Pairing: Matt Damon/Ben Affleck
Warning: Inspired by the damonaffleck AU Challenge, with apologies to William Goldman's The Princess Bride.
Thanks: To the wonderful vegetariansushi for the beta.
Disclaimer: 100% Make Believe
The court crier stood on the podium overlooking the arena and announced to the waiting crowd, "Standing before you are two heroes. Of the thirty-two suitors vying for the hand of the fair Princess Winona, they alone have survived the tasks set by His Majesty, and proven themselves worthy to face this final challenge."
Matt looked away from the crier, and surveyed his opponent. The man was dressed entirely in red leather, even his face was masked. The ensemble was, in Matt's opinion, surprisingly sinister. He felt a brief frisson of fear and, yet again, cursed his father. This was all his fault. After all, if his father hadn't been so bloody disparaging about Matt's chances of winning the hand of the fair Princess Winona, Matt wouldn't have felt he had something to prove, and he wouldn't be standing here now, about to fight a duel to the death.
His father's exact words had been, "Don't be a bloody fool, boy. Will it take you losing a hand or an eye before you give up these idiotic day dreams? No! I forbid it! Your mother and I need you here at the Academy. Students don't teach themselves, you know." Then he'd handed Matt a revised class schedule which had filled every spare minute of every day.
The very next morning, before dawn, Matt had snuck out of the castle with just a change of clothes and a few gold coins. He'd hitched a ride on a passing cabbage wagon, and been in Holyrood announcing his suitorship by lunchtime.
In hindsight, Matt had an ever-growing, uneasy feeling that he'd been played. For weeks now, a discreet banner advertising the Damon Academy of Gentlemanly Arts had been flying at the starting and finishing points for each of the tasks Matt had completed. It was suggestive of a mindset on his father's behalf that was quite counter to the one he'd expressed.
Matt looked up at the veiled form of the Princess Winona, and wondered--again--what on earth he'd been thinking. She wasn't even his type. If he was honest about it, the man in red was more his type than the Princess Winona ever would be. And now Matt was going to have to kill him, which was going to put a bit of a crimp in Matt's chances of getting his leg over.
"For this climactic duel to the death," the crier announced to the riveted crowd, "we have, in the black, the brave Sir Damon of Bowstown, and, in the red, the noble Incognito."
The crowd cheered long and loud, clearly thrilled at the idea of imminent bloodshed. The crier waited for the din to die down and then signalled to the Princess Winona, who desultorily waved her handkerchief and said, "God bless you both."
After waiting a moment to see if the Princess would add anything further, the crier made a dramatic flourish and declared, "May the contest begin."
The crowd screamed its appreciation as Matt and the man in red drew their swords and advanced on each other.
Matt blocked the noise from his awareness, casting his eye once more over the terrain as he walked, unhurriedly, towards the middle of the arena and his approaching opponent. It was a splendid arena: at one side was the piranha infested moat; at the other, three lions on chains; and in the middle there was a good stretch of flat, firm ground. It was the perfect venue for a duel, assuming, of course, that both combatants were prepared to risk meeting an unpleasant death by something other than a sword.
Matt had been trained in the art of the sword since he was a mere babe, and under normal circumstances he would have been quietly confident. However, these circumstances were anything but normal.
Matt examined his opponent as he neared: the Incognito. Matt suppressed his amusement at the nom de plume. No doubt that was why the man had chosen it: to lull his opponents into thinking he was a fool and poseur. But there was no question in Matt's mind that this man was something else entirely. The man in red must have many skills, to have survived the King's tests. He must be a fine strategist, to have passed through the trackless lair of the Voltron. He must have immense strength and stamina, to have endured the Pit of Pain. He must, too, be relentless in his ambition, to have withstood the Royal Dinner With The In-Laws-To-Be.
Close-to, the man in red was huge, seeming to loom over Matt. He would clearly have superior reach. Matt couldn't help wondering if the man in red's... sword... was as big as the rest of him.
"Well, aren't you pretty," the man in red said, his mouth lifting at one corner in the most provocative leer Matt had ever seen. "It seems a shame to kill you."
Matt smiled, despite himself. Yes, the man in red was definitely his type. "You're not bad yourself," he said, his gaze taking in the snug way the leather fitted his opponent everywhere. "Such a shame threesomes are outre this season."
The man in red laughed as he lifted his sword--really huge sword--in salute. "We could always chuck this in and elope together. Frankly, I don't think the Princess is much of a loss."
A flash of green snagged at Matt's peripheral vision: fluttering in the stands behind the man in red's left shoulder was the banner advertising the Damon Academy of Gentlemanly Arts. Dammit, that meant his father was probably watching. It rather spoilt Matt's enjoyment of the banter.
"I'll keep it in mind," Matt said, as he touched his sword to that of the man in red and immediately attacked with the Fuchsia, a sound opener with an unknown opponent and smooth terrain. Although his father would probably say the Salo was a better choice.
Matt pressed his Fuchsia attack more fiercely.
The man in red countered, predictably enough, with a variation on the Queen's defence. His style was inelegant but effective.
"Don't take too long thinking it over," said the man in red, as he went on the offensive with de Loupe. "The tide changes in about ninety minutes."
Matt riposted with the Xena manoeuvre, which took the man in red by surprise. "Or maybe sooner than that," Matt replied, with a wink, deciding not to let his daddy issues spoil the moment.
The man in red stumbled, but recovered with a beautifully executed hand change.
Matt felt his smile stretch into a grin. There was nothing like an opponent who could hold his own. Matt upped the ante, attacking with the Fuchsia again.
The man in red took it in stride, almost holding his own. Their blades flashed in the autumn sunlight again and again.
Slowly, but surely, Matt's superior bladework began to show: the man in red was backing closer, ever closer, to the piranha pool. Then, with his heels less than an inch from the edge of the water, the man in red flicked his legs in a move Matt had never seen before and managed to reverse their positions.
Behind him, between one clash of steel and the next, Matt could hear the plop plop of a fish nosing at the surface of the water.
The man in red attacked; Matt countered. Sword rang against sword and the crowd roared as loudly as Matt's blood--danger making the moment seem elongated, bright with detail. The man in red licked his lips, a bead of sweat rolling down from beneath his mask, and Matt’s heart was beating like a drum in his chest; his sword-arm thrusting at the man in red over and over, the man in red's body responding to every move Matt made.
Matt feinted, opening himself to the other man's sword... The man in red lunged!
With a snap of the wrist, Matt blocked the thrust and riposted, successfully breaking through the man in red's defence. The tip of Matt's sword slid into him, drawing first blood. It was the merest scratch, and the man in red barely paused to grin in acknowledgement before renewing his attack.
The hyper-real moment over, Matt, breathing hard, backed away from the pool, steadily moving towards the even ground at the centre of the arena. He was giddy with brutal joy: swordplay had never felt like this before.
"You're wonderful," the man in red said, as their blades locked and they stood body pressed to body, trying to gain a leverage advantage off each other. "Seriously, I can always use a good man like you, if you fancy a seafaring life. I can offer thirty percent of the take--after crew disbursement of course--and your own cabin."
Matt executed a drop and roll, managing to get out from under the superior weight of his opponent without loosing too much ground. He immediately attacked, using a combination of Cuero and de Loupe.
"Thirty percent of the take?" wondered Matt, as the words finally penetrated through the coil of strategy taking up most of his attention.
"Oh, all right," said the man in red, retreating under Matt's assault. "You drive a hard bargain, but you're worth it. Forty percent. You can't say fairer than that."
A lion roared at them, clanking its length of chain as they approached.
"What!" said Matt, wondering what on earth the man in red was talking about. He advanced, pulling off a classic double bluff and thrust, pinking the man in red again, just beneath the elbow. His retreating sword slid along the man in red's leather like a caress.
"Come on!" said the man in red, not so much as flinching at the hit. "Be reasonable. I'm going to have to give up on the Princess's dowry if I don't kill you, and I'm already out of pocket over this venture. I'm not going any higher than forty-five percent, and that's my final offer!" He continued to retreat before Matt's relentless attack. He tried to side-step, tried to parry, but Matt was fighting like a man inspired.
"I really can't go any higher," the man in red said, after Matt managed a particularly imaginative use of Butte, barely missing the end of the man's masked nose, "but I'll throw in sexual favours as a sweetener if you like," and despite the lion straining at its chain only inches from the man in red's back, he smiled at Matt; smiled such a smile as no one had ever smiled at Matt before.
"You want to have sex with me?" Matt said, the tip of his blade dipping, the fire of his onslaught transforming into something more molten that surged deep in his belly.
"God, yes!" said the man in red, not trying to press the advantage, despite the momentary waver in Matt's defence. "I want to fuck you into the middle of next week."
Matt glanced quickly at the crowded arena. "But..."
"Agree to my terms, and I promise to get us both out of here alive."
"How?" said Matt, not sure whether to feel more relieved at the idea of not having to marry the Princess Winona, or turned on by the idea of imminent sex with the man in red.
"Keep fighting," the man in red ordered, nudging Matt's sword back into action. "Do you agree to my terms?"
"Okay," said Matt, not quite sure what, exactly, he was agreeing to, but going with it anyway. He wondered if, perhaps, he was dead, and this was all some strange imagining of his dying brain.
"Excellent," said the man in red. "We need to be at the northern end of the arena. That's were my crew are waiting for my signal."
"Who the hell are you?" Matt demanded, as he pretended to harry the man across the middle of the arena, their swords snicking in a lazy give and take that felt surprisingly like foreplay.
"Haven't you figured that out yet?" The man in red laughed. "I was sure you had when you threw that classy double bluff at me."
Matt slipped past the man in red's guard and scored the leather on his forearm, just as a gentle reminder.
"Oh, yes!" said the man in red, admiringly. "You're a much better catch than that insipid Princess." Then, before Matt could make good on his threat and pink him again, "I'm the captain of the Red Hart."
Shock jolted down Matt's spine. He stared at the man in red, feeling as though the whole world was spinning around like an out of control gyroscope, but not for one moment did he disbelieve the man's claim. He remembered the stories about the captain of the Red Hart. How could he ever forget them? Ever since he'd overheard his Nanny telling them to the kitchen maid, not so very many years ago, those stories had been seared into the sex centre of his brain. The captain of the Red Hart was, so the stories said, the most devilish seducer to ever practice piracy on the high seas. Much to Matt's delight, Nanny had added a great deal of corroborating detail in her whispered conversation with the kitchen maid, detail which would undoubtedly have got her fired if so much as a whiff of it had ever reached father's ears. And, yes, Matt could well believe the man facing him was that man, the man of Nanny's stories, the infamous Dread Pirate Benjamin.
Through his haze of astonishment, Matt noticed that the man in red, or, rather, the Dread Pirate Benjamin, was doing a good job of making it look as though they were both still fighting, even though Matt was doing little more than waving his sword at random. But then, the Dread Pirate Benjamin was an infamous wizard of the sword, and could probably make a novice holding a stick look good if he wanted to.
As though reading his mind, the Dread Pirate Benjamin knocked Matt's sword aside and did an acrobatic back-flip. Then he bowed to the cheering audience, his sword pointing to the fair Princess Winona at the far end of the arena, before turning to re-engage Matt.
At that moment the penny dropped, as several facts suddenly clicked into a brand new pattern for Matt.
"You did this on purpose!" Matt accused the Dread Pirate Benjamin. "You courted the Princess Winona so you could recruit her champion!"
"Well, of course," said the Dread Pirate Benjamin, as an enormous explosion ripped through the far end of the arena, sending the crowd into a screaming frenzy. "Champions aren't that easy to come by, you know. You don't think I go around offering partnerships to just anyone, do you?" He leered at Matt. "Especially with the perks you negotiated."
Before Matt could decide whether to be appalled or thrilled that the Dread Pirate Benjamin was after his personal booty, the Dread Pirate Benjamin made a lightning fast move that knocked Matt's sword out of his hand and sent it spinning through the air. The Dread Pirate Benjamin took advantage of Matt's blink of surprise, stepping in so close Matt could smell the hot, heady scent of sweat and leather.
His kiss was hard and fast and dirty, and left Matt gasping for more than air.
The Dread Pirate Benjamin was grinning as he stepped back, hand out-held, just in time to catch Matt's sword.
"Come on," said the Dread Pirate Benjamin, leaping up into the stands and reaching down to offer Matt his hand, "if we hurry, we'll just make the tide."