Alone Together

BY : WonderMint
Category: Final Fantasy XIV > General
Dragon prints: 5685
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.

Warning!  3.x spoilers!  Mentions of sad things!

 

I'm still here!

Work has been hell lately, and I've had trouble re-ordering my life to accommodate my writing habit again. In the meantime, ideas have been piling up in my brain, and it's a challenge to keep the spark of inspiration burning for each individual story as new ones flare to life in my mind. Some of them, I can refuse, and rightly declare my existing works more important and deserving of my time.

This one, I couldn't.

Partly for the challenge. Partly because I have a dirty, dirty mind. But mostly because some of the most inspiring work I've read challenges the reader to decouple sexuality from the basic tab-a-into-slot-b mentality of sexuality as something formulaic, driven by evolution and biology into a single acceptable act. I have come to believe that sex is about whatever pleasure can be derived between caring partners, and the precise form and shape is limited only by creativity and daring.

Of note is the fantastic Midgardsormr/Aymeric noncon piece by Seeking_Solace, the tone and emotional impact of which I can't begin to approach with my feeble skill. I also enjoyed chapter 2 of Rahelawriter's Working Out the Kinks, which provided some of the premise scaffold on which this story was built.

But my true inspiration came from the incomparable GF 101, written by xax and available in the FFVIII/yaoi section of adult-fanfiction.org. In a series of four chapters, Squall is seduced by an increasingly improbable series of Guardian Forces (all male), in which the bounds of biology are continually pushed. Many readers will not enjoy this story. But I feel that it's changed me as a writer, and as a human being. For that reason, there will be more than just tongues going on here.

So enjoy your dragon smut. There will be more.


The weather was calm but cold in the Western Highlands of Coerthas, as bright and cheery as it ever got but with an edge of death. A familiar feeling to Ser Aymeric. Smiles and daggers, just like politics in Ishgard. Though of late, the game had felt far deadlier, as though the dance and parry now took place on a tight-strung rope across a deep chasm.

 

Today, though, he did not feel the cold, not even as his chocobo picked through a deep snowdrift and kicked a flurry into his lap with a careless wing. He was far too astonished by his latest diplomatic duty. His cheeks prickled with unfamiliar warmth, and butterflies warred with a nest of snakes in his breast.

 

When all was said and done, it was the last thing he had expected to hear from Vidofnir, even given the strangeness of the summons. A secret meeting, alone, for his ears only. She and he, alone, secluded in a cave, with only the chill of his own breath to remind him that it was not a bizarre and unsettling dream.

 

She had of course not harmed him, though he felt his willingness to meet her thus had been a strong statement indeed on his enthusiasm for peace between their peoples.

 

Instead she had left him with a choice.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The cave she had chosen for their meeting was well-concealed. High on a ledge, with naught but a narrow chocobo-path leading up the side. It had been the Warrior of Light who had borne him the message, escorting him up the trail and watching over his safety like a goose nudging a string of goslings into line. At the mouth of the cave, they parted ways. Vidofnir’s words were intended for Aymeric alone. Only her great claws made marks in the snow outside the wide cave entrance, to be joined by his boot-prints and his chocobo’s wary pacing. He left his escort and forged onward into a darkness no less cold for its shelter from the wind.

 

The great dragon awaited him, a great beast gifted with speech and compassion. She was clothed in scales of white, cool in color like the very snow, seeming to glow a pale blue in the relative darkness of the cave. There was no mistaking the strength of the muscles that rippled beneath them, corded like great trees, and just as old. Her sharp horns were a burnished black, gracefully curved around her face but thick and strong as a dragoon’s lance. Her claws were folded beneath her, but she stood to greet him, bowing her long neck like a dancing swan beneath the low ceiling.

 

Aymeric smiled to see her, once he recovered from the customary shock. It had been she who had saved the little girl that had nearly paid the price for his sins. He was every bit as grateful for that as he was for the chance to end the war and save his people. In that moment, that one life had meant his entire world. He had sent his prayers to the Fury. But in truth, he would have bargained away his own soul if it had meant her salvation.

 

He believed that it was no coincidence that the Goddess had sent a dragon in answer to his prayers.

 

So when he bowed to her, it was with genuine respect and affection, and no small amount of gratitude. They had an understanding, she and he. That peace was worth waiting for, and that even the smallest lives were worth protecting. That with change comes risk, but in uplifting the downtrodden, it is well worth grasping with two hands and four claws, and embracing it tight.

 

“Well met, my lady,” he began, meeting her dimly-glowing red eyes when he straightened. They gave him a strange sort of chill to behold, but for the most part, they no longer filled him with dread. “I must admit to great curiosity regarding this summons, so soon before the celebration in Falcon’s Nest. Is aught amiss?”

 

Nay,” her voice had boomed around him, within his chest, and in the depths of his mind. “Much wrong was seeded in the past, beyond reckoning, beyond righting. But the course thee and thine have set bringeth the winds of change. For the first time in many a century, mine heart remembers hope. Naught is amiss.

 

And yet, it is for this reason I hath called for thee. Lie with me, son of Thordan. Or find ye another to take thine place, as thou wilt. But the pact between mine kin and thine must be renewed, and thou art a leader in blood and deed. Long have our fates mingled, thine and mine. Let us mingle in love, now, not hate. Let us remember what brought us together. Let us forge the blood of Ratatoskr into a boon rather than a curse, and show mine kin that thou art committed to the joining of our hearts.”

 

Aymeric was not often stunned into silence. But even the chill air that surrounded them seemed to still in that moment, seeming almost to resist his stilted gasp of breath. His thoughts spun wildly, in no particular course, like snowflakes buffeted by harsh winds.

 

Vidofnir regarded him stonily, hardly blinking, waiting for his reply.

 

After a considerably struggle, he managed one. “But—my lady, surely—I had thought the fabled ‘sin’ of Saint Shiva to have been legend. Mere metaphor for a joining of minds and hearts.” Not at first, of course. But he had reconsidered many of the lies of his upbringing, and this seemed a rational conclusion to draw.

 

Her laughter had been as long and rich as the tolling of the deepest cathedral bell. Had Aymeric not been so astonished, he might have found time to be surprised that dragons could, indeed, laugh.

 

Does not every union take on many forms? Do not thine own kin profess their love by ceremony and vow? And yet, lo, hatchlings emerge come the season’s turn, and none may feign surprise.”

 

And at that point, he had had to laugh as well, though it felt more because his nerves had failed him than in humor. He ran a hand through his hair and noted that he seemed to have broken into a cold sweat. The gentle waves had begun to cling together in sets of ring-like curls, which only seemed to tangle when his fingers combed through them.

 

“Forgive me, my lady,” he said at last. Hesitantly, nearly sure of his answer, but needing to dispel the worry all the same. “But do you mean to say that we must be wed?”

 

He was relieved enough to hear her rough snort of surprise that it didn’t even occur to him to be offended. “Nay, it is not we who join. It is thine kin, and mine. Just as mine sire and his beloved joined us all, so long ago.” She sat down, curling her tail forward around her foreclaws, and tilted her head to regard him for a long moment. Thou art welcome to court me, though I fear thine span of years insufficient for the task.”

 

Aymeric had the grace to grin sheepishly at the offer, though just barely. “I am certain I could count the years pleasantly spent,” he demurred.

 

Was this where peace had brought him? Flirting with a dragon? He shook his head, wiping the nervousness from his brow with the back of his hand. As mad as it was, though, it made a certain sort of sense. In a primitive, symbolic way, it was a fitting way to show his commitment to peace. Far more than exchanging pleasantries and works of art.

 

If only he weren’t so frightened and repulsed by the idea.

 

If only he had not learnt since mother’s breast to fear the dragon as the corrupter of innocence, the defiler, the seducer of the mind and body. His people were quite conservative in matters of intimacy, but mating with a dragon had not merely been a sin. It was the ultimate form of heresy, an act so thoroughly evil it had become a metaphor for all corruption. To stand and discuss it now was unthinkable. Even after he had laid awake at night, turning over everything he had once believed in his mind, slowly dismantling a faith built on lies. All he had left of those beliefs were his love for the Goddess, a hope for a return to her embrace, and his commitment to helping all persons, great and small. And, evidently, a thorough revulsion at the thought of intimacy with a dragon.

 

“Mine request has distressed thee,” said Vidofnir, lowering her snout to sniff at him, then withdrawing to settle on her elbows again. Curling her tail over her claws, she was as elegant and deadly as a jungle coeurl. Thou hath no need to decide this night. I shall return hence in three suns to meet whomever thou would send in thine place. Pray fear no offense. Mine kin shall be content to know the pact is renewed, interested little in who has served. Only mine sire shall know. I shall not keep this celebration from him, for he and his beloved shall rejoice to know of it.” She flicked her tail, curling it and then letting it hit her claws with a dull slap. “Thine kin may live in ignorance, as is their wont, for as long as thou desirest.”

 

He bowed his head to her, in humility and thanks. It was easy to think, given their appearance, their speech, their form, and their culture, that they were utterly alien to one-another. And yet, for all the strangeness of her request, she was determined to put him at ease. Armed with sympathy and care, and no small amount of good humor. She understood his hesitance, and wished to ease it.

 

It seemed that the gentlemanly thing to do would be to return the favor.

 

“What of you, my lady?” he asked, peering up into her reptilian eyes. “Surely your own wishes must be taken into account. Do you not have a preference?” A part of him hoped there was someone she might prefer, to save him the guilt of selecting. It was a double-edged sword, of course. He would feel bound to volunteer any whom she wished, so long as they agreed. Even himself.

 

Part of him hoped she would simply name him, so that he would be saved the trouble of deciding whether he wanted to bear the burden himself, or foist his duty on another.

 

The great white dragon had cocked her horned head to the side, her toothsome face inscrutable beneath his gaze. Her tail flicked to and fro, curling and uncurling about her forelegs, restless but otherwise utterly still.

 

Mine own preference means little,” she said at last. “To the last, thou art soft and frail, and unlikely to satisfy.”

 

As Vidofnir herself could not blush, Aymeric did so for her.

 

Would that Ysayle were still with us,” she said mournfully. “Gladly would she have served. She would have rejoiced even to see us tooth-to-tooth, as friends long lost. Alas, it is not so. Such is the way of mortals and men.She tossed her tail once more, flicking it into the air in an artful motion that could have served as a regretful shrug. “Thine champion art well known to me, though one of thine own people wouldst be more fitting. Thine knight, Lucia, has proven her trust. A kind heart and wise soul.”

 

Aymeric did not like that option. When he heard Lucia’s name, it was all he could do to keep his hand from his sword, and he failed completely to keep the shock and dismay from his face. It hadn’t even occurred to him to think of her as an option, though women were clearly in the category of acceptable volunteers.

 

The dragon rumbled, low and deep, a rough, gravelly chuckle. Perhaps she had read his bearing, or maybe just the murder in his eyes. “Or perhaps not. The bright-hearted one, he is a hatchling, yes? Then not he. Though all of thine kin are as babes in our eyes, thou art at least grown in form and wisdom.”

 

Then she lowered her head, crouching on her foreclaws and extending nearly to touch his nose. The knight struggled to hold his ground, attempting to keep a detached demeanor as he noted that her head was easily the size of his torso, and her horns longer than his arm. She looked at him with her ghostly red eyes, seeming to see all his distress, his struggle, his hypocrisy, his fear. And slowly, he let out a long breath through his nose, to inhale the crisp, earthy scent of her scales. Not rot and malaise. Clean and a little spicy, with a complexity that might take him weeks to map.

 

Thou art afraid, son of Thordan. Would that I did not cause thee fear. Though I do not know thine mind, yet sooth I know thine heart. Gladly would I lie with you, if thou didst wish. But do not mourn for mine fancies. Thou hath mine trust in this matter. So long as thine servant art willing, joyful will I be.”

 

And then she had left him to think on it, to consider carefully his options. It was well that his bird always knew the direction of supper, because he was far too lost in his thoughts to guide it home.

 

The problem was this: as frightened as he was by the prospect, there was none more willing to take his place. Nor was there one more appropriate for the momentous symbolism of the act. It was his line that had broken the old vows, and he who led his shattered country in the wake of its disillusionment.

 

Lucia might have agreed if he’d asked, which was precisely why he would not do so. He knew little of her private life, save that the hours devoted to it were exceedingly few. But while he treated her as an equal in every respect, he would not offer up her virtue to…

 

To anyone. For any reason. Ever.

 

His chocobo paused, giving a strange lurch as it swiveled its neck to regard him. It whistled in agitation, then cast its eyes about the snow and rocks along the path. The Falcon’s Nest was in sight, not an enemy was between they and their meals. Not even the smallest wolf pup guarded their path.

 

It took him a few moments to realize it was because he had half-drawn his sword in defiance of his own inner thoughts. He re-seated it at his side, patting the bird’s neck and clicking his tongue soothingly. Soon they were once again on their way.

 

Lucia, he decided, might bed anyone she pleased, on her own initiative. Anyone who thought otherwise was welcome to his sword, and likely his fists as well.

 

The Warrior of Light might certainly be less averse… though, now that he thought on it, he could not recall a time when a request had been refused. No matter how frivolous, dangerous, or dire, the adventurer could always be found lending a hand. And truly, as welcome as the hero was, like hot tea in a snowstorm, it was Ishgard’s pact to sign. No, it needed to be one of his people. He, or Handeloup perhaps, or…

 

Haurchefant would have done it, he realized in a flash, the memory of the mad lord’s smile highlighted in his mind like his broken memories of the warriors of light. Haurchefant would have come back and told him all about it, spoken of it in gushing tones for years after the fact, the tale changing a little in every telling. He’d have done it even if he was frightened, or repulsed, or, hells, even if he’d finally wooed his warrior to his bed. He’d have done it sheerly for the drama and the scandal… and because he, too, wanted to protect his people badly enough to pay any price.

 

When he reached the Falcon’s Nest at last, he stabled his bird as quickly as he could manage, not even aware of the words he spake or the men who saluted him as he passed. Haurchefant was gone, hadn’t seen the chaos that had befallen his beloved country, or the hope that was rising from the ashes of the fires. And without even a chance to mourn, Estinien too was lost, twisted into some evil thing and… and only he was left to bear the burden. Of rebuilding their faith, their institutions, their hope, his heart.

 

Ser Aymeric rarely suffered himself to weep. But once he was safely tucked into a small room in the Nest’s tiny, fortress-like barracks, he lost no time in crying himself to sleep. Like a physical touch, cold and hollow, he felt loneliness wrap itself around his shoulders, nestling against him in his bed. That and his memories were all he had to embrace him. He was alone.

 

 

 

 

 

Vidofnir, daughter of the Great Wyrm Hraesvelgr, the greatest hope for Ishgard’s future, had given Aymeric three days to consider her offer. He could likely refuse her altogether, and cause her little offense. But her argument had been compelling, and truly did he wish to show his commitment to their peace. So he would not disappoint her—at least, he would do his level best to avoid it.

 

He was confident in his skills as a lover. He just had no idea how he could possibly apply them to a dragon.

 

Once he had awoken, downed a cup of tea and hastily consumed a piece of buttered toast, it had taken him all of three minutes to come to the conclusion that he was the only viable choice for the coupling. It was possible that someone else might agree—but every person he asked was another that might let slip the secret, and he could not risk such a thing being known at such a fragile time. There had been arson, riots, and a knife between his ribs already.

 

The best-case scenario was that Handeloup immediately volunteered. But he knew the other man slaved as hard as he to keep their country defended and supplied. He could not place another burden before him and presume that he would not agree merely out of duty.

 

That was, of course, precisely why Aymeric would do it. But that was willingness of a sort, the sort that knows that only in taking on suffering can suffering be spared of others.

 

He didn’t have to think very hard to imagine what Estinien’s reaction would be, were he here at his side as Aymeric so dearly wished. Nor Haurchefant’s, and it was with single-minded determination that he put them both out of his mind as he stood once again before the cave. High on the side of a Coerthan hill, not a sign of activity from any but he, his chocobo, and one singular dragon.

 

Only one other knew of his location. He had informed the Warrior of Light before he had left, though he had spared the details. Should he fail to return on the morrow, someone would come for him. Someone he trusted absolutely to keep his secrets.

 

For now, he was alone.

 

Until, that was, he entered the cave. As his eyes adjusted to the dim light, disoriented, momentarily, by the cheerful fire that had been constructed in the center of the room, he felt a familiar presence. “Doth mine eyes deceive? Thou hath returned to me, son of Thordan.” Vidofnir’s deep, booming voice echoed around the cavern once more, but as usual his ears were useless. He heard instead the words she spake directly into his mind, her intentions somehow translating a speech older than his entire race.

 

This time, he thought he felt a hint of worry, along with her words. Not the tone of her voice, for it was as calm and unhurried as ever. But as though her thoughts were coated in feeling, sauce poured over rice, words dipped in cheese and sampled with wine.

 

“It is I,” he said, quick to reassure. “I have made mine choice. You were correct. Mine blood ties me to this conflict. It falls to me to guide mine people out of it.”

 

The cave was precisely as he remembered it, wide and tall enough to accommodate a dragon comfortably, small enough to feel private. Only now, not only was it warm and cozily-lit, but a smattering of pillows had been piled not far from the fire. Vidofnir sat folded neatly in on herself beside them, the light reflecting from her scales as she moved. The shadows that cast themselves over her rough face were darker, deeper, more grotesque. Aymeric struggled with himself a moment, forcing himself to recall that she was a friend, and soon, a lover.

 

 

He was not signing away his life, he told himself resolutely. And certainly not his soul. Not even his virginity—that was long gone, along with any innocence he should have had. And yet this was different, entirely new somehow. With trembling hands he undid his chocobo’s burden, laying down a blanket and a bundle of greens and throwing aside its saddle.

 

Then he walked carefully to Vidofnir’s side, clearing the fire and standing beside the plush, faded cushions that had been set out, presumably, for him. “If, of course, you would still have me, my lady,” he said with a deep bow.

 

He was aware of every tiny movement he made. He hadn’t felt so exposed since he was a youth.

 

Well pleased I am to see thee,” she answered, lowering her head to him, reaching across the scant distance between them and tracing her nose across his brow. He closed his eyes to it, feeling the wet snuffle of her snout and the gentleness of her touch. He knew that she would not hurt him, but something in him un-knotted at the contact, and the reassurance that she knew her strength.

 

“And yet… thou art still fearful.”

 

Fearful… perhaps, but of what he was no longer certain. He bowed his head. Not in shame, or hopelessness, nor even fear. Merely because he could not bring his heart to heel, and accept what his mind had decided.

 

“Forgive me,” he murmured. “Pray take no offense. I do not fear you. Only… what you ask is difficult for any of mine people, for precisely the reason you have asked it. Yet fully do I see the right of it. I will not allow such ancient prejudice to stand against the peace for which we are bound.”

 

Vidofnir considered his words, dipping her head to peer into his lowered eyes before withdrawing to regard him from afar. Mine apologies,” she said at length. “Mine sire warned that thine ways art not our ways, that thou wouldst balk at such a request. I fear I hath placed thee into an updraft without the wings to soar. I see now that thine duty doth not allow thee to refuse.”

 

Understanding coated her words, honey-smooth. Sympathy. Something else, too. Affection? Aymeric looked up, startled by the accuracy of her deduction, and the way it had mirrored his own thoughts. He had refused to ask his own subordinates for that very reason.

 

I will lie with none who doth not will it so. Should thou refuseth me, I shall honor thine wishes. Another way will be found. Thou hast mine word, mine honor, mine love.”

 

The words had echoed in his mind, quivering within and booming around him, and then ebbed away to nothing before he understood them. She had said love. And though it didn’t have the flavor of the way he ordinarily heard it used, he thought he understood the gist. She cared for him. Not merely his people, in that abstract way that one always wishes for peace and well-being for all. But she cared about him.

 

She had, after all, said that she knew his heart.

 

“You… care for me?” he asked wonderingly, seeing her as if for the first time. Seated before him on the elbows of her forelegs, wings fanning behind her like the train of a maiden’s veil, silk-white scales shining out of the dark. “I am Elezen. Mine own line began the war that claimed thine noble aunt, and sundered the happiness of both our peoples. You hardly know me from Haldrath, truly. How is it that I can have your love?”

 

In reply, an echo of feeling enveloped him, rebounding through his mind like rain on a window-pane, thunder loud enough to shake the glass. Then it was gone as quickly as it had come, washing away like fine snow on the breeze.

 

They were his feelings. Disorderly, weak, a bit cacophonous. But definitely his. He could pick out the individual strains if he tried, the echoes of his own thoughts there to catch at in smoky wisps, like faery-lights. Grief, fear, anger, worry. Affection. Love. Even the protectiveness he had felt over Lucia was there, a brief outburst of irrationality that quickly smoothed over into affection and gratitude.

 

His fear and disgust was there, plain for Vidofnir to see, coating his own thoughts like her emotion had coated hers.

 

And all of it was swimming in a sea of loneliness. Alone, alone, alone, his own heart seemed to say. Face to face with his own feelings, his very thoughts reflected in a looking glass, he could no longer deny how he felt. He had been pushing away the emptiness since he had lost a friend, and then the friend whose bed he’d sometimes shared. He had counted on them. And he had counted on the safety of Estinien’s arms when he was as bereft as he was now.

 

There can be no sin in seeking solace from one who offers their wings,” she said to him, once he’d shaken his head of cobwebs to regard her once more. If comfort thou doth require, gladly would I give it. As friend, as clutch-mate... or as lover.

 

Aymeric frowned, his mind seeming to race along multiple paths at once. The course before him should have been as clear as polished sapphire, but it was muddy as a river stone. “Among mine people, it is counted as one… at least, such solace as you propose. But I have… always felt differently... in all such matters,” he blushed to admit.

 

She tilted her head at him once more, her un-changing reptilian face conveying no emotion. But he was beginning to hear the feelings of her heart as well, and her face no longer seemed so cold to him. He could feel her sympathy. Somehow his mind seemed to stitch the two things together, and her blank, toothy grin became a look of deep concern, her glowing red eyes veiled with affection. He could no longer see her as a monster, shadows or no. Vidofnir was graceful, proud, and above all, caring. There was nothing to fear from her.

 

But he had never feared her to begin with, he realized as though waking from a hazy dream. He had only feared what he would think of himself should he consent to such a thing. And as his faith no longer had anything to say on dragons, there was no reason to care.

 

Just as he had no reason to care that he was a bastard, or that the man who had him tortured and imprisoned was his own father. Just as he had accepted that there was no sin in loving man or woman, or even both. There could be no sin in loving a dragon, either.

 

And he would prove it. Perhaps someday, with his guidance, his people could love whomever they wished, as well.

 

The white dragon straightened, rearing back her head with dignity and poise. “Thou hath reached a decision. I would hear it… Aymeric, son of Thordan.”

 

Years ago, barely a knight, it had taken most of an evening to work up the courage to ask a maiden for his first dance. Now as he bowed to Vidofnir again, his heart seemed to sing the same rapid song. “I accept your offer,” he said. “The time has come to break the bonds of slavery to our fears. I know not how such things are done. I have not ardor to guide me. But I am willing, if you are patient.”

 

She blew a puff of warm air over his face, prickling his forehead and heating his cheeks long after. “More patient than thine lifetime could encompass, little one. But thine hesitance holds naught to bring thee shame. Peace will not be served with a fearful heart. Do not press thineself, for I should be sorely aggrieved to see thee hurt.”

 

It was a fair warning. But it bloomed like a winter rose in his breast, nervousness opening into hope and trust.

 

“I know, and I…” once again he was assailed by the gravity of the decision, of the momentous betrayal it was said to be. On this side of it, though… “It must seem so different through your eyes,” he mused. “I have had to discard everything I ever believed, merely to approach the truth like a child learning his letters. But you have never lost sight of it. I wish… I wish to be free of that fear. More than that… of the senseless hatred. I know you now to be a creature of love and beauty. Pray help me to see it.”

 

The low rumble that echoed around the cavern and returned to embrace him was not laughter, now. It was a growl, and behind it he felt anticipation, even excitement. “Thine heart sees sooth. It is thine eyes that lie,” Vidofnir said. She stood artfully, stretching her thick-muscled legs and arching her back, then lifting her delicate wings to spread beneath the low ceiling. “Very well. We may see about thine ardor. Shed thine scales, if thou wouldst wish mine touch. Take thine ease, and I shall show thee what thine kin deny.” She whipped her tail out to the side, and her words tasted of restlessness, of excitement. Of a long, slow dance beneath the moons, barefoot and slick with sweat.

 

He knew that dance, albeit to a different tune. He could trust her to lead him in the steps. His fingers flew over the clasps and buckles of his clothing, discarding it piece-by-piece. There was no need for shyness, here, though he could not banish it. Unlike any lover he’d ever taken, his looks mattered little to the dragon before him, no more than hers did to him.

 

And yet, she was possessed of power, and grace. Her neck and tail undulated like a serpent, to and fro, as she watched him reveal himself to her piercing eyes. Did she see him like he saw her? Foreign and a little frightening, but strong and proud? Did she see him as a warrior, honed to kill her kind? Or did she see a leader of men, head held high, just as she regally arched her neck to regard him?

 

And then he was standing before her naked, blushing like the virgin he suddenly felt. As commanded, he sank into the cushions, lying back before her open scrutiny as she paced to him like a coeurl. Or perhaps more like a dragon. Keen intelligence, bone-deep patience, and beneath it all a wild ferocity that seemed kept in check only by the passage of time itself. She leaned her head over him, running her snout up his legs and flicking her tongue over his skin, not even touching him, merely tasting the air. A strange chuffling sound could be heard, reverberating low and deep in her throat, and distantly he could hear its meaning: possessive, protective, desirous.

 

She passed over his groin, then, and he squeezed his eyes closed and flinched. She chuckled, though there was concern echoing around its edges. Thou seekest to anticipate that which ye know not of. Close thine eyes, to sight and to the judgment of thine sages. Give thineself over to feeling. Thou knowest the ways of love. Be at ease and lend me thine trust.”

 

Aymeric swallowed nervously, attempting to keep his breath steady. In, then out. Slowly he relaxed, trying not to think of where her head hovered, or the way her warm breath tickled his chest. In truth, he had done this before, though with the aid of a blindfold. It had been liberating to cede control to the deep unknown, just for a little while. He tried to relax and simply accept what came, merely drinking the crisp air and the scent of the fire.

 

When she finally did touch him, it was not at all what he had expected. It was merely a gentle, wet lick along his belly. Her tongue was slick, the saliva viscous enough that there was no resistance as it slid slowly up his chest. Keeping his eyes carefully closed, there was nothing there but the raw feeling, magnified by the newness of the experience. It was gentle and intimate, soft and warm, though the trail along his stomach felt strangely cool as it was buffeted by warm puffs of her breath.

 

It occurred to him all of a piece that a tongue that long and slick could do many, wicked things. He bit his lip against the thought, feeling his body react, embarrassed suddenly by his imagination. The dragon chuffled at him again, clucking like a hen above him, soothing his embarrassment away. Eyes still closed, he tipped back his chin and attempted to stretch away his nervousness, welcoming back her tongue when it greeted his neck.

 

There it seemed to want to stay, probing the hollow place where his shoulder met his neck, tracing the line of his clavicle and worshiping his throat. He knew nearby were jagged teeth, that she was a creature hungry for meat and bone. It did not cause him fear, but was a hard thought to chase away, when he was bathed in her soft breath. It was a deep earthy scent, almost a little green, like rich soil and mint not yet ripe. He might have thought it unpleasant, before. Now it seemed a welcome part of her, a feature of her gentle embrace.

 

Thou art soft,” she said, lowering her booming voice to a low growl. “But not unpleasant.” Gingerly she flicked her tongue to the point of his pulse, tasting his heartbeat and hissing contentedly. Then she traced upwards, and he turned his head to the side and let his hand wander on the cool surface of the pillow as she carefully explored his ear.

 

And he gasped to feel it, no longer able to breathe so calmly. It was not that he was aroused, precisely, though it was not an innocent joy. While he was still far too nervous to respond to her physically, he was quite content beneath her tongue. The slow slide across his skin and the hot pressure against his ear was certainly erotic in nature, speaking to his body in tones he could understand regardless of species. And when the tip of it sharpened to a slick point and slid within, he couldn’t help but answer with an undignified whimper, arching his back to search for contact he hadn’t known he’d needed.

 

When she chuckled, he could sense her cautious interest as well. He wondered if she could feel his reactions as she had read his heart. He blinked his eyes open to regard her as she returned to his stomach, probing him with a lazy tongue as he fluttered beneath her touch.

 

She was not fearsome. Not anymore. She was as gentle as a lamb. He could see the tenderness with which she regarded him, reflected in her soulful eyes, and the way she arched her wings to hover above him. And she was beautiful. Noble and proud, clear glittering scales and long horns. Graceful neck, sinuous and coquettish as she batted her doubled eyelids over her long, serpentine pupils.

 

He would not go so far as to say he desired her. He was still not certain what that would mean, a far cry from the desperate instinct of his first time with a woman. But there could be no disgust, any longer. Perhaps he now knew her heart, as well.

 

“My lady,” he whispered, reaching out for her jaw to stroke the soft underside of her snout. She growled and withdrew her long tongue and with a wet slap, wrapped it instead around his wrist. He released her, going limp in her hold, and watched with hooded eyes as she stroked and squeezed his arm in firm undulating strokes. Finally she drew back, sliding the length of it through his palm, over a fulm’s worth. He squeezed lightly with his fingers as it passed, feeling the rough texture beneath the thick slime of her saliva and the firm strength the appendage possessed.

 

It was quite the demonstration. If he hadn’t been aroused before, he was beginning to feel so now. His cock had begun to stir already, to imagine that tongue put to other use.

 

Vidofnir flexed her wings above him, drawing them down to envelop them both as she leaned closer. “Hath thine fears been calmed, dear one? Hath thine ardor been stirred?” Amusement dripped lightly from her words like sweet birch syrup. It was clearly a rhetorical question, but she waited to hear him answer nonetheless. He imagined her pearly teeth to have curled into a wry grin.

 

Aymeric licked his lips with his own tongue, feeling small and dry and a little numb. “Mine fears are demons of mine own creation. They have nothing to do with thee,” he answered unsteadily. He sat up on arms that wobbled just a little, leaning towards her head though he was careful to avoid the tips of her horns. And he kissed the tip of her snout, gently caressing the scales with his lips. They were not slimy like her tongue, but cool and clean, and softer than he would have supposed. They gave gently beneath him, bending around each-other the way the scales in his armor might move, only a thousand times finer and smoother.

 

In response Vidofnir drew up to probe his chin with the tip of her tongue. It was with a light touch rather than the firm strokes she had used before. Almost shy. He understood the intent, though he wondered if kisses were common between dragons, or she merely mimicked his thoughts and actions.

 

It was with a measure of hesitance that he greeted her tongue with his, but he had nothing to fear. Her saliva was as inoffensive as his, and though slick, it did not choke him. Nor did she rush to fill his mouth as he closed his lips around her and traced her tongue, cautious and tender. She merely flexed gently against him, allowing him the liberty to explore. He closed his eyes again, leaning into the kiss, sucking the narrow tip cautiously deeper and steadying himself with a hand on the tip of her forward-curved horn.

 

Like any kiss, it was less a matter of pleasure and more of metaphor. It was sharing, intimacy, willing exposure. Letting a lover into a sacred space, trading the secrets of one’s soul. He was hesitant. But he did not regret opening his mouth to her, nor his heart.

 

She growled at him again, quick and low, and he was sure from the tenor alone that it was not in disapproval.

 

He knew for certain when she withdrew completely, and swiped her tongue across his clavicle in a long, wet stripe. She moved with such force that he was pushed backwards, falling into the cushions once more with one hand still gripping her horn.

 

Be still,” she rumbled softly, tearing away from his grasp with a dainty shake of her gargantuan head.

 

Aymeric was not of a mind to disobey.

 

Nor was he much surprised when her tongue caressed him once more, though he nearly jumped at the sudden touch. She had indeed grown tired of more gentle overtures, tracing instead the base of his cock with the curious pointed tip. The saliva coating it seemed to evaporate and rub away, leaving nothing between them. When he closed his eyes he could imagine she traced him merely with a bold finger, mapping him as he slowly hardened beneath her inquisitive gaze.

 

By the time she had reached his tip, he was beginning to feel that Saint Shiva had the right of things. He no longer felt the chill of the wind without their cave, could no longer imagine the scorn of his peers. Estinien’s sneer no longer played behind his eyelids. All he felt was the heat of the fire, and of the dragon—the woman—who touched him.

 

Then that long, sinuous tongue curled around him, and even the heat flew from his mind. Even those vague impressions were too much to hold, chased away by the overwhelming sensation that seemed to slither around the entirety of his length. He was engulfed, not by a tight mouth or a sensuous body, but by a writhing nest of snakes. It was not merely heat and pressure. It was movement, friction, roughness made smooth and slick as it slid over him in more directions than he could name.

 

So did it overwhelm him that he was not even aware of the rough gasp he gave, or the low, guttural groan that followed. If he had, he would not have cared. His cheeks flushed and his brow prickling with sweat, he could entertain no reason for shame.

 

Her warm clucking embraced him once again, even as her tongue worked its wicked magic. He felt her approval in it, the flavor of smugness and affection rolled into one.

 

Perhaps she deserved a bit of self-satisfaction at his expense. He hadn’t the mind to object. Instead, he merely opened his mouth to the surrounding air, which was warm but still tasted of the crisp evening without. It caught on his throat on the intake, rasping against his piteous gasps for more.

 

It took some time after that first rush of pleasure to find himself again, to notice the downy pillow clutched beneath his fingers or the way his body had begun to move without his notice. It wasn’t merely his hips. He was so captivated by the motion of the dragon’s tongue that he seemed to be attempting to make love to her in return, chest heaving and hips thrusting, minutely, to greet her. Had his lover been in a more familiar form, it would have been most discourteous. But with her jaws parted to admit his cock almost entirely into her mouth, pearly teeth reflecting her grin into the far corners of the cave, it seemed to pose no problem at all.

 

Still, he attempted to halt his movement, struggling to push himself onto one elbow and regard her. He reached a trembling hand toward her again, needing contact. Needing a warm body, needing to feel more than merely pleasure. He stroked her warm muzzle, felt her snort a playful puff of air from her nostrils.

 

It wasn’t enough. He loved it, gods did he, but it wasn’t enough! He whimpered pathetically as he lay his head back, letting it hang like the weight of his sins from his unsteady shoulders. Her tongue felt so wonderful around him he could nearly cry, but it wasn’t the embrace he wanted.

 

He could not embrace her. He could only stroke her jaw and whinge.

 

Her growl boomed around him, filled the whole of their nest with deep rumbling. It reverberated down the writhing coil that surrounded his cock, making his body and mind go momentarily numb from a dizzy, unexpected pleasure. “Did I not command thee to lie still?” she said in the echoing silence that was left within him. But it was not displeasure, not nearly. He could taste a simmering arousal within her as well, pleased to see him writhe for her.

 

Aymeric answered with a rumble of his own, a long, unsteady groan into which he poured all his longing and ecstasy at once.

 

Words were not necessary. He was certain by now she could read his desires as one feels a change in the wind and knows to expect the rain.

 

In response she fluttered her wings above him, releasing him for a moment to move closer still. Aymeric gasped at the lack of contact, the cold air on his cock like a knife slicing through his lust-addled mind. But the heat soon returned, her clucking washing over him in long, soothing waves. He let the arm that supported him collapse like the lone pillar in a burned-out shack, falling into the pillow in a heap and ignoring his shoulder’s complaint at the rough twist. Obediently he went limp, surrendering to her ministrations and closing his eyes against the raw, unfiltered pleasure.

 

And then he was quite surprised to be engulfed in one large, heavy claw.

 

Instinct and years of carefully-cultivated fear made him struggle against it for a moment, throwing open his eyes and gasping for breath as though waking from a nightmare. Her soothing chuckle caught him though, and the careful way she pressed against his chest and seated him in the cushion again. And he realized that she was holding him, the fingers of her claws long enough to stretch around his chest and curl around his shoulders. Her thumb rested just above the ridge of his pelvis, and his soft throat was as a twig between her index and middle claws. Her hands, like the rest of her, were strong, knotted muscle. She could have uprooted trees with her strength. Instead she used it to press gently against him, giving him the contact he so desperately craved.

 

As soon as his shock had passed, he hugged her back, bringing up his own arms to clutch her broad palm and losing himself in her embrace.

 

There were no more barriers between them, no more distance. The scales of her palm were smooth but textured. Instead of trapping heat and sweat, it allowed him to feel every ilm as he moved against her. He gave up any pretense of receiving her favor with dignity, gasping out his pleasure as he writhed against her claw. If her own grumbles were any indication, she didn’t seem to mind. Not even as his restraint deteriorated and he found himself thrusting once again into her toothy maw. Instead she growled long and low, shocking him with sensation even as she encouraged his abandon.

 

Even without her words, he could feel the meaning. It would have made him blush, had he not been mired in sin already. He answered her growl with one of his own, a long, ragged groan from low in his throat, to convey his ecstasy and entreat his lady for more.

 

Instead he focused his eyes on her, taking in the elegant line of her neck as she stooped over him, and the curl of her claws. Her teeth had nearly closed over him, surrounding his cock in the warmth of her breath and the frantic slide of her tongue. What he felt was pleasure so direct and unpredictable that it made his mind numb and pudding-soft. A warm body and warmer tongue to embrace him and keep him close.

 

What he saw was a deadly predator, tearing him limb-from-limb.

 

It wasn’t fear he felt at the sight, though a jolt of excitement traveled through him from his spine to his toes. He closed his eyes and pressed against her claws once more, keening in shock as the thrill passed through him. The illusion of danger, the slavering beast he had been trained to fear holding him at her sweet, sweet mercy, even as he knew in the depths of his heart that she would keep him tucked safe, always, to her breast. For a thin moment, their lovemaking became the stuff of fantasy, and he struggled in her grasp.

 

It didn’t matter how much he moved, how hard he pushed against her. She was too strong, her teeth too sharp, her tongue too hot to resist. And for once in his life, Ser Aymeric, Lord Commander and interim leader of all of Ishgard, forgot decorum. He could not hurt her with a careless movement, would not suffocate her if he surrendered to his basest will. He needn’t even concern himself with satisfying her, not now anyhow. He could simply relax in her hold, press against her scales when the need arose, and twist savagely beneath her tongue. There was no need for restraint, not one onze, and in the madness of the moment, he had none.

 

He gave himself over to her. To the wild rut of two animals in heat, one in skin and one in scales and both hot with desire. It was base, it was hedonism and sin at its very core. But beneath her claw, he could find no shame. Naught but a still, stifling breath as he broke, a summer storm beneath a hot rain, soaked to the skin. He clung to her desperately, a tree to channel the lightning that danced through him as he came, a shock of wild abandon that was almost too luminous to be properly called pleasure. But the aftershocks, the quivering in his stiffened muscles as he relaxed beneath her touch, that was another thing. He wilted like a daisy in the snow, laying back his head and tipping his chin backwards to stretch luxuriantly in his lady’s embrace, mouth open and gasping his appreciation.

 

It should not have been possible for Vidofnir to make him feel this way. Not as a dragon, no, and not as a relative stranger. But something within her had spoken to his deepest, most guarded thoughts. And his body had obeyed.

 

Because he was a sinner, a lone voice reminded him once the silence in his mind had abated. Because he was a heretic who had stepped out of the light of Halone’s grace and into the bed of a dragon, and condemned himself to the deepest hell.

 

No, he knew that wasn’t true. But he was filled with anxiety all the same, drawing back a trembling hand to cover his eyes, even as she lifted her claw to nose at his chest in concern. Her tongue ventured out again, licking tenderly along his collarbone and stroking his cheek. Innocently, now, a mere gentle caress, one lover to another.

 

Pray be at ease, dear one,” she cooed, a mere low growl that seemed to touch him just as softly. Do not allow the ignorance of others to wound thee. Thine heart is pure, thine love divine. She drew back the veil of her maiden-white wings, and the cool air of the cave crashed over him like a second baptism. It seemed to touch him everywhere, catching his sweat and reminding him afresh of the beauty of the experience. Of the kindness of her touch, and the way she had known his every desire.

 

If she were a temptress, he thought, it was only because she cared for him. If she had seduced him with her wiles, it was only because he had needed her touch. Aymeric smiled, a little more bravely than he felt, but there was real joy behind it. He uncovered his face and reached out instead to touch hers. To trace the noble lines of her snout, the ridge over her nostril and the tiny spiked scales that thrust up like jagged mountains from the tip of her nose to her horned brow.

 

“That is—you are right, of course. Thank you,” he stuttered, his breath catching him short. He paused, as much to ease the heaving of his chest as to consider his next words. Once again, he had no idea what was expected of him. But now, his fear had dulled to a mere murmur of opprobrium in the back of his mind, and he knew her now to be a woman of great charm and sensitivity.

 

More to the point, he now knew love between man and dragon to be more than possible. He knew it to be most pleasurable, though the method had been a surprise.

 

It seemed likely that the same was true in regards to pleasing his lover. “Dear lady,” he said at last, when his heart had calmed and the dragon had settled to lie at his side. She curled her elegant neck above him in the nest of pillows, laying her head along his side with caution lest she scratch him with her horn. In response to his words, she swiveled one red eye to watch him, folding two sets of lids over it as she blinked. For a brief second, he was addressing a lizard, before he felt her affection wrap around him once more and he saw, again, her beauty.

 

“I am afraid I know not how best to please you,” he said at last. “I fear I am inadequate for the task.” He resisted the temptation to cover his blush with one hand. It was not shyness, now, for there was no need of that. It was embarrassment that, once again, he was innocent of the ways of women. Like his first fumbling encounter, he was at her mercy, only he had no guarantee that it was even possible to satisfy her.

 

He could at least try make up for ignorance with effort, he told himself.

 

Were he a younger man, he might have feared her laughter. As it was, her warm, resounding chuckle merely made his lips quirk into a shy smile at his own expense. But her words were not what he expected. “The deed is done,” she said. No jest, no suggestion that his youth and manhood were insufficient for the deed, only a sense of contentment mixed with tender concern. “Thou need not trouble thineself. Thou hath flown far from thine nest already, this day.”

 

A small part of him was relieved to hear it. The rest rebelled. He rolled onto his side, reaching out to run his palm along her horn. It was smooth and cool, lined with undulating curves that were soothing to the touch, and he found himself happy to stroke it from base to tip and back again while she watched him beneath one half-lowered eyelid.

 

It seemed wrong to receive such affection, but fail to return it in kind. He knew men who would have thought it just, but to Aymeric it was nearly a matter of honor. To take without giving seemed an insult to his lover.

 

Then the true import of her words struck him, sending his thoughts topsy-turvy as though his chocobo had lurched beneath him. His purpose was accomplished. He didn’t need to reciprocate. His entire reason for lying there, covered in sweat and washed with dragon spittle, was done with.

 

Which meant that his desire to touch her now was as pure as freshly fallen snow. Released of his obligation, all he was left with was love, blooming from his misguided fears like wildflowers in the ashes of a fire.

 

“If it were possible to do so,” he said, his voice trembling like a leaf before the winds of winter, “I would be happy to see it done. Not because it is required. But because it is not.”

 

The dragon exhaled heavily through her nose, bathing them in warm steam even as she shrouded them both with her wing. Now he was ensconced in a dome of warmth and gentle light, punctuated by the glistening ruby that regarded him still. “Thou art truly brave,” she said at last, and she did not need to laugh for him to feel her amusement. Still, it was a gentle thing, pleased with him, pleased with herself. “I am reminded of a knight I knew, a thousand years gone by. Truly have I enjoyed thine company. To see thee open thine heart and accept mine love…” her wing fluttered briefly over him, and she scooted closer to him so that her horn lay against his chest. “To see thine pleasure,” she growled, and now he felt something else from her. A hazy sort of lust, arousal that was not urgent, a sort of pleasure in itself.

 

Finally she growled at him, warmly now, and he heard it as a maiden’s sigh. Gentle, nearly wistful, as she darted out her tongue to taste the air. “Very well,” she said at last. “Let us see what thine clever claws can accomplish.”

 

He felt the feelings behind her words perfectly well, and somehow they merged with the sight before him. Had she not been covered in scales and full of gleaming teeth, her lips would have been curled into a shy, seductive smile. Perhaps she would have laughed, as much at him as at herself. When she lifted her wing to roll away from him, exposing her long belly and undulating tail to his gaze, he understood precisely the import.

 

“Beautiful,” he said softly. And he meant it, because his eyes now saw the truth.



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