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Chains of Love

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“You must understand that I am just a prisoner like you are, my dear royal friend. My imperial duties and the well-being of my subjects will always come first for me – no matter how much I wished that I could release you from your imprisonment, Richard. But I must be ensured of your unwavering loyalty towards me as your liege lord before I can merely think of setting you free again; and your stay in Castle Trifels will give you enough time to think about where you have failed in showing me your faith and loyalty lately. Plus, it might serve as a remainder for your own subjects that they'll better not delay collecting your ransom any further, my brave Coeur de Lion. I'm a very patient man, but even my patience has its limits.”

Richard I. of England, called the brave Lionheart, could still hear Heinrich's words in his head when he paced up and down in his bedchamber two weeks after the court council in Speyer, an admittedly rather luxurious prison cell lying in the highest tower of Castle Trifels, but it was a prison cell nevertheless. The tall English monarch felt like choking ever since he had been brought to the imperial castle which served as a prison for Heinrich's high ranking hostages as much as it served as a vault for the imperial regalia.

Castle Trifels was for sure a beautiful place to live in - if one lived here freely and not as a prisoner – but Richard couldn't really appreciate the luxury surrounding him, and the shackles he had been forced to wear on several occasions since his arrival had threatened to suffocate him although they had been fixed to his ankles and not to his throat.

Philip and John must be overjoyed about his captivity, already scheming plots against him to make sure that he would stay imprisoned for a very long time and maybe even lose his head, and Richard balled his hands at his sides as he started another round, wondering briefly for how much longer he would have to pace up and down to leave holes in the thick carpet he was walking upon.

He wasn't allowed any visitors from his own country, treated with the respect an important ruler deserved, but guarded not only during the days but also during the nights, the head guard of his wardens Lord Robert watching him personally when Richard finally succumbed to exhaustion and went to sleep regardless of being watched even in his slumber.

Tonight was the first night Robert hadn't followed him to his rooms with a stern face, and Richard was torn between relief and irritation. The Lord of Lindelborn had looked pale during the entire dinner, and he had excused himself rather hastily afterwards, leaving his duties in the hands of his second in command Thomas, Lord of Falkenburg.

The Lord of Falkenburg was laid-back and cheerful where Lord Robert was dutiful and strict, but Richard didn't make the mistake of underestimating his new head-guard. He had seen Thomas of Falkenburg fighting, and he was well aware of the fact that the brave knight wouldn't show any mercy with those who betrayed his trust and goodwill.

But the younger lord had shown him the mercy of not following him into his bedchamber, obviously being willing to grant him some privacy at last, and this was more than the dark-haired Earl of Lindelborn had been willing to do since Richard's arrival in the proud imperial castle.

Richard longed badly for some time alone after stumbling over his guards everywhere he went for more than two weeks – even on his way to the privy – and he longed for some minutes on his own especially tonight because of the unexpected visitor who had come to Castle Trifels a couple of days ago. His faithful friend and confidant Blondel had arrived last week, carrying private letters Richard's mother Lady Eleanor did not trust anybody else in this world but the young minstrel to deliver them to her beloved son, and her son only. Richard at least guessed that such letters were the reason for Blondel to go on the rather dangerous journey and come to the den where one powerful lion held another equally dangerous lion captive, but he hadn't been able to talk to Blondel privately so far, Lord Robert making sure that the young minstrel with the red-blond hair and the amber-golden eyes wouldn't come close enough to his royal charge to exchange more than a few meaningless courtesies with him.

Richard longed to read the letters his mother had written him as badly as he longed to talk to Blondel and seek comfort in his warm voice and gentle smile for some hours, and the knowledge that his friend was so close and yet so far away threatened to drive him insane. The tall king growled as he stopped before the window with the iron bars before it - which made sure that even a prisoner foolish enough to try and jump from the tower would stay where they were meant to stay, staring outside and up into the dark and starless sky, his thoughts raging inside his hurting skull.

A quiet sound coming from the door made him tense up and spin around his axis, his face a stern mask as he expected his wardens to come in and bereave him of his privacy again, but it was the slim figure of his confidant slipping through the small slit between the heavy door and the stony frame.

Richard swallowed, some of the tension leaving his body as he watched his long-missed friend closing the door and gliding closer to where he stood.

“Blondel, my dear friend, I have missed the sight of your face dearly,” the English monarch whispered, allowing his guard to slip for a few precious moments. The young minstrel knelt down before his king with a deep bow, and his eyes sparkled golden in the gloomy room lit up only by two candles when he looked up at Richard.

“Not as much as I have missed the sight of your beloved face, my King Lionheart,” he said, his voice as warm and smooth and beautiful as Richard remembered it, and his friend came willingly into his arms when his sovereign pulled him up on his feet again, the sweetness of his embrace replacing the coldness in Richard's heart with warmth and new hope. Blondel had captured his heart a long time ago, tying it with the chains of love, but these chains were light and not a burden at all, and Richard wore these invisible chains willingly and gladly, opposite to the iron chains Archduke Leopold at first and then Emperor Heinrich had closed around his ankles and his wrists.

Blondel's love set him free in a way nothing else could ever do, and Richard closed his eyes with a small sound of gratitude as his searched blindly for the warm lips offering comfort and forgetting, something Richard hadn't known that he needed it more than he had ever needed anything in his life until this moment.

 

***

 

Manuel Lord of Wegelnburg didn't bother to turn around at the sound of the door opening and closing again, his well-trained senses had announced the arrival of the nightly visitor long before the light footsteps had come to a halt before the wooden door. He knew these footsteps by heart as much as he knew the scent of his visitor, and Manuel ignored the other man standing on his threshold and waiting for him to acknowledge his presence patiently for a few more seconds, pouring himself another cup of wine before straightening his shoulders.

“Did you think it wise to come here, Thomas? You're supposed to guard the king tonight due to Robert's sudden and unexpected malaise after all,” Manuel finally broke the silence between them, peering over his shoulder to look at the Baron of Falkenburg as he sipped from his wine, and his ever so slightly emphasizing of the word malaise would have been missed by every other man Manuel knew, but not by the Lord of Falkenburg, who knew him better than anybody else in this world - probably better than Manuel knew himself and surely better than Manuel wanted Thomas to know him.

Thomas' bi-colored eyes shone in a strange light at his words, and he just shrugged his shoulders and walked closer to bridge the distance between them, reaching out with his hand to take the goblet and take a sip from Manuel's beverage, closing his lips over the pewter ware right where Manuel's lips had been before.

He held the taller man's gaze as he drank, keeping the wine in his mouth for some time before swallowing it down.

“The king will be well guarded and well busied tonight, my friend, there is no need for you to worry about his custody.”

“King Richard's custody or well-being is not what I am worried about, Thomas. It's more Lord Robert's well-being we should concern ourselves about, shouldn't we?” Manuel took the goblet back, the pewter still warm from Thomas' mouth as he emptied it.

Thomas regarded him with an impassive face, wariness lurking behind the seemingly calm facade.

“You apparently think that the indisposition that fell upon my Lord Commander during dinner has something to do with me,” the Lord of Falkenburg drawled, and Manuel raised one his eyebrows in question. “Has it not, Thomas?”

Thomas shrugged again, strolling over to the table at the wall opposite Manuel's bed to sit down on the chair closer to the door as though he wanted to make sure that he could flee from this place again, stretching out his slim legs with a sigh of relief.

The Lord of Wegelnburg let his gaze wander over the figure of his friend partly hidden in the shadows now, still wondering about where Thomas took his strength from during his fights. His seeming lankiness and lack of visible signs of strength like broad muscles fooled every opponent seeing him for the first time, and the surprised looks on their faces when they went down would actually be funny if Manuel could find anything funny in something as serious as battles and sword fights.

“I might have found it wise to help the Earl of Lindelborn contemplate his eating habits for a bit and clean his body thoroughly from everything that has been lying in his stomach like a heavy brick ever since our great Emperor Heinrich decided to lay his royal hostage in chains and my commander to be his chain keeper and silent shadow during day and night. They really needed a break from each other for at least one night, my friend, everyone with eyes in their heads could see that.
King Richard is a noble man and a brave crusader, and it pains me to see him being treated like that, even being watched while seeing to his private needs. The Lionheart has no place to go anyway, and he more than deserved to have one night of peace and quiet for himself, believe me. My highly cherished Lord Commander might reconsider the value of privacy after spending the night in close company to his own chamber pot, but the damage to his welfare is only temporary and not a permanent one. He will feel so much better after this night, I can speak from experience here. Such a thorough cleaning from the inside is somewhat freeing, even making you capable of thinking straight and focusing on the really important things again.”

Manuel stared down at him, not sure whether to break out in laughter or be angry with the shorter man. “The damage to Lord Robert's welfare might be only temporary, but the damage done to his pride might last for much longer,” he stated at last, and the sparks of mischief starting to dance in Lord Thomas' eyes sent a shiver along his spine. The Lord of Falkenburg rose to his feet to bridge the distance he had put between himself and Manuel before confessing to the older one what he had done, and Manuel didn't object when Thomas invaded his personal space to cover his lips with his own.

“There is enough pride left in my dear Lord Commander, Manu, don't you doubt that. And the English monarch is safe in his chamber and won't even think of trying to escape, I've made sure of that before I came here.”

Manuel allowed the laughter that had tickled on his tongue for several minutes to finally break free, and he pulled the other man close, trapping him in his tight embrace like Thomas had trapped his heart with the first look in his eyes years ago.

“I'm glad to hear that, Thommy,” Manuel murmured against the tempting lips he had kissed so often but would never get tired on feeling them on his own nonetheless, using the nickname he had given Thomas to tease him with about their height difference when they both had been so much younger, hardly more than boys eager to explore and conquer the world.

“But I do believe that I need a better distraction from my worries about King Richard's custody and Lord Robert's well-being than just some reassuring words...” he teased the younger one, and Thomas' eyes lit up at the challenge, his expression changing into the expression of the fierce predator the tough and experienced warrior Thomas actually was, but which he normally hid very carefully under the surface of the laid-back nobleman.

“It's a good thing that I know a very efficient way to distract you with more than just words then, Lord Wegelnburg.” Thomas' voice was throaty and low, sending another shiver through Manuel's body, knowing that the second-in-command of the kingsguard had chosen him to be his prey for the next hours. Manuel didn't have any objection against being the prey of this astonishing man, he was a strong and skilled warrior himself, being Heinrich's Master of training of not only the squires but also the knights and soldiers of Heinrich's entourage and court, but he had never drawn real pleasure out of being in command in bed, and he was grateful that Thomas always seemed to know what he needed without Manuel having to tell him that.

“Let's find out then whether or not your solution will be as efficient as you promised it to be, Lord Falkenburg, shall we?” Manuel demanded hoarsely, and these were the last words he could utter for a rather long time.

 

***

 

The English sovereign regretted it that Blondel hadn't been able to bring his lute with him, but his minstrel had found another way to comfort his beloved king while Richard had read the letters his mother had written him, sitting on the floor before Richard's chair and letting the older man card his fingers through his red-blond hair while he had been caught up in Lady Eleanor's words. Blondel had apparently needed this silent comfort as much his king had needed it, and he had began to hum the songs they had written together after a while without even noticing it.

The gentle kiss pressed onto his hair when Richard bent his head startled him out of his state of drowsy contentment, and he craned his neck to look up at the king everyone called Lionheart. Richard was Blondel's lionheart as well, had been his lion and his knight in shining armor ever since the Duke of Aquitaine had saved him from a fate worse than death.

“Your mother Lady Eleanor will not rest until the last penny of your ransom is paid, sire,” Blondel said when he saw Richard's dark eyes directed at him, and the king smiled, a melancholy smiled that was beautiful in its sadness. “I know, my friend, but it will take far too long. My kingdom needs me, and Philip will use the opportunity given to him so generously to steal my rightful possessions and lands from me.”

Blondel knew that all too well, and he offered the only comfort he knew that it would actually console his king for at least a little while, turning to kneel before Richard's chair and offering his lips to him. “You have more faithful lords and liegemen on your side than you can bring yourself to believe, sire,” the minstrel said, pressing his cheek into the touch of Richard's calloused hand cupping his face.

“I shall hope so,” Richard whispered, his gaze searching for reassurance in Blondel's face before he gave in to his desire and tasted the sweetness of Blondel's mouth again he had missed for so long.

The last time had been when he had pressed his farewell kiss onto the younger man's lips almost four years ago, which seemed to be more than a lifetime actually. So many things had happened since Richard had left Blondel in his mother's care, hoping that the two beings meaning everything to him in this world would find comfort and consolation in each other's company until he could come back to them. He was even a married man now, although Richard did his best to ignore this truth. He had never lain with his wife, finding excuses why it wasn't possible to bed her until he had been able to sent her away.

Blondel's lips welcomed him with the unwavering love he had missed for so long, tasting sweeter than he remembered them to taste, and Blondel's kiss distracted him from the unbidden thoughts and worries that had haunted him ever since Leopold had captured him. Their first kiss after this incredibly long time was shy and questioning at first, but it didn't take long until it became more heated and passionate, the chains of love tying their hearts together making it easy for Richard to demand entrance to the soft cavern of Blondel's mouth. His minstrel opened his lips for him, and he did not protest when Richard pulled him up in his arms to carry him over to the bed, just wrapping his arms around his neck with a soft sigh and kissing him back with barely suppressed desire.

The English monarch didn't know whom he owed the small mercy of having one undisturbed night to himself – nor why his unknown benefactor had even been inclined to send Blondel to him. Whoever they were, they must know that Blondel would never betray Richard's trust and tell them the secrets his king kept locked deep in his heart, but he was grateful for this small sign of trust and generosity someone was willing to show him, and he would make the best out of the few hours he had with his beloved minstrel, not willing to waste their precious time with more worrying and musing. Reality would hit him soon enough again anyway, and the impressive ruler lowered his cargo down onto the bed with greatest care, looking down at the familiar features of Blondel's face.

There was a subtle but noticeable change, Blondel had grown up and matured since Richard had kissed him goodbye four years ago, his features had lost the softness of youth and sharpened over the time that had passed. Blondel was a man now, not the boy any longer he had once been, and Richard had to admit that he loved and desired this new Blondel even more than he had already loved and desired the Blondel he had once known.

“Come to me, my Lionheart, I'm all yours,” the minstrel whispered when Richard did nothing than just look at him, opening his arms for his king, and Richard let himself be pulled down gratefully, drowning in Blondel's passionate kiss and his tender embrace, losing himself in Blondel's loving arms and his ardor. Tomorrow he would worry again, but tonight was all about love and passion, and Richard would enjoy both to the fullest.

 

***

 

“You're so beautiful like this, Manu.”

Thomas stared down at the taller man with hungry eyes, his heated gaze traveling over Manuel's naked body sprawled out beneath him like a real caress. The older one had the body of an ancient Greek god, strong and broad muscles underneath pale silken skin, hard steel combined with soft and smooth flesh to an irresistible mixture of pure and utter male beauty Thomas failed to resist whenever he was in the position to worship his own personal Greek god with his hands and his lips.

It happened far too rarely for his liking, their duties as important members of Heinrich's court drawing too much attention to them for that. Thomas could sneak his way into Manuel's chambers only at times without risking to get caught, and him longing for his secret lover so much that it was a physical ache in his chest had actually been one of the reasons why Thomas had prepared Lord Robert's dinner with the special 'spice' that would force the older lord to stay in his own rooms and within sight of his chamber pot for the rest of the night.

Thomas wished the Earl of Lindelborn no evil, but the dark-haired knight had overdone it over the past days in Thomas' opinion, and they all deserved to have a breather - King Richard, Thomas and Manuel as much as last but not least Robert himself. The Lord Commander of the kingsguard had seen to his duties that grimly and doggedly that every resident of Castle Trifels had started to shake their heads about his demeanor, whispering behind his back that the poor royal hostage would go insane if Lord Robert kept standing before his bed to watch him for just one more night.

Thomas' special 'spice' would set things straight again, and it also gave him the chance to prove his deep love and admiration to Manuel again. The younger lord bent down to kiss his way along the taller man's jawline, drawing throaty gasps and moans from the picture of powerful maleness lying on the bed in all his naked glory. Thomas knew all of Manuel's sensitive spots by heart, and he took his time to tease Manuel's sensitive ear with tender bites and licks until he could feel goosebumps forming on the fragrant skin under his hands.

The landscape of Manuel's worked-out body was familiar and yet still new to him every time Thomas got the chance to explore it again, and his fingertips left ardent patterns on the valleys and hills of the older knight's chiseled torso, tracing along the thin scars the battles and fights Manuel had won had carved into his smooth and surprisingly hairless skin.

“I'm not beautiful. Flowers are beautiful. Fragile and delicate young ladies are beautiful. I am neither the first, nor the second.” Manuel now countered, his last word ending in a loud moan when Thomas' tongue licked over his vulnerable throat.

“You are not a delicate young lady, that's true. But your heart is a very precious and fragile thing, just like one of the beautiful roses blooming in the garden, and it must be treated with the appropriate care and love not to break apart. I've tied it to mine with the silken ropes of undying love and adoration to protect it with all I have, and I'd rather die than let anybody break this wonderful jewel your heart actually is – the heart of a true knight and nobleman,” Thomas breathed against his flushed skin, now glowing in a wonderful pink instead of its usual paleness.

“Your heart is the most beautiful thing in this world to me, Manuel of Wegelnburg, and so is the rest of you. You have the face and the body of a Greek god, my lord, and I still can hardly believe that this beauty is all mine to caress, worship and love, fearing that it's only a wonderful dream I will wake up from far too soon.”

“I didn't know that there was a poet hidden somewhere inside you, Thommy.” Manuel sounded astonished and flattered at the same time, and Thomas was thankful for the darkness hiding his blush. “That must come from the time I've spent in the company of the blond minstrel. He might have taught me how to sweet-talk to my darling,” Thomas admitted sheepishly, raising his head from Manuel's neck to look down at him.

The sight greeting his loving eyes took his breath away, Manuel's plump lips red and swollen from their passionate kisses, and his blue eyes dark with his desire for Thomas, the Baron of Falkenburg.

Manuel raised one of his perfectly curved blond eyebrows at him. “Blondel most likely didn't think that your darling could be someone with a rather dark voice, a height of six feet and four inches and needing to shave on a regular basis when he gave you a lesson in courtly love, Thomas.”

Thomas hesitated. He was pretty certain that Richard's faithful bard saw and knew much more than he let it show, and that the bond tying him to his king was made of another kind of love than only the brotherly love of friendship too, but this was nothing Manuel needed to know.

The older Lord of Wegelnburg was much more afraid of their forbidden love being revealed in publicity than Thomas actually was, and the younger man didn't want to risk his lover to tense up again because of the possible threat of someone knowing about their feelings for each other. Thomas didn't think that Blondel would reveal their secret and make their love for each other known among the other residents of Castle Trifels, and he simply bent down again now to kiss Manuel on his soft lips, smiling at him.

“It doesn't really matter what he thought my darling to be like, does it, Manu? As long as you know that you are my darling and my one and only love, everything will be fine for both of us.”

Manuel's strong arms came up to pull him down onto his body, and the passionate kiss he proved his own deep love for Thomas to him with was all the smaller man needed to know that he had found the right words. “You are my one and only love too, Thommy,” the older lord whispered when they parted again, “you're the most beautiful and precious thing to me as well.”

This love confession earned him another ardent kiss, and Thomas dwelt in Manu's words for a moment because Manuel confessed his love to him only rare times, being more comfortable with showing Thomas how he felt about him instead of saying it out loud.

Passion exploded between them and both men gasped out, needing to feel each other close, and Thomas blindly searched for the small vial with the oil on the small table beside the bed Manuel normally used to keep the leather of his boots and his armor smooth. His fingers trembled slightly when he coated them with the oil, his lips leaving a hot and wet trail on Manuel's flesh when he kissed his way down on the gorgeous male body to prepare his lover for their encounter.

The Baron of Falkenburg was not a skilled musician like Blondel, but he knew how to play his lover like the blond minstrel knew how to play his lute, and he used all of his experience and his skills to turn the taller man into a panting mess of wanton abandon, distracting him from the first discomfort of intrusion by enclosing Manuel's manhood with warm and tender lips.

The Lord of Wegelnburg rewarded him with a strangled mewl, growing to full hardness inside his mouth, the heavy weight of his impressive length drawing a groan of sheer need from Thomas in return. He swirled his tongue around the wet tip, his eyes hurting from the effort of watching Manuel's face from his position between the older knight's legs. Thomas loved watching Manuel when they made love, he was always gorgeous and so expressive in his arousal, his face contorted in lust and pleasure, voicing his desire with astonishing sounds no one else than Thomas would ever get to hear.

Seeing and hearing the normally reserved and controlled warrior surrender to his pleasure and Thomas' caresses was something the young baron would never get used to and never take for granted, a precious and rare gift the smaller man wanted to prove himself worthy of anew every time they were together like this.

His lips hurt from being stretched so wide, but Thomas didn't care about the slight ache, his senses focused on the amazing man writhing beneath him, Manuel's hips jerking with every thrust of Thomas' fingers working him open. The Lord of Falkenburg found Manuel's most sensitive spot with ease after the many years they were not only friends but also lovers, he could feel it throb and pulse against his fingers, Manuel's hot walls clenching around his digits as hey tried to swallow the tender intruders deeper and deeper. He was rock-hard and throbbing with need himself just from pleasuring the man possessing his heart with his mouth and his fingers, but Thomas had learned to be patient a long time ago, knowing that his own pleasure would be so much more intense when he could share it with Manuel and feel him fall apart beneath him.

Most people would most likely think that the Lord of Wegelnburg must be the one on top if they knew about their secret relationship, but Thomas didn't care about what others might think about them, the only thing he cared about was the beautiful man lying in his arms, trusting him enough to let him take him and give both of them what they craved for.

Manuel growing harder between his lips warned him soon enough that his lover was close to coming just from his fingers and his mouth, but this was not what Thomas wanted and needed tonight. He wanted to be inside Manuel when he came, watching him shudder and shiver through the throes of passion, and he pulled his fingers out and drew his mouth back just before the older man reached his climax.

Manuel couldn't suppress a sound of protest at the loss of heavenly warmth around his aching manhood, his labored breathing giving his need away when Thomas hastily coated his own hard length with the oil, eager to sheathe himself in the wonderful tight heat of his lover.

“Need you, Thommy! Need you inside me,” Manuel whispered when Thomas finally pushed into him, carefully and as tenderly as he was able to in his painful arousal, kneeling between the other man's spread legs. He kept his lover down with one hand, pressing it against his sternum while enclosing Manuel's manhood with the other one. He kept his hips still, just watched the other man's face as stroked him slowly and almost lazily, enjoying every shudder and heavy shiver he pulled from his lover with his ardent ministration.

Manuel had his eyes squeezed shut, his lips parted with the heavy breaths and gasps he couldn't hold back, more shivers running through him when Thomas' pulsing member stimulated his sensitive walls.

“Thommy, please! Stop torturing me!” the older lord finally gasped out, and Thomas laughed, a throaty and predatory sound that made Manuel arch his back up. “That's it, love, show me how much you want me, my precious,” Thomas whispered, bending down to let his lips ghost over Manuel's sweaty face. “Tell me how much you love feeling me inside you.”

“You know how much I love feeling you so close, Thommy. Will you please finally start moving?” Manuel tried to scowl at his cheeky lover, but his eyes fell shut again when Thomas obeyed and snapped his hips forward in a first powerful thrust, enticing another sweet mewl from the taller one.

He set up a steady but rather slow rhythm, wanting to draw this out as much as possible. Thomas didn't know when they would be able to spend another night together, and he really didn't want to end this too soon. Manuel raised his strong arms over his head to brace his palms against the wood of the headboard, pushing his hips up to meet Thomas' thrusts as best as he could, twitching in Thomas' hand with every new up and down. Thomas admired the play of the strong muscles he could see under the soft pink skin, and he brushed over Manuel's nipples crowning his breast muscles with his thumb, teasing them to full hardness with deft fingers.

Manuel was leaking against his calloused palm, cramping around the hardness filling and stretching him to his limits, and Thomas realized that he wouldn't last much longer, not with Manuel wrapping his ankles around the small of his back now to make him move faster.

Thomas' low possessive growl echoed in the chamber as he started to batter Manuel's most sensitive spot in earnest, watching his prey with hungry eyes. He leaned forward, his lips ghosting over Manuel's mouth and his face without really kissing him, his ardent gaze roaming over the blond's handsome features, now suffused with the lust and pleasure Thomas' thrusts made him feel.

“Come for me, my precious heart, I want you to.” Thomas encouraged his lover to let go, and Manuel did, arching his back with the first wave of ecstasy washing over him.

“Thommy, oh, Thommy!”

The sensation of hot wetness coating his fingers in several powerful spurts pushed the Baron of Falkenburg over the edge as well, heat exploding in his groin as his climax overtook him. Thomas kept his eyes open only with effort, fixing them on Manuel's face not to miss the glorious sight of his love coming undone underneath him, his own body shaking with the force of his release.

He found himself kneeling between Manuel's trembling legs when it was finally over, breathing into each other's ears. Thomas captured Manuel's swollen lips in another tender kiss, stroking his face with rapt devotion.

“I love you, Manu. I love you so much.” Words whispered against fragrant skin and a gentle hand cupping his face made the older man open his eyes and look at Thomas with awe and wonder. “Love you too, Thommy, more than anything. Always.”

“I am the happiest man alive then,” Thomas gave back with a smile and another kiss, using the corner of the bed clothes to wipe them clean before lying down beside the Lord of Wegelnburg.

They lay there without touching for a moment, just looking at each other, and Thomas huffed a sigh of contentment when Manuel pulled him in his arms.

“I hope that Lord Robert will never find out what you did to him.” Manuel's dry statement pulled a laugh from the smaller man, and Thomas shut him up with a kiss before his lover could say more.

This was something he would worry about when it came to that. The night was still young, and Thomas was determined to make the best out of it before they would have to part again. Manuel was apparently fine with that, because he kissed him back with eagerness and excitement, and it didn't take long until their moans and gasps of pleasure and ardor filled the dark room again, whispered words of passion and longing, two hearts being tied together with the invisible chains of love and faith.

 

***

 

Blondel's arms felt so perfect around him, warm and comforting, and Richard wished for the blink of an eye that he were just a simple man and not a king, a man allowed to love whom his heart desired instead of having to tie himself to an appropriate wife meant to increase his power and expand his territories.

Blondel's love was pure and precious, and Richard bent his head down to kiss his love as he caressed the lithe body with tender hands, stroking every single spot of warm skin within his reach. They were still connected after their first ardent reunion, and Richard sat up and pulled the younger man with him until Blondel was straddling him, seated in his lap with Richard's slowly re-hardening manhood nestled against Blondel's entrance.

“I've missed you so, my Lionheart,” whispered Blondel as he impaled himself on Richard's member again, taking him smoothly and with a gasp of pleasure. “There are no words to describe how much I've missed you. You are my sun and my everything, the center of my world, and nothing will ever change my love for you.”

“I don't deserve your love, darling, but I am grateful for it. You are my light and my comfort, my beautiful Blondel,” the king said, proving the honesty of his words with his ardent kiss. Their tongues danced around each other as Blondel started to move, lifting himself up and pushing back onto Richard's throbbing length with the raw need of a starved man. Four long years had separated them, and both were desperate to feel each other.

Richard swallowed Blondel's gasps and moans with passionate lips, feeding him with his own sounds of pleasure in return. Richard the Lionheart was not the man to let his guard down easily, but he knew that his heart was safe with the man he held in his strong arms, cherishing Richard's trust and willingness to share his feelings with him with the care both deserved.

The English monarch didn't pull back when Blondel took his face between his hands to deepen their kiss, just wrapped his arms tighter around the other man, his right hand sneaking its way between their bodies to caress the proof of Blondel's maleness in time to his motions. His lover could come without being touched, feeling his king so deep inside him being enough to pull his ecstasy from him, but Richard had dreamed of feeling Blondel hard and heavy in his hand for so long that he couldn't deny himself this pleasure.

“Love you, Richard!” Blondel moaned into his mouth, his movements becoming more erratic and unsteady with his approaching orgasm. He clenched around Richard, his walls milking his climax from him when he reached the height of ecstasy, his lithe frame shuddering with the hot waves coursing through him. Richard watched his face as he stroked him through his high, spilling his release deep inside his lover. His second climax was even more intense than his first one had been, witnessing Blondel's pleasure so closely boosting his own to new levels.

They clung to each other when it was over, savoring the warm afterglow of their shared passion, and their kiss was sweet and tender when Blondel finally raised his head from where it had rested on Richard's shoulder.

“How long can you stay, darling?” Richard asked when he met Blondel's tender gaze, and the minstrel smiled at him. “The night is still young, my Lionheart, don't think about tomorrow, just let us make the best out of it and savor it to the fullest. The Baron of Falkenburg made sure that I won't have to leave you before the sun rises again.”

“I'll be indebted to him forever then,” Richard murmured against Blondel's soft lips, hoping that he would be able to reward the young lord for his kind deed one day. “I do believe that knowing that you're happy for one night is all he needs as a reward, Lord Thomas is a honorable man.”

“That he is indeed,” Richard agreed, “I won't forget what he has done for me – for us.”

The King of England knew that he would have to leave Blondel out of his arms again with the first rays of the rising sun, but his beloved minstrel was right, the night was still young, and all he wanted to do was to dwell in Blondel's love and forget everything else for a few more hours.

“I love you, my beautiful Blondel, no matter what will happen, please remember that I will always love you.”

Blondel's smile was genuine and lit up the gloomy chamber. “I know, my Lionheart. I will always love you too. You have trapped my heart with the chains of your love for me, and it will forever belong to you, my beloved King Richard.”

And this was all Richard I. of England, called the Lionheart, actually needed to know.