Arthur stared down at the dark slab of rock, trying to come up with a new plan, but his mind was a blank. Shock, probably, and he reached out to steady himself since his knees didn't seem to be doing too fine a job at it, but snatched back his hand at the last moment before it made contact.
This development was… unexpected.
He'd stolen away from the tournament to see what all the fuss was about, and because if he had to bang the dents out of Kay's helmet one more time, he couldn't be held accountable for his actions. How anyone could think that idiot capable of besting the kingdom's finest knights and getting himself crowned king, Arthur couldn't fathom. Wishful thinking, most likely.
But there was still that other way to become king of Albion. There was still that old legend, the story that had struck a chord in Arthur from the very first time he'd heard it, back when he'd been just a small boy. There was a magical sword caught deep inside a black stone, and only the True King would be able to pull it out, they said. And the sword would be the King's weapon, to serve him faithfully through times of peace and war alike, they said. And the King would never lose it, for it was his destiny to have the sword by his side, they said.
Arthur wanted to be that king. He wanted to be the one to wield the magical sword and bring peace to Albion. All his life, he'd known that when people talked of great destiny, who they meant was him.
And yet somehow, in all the stories, no one had thought it important to mention that the sword wasn't so much a sword, as it was a man.
A boy, really, looking not a day older than Arthur himself. His hair was as dark as the stone surrounding him, a stark contrast to his skin, which was white enough to make him look dead, or as if he hadn't seen the sun in years, or both. He was slender, with gangly limbs and ridiculous ears, and how was this supposed to be Arthur's destiny?! There had to be a mistake. The stories had to be wrong. This was… the wrong stone, surely, and the real sword was stuck one cave over, waiting for him.
Except that, in his left hand, the boy was holding a crown. And even Arthur, who knew more about crests than that idiot Kay but still less than he wanted to, recognised the emblem of the Pendragons when he saw it. He didn't know how he was able to see it, since the boy was stuck in the middle of solid black rock, but the stone seemed to become… translucent… whenever Arthur looked at it. Which meant pretty much all the time, because he was staring, still.
He wanted that crown. It was his.
Yet when his hand reached out, all by itself, it wasn't for the crown the boy was holding. It was for the boy's face. Dark lashes, high cheekbones, parted lips… it looked so fragile. Bewitching.
His fingers touched the stone, and slipped into it like it was nothing more than water.
The boy's skin was cool, but not as cold as Arthur had thought it would be. It was smooth beneath his fingertips, soft, and he trailed his fingers across the boy's cheek and all the way to his nose, down to a corner of the boy's mouth, mesmerised as a small gust of air brushed over his hand. A breath.
And then the boy's eyes fluttered open, to reveal the clearest blue Arthur had ever seen. They caught his gaze, and held it.
"Arthur Pendragon," the boy whispered, dimples appearing in his cheeks as he smiled. And Arthur knew that the stories had it right even before he leaned down into the stone to press a kiss against those smiling lips.
This was his sword, and it was his destiny.