"Good morning, Lancelot." As with most mornings, the king of the planet Camelot and captain of the starship Excalibur was still enjoying his morning coffee at his desk as his executive officer joined him for the start-of-day briefing. Also as with most mornings, Arthur asked, "How did you sleep?"
"Well, thank you," said Lancelot as he sat in front of Arthur's desk. "Last night I was able to make use of a particularly efficient relaxation technique I learned from the Lady of the Lake when I was young, for the first time since the beginning of the mission."
"Really?" Arthur was curious about everything; that's why he spent more time running his starship than running his kingdom. Raising his coffee to his lips, he asked, "If it works so well, why don't you use it more often? Were you especially insomniac last night?"
"Not especially," said Lancelot, fidgeting with his morning report as he placed it on the desk top. "But this particular technique requires the rather intimate assistance of another person."
Lancelot looked up as Arthur set his coffee down without a word. Though it was never spoken of between the two men, both knew there was only one person on the Excalibur with whom Lancelot had any desire to be intimate.
"Merlin," Lancelot explained carefully, "has become concerned with the Queen's inability to sleep since the death of her twin sister, and he's familiar with the technique in question."
"I'm glad I have such a well-educated wizard for my ship's doctor," said Arthur, not actually sounding very glad.
"Merlin suggested to her that I instruct her in this exercise," Lancelot continued. "The Queen wasn't very receptive."
"Guenevere isn't very receptive to much, since her sister died," said Arthur. The king had made such double-edged comments to Lancelot before, as if to reassure Lancelot that misery had company. The king and the knight had become oddly close in the weeks while Guenevere had declined to move from anger to acceptance. In fact that odd closeness was why Lancelot had determined to have this conversation first thing today.
"I wasn't surprised to hear it, when Merlin told me. But," Lancelot went on inexorably, "Merlin sent her to my cabin last night on false pretences, with my pessimistic collusion. When the Queen discovered the ruse she became upset - but when I told her how certain I was that her contrariness would win out over Merlin's good sense, she perversely acceded to the exercise."
After a moment Arthur asked, "Did she sleep well last night?"
"I don't know," said Lancelot - with some stress. Everyone on the ship knew the king and queen had been sleeping in separate suites lately, and Arthur wouldn't necessarily know it if Guenevere hadn't used her own bed the previous night. "But I'm confident."
Arthur stood and went to the viewport. Not knowing what else to do, Lancelot remained in his seat and waited for Arthur to say something.
"I don't know what to do for her," said Arthur finally. "I can't reach her, as cut off as she's made herself. Not and run the ship too." He turned back to the desk. "I want to help her. But if I can't help her-" As he sat behind his desk again, he looked Lancelot in the eye. "-I won't complain if someone else can."
"As you wish, sire." What else was there to say?
Arthur picked up the report. "All right. Now. I want to know your opinion of Lamorak's performance in the action on the planet yesterday." ...
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