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“When there’s nothing to hold on to, hold on to your faith.”

The hand which touches his cheek is rough and calloused, befouled with the blood of heretics. Yet that hand is infinitely gentle, and it is warm. It’s been so long. Too long. Landry can’t remember the last time anyone touched him with kindness. His heart aches, and he weeps.

When Talus leans forward and presses his forehead against Landry’s, there is nothing of the boudoir, of the softness and sweetness of beautiful women in it. He smells of sour male sweat, of mud, and of death. Even his breath, hot against Landry’s face, reeks of decay.

Landry doesn’t care. He needs this. He needs it now. He needs to feel alive again! Landry buries his fingers in Talus’s unkempt gray hair and pulls him into a crushing kiss, their teeth knocking together with a sharp clack, Talus’s beard rasping against the superficial cuts on Landry’s jaw as he begins to reciprocate. This isn’t so much kissing as biting, really – they are equals in this, and fierce – but when their tongues meet and start to dance and joust, wet and questing, yes, and alive, the piercing pleasure of it shoots straight down to Landry’s loins.

“More… Please… I-I need…” he moans into Talus’s mouth. He is hard, he knows, and desperate. His hips jerk uncontrollably. If Talus were his brother knight, he might…

Ah, but Landry has no right to call Talus his brother! He has broken his vows; he has sinned against God; he has betrayed the Order! Yet right now, in this moment, none of that seems to matter. Talus is no longer Landry’s master. No, they are brothers of a different kind, he and Talus, their bond forged in battle, strengthened by shared tragedy. One of Talus’s rough, befouled hands slides down Landry’s body, setting him alight as he goes, seeking his pulsing, throbbing centre, pushing all obstacles aside and finding it, seizing it…

The strokes on his cock are graceless and almost painful; the callouses on Talus’s hand scrape and chafe. Nonetheless, they are effective, and it takes less than a minute before Landry is spilling himself between Talus’s thick fingers and whimpering his relief. More tears squeeze themselves out of the corners of Landry’s eyes, their salt stinging his wounds until Talus kisses them away.

Talus will not allow Landry to reciprocate, though Landry would have done so in a heartbeat – with his hands, his lips, his tongue, even his arse, opening his legs like a blushing boy sodomite, had Talus wanted that of him. But he does hold Landry to his breast, caressing his shamefully shorn head while he cries and shakes.

“Let us return to the temple,” Talus says after Landry has achieved some small measure of calm. “You may hold onto me whilst we ride.”

Two knights mounted upon one horse – the ancient symbol of their Order. Will they be brother Templars again, he and Talus? For the first time in a long time, Landry believes it might be possible. He holds fast to his faith as he holds fast to Talus on their ride back to Chartres.