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  • Writer's pictureRosie J.

Romantic excerpt from high fantasy writing project


Back in January there was a writing challenge in the We Write At Dawn discord with a new prompt each day for a type of romantic or spicy scene.


Some of the scenes I used were edited versions of existing scenes. But some were new scenes either with new couples or existing pairings. Or ones I hadn't even gotten to yet.


You see, I don't always write contemporary romance, and I don't always write cishet M/F couples.


One of my favorite scenes to come out of this challenge was one I wrote for my unfinished untitled high fantasy WIP. While it needs a lot of work and thought and organizing done before I can get back to it, one thing I know for certain is this pairing that started emerging as I was beginning to write it back in 2019. Harith, the second main character leading what's left of the army in this dystopian Eldritch horror overrun world (with his twin sister Helem being the other MC), and Matthias, Harith's lifelong friend, first in command in the army, and the secret crush Harith has always carried with him.


This book isn't a romance per se, but it does have strong romantic elements. But it will likely be low on the spice.


The original romance was between Helem and a guy she meets when she's impossibly whisked away to another parallel world of sorts. But this relationship between Harith and Matthias just grew legs and before I knew it I was kicking my feet at the possibilities. The furtive glances. The touches that might hold more meaning than they should. The pining from Harith because he's not sure if Matthias can ever feel the same. If Matthias is even attracted to men.


Well, the Day 2 prompt was "Naked Snuggles/No Sex" so I took this moment to revisit Matthias and Harith and write a scene for them. This scene will come way ahead in the draft, potentially in book 2 or 3 as I've got a trilogy planned at the minimum for this story arc. But it was a joy to write and I'm happy to have gotten this chance to explore these characters and their budding relationship a bit more.


***Note: This is a rough draft, not polished work.***


Pink brick wall background with neon heart and lettering that says "Day 2" Naked snuggles featuring Harith and Matthias from "Untitled" High Fantasy WIP, New Scene, MM

*****


Harith and Matthias from “Untitled”

High Fantasy || New scene || MM


[CWs and spice level: mild mentions of battle, injuries, blood, Sweet]


Harith’s feet dragged across the stone walkway, shuffling alongside Matthias whose strong arm latched underneath his and stretched across his back, bearing most of Harith’s weight. Without Matthias, Harith would have crawled to his chamber or not made it at all.


“Almost there. Just a few more rooms before yours…” Matthias’ voice was reassuring, but the exhaustion was unmistakable. Harith’s head rested on the taller man’s shoulder, as there wasn’t enough strength left in him to hold it up. All he could muster was a grunt of comprehension.


“Hang on, Harith.” Matthias clapped his other hand across Harith’s chest for extra support and tightened the grip around his body. How Matthias still had strength, Harith didn’t know. The battle had been arduous for them all. Flashes of the carnage swept through Harith’s mind, and he fought to push them away. Focusing instead on the man propping him up. If this were under any other circumstances, Harith would be thrilled to have Matthias’ arms around him.


Too many injuries had required his mother–Maradiza’s–attention which left the makeshift clinic strapped for space. Harith had felt strong enough to retire to this chamber once the spells seeped into his veins, but as his vision blurred from overexertion he considered that decision may have been a mistake.


If Harith died, at least he would die in Matthias’ arms. A faint smile lightened his countenance.


“Here we are.” Matthias pushed back the curtain draped across the entryway to the small, sparsely furnished room. They had no excesses and kept only what they needed. Harith had more than most, being the Queen’s son. He managed to amass a stack of bedrolls instead of just one, a table made from a tree stump and chair, and a small bathing area. It was Harith’s one request of excess to help keep his body strong and mind sharp for battle. The soaking tub held an enchantment so that it always stayed replenished with hot, clean water, ridding itself of any impurities immediately on contact.


“You need rest, Harith. To the bed?” Matthias stopped dragging Harith along, a few paces into the dimly lit room.


Trying to reason out a reply with his addled brain was difficult. Harith’s eyes fluttered open weighing his options. While sleep was what he needed, the last thing he wanted to do was soil his bedsheets with the muck of battle. Those, unfortunately, were not self-cleaning and fresh ones were difficult to come by.


“B-bath…” Harith stuttered.


“Are you sure you have the strength?”


“No, but it will make me feel like I do.”


“C’mon then.” Matthias shifted course towards the bath and dragged the chair over next to the deep metal basin. Harith lowered himself onto the chair with Matthias’ guidance and relief washed over him. Just being off his feet allowed him to breathe easier. 


Matthias leaned against the edge of the bath, long legs stretched out in front and still wearing his sword at his side. His expression was solemn. For the first time, Harith fully took in his friend’s state. A large gash ripped apart his shirt revealing his chiseled chest. Blood or dirt, likely both, were smeared underneath the torn clothing, and across his face and his arms. A pang of sadness tightened Harith’s throat, imagining that the slash in Matthias’ shirt could have easily rent him apart.


“Looks like I nearly lost you there…” Harith’s eyes trailed down Matthias’ chest, emotion welling in his gut.


Matthias tugged at the ripped fabric and shrugged. “The future is always uncertain. We never know when we’ll live to see tomorrow.”


Blinking back tears, Harith cleared his throat and fiddled with the buttons on his own shirt. Dexterity was lost to his swollen, aching joints, and it took what felt like ages before the shirt fell apart revealing his own thick gash across his stomach that had been magically cleaned and sealed with his mother’s medicine. It hadn’t been deep enough to spill his organs, but had ripped apart muscle and caused plenty of bloodloss. The wound was puckered and sore as the new sinew and skin formed.


“I was much closer to losing you…” Matthias’ gaze was locked on the puffy red skin of Harith’s midsection when he looked back up. A bit of wetness betrayed Matthias’ strong gaze. They didn’t get many moments alone, constantly surrounded by the rest of the garrison, and Harith cherished any opportunity to have Matthias to himself. Even if his friend would never reciprocate the feelings in the way Harith desired, being alone with him, sharing these moments, was enough. 


“I think I can manage from here,” Harith said, not wanting to keep Matthias from much needed rest. He leaned forward in the chair to reach for his boots. A bout of dizziness darkened his vision. The next thing he knew Matthias knelt before him, hands clenched on Harith’s shoulders.


“Are you sure about that?” Matthias chuckled, pushing Harith back into the chair. 


“Maybe not…”


“Let me help.” Matthias undid the laces of Harith’s boots, pulling one off, then the other. Followed by his socks. This was not the scenario he imagined when his thoughts turned to Matthias undressing him. Here, in this moment, Matthias was a soldier assisting his wounded commanding officer. But there was a gentleness and care in his actions that didn’t go unnoticed.


To be of some use, Harith pushed his shirt from his shoulders and down his arms before unbuckling his belt. The weight of his sword pulled the belt from his waist, and it clattered to the ground. While Matthias retrieved the blade to lean against the wall next to the bed, Harith began unlacing his pants. His heart rate quickened as he did so, thankful that his body was too weak and his blood too thin to become aroused. Nudity was nothing new amongst the soldiers who often had to bathe in tandem in the river for safety, but being alone with Matthias broke down the walls of formality and somehow felt different. Monumental even. 


“Can you stand?” Matthias held out his hands. 


“With your help, I’m sure I can manage.” Harith offered a small smile, clenched his fingers around Matthias’ and was hoisted out of the chair. Harith stumbled forward, dizzy from the quick change of altitude and straight into Matthias’ arms. 


“Woah there.” Strong hands gripped his waist to steady him, and Harith breathed deeply to quell the dizziness.


“I’m steady now, I think.”


“I won’t let you go until you’re seated in the water. The last thing you need is to fall and hit your head. The Queen is already stretched thin.”


“Thank you.” Harith whispered and reached for the waist of his pants, his fingers brushing against Matthias’ while he prayed the man couldn’t hear his racing heart. He avoided eye contact as his garments fell to the floor, leaving him naked with hardly any space between them. The weight of Matthias’ fingers was suddenly heavy as his fingertips dug into flesh while Harith stepped out of the clothes pooled at his feet and kicked them to the side. Harith reasoned the increased pressure was to steady him, not because of the intimacy of the moment, but he hoped for the latter.


The injured man chanced a glance at his assistant and was shocked to find something new written on his normally stoic face.


Am I hallucinating? Is that… desire? Harith’s breath caught in his chest as his head swam, swept up in a sultry gaze and sea of possibilities. 


Matthias cleared his throat, breaking the moment. “C’mon, in you go.” 


With Matthias’ help, Harith lowered himself into the warm bath. The water didn’t hold healing enchantments, but rejuvenation was almost instantaneous as the warmth washed over him and banished the memories of the battle.


Matthias watched him warily for a moment before speaking. All business again. “Are you alright for a while if I disappear? You won’t pass out and drown?”

Harith shook his head. “No, I won’t drown. You may go.”


“Don’t try to get out before I return, Harith. I know how hard-headed you are.”


“Is that a direct order, soldier?”


“Yes, my Prince. It is.”


Something about the way Matthias said prince made it feel more like a term of endearment than a title. Especially since Harith insisted on never being addressed as such. 


“Very well. Don’t forget about me,” Harith joked and waved his hand dismissively, resuming the role of the commanding officer.


“I could never. I’ll return shortly.” Matthias departed with a swish of the curtain. 

Harith rested his head against the edge of the tub, closed his eyes, and sucked in a slow, deep breath, counting to ten as he released. Matthias said he could never forget about me… The thought floated into his mind, along with the lingering feeling of Matthias’ fingers pressing into his hips. Harith sighed and sank deeper into the water, mind reeling with possibilities, chasing a dream.


“Harith… Harith, wake up.” A hand grasped his shoulder, and Harith’s eyes fluttered open, Matthias’ handsome face filling his view. “You said you weren’t going to pass out…” The soldier chided


“How long has it been?” Harith splashed water on his face and tried to clear the haze from his eyes. “At least I didn’t try to get out.”


“Only a half hour. If you’re ready, I’m here to assist.” A towel was draped over Matthias’ outstretched arm. “I brought back some bread and water, as well.”


Of course, Matthias left to get more supplies for Harith, not to rest or clean himself. The man was loyal to a fault. But Harith questioned whether it was a sense of duty or something else that spurred his actions. 


“Mmm, yes. I think it’s time for some real sleep.” Harith shifted forward in the bath and clenched the edges of the tub, determined to stand without help. As he rose from the basin, trying to get his legs under him, Matthias hooked his arm under Harith’s to provide support. The renewed contact sent tingles to his gut. Stop it, Harith. Just stop. There were too many complications to consider. Least of all, whether Matthias was even interested.


Water dripped from Harith’s limbs, slicking the stone floor as he stepped from the tub and secured the offered towel around his waist. Renewed energy carried him to the table to chew on a piece of stale bread and down the tankard of water before shuffling to his makeshift bed. His vigor quickly waned, and he collapsed onto the bed and sank down under the one tattered blanket. The towel came loose, and he stripped it from his body, discarding it to the floor so as not to soak the linens. Harith’s eyes closed without another thought, heavy with exhaustion that made the hard, lumpy pillow under his head feel like a cloud.


“Can I get you anything else, my Prince?” Matthias’ words floated to Harith like a dream.


“I told you not to call me that…” Harith murmured, blinking slowly to see Matthias standing at his bedside. Reaching out with tentative fingertips, he grabbed the soldier’s hand. “Don’t leave me, Matthias.”


“I…” Matthias stuttered, and then responded with more seriousness, “is that an order, sir?”


“No…” Harith sighed and closed his eyes again, unable to keep them open. “I would just like you to stay.” He tugged gently at Matthias’ hand before his own fell limp as he fought for consciousness.

 

The bedroll dipped under Matthias’ weight and warmth radiated onto Harith’s body from his close proximity on the small surface. In his half lucid state, Harith’s desires piqued and restraint waned.


“You do not have to keep watch, Mati.” Harith slipped into their childhood nicknames.


“What do you suggest I do?”


“Lie down.” 


“But my clothes are soiled.”


“Remove them, then.” Harith chuckled.


“Are you talking in your sleep?” Matthias shuffled, although Harith didn’t open his eyes to see if it was a nervous shuffle or a move to grant his wish. 


Harith fell silent, pretending to slip farther into unconsciousness and struggling to keep his breathing steady, as his body tensed and nerves tingled awaiting Matthias’ decision. More awake now than he’d been since before the battle. The bedroll creaked as Matthias stood, and Harith’s heart sank, expecting to be left alone to sleep. Much to his surprise, the blanket lifted and the heat of his compatriot filled the space beside him. 


“I thought you left.” The half-conscious man’s voice was soft and hazy.


“I thought you were asleep.” Matthias tittered.


Harith’s eyes shot open. The light from the eternal flame burning on the wall flickered off Matthias’ pupils as he laid on his side, facing Harith but not touching him. 


“May I be candid?” Matthias asked.


“Of course.” Harith’s stomach churned with possibility.


“I’m glad I didn’t lose you, my Prince.” Matthias reached out and brushed a strand of hair behind Harith’s ear.


Harith didn’t dare breathe, but he was sure Matthias could hear his heart pounding against his ribcage, like the call of the battle drum. Matthias latched his fingers around the back of Harith’s head and tangled them into the wavy locks, pulling the commander into him. Enveloping him in a strong embrace. Harith melted into the broad chest and snaked his own arms around Matthias’ waist, all pretenses crashing to the ground.


“I can’t bear to lose you…” Matthias sobbed against his ear. Harith’s cheeks were already wet with emotion.


“Let’s not think about that.”


“Seeing you, near death, I could only think of you never knowing how much I truly care for you.” Matthias’ grasp tightened, and his lips brushed against Harith’s forehead. The desire to reach up and pull those supple lips against his was hard to resist, but Harith didn’t have the energy. 


Harith steeled his nerves, summoning the strength of his command and nuzzling his nose against Matthias’ neck. “Let’s hold onto this moment… and each other. We’ll get through this. We’ll come out on the other side… together.”


“I will cling to this moment, and to you, for as long as I can.” The quivering in Matthias’ chest and soft sniffling subsided after a moment. His strong warrior, his first in command, lying broken in his arms.


The Prince held onto Matthias like there would be no tomorrow. Like today was the only day that mattered. And fell asleep in the arms of the only person he’d ever desired.


*****


And there you have it! I'd love to hear your thoughts on my excerpt for Day 2: Naked Snuggles.


And don't worry... while I fully plan to put these boys through hell, neither of them will die.


If you're interested in reading the other nine scenes of varying spice levels that I managed to write/revise during January, you can find them in this doc! Each scene has its own content warnings and spice level rating.


I was working on day 10, my first FF entry for the month, but then I had to back off on the feral writing time.



Thanks for reading!


Rose




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