, how the soft fuzz of his face has curled, thickened, how the soft strands on his head have darkened, and Uther believes him.
So he crawls between the boys legs, so he licks the sweat from his belly, the come from his cock. It is the darkest hour, so whatever he tells himself will fade in the morning. His crown rest on a pillow, waits for him to pick it up. The boy arches beneath his fingers, pulls at Uther’s hair until tears are in his eyes, until the boy's cries run down Uther’s cheeks.
It’s not a lie, when Uther lies on his back, when he grips hips kissed by the sun, when he watches awestruck as innocence debauches itself on him. He worries, just for a moment, that it is too much, too fast . But they boy speeds up, uses his knees and his thighs and his ankles until the sun crest high above them and Uther is empty and the boy sweaty and ruddy and spent, belly a little swollen.
The evening says no one will ever know what happens behind the curtains, but during the day the sun bears down on a boy’s back, tomato rots in his hair and a king holds metal to his throat. Uther holds gold in his hands and he looks into blue eyes, and he knows he must choose.
He can slip away, let the night fade and let the boy hang. Because it he bites during the day, if he speaks a name, he knows he will wear the chain around his own wrist.
The boy looks at Uther, and he is so small, softness still settled under his jaw, his face unlined. His shoulders are broad and his back strong, but Uther can see the fear he has not outgrown. The fear he may never get a chance to swallow.
Evening, Uther knows, approaches suddenly. It cloaks a person, pins them in the dirt and the leaves and sucks the breath from them through the tip of them. It curls in a secret place, crooks fingers against a spot that causes stars to explode. Evening is a tongue in a region a king never knew he wanted it.
The day is a hidden corridor and teeth against his ear, his jaw. It’s his own fingers scratching down a back, pulling at the boyish curls on a chest. It is a promise bruising shoulders, promising forever, when the king passes the crown.
This then, is the first lie Uther ever tells himself, that he ever tells the king. The boy means nothing, just let him go.
But a king is no fool and he taught the prince how to spot a day life and a night lie. He can taste the importance of the boy in the way Uther shifts on his feet, in the way he raps his knuckles against his breastplate. So he builds a gallow in the town square and he does not tell his son and when he fits the rope around the boy’s neck, and ask him his name, he waits.
Because the day yells out “Leon!” in a crowded square and the sun has made true a prince’s feelings for a boy who will become a knight. The king raises his blade to his son’s neck because he knows that his power does not extend to the skies and he cannot unwrite these words.
The last truth Uther denies runs red beneath his feet as he cuts his boy down from a braid and carries him beyond a crown that rolls into a gutter.
Chapter 2: Nightmares are just Moon Truths
The weight of a crown, Uther discovers, is no more or less heavy once it is tarnished with a former king’s blood. He learns this as Leon stands above him, as Leon places a tacky crown on his head, as the light glints of the red-tinged gold, a beautiful rosy shade to all those who don’t know the story.
In the glow of the moon he can hear his people whisper about the king with the fae kissed crown. Leon laughs a little, every time he sees Uther flinch away from those whispers. Fae kissed. No fae has ever kissed a Pendragon crown. They’re all just dipped in blood and bound by flesh.
In his nightmares, Uther sits on a throne made from the bones of his people and wrapped in belladonna and datura, and dripping with inky black dreams. He thinks its a curse, an eternal punishment for the crimes he committed in broad daylight. He thinks it’s because his people do not understand the ramifications of what he has done.
They talk, under the stars, of the king with the youthful lover. Of a king who curls his fingers into red curls and spills his cries into rosey lips. They talk about a king whose knees are raw and bloody though he never seems to kneel, who's back carries far more scars than lashes he has ever publicly received.
When the sun rises, they look at an empty throne and they wonder which visiting princess will fill the seat. Uther never corrects them, never crushes those dreams. Leon makes a show of kneeling at Uther’s feet before he serves him wine. He winks, he blushes, his cheeks grow rosey, and when the crowds begin to disperses; when the sun begins to fade, his mouth grows wide and wicked and sharp and he drapes himself across a gilded seat and he beckons Uther with fingers far too dangerous to belong to any mortal.
Uther knows these things to be the truth; Leon is no less a man than Uther is a king, his crown is washed in his father’s death, and during his reign no Queen will grace Camelot’s throne. At least during the night.
He knows though, that lies told under the sun have a certain truth, so when he finds a blonde princess, one who lies with her maid but who knows how to drape a kingdom about her shoulders, he weds her in the light of a bright moon.
Leon stands at his shoulder, ever watchful and never bitter. So he claims. But his fingers never leave Uther’s shoulders, and when Uther kisses his bride, Leon tugs the hair at the nape of his neck. Hard.
This is the truth Uther spills beneath the stars; he loves a boy who will grow into a fine man. He has found peace in the arms of a woman always absent from his bed. He wears a crown dipped in his father’s blood, runs a kingdom that might never understand why their streets glow red, and he has not slept in many years. His nightmares might never leave, but wrapped in his boy’s arms, he finds the truth isn’t nearly as heavy as gold. And if anyone were to ask him, were to offer another way, Uther would go back and do it all just the same.