Tuesday Teaser, retro edition

Apparently I’m making a habit of Tuesday Teasers, at least for now. Realistically, it can’t go on forever because I write too slowly and I’ll quickly run out of stuff, but whatever. Can’t post from the WIP, because it is being mean to me, and I’ve already posted damn near half of HERO, so I’m going to post a big-ass scene from THE SEVENTH VEIL. It’s way in the middle of the first act, almost at the end, so it’s possibly a stupid bit to post. But it’s the first intense scene between Charles and Timothy, and it’s long been one of my favorites. You have to endure quite a bit of what smacks a bit too hard of infodump, but the scene IS supposed to be an inquisition. Timothy is there to get information out of Charles. And Charles . . . well, he’s Charles. He only ever really wants one thing. And happily, here, he wins.

Remember this puppy is up at FictionPress, so if the out of order makes you batshit, or you get mad at me for where I cut off, go there.

 

 

 

In the study below the tower bedroom, Timothy poured Charles Perry another drink.

Charles had produced a dusty, nasty-looking bottle of spirits as he had promised from the back of a drawer in the desk and an even dirtier bin of coal from a bin built directly into the wall and obscured by a heavy, moth-eaten curtain; after building a fire in the hearth, Timothy had encouraged his companion to relax on one end of the tattered sofa, promising to join him after he wiped out a pair of glasses. Timothy did, indeed, wipe out the glasses. He also laced Charles Perry’s liberally with baetlbeth, and once he had poured himself a virgin round, he doused the bottle of spirits with the same before taking up a chair beside the sofa. The glass Timothy was pouring Charles now was his third; Timothy himself had just finished his first and was embarking carefully on his second, as all subsequent rounds were now spiked with drug. He had a considerable immunity to it, but he had no interest in playing fool with Jonathan’s half-brother again. He wanted information, and he intended to get it.

If Charles suspected he was being manipulated, he was playing a deep game, for he appeared as nothing but happily drunk and beautifully disoriented by the baetlbeth. His head, grown too heavy for his neck, had lolled over onto the arm of the sofa, and he grinned sideways at Timothy as he reached out to take the glass. The sofa groaned and sagged disturbingly as Charles leaned over its edge. Their fingers brushed as the glass passed between them, and Timothy noted the way Charles Perry’s eyes darkened, then narrowed into slits at the contact. Timothy, too, felt a kick and a hum, but he funneled the abstract attraction into his desire to maintain the high ground in this encounter. If Charles Perry wanted to make himself such an easy mark, Timothy would be happy to take whatever advantage of him he preferred.

Timothy let the corner of his mouth curl up briefly, let Charles see it, then reached back for his own glass and the decanter from the table. He aimed for the other end of Charles’s sofa, gesturing to the empty space with the decanter before lifting his eyebrows in silent question.

He enjoyed the way Charles’s eyes went still darker. "Please." He slid his feet back to make room—but not too much. He grinned, and added, "Just be sure to bring the bottle."

"By all means." The sofa groaned again as Timothy sat down, then, as he slid his foot along the back, behind Charles’s half-stretched leg, a sharp pop heralded the demise of one of the springs. It was sticking out of the back cushion, looking to be digging into Charles’s side, but if Charles felt it at all, he didn’t seem to mind.

Timothy drew his other foot onto the couch, tucked it beneath his outstretched leg, and leaned back against the arm. “Tell me about Smith.”

The look of drunken contentment on Charles’s face evaporated, replaced by an anger that made Timothy worry he had moved too quickly. He waited, tense, as Charles lifted his glass.

“You want to know about Smith?” Charles said this to the brandy, staring into it, swirling the glass as he spoke. “Well, what would you like to hear first? That he’s a psychotic? That he has a shriveled pea for a soul?” His expression turned haunted, and he spoke the next in a whisper. “He’s a monster. Don’t go near him. You’ll never be sorrier if you tangle with him.”

“Then why are you with him?” Timothy realized he was speaking too sharply and forced himself to calm. He took a drink, a small one, thinking the drug might ease his tension. “If he’s such a nightmare, why are you his accomplice?”

Charles curled his lip at him. “Accomplice. Don’t be so stupid. Do I look like an accomplice?” When Timothy didn’t answer, he threw his hands wide, spilling a great deal of his drink over the back of the sofa. “Does this look like an accomplice? Does it?” He snorted a laugh and lowered his arms. “No, it does not. It looks like a patsy, is what. An idiot. I am Smith’s idiot, and he uses me however he pleases.” He shivered, then drew the glass tight against his chest, staring into its depths again. “I’m with him because he tricked me into consigning myself to him, and now I can’t leave until he’s finished with me.”

Timothy remembered the way it had felt to be under the alchemist’s compulsion, and he knew both empathy and new wariness. “If you are enchanted to remain with him, how are you here now?”

This induced another grin, which given with his head still bowed over his glass, made Charles look delightfully wicked. “You knocked him unconscious. It seems to have dulled things a bit, for the moment. And Madeline did something, I think.” He glanced up at the ceiling, looking anxious, but resigned. “What he has on me is deeper and nastier than what he did to you. I can’t explain it much because I don’t understand. He said he was going to take my power from me through sex magic, and I thought it was a joke, because I’m no magician, and how could sex do that? But when he—” Charles cut himself off, staring with dull eyes into the hearth. “It hurts,” he whispered. “Like nothing I can describe. It’s as if he’s taking pieces of me in strips, over and over again, and with an act that should be nothing but pleasure. I keep waiting for him to run out, for the next one to be the last, and then I will be dead, and free, but it just keeps on going, worse every time.”

He had drained or spilled all of his brandy; when Timothy leaned forward to pour more, Charles swiped the bottle from his hands and took several solid glugs before handing it back. Timothy cleared his throat and tucked the bottle back into his lap. “What is he doing here, in this parish? Why does he seek Jonathan? What is his goal?”

“I don’t know—or, rather, I don’t understand. He keeps talking about what happened ten years ago, about how we have to go back to the beginning.” Charles ran his tongue drunkenly over his lips before returning his gaze to the fire. “I don’t see what good it will do, unless he intends to raise the dead.”

“Tell me what happened ten years ago,” Timothy urged, sensing he might at last be nearing the heart of the mystery. “Tell me everything.”

Charles studied him carefully, looking surprised. “Jonathan didn’t tell you, then. I suppose I can’t blame him. It doesn’t make him look very good, no matter what angle you take. But yes. I’ll tell you. First, however—” He extended his hand and motioned for the bottle.

Timothy handed it back reluctantly. “Go easy.” I don’t want you unconscious just yet.

Charles winked at him as he took another deep swill, but when he lowered the bottle there was no more smile in his eye.

“Ten years ago was the first time I came north with my family. I’d made a larger than usual mess of things, and Grandfather decided he didn’t yet hate me enough to see me pilloried, so he handed out bribes and dragged me up here by my ear for the summer. Jonathan came, too, though it was not his first time; he was to babysit Father as his punishment, which meant he lived here with the madman at the abbey.” Charles waved a hand generally at the room. “It didn’t look quite this bad then. It’s odd, actually, how very much it’s decayed in ten years’ time, but then, given the legends and everything else, I suppose it makes sense. Anyway. Jonathan had to stay here with Mad Old Dad, making sure he didn’t escape and go raping and killing. It was a full-time job, and grueling work besides, so when Father passed out, Jonathan tended to take long walks on the moor to clear his head. And that was how he met Madeline.”

Charles had settled back onto the cushion, and he grinned as he recounted the next. “I used to tag along just to watch them fight, and to see her smile at me. All my life I’d been the nasty, disgusting incest-born bastard no one wanted to touch unless they were looking for something kinky in the bedroom, and Jonathan was the golden boy; not here, not with her. She shouted at him like a fishwife. She wouldn’t give him the time of day, but she always took my arm and led me back for tea. We both fell for her because of the way she treated us: I was her puppy because she was the first person to truly be kind to me, and Jonathan fell for her because she was the first person he wanted to impress to tell him he was a bastard. It was, of course, he who got her in the end, because he always does. I sat at her feet, but he wooed her. Tried honeyed words, tried flowers and courting. At first, she had none of it. Then one day, furious with her for spurning him yet again, he shouted back at her, saying how if she was determined to spar with him, he should teach her to fence so she could bleed him proper. You’d have thought he’d offered her a castle. He had her with a foil in hand that very afternoon. The rest just sort of tumbled into place.”

Timothy took the bottle from Charles after he took another drink. “But he didn’t stay. He went to war.”

Charles wiped the back of his hand across his lips, nodding. “Yes. To escape the murder charges.” When Timothy’s eyes went wide, Charles grinned, swaying from the drink and the drug as he held up two fingers. “Two murders.”

Timothy stared at him, wanting to deny it. He took a swig from the bottle himself and said, “Explain.”

“I told you about Madeline,” Charles went on, “but not Andrea. Andrea Carlton was a cousin to Madeline, and like her, she was the last of her House. Did they tell you about those? We’re all cursed, apparently. Old magic blood, though you rarely see it do anything but encourage us to kill and cheat each other. My father cheated Madeline’s father, for example, out of this abbey, when she was just a girl, then used it as his wicked little playground. They say that’s why Hamilton Elliott killed himself, but it’s difficult to know for sure why he did it. Just being one of the Houses seems to be enough to drive you mad. Or maybe we are all pawns to some daemon gone bad, like they say, just doomed. All I know is that we were all there that summer, all four Houses. And that summer we nearly all killed one another. If it hadn’t been for Madeline, I think we would have.”

He eased back onto the cushions. “When it was clear Jonathan had wooed Madeline out from under me, I had to find something new to do besides watch them fall in love, and I ended up with Andrea.” He smiled a feral smile. “She was a deliciously wicked girl. She didn’t feed me tea and cakes. She hauled me off to the hayloft and fucked me senseless.” He let his eyes fall shut and smiled, clearly reliving old memories. “She didn’t mind my . . . particular tastes. She seemed to enjoy them—she encouraged them. I was thrilled my grandfather had decided to banish me to the north. I never wanted to leave. I had fantasies of marrying her. But, as always, I was naive in thinking it would last.”

Charles laced his fingers over his chest and studied the ceiling intently, as if it might coach him through the rest. “I didn’t mind her sleeping with Jonathan exactly. It’s difficult to split hairs over infidelity when you’ve not only encouraged your lover to take a footman up her back passage but had the same treatment right beside her. But she knew how I felt about my brother. And worse, she knew how Madeline would feel about it.”

Timothy didn’t like the direction this was taking. Infidelity—Jonathan? “Were Jonathan and Madeline engaged?”

Charles shook his head. “She was a novice; no marriage, no sexual contact. It isn’t essential to enter the Craft a virgin, but Madeline’s the type who would have insisted. And that was the rub, you see. He was trying to convince her to abandon the Craft and come away with him. I assumed she would, eventually—but then he went and slept with Andrea. It wasn’t like him. Much as I hated him, even I was shocked. And he was an idiot if he thought that would induce Madeline to anything. But the biggest problem was what it encouraged in Andrea. She wanted more than one time, and she kept after him. And one terrible night, she sought him out at the abbey.”

Charles motioned for the bottle. His grim expression incited Timothy to take his own hit before complying.

“The abbey, where your mad father lived,” Timothy said, quietly. Whom Jonathan was to keep from raping and killing.

Charles nodded. “And worst, Jonathan was out trying to woo Madeline back the night Andrea appeared. She found Father instead. By the time Jonathan came back—” His expression became wooden. “He said he killed her as a kindness. He said Father was taking too long to do it himself, and he couldn’t bear the look in her eyes. He said it would have been a cruelty to keep her alive after what he had done, even if it could have been managed. And then he killed Father, and was sent to war because even Grandfather couldn’t hide two murders. Not without time.”

Timothy waited in silence as Charles drank again, but his mind was reeling. He tried to imagine cool, proud Jonathan finding a girl he had led on in the hands of the man he was meant to be shepherding. He thought of the deep shadows he had always seen in his friend’s eyes, and he thought he began to understand them.

“That is what happened ten years ago,” Charles said. His words were beginning to slur, but not much. “I don’t know why the devil Smith cares. I thought maybe it was all the sex, but that was Andrea and I, and she’s dead. Does he mean to bring her back? I would have thought it was impossible, but Smith has taught me to believe in the impossible. I get ill if I think about him bringing back Father. But what else could there be, outside of cruelty? And what did he to do us in the yard? All I remember is Jonathan going all red and strange, but I assumed it was some drug he’d given me. The only other thing would be the curse, but that’s nonsense, and anyway, what good would it do? He can’t sodomize it, so he can’t strip the power.”

Timothy was getting lost. “Curse? The witch spoke of one.” But he’d already forgotten the particulars. He glanced at the bottle. Or perhaps he had just drowned them.

Charles waved a hand, and the gesture nearly took him off the couch. “If a member of a House kills another member of a House, it’s supposed to consign their soul to their family’s daemon.” He made a face. “I hate the daemons. They’re ridiculous. I’m my own man. I may be a patsy, but I’m my own patsy, or I was until Smith tricked me. I’m not the puppet of a decrepit old mystical force serving air and earth. What would they want, anyway? More air? More earth? People to breathe less? Stop digging? Bah. It’s all stuff.” He fell back against the couch, flicking the broken spring with his finger.

Timothy sank against the back of the couch, too. He’d learned, essentially, nothing. If anything, he’d made himself more confused. “So we don’t know why Smith is here.” He shifted his leg that was pinned against Charles. “What does he intend to do?”

“I don’t know. But it involves Jonathan, and maybe Madeline. Without question it involves power.” One of his hands fell on Timothy’s leg and began to knead absently. “Which implicates Madeline, and yet he talks as if she is disposable to him, an issue only if she gets in his way.”

“Could she be working with him?” Timothy didn’t remove his leg, not even when the kneading became more regular. He drank again from the bottle, trying to be mindful that he was edging too close to his tolerance. “Could the witch be in league with the alchemist?” And did I just leave her sealed in that room with Jonathan? He took another drink.

“No.” Charles reclaimed the bottle. “To start, she is a witch, and he is an alchemist. They hate one another on principle alone.”

“But Jonathan betrayed her.” Charles’s fingers were starting to affect Timothy, and so was the baetlbeth. He shifted his leg in a sort of stupor, trying to reclaim it. “She could see this as her opport—oppor—chance for revenge.”

“Not Madeline.” Charles took Timothy’s leg gently in his hands, lifted it, then swung the entire thing into his own lap. “She doesn’t take revenge. I wanted to kill Jonathan after what he let happen to Andrea, but Madeline held me down, told me no. Told me it wasn’t anyone’s fault, told me Jonathan had been punished enough. When I asked what about her, what about what he did to her, she just went quiet and said it didn’t matter. She took her Apprentice vows the day after he left, and that was the end of it. She has the magic in her now. Smith has to coax it and charm it, but she has it in her blood. Once they put it in, it doesn’t come out. Witches are for life.” He had been running his hands idly over Timothy’s calves as he spoke, but he looked down now and grinned lopsidedly at Timothy’s bare feet, catching his big toe between two fingers and wiggling it. “Don’t they get cold?” He nodded at the sandals Timothy had discarded on the rug.

Timothy fought the urge to shut his eyes as Charles ran his thumb down the center of his foot. “A little.”

Charles made small circles in Timothy’s instep. “They’re soft. Or, this one is.” He pressed harder, and Timothy had to bite back a groan; distracted, he didn’t realize Charles had reached for his other foot until he’d swung it into the air, bringing it to rest against the hard length of his inner thigh. “No, both are soft.”

“Oil. I use oil.” Timothy tried to withdraw his feet, but Charles held them fast. He resumed his massage on the new foot as he tucked the right one under his groin, though not before Timothy’s toes had raked the erection he sported there. Timothy pushed himself up and flexed his free foot against Charles’s insistent hands. “Stop.”

Charles ignored him. “You can trust Madeline. I swear to you. She will only help him. She is not in league with Smith.”

Timothy was feeling dizzy. He’d had too much drug; he must have tipped too much in. Yet Charles seemed nearly unaffected. He’d lost control of this somehow. He had so many questions, but he could barely think of anything to ask. And Charles’s hard hands moving so cleverly over his feet helped nothing.

He yanked them back, tucking them beneath his legs.

“Sex,” he blurted, feeling his own throb in response to Charles’s manipulations. “You keep saying Smith is after sex. Sex and power and magic.”

“Yes. Smith is a sex magician.” Charles reached for the bottle and drank deeply.

Timothy frowned at the bottle. They’d both had too much, but Charles had had more. Why was he not passing out? “What does that mean, ‘sex magician’? He has . . . magical congress?”

“He uses orgasms to tap into other people’s power.” Charles waved a hand. “Not just magic, though I suspect that’s his favorite. I saw him once with a woman who wanted a charm to catch a rich husband. He stripped her down and painted symbols all over her, then made her ride a dildo until she climaxed seven times, right there in front of him, with me watching from behind a screen. Then he gave her a bag of stones and told her to take it to the park and the richest unmarried man there would propose to her. When she left, he told me Lord Wondley would send him regular checks and work hard to keep any reform legislation from passing in the Golden Lane district for seven years, and would never know quite why.” He drank again, but he made a face as he swallowed. “Smith is sick. That woman sobbed the entire time he had her fucking for him, and he treated her like his performing monkey, telling her to touch herself, to come harder—she was so pretty, and so young.”

“Why didn’t she just leave, when he told her his price?” Timothy asked.

“Because he’d decided she was useful to him, and he enchanted her into staying. He has to use tricks until he gets the henna on you, but then you’re done.” He shoved up his sleeves and held out his forearms. “I don’t know what these say, but it might as well be, ‘I am Martin Smith’s bitch. Run fast.’”

Timothy reached out and caught his hands before he could withdraw them, and he leaned forward, squinting at the symbols. He felt sick. “These are Catalian symbols. These are the katkha moor—but they never—” He tilted his head to one side and turned Charles’s wrist back and forth, as if this would right the symbols. “They’re . . . perverted. The true symbols are beautiful; they bring peace just by looking at them.” He looked up at Charles, then let go and shoved up his own sleeves. “Here. Look.”

Charles was quiet as he took Timothy’s hands in his own, but where Timothy just stared, he ran his fingers tentatively over the designs tattooed on Timothy’s wrists and forearms.

“They’re beautiful,” Charles said at last. “But I thought Catalians didn’t believe in magic.”

“These aren’t magic. They’re symbolic.” Timothy guided Charles’s finger up his wrist. “The four colors denote that I worked in the royal palace; the leaves around the symbols indicate I worked in the garden. The paisleys are because I came to the garden from the south, where these designs are popular.” He switched to the other arm, where the tattoos began on his palm and ran all the way to his shoulder. “These tell my talents, my trainings.”

Charles looked up at him without lifting his head. “Smith said you were a pleasure slave.”

“Court concubine.” Timothy tightened his grip and realized he was holding Charles’s hands. He deliberately let them go. “It’s a position of honor, one of the highest, and as I was in the garden, I was practically untouchable. Only an appointment by the Cariff could bring you to me.”

Charles was still watching him intently. “And were you good, court concubine?”

“I was the best.” Timothy withdrew and sat back against the arm of the couch, trying to look calm. He wasn’t. The drug was permeating his system now, and since he had not taken enough to pass out, he was rather uninhibited, and since he was attracted to Charles, this was trouble.

Charles leaned back, too, but his eyes were still hooded. “Whom did you pleasure? Women? Men? Both?”

“I am li,” Timothy said, his voice huskier than he wanted it to be. “I pleasure only men.”

“Never a woman?” Charles pressed, but idly. “Not even one?”

Timothy’s legs were beginning to cramp. He wanted to stretch them out, but he didn’t dare. “Not in the garden. There were a few, on occasion, but generally they were mistakes. I am attracted only to men. That is what li means.”

“I like both,” Charles confessed. He took another drink. “In Etsey, they call that a ‘goat,’ and they put you in the pillory. They’d put you there, too, but me—oh, the goats usually don’t live past the first night, whereas mollies usually live to hang their tattooed foreheads in shame.”

“In Catal, you would be called lilon,” Timothy said. “And you would not be put in a pillory for it.”

Lilon. That’s pretty.” Charles handed him the bottle. “I think I would have liked Catal.”

The past tense depressed Timothy, as it always did, and though it was foolish, he accepted the bottle and drank. Then drank again.

His lips felt numb when he lowered the bottle; Charles took it away and set it on the floor. “I think you’ve likely had enough. You’re enchantingly tousled, but you look close to sleep now.”

Warning bells sounded in Timothy’s mind, but they were dull and echoed because of the drug. He tried to retreat into his corner of the couch. “What—” His foot slipped off the edge, and he nearly fell off.

Charles caught him and righted him, keeping his hands on him once he had him seated again. “You put baeltbeth in the brandy, yes?” When Timothy made a distraught cry, Charles laughed softly and brushed a kiss against his knuckles. “I’m a hopeless addict of every illegal substance Hain can smuggle into Etsey; baeltbeth was a luxury item even for me, but Smith uses it in his henna and laces my tea with it every morning. I don’t notice it beyond a faint disorientation until I reach the fatal dose, and something Smith did nullified even that.”

“So you let me take too much, letting me gauge myself against your standard instead of paying attention to how much I’d take in.” Timothy felt his head begin to spin. “A stupid mistake. In Catal it would have cost me my life.” He looked blearily at Charles. “Will it tonight, too? Is this Smith’s cunning plan? Use you to drug me, then—what? Am I to ride ride his dildo next?”

Timothy wasn’t prepared for the intensity of Charles’s reaction; all he knew was Charles’s eyes had gone dark with hurt and anger, and his hands were bands around Timothy’s shoulders.

“I would never—” He shut his eyes, drew in a breath through his teeth, then let it out, loosening his grip as well. His eyes he kept closed. “I would never do that to anyone, but not you especially.”

“You barely know me,” Timothy shot back.

Charles smiled a half smile and opened his eyes again. “You tried to help me at the inn, and you knew me less than I know you now.” He shrugged. “I didn’t mean to hurt you. I just . . . well, I thought, with a bit of baeltbeth in you, maybe . . . .” His smile fell away as he reached up and tentatively brushed Timothy’s cheek with the back of his hand. “I’ve been a social pariah since they knew my mother was pregnant. She never held me, not once, not even when I was a baby. But I was handsome, and I learned to be charming, and once I was older—well, it turned out noble bastards have a lovely free reign to fuck whomever they like, so long as they don’t cause the wrong kind of scandal. And even those can be bought off. So my life hasn’t been much, but sex has always been a pleasure I held dear. I didn’t know how dear until Smith—” He laughed, and it was a sad, hollow sound. “He’s all but killed it. He’s turned it into a nightmare, a torture—when I’m not sick from what he’s done to me, I think about how much worse it will be if he doesn’t kill me before he stops, if I have to find something else to live for, if I look at a woman or a man and see pain, not pleasure—I don’t know how I’ll bear it.”

He looked so bleak. Timothy couldn’t stop himself from reaching up and touching his cheek in return. But then Charles’s eyes lifted to his, and they were dark, and full of heat.

“But you,” he whispered. “I saw you, and even at the inn, even just to see you—” He reached out and touched Timothy’s lips. “Goddess bless, but you’re so beautiful. And I wanted you. It felt so good just to want you, to look at your hands and imagine them touching me, to ache for that again, instead of cringing. And then, I caught you looking, just enough to make me think, to hope . . . . I thought, if I don’t tell him about the drug, and he relaxes, maybe . . . maybe . . . .”

His thumb tugged gently on Timothy’s bottom lip, parting it briefly.

Timothy tried for reason, but simply breathing was trouble enough. “You didn’t need to drug me for this. Yes, I was interested, and if you’d kept me straight—”

“—you would have focused on my brother, even though there’s nothing you can do until whatever Madeline is doing in there finishes.”

That was true, and it irritated Timothy to have it pointed out. He gestured awkwardly to his left forearm, to the tattoos there. “This—if you were after the ‘pleasure slave,’ you’ve just drugged him nearly insensible.”

Charles’s eyes danced. “I think insensible might be more fun, given everything that’s happened tonight. Bear in mind, I’ve never had anyone as fancy as the Cariff’s untouchable concubine. I’m sure I’d be impressed no matter what happened.” His hand moved to Timothy’s shoulder, his thumb making gentle but insistent circles on his collarbone.

Timothy swallowed and shut his eyes, but the room spun all the same whether or not he was looking at it. “Jonathan—I should be thinking of Jonathan.” It came out wrong, though, as if he meant he should be thinking about sex with Jonathan. It was dangerous territory, and Timothy tried to shut down those thoughts.

Charles wouldn’t let him.

“Yes, I gathered that much, earlier.” Charles leaned forward and whispered into Timothy’s ear. “Did you ever fuck my brother?”

It was a blunt question, and it occurred to Timothy, abstractly, that he should be offended by it. He couldn’t quite manage it, and when he answered, he was a little shocked at the frustration in his voice as he said, “No.”

“Did you want to?”

Timothy tried to close his eyes, tried to find his anger. But baeltbeth wasn’t very forgiving.

He looked Charles in the eye. “Yes.”

Charles didn’t smile, just met his gaze and nodded. “He didn’t want to. He’s not that way. He didn’t resent you for it, and he probably noticed, but he just isn’t interested in you that way.”

“No.” There was a strange release in the confession.

Charles leaned forward and pressed his lips so close to Timothy’s ear that when he spoke Timothy could feel his lips brush his skin.

I want to fuck you.” The hand on Timothy’s shoulder tightened, slightly. “I want you desperately. I want you now. I want you here. I’ve been hoping I would have a chance to fuck you ever since you slammed me into the wall upstairs. Even when you scared me and I thought I should probably run, that you were too much for me, even then I still wanted to fuck you.”

Timothy had his eyes shut and was breathing too fast, swaying to the strange litany of Charles’s confession. I want to fuck you. It sounded so crass in Etsian, but he liked the sound of the words in Charles’s mouth. I want to fuck you. He swallowed and reached out to steady himself, which meant he grabbed at the front of Charles’s shirt.

“Say it again,” he whispered.

“I want to fuck you.” Charles’s nose nuzzled Timothy’s ear, then his cheek, and then he kissed him hot and open against his jaw. “I want to taste your skin. I want to pull your clothes off you and push you onto the rug. I want you to push me back. I want to run my tongue down your chest. I want to see what other tattoos you have.”

“Scars,” Timothy whispered. “I have scars. Many scars.” But he was nuzzling back now, his fingers climbing up the shirt, seeking skin. He never could withstand words. He’d had nothing but clandestine affairs with guilty Etsian officers and the occasional refugees for so long; so few words, just gropes and nudges, and now here was this one, pouring them on him.

“I want to run my tongue over your scars. I want to trace them with my hands. I want to swirl my tongue in your navel, making you arch, begging me to go lower.” He caught Timothy’s lower lip roughly, briefly. “I want to taste your cock. I want it in my mouth, in my throat. I want my hands on your thighs, feeling you, curling against you as I lift you, spread you open and taste—”

“Stop.” Timothy reached up, fumbling for his head, ending up with two fistfuls of hair which he use to tug him down to his mouth. He kissed him furiously, all his lust and anger and aching pushing so hard he was almost biting.

This is what I want, he said with the kiss. This hard. This angry. This raw. This. This. Please, please—give me this.

Charles groaned and met him, passion for passion, push for push.

I want you. I want you like this. I want to fuck you.

Yes, Timothy thought, swung his leg around, and used his weight to shove them onto the floor.

 

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