Bellyachin'

BY : WonderMint
Category: Final Fantasy XIV > Yaoi - Male/Male
Dragon prints: 1739
Disclaimer: Final Fantasy FFXIV: ARR is owned by Square Enix and based on the creation of Hironobu Sakaguchi. May they ever walk in the light of the crystal. I own no right to the characters and settings herein and seek no profit therefrom.

A/N: Well, that was terrifying... for me, at least. But... oh dear. My torture is not ended. How unexpected!

 

For those of you who have been wondering if I post anywhere else, I am now set up on archiveofourown.org. It has the advantage of subscriptions and bookmarks, and I can properly answer reviews there. I will still post everything here, don't worry! But you can see it over there first, as well as look at progress on all my projects in my profile.

 

Asskye: o_o Thank you so much! Wow, that is quite the recommendation! I agree, I wasn't convinced by Alphinaud/Aymeric when I started. They certainly aren't my OTP. But they make a certain sort of sense together, especially now that we've gotten to know Aymeric better and seen that soft, naive heart of his. Dumb jerk. If I can force you to feel things you don't want to feel, I definitely count this endeavor as a success. XD

 

 

 

 

Like the tempest of their emotions, the fire had burned low in the hearth. Mere glowing embers now chased away the evening's chill, warm instead of hot, no longer too warm for blankets. The light had dimmed as well, providing only the barest illumination for the two sinners that lay, sticky and spent, upon their bed. Light was not needed, now. They knew all they needed to know by memory, and touch.

 

Alphinaud was relaxed, his entire body seeming to sing a happy song. There was no more tension, no more nervousness or fear. He could sleep securely, confidently in the embrace of his lover. Beneath him, Aymeric was breathing slowly, sleepily, seeming to enjoy the same contentment. Alphinaud was his, now. On the morrow, they would defend each-other as lovers, tried and true.

 

At length, the heavy air mingled with the sweat and sin covering their bodies to make the younger man uncomfortable. He was happy, but he did not enjoy the feeling of the dried and sticky fluids coating his thighs. He picked himself off of Aymeric's chest, noting the creak of his muscles and the strange heaviness of his body, as though he were an automaton made of lead. The knight made a small noise of protest, a disappointed hum that seemed to register the complaint clinically, a vague point of objection to be noted in the logs and ignored.

 

Until Alphinaud made to stand on unsteady feet, and sat immediately back down on the bed with a startled huff. The other man roused to grab him immediately, wrapping his arms around his shoulders from behind and hugging him close. “Did I hurt you?” he whispered, not merely concerned but anxious, a harsh note of accusation against himself.

 

“No,” the younger Elezen replied automatically, though in truth he was far more sore than he had expected. It was not that difficult to bear, just startling. “I will be fine, just... fetch us some towels, if you please?” The knight whimpered softly but complied, first burying his nose in the youth's hair for a moment as if he feared he might forget the scent.

 

The white grimoire was never far from Alphinaud's grasp. He found it on the bedside table, and flipped quickly to his healing spell. The pages seemed to move of their own accord beneath his fingers, as if they had sensed his resolve for the battle to come and obeyed his orders like his faithful Carbuncle. He gathered the energy effortlessly and channeled it to his own body, pressing his hand to his lower abdomen and closing his eyes to feel the magic work. It was a cooling sensation, pleasant and earthy like a sprig of wintergreen on his tongue.

 

By the time Aymeric returned, he was able to stand and move comfortably. He took the offered towel with a gentle smile, ignoring the look of reproach the knight gave him. As far as he knew, it was not cheating to soothe his own hurts.

 

The hand towel had been moistened in the basin, clean and cool. Alphinaud first scrubbed his face with it, feeling refreshed and somewhat elated. Then he went about cleaning the rest of his body, washing his chest and stomach of his own fluids. Before proceeding to the rest he paused, looking back to his lover and standing somewhat awkwardly by the bed. Aymeric had pushed aside the blankets and made himself comfortable between the light sheets, and was watching him with a sleepy expression, warm and dark.

 

Alphinaud realized that until tonight, Aymeric had not looked at him fully naked. He blushed under his gaze and found himself unable to look away, as though he feared the man might pounce if shown an onze of weakness. Perhaps he might, at that. But it took only a few moments of enduring his lover's soft stare before the knight turned away, staring up at the ceiling, pretending perhaps that he had merely gotten bored.

 

And he spoke, a welcome distraction from Alphinaud's task, which might well have embarrassed him to death even unattended. “Were we not... over-loud? Might we have been heard?” The knight spoke in a near-whisper, not the dark hush of love-making but with a sort of fragility that seemed nearly as intimate.

 

“It was perhaps unwise,” answered the younger man softly. He had made the majority of the ruckus himself, of course, but he refused to allow himself to feel ashamed. “But there is little risk. The rooms nearest ours are unoccupied, the hall a dead-end, and the walls thick. Unless an inquisitor happened to get utterly lost and wander by our door, we should be safe.” Blessedly, he finished washing without thinking about the task too much. He dropped his towel on the floor beside Aymeric's, taking only brief note of the symbolism of the two soiled rags lying limply together. It was more satisfying to live the reality, crawling in beside his lover, the whisper of cool clean sheets and warm skin against his own to welcome him to bed.

 

Aymeric embraced him, nuzzling his face into already-mussed white hair, wrapping him securely in his arms and pulling him him close to his chest, proof against any further attempt to escape.

 

That was fine with him.

 

“And... how would you know this, precisely?” asked the knight, hardly even bothering to speak, making low rasping sounds into Alphinaud's hair that he could nearly have mistaken for an unusually-talented bear.

 

The younger man smiled, wiggling as if to move closer to Aymeric's side, though it was quite impossible. “The wisdom of smallfolk,” he replied. “It is for this reason that Junh is in my employ. One would think that all the servants ever accomplished was to sneak around and find amusing places in which to fornicate, to hear her talk. She will take care of cleaning as well, and see that no-one discovers your room unused. There shall be no evidence.”

 

Alphinaud said it with confidence, but in truth, it was mortifying. The very idea of having another person, especially a woman, as a confidante was bad enough, but the thought of her laundering his dirty linen was beyond the pale. He had finally accepted the embarrassment as the price he payed for sin, like a rosary prayer or a blood offering.

 

In retrospect, it was most definitely worth it.

 

The other man answered with a quick high-pitched hum, twitching in silent laughter to register his surprise. “I must needs find some way to show her mine thanks,” he mused.

 

“Pray do not ask her how,” answered Alphinaud, tartly but with a hint of sugar. He closed his eyes and let the conversation drop upon the floor, to wait for the Miqo'te to retrieve it in the morning along with his wine glass and the filthy bedclothes. He felt wonderful, almost drunk with satisfaction and romance. Silently he endeavored to drink in the moment, to forge it into purest memory, shining and golden.

 

Long minutes passed, honeyed and languid but wakeful still. Perhaps it was the scent of Aymeric's sweat, wrapping around him as he buried his face against the man's chest. Or maybe it was the temptation to further action, the knowledge that though they were tired, the night was young, and they knew not when they would get another opportunity.

 

Regardless, he did not sleep.

 

“You asked me a question,” Alphinaud said at last, merely an indistinct murmur from within the cloistered safety of his knight's arms.

 

“Hmm? When?” The reply was soft but immediate, suggesting that Aymeric had not, in fact, drifted into slumber, perhaps for the same reasons. With the illusion of sleep dispelled, he was free to move his hands, lifting one to stroke Alphinaud's hair with lazy fingers.

 

It was tempting to turn off his conscious musings just to enjoy the sensation, but the younger man resisted. “Before... in the cave... in the closet. It was the same question,” he said, vaguely aware that he might not have been making sense, but not able to bring himself to care. “You asked if I loved you.”

 

The knight did not answer as much as seem to startle, dropping any thoughts he carried in a heap. “Did I?” The stroking fingers stopped, just for a moment, before resuming with slightly more care and energy. “Ah. In the cupboard, I asked if you...” and then he fell silent, though there was still movement against the pillow, as though he had attempted to keep speaking despite the failure of his voice.

 

Alphinaud lifted his head to kiss him softly, quieting his lips to match his tongue.

 

“It was the same question,” the young diplomat reiterated patiently, taking in the anxiety in the other man's eyes when the simple kiss had ended. He frowned then, frowned at himself and his own childishness, his constant need to act as if he were in command, even when he was not.

 

He pulled away slightly, just enough to free one arm and hold his hand over his face, palm out and fingers splayed as though to touch an invisible ceiling mere ilms above him. He twisted to look, wriggling a little just to rub against Aymeric's hand, to register that he appreciated the touch and, like he did of all of the knight, wanted more.

 

He spoke softly into the night, tracing the words slowly with his tongue. “You always see... right through me.”

 

He let his eyes unfocus, looking into the shadows above until the image of his hand blurred. It became a hazy double-image, one hand solid before him, another insubstantial and translucent to the ceiling above. When he had been a young child, wide-awake but tucked into bed, he had briefly convinced himself he had the power to see through solid objects. It had taken him at least a bell of thought and experimentation to reason out the reality: that each eye saw a different image, and that somehow his mind stitched them into a seamless whole without his conscious will or recollection. It had almost been a better discovery, though his sister had been decidedly unimpressed when he awoke her to share it.

 

When he was around Aymeric, he often felt as though he truly were transparent, and that the commander had discovered the method to see right through his confident facade to the child beneath. Still lying restless in bed, fancying that he had the power to move the world.

 

At some point that had ceased to frighten him.

 

“Yes,” he said simply, answering the question Aymeric had never dared directly ask. No fanfare, no weeping. Simply a fact.

 

The other man was silent for a long space, his fingers stilling to mere twitching against Alphinaud's scalp, as one might scratch a cat. It was a lovely sensation, and the youth dropped his arm and closed his eyes to enjoy it, to revel in the surety of the knight's embrace, no fear whatever that his feelings might not be answered.

 

“I see,” Aymeric answered at length, as though it had taken him that long to draw breath into his lungs. He sounded a little bereft, caught short by the unprovoked declaration. The scratching fingers ceased, moving to the back of the younger man's head and grasping his braid, gently threading beneath the band that held it secure. The knight hummed quietly as he worked, a deep but simple melody echoing all around Alphinaud as it reverberated through the man's broad chest.

 

“You have had me for... quite some time, I think,” Aymeric confirmed when his song had ended. He freed the second band from the base of the braid, and began to work his fingers between the strands, unhurried and unfocused as if he cared little whether he straightened the hair or tangled it further.

 

“I wanted you from the beginning, you know. The first time I saw you, all spitfire and quarrelsome words... 'twas a joy to speak to you, to see your eyes dance with the parry of your tongue. And mine eyes... they did wander. At first, it pains me to say, I was ashamed due to your youth. It did not take long for me to see past that, of course. You have wit and strength well beyond your years. Within you... there is a fire. You did not merely warm me in that cave. I have been burned, and I fear I shall never recover.” The last was nearly whispered, though perfectly audible in the stillness of their sanctuary. A hushed admission, not merely of love, but of the depths to which he slaved as its servant.

 

Alphinaud smiled, holding in a chuckle at the dramatic color of the knight's words. “Then you intended to seduce me?” he asked lightly. “Next time you should proceed straight to the kiss, and avoid the Witchdrop altogether.”

 

“'Next time' I shall simply bend you over the table and dispense with the diplomacy,” the knight growled in reply. The image was enough to make Alphinaud gasp, stilling in the other man's grasp as if he had been struck. It was a fantasy he had entertained before, and it made his blood race to hear it spoken. His body reminded him, subtly, that he was quite naked in bed with the man, and that there was plenty of other furniture near to hand, if necessary.

 

The older man paused, briefly taken by the image as well, or perhaps the sweet tension of the youth in his arms. “No,” Aymeric continued after a pregnant moment. “It was vain folly to bring you supper that night. I have lived long with the burden of mine perversion, I never planned to act upon it. I reasoned that it was not so great a crime to lift the spirits of a friend. I did it merely to have a chance to speak with you, perchance to see you smile. I never meant to court you. It was to remain mine secret sin, forevermore.”

 

The fingers that tangled through Alphinaud's hair had reached his head once again, combing the longer strands straight and making them fan out over his shoulder. The sensation was foreign and familiar all at once, ghosts and prickles of memory singing of another time, another trust. It had been years since Alisaie had combed her fingers through his hair and helped him to braid it. He nearly trembled at the memory, at the feelings it drew forth, like water gushing from a hidden spring and mingling with the trust he felt for the man who held him now.

 

Aymeric's voice had gained a hushed quality, as if he too inhabited memory and feeling rather than flesh and blood. “But when you took it upon yourself to heal me... oh Fury you cannot know how I suffered.” He spoke into the younger man's hair, softly, in the deep husky rumble Alphinaud was beginning to believe he could not live without.

 

“All these years have I struggled against mine sinful nature, and you... you rendered it all into naught, into ash and hellfire. I still dream of that night, of the way you touched me so sternly, of the way you soothed mine pain at the same time as you caused me such anguish.” He was anguished now, a sorrow that was somehow sweet, somehow longed-for, in his voice. “I dream... I dream that you did not leave, that you made me bend to your will, that you did not stop touching me until I screamed your name.” He paused, letting out a shaky breath, a puff of air against the point of the younger man's ear in which Alphinaud could almost hear that scream. The younger Elezen whimpered sympathetically, unconsciously burrowing against the man that held him and pressing their bodies together. In the dark space between the sheets, he could feel that both of them were interested in more.

 

But the knight continued, not distracted by the contact, merely holding Alphinaud close and continuing to stroke his hair. “That is how I knew I was damned, when we traded tales over mulled wine,” he whispered. “I have been guilty of sin before, of thoughts and deeds and heresies. But after you touched me, I knew mine soul was forfeit. I had taken leave of sense and righteousness both, all ere I even felt your lips on mine.”

 

And Alphinaud had to make the suggestion a reality, seeking out a kiss and holding it, tenderly, reflecting the other man's wonder and care like a mirror of touch. He remembered the night that Aymeric had come to him, bearing spiced wine and heavy thoughts. He had spoken as though he had been certain he was destined for execution, and the next day his fears had seemed to come true. It still frightened him to remember that calm certainty of dread, just before they had said what could have been their final goodbye. It still frightened him to remember the closing of the camp's gate against the blinding snow, punctuating Aymeric's very life.

 

He did not wish to remember these things just now. And so he let the kiss soothe him, soothe them both with the reality of their love. It was solid and alive, warm and yielding as his knight responded to him, encouraged him, returned every caress.

 

Aymeric was, in fact, very real. Very solid. And Alphinaud found that sleep was no longer on his mind at all.

 

“Tell me what you dreamt,” he said, once he managed to win free of the other man's lips. There was an urgency in his breath as he sagged against Aymeric's chest, tension coiling in his arms and building in his torso like a doll wound with a key.

 

The knight answered with a soft groan, twitching to hug the younger man close and not releasing him. He trailed his nose down the nest of silvery white hair to nuzzle directly against Alphinaud's ear, tracing it with his lips and making him shiver involuntarily. “Many things,” whispered the knight, fraught and breathless, and there could be no doubt that he was remembering them all. “Many, many things.”

 

“Tell me,” Alphinaud urged. The close press of their bodies had turned to something else, not just a warm embrace but erotic, charged. He pressed his hips to Aymeric's, not an accidental touch but quite deliberate. Forceful, demanding that the other man yield up all his secrets.

 

It seemed impossible that he would ever grow used to the feeling of pressing against his lover, feeling the intensity of his desire branded into his body, a heat that he willingly returned. But the sensation was not nearly as overwhelming as the warm breath that assaulted his ear as Aymeric replied, a long, breathless open-mouthed moan that seemed to catch in his throat in places as he contemplated his answer.

 

At length he found he could speak, with effort, though he could not keep his hips steady, moving against Alphinaud in minute motions he might not even have been aware of making. “You have already enacted one of them... in the cave,” the knight whispered. Alphinaud was prevented from looking into his face in surprise, because Aymeric's long fingers had tangled so securely in his hair that he was now trapped against his neck and chest. “The way you took command of me... oh Goddess you cannot know...” and the undulations of his hips increased, punctuated by the occasional high-pitched whimper embedded within his deep gasps for air.

 

In the cave, at the bottom of the Witchdrop. When he had rejected Aymeric's offer and elected instead to take him into his own mouth, brazenly defying any good sense either of them might have had remaining and losing himself to desires he hadn't even fully understood. The knight had seemed nervous, but he hadn't rejected his touch. He had stammered and blushed, though. And when Alphinaud had taken charge, the other man had seemed to lose control of himself completely, no longer shy, wild and unrestrained beneath his inexpert ministrations. As if he'd been desperate for it all along. Or at least... since the younger man had left him, broken but no longer bleeding, to recover in his bed.

 

Suddenly it made sense, how easily the other man had been seduced, how responsive he had been to his touch. How the knight had whispered into his ear of command, of obedience. He had thought it a taunt, some bells before. Now he knew otherwise.

 

Aymeric wanted to be claimed as much as Alphinaud had. Perchance... in a slightly different way.

 

If that was what the other man wanted, Alphinaud would certainly give it to him. He had been a virgin, it was true, but there was more than one kind of experience.

 

“Stop,” he said suddenly. His voice was foreign to him now, the cool wellspring of his command summoned from some other time and place. But it fit him like a glove, even now, even in the bedroom.

 

As if he had slapped Aymeric with that glove, the other man stilled his hips, releasing him completely. Alphinaud had been bound to the other man's body by the iron cords of his arms and the soft temptation of his skin and breath, but now, he was freed. He pulled back to look, to confirm, to peer into his lover's face and read the augurs in his eyes.

 

Those cold blue eyes could not even see him, now. Too wide with shock, possibly excitement. Unfocused and staring into the dark beyond their pillow, a thin wisp of breath all that the other man could pull between his lips. Alphinaud lifted a hand to trace those lips with his thumb, making them yield to his touch, become soft and pliant to his will.

 

Finally Aymeric dared a look at him, still and wary like a bird ready to fly, and Alphinaud smiled with wicked mischief. “Get up,” he said, only a thin veneer of amusement coating his clipped command. “Pour for me a glass of wine and clear the table. Then sit, as you did earlier.” And he sat up himself, to make way for the other man, to pull the sheets from the bed and carry them along as well.

 

There was no sense in making Junh's job harder on the morrow. He wrapped a sheet around himself like a long cloak, standing with shoulders tall and back straight to walk to his chair. The blanket he threw across the table once Aymeric had shifted the bread and wine to the floor on the far side. And then the other man sat down, perched upon it not as a predator of the dark, but as its victim. Naked and defenseless, unsure, fully aware that he was destined to become a meal for he whose eyes now watched him.

 

Alphinaud settled into his chair, accepting the now-full glass that Aymeric offered, letting his eyes adjust to the soft light that now glowed around the indistinct form of the other man's body. Once again he saw his lover only in outline. But now his armor was gone, and he could see everything. The hard lines of his body that couldn't disguise the softness of his flesh, the warmth of its touch. The strained way he held his neck and tensed his arms at his sides, belying his nervousness and making the younger man wonder if anyone had ever seen his lover so unsure.

 

And, as his eyes grew accustomed to the contrast, the hard cock between his legs. Alphinaud would have blushed to look too closely at it before, at least when he wasn't directly interacting with it. But it was appropriate now, even necessary, because this was a role to play as well. Just as he had adopted the guise of meekness because he had wanted to submit, he now shoved aside his nervousness and donned the mask of cruel command.

 

He also needed to know that Aymeric appreciated it, or it would be for naught. But while he was not quite fully erect, it was evident that his shallow breaths and dilated pupils were not from fear.

 

He was excited.

 

He wanted an order. So Alphinaud gave it. “Touch yourself,” he said, voice edged with steel. “Show me what you do when you think of me, alone.”

 

Perform for me, he thought. Perform for me and I shall perform for you.

 

And so he eased himself back against the chair that had so frequently harbored his thoughts, and sipped his wine like a king watching his harlots dance. It was not the flavor for which he had requested it, though its keen edge seemed appropriate now. It focused him on the task, on the sight before him, on the way he held his shoulders beneath the cool sheet. It was only a prop, but it was perfect for the task, because it occupied his lips when otherwise he might have been tempted to put them to other use.

 

Very tempted. Because Aymeric responded to his order, first with a deep gasp, quiet but laced with meaning, with desire. But he obeyed. As he had earlier, he reached an arm behind him to steady himself with his palm, braced against the table beneath the blanket that protected it. And as he had earlier, he lay his head back and bared his neck. A show for Alphinaud's benefit, only now he understood, it was not temptation. It was submission, a display of his weakness, the degree to which he would debase himself for the man who sat before him, tasting his nervousness and anticipation with the tip of his tongue setting his glass to ring.

 

Oh, it was sweet.

 

Then Aymeric grasped himself with long, pale fingers, and Alphinaud knew in an instant that he had been right. Because his knight gave a low, gurgling moan, lips parted in profile and achingly beautiful. Then he let his face fall forward again, drooping over his chest as his hand began to stroke, not evenly, but unsteadily, as if this, too, were a mark of innocence he feared to lose.

 

He let the thought linger for several minutes, watching the other man struggle with his own will, watching him heave slightly in profile against the sensations he himself caused. He had seen his lover touch himself already this night, a sight that could have made his heart cease to beat. This was a far cry from the shameless display his knight had given him, when all patience was exhausted and it was time to lay his claim. It was the same act, yes, but it was almost as if a different man performed it.

 

It should have been difficult to say which he preferred. The predatory gleam in his sharp eyes and the unapologetic thrust of his hips had been captivating. But it could not compare to the way Aymeric looked now. Arrayed reluctantly before him, stomach taut from pleasure or nervousness, unable to keep a steady rhythm between his shallow gasps for air and the occasional twitch of his traitorous body.

 

He could not let the matter rest. He had to know. “I will not permit you to lie to me, Aymeric. Are you truly shy, to have me watch you?” And he could not prevent his own lips from turning into a thin slice of a grin, though he tried to cover the movement with the cool touch of glass.

 

Just because Alphinaud was pretending to be confident, did not mean that his lover was afforded the same luxury. But the other man was not lying, his hand stilling momentarily, his cold but startled eyes peeking up under the mess the two of them had made of his shadow-dark hair. And he was blushing, just enough, just a little.

 

“Don't stop,” reminded the observer, calmly but with an edge to his tone. “Tell me why you are shy now, when you were not before.”

 

It might have been an odd thing, to demand cognizance and speech from the other man when he was supposed to be pleasing himself. But Alphinaud wanted that shyness now, merely another flavor of submission, making his dominance more meaningful, Aymeric's surrender more complete. And he suspected that to draw out the subject would only emphasize the feeling, embarrass him further as he had been beneath his hands so long ago.

 

The knight looked away, returning his hand to stilted motion and gasping through his open mouth. Alphinaud, the man who commanded his commander, felt it best not to press. He simply waited, watching the movement, trying hard not to blush himself as he licked the rim of his glass. It was not what the other man did that was so arresting, he realized quickly. It was his response to it, his tensed shoulders and quick gasps, the demure way he had turned his face to hide his shame. He found that it made his own cock ache in sympathy. And rather than hide his own arousal, he let his makeshift cloak fall open as he spread his legs subtly wider. His instincts screamed against the gesture, but it did not matter, because he, too, danced for another master.

 

Finally Aymeric found his voice, pressing it into service with great difficulty. It was twisted, constricted with bands of iron as though he were trying to keep it clean of all he was feeling. It did not nearly succeed, drawing attention to his need for secrecy, and the rouge that dusted his cheeks in the dim light.

 

“I do not know,” he said breathlessly. “Mayhap... mayhap you burn me again. I... oh Goddess, I desire that flame... I want you to touch me instead, but... your eyes... they...” and then the dark figure before the fire lapsed once again into a silence that was not truly quiet, reduced to low gasps and the occasional whimper as his hand continued to work. The words had been enough, though. They had not answered his question, not precisely, but it made no matter, because they had produced the desired effect. In his lover, who panted now for breath through the haze of his own pleasure, and in him.

 

He wanted he man before him. Perhaps he had been burned nearly enough, and it was time to claim his meal.

 

Aymeric's movements had gained definition gradually over the course of several minutes, going from stilted and stiff to long and languid. Alphinaud was not sure if it was simply his habit or a hesitance borne of stage-fright, but he had sought no lubrication save the sweet pre-cum that had quickly gathered at the tip. His lover behaved as though it were enough to accomplish the task, but the younger man felt distinctly dissatisfied with the idea.

 

He had other reasons for thinking so than the immediate task at hand, of course, but as the tactician he was allowed to solve many problems at once. And so he laid the wine glass on the floor and found his feet, throwing his knight a quick cool glance when he dared raise his eyes in question. Then he strode the short space back to the bed with the white sheet still trailing regally from his narrow shoulders.

 

It took him a moment to find the bottle of oil. At some point it had rolled off the bed and landed in the nest that had once comprised the knight's dignity. Briefly he considered that the royal blue and black cape would have made a much better disguise for the role he played, but the fact of its true ownership would have muddled the metaphor beyond use. So he continued on with the props at his command, because all he needed was a word and the set of his jaw to inspire obedience in the other man.

 

Not only because Aymeric wanted to be mastered. But because, it seemed, Alphinaud had possessed the ability within him all along.

 

Ser Aymeric was still watching him when he returned to the scene before the fire. But it was not a challenge or a question, merely a guiltily-lowered glance half-hidden by his hair. Alphinaud allowed the other man a smile, though he withheld his kindness from it. He approached the edge of the table whereupon the man perched, noting the novelty of standing taller than he for once. But he did not allow himself but a quick moment of irritation that he had not yet reached his full height. It did not matter here. He was a man, and Aymeric knew it fully.

 

If he did not, he would soon.

 

Rather than speaking to make clear his intent, he held out his left hand expectantly, reasoning that there were only a few things his thrall could have made of the gesture and that any resultant confusion would be entertaining in itself. His knight met his eyes with only a thimble of hesitation, before stilling at his task and holding out his own hand. Alphinaud took the offering with only a hint of roughness, and drizzled a spoonful of oil onto his palm. It gave off a warm scent, cloves and spice. Forevermore the smell of sex, of secret trysts and of ownership, given gladly.

 

Then he released the hand and re-corked the bottle, tossing it upon his chair. Aymeric was able to guess well enough the purpose, returning his hand to work and squeezing his eyes closed at the wet sensation. He emitted a low sound, rough and indistinct, a rich chocolate moan that didn't seem to want to escape his echoing chest. Alphinaud wondered how much better it might feel than his own saliva, forever slick and soft, never evaporating or becoming fraught and sticky.

 

Instead of following the temptation where it led, he followed it to his lover's lips. He moved closer, standing between the knight's knees. He grasped the man's angular chin between sure fingers, and lifted his face to meet his own.

 

Kissing him was different, now. Because Aymeric held back, did not claim him greedily as he was often wont. He let Alphinaud dictate the pace and followed only slowly, as though he were being taught the rules of a new game. He opened his mouth to the younger man almost immediately, though, hardly able to contain his own wet sighs against the pleasure that built in his body. When Alphinaud finally took the dark space for his own, Aymeric seemed to shiver in his grasp. He trembled and whimpered, searching with his lips and practically begging him to delve deeper, as though his tongue had found other places on his body and brought him to the brink of pleasure with the force of his kiss alone.

 

Alphinaud wanted to pull him close, cradle his neck in his arms and suck on his tongue as the man came. His own breathing was no longer quite so calm, his dominance no longer detached now that he had tasted Aymeric's submission for himself. He was complicit in the act now, rather than a mere prurient spectator. If he held him like this and swallowed his moans, it would still be he that had given him release. It was still making love, even if the knight's own hand was all that caressed his cock.

 

But regretfully, he pulled away. The knight breathed a stilted sigh at the loss, his pale blue eyes dilated nearly all to black as though he were transformed by his frenzy into some other creature. Still he obeyed, did not stop the work of his hands, the dark, obscene noises that rang into the night. Alphinaud did not look. The sight of the older man's needy, unfocused expression was arresting enough, and more would merely have confused his senses and tangled his resolve.

 

He met the commander's eyes for several long moments, watching the way his mouth moved with his breath, gasping in time with the sound of his stroking hand. And then he abruptly ended it.

 

“Stop,” he said again. The same crisp command, but lower in timbre, quieter. He needn't project his voice to be heard, now. Aymeric would obey even had he been silent, reading the will on his lips as though his words were carved on ever-watching stone.

 

The knight responded immediately, bowing his head and shutting his eyes. He made a frantic motion with his hand and Alphinaud was unable to prevent himself from looking. Aymeric had seized himself around the base and squeezed, gritting his teeth and groaning. For a startled, arousing moment he thought the man had lost control instead. But then he relaxed his face and his grip, and he realized that he had only sought to prevent it.

 

“That close?” he asked wonderingly, pushing his mask aside for the moment and letting his curiosity get the better of him. He dipped his head lower to peer into his lover's face, watching the lines vanish from around his eyes as he relaxed.

 

And then Aymeric nodded, looking at him again sheepishly, his blush having found its way back to its place of birth. “Fuck yes,” he rasped, and his own mask slipped a little as he returned a giddy little grin.

 

The only reason Alphinaud's intentions were not tossed to the floor along with the sheet that slipped from his shoulders was that he had planned every movement in advance, lining them up in sequence. Now he only hastened them, placing his palm flat against the knight's chest and pushing swiftly. Aymeric allowed himself to be thrown backwards against the table, surprised by the sudden insistent motion and the way all expression seemed to vanish from his young lover's face. But Alphinaud would not wait a moment longer, climbing astride his hips once his knight had steadied himself on his elbows, perching carefully on the narrow space afforded by the table. He needed him. He had had him but a bell before but he needed him now.

 

It likely helped his ardor along that he now knew precisely how the other man could make him feel.

 

As he had the first time they had discovered the rewards of madness, Alphinaud now looked down on Ser Aymeric, astonished and naked and at his mercy. There was no hesitance, though. No fear was reflected in the other man's eyes as he looked up at the youth in wonder. It was all desire, acceptance. Love. And beneath it all, overriding need as strong as his own, excitement and even desperation.

 

He was aware that what he did now was a trifle cruel. But it made it all the sweeter.

 

“Control yourself,” he ordered darkly. And, not waiting for the other man to acknowledge him with more than eyes widened in anxiety and disbelief, he took what he wanted. He reared back on his knees to hover over Aymeric's cock, and reached behind him to guide himself true. With the very tips of his fingers he held the other man steady, guiding them both into alignment until he felt so very near to his goal that he could have claimed it with a single, inadvisable surrender to gravity.

 

He had not an onze of expectation that Aymeric would be able to comply with his demand. Neither of them were terribly experienced, after all, though the other man was possessed of enough grace and generosity that he might have struggled to tell. But it was more important that he try, and just perhaps, that he despair of accomplishing it. It would be all the sweeter to know that when Aymeric broke, it was because Alphinaud was the ultimate master of his body, and the knight was utterly helpless against his will.

 

And he did despair. Because when Alphinaud closed his eyes and lowered himself cautiously onto the man below, he could hear it in his voice. “Oh, Alphinaud, have mercy,” he moaned, anguished and aroused and oh-so weak. The younger man opened his eyes to see it, to see his shoulders tremble and his fists clench in the blanket beneath, to see the flashing of his sclera from half-lidded eyes that could no longer see the man who owned him. His movements had been slow for his own sake, but now he slowed further, watching Aymeric let his head fall backward and whimper like a beaten dog.

 

It was still a trifle uncomfortable, still an invasion that seemed to confuse his senses and stretch him farther than he thought he could take. But the slow slide was still erotic, the memory fresh. And so he relaxed, and gave in to the illusion that the slow penetration was inexorable, that he was not in control of the motion but rather slave to it, helpless to the way the other man filled him more with every passing moment. They were slave to each-other, now. And when at last he rested his weight fully upon the knight, relaxing his trembling thighs and leaning backward upon his hands to luxuriate in the feel of being so fully possessed, he too felt overcome. He too heard a whinge pass his lips as the hips below him wiggled with anxious need, and he wondered, in the end, who would play master to whom.

 

No, he knew the answer to that. There was no need to confuse his desires for weakness. Aymeric was his, no matter what they did together or what innocent piece of carpentry played party to the act.

 

Aymeric knew it as well, consciously, communicating it with the downward cast of his eyes once he had recovered his sense enough to use them for sight once again. Alphinaud could read the truth as surely as if it were written on his lax jaw, or the tooth that scraped anxiously against his lower lip.

 

He could read, too, the other man's struggle against the onslaught of pleasure, cruelly given when he was already too near to breaking by his own command. The kind thing to do would have been to wait, to give him time to collect himself further, or to ask if he was truly ready. And so he didn't. Alphinaud gathered what strength he was given, concentrating it once again into his thighs and his willowy torso. And then he lifted himself again, slowly, drawing out the motion as long as he could though his muscles burned in protest.

 

Aymeric watched him now, one hand snaking upwards along his thigh, gripping erratically as it moved as though he feared the youth atop him would vanish like a fae apparition. And perhaps he looked like one, with his fine limbs and gracefully-pointed ears, his long unbound hair cascading down his back or billowing out at his side, little wisps lifting on invisible currents of air and the electric tension in the room to glide against his shoulders as if charged with magic.

 

And then he let go, let himself be impaled, and though he too bared his throat and groaned helplessly through his teeth, it was not in submission. It was pure, base pleasure, the harsh discomfort being pushed quickly aside by the cock that filled him faster than he could register, striking hard against the mythic place within him that made the boundaries of his own body tremble and dissolve until he could not remember where he ended and his lover began.

 

Aymeric responded immediately, with a swift sympathetic thrust and a gurgling cry, wild and a little desperate. Alphinaud looked down at him again, feeling aloof once more, a little vague and aetherial as the sensations within him seemed to wash out the force of reality. He could step back again, view the suffering man beneath him with more of the cold detachment that he had only pretended to before. He was no longer playing the role. He was the puppet-master, because sitting above the other man he could control every variable.

 

“Touch me,” he said, his own voice sounding distant and cool to the touch. And the knight complied, lifting his hand and encasing Alphinaud with it, coating him with what clove-scented oil remained. It was just as slick and warm as he had imagined, and he could not help but close his eyes and give in to the feeling, lifting his hips slightly to lean into the sensation and sighing his approval. The motion had other effects, bringing the fullness and pressure he felt within into alignment with the candy-sweet pleasure in his cock, making him rock subtly against the other man, making them both moan quietly with restrained joy, causing him to wonder how long he could draw out their dance.

 

Ultimately it would not matter, of course. Pleasure was fleeting, only their love was permanent. Aymeric wanted to be burned, but it was inconsequential whether the wick burned long like a candle or flashed in a blaze of glory and dragonfire.

 

So Alphinaud decided it was time to go about breaking his lover. Because the man had a habit of asking him for things indirectly, and he was sure as spring rains that this was one of them.

 

He focused his strength once more in his thighs, arching his back and leaning his hands on Aymeric's trembling legs. Braced like this, it was not so much effort to lift himself, thrusting up into the man's broad hand and feeling for a swift moment that their positions were reversed. He did not bother rising far, it was not necessary, and he hadn't the patience. He could hardly prevent himself from spreading his knees and merely falling back again. Instead, he reached out to the hand that held his thigh, and gave it a sure squeeze.

 

He was still in control even if his command was for the other man to please him. And his knight did so without a moment's hesitation, gripping his narrow hip and pulling him down atop him, emitting a pained groan at the force of the contact and the hopelessness of his task. Alphinaud could not be silent either, but dutifully he lifted himself again, arching his back and dropping his head behind him and closing his eyes in bliss. Aymeric lifted his hips to thrust into him again, not stopping for a moment the dark motion of his hand or the slick sounds it generated.

 

As they found their rhythm, Alphinaud lost the ability to pretend any longer.

 

Command was natural to him, yes, long-practiced and familiar. But it was only ever a front, a mask that he had placed over his own self-doubt. Now, while he controlled the position and the pace, it was Aymeric that brought him merciless pleasure. He could only stretch back his head and give voice to it, his throat and tongue leashed directly to the sensations in his body with no thoughts or pretensions in-between. Here, on a tea table in the backwater of holy Ishgard, a bed-sheet for a kingly robe and the armor of the very Lord Commander strewn upon the floor, Alphinaud forgot his insecurities. He no longer needed to sacrifice his pride or command his betters. He merely felt, trusted, gave everything over to the experience of the other man's body. It no longer mattered that Aymeric would surrender everything to him, because the fact of it occurring obliterated every concern from his mind.

 

He was called to awareness again, though, when his lover could take no more. Not because he failed to please, but because of the sounds he made, the piteous way he moaned as if his heart were filled with aching despair. Alphinaud lifted his head to regard him, to see the way he stretched to hold him and tensed his neck to keep it aloft. Like him, the other man had not a hint of guile remaining. Every feeling was writ upon his face, every hard, shallow thrust flickering over his eyes and startling his tongue. His lips were moist and bruised from biting and his voice ragged. It was well clear that he had no more restraint to give.

 

The tactician looked within himself, and summoned forth his strength once again. He found it somewhere in the pit of his stomach, not far from the aching stretch of Aymeric's cock. “Wait,” he growled, narrowing his eyes with what he hoped was cool disregard. It more likely resembled the glaze of pleasure, because he immediately rolled his hips and delighted in the deep pressure within.

 

As expected, the command failed to give his lover comfort, exacerbating his suffering. He dropped his head backwards and squeezed shut his eyes in anguish, letting the hand on Alphinaud's hip slip and claw a path through the fine sheen of sweat on his thigh. He clenched his teeth through snarling lips and groaned a high nasal keen. The younger man might have had difficulty telling it from pain, if he had not known the truth already.

 

The tactician looked upon his machinations, and felt the very edge of his lip turn up in a pitiless smile.

 

And then, unexpectedly, his opponent turned the tables.

 

Narrow blue eyes flew open to regard him in turn, a glacier to Alphinaud's ocean of feeling, impervious to the waves that lapped at jagged ice. All at once he remembered their first time together, the moment when Aymeric had growled at him and demanded more, and the younger man had found no will to disobey. He had not considered that a man who so desired to be mastered might seize his trainer's whip. But he should have.

 

“By your will,” said his knight. But it was an act of bold defiance. Because he sat up, perhaps with less grace than he was ordinarily prone, but swiftly enough that Alphinaud hadn't the time to consider forbidding it. And then, steadying a hand on his shoulder and another on his hip to secure the power and leverage he so needed, he proceeded to obey his order.

 

Perhaps Alphinaud enjoyed being mastered nearly as much.

 

The sensation had already bordered on too much for his body to contain, wearing thin the edges of his resolve and eating away at his focus. The shock of his knight's disobedience was like an axe to the very trunk of his composure, rattling his branches and knocking his smugness to the ground. As Aymeric rocked him forward in his lap only to thrust savagely against him, the overriding feeling painted over his pleasure was surprise. Surprise that, though he had commanded his knight, in the end he could prevail only so long as he held secure the man's complicity. Surprise that, though he possessed the strength and to hold captive his lover's will, the Lord Commander would push back the moment he scented weakness.

 

His last thought before he surrendered once more to his lover was that he was dearly looking forward to the challenge ahead.

 

But then his own fight was over. He clutched senselessly at his knight's back, pulling him close to find an anchor for his teeth, as much to steady himself as to mark his own claim. His lips vibrated along the slick shoulder, mirroring the moans he didn't even attempt to quiet and the explosion that seemed to seize his trembling body. Aymeric immediately responded, wrapping him in a sure embrace, thrusting impossibly deep and holding him to groan low and long in his ear. It was a triumphant sound, deep and possessive. Rich and musical with an edge so low as to dip into the wellspring of love.

 

The sweat between them grew hot and slick, the air heavy with their sin. And then the two lovers sighed, their frenzied grasp releasing by degrees until they lay spent upon the table. Panting softly, now, as one.

 

At first, Alphinaud had no wish to break the silence. It seemed almost an insult to profane the air with frivolous words, after what they had spoken earlier, and experienced afterwards. But eventually he struggled to his feet, offering his hand to the man whom he had very nearly tamed. “Let us to bed,” he said softly, with a smile that he could not have hidden behind all the wine in the world.

 

The knight opened his eyes to regard him in a manner that lived somewhere between provocation and indolence. But after a moment he rolled sideways and then pushed himself upright, taking Alphinaud's hand and drawing support from it as he stood.

 

“As you wish,” he rumbled affectionately. And then the sinners found their rest.



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