At some point along their journey, the Elven Prince fell in love with his knight. The first time he noticed that the sway of his feelings had changed came when the two of them stopped for the night in a valley in the mountains. Sir Christopher Squire roped their chestnut horse, Khatru, to a stake in the ground and called Jon over to give Khatru a handful of oats, something Jon had always enjoyed. But when he approached, feed in hand, he caught a glimpse of Chris—Jon had long ago abandoned calling him “Sir Squire”—smiling down at him, green eyes glittering like the surface of a lake under a patch of rogue sunlight on an otherwise cloudy day, and he thought to himself how lovely it would be to see such a sight every day, perhaps to wake up to it, and, most of all, to be the cause of it. Then the force of his gasp nearly made him shove his hand into Khatru’s teeth. He had fallen in love with a man, a human being, and for another fortnight’s journey he would have to figure out what to do about it and not make an idiot of himself, as well.
But how in the world could he avoid making an idiot of himself when he swooned his face into Chris’ back anytime they rode atop Khatru? Or when he giggled rosy-cheeked at every sarcastic comment the knight made about the surroundings? Or when they stopped and exchanged the two most fragrant honeysuckle flowers they could find? Or felt his body roll into the knight’s arms every night when they lay down to sleep? He couldn’t control himself. As hard as he tried to remind himself that, alas, Mother Nature had decreed that if an elf falls in love with a human, his senses go stupid until he’s been accepted or rejected.
Men, he thought. Good thing even the elves with soulbonds toward humans were immortal, otherwise every one of them would be rendered too foolish to survive.
Jon spent fourteen days wincing at every word he spoke to Chris before they finally reached the Elven Kingdom. Once they’d made the courtly welcome rounds, and Jon had introduced the knight to his parents, the King and Queen, he skittered off as quickly as he could to his bedchamber. He said he required a moment to refresh before the night’s feast celebrating his return.
“Refresh,” of course, meant “toddle back and forth dreading making the decision of whether to sit in silence beside Chris for this last evening before he leaves forever to return to his kingdom or to confess and face either matrimony (wonders!) or withering away in an instant to a breath of glittering dust (horrors!).” And “a moment” consisted of “several hours.” Jon hadn’t the foggiest idea whether Chris returned his feelings. Between those gentle moments of solidarity came rows over who had the worse temperament and who had made the worst decision regarding this or that, from which route to take to which way they should roast a nut. Chris had a reason for everything, some cold nugget of man-logic that Jon didn’t understand but couldn’t bring himself to argue. The thought of Chris made him want to scream and either punch something or sob. The softest murmur of creaking wood within the Tree Palace sent him jumping, and when he realized it wasn’t some servant or another coming up to check on him, he cursed himself. Stupider and stupider.
No. Not stupid at all. This he had to remind himself, because he wanted to live just as much as he wanted to be with Chris, and the two were linked quite inextricably. The choice settled upon Jon’s head like a hawk using his floral crown as a nest.
Whenever Jon sat upon the woven leaves of the blanket that covered his bed, feeling the wool within the mattress give beneath his weight and eyeing the dark swirls of tree root that formed the canopy, he convinced himself that something heavy and ravenous, likely his heart, was pulling him down a spiraling tunnel, and even if it let go, he would go right on falling, like liquid slipping down a throat. He would decide, then, to say nothing, let Chris carry on back to his homeland, and spend eternity in longing until he wasted away. Which at that point, he figured, would honestly be a relief.
But whenever he sat on his windowsill and gazed through the leaves and branches toward the river, which swerved and wound its way through the meadows and far off into the distance, where the mountains they’d crossed rose into the sky, barely distinguishable from great lavender clouds, he thought of the distance the two of them had traveled. A month’s journey beyond those mountains lay the human kingdom Chris called home; a month’s journey from a land by the sea, so different from the woodland home Jon knew so well. The two of them pledged loyalty to polar opposites, but the tour from one point to the other rendered them equally ignorant and equally awestruck. Whenever he looked out the window at the expanse of the globe they’d traveled together, Jon decided he would risk turning to specks of light at the sound of a rejection, if it meant he had the chance to hear Chris accept.
And when he sat on his rosewood Windsor he went right back to vacillating.
Jon didn’t realize he had vacillated himself right into a slumber until he heard a knocking at the door. He seemed to have already scrambled to his feet before recognizing he’d awoken, so, stunned, he shook the final scraps of sleep away, and, while stretching, noticed that the sun had just fallen below the horizon, leaving the landscape under a veneer of pale blue. The feast would start in less than an hour, and Jon had still not reached a decision.
He found it only fitting to discover Chris on the other side of the door. He stifled a moan whose meaning even he couldn’t determine. “Good evening, Christopher,” he stammered, gesturing the knight inside. “Come, come, I know the feast is nigh upon us.”
Chris, tall even among his kind, had to duck under the doorway to make it inside. When Jon scurried toward the windowsill—then toward the bed—then back toward the windowsill again, he shut the door behind him. “We were getting a bit concerned about you, Your Highness,” he said. “I thought I’d come check on you. Is everything all right?”
Jon nodded, backing himself into the wall, his head only inches from the window. “Aye, aye, wonderous, nobbut fair wonderous, it is. Fain to gi’ thee a sken at us!”
Chris scratched his head before he shook it. “You’re using the elf-tongue, Your Highness. Something’s the matter.”
“Nay, nay, nay,” Jon replied. “Gradely jannocked, I am, perhaps, but nay, sawreetferthee.”
When Chris said, “Stop that,” Jon could have melted to his knees. As a prince, he’d grown so accustomed to being acquiesced to, to being catered to, to being humored, that when he met opposition—especially if it was in his own interest—he found it as wonderful as he found it repellent. He wanted to fight with Chris, put his nails to his skin and slice him, then give in when Chris pinned him to the ground and held him there. He spent a moment wanting to Chris to use his body to prove him wrong, but it passed, and he recognized the zip of heat and rage and desire that pulsed through him for what it was. Chris couldn’t entertain Jon’s stubborn, idiotic whims. Jon loved this about him so much that he even loved the milliseconds he could spend hating him.
Chris stepped toward him, neither cornering him nor looming over him. His eyes, deep green and shining in the last light of the retreating sun, jittered as he scanned Jon’s face, his body, every inch of him. Jon felt it like a shadow passing over him, cool under a summer sky. He shut his eyes to focus on feeling it. A hiss of a gasp seeped through his parted lips.
“Your Highness,” Chris said, and he extended a massive hand to tuck a lock of hair behind the pointed tip of Jon’s ear, right under the woven roses and lavender flowers of his crown. So careful.
The touch, the sigh of evening air from the open window, the proximity, the sound of his voice, the care, made Jon shiver. He replied, “Christopher, I love you.”
Chris’ hand stilled, his thumb against the tip of Jon’s ear. Again his eyes began to wander, focusing for instants at a time on anything but Jon’s eyes, and then he finished smoothing the hair into place, and he rested his hand on Jon’s shoulder. “Your Highness,” he said, then he bit his lip.
Jon shut his eyes. At any moment he would feel his body begin to disintegrate, he knew it. So while he had the chance, he stood there, unmoving, and absorbed as best he could that hand on his shoulder.
“Twas my greatest of pleasures to have gotten to know you, it was, my knight, my dearest,” he murmured. And he waited to become the air.
It turned out dissolving into the ether not only took a very long time, but also kept Jon’s sense of hearing intact, as he learned when Chris asked, “Is this normal elf behavior? Confessing your love and then taking a nap?”
Jon opened his eyes. Nearly a foot above him, Chris smirked, and when he felt the muscles of his face twist and contract to pout up at him, he realized it also turned out that he was not dissolving at all. His earlier fleeting urge to scream dropped in on him again and left before he could actually do it. The most he managed was a series of limp slaps against Chris’ chest.
“Jow thee fat yed, thee no nouse git!” Jon cried. “Seyn thee love us, too, don’t flummox us like that!”
He had the energy and, as far as he cared, the reason to keep right on hitting Chris until one or both of them collapsed, but even if the assault had filled him to brimming with mirth, he couldn’t have kept going. The knight wrapped his hands around Jon’s wrists, gently, and pulled him to his chest, a little less gently. Jon started tilting his head upward, his body knowing better than his flustered mind what to expect; even so he blushed and gasped into the kiss Chris gave him. A puff of air sailed in through the window and made Jon collapse into Chris’ arms. He had to hold on not to fall when Chris broke away.
“The only things you’ve said that I understood were ‘I love you’ and ‘git,’” Chris chuckled. “But if it’ll calm you down at all, yes, I do love you, too.”
Jon imagined the fight he would have put up if he weren’t half liquid in the arms of this man. He hated him and he hated himself and he hated everything and he loved every feeling that passed through him in that moment. “Make love to me,” he said.
Chris stroked Jon’s hair, smirked and whispered, “We’ve got a feast to get to,” but it served only to draw Jon closer toward him and send him slinking—or perhaps falling—farther down.
“Don’t do that to me,” Jon moaned. He lolled his head so that his lips touched the smooth skin of Chris’ chest in the deep V of the elven robe he’d been given to wear. He couldn’t bring himself to kiss him; he needed permission for that. “I need you.”
“What do you say, then?” Chris asked. “You’re nobility. You know how to be polite.”
Chris, the git placed a kiss on Jon’s forehead. Jon burned, quivered, ached, and said, “Please?”
“Good.” Chris’ hand circled around to the back of his head, one finger pushing up under the floral crown. He pulled Jon into another kiss, this one deeper than the first, and for a time Jon assumed to be an age, he gave himself up to it. But then he felt a shift at his stomach: Chris’ other hand worked its way down, unfastening one after another the frog clasps of his gifted robe.
Men, Jon thought. For being mortal, they certainly didn’t give themselves deadlines.
“Let me do that,” Jon said. He batted Chris’ hands away and harrumphed off the chortle he received in response. He unclasped the next three buttons in the time it would have taken Chris to unclasp one. The robe hung down to Chris’ ankles, so Jon had to drop to his knees to unbutton the last few. Chris shrugged the robe off his arms, letting it slip to the floor, and went back to weaving his fingers through Jon’s hair.
“Your Highness,” he sighed.
When Jon looked up at him, he almost gasped at the sight of that smile that had awakened him to his love for him. He hugged Chris about the knees. Above him he felt Chris bending slightly to cup both his hands around the back of his head, careful of the crown.
In came the night breeze. How quickly did this world of theirs revolve?
Neither spoke the words, “I love you,” but Jon felt it from Chris’ fingertips, and he let it settle inside him. He hoped his embrace would instill the same feeling in his knight.
His knight. His. He could have fluttered up skyways.
Jon rose up on his knees, straightening his posture as he went, and with just the slightest bit of stretching on his part and the tiniest bend from Chris, he found himself at eye level with Chris’ upper thighs. He dug his fingers into the waist of Chris’ trousers. With Chris wiggling along to help, Jon peeled the tight garment down, down, down until Chris stepped out of his slippers to let him pull them off entirely. When he rose back up, Jon wrapped his hands around Chris’ long, rigid length.
“Goodness,” Jon muttered. He knew mankind was on the whole larger than elvenkind, but he couldn’t help shivering once in awe.
He took a breath, closed his eyes, and, stroking the base, wrapped his lips around the head. A mild salty taste covered his tongue. He had to work to fit more and more of Chris’ length into his mouth, but the more he had, the easier the task became. He breathed in when he pulled his head back; he exhaled when he pushed it toward Chris. Once he’d worked himself into a steady in-out rhythm, Jon let his eyes flutter open to gaze up at Chris.
The knight bit his lip, breathing in and out with the rhythm of his hands clenching and unclenching Jon’s hair. He kept smiling, and even with his eyes closed, Jon knew that look as the same one that told him he loved him. He grasped Chris by the thighs, swallowed his length so the tip hit the back of his throat, and kept his eyes on Chris’ face until his eyes strained to open, and they locked on one another.
So slowly Jon almost missed the feeling of it, Chris, with his hands in his hair, pulled Jon off of his length. Following along, Jon rose to his feet to meet Chris in a kiss, though he kept his hand on Chris’ length, stroking it slowly, smoothly, evenly. The sun had set completely and night had fallen on the land outside. More clearly than anything Jon felt the cool of night when Chris unclasped his robe and dropped it to the floor. Bare about the shoulders, Jon knew to obey when Chris took to stripping him of his trousers. Another kiss and they wobbled their way, locked in each other’s arms, to the bed.
By this time Jon eagerly let Chris lead the way. He flopped backward when Chris moved to lower him on his back onto the mattress; he spread his legs before Chris reached to retrieve some oil from the lamp on the bedside table. He had one goal and one goal alone to accomplish before surrendering completely to Chris’ touch.
“Chris,” he said.
“Yes, Your Highness?” he grinned, coating his length with the oil.
“Will you be my king?” he asked. “Even if my parents don’t accept?”
The lamplight turned his eyes into sections of midnight sky. “As long as you’ll be mine, even if you hate me half the time,” he answered.
Jon laughed. He reached up, wrapped his hands around Chris’ shoulders, and pulled him down for a kiss. “Take me,” he said. “Please.”
“Again,” Chris said. He spoke so low that Jon wondered how the words could escape through that sliver of his lips. “I want to hear you say it. I love hearing you say it.”
He hated him half the time, true enough. But why this interaction didn’t fall into that half, he didn’t know. “Please,” he breathed. “Please, Christopher, please, please, please.”
Chris’ lips hovered only a whisper from Jon’s. “One more time.”
Jon’s need could have burst out of him. “Take me, Christopher,” he begged. “Please.”
Chris closed that hair of a gap between them and kissed him as he pushed inside. Jon breathed, struggled to keep his inhalations and exhalations equal, wiggled as best he could to accommodate him, but no matter what he did, he worried he’d never be able to fit all of Chris inside of him. Inches upon inches. Surprise sent him gasping when Chris finally made it in as far as he could go.
Clenching his teeth, Jon opened his eyes and watched Chris lift himself up on his elbows. His body rolled in time with his thrusts, slow and smooth and barely of any depth. Chris smiled. His eyes met with Jon’s, and he brushed some hair away from Jon’s cheek, the tickle of it more than anything making Jon close his eyes again.
Jon very nearly wondered whether he’d be able to demand Chris thrust deeper, or harder, or faster, he was so overwhelmed by the mere ghost of Chris’ breath by his neck. But soon, as Chris began placing light and teasing kisses up and down Jon’s neck, the thrusts began to come with greater speed and greater force. Jon’s sighs morphed from squeaks to moans and then, when Chris ran his teeth up to the back of Jon’s pointed ear and then tugged on his earlobe, outright cries.
“Careful,” Chris whispered. “I definitely won’t be your king if your mum and dad find out we’re doing this before the wedding.”
Another desperate wail surged up from Jon’s throat, but before he could release it, he felt Chris’ hand clasp down on his mouth. He surrendered. He held on to the knight’s shoulder blades, digging his short fingernails into his skin, feeling the muscle move underneath, and he locked his ankles together behind Chris’ back, but the rest of his body escaped him. Nothing but pleasure tingled through him. He wondered whether or not this was dissolution. He wouldn’t mind dying this way.
One thrust at a time, Chris moved his hand away from Jon’s mouth. He cupped it around his jaw and ear, then kissed a line from Jon’s neck to the corner of his lips. “Come with me,” he said.
“Where?” Jon asked.
A beat the span of one inwar and one outward thrust passed, just long enough for Jon to realize, with the last bit of energy in his brain, that at last, he had made that dreaded idiot of himself. But instead of laughing at him, instead of calling him a name, Chris smiled that lovely glitter-eyed smile, and the glint from his eyes spread all throughout Jon’s vision. He shuddered, felt Chris shuddering above him, locked his lips with Chris’, and let the last tremors of climax ride away on their tongues.
When Jon came to, Chris lay at his side, smiling through his panting with his hand on Jon’s stomach. He fancied he envisioned a crown of woven honeysuckles atop his head, but after he blinked, he recognized it as nothing but a bleary mirage. He knew then what kind of crown to commission for his king, though.
“So,” Chris panted. “When I marry you, do I get immortality or do you give it up?”
“Please,” Jon replied. “Don’t tell me you’re in this just to live forever.”
Chris gave him a squeeze. “Oh, don’t be that way. I’m with you. I already am.” He scooted closer to rest his head on Jon’s shoulder. Jon lifted his hand and let it rest atop Chris’.
“Say it again,” Chris begged.
Men, Jon thought.