Disclaimer: I own none of it
Author Notes: Set post-musical. Written because I adore Lancelot & Herbert together and have been working at this since seeing Spamalot many months ago. Enjoy!
After a quest such as the one for the Holy Grail, there was bound to be some kind of come-down period when blood cooled and heartbeats slowed and adrenaline wore off. And the world seemed sort of ordinary again, full of mud and pigs and unlaiden swallows.
Arthur and Guinevere took the matter in hand. Well, truthfully, it was Patsy and Guinevere who actually concocted the plan, but they let Arthur believe that he had come up with it. It was a helpful sort of arrangement that was beneficial for everybody involved. Especially Arthur who was unburdened by not knowing about it at all.
After some time spent in Camelot resting and eating and enjoying every kind of spoils, each of Arthur's knights was given a castle and some land of their own, a reward for their bravery. A sort of a 'We're glad you're still alive and thanks for keeping me alive too' present. There was a special ceremony for it, which culminated in a feast and lots of dancing. Everyone was happy, or at least working their way rapidly towards it.
Lancelot and his husband were definitely happy. There was no mistaking that. And not just with each other.
"Just think of the curtains," Prince Herbert said dreamily, eyeing their castle's windows covetously.
Lancelot was thinking more about how big a bed they could get made. Herbert had his man sent for who could make such things. The castle was filling up with the people that Herbert had decided they simply had to have the services of. It meant that the castle was getting crowded and frankly Lancelot would prefer it if it was just him and his prince, thoroughly enjoying time alone together. But Herbert was practically glowing with happiness, surrounded by the castleful of people, and making Herbert happy was Lancelot's new quest. He was determined not to fail in it. So the people stayed for as long as Herbert wanted them to, no matter how little room there now was in the castle for anything else.
There was a group of ladies, friends of Herbert's from his father's lands, that Herbert was especially pleased to see. In fact, he spent almost all of his free time with them. He was always happy around them, but some of their behaviour baffled Lancelot. Mary - who always wore her hair in two coiled plaits and favoured beaded green gowns – helped organise the kitchens and always weirdly insisted that Herbert's meals were tasted by somebody else first.
"Your prince has a good heart," Alison – who had hair like the sunset, skin as pale as cows' milk, and a slight limp thanks to the damage caused during birth – explained to Lancelot when he asked, her fingers feeding and controlling the spinning wheel. "But his father doesn't."
Lancelot remembered that all too well. The memory made his body tense and angry, as did Alison's clear implication. Lancelot hunted that day with particular intensity, needing to kill something, everything, to purge his anger. Would the king of Swamp Castle really order his own son hurt through his food? Through poison? Aye, Lancelot could imagine that happening, if the king thought there was a profit in it or if he still thought that Herbert was an embarrassment. Lancelot wanted to keep Herbert close so that no harm would ever come to the prince again. He couldn't live without him, not now.
The ladies had the same good idea, it seemed, by checking Herbert's food and ensuring that he was never alone.
Herbert smiled fondly when Lancelot privately and gruffly pointed this out. "They have so many talents, my dear. You should see their needlework."
Lancelot snorted, as he unclasped his gauntlet. Herbert tutted and set to work on his husband's belt.
"Never on the bedclothes, my love. Jennifer stitched the hems only yesterday."
"Who said anything about the bedclothes?"
When he wasn't enjoying such times with Herbert, Lancelot was usually out hunting, with his horse and steward. It was all that a knight could need - plenty of boar and venison and a beautifully willing husband to come back to. If Robin was here, he'd probably sing a song about it. He never needed any encouragement.
It was during one of Lancelot's hunts that the first attempt on his lands and castle was made. He slowed his horse – he could afford a horse now, not just coconuts – and signalled for Alan, his steward, to do the same. The guards weren't at their posts. And someone had loosed the flag so that it was drooping only halfway up the pole. A signal. They had unwelcome guests.
Lancelot could feel the familiar building heat of rage – the same kind that had caused him to massacre Swamp Castle's guests the day that he'd rescued Herbert. He'd do it again. He'd do it three times over if anyone came close to hurting his prince. He'd enjoy it, until the blood ran down his body and covered the ground. He'd enjoy it for days after.
Lancelot grinned in anticipation. "Send the boy to Clun with the horses. We'll approach on foot."
The boy, Colin, the stable hand who was beginning to learn how to be a squire, looked nervous, but he could handle a horse better than some knights. He was easily able to calm the animals and lead them over the hill, taking the spoils of the hunt with him. The horses wouldn't stray from him. Good.
Lancelot led the way up to the castle. No one stopped their approach. Not even an arrow crossed their path. And the drawbridge was down. It was odd behaviour for bandits.
"Check the kitchens," Lancelot told Alan.
Alan grinned, the flash of teeth a startling jolt of white in the darkness, and vanished once more into the shadows. He knew the castle as well as Lancelot and would gain entrance to wherever he needed to without problems.
Lancelot tried the great hall first. It was empty, save for three men who were trussed up on the table. Who had done that? The men looked furious. They also looked like they were unlikely to escape. There was no sign of Herbert.
Lancelot continued on rapidly. He nimbly scaled the staircase, past another two bound men, and into the bedchamber. Ah, there, sat gracefully on the window seat and so with the full effects of the light upon his radiant skin, was Herbert. Thankfully all in one piece, or so it appeared. The relief Lancelot felt made his sword tremble.
However he was quickly steady again because there was an angry-looking man, in armour polished to a black hue, pointing a blade at Herbert's throat.
Lancelot growled. He could feel his blood boiling. In mere moments, the rage would take over and the man stupid enough to set foot in here would probably be lying in several pieces on the floor. Lancelot smiled. He'd like nothing better.
"Ah, my knight has come," sighed Herbert happily, even turning his head a little, despite his predicament. "I told you he would."
"So did we." Alison was sat on a nearby chair, her clever hands working on exquisite embroidery. Strangely, there was an armoured man beside her tied up with what looked like the cherry silk skeins that she had been spinning only that morning. The other ladies sat in a row next to her. "And here he is."
"Call off your witches," the black knight demanded through clenched teeth. "Call them off!"
"He's been calling us names for hours," Elise commented.
"It's extremely rude," Mary added.
"They bewitched my men!" the knight blustered. "These harridans defeated them! Through witchcraft and magics, I saw it!"
There was a sudden crash. All the ladies' sewing baskets had fallen to the floor at the exact same time. The black knight turned his head sharply at the noise, off balance and distracted. Lancelot immediately hurtled forward to take advantage of the moment. The fight didn't last long. The knight's armour was well-made and heavy but his skill with a sword was no match for Lancelot's, especially as Lancelot was fuelled by considerable rage. It ended with several stab wounds, the hacking off of limbs, and the invader knight being thrown down the stairs.
There was a pause as Lancelot leaned on his sword, sweaty and overheated and gasping for an ale but pleased with the blood he'd spilled. Then, Herbert moved.
"Darling!" He got to his feet and hurried close, not caring about the blood. "You were magnificent. Wasn't he, girls?"
"Very well timed."
Lancelot glared at whichever polite young lady had thrown that out. "Got the job done, didn't I?"
"Perfectly, my dear." Herbert squeezed closer. "And I am immeasurably grateful."
"You're not hurt?" Lancelot sheathed his bloody sword and looked his husband over quickly. They could get to the showing of gratitude later. Then he remembered that he was also responsible for everyone else in the castle too. He was still getting used to that. "Nobody else is, are they?"
"Oh, no. Once the bandits showed up, we fought off who we could and then everybody hid down in the wine cellars. Such nice thick walls."
That explained where Alan was. The cellar was reached through the kitchen.
"My ladies, of course, insisted on staying with me."
"Of course." Lancelot eyed them. They looked so small and unthreatening as they sewed. But how had those men become so expertly tied up? Maybe the ladies were witches. It would explain a lot of their strange behaviour. "Thanks, for doing that."
"Thank you, my lord, for rescuing our prince," Alison replied, snipping a thread.
"He was so looking forward to you doing that," Jennifer shared.
"Yes, thank you so much, darling." Herbert squeezed his nearest shoulder and Lancelot was tempted to clear the room. He could do that, it was his castle. "Oh, everybody handled today so well. I think we should have a feast in celebration."
"Oh, do you?"
That was not a surprise. Herbert liked any excuse for a celebration, especially ones that involved new clothes, singing, and dancing. Lancelot was all for getting the banqueting table out and seeing just what Herbert would appear in. It was when the guests stayed for days afterwards and wouldn't go home that Lancelot's temper rose. They had their own bloody castles, didn't they?
"Well, of course. It'll lift everyone's spirits. People were frightened, my love, and we need to reassure them. It's our duty now." Herbert looked excited, his eyes wide and bright and his hands clasped together. Lancelot stood back to enjoy the show. "I know our King is back in Camelot and I haven't seen Guinevere in months. Oh, and Robin and Alice can bring the other minstrels. They sounded so lovely last time. There can be dancing. You'll dance with me, won't you?"
Lancelot winced. He liked to dance, especially with Herbert. However, he did not like dancing in front of people who laughed at him. And if this feast went like the last one, Galahad would laugh and Lancelot would start throwing punches and there would be a glorious fight. But the furniture and tapestries might get wrecked again too – during the last feast, Herbert's favourite set of curtains had gotten ruined. He'd been inconsolable for weeks. Lancelot had held him and kissed him and had felt crushed by guilt and anger at himself afterwards.
He curled his hands into fists thinking about it. That made his knuckles throb. Some part of him always hurt after a fight. And his clothes and skin always got itchy and stiff afterwards too thanks to the spilled blood and other such things. He scratched furiously at his wrist - a disgusting-smelling clump was congealing there. Herbert's eyes were drawn to the movement. Comprehension and concern flooded his face and drew him soothingly closer.
"Oh! Dearest, you must have a bath. You must be aching. How terrible of me not to think of it sooner."
Regular bathing was one of Herbert's more peculiar ideas. Lancelot hadn't seen the point at first but then he'd been gifted with the mouth-watering sight of his husband naked and submerged, wet hair streaming down his back and an expression of utter happiness across his face. Well, that had changed Lancelot's mind very quickly. Herbert had looked like one of those creatures of legend from bards' songs. The sort that got men wading into dangerous waters to join them.
Lancelot could understand why. He couldn't resist Herbert, especially when the prince was soapy, slippery, and nymphish. That was an extremely pleasant memory. Lancelot's blood started heating up again.
"My ladies are filling the tub already and there'll be a chicken on the spit soon." Herbert held out a milky-white hand.
The ladies were...? Oh, they'd left. That was perfect. Lancelot grasped Herbert's offered hand. There was a bath waiting for them to share.
He tucked his prince close to his side. Fights, dancing, violence, hunting, a husband – some days, it was bloody amazing being a knight.