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Strange Sights

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Ash

*

It was early spring when he returned to Augus Each Uisge’s lake. It was his favourite time to visit, when winter was leaving and his blood quickened with the promise of warmer days and balmy nights, when people stayed out later and were quicker to leave cares behind in the arms of another. He tried to visit Augus when the marsh marigolds were blossoming yellow on the banks of his lake, bumblebees fattening themselves on pollen, the chill of winter still in the air, even as the sun chased it away.

He hadn’t visited his brother for two months. The time before it had been to crash during a particularly bad hangover. Augus had sniped at him for it, but eventually succumbed and brought him a blanket, pillows and food when it became obvious that Ash wasn’t leaving, and Augus wanted him there.

This time, however, he simply wanted to visit. It was a day where it felt good to be in the fae world. Where everything was a little brighter, a little more vibrant. And he’d missed Augus a great deal. Sometimes he let more time pass between seeing him than he wanted to, because he didn’t want to get in the habit of visiting too often, crowding him. Augus was easily crowded.

Augus was the Each Uisge, after all. A terrifying waterhorse fae – to humans at least, who formed the main part of his diet. In all previous incarnations, he and Ash had never seen eye to eye, and they certainly weren’t brothers and technically weren’t now. For Ash was the Glashtyn, a fellow predatory waterhorse, Unseelie and territorial, and it was only in this lifetime that Augus had apparently decided to both give himself a first name, and a younger runt brother, and ignore all the traditions and lives that had gone before. By the time their previous life memories started trickling through in abstracts and impulses to draw blood and chase waterhorses of their territory it was too late; but biology remained, dictating their appetites, their need to hunt.

Augus wasn’t in his home, nor digesting prey at the bottom of his lake, which meant he was probably nearby. Perhaps foraging or even lying down in the spring sun. There was a flat sunning rock hidden in a stand of weeping willows and an understorey of dense brush. The rock hung over an ever-babbling, blue-green creek that fed directly into Augus’ lake, and was protected by more stands of rock and tree nearby, cloistering the flat, dark grey stone and giving it privacy. Augus slept there, outdoors, when the weather began to warm.

Ash moved up across the lake bank quietly, grinning to himself. If Augus was asleep, he could think of several annoying ways to wake him up. He would push himself on the rock beside him, make himself a nuisance, bother him until the annoyed spark in Augus’ eyes would disappear behind an acceptance warm with welcome. Though how long it took for the spark to recede, depended a great deal on just how annoying Ash was being.

He couldn’t help himself; Augus had an austere streak, Ash was mischievous.

A breeze helped hide his footsteps, rustling leaves and branches together, creating sound around him. Ash became lost in his own thoughts, thinking about how good it would be just to stay with Augus for a few days, to live a simpler life with him. He loved his home over in the human world, he loved going out to bars and pubs and cafes, looking for company or for sex when he wasn’t hunting; but there was a pared down easiness when he stayed with Augus. It reminded him of the old days, of the times when-

Ash froze.

That was not like the old days.

Ash fumbled, as though his hands dropped something that wasn’t even there. Instead of sleeping or reading, Augus was...

Yeah, how about we just leave him alone and pretend that this didn’t- Fuck. He is. Oh god, he is.

Augus was half on his side, half on his back, spine arched lightly, face tilted up towards the sun. He was nude, his clothing folded near him as though... as though this was something he’d done before. As though he maybe even had routines, or preferences about it. Freckles smattered his cheeks, even his shoulders, which meant he had been taking advantage of the sun. Damp hair clung to the rock behind him, his lashes were thickly black against his cheeks and his mouth half-open, because his hand – Oh my fucking god, Ash thought – was stroking languidly up his cock. Not even wrapped around it, just the flats of his fingers drifting lazily, up and down, over and over.

Augus made a low, soft sound that lifted up over the breeze, winnowed its way into Ash’s ears and plinked into his mind, making him suddenly aware of what he was watching.

Fuck, just go back and wait for him, and don’t ever-

Ash’s throat caught, suddenly he was forcing his deep, shocked breaths to a shallow, silent breathing, fast as it picked up alongside the deafening sound of his own heart.

His hand, open and lax, suddenly tingled. His fingers flexed, and his mouth warmed with saliva. Watching Augus’ fingers on himself, Ash’s hand curled like it could feel the shape of him even from where he stood. Augus’ cock was flushed darker with blood, lightly curved, and Ash grit his teeth together because no, this was not happening, he wasn’t, he was just confused. Who wouldn’t be confused seeing that laid out in front of them. Not only Augus – who was gorgeous anyway – but like that, like the stone was a platter and Augus was trying to show himself off to his best angle.

Leave, you idiot.

Ash turned around quietly, started creeping away. He shook his head as he went, as though he could shake what he’d seen right out of his head. His breath trembled in his lungs and his hands clenched into fists. Because no, it wasn’t like he’d had those dreams or anything, Augus was his goddamned brother and this was just, he could just pretend this was like one of those dreams he’d had even though this was about a thousand times better and oh fuck he’d looked good on that rock. Why didn’t Augus masturbate in a room, like most people? Why did it have to be under the sun, on a rock, in an idyllic environment, like some ridiculous 60s hippie porn-

Augus cried out. It was a sound slightly more abandoned than the first, it dragged at Ash’s ears. It pulled him so that he ended up facing the way that he’d come, staring into the distance.

You can’t do this. You can’t. Don’t. Just, seriously, Ash, don’t do it. If he caught you, you’d never live it down. Besides, it’s not like he knew you were coming, you’ve got time to go back, pretend you were never here, visit him in a few hours.

Ash smacked a hand over his face when he made an unsteady step back towards the clearing.

He stopped again.

He would have to be blind not to recognise how attractive his brother was. After all, significant chunks of the fae world held him up as an example of Unseelie fae beautiful; charming, menacing, androgynous in appearance, always a calculating glint in those green eyes.

Ash had always just told himself that he didn’t see Augus in ‘that way,’ and for the most part his brain listened, except for those occasions when he’d had too much pizza or when he’d had too much to drink and his mind dumped strange dreams into his head that left him sticky with come when he woke up and often rutting into the mattress like some teenager. Yeah, he’d never told Augus about those.

And that all got dumped into a file in his mind that simply said, in loud, screaming letters: DON’T GO THERE.

Maybe he could just go back, watch, and then...put it in the file and leave it alone. It would just be dream fodder, that was all. It wasn’t like-

‘Shit, fuck,’ Ash breathed. ‘I am a good brother. And good brothers don’t watch their gorgeous fucking brothers jerk themselves off, so, okay. Yep. Okay.’

Ash turned around again and started walking back towards Augus’ home underneath his lake, away from the flat stone, resolved and hands clenched so tightly that his palms were sweating.

He was almost out of earshot, he was sure, when a sharper, almost pained cry reached his ears and Ash froze and turned around.

That could’ve been a cry for help, maybe, and...responsible brothers would just go back and- You don’t even believe yourself, you dick.

Ash squeezed his eyes shut, turned around, his feet started moving back long before he gave them permission to. In very little time at all, he was crouched behind scrub, peering through branches and leaves, keeping his breath light and shallow so that his brother wouldn’t hear him.

Not that Augus would, because it was clear he wasn’t concentrating on anything else but himself.

He’d shifted, now lying flat on his back, his knees bent and apart and Ash almost groaned, because that was, oh fuck. The balls of his feet were pressed into the stone, and he still had his eyes closed, his mouth open. Just enough that someone could slip a tongue inside and force it wider and-

Ash? How about you cut it the fuck out.

Augus was now stroking the backs of his fingers over his cock, lingering at the head, circling it. His other hand rested lightly over his chest. Every now and then he lazily dragged an index finger over to brush at his own nipple and Ash swallowed because now the both of them were hard. Ash reached down and shifted himself so that he was more comfortable in his jeans. His face felt like it was burning. Surely Augus would just take himself in hand soon enough, jerk himself off, and stripe that lean torso with come and it would be done. Just a dream that Ash wouldn’t have to think about anymore.

And they’d hang out and talk about the Unseelie Court and Augus’ clients and people Ash had picked up and make jokes like they always did and it wouldn’t be like this.

Ash felt a wave of relief move through him when Augus shifted and let his cock settle in the concave of his palm. He wrapped his fingers around himself with so much precision that Ash had to swallow a sound of frustration. It was so like Augus, who had always been controlled, detached even. Watching him start to move his hand on himself, up and down, with that steady, exact movement made it hard not to approach, to wrap his own hand around him, pin him down with a hand on his sternum and make it fast and messy and watch his eyes fly open and his mouth widen. It was only that Ash wanted his hips to arch up off the stone, to see his skin, sun-kissed, become flushed with sensation and-

Augus pressed his lips together on a moan, his eyes pressed closed, his forehead knitted.

His hips undulated up slightly into his hand, then again. Augus reached up and actually dragged a hand through his own hair, moaning again. Ash didn’t think his hands had ever felt so hungry for anything. He was ashamed of what he was doing, of what would happen if Augus caught him, because Augus didn’t miss a thing. He would realise immediately that Ash was turned on, hard in his pants, and he’d either brush it off with a laugh and say that it was to be expected with an arrogant raise of his eyebrow. Or he’d be speechless, and it would be awkward. There was no knowing how that would go.

Ash he knew he should leave. But he couldn’t drag himself away. Not now. It was partly that he wanted to know as much about Augus as he could, and he never got to see him enough; like this...this was something he could know, even if he never thought about it again. Even if Augus never knew that he’d seen it. He liked having and holding pieces of knowledge about his private, reclusive brother. He liked thinking that he was the only one to have ever seen this. That, when Augus was alone in early spring, and maybe at other times of the year, he crept onto a sun-warmed rock, shed his clothing, and caressed his body with a grace and care that stole the breath from Ash’s throat.

Augus’ hand was moving faster now, it would be over soon. Augus’ mouth dropped open wider, and his claws – that he always kept so much sharper than Ash’s filed down nails – scraped rhythmically over his side, his nipple, occasionally trailing up to tangle and untangle his hair, to twist the sensitive waterweed that sprouted from his scalp alongside his mane around his finger. His hips were shifting up into his hand, and Augus’ throat worked. Ash thought his breath might be hitching, but he couldn’t tell. If he was closer, he’d press his face by Augus’ mouth and feel each of those exhales hot against his skin.

But he wasn’t closer.

Ash’s hand strayed down to his own cock in his jeans, and he unbuttoned his fly quietly, drew himself out, squeezing a hand around himself. He licked his lips, forced his eyes shut.

Dreaming about it is one thing. Then you go and watch him jerking himself off, that’s another thing. Now you’re gonna jerk yourself off to it? That’s...Ash, if there was a line with this shit, you’re sprinting across it like an Olympian.

Ash fisted his fingers around the tip of himself, compressing the flesh and hissing. It was a punishing grip. He couldn’t decide yet what he was doing. A loud part of his mind kept shouting at him to cut it out, to leave, to just put it behind him, to stop already.

His eyes slipped open, just a sliver, and he saw Augus in some perfectly filmed scene that he couldn’t have imagined even in his most elaborate fantasies. Precisely because it was so controlled, so languorous. Except Augus’ hips were jerking up into his hand, and Ash’s eyes widened and his own hand involuntarily moved in response, because that was good.

Augus stopped. He withdrew his palm.

Ash thought that he’d been caught out, but no, Augus still kept his head tilted back, his mouth open like he could drink down the sun. His hips were raised off the stone. But instead of touching himself, and, Ash could see, his cock was clearly begging to be touched, Augus rested his palm flat on his pelvis and took several deep breaths. His other hand was tracing a spiral into the centre of his own chest.

No, he is not. He is not slowing himself down. Who the fuck does that? Come on, Augus. Just mess yourself up a little, Jesus. Why does it always have to be like this with you?

But Augus waited. His breathing settled, his hand stayed still on his hip. It was at least two or three solid minutes before Augus lifted his hand to himself again. And then he didn’t wrap it around properly, but started trailing his fingers up and down.

Jesus, fuck, how long have you been doing this to yourself?

Frustration curdled inside of him, that he was – somehow – being subjected to that same tight, rational control that all of Augus’ clients must have been subjected to. Augus the professional dominant, who hunted humans but offered his other skills to the fae, breaking them carefully, putting them back together again.

How calculating Augus was, and it was so not what Ash was about. It wasn’t that Ash didn’t appreciate orgasm denial, the rise and fall of arousal in the bedroom, it was that Augus was like this all the damned time. Even now. And Ash’s role in his brother’s life had never been to leave that be. It had always been to shake things up, to mess around in Augus’ presence a little, to remind him that chaos was okay, and disorder could be fun.

So watching him, unable to touch, unable to even indicate to Augus that he was there, it chafed at him. He moved his hand on his cock anyway, needing something to distract himself from the growing rush of thoughts in his head.

Finally, Augus wrapped his hand around his cock, started a slow, unpredictable rhythm. His hips began moving up to meet his hand again, and when he twisted his hand around the head of his cock, a fractured cry came out of his mouth. It was quiet, but it seemed to ripple through the core of Ash as he heard it. He licked his lips again, desperate, hand moving quickly and wanting to hold himself back, wanting to – stupidly – come at the same time as Augus.

So when Augus made himself stop, again, Ash fisted his fingers into his shirt and for once, wished for claws to shred something. He blew out his breath and his muscles were shaking, because if he listened to his body he would just go over there and finish the job himself. He forced his breathing to calm down and looked up at the blue sky, distracting himself. Even then, he could see the silhouette of Augus laying upon the rock in his mind. His damp, black hair spread out, curling, snarling on the stone. And he just – he couldn’t help himself – he wanted to see him spread out on his bed, couch, floor.

Oh fuck, the floor.

Ash bit his tongue and forced himself to think of some of the worst hangovers he’d ever had. The ones where he was convinced he was never going to drink again. Where he regretted being born with waterhorse metabolism because even after years of habituation and practice, his body still told him in no uncertain terms that he was poisoning himself. He thought of mornings and days and evenings spent hunched over toilets and too many painkillers hastily swallowed down dry and that awful acidic taste when they got stuck in the back of his throat and started to dissolve before he could mouth down a quick handful of water from the tap. He played it all back through his mind, and finally started to feel like he was getting a semblance of-

‘Ah, fuck,’ Augus cried out.

Ash was lost. His hand started moving on himself again. Augus sound disarmed, but there was no way – with that slow-moving hand, with his palm caressing his ribs – that he really knew what it was like to be taken apart. It was like Augus had read a manual on how to seduce someone. He was doing everything right, but there was no spontaneity in it. No wildness.

Ash wanted him wild.

He needed that.

When he looked back, Augus was still moving his hand against himself, but it wasn’t fast, it wasn’t a blur of motion. His back wasn’t arched off the stone, though he had started writhing fretfully from time to time, and his head was tilted to the side now, his bottom lip caught between his teeth and pained lines etched into his forehead.

Augus was enjoying himself, but he wasn’t taking himself apart.

Ash shook his head again, in disbelief. He had tears of frustration in his eyes, aroused and caught up in his own pleasure, embarrassed at what he was doing and unfamiliar with embarrassment, flushed and tangled in himself. He was so hard in his own hand, and so close, and he wanted to hold off so much.

Augus suddenly lifted his hand from his chest like he wanted to grab onto something and Ash couldn’t help himself.

It should be me.

Augus’ fingers splayed, curled around something invisible, and then lowered back down to the ground. Augus tilted his head back up to the sky again, his hips moved eagerly into what he was doing, he began to pant. Ash could hear that from where he was.

If Ash had anything to do with it, Augus would have started with panting, and then been pushed further to see where he’d end up. He ground his teeth together, bit at his tongue again. Trailed fingers away from his cock briefly and squeezed his own balls to hold himself off, to ground himself. He bit off a sound in his throat, but it was silenced by the wind, the sound of brush moving around him, Augus shifting on the stone.

Ash couldn’t wait any longer. He raised his hand back to his cock and jerked himself off rapidly, not caring for finesse or control, wanting the mess of it. His knees pressed into the dirt where he crouched, and he angled himself away from his clothing, breathing building in his chest, even as he stifled the sound of it.

His hips thrust forward as he came, he braced himself on damp leaf litter, watching Augus hungrily. And Augus, whether it was a miracle of timing, or his energy had somehow picked up on what was happening nearby, suddenly opened his mouth on a loud, unfettered gasp, and his neck arched. His hips lifted off the stone and he shot come over his torso, glinting white-green in the sunlight, striping across his skin. Ash’s mouth watered, his mind heat and lust as he came harder than he had in a long time, watching his brother, his hands, that body, knowing the perfect mind that lay behind it all.

He kept a hold of himself as he leaned his weight on his other hand, head tipping forwards, shock and arousal still racing through him.

That just happened. That just happened and you fucking let it happen.

Ash raised his head to look at Augus, body prickling with shame. He shouldn’t have stayed. This wasn’t fantasy. This wasn’t a dream he couldn’t control. This was something he chose without even really fighting himself over it. And now that arousal was starting to fade, as he softened in his own grip, a strange paranoia crept over him; that Augus would turn his head and stare condemnation at him. That he would be unwelcome now. That he had done the unacceptable, breached a fundamental trust.

His heart felt too big for his chest. He watched, as silent as possible, as Augus rested one hand in his hair, the other to the side of his cock, limp against his skin. His torso was wet with ejaculate and Ash flushed at the fact that he wanted to taste it so badly. That he had to, at some point, know. Was it anything like his own? He knew what he tasted like, that sort of thing had never bothered him. Did their being related – at least as predatory waterhorses – create similarities in the flavour? Or did their different lifestyles and diet change it?

It was Ash who left first. He tucked himself into his jeans behind his boxers, zipped and buttoned up his fly, moving the tag on the zip as slowly as possible so the sound didn’t alert Augus. And then he waited. He waited until the breeze picked up and the weeping willows and brushes were whispering and rustling, he waited until he could creep away unheard, tingling and mouth dry and determined to make sure that Augus never knew and paranoid that he would take one look at him and simply know.

Three hours later Ash turned on Augus’ doorstep again, telling himself that he could force the smile, he could make it work. And he was surprised, because when he saw Augus in his chair like always, reading a book on herbs and making notations in ink, his smile wasn’t forced. His heart fluttered painfully in his chest, but aside from that, he felt like this would be okay.

Augus looked up at him, offered a half-smile of welcome to see him, and Ash swore his heart skipped a beat.

‘You’re staying for a few days? I suppose it is early spring. Did you run out of people to fuck?’

No.

‘No such thing, brother. You know that,’ Ash said, walking across and jumping onto the couch, putting his feet up on the cushions and watching as Augus frowned at him. ‘You got any food?’

Augus’ eyes narrowed, and then he shrugged one shoulder.

‘Perhaps. For you? Probably not.’

But Augus got up and wandered into the pantry, and Ash closed his eyes, pressed his fist into his chest.

He wouldn’t ever bring it up, he knew that. But he knew he’d seared something into his own mind, into his cells; it was there now, he couldn’t unsee it.

It would be centuries before anything ever came of it.

Chapter Text

Augus

*

Ash started laughing again when he dragged Augus through the domed barrier leading into his underwater home. He’d been laughing a lot, in high, wild spirits, though he’d managed to stop himself for the brief time needed for Augus to teleport them back to his brother’s lake, turning them both into watery currents and crossing from the human world back into the fae world, to Ash’s home this time, instead of his own.

Augus knew that at any other time he’d be unimpressed – deeply unimpressed – but he’d been plied with gin and tonics and then straight vodka and he knew that meant that Ash wanted him to stay for the weekend. About every three years, Ash wanted him to stay for the weekend and seemed to think that Augus needed to be drunk for it to happen.

Augus didn’t need to be drunk for it to happen, just tipsy. He didn’t like staying at places other than his home, with his rooms, his pantry, his bed.

Ash shook his short, curly hair like a dog in his own foyer, shaking water out of it – a futile exercise, as waterhorse hair was perpetually damp. The foyer itself was nothing more than a cluttered space filled with sneakers and Converse and the leather boots Ash used for clubbing, jackets and coats tossed in a heap, many of them designer labels, all of them treated like they were second-hand. Ash scrubbed the excess water out of his hair with a gaudy, orange towel, and Augus looked for his own towel, the one Ash kept for him, the one that was a nice, charcoal grey. Ash simply ditched his own towel at Augus’ head.

Augus reached up and grabbed it, scowling at him.

‘I don’t want your damp, leftover towel. Where’s mine?’

‘Yeah, long story. I don’t have it.’

Augus towelled his own hair off by wrapping the towel around the length, and carefully squeezing the water out, sighing. Ash was watching him in that way he sometimes would when they were both drunk. Augus turned away from the eye contact, the way his hazel eyes gleamed at something Augus didn’t understand. Not only that, but when drunk, Ash’s glamour ratcheted up naturally. Even Augus could feel it, an electrical warmth that shimmered off him.

When Augus was done, he handed the towel back. His clothing – a special water-wicking fabric designed for freshwater fae – was already shedding the water, nearly dry. He shook his shirt to flick droplets off, but Ash – who had worn human clothing – simply stripped off his wet shirt as he walked into his home.

‘I’m getting changed, make yourself comfortable,’ Ash said, undoing the fly of his jeans even as he disappeared down the hall towards his own room.

Augus walked into the lounge and looked around. Very little had changed. The long, overstuffed, comfortable dark red couch to the right, an assortment of cushions – none of them matching – piled in one corner and on the ground beside it, next to folded and unfolded blankets, signs of the nests that Ash made for himself when he was recovering from benders, or wanted to watch DVDs. He had his own generator half-fuelled by magic, a television, a DVD player, gaming consoles that he rarely used except to play FIFA 13 when he was bored. There were DVDs scattered everywhere, along with their cases, gaudy and bright and housing a technology that Augus wasn’t interested in. There was a single, floor-to-ceiling bookshelf up against the wall leading to Ash’s kitchen, filled with high quality whisky, stacks of boardgames, several rows of philosophy books down the bottom.

To the right was a four seater table which had been used as a wide, flat shelf. Augus grimaced when he saw several of his own jars there, holding food that he’d dried himself. It wasn’t that Augus minded that Ash stole his food, it was that he really wanted the jars back. It didn’t matter how many times Augus asked, Ash took the jars too.

He was too tipsy to care much about it now. He walked over to the couch, by the lamp that Ash left lit all the time, whether he was home or not. He sank down, pulling a couple of cushions to himself and rearranging them so that one was behind him, the other next to him. He liked this couch. He’d chosen it himself, it had water-wicking fabric, was plush. He’d gotten it with Ash’s tastes in mind, but it was cosy, and it reminded him of his brother. He stretched his legs out, leaned back.

He could feel the alcohol working its way through him. His own poison reacted to it so that at times there were minute stabs of pain in his muscles. He was used to them now, miniature lightning strikes that danced under his skin. When Ash wasn’t there, he became more aware of them.

To distract himself, his eyes rolled and found the large, detailed map on the wall. It was covered in coloured thumb-tacks, post-it notes, notes in red sharpie. It detailed all the bars, pubs and cafes that Ash liked to visit or didn’t want to visit again. And where Augus’ lake was, a bare patch of wall behind a ripped off piece of map. Ash had scribbled a most unflattering sea monster face onto the map, and Augus had torn it away. Ash had simply scrawled a grumpy sea monster onto the wall behind it, directly onto the paint. Augus huffed when he saw it.

Not a sea monster. I really am most unfairly represented in the literature. Just because I eat humans here and there.

Ash bounded back into the room, far too energetic, and bounced onto the couch, lifting Augus’ legs by the ankles and then lowering them back down to his thighs. He started unbuckling one of Augus’ boots absently, and Augus tilted his foot to make the access easier.

‘So, as I was saying, I met this dominatrix and she was talking to me about like, her ‘art’ as she called it. Do you think of what you do as an art?’

‘It’s a job,’ Augus said, burrowing his shoulders down into the couch and getting more comfortable. ‘There’s an artform to it, but I imagine there’s an artform to you picking up someone different on a regular basis.’

‘Sarcasm, nice,’ Ash said, drawing Augus’ boot off and pressing the flat of his hand to Augus’ ankle. ‘And, actually, there is. You think, in this day and age, people just trust some strange guy buying them drinks? Doesn’t matter how much dra’ocht you’ve got, it’s harder than it used to be.’

He started working at the buckles of Augus’ other boot, and then tapped the sole speculatively.

‘I dunno, I just couldn’t do it. All those restraints and controls and rules and strictures. It’s just...don’t you ever just want to let loose?’

Augus rolled his eyes. This was a conversation they’d had before, though usually only when Ash was drunk. The rest of the time, any discussions about their sex lives tended to be restricted to jokes and light-hearted teasing.

Besides, Augus’ job was tied into his core energy of dominance. Where humans had souls, fae had heartsongs; cores of energy tied to a word or abstract concept, that governed their life, their decisions. Most fae knew their heartsongs, but some didn’t; and trauma could knock them free, shake them loose, forcing a new one to grow in their place. Augus saw many clients with toxic or blocked cores of energy, had been asked to break heartsongs so that new songs might grow in their place. His own core energy sang to him of dominance and mastery – of the self and of others – and he couldn’t help the way he lived his life. He cleaved to whatever might make that core within himself healthier, brighter; strong.

Ash slid the second boot off, then took off his socks, dropping them on the floor. Augus shivered when Ash rubbed his knuckles on the base of his foot. He tried to twitch his feet away, but Ash held on, rubbed just that little bit longer to prove that he could, then stopped.

‘Don’t you ever just take someone home and take them to your room because you want to?’

‘I don’t take people to my room,’ Augus said, face wrinkling.

Ash’s forehead furrowed.

‘What, not ever? What about people who aren’t clients?’

Augus shrugged.

‘Everyone’s a client.’

Ash stared at him, Augus could feel the weight of it on his face and looked at him, raising an eyebrow. He didn’t see what was so surprising about it. He could touch himself, bring himself off easily. And the clients gave him something else that he needed. And if there were any times in between that where he ever felt lonely, well...that was something everyone went through, and he dealt with it by foraging or hunting or simply preoccupying himself.

‘How come we’ve never talked about this?’ Ash said, voice faint. ‘Your complete lack of a personal life?’

‘Will you stop?’ Augus said, closing his eyes. ‘We do talk about this sort of thing. You ask me about my job every time you’re drunk. Maybe you should have gone home with that dominatrix, if you were so curious.’

‘I did,’ Ash said, laughing. ‘I was curious. It’s not really my kind of thing. I mean, I had a good time, she had a good time, but come on. Everything so controlled like that? Have you seriously never fucked anyone in your room? You’ve got that giant bed, you don’t need the whole thing to yourself.’

‘I can assure you I do,’ Augus said primly.

‘And no, fucking no, your job isn’t your personal life. Come on, Augus. How many centuries has it been, and you’re saying never?’

Ash leaned over, placed a hand at the top of his shin, curling it around him. It was an act of concern, Augus realised. He didn’t open his eyes. His brother was warmer than him, had always been warmer. It was nice, the contact, but he didn’t like feeling like he had to defend himself. Out of the two of them, Ash had always wanted that personal, intimate contact with people. Many people. But Augus was happy with the irregular contact he got with his brother, and the contact he got with his clients. He didn’t think he needed anything more.

The hand on his shin rubbed briefly, Augus hummed in the back of his throat.

‘You should do it just once,’ Ash said. ‘You know, for fun. People do that you know. Fuck for fun.’

‘You’ve met me,’ Augus said, wincing when the alcohol prickled up the length of his spine. ‘Do you think I’m the kind of person who-’

‘I know you’re not,’ Ash said with dark certainty. Augus opened one of his eyes, his eyebrows lowered in confusion.

Ash suddenly squeezed Augus’ leg, then shifted on the couch, shoved one of his legs to the side. He crawled over him, one hand bracing himself. Augus stared at him, shocked.

‘You’re missing out,’ Ash said.

Augus pushed lightly at his chest.

‘You’re really drunk.’

‘Not as drunk as you think I am,’ Ash said, staring down at him. Augus looked sideways, affected by the dra’ocht – his glamour. The alcohol must have made him more sensitive to it and he shifted, getting his elbows underneath himself. It just pushed him closer to Ash’s face. ‘You don’t want the mess of it? Like, ever? You must see how your clients get, underneath your hands. And you don’t get any of that yourself? Because you can’t lose control in a scene, can you? It’s all got to be just so, or you could fuck someone up. Don’t you just want to-’

‘I’m not interested in your way of doing things,’ Augus said, glaring. Ash was shorter than him, but broader. And like this, knees between his thighs, one arm up above his shoulder and staring down at him, Augus felt surrounded. He could smell whisky on his breath. Water dripped from Ash’s hair onto his own.

‘Because you’ve never done it before,’ Ash said, voice deepening. ‘I went and gave that dominatrix a fair try. And even I enjoyed myself and I didn’t think I would, tied up and gagged like that.’

Augus swallowed. That was...that was an interesting image. He closed his eyes briefly.

‘Oh, really?’ Ash said, his voice getting softer, his head sinking down so that when Augus’ eyes flew open, all he saw was curly brown hair, streaked liberally with red, waterweed cut short. Augus felt like he’d been caught out, his cheeks flushed. He tried to shift out from underneath his brother, realising that maybe he was just too drunk for this, and Ash placed a hand on his shoulder. ‘No, let’s just- What the fuck was that? Everything always happens on your terms, doesn’t it? Better not lose control. Better not fuck ‘just because.’ Better not do anything that falls outside the lines of the way you like it, all neat and shit.

‘Which means you don’t even know what it’s like to be fucked on that bed of yours, that giant bed, until it kind of hurts and you’re crying out because it still feels so good and you don’t know whether you want it to stop or keep going and it’s confusing as fuck but so worth it. And you don’t know what it’s like to have your ass eaten out by some fae who just wants to taste you, who would worship your body for so long you start to forget what it’s like to not be touched by someone else. And you don’t know the thrash of it, the noise of it, the fact that it can be beautiful, you just think of it as some out of control mess with no redeeming features and you are so, so wrong, brother. You know so much about so much, but in this you are so fucking wrong.’

Augus felt paralysed. His lungs were heaving but he could only get shallow breaths. He stared into Ash’s eyes, shocked, a hand curling into his shoulder and another by his face and water dripping down making slight, dull noises.

Ash leaned his head down lower, until Augus could feel his breath gusting against his ear. He swallowed thickly. The words were getting to him. The alcohol was getting to him. The fact that it was Ash. He felt like he’d been put on pause. He was distantly aware of arousal pooling in his groin, confusion moved up and down his body.

When Ash laughed in his ear, Augus shivered.

‘You’re not the only one with a reputation. Just because I like spontaneous and messy doesn’t mean I’m bad at it.’

He knew, he knew Ash was just playing with him, that he was just teasing him. He knew that, but parts of his body weren’t getting the memo. He could feel the glamour rolling off Ash now, waves of heat that sank through him, palpable and liquid. It was just the combination of the bar, which was where Ash became about a hundred times more mesmerising and charming than he usually was, and he was usually very charming, and it was the whisky and the fact that Ash wanted to win an argument and when he got in one of his moods, he could be a surprisingly vigorous debate partner. All that studying of human philosophy just made him argumentative when he was in the right frame of mind.

Like now.

But Augus didn’t feel like arguing. His breath was stuck in his throat, and he was – impossibly – hardening in his pants. He felt mortified.

Something in Ash’s face changed, as though he’d just realised what he’d said, how hard he was pushing. And as Augus reached up to push him away, Ash moved backwards. He looked away from Augus’ eyes, looked down, and froze.

Fuck.

Augus’ breathing stopped, he couldn’t move, he could feel his pulse hammering on both sides of his neck, his heartbeat in the back of his throat. Ash had noticed.

Augus placed a firm hand on Ash’s chest, pushed.

And then gasped.

Ash had lowered his own palm between Augus’ legs, where he was tenting his pants, and pressed down with similar pressure. Augus’ breath choked out somewhere in the back of his throat, and he stared up at Ash, thoughts scattering like leaves in a high wind. Ash was looking down at him now, a confident expression on his face, glamour rolling off him so thickly it made adrenaline race through Augus’ body. He looked like he was on the hunt, and Augus stared.

Ash’s hand was hot against him. Augus couldn’t move. Fear hammered in his chest, twisted up with something else that was unfamiliar, cloying.

Ash smirked.

‘You take care of me in everything else. Augus, maybe you could just let me take care of you for once, yeah?’

The hand against him massaged his cock and Augus made a short, strangled noise. The fear beat away whatever else he was feeling, it tangled a knot in every knob of his vertebrae, left him pushing at Ash’s chest again.

‘We should think this through,’ Augus said, voice breaking.

I’m hallucinating. Maybe this is one of those blackouts Ash has always told me about, maybe this is, oh fuck-

Ash leaned down again, pressed the heel of his palm down and ground it in the space where Augus’ cock met his balls and Augus clutched at a cushion, his arms were locked in place, he had forgotten how to breathe. This wasn’t happening. This could not be happening. Ash was his brother, Ash was not the person who-

‘That’s the problem, isn’t it? You thinking every little thing through?’

Ash braced himself on his own knees, reaching down with his other hand to flick open the button at Augus’ pants, deftly ease down the zip, and Augus was shifting, saw the intent in his brother’s eyes, saw that he meant it, that this wasn’t some game. Ash could say what he liked about not being as drunk as Augus thought he was, he was clearly out of his mind.

Ash’s hand was even warmer as he pulled Augus’ cock out of his pants with a rough, eager grip. And suddenly Augus’ breathing was audible, uneven, he couldn’t remember how he used to breathe, he didn’t think there was enough air in the room.

‘Come on,’ Ash crooned, flicking his eyes up once, before looking down at Augus’ cock again and squeezing with a friendly, firm grip. ‘Come on, if you’re worried about how it’s gonna be after, let’s just get this part out of the way so we can deal with it. Just-’

But Ash never finished his sentence. He spread his legs between Augus’, keeping his thighs apart so that one of Augus’ legs dropped off the side of the couch. He moved his hand quickly, and when Augus dropped back to the couch, Ash groaned like it was the one thing he’d been waiting for. He pinned Augus down by his shoulder, thumb digging into muscle even though it was hardly necessary, Augus couldn’t remember how to move.

He stared up at the ceiling, spread and pinned, mind blank. Ash’s hand was warm, as warm as he was, getting hotter because of the friction, and he touched Augus in a way that Augus never touched himself. He’d never been taken in a grip like that before by anyone. It was almost rough and so fast, like Ash only wanted one thing from him, and Augus cried out when he realised Ash was going to get it.

Ash’s hand shifted on his shoulder, clenched and unclenched, and then fingers dug into his hair and held him down, knotted and twisted and Augus’ gaze snapped down, shocked. Ash was staring at him, eyebrows pulled together, lips thinned, his own breath coming harsh out of his nostrils. Augus didn’t know that expression, hadn’t ever seen it before, but there was a hunger there, a determination, and Ash’s hand gripped harder around him, too hard, and Augus’ mouth dropped open on a single cry.

When he started panting, hips bucking up into Ash’s hand, Ash’s face cleared and he beamed.

Augus squeezed his eyes shut, it cracked something inside of his chest, seeing that face at this moment, and he cried out again, shaking his head. Words were starting to flash in his mind, words like wait and stop and fuck and Ash. His hand came up and fisted in Ash’s shirt, panicked and unused to panic, sensation racing through him, finding its way through every vein until he couldn’t think.

Ash chuckled under his breath and the hand in his hair unknotted, suddenly stroked in the way he’d always done, familiar and intimate and sweetly attentive. Ash pressed his lips to Augus’ ear, slicked his tongue wetly across it, then said:

‘Turns out you like my way a lot, yeah?’

Augus’ hips jerked up, and Ash’s hand was there, meeting and encouraging the spasm of it, pulling him up as he thrust up and shoving him down again when the tension abated. It was rough, messy, and Augus couldn’t close his eyes and saw instead the curls of Ash’s hair right in front of his face as he shudder-gasped through his release, striping Ash’s hand, looking at his brother’s hair. Augus was panting, mind spiralling away, fear clawing at the base of his spine.

He’d done something wrong, he was the big brother, and at some point he was supposed to say, ‘no, Ash, that’s enough.’

But he’d never been able to say that to Ash, and it had neveroccurred to him that he might need to say it for something like this.

Ash still had his hand wrapped around him, lighter, but not going anywhere. He lifted his head and stared into Augus’ eyes. His gaze roved over his face, looking for something, watching as he gathered his breath.

‘World didn’t end, did it?’ Ash breathed.

Augus wasn’t so sure.

Ash’s eyes narrowed, the hand at his cheek fisted back down into his hair again. Augus winced, was trying to gather his thoughts together, and Ash pressed his lips to Augus’, hard, opened his own mouth, forcing Augus’ open. He pressed his tongue inside like this was something they had been doing all their lives, no hesitancy, no reluctance, only the dim sound of Ash’s moan as he pushed his tongue so deep that Augus felt the tip of it curl up at the back of his mouth. He made a choked off sound without thinking, still catching his breath, small gusting breaths bouncing off Ash’s cheek.

It was when Ash started tongue-fucking him that Augus realised this was the brother who had drawn a frowny face over his lake on the map, and the brother who had stolen his favourite pair of shoes even though Augus was a size larger than him, and the brother who he’d lain upon during his night terrors and nightmares, and the one he’d foraged apples for and the one who came over after hangovers and now-

The worst part was how good it all felt.

No. No, you imbecile! That’s not the worst part!

But panic scattered in front of him, became a sprawling, dull background noise as Ash bit into his upper lip, his lower, sucking like he wanted to soothe the bites or aggravate them, and Augus wasn’t used to this, kissing was always something he had control over. But in this, Ash had started with taking over, and he was way ahead of Augus now, dragging him along. And somehow, even with the painful grip in his hair, the fingertips pressed through his mane were still gently scraping at his scalp even now – he couldn’t help but find it soothing, they’d had that for centuries.

Augus made a sound of confusion, and closed his eyes, shut out Ash’s skin too close to his face and the dim lighting and Ash’s home in the hopes that-

It was worse.

Because turning his sight to the black-red of his eyelids made him become aware of Ash’s scent, which was whiskey and the muddy silt of a waterhorse who didn’t live the same sort of lifestyle that Augus did, it was the taste of him inside Augus’ mouth, it was human aftershave that made him smell surprisingly good, like pine and cedar forests and leather. It was Ash being everywhere, somehow, and still between his legs and Augus was acutely aware of the smell of sex between them, of his own sweat, and he knew Ash would still be hard and there was an instinct in him to return the favour but he didn’t think he could ever move again, not with the way Ash was now exploring the inside of his mouth like he’d bought something and wanted to be sure he’d got what he’d paid for.

Ash let go of Augus’ hair suddenly, still kissing him with increasing force, bruising his lips. His hand moved in between them both and there was the precise sound of a button being released with ease and Augus couldn’t help it, he laughed in disbelief, moving his mouth away. Except that he couldn’t move his mouth away, because Ash followed the movement and slipped his tongue back inside. When Augus lightly closed his teeth over Ash’s tongue, a warning, Ash only groaned into his mouth, sending his voice vibrating through him from the inside. Augus’ breath hitched, he whimpered.

The sound of a zip, and then Ash dropped his hand to the inside of Augus’ thigh and rubbed long, slow strokes over the material, and Augus swore it was like his pants weren’t there at all. He shuddered as Ash drew back. Augus’ head wasn’t even on the cushions anymore, gravity was making blood rush to his head.

‘Hey, Augus, you’d better believe I’m not done yet,’ Ash said, his pupils huge, eclipsing the green of them and forcing them to a ring of hazelnut brown. Augus swallowed.

‘I-’

‘I know you better than anyone else,’ Ash said, hoarse. ‘Better than anyone, and I know you’re scared, and maybe-’

‘You like it,’ Augus said, and he didn’t know that’s what he was going to say, but once the words were out of his mouth he realised how true it was. Those large pupils staring down at him, the sudden twist of Ash’s mouth in acknowledgement.

‘I like everything,’ Ash said, but his voice was strained and he sounded trapped. ‘And we’re going to fuck, pretty much now.’

A hand down at the hem of his pants, tugging with the kind of force that would remove them even without Augus’ help, and Augus eyes widened for an entirely different reason.

He didn’t let himself get fucked by people, his core energy of dominance snarled awake after having stayed mysteriously dormant. He reared up, biting hard at Ash’s bottom lip, drawing blood. Ash flinched at the first sting of pain, and then crashed back down over Augus, making a hungry, welcoming noise and biting back just as hard as soon as Augus let go. And Augus felt the moment teeth pierced his skin, felt a blossom of heat against them which wasn’t spit, but blood mixing. He shuddered again, holding back the moan that threatened to spill.

Because he liked it; damn him, he liked it.

‘You’re not fucking me,’ Augus said, as Ash squeezed the inside of his thigh, laughed darkly.

Augus’ eyes narrowed and he kicked up with his arms and legs and shoved him off. He pushed himself up, dazed and his core of dominance pulling anger from somewhere inside of him even though he didn’t want to be angry. This was too confusing for anger, but there it was. Ash was staring at him from the floor, hunger and trepidation on his face in a combination that made him look more vulnerable than Augus had seen in some time. He had Augus’ come on his hand, striping up his wrist. Augus became suddenly, painfully aware of himself, and his legs shifted together.

‘You are certainly not fucking me on some couch,’ Augus hissed, even as his arms trembled, even as Ash pushed himself upright and grinned at Augus with so much promise it made his spine go stiff. Ash grabbed his wrist and tugged hard, and Augus had no choice but to follow, staggering upright, feeling like the ground beneath him wasn’t working properly. His other hand tucked himself back into his pants, he flushed.

‘Fine, we’ll do that later,’ Ash said, and Augus realised he was being tugged to Ash’s room.

Wait-

‘You’re not fucking me at all,’ Augus said, and Ash only laughed. It wasn’t even dark or threatening anymore, but cheerful, accommodating.

‘Ash,’ Augus said, but the laughter was infectious. It was one more laugh adding to hundreds of years of laughter that soothed at him, eased him. He didn’t even know if Ash knew that his laughter did that. And he wasn’t digging his heels in, he wasn’t grabbing at doorframes or the wall. He was lagging behind, he was uncertain, but he was following.

And Ash’s room wasn’t like the rest of his house, in that it was always clean even if it was a little cluttered, designed to be cosy. Ash had asked Augus to get his entire bedroom suite for him, and Augus knew all this furniture. He knew the katalox he’d sourced himself when Ash had said he liked dark red woods, he’d travelled to Mexico to look for the best woodgrain and imported it back. Everything in here was hand-made, designed for Ash’s comfort, his lifestyle. There was a daybed made out of the same wood, a cupboard, chest of drawers, a storage box at the base of the bed for extra blankets because Ash and an excess of blankets were a necessity.

The quilt was new, black and-

Ash pushed him back onto it, and Augus threw his hands out just in time, but he still landed awkwardly.

‘Ash, we need to think about...’

Ash was stripping and Augus subsided, eyes wide. He’d seen Ash naked before, countless times. He’d stripped him down himself for showers, and for those very few, unfortunate times when Ash had actually thrown up on himself and blacked out before Augus could finish yelling at him. But this was...not like that. And when Ash took off his shirt and exposed the chest beneath, the musculature, Augus couldn’t keep himself detached from what he was seeing.

Ash had just had his hands down Augus’ pants. He still had Augus’ come on his wrist, on parts of his hand. Augus was so busy staring at that, he missed the part where Ash was suddenly naked, clothing creased on the floor beneath him. Augus blinked, refused to linger on Ash’s very obvious erection, and met his eyes instead.

‘Turn over,’ Ash said, and Augus exhaled hard. Swallowed. No one talked to him like that. Ever. It felt like sandpaper against the resistant core of himself but he didn’t care, he shoved that away as much as he could. His gut ached, and Ash walked towards him, the two short steps he needed to stand over his own bed, looking down at him.

This isn’t happening. This is not...this must be a blackout, and I will wake up tomorrow morning, and make Ash so sorry that he made me drink so much vodka and-

Ash leaned down and threaded his other hand through Augus’ hair, the motion sensual and even loving. But when Ash pressed his lips to Augus’ ears, he dug his tongue inside carnally, and Augus squirmed without thinking, his breathing – never quite having returned to normal – became shallower.

‘Brother, turn over,’ Ash said again, directly into his ear, like he didn’t care that Augus’ core was dominance. And this, Augus suspected, was not the easy, charming person that many humans saw. This was the hunter. And Augus wanted to laugh, because Ash hated that side of himself, hated that he was Unseelie and predatorial and at his core, loved to tear order and lives apart.

And you could, you could blame this on the alcohol. You could blame this on a lot of things. Temporary insanity. You could...you could do it, if it only happened once, perhaps.

If this ever happened to him, if he ever let it happen, there had only ever been one person he trusted enough to do it with. Augus took a deep breath and pushed himself backwards on the bed, until his legs were on it properly. And then – feeling hypnotised and wondering if this was what compulsions felt like – turned over, flat, onto his stomach. Propping himself up on his forearms and staring down at the quilt which was worked over with a fine, tasteful, chestnut embroidery. It was...Augus liked it very much.

A drawer opened before Ash got on the bed, and then a tube of lubricant was tossed in front of him, landing a few inches away from the side of his head. Augus flushed, even as the bed dipped as Ash crawled onto it. Even as Ash straddled his still-clothed hips and dragged blunt fingernails down his side, stirring an eddy of sensation through him that made him arch into the touch. It was the tube of lubricant that held his concentration.

‘I forgot you don’t know what foreplay is,’ Augus said, laughing again, bordering on hysterical. Ash laughed too, the sound muted. And then his hand tangled up in Augus’ hair and pulled tight, dragged his head back, his neck taut and Augus resisted, tugging back down again, feeling exposed and raw even though he wasn’t the one who was naked, but Ash applied a steady pressure until Augus had no choice but to arch backwards, staring up, breathing uneven.

Ash lowered his own head down alongside Augus’, nuzzled him briefly, scented him with one long, steady inhale. Augus’ heart wouldn’t stop beating a relentless tattoo inside his chest, far faster than usual.

Ash curled over him, shifting up until he straddled his waist, and then fingers were rubbing at his lips, which turned and became a single movement that left a smear of his own come against his mouth. Augus’ eyes squeezed shut, and Ash was laughing again, under his breath this time, as his hand returned and he was rubbing Augus’ come into his lips, dipping his fingers inside when Augus’ mouth opened on a gasp, spreading the taste of himself on his tongue.

‘Does this count as foreplay?’ Ash practically purred. ‘Does it, Augus?’

Augus licked at Ash’s fingers, not wanting to be outdone, and never having had a problem with tasting himself, tasting others. He curled his tongue over Ash’s skin, over his own release, and laved off what he could access with a single, sensual movement. Ash swore above him, his hand tightened in his hair and Augus winced as it stretched several strands of waterweed at the roots. Ash eased up immediately, but presented his wrist so that Augus would keep cleaning him off.

And halfway through, Ash leaned down and chased Augus’ tongue back into his mouth, chased the taste of Augus, sucking on his tongue until Augus moaned against him and shifted his hips fretfully on the bed. His cock had stirred again.

Ash wasn’t letting up, alternately presenting those parts of his hand and wrist that still required cleaning, or kissing his way into Augus’ mouth even though the angle was awkward. And when he slid back, he bit gently at the side of his jaw, licked at the sensitive underside until Augus hissed out an exhale.

Ash laughed at that too.

‘You can blame it on being drunk, if you like,’ Ash said, and Augus paused in the motion of chasing the last stripe of release off the back of Ash’s hand, his tongue pausing against his skin.

Augus knew an out when he was given one. But he was getting hard again

He was dimly aware of how rocked his core energy was. That something fundamental to his being was being cracked. It was so jarred that it had almost been shoved entirely out of his mind and was nothing but a distant, discordant broadcast.

‘I’m not really that drunk,’ Augus said.

Ash pressed his hand into Augus’ tongue, reminding him that he wasn’t done. Augus licked the rest off and then closed his mouth, rolling his tongue experimentally, tasting himself, tasting Ash. It was disorienting.

‘Interesting,’ Ash said, and Augus felt a brief flare of shame move through him. Was he supposed to say that he was drunk? Ash would know that he wasn’t. Was he supposed to take the out? This was unfamiliar territory. This was like no game he had ever played in his life.

‘This is only happening once,’ Augus added.

Ash pressed a single, tender kiss to Augus’ forehead.

‘You’re so fucking cute, brother,’ Ash said, indulgent. ‘Take your clothes off. Start with your shirt.’

Augus was committed now, had decided not to take the out, and Ash helpfully got off him as Augus removed his shirt quickly, even taking his shirt from him and tossing it behind him on the floor, somewhere in the vicinity of his own clothing. Ash reached down with his hands, one still damp with Augus’ saliva, and helped him with his pants, and Augus was nervous and unaccountably shy and determined not to show any sign of it. And he was coming up with reasons as to why this shouldn’t happen, and reasons for why this was happening, and nothing resolved into proper sentences. All the words knocked into each other and then floated away on a rapid current, far out of reach.

The only words that spilled from his mouth were words that he didn’t want Ash to know. Not Ash, who had experienced everything.

‘I haven’t done this before. Not...like this.’

I haven’t been fucked before.

Ash paused, his hand an inch away from picking up the tube of lubricant. The pause only lasted a second, and then he seized it up and flipped the cap back.

‘You’re thinking too much,’ Ash said roughly, and Augus jerked when the flat of a hand pressed against his lower back. ‘You’ve always thought too much. Do you want me to take your mind off things? Hm?’

And then Ash’s hand was between his legs, slick and cool from the lubricant and coasting over the back of his balls, trailing a long, wet line up between the cleft of his ass and Augus stiffened further, made to shift, because right, apparently Ash didn’t believe in foreplay, and this was a far cry from the studied, serious scenes that Augus set up with his clients, it was-

Augus choked on his own breath when Ash dragged his fingers up and down over the entrance of him.

But the movement was steady and repetitive, didn’t vary a great deal, and Ash was leaning alongside him and kissing him again, rubbing his lips over Augus’, distracting him with texture and warmth and the softness of his lips. And a minute passed where Augus relaxed into the bed, opening his mouth wider against Ash’s, inviting him inside, but Ash didn’t accept the invitation. Kept sucking Augus’ bottom lip into his mouth, running his tongue along it before letting go. And always those fingers between his legs, far too familiar, like they’d always been there.

Augus thought there would be a sign, a signal, that Ash would check.

Instead, Ash slid his tongue deeply inside Augus’ mouth, and slid his index finger deep into Augus’ ass at the same time, up to the third knuckle. Augus made a sharp sound, shocked, clenched automatically even though he knew what fingers felt like in his own ass. Knew, because he’d done it to himself many times, he liked it. But this was...different fingers, Ash, and he now that he’d started shaking he couldn’t seem to stop.

Ash was laughing against his lips, slicking his tongue back and forth over Augus’ and matching the rhythm with his finger, long strokes almost all the way out, and then pushing deeply back in again. Augus whined against him, became aware of something fractured inside of himself. He tore his mouth away from Ash’s and cried out, distressed, because it felt good, but something was wrong. Something had gone wrong inside himself.

‘Hey, hey now, Augus, easy, easy brother, I’ve got you. I’ve always had you.’

A swoop of nausea in his gut, and a sudden sense that something within himself was missing, like an organ had been removed.

‘I don’t feel...’ well.

‘Is it your core?’ Ash said, like he’d known all along. And Augus gasped under the weight of it. He nodded rapidly, panicked. Light, tender kisses were suddenly pressing into his temple, his cheekbone, the side of his nose, the side of his mouth. Each one lingered for a few seconds before moving on, and Augus leaned into it blindly, distracted by the finger that kept rhythmically thrusting into him, finding basic things like breathing difficult.

Ash pushed a second finger into him and Augus’ forehead dropped to the mattress. There was a burn now, which he knew to expect. Ash wasn’t exactly going slow, though he was being thorough. Everything was slick and warm, and Augus was overheating, his temperature climbing upwards with each steady push of Ash’s fingers into his body.

And still Ash kept kissing the side of his face, even his hair, the curve of his ear. He was so gentle that his stubble hardly scraped. And Augus was hard, shifting against the mattress, the friction a delicious counterpoint to everything, the one thing he felt he had any control over.

Ash lingered with two fingers, the rhythm firm and relentless, opening Augus up and finding the pace of Augus grinding into his mattress and following it. Pushing him down further when Augus pushed down, increasing the pressure, making it coil and spool through him with a heat that snagged at his internal organs, his nerves.

Augus couldn’t catch his breath, and Ash forced a raw sound from his throat when he pushed in particularly hard, sandwiching his cock into the quilt. He could feel the embroidery against his skin, a rough texture alongside the satin-smoothness of the rest of it. He moaned softly.

‘Augus,’ Ash said, with a reverence that floored him. ‘You are so, so good, brother.’

Augus bit off a sob, because Ash wouldn’t stop using that word, and Augus – gods help him – didn’t want him to.

The two fingers crooked inside of him, rubbed against his prostate, and Augus bit his tongue too hard trying to keep the cry back in his throat, and then couldn’t keep a hold of it when Ash withdrew his fingers and came back with three, working his way in with a steady pressure. Augus had never opened himself up this quickly before, he didn’t know it was possible, and it still didn’t feel entirely possible. The stretch of it was sharp, and it didn’t matter how much lubricant there was, he ached.

Ash didn’t say anything, though he did pause at one point to add more lubricant, pressing the tip of the tube directly against Augus and squeezing some in. The cold of it was shocking, and Augus made a sound of protest, but Ash ignored that too, sliding his fingers back in and twisting them to distribute more of it. Augus pulled at the quilt, his claws digging in. Without thinking about it, he arched his hips back into Ash’s fingers, unable to stop the low moan he made.

‘Right,’ Ash said, as though Augus had said something.

He kept his fingers inside of Augus as he moved over him, spreading his knees between Augus’ legs and widening them as he slicked himself up with even more lubricant. Augus dimly wondered if Ash was going to run out, and then it suddenly hit him what was happening and he stiffened on the bed, clenched around Ash’s fingers. His whole body was overheated but at the core of him was a coldness he couldn’t chase away. He wanted this. He didn’t want it. He was confused.

Ash stroked several long, firm lines down from his shoulder to the curve of his ass, and then leaned over him, bracing himself on an arm. Augus twisted his head, saw Ash’s own fingers digging into the quilt until his knuckles went white.

‘Ash...’

Ash slid his forearm underneath Augus’ hips and lifted him as though he weighed nothing, his hand moving restlessly underneath him before finding his cock, hard and leaking up against his own belly. Ash chuckled, rubbed the precome into his skin, and then fisted his hand around Augus’ cock and pumped it a few times, and Augus wanted to thrust forwards, felt empty, didn’t think he could stop now but knew that he should.

Ash withdrew his hand, reached behind Augus and then Augus felt like he was swallowing his own heart back down again when the head of Ash’s cock pushed in just enough that Ash could let go of himself. He removed his hand and braced the other by Augus’ face, his forearm pressing alongside Augus’.

Augus opened his mouth to tell him to take it easy, at least, when the breath was forced out of his lungs. Ash simply pushed forwards, and when Augus, shocked at the width of him – wider than anything else he’d ever used on himself –pushed forwards to try and control how fast Ash was entering him, Ash immediately reached back and grasped Augus’ hip in his hand, holding him still, pressing bruises into his skin. Augus whined, speechless, as Ash simply forced his way inside.

Augus felt split already. He wasn’t used to this, and Ash wasn’t practicing slow and steady. When Ash pushed past the point his fingers had reached and was still going, still finding new territory to fill, Augus made a choked, panicked noise because this was too much and he couldn’t. The dull ache flared into something sharper, and he opened his mouth to protest but could only manage a single, accented syllable of sound.

Ash’s hand didn’t gentle on his hip, instead pulling him back, breath gusting hard from his mouth. And Augus blinked away an additional sting of tears, shifting around the fullness of it, squirming beneath him, trying to make it easier on himself. But Ash had never been particularly thoughtful with Augus, it wasn’t like Augus had ever taught him to be, and Ash didn’t stop until his hips were flush against Augus’ ass, until he was fully seated, too deep and making Augus’ whole body feel like it was heading towards a cramp.

Ash started moving, not waiting for Augus to adjust, he withdrew halfway and then thrust back in, and Augus yanked on the quilt in response, mind sparking into flares of light followed by flashes of black as Ash rolled his hips on the downstroke, pressing against more of him, making room where Augus was sure there wasn’t any. He’d never felt anything like this, and he could feel the core of dominance inside himself fracturing, a rift splitting it down the middle, and it was a cold, cloying ooze deep within and he choked as Ash thrust back into him again, tears coming to his eyes, because it was happening and he hadn’t stopped it and he had been the one to turn around on the bed and the one to take his own clothes off and he was the one with his legs spread wondering why it felt so good.

Augus sobbed again – only just realising he was making the sound – when Ash paused, snaking one of his arms underneath Augus’ chest and holding him close, breath even shakier than Augus’ was. He was buried deep, Augus couldn’t not be aware of him everywhere, the scent of him, the taste of him in his mouth, how invaded he felt, and now Ash was holding him to his chest, curly hair pressing into the back of his head, breath gusting out against him.

Augus shifted to ease how full he felt, and Ash shook his head against him. Held him tighter.

‘Just give me a second,’ Ash said, and Augus almost laughed, still blinking tears out of his eyes.

Ash hadn’t given him any seconds at all.

Augus’ head dropped forward and he bit at his bottom lip, wincing as his teeth dug into wounds already made and not yet healed. He could taste the coppery sweetness of his own blood and licked at it.

You didn’t wait for me, brother.

Augus bit his tongue and pushed his hips back up, making a strangled sound as he felt even more full. Ash, in turn, groaned.

‘Augus,’ Ash said, complaint edging through him.

Augus did it again. If he didn’t get to wait, Ash didn’t get to wait.

Ash responded by withdrawing a couple of inches and thrusting in so hard that it was a moment of sharp pain inside him. It knocked the breath right out of his lungs so that Augus had to gasp to get it back again.

‘A few seconds,’ Ash snarled, and Augus sobbed out a breath of laughter and pushed back again, grinding up into Ash’s pelvis and swallowing down any noises that wanted to spill at the pain of it, the fullness of it. He hadn’t been prepared enough, Ash hasn’t gone slow enough, and now he wanted to stop?

Not likely.

‘Augus, you-’

And the arm under his chest slid down forcibly until it was wrapped underneath his hips, brushing against the head of him, still hard. And Ash withdrew and undulated back in rapidly, seizing any breath from Augus’ lungs and leaving him unable to stop himself from crying out on every exhale. Ash had the same upward curve that Augus did, and when he moved like that...

Ash stayed deep, and Augus would swear to himself later that he wasn’t crying, his cheeks weren’t wet, and he would forget the worst of the pain, because the more Ash drove into him, the more he found himself taken over by a myriad of sensations, too much far too fast, and it stole thoughts from his mind and left him – mouth open against the blankets – holding onto the bed, feeling like he was falling from a great height and unable to stop himself.

‘Ah,’ Augus exhaled on every breath, Ash groaning above him like the sounds he was making were even better than being inside of him. And Augus felt Ash’s name on the tip of his tongue, felt it there and didn’t want to spill it because it would make it all real, and he didn’t know why that, of all things, would make it real, but he knew that it would, and he was scared that this was their reality now.

But Ash didn’t stop moving, and he demanded things from Augus’ body that Augus didn’t know he had to give. Sensations. Words.

‘A-sh,’ Augus said, voice breaking.

The arm bracing Ash’s body inched closer to Augus’ head and then a hand buried in his mane and forced his head sideways uncomfortably. And Augus didn’t want that, knew why Ash was doing it, and couldn’t stop himself from saying what Ash wanted him to say.

‘Ash, fuck, Ash.’

Once he started, he couldn’t stop. Ash’s name was a single, short syllable. Augus had chosen it. But now it became some filthy prayer that he couldn’t scour out of his mouth and in that moment he felt close to Ash and so far away from him he didn’t know if he’d ever reach him again. After all, wouldn’t Ash have heard this from hundreds of humans before? From food? And Augus had always sworn that he gave Ash something different but here he was...giving something to Ash that Ash could get from anyone, all the time.

Augus sobbed and closed his mouth, he didn’t want to know this about himself. That he would give himself away like this, so easily and cheaply, because it was Ash.

‘Keep saying it,’ Ash rasped, and Augus shook his head. He thought Ash might thrust harder for that, but instead Ash shifted gears and suddenly Augus found himself claimed with longer, slower strokes that moved through him like a current. He opened his mouth without thinking and panted, heat flooding him and burning through his veins.

The panic that had dimmed in the background, dragged down by sensation, flared into life and Augus opened his mouth to it because it was too much. And then suddenly he was hyperventilating because it felt too good, and he couldn’t breathe properly and he just needed a break, he should have taken that break when Ash offered it because he needed it now and he couldn’t find his breath because Ash kept chasing it out of him.

Ash had gentled the hand in Augus’ hair and was smoothing fingers over his scalp and saying something and Augus had to blink and concentrate to hear it over the white noise in his head, over the rushing, burning wave of it moving through his body.

‘...got you. Augus, brother, I’m here. You can trust me, okay? I’m here.’

Augus nodded, needed the words, held onto them like a lifeline even though he’d neverdrowned before, not once in his entire life. Each word that Ash murmured to him was a word he clutched, held close to himself.

But Ash wasn’t done, he shifted his arm where it was underneath Augus and lifted his hips as he withdrew, then curled his hand around his cock, the grip as merciless as when they’d been on the couch. And Augus was vaguely aware that he was wailing and that he had nevermade that sound before in his entire life, and Ash’s hips stuttered into his and pressed so deeply that Augus thought he could feel Ash in the back of his throat. Then he felt it, and additional rush of warmth inside of him. A heat that was Ash spilling inside of him, wave after wave of it, and Augus stared blindly into Ash’s room even as the hand moved around him with a rough finesse that shouldn’t be allowed while Ash was in the middle of coming.

Augus stiffened as release found him a second time, turning his spine to liquid and forcing his eyes shut. He was silent through it, having no energy left for sound, only violent tremors that rocked him, caused him to clench around Ash who swore above him, made him pull the quilt in folds around himself without realising.

Ash again, speaking into his ear, sounding reverent:

‘...Augus, Augus, Augus, brother, yes.’

Augus nodded, he hardly knew what he was nodding at. He winced when Ash withdrew, and started to curl up on the bed, but Ash was shifting quickly to his side and wrapping both of his arms around him, pulling him close until Augus was half on top of his torso, and Ash was kissing his cheek, his still-open mouth. Augus fell boneless on top of him, emotionally wrung out, physically spent.

Ash tugged at the quilt until he could throw it over them both, and then he reached up with a shaking hand and smoothed strands of hair away from Augus’ face, where they had clung stubbornly when he’d started writhing on the bed. He seemed to notice how many tears he’d shed, and his hand paused on Augus’ face, and then his fingers started carefully wiping them away. It was then he must have realised that Augus was still teary, still shaking.

‘Oh, Augus,’ Ash breathed, but he didn’t sound sympathetic, he sounded hungry. ‘Rest, brother. It’s going to be okay. I promise.’

Augus shook his head, but he didn’t have anything to say, and he was tired. He needed, at the very least, to doze. His mind was too cluttered, he was too worn.

‘Rest,’ Ash crooned.

Augus drifted, his breathing slowing and eventually syncing with Ash’s deeper, slower breaths. The arms that wrapped around him were tight, secure, and Augus lay his head down by Ash’s, pressed the side of his face into Ash’s face needily. And Ash returned the pressure, always matched him, and then turned and pressed kisses into the side of his head, each one gentle and settling.

Augus was nearly asleep when he felt Ash’s arm shift. He thought nothing of it until two fingers slid between his ass cheeks and probed at his entrance. Augus squirmed, uncomfortable, and Ash hushed him and then pushed inside. Augus jerked, eyes fluttering open in shock, the fingers not thrusting but just staying there, reminding him of everything that had just happened.

He started to lift his head, but Ash shook his.

‘Shhh, brother. Just rest.’

Augus blinked, disoriented. Ash’s fingers twitched inside of him and he was hyperaware of it, how was he supposed to sleep? He opened his mouth to protest, but the words wouldn’t come. He was so tired.

He didn’t think it would be possible for sleep to find him, Ash’s fingers shifting lazily inside of him, occasionally reaching up to deliberately play with the rim of him, but the more time passed, the more he realised that they weren’t going anywhere, and he didn’t want to move away from his brother, and he didn’t think he could find the words to tell him to cut it out.

Besides...a traitorous part of him liked it.

For reasons he didn’t quite understand, he liked it a lot. And so he drifted off to sleep only fifteen minutes later, sparks flashing behind his eyelids like distant, white fireworks.

*

When he woke up, fingers were still at his entrance, stretching him lazily. He hissed, because he was sore, and as soon as Ash realised he was awake, the fingers plunged into him and Augus cried out, pulling away. Or he tried to, a hand at his chest pressed him back into Ash’s body. Ash was spooning him, one arm still underneath him, the other manoeuvring between his legs.

‘Ash,’ Augus said, because this was only meant to happen once.

‘Don’t be angry,’ Ash said, and he sounded...Augus couldn’t pick the tone. He sounded upset. Augus wanted to turn, to see his expression, but two fingers became three and Augus whined, he was sore. Ash hadn’t gone easy on him before, and he wasn’t used to this, his body wasn’t accustomed.

‘We have- We have to talk about this.’

Augus was surprised at how thick his voice was. His face felt scratchy, he needed a shower. There was a dull throb in the base of his spine and he needed water. A lot of it. He was thirsty.

‘I know,’ Ash said, and then withdrew his fingers. ‘I know.’

Augus breathed a quiet sigh of relief, and then his eyes flew open when Ash hooked his leg up and back over his hip, and then pressed at his entrance.

‘Ash,’ Augus warned, and he realised, with a shock, that he’d thrown compulsion into his tone without realising. Ash was immune, they were both immune to compulsions; yet he’d still tried. His heart was pounding again, because Ash wouldn’t, not again.

‘Just give me this, brother, and then we’ll talk.’

And with no preamble, he slid inside and pulled Augus back into him at the same time. Augus couldn’t move, eyes wide, his mind setting off small detonations in his head and larger ones all along his vertebrae, soreness and warmth vying together. If anything, now that he was over-sensitive and felt more raw, Ash felt even larger than he had before he’d slept. Augus whimpered, and Ash leaned over him, pushing deeper.

‘Just like that, Augus. Just like that.’

He’d spent all his life sure he’d never know what drowning felt like, only to find out that he was so, so wrong.

Chapter Text

Ash

*

Ash had an amazing imagination when it came to matters of sex. He’d daydreamed and fantasised of what things might be like with he and Augus – at first furtively, and then extensively, then furtively again in long, awful cycles that ate away at him and made him hate himself. But the daydreams, what he’d imagined, all of that had been incredible.

This was so much better than what he’d imagined.

He knew Augus wasn’t accustomed to this, could feel it in the shaking of his body, could hear it in the desperate hitches of his breath as he tried to keep down sounds that Ash wanted to suck into his own mouth, store inside his body. He knew Augus wasn’t accustomed to it the moment he wrapped his hand around his cock and thought that Augus fit perfectly, watched his expressions as he took him apart, drinking up every reaction and realising that his imagination just couldn’t ever compare to seeing Augus react in the flesh. He couldn’t have guessed the way his eyebrows would move up and then together, it made him look confused and aroused and vulnerable at once. He couldn’t have predicted how his fingers would shake, or the way his shoulders would telegraph every gasp, every shuddered sigh.

He’d intended to stop, not that he’d had a clear idea of what he was doing when he started, but he knew that he’d intended to stop afterwards. He would have stopped after the hand job and just left it as an experience between them, one where he’d given Augus something to think about, one where Augus would be left hanging on sensations and images he couldn’t get out of his head for a change. He thought it would sate the rift of longing inside of him. He thought that once he was done, reality would set in and he’d be scrambling to do damage control.

But all his life, there had been a line inside of him. An invisible line which constituted the point of no return once crossed. He loathed hunting humans right up until he crossed that line, and then when he compelled them back to his lake – sometimes even before he changed into waterhorse form – he threw himself into what he had been resisting all along. He loved the hunt. It was possible he loved it even more than Augus did. Chasing new humans to bed every weekend and many weeknights, hunting for prey on an irregular basis, even looking for new bars and pubs to frequent, all of it barely managed to satisfy a hunger inside him that he’d had since he was very young.

That hunger existed alongside care, compassion and even guilt and remorse over the way he lived his life. He’d never learned how to navigate it all, how to be aware of that dark hunger seething inside of him and accept it, not simply shove it away with a hard kick and look towards the nicer things instead.

When he crossed that line, when he could no longer look to the nicer things, he abandoned reluctance in favour of something greater than himself. And hours or days later he returned to the rest of his mind, tried to find something that looked like equilibrium, made a nest of blankets for himself and shoved hard at the darkness.

He never knew there was a line with Augus. That there would be a point where he could abandon all sense. And he never knew it would be so addictive, so perfect, how Augus gloved him with an impossible heat or the way his shoulders would shift or even how his hair tangled into curls, stuck to the skin of his back.

But this was also Augus, and Ash wanted to consume him, to ensure Augus burned for him. He wanted it so that when Augus looked at others, his clients, he would remember Ash had him like this first. Because how was it even possible that after all this time, Augus had never taken someone back to his room, had never let himself be fucked by anyone? Had never fucked his way into someone on that giant bed of his? And a part of his mind said that maybe it was because it was meant to be this way, perhaps even fated, that everything had led to this moment. Ash wanted to laugh because he didn’t believe in fate. He didn’t know if he wanted to believe in anything except being buried deep in his brother, feeling the way he shuddered in his arms.

He kept his hips pulsing on a slow, steady undulation which pushed him deep. He changed the angle with a hand on Augus’ hip, pulling him back or pushing him down towards the bed. Dragging Augus’ leg back further over Ash’s hip while he spooned him from behind meant he could get deeper, press closer. All the while Augus was breathing like he wasn’t quite sure how to breathe anymore, inhales hitching at their peaks, close to sobbing.

He wasn’t an idiot, he knew Augus would be sore, what he didn’t know was how much he’d like knowing that.

Augus who was always so reserved and composed and put together and now none of that – trembling and covered in a sheen of sweat and smelling like his lake and a lifetime of clean rain on healthy soil. Ash pressed his nose to the back of Augus’ neck, opened his mouth against the flushed, hot skin, scraped his teeth over it, tasted him; the faintest salt and a sweetness there too, wonderful against his tongue. He closed his mouth, scraped the grain of his stubble across Augus’ shoulder, over and over until the skin reddened. Augus whimpered in his grip, leaned to move away, his hips trying to control how deep Ash went.

It was a bolt of heat through Ash to be able to tilt forwards, to ease that control away, to grind himself up until he could feel Augus’ ass pressed hard against his hips and listen to the despairing moans in response. He wanted to claim and take as many times as possible, until Augus didn’t remember what he felt like without Ash inside of him.

Augus wanted to talk about it and Ash wanted him too tired to talk. He didn’t want to hear it. Didn’t want to be dragged back across the line again to where guilt and remorse and rejection waited. He was here now, he wanted to stay.

He growled softly in the back of his throat.

‘How does it feel, brother?’

Augus only gasped in response, shaking his head before tilting it back into Ash’s shoulder.

He wanted his name on Augus’ lips, snaked his hand around until he could grasp Augus’ cock, curling fingers around the head of him and squeezing until Augus writhed against him, clenched involuntarily on his cock. Ash groaned, snapped his hips forward until Augus was no longer on his side but facing forwards, chest pressed into the bed. Ash grit his teeth as he angled Augus’ cock towards the embroidered texture of the quilt. If he had the angle right, he could fist Augus in his grip and use the embroidery to chafe against the head of him.

He tried it. Augus stiffened against him, cried out a loud, helpless syllable.

‘Too...sensitive,’ Augus managed, voice hoarse, and Ash laughed.

‘Oh, brother, no. This isn’t too sensitive. Trust me.’

He snapped his hips harder, kept his thrusts shorter, sharper and matched them with unforgiving movements of his wrist, driving the head of Augus’ cock into his quilt and listening to the cries that the mattress and the sheets couldn’t catch.

‘There’s things you don’t know about yourself, Augus,’ Ash crooned. He couldn’t stop talking to him. It wasn’t just that he liked to talk during sex, he knew the power his glamour had on other people after all – it was that Augus responded to each word. Every line and he’d shiver or moan or tilt his head towards Ash’s voice. And he knew Augus might be feeling a little lost, not being used to this, his heartsong singing dominance through his body and mind, and offered words by which he could find his way back. Except that the words were designed to unwind, another way to get beneath his skin.

Ash plunged in roughly, rolling his hips hard, and Augus squeaked out a delicious sound that was so good Ash bit into the back of his neck, groaning at it. Ash’s words might be getting to Augus, but every sound Augus made was a flare of heat in his pelvis. He listened as Augus tried to get his mouth around Ash’s name, before it fell out as a single, wrecked syllable.

‘Yes?’ Ash said, a dark thrill curling inside of him. ‘Now that I think about it, you feel like you might be close to blowing your load, Augus.’

He squeezed his hand on the length of him, harder than before, and Augus whined. He pressed his hips back, trying to get away from the pressure, but that just made it easier for Ash to buck forwards. Augus cried out, a sob passing through his lips, and then another.

Ash knew he was being merciless, that’s what he wanted. He wanted Augus to know that even like this, stripped down and uncertain and out of control, Ash could wring responses from him that would leave him quivering on the bed.

‘I bet you had no idea that you could be like this,’ Ash growled.

‘I had- I had- ah, no idea you could be like this,’ Augus said, his voice thin. Ash nearly fell out of his rhythm, pressing his lips together and forcing away the rush of uncomfortable emotion that swamped him at those words.

‘I guess we’re both learning things about each other today,’ Ash said, then dropped his forehead to Augus’ neck, focusing on rhythm, riding the shudders moving through Augus’ body. He could tell that Augus was overstimulated, almost felt that way himself.

‘Easier,’ Augus pleaded. ‘Easier, Ash, please.’

He wanted the opposite, but a distant voice told him that he was ruining something, that he would ruin something irrevocably if he didn’t listen. A moment of conflict because – gods help him – he wanted to ruin Augus. A part of him wanted him limp and broken and-

Ash forced himself to slow, eased the rhythm. He used less pressure and slowed his strokes on Augus’ cock, though he still pressed the head of him into the embroidery, shivering out a breath as he did so.

‘Easier?’ Ash said.

Augus sobbed, nodded, turned his head to the side, face wet and mouth open, dragging in breath after breath. Ash leaned up and licked at his jaw, made his way back through locks of hair all the way to his shoulder and bit gently, scraping teeth and stubble over freckles until they stood out against his abraded skin.

‘I’ve got you,’ Ash said, closing his eyes.

He was scaring himself, but he didn’t think he knew how to stop. There was a moment where he realised he was the one driving this, that it was on him this time. He couldn’t turn to Augus and ask him how to fix it, he couldn’t wait for Augus to tell him to be easy, to be calm, to place a hand on the back of his head.

He wished he could place a hand on the back of Augus’ head, settled with rubbing his forehead against it.

‘I’ve got you,’ he whispered.

Augus laughed, ragged. His free arm shifted on the bed, pulled fretfully at the quilt. Ash watched him closely, shifted his stance, used a different rhythm and canted his hips down as he withdrew. Augus moaned richly.

‘Oh.’ His arm stopped moving. ‘Oh.’

‘Just like that, yeah?’ Ash said, repeating the movement and watching the way Augus’ spine started to arch. Oh, I’ve found you, brother. There you are.

Augus rolled his hips backwards into Ash’s, sounds pressing out of his mouth, moaning as though he was surprised at himself. Ash risked speeding up, keeping up the same quality of movement, feeling the strain of it in his hips, across his ass, not even caring. Augus’ eyes snapped open, he gasped.

‘Just like that,’ Ash said again. ‘Let’s get you sorted, okay? Just relax.’

‘Easier,’ Augus said, and Ash shook his head.

‘Easier comes later. Relax, brother, let me have this.’

After that, it didn’t take long. Augus trembled beneath him, hanging onto the bed with a grip that turned his knuckles white. He squirmed beneath Ash as though he couldn’t decide what he wanted to do. After a few minutes he went limp, crying out, body becoming pliant. Ash swiped his fingers over the head of Augus’ cock, burning hot in his hand, protecting him momentarily from the embroidery and feeling precome leaking out of him. He smeared it back over him, and Augus whined.

With the precome making him wetter, Ash withdrew his fingers and knew Augus would be more sensitive to the texture of the embroidery. When he fisted him back into the quilt, Augus sobbed, writhed for several seconds, stopped again. He was exhausted.

‘I can feel it, you know. How close you are,’ Ash groaned, the rhythm he’d set for Augus burning through him. He could feel it in the increasing shudders of him, in the way Augus’ cock throbbed in his hand, the way he involuntarily clenched around him, unable to help himself, as his body started to wind towards that peak once more. Augus moaned long beneath him, weak, hardly able to move, but his hand lifted from the bed and his fingers splayed, trembling. Ash stared at it, wished he had a hand free. He wanted to entwine his fingers with Augus’, pin that palm back down to the bed, let Augus know with a touch that he was doing so well.

But he needed one arm to brace himself, the other to jerk Augus off even while using the forearm of the same arm to keep his hips pressed back into him.

Augus couldn’t manage words, though Ash could see that he tried to make several. Only one looked like it would have been Ash’s name. Ash could read that shape in his brother’s mouth without trying. He began gasping around the shape of something, and Ash knew it was his third orgasm coming closer, knew it was the most stimulation he’d likely ever had in his life. Augus, who drew out a single orgasm to last hours, learning that things could be like this.

There are so many things I’m going to show you, brother.

‘Come on,’ Ash purred, voice deepening. ‘Don’t fight it, now. Fucking come on.’

But Augus couldn’t fight it even if he tried. His gasps turned into sharp sobs. Ash pressed his lips to Augus’ cheek when he felt the moment it happened, Augus’ cock thrumming with the first pulse of his release, ass tightening around him helplessly, deliciously. And he was delighted, because Augus – it turned out – had many different responses to coming, whether silence or moaning or these breathless, desperate attempts to pull air into his lungs.

He wondered if there was a way to find out if Augus was a screamer. He was more vocal than Ash had expected.

Ash didn’t wait for him to finish before he let go of Augus’ cock, the back of his knuckles catching the burning hot slick of him where he had spilled against the quilt. He reached up and pinned Augus’ hips to the bed and drove after his own pleasure, thumbs digging bruises into his flesh. Augus tried to get his forearms underneath himself, slumped back down, shaking his head.

When he spread his legs even wider, Ash knew it wasn’t an invitation, but a desire to ease the force of it. But Ash wasn’t interested in easing up, didn’t care about ‘easier.’ Augus could tug himself off as slowly as he wanted, Ash wanted to show him something different, something raw. He could feel his own release waiting for him, far enough away that he knew he could go again with Augus if he really wanted to. But Augus couldn’t, and so it had to be now if he wanted to come at all in the next hour.

He pulled out almost all the way, teasing the head of his cock with Augus’ rim, before thrusting back in. The friction of it was too good, and finally, finally, he could feel his own release approaching like a benediction, coiling through him like a spring. He laughed at its approach, welcomed it and leaned into it, a blessing of warmth and light.

He pressed deep as he came, licking wet stripes over Augus’ stubble-reddened shoulder, tasting the faint copper of grazed skin. He rode every pulse of it with a hard thrust, grinding his hips as though he could eliminate any space between them, Augus whining beneath him.

He rubbed one side of Augus’ hips with his hand before he’d even finished, withdrawing slowly, making sure his release painted the inside of him.

He didn’t want to pull out fully, waited with the tip of his cock still pressed inside. He didn’t want to have them become separate again. Two bodies, two completely separate lives. He bowed over Augus, ached for something he couldn’t quite name.

He reached up and curled the palm of his hand over the gentle slope at the back of Augus’ head. And Augus sobbed once, whined, pressed back hungrily into the touch. It sent warmth through Ash’s whole body, a full, round feeling. He caressed his head with his palm.

‘Hey there,’ Ash said.

And now he’ll want to fucking talk, and I’ll go from seeing him not even once a month to-

‘Water,’ Augus breathed, voice rough.

Ash’s eyes widened, he frowned, something cold moving through him. It ate at the warmth so quickly he felt queasy. He withdrew properly, sorry it was over, hoping it wasn’t, knowing that if he had it his way – and a surprising amount of the evening had gone his way – this wasn’t the end of it. At least not this weekend. If it only happened once, he would make sure he was thorough.

He didn’t pull on clothes as he bounded towards his kitchen. His cock was cold as the air hit the mix of lubricant and come on its softening form. He had to clean them both up.

He pulled a bottle of water from the fridge and stopped off in the bathroom, getting one of the hand-towels and dampening it, wringing out excess warm water and drinking up several scooped handfuls of water from the tap, thirsty as well. He could feel alcohol spinning through him, but he couldn’t blame what had happened on the alcohol. He really hadn’t been as drunk as Augus had thought he was.

It turned out – from what Augus had said – they both hadn’t been.

Ash scowled as he tipped water from his own hand into his mouth and cupped it under the tap again. Augus hadn’t taken the option of being able to blame it on drunkenness, had wanted what had happened, at least some of it. Ash had gone how long agonising? How long without knowing this? He’d been angry, he’d wanted to punish Augus for his secrecy, his constant need to hide things from him.

If he was honest with himself – which he didn’t want to be right now – he’d been rougher than he’d intended because resentment had suffused him. That Ash had spent so many years in pain, hurting, that Augus pretended to be blithe about something that...if he hadn’t considered it happening before, had at least wanted anyway.

He’d wanted to cherish his brother. In his fantasies, it was only when he was very drunk or feeling very predatory that he imagined being rough with Augus. Most of the time he imagined gentleness, kisses from the tips of his toes to the crown of his head, sucking gently at each one of his fingertips before fellating them as he would his cock, repeating the movements where Augus most wanted them.

Ash pursed his lips as he walked back into his bedroom. It reeked of sex. The mingled scents of release combined with the siltier, muddier scent of their sweat. Augus hadn’t moved. His eyes were closed, his cheeks still red. He looked like he may have passed out.

‘Hey, hey, Augus. Wake up, have some water before you sleep, okay?’ Ash got onto the bed and crouched over him, stroking his hair. ‘Come on. I’ll help you, okay?’

‘I can do it,’ Augus said. But he didn’t move.

Ash watched him for a long moment, then undid the cap on the bottle of water himself. He downed half of it at once, knowing Augus would be less likely to spill a half-full bottle if he had to give it to him while he was lying on his side. He’d done this for people before, women and men who were too drunk for him to fuck, who needed water and to sober up and a bed to crash in before they wove their way home.

He lifted Augus’ head carefully with his other hand, and Augus’ eyes fluttered open, he jerked away and glared up at Ash. Ash’s heart clenched. He couldn’t tell what was in that gaze. He didn’t want to know what Augus thought he deserved. He still wasn’t sure what he thought he deserved.

Augus reached out with a shaking hand and took the bottle himself, but he fumbled it and Ash’s hand was there, broader, wrapping around his brother’s supportively. His fingers had never been as long as Augus’, but his hands had always been bigger. Augus’ fingers were suited to plucking fragile berries from spring-ripened bushes. Ash’s were suited to clasping tree branches as he hurled himself up towards the best view. Now, they were very well suited to grasping thighs and pulling them apart.

‘Just let me help, okay? Let me help you for once.’

The look Augus gave him was scathing, the message was clear.

You are the reason I need that help.

Ash’s lips thinned, he tipped the bottle gently, even as Augus stared at it, uncertain. He wasn’t used to water bottles, but they were easier to drink from, and they were one of his favourite human inventions. So simple, but so much easier than glasses and cups. He could screw the cap back and on and leave it on the bed in Augus’ reach, it wouldn’t spill.

Augus drank slowly at first, and then his hand tightened around the bottle and he took longer draughts. Ash watched his throat move as he swallowed and licked his lips absently. Too many fantasies over too many years. Wanting to know what Augus looked like when Ash stuffed a cock down his throat was one of the many. He knew from their chats that Augus loathed the idea of going down on someone, and perversely, that just made Ash want it more.

He placed the empty bottle of water back on the chest of drawers and reminded himself to fill it again so Augus could have more nearby. He raised the handtowel, showing Augus what it was, and smoothed the rough, damp corner over Augus’ forehead. On the second pass over, Augus seemed to deflate, his eyes closed, his head bowed.

He opened his mouth to say something, and Ash paused, waited to hear it, knots tightening all through his body. But Augus shook his head slightly, decided against it, closed his mouth.

Ash kept wiping at him, using the coolness of the cloth to soothe the burn that must have been lit in Augus’ shoulder, stubble-rash still visible. He wriggled a corner of the towel into Augus’ armpit, and Augus only stretched his arms up and out, inviting a more thorough touch. He only squirmed once, Ash careful to make the pressure firm enough that Augus wouldn’t be tickled as he cleaned him, feeling the soft skin there with his fingers, wanting to kiss it and knowing he might not be able to stop if he started.

Nothing about the body repulsed Ash, it never had. Armpits were warm, soft places. Vulnerable and sensitive. Humans rarely expected to be touched there, often had their own taboos about the space, but they were like the backs of knees, they spoke eloquently, and Ash wanted to lick at Augus’ sweat, breathe in the scent of him, tuck his head into his arm and side and tickle him to laughter, then caress him firmly until he moaned.

Augus had his eyes closed again, his breathing was slowing. He looked utterly spent.

Ash spread his ass cheeks carefully and Augus tensed, but Ash soothed him with sounds, pressing the towel to his swollen, sore entrance. Out of everything they’d done, cleaning him with the hand towel felt like one of the most intimate acts. He worried that Augus wouldn’t allow it, but he didn’t seem to have the energy to protest. His body eventually relaxed, and Ash made sure he was gentle in the way he hadn’t been, earlier.

And if he got a secret flush of pleasure seeing his own seed leaking from Augus’ hole, then, well, he could preserve that image and play it back for the rest of his life, and Augus need never know.

He tipped Augus’ hips and shifted him bodily away from the oil slick of come on his quilt. Ash pressed his fingers to it and drew the tips up to this mouth, sucking the taste off, not minding that the come was already lukewarm.

‘You taste so fucking clean, brother. Let me tell you, they do not make it like that in the human world,’ Ash whispered, before rubbing at damp spots of come and precome on Augus’ pelvis, sliding the towel down and using a gentler pressure on his cock. Augus still tried to twitch his hips out of the way, and Ash hissed a sound of sympathy at him, but didn’t stop until he was satisfied.

He then used the towel on himself, tossing it to the corner of the bed once he was done.

He pulled Augus onto his side, enough room on the bed that Ash could stretch out and face Augus, pull Augus away from the wet spot, and still have bed leftover. He inched closer to him, slid an arm around him, forearm over his back, fingers playing with the ends of his hair.

Augus looked dead to the world, his lips were slack, his breathing slow enough that he could be sleeping.

‘If you wanted to fuck someone so badly,’ Augus slurred, ‘you should have picked up at the bar, brother.’

Ash’s eyes widened. He hadn’t wanted...it wasn’t about...

Was that what Augus thought?

‘I didn’t want to pick up, I wanted...’

How could he say that he had wanted Augus for all this time, without betraying something inside of himself? Without admitting to the lie that had been over a century of visiting and pretending that he felt nothing carnal at all towards his brother? He didn’t think he should pile all of his sins upon Augus at once. Not now. Not like this.

Augus opened his eyes, only managing half-lidded slivers. His mouth pulled into a moue of concern, before relaxing into a frown.

‘What do we do now? How do we go back to the way that it was? I said once. You’ve never...you’ve never listened to me. When I told you just one apple, it was never just one.’

‘I know,’ Ash said, swallowing.

And having Augus three times was not enough. He could feel want clamouring inside of him, as loud as church bells ringing next to him, vibrating deep into his bones. It wasn’t, could never be enough. If he was a train, he hadn’t stopped at a final destination, only made his way to a single, first stop, seeing a huge journey ahead of him. He needed to know what else lay before him. He knew that the only person who truly had the power to stop this in its tracks was Augus. But he’d fight Augus for what he wanted, and that scared him.

‘How do we go back to the way that it was?’ Augus repeated, voice small. He sounded plaintive, exhausted, and Ash pulled him close, wrapped a leg around his legs.

‘Is that...what you want?’

Augus didn’t say anything for a long time. When he did speak again, his voice was sleep-soft, drifting already.

‘Is this how you are with humans, Ash?’

‘I...no,’ Ash said, threading his fingers through Augus’ hair like the old days before he’d moved out, before Augus’ hair became rarely accessible and he couldn’t simply pet his brother like he used to. ‘They’re human. They’re fragile. They’re not like you.’

It was a lie. Augus was fragile in his own way. Humans were just different. No one was Augus. Therefore, he could not help but be different with him than he was with anyone else.

‘Ah,’ Augus said. He sighed slowly.

Ash wanted to ask him a thousand questions, and at the forefront of his mind he wanted to know: Are we okay? Did you hate all of it? Did you like it, brother? Was I good enough for you?

Everyone knew how high Augus’ standards were, about everything. And once Ash had felt glorious, bathed in the gaze of his brother. He was invulnerable and invincible, a sun where Augus was the moon, and all the brighter for his love. Under that exacting stare he’d been dissected and found perfect in all of his flaws, embraced even where he could not embrace himself.

But then he’d left home and everything changed. Homesickness was nothing more than a word for feeling sundered from Augus. And he’d forced himself to be a good younger brother and forget about it, he’d lost himself in men and women and drugs and booze until he’d returned far later than he was meant to, months later. Ash had promised he’d be back in a week, had even laughed and said he’d come back crying in a day. He’d left in May, not returned until the following April, drunk and lost and wondering when homesickness ended.

Augus had judged him, seen him unworthy, things had never been the same. Augus had been so distant. It wasn’t that Augus appeared not to love him, only that Ash didn’t feel invulnerable anymore, nor invincible. Augus didn’t need him anymore, didn’t even seem upset that Ash had been gone for much longer than he said he would.

That first time he’d returned, he’d reached out to stroke his brother’s hair, and Augus had stepped away smoothly. Ash reached out, Augus evaded, even while keeping up an easy flow of conversation. They were no longer Ash-and-Augus, but two separate entities, made more separate with time.

The pain of it had been compounded when he’d seen Augus by his lake that time, walking into a living dream, realising that he had more sins than just imperfection lurking inside of him. That he could lust for and want his brother, that he couldn’t turn it off. He ran from it. He indulged it. He tried to exorcise it from his body.

Was I good enough for you?

But Ash knew what the answer would be, so he didn’t ask the question.

It wasn’t even that incest was so rare in the fae kingdom; it wasn’t. In a world where procreation was uncommon and fae lived for so long, incest sprang up naturally from time to time and it was almost never frowned upon. But Augus had a sense of propriety about the way his relationship with Ash had to be, and Ash had spent so long living in the human world that he was aware of the stigma, felt it as an extra burden to bear.

And it was more than that. The bond they had between them – while not everything it once had been – was still the most valued, wonderful thing in Ash’s life. He felt sick with the thought that maybe he’d ruined that. Ruined it over fantasy and lust and want. Because when he crossed the line he didn’t want to come back, he wanted to tear the world apart at its seams and crunch into bone, slurping at the marrow of the universe. He wanted to crunch his teeth into stars.

It turned out that he wanted to sink himself into the moon, to burn it out, cover it with light and fire.

He stroked Augus’ hair until Augus fell asleep. It took him hardly any time at all, and Ash watched him for some time after that, because Augus so rarely showed these vulnerable sides of himself to other people. He didn’t want to leave the bed, but he got up, grabbing a blanket from the closet and returning, tucking it around his brother. Augus didn’t stir, a sign that he wasn’t feigning sleep, but truly exhausted.

Ash got up again and filled up the water bottle. He rinsed the handtowel and dampened it, in case...in case they needed it again later.

He winced at himself.

Later.

He already wanted him again. He hadn’t expected it all to be so addictive, but he should have. He should have known that Augus wouldn’t disappoint him, would be far better than he could have imagined.

He will leave, and he will not want to see you again. Because you fucked up, asshole.

Ash leaned back against his own headboard, surrounded by pillows, one hand on the back of Augus’ head, hungry just to touch him. He clenched his other hand into a fist, but the voice wouldn’t leave him alone. The voice that sounded like Augus, but swore like he did. The one that chastised and reminded him that he couldn’t and shouldn’t and how dare he.

But he had, so now that inner voice was just lashing out. Lashing out the way he expected Augus to. He laughed at himself, weakly. He inched his legs under the blanket, feeling cold.

He didn’t believe in any sort of hell, even though he knew underworlds existed. He knew enough about his own nature to know that hell could simply be visiting his brother, heart aching, watching him move through his own house effortlessly, while Ash moved through his life desperate for something he wasn’t supposed to have.

And if he was never supposed to have it, then – well – Augus was right, he’d always stolen more than one apple, always taken more than his share. And if Augus was going to reject him, Ash might as well make sure that he could steal all he could lay his hands and mouth upon before it happened.

Something dark, nameless, opened its mouth inside of him, tasted the air and sucked down the scent of their sex. It hungered for more, lusted so deeply that Ash’s mouth filled with saliva and he swallowed it down, looking at the chiselled but fragile bone structure of Augus’ face. His nose and jawline might be strong, but his eyes, even his cheekbones...sharp, but easy to break. Too easy.

He had meant to cherish Augus, but he had forgotten how to be a sun a long time ago. Now he was nothing more than a greedy waterhorse who wanted to tame the moon.

Chapter Text

Augus

*

Augus surfaced from sleep slowly, wondering if he was sick. His mouth felt dry and full of cotton wool, and his throat ached. His limbs were stiff, his hips felt bruised all over.

Then Augus remembered all of it and curled up on himself, or tried to – moving his body at all made him feel like it might be best just to stay still for a while. He always told his clients to drink plenty of water, to look after themselves, and here he was, head throbbing with dehydration and not knowing what to do. His eyes squeezed further shut, they burnt with tears that he didn’t have spare.

There had been drinking, and chatting, and it had been normal, and then...

He couldn’t find the locus of cynicism or wit inside of himself, the place he always retreated when he felt like this.

And he could feel Ash inside of him, even though he wasn’t even on the bed as far as Augus could tell. Ash had remoulded his body into a new form, pushed and pulled him like clay until he became something different, and his heart stuttered in his chest when he realised that might be true, because he wasn’t sure of his core anymore. He couldn’t sense his heartsong. But that couldn’t be the case, could it?

It was bewildering. At first it had seemed like...Ash just wanted someone to fuck, and Augus was there – not, perhaps, convenient –but he hadn’t anticipated that Ash would be so affronted that he’d never taken anyone else back to his room before. That he’d never...

Augus flushed. Ash was his first.

Augus had done so much that could be done to others. He had whipped and spanked and cut and kissed and bitten and scraped with nails and fucked others himself. He had tied fae up and administered aftercare and pulled on hair. He was not unfamiliar with sex. He was not unfamiliar with orgasms and pleasure and pain and the combinations of it all.

But Ash had made him feel greener than he’d been on the day he’d kissed someone for the first time. And Ash had used nothing more than his own body, Augus’ body. Augus ached. His abdomen felt bruised, his fingers were stiff and wouldn’t bend properly, the underfae healing was taking time. It always took longer if there were multiple areas to heal. And he was worn, tired, he reached out with a sore arm looking for Ash, feeling the warmth where he’d lain.

Had he gone?

Augus made a small sound in the back of his throat. A mix of loss and anger.

If he has gone, I will have something to say about it when he returns.

Augus tried to compile his thoughts, tried to follow the thread of them to meaningful places. But his mind only threw fragments of concerns at him. That Ash could do this – what did it mean about how he felt about Augus? About their bond as brothers? How would it ever be like it was? How would they even be able to look at each other? Why didn’t Augus fight him more? Why did he just let him do what he wanted? And why, why did he like – if not all of it – then at least some of it? He knew enough about himself to know that everything Ash did, all of it, if anyone else had even tried, he would have ruined them.

And now here he was, ruined.

Augus shook his head, shifted weakly on the bed. He needed water, but he felt too weak to move.

‘Ash?’

His voice was a dry croak, and he cleared his throat. He’d spent so much of the evening gasping, crying out, breathing roughly, his throat was inflamed.

‘Ash?’

But he heard nothing, and he couldn’t get more volume to his voice.

He felt himself sinking into sleep again. There were moments where Augus thought his whole body was fine-tuned to Ash’s whims and that, in turn, Augus had received ripples of his goodwill. He hung onto them. Hung onto memories of reassurance and pleasure as he fell asleep.

*

Warmth on his face, he tilted into it, feeling closeness and smelling the muddy, silty scent of home. He flickered awake slowly, eyes remaining shut, body still, breathing slow and heavy. Ash was pressing his mouth to Augus’ cheek and humming happily. His lips were soft and warm, generous. Ash’s tongue flicking at his cheekbone.

Then there was a long, lingering kiss on the bridge of his nose, damp hair brushing his forehead making him realise how much he needed water. He couldn’t concentrate properly. Ash was kissing his eyebrows, the corner of his mouth, dipping his tongue between the edge of his lips for the briefest moment. He hummed again, kissing him on the lips properly, rubbing his mouth back and forth. Augus’ lip throbbed where Ash had bitten it, but the rest of it felt so nice that he didn’t complain.

Augus was warmed by the happy content sounds that Ash was making, by the gentleness of it. He hummed in response, unthinking, and his mouth opened slowly.

Ash’s tongue slipped inside, his lips curving into a smile against Augus’ mouth. He licked his way over Augus tongue, and then – realising how dry Augus’ mouth was, perhaps – slicked him slowly all over, tracing the inside of his gums, the roof of his mouth, until Augus shivered on the bed and shifted, reaching out with his hand and placing it clumsily on Ash’s side.

Augus kept his eyes closed even when Ash withdrew. He was so tired. He just wanted to sleep. He could lecture and worry later. Right now sleep and kisses sounded perfect.

Instead he felt the cool rim of plastic against his lips and his eyes opened. Ash was holding a bottle of water there, and Augus made a sound of anticipation, arms moving immediately. He wrapped weak fingers around the water bottle, and Ash let him, but didn’t move his own hand away.

Augus tried to lever himself upright but decided not to as Ash tilted the bottle up. The water was glorious. Fresh and clean and wonderful. He drained it was quickly as possible, was about to ask for more when Ash pressed a second bottle into his hands, raising his eyebrows as though he understood, as though he knew exactly how dehydrated Augus was. And that was almost surprising, because if Ash knew, then why didn’t he make him drink more water before he’d fallen asleep?

But the water was refreshing, he sighed in relief as he felt it move through his body. His hair dampened out immediately. It still wasn’t quite enough, but he felt more himself.

‘I needed that,’ Augus said, watching Ash warily.

What happened now?

‘You need a shower,’ Ash said, pressing his lips to Augus’ once more, before sucking the bitten lip into his mouth and running his tongue over it. Augus made a sound of discontent, and Ash rumbled a possessive growl at him.

The faintest thread of dread that awoke in him. He stared at Ash, pushed himself into a sitting position, shifting until he wasn’t placing his weight directly on his ass. Ash noticed, didn’t say anything.

‘You can’t be serious,’ Augus said. Ash affected a look of innocence.

But it was so false, because there was mischief in his eyes, a smile now played at the corner of his lips.

‘Ash, I know this is something you don’t really understand, right now, but I can’t.’

Ash reached forwards and grasped his wrist and tugged him over and over again, until Augus went reluctantly, scooting off the bed and not even bothering to hide his winces. It took too much energy.

‘A shower will make you feel better,’ Ash said, sounding far too cheerful. Augus stumbled once he’d gotten his feet underneath him. Ash looked over sharply, at first worried, and then his eyes dragged up and down his form. Augus resisted the urge to slap him.

‘Sleep will make me feel better,’ Augus said.

No! Don’t have conversations about this, talk about what’s actually happening.

He didn’t want to look at it. He was terrified that one brief glance into the mess of himself would reveal how irreversibly damaged things were. Not just himself, he could handle that. He’d always been able to deal with that. But if things between he and Ash would be permanently compromised, if this was...if this was the beginning of some great disconnect, some permanent rift, he didn’t want to see it.

It wasn’t like him to avoid things so completely, but it was Ash, and he couldn’t bring himself to think straight.

Standing in Ash’s generous bathroom, Augus watched while Ash turned on the taps. He had a spacious, well-appointed shower, with more than one showerhead. Ash liked decadence in his bedroom, in his bathroom. He liked overstuffed couches and an excess of blankets and throw cushions, showers that you could happily spend an hour in. It was conservatively decorated, something that always surprised Augus, given that Ash’s taste in clothing could end up all the way in the arena of deliberately clashing colours, textures and patterns. It was tiled in white, a single horizontal line of black tiles running across the walls, about a foot from the floor. The towels here were mostly black, except for a single gray-

Augus stared at it, then his eyes widened. Ash had said it was a long story, what had happened to Augus’ towel that he kept in the foyer, but...had it been here all along?

‘How long?’ Augus said, staring at it. He didn’t even know exactly what he was asking. But his mind moved ahead of him, making connections he didn’t want to see.

Ash turned, saw the towel. He paused for a few seconds, sighed.

‘You don’t want to ask me that,’ Ash said. In that moment he sounded as tired as Augus felt. Ash stared at the towel, a pained look on his face. But then he shook his head at himself, turned back to Augus, offering a smile that was real and all the more nourishing for it. Ash was so generous with his expressions; he always looked so pleased to be around him, no one else looked at him in quite the same way.

They were both already naked, Ash drawing him into the shower and directing him under the heat of the spray. Augus closed his eyes instantly, moaned softly at the feel of it. He shifted the shoulder raw with stubble-rash out of the spray, angled his scalp and other shoulder into it instead. It was warmer than he’d have it, but still wonderful.

The sound of a cap being flipped off a bottle, and Augus opened his eyes just long enough to see Ash covering a loofah with liquid soap – a human brand, he thought, but it smelled woodsy and herbal and very much like Ash – and he soaped himself without paying much attention to Augus. He stood under a second showerhead, sighed roughly as he started scrubbing at the back of his neck. His eyes closed. Augus got the sense that this was how Ash always showered, that he was just following a routine, not trying to impress Augus; just being himself. It was these moments that Augus cradled close, when Ash could be unselfconscious around him.

The soap lathered quickly, far more abundantly than anything Augus ever made for himself. Ash soaped himself liberally, covering himself with froth which clung to his frame, curved around his body, stuck to the trail of hair leaning down to a flaccid, vulnerable cock. Augus swallowed, watched the way his muscles shifted, indulged in a way he never really had before.

He’d always recognised that Ash was attractive, conceded that Ash was attractive in a way Augus could never hope to be. Augus knew he had fine features, that he had a reserved beauty about him, but it didn’t immediately make fae think of contact and sex and relationships. It made people want to preserve and capture his appearance with no thought to what lay beneath. Ash had a friendly, accessible attractiveness. His eyes invited, his smile engaged, and even when he wasn’t looking at you, he had an easiness with his body that implied an easiness with the bodies of others.

He possessed short, curly hair that invited people to touch it. His eyelashes were not quite all one colour, lighter shades of red and brown in the mix. Augus had noticed those things when Ash was small, and worried Ash would grow out of them. He worried that his hair would become a single, solid shade of brown, or that his eyelashes would darken out to black, but even though Ash’s hair became more uniform in colour, and his eyelashes did darken, he never lost the habit of growing shades of colour, as though the dapples on his waterhorse coat sought a way to express themselves through his mane.

Ash tipped his head back underneath the water, opened his mouth to it. Augus would have done the same but it was too hot for him, he preferred it on his back instead. Even so, his body was warming, absorbing the water through his pores, making up for the imbalance in his system.

When Ash was rinsed, he hung the loofah on the tap again and took the bottle of soap down, looking up at Augus and raising an eyebrow.

‘Your turn?’ Ash said.

Augus swallowed, knowing that he could no longer blame any of this on alcohol. That he had become someone who wanted his brother’s hands on him for more than just the occasional embrace or hand resting on the back of his head. He didn’t know what to say, but Ash took the silence as assent and poured soap onto his hands, stepped towards him. Augus watched him, cautious, and Ash didn’t look away from his eyes as he placed two hands over his chest and began rubbing slow, thorough circles into his skin.

‘Step back,’ Ash said. ‘The spray’s gonna wash all the soap off my hands. Lean against the tiles.’

Augus stepped back carefully, Ash following him and moving his fingers up to Augus neck, massaging underneath his jaw, his throat, the dip between his collarbones. Augus hissed when his shoulders hit the tiles, but the ceramic was already warming. Ash’s gaze was intense, and Augus couldn’t meet it anymore, averting his eyes and staring instead at a shelf near his head that held an assortment of bottles and jars and containers. He only recognised one as his own, a hair conditioner he’d hardly remembered making, from years ago. It probably wouldn’t be good now.

Ash was thorough, stepping back to get the bottle of soap, adding more to his hands as he went. He dragged both of his palms down Augus’ arms, used both of his hands to take one of Augus’ up in his own, massaging his fingers, rubbing fingertips into the back of his hand, tracing swirls into his palms. Augus closed his eyes, moaned at the feel of it. When Ash did the same thing to his other hand, Augus lifted his palm for the swirls, found his hand being grasped firmly, fingers twining with his own. For several moments nothing happened except the contact between their hands, the shower spray beating down, steam thickening the air between them.

After that, Ash moved soap slick hands up Augus’ sides, ducking them into Augus’ armpits, wiggling his fingers into the space. Augus chuckled before he could stop himself and then squirmed. Ash did it for a few seconds longer, then drew his hands away and over Augus’ chest, dragging fingers down his pectorals, tracing curious circles around nipples that he didn’t touch until right at the end, where he rubbed them briefly and roughly, making Augus’ toes curl against the floor.

He was exhausted, he needed more sleep, but this was very fine, and Ash’s hands were always clever. They rubbed at his ribs, smoothed over his abdomen, the touch there more careful, as though Ash was aware of the vulnerable organs behind his skin.

Augus found the noise he wanted to make caught up in his throat when Ash took his cock in his hands and soaped it. He hissed when the soap hit the head of him, where he must have been grazed from what Ash did earlier, fisting him into the embroidery like that. The threads had been rough, and it had been...painful, intense, eventually pushing him over. There was something about that particular act, the spontaneity and inventiveness of it, and Ash’s insistence that Augus experience it for as long as possible that made something velvety hot uncoil in his pelvis.

A handful of water cleared the soap off the top of his cock and he sighed in gratitude, and then inhaled sharply when Ash reached between his legs and fondled his balls, then moved his fingers into the crease of Augus’ thighs, spreading a thin layer of soap, rubbing at the vulnerable skin. Augus’ heart beat faster.

‘I can’t,’ Augus said, soft but insistent. He was certain he couldn’t. He wasn’t even getting hard, even though he enjoyed the gentle, thorough touches. His cock had checked out, and Augus couldn’t say he was surprised. He wasn’t used to the amount of sensation that Ash had wrung out of him.

‘Brother, you don’t have to do anything,’ Ash said. ‘This is part of the free service we provide here, at casa del Ash.’

Augus laughed at him, quietly.

‘You provide it to everyone, I suppose.’

‘I like getting to know people,’ Ash said absently, and Augus felt something twinge hard inside of him at the thought that Ash did do this with everyone.

‘You do that through talking,’ Augus said, his voice hitching twice as Ash stroked the sensitive insides of his thighs.

‘Bodies are honest,’ Ash said. He straightened and pressed his nose briefly to Augus’ cheek, inhaling deeply. ‘You smell like me.’

‘I thought it was dogs that marked their territory,’ Augus said faintly, and Ash laughed.

‘Not just dogs. Woof, woof, brother.’

And then two hands were at his waist and fingers were splaying, encouraging him to turn around. Augus stiffened, his eyes flew open. He was shaking his head, because he knew what happened next. But Ash only watched him, seriously, something insistent on his face that said he would put up a fight if Augus resisted him. Augus knew that he could resist, except that he didn’t think he had the energy, and he didn’t want to fight. Not now.

He turned and made a strangled sound when Ash lifted Augus’ hands up and placed them palm first on the tiles.

‘Keep them there for me, yeah?’

‘I’m not your sub,’ Augus said, lowering his hands until they were by his side. Ash immediately grasped his wrists again and raised his tired arms, pressing his hands back to the wall.

‘I know,’ Ash said. ‘Hey, Augus, I know. Because if you were my sub, you’d know about it. Just indulge me, okay?’

‘Like I’ve been indulging you all weekend?’ Augus said, unable to hold the catty sharpness from his tone.

Ash hesitated, and then his hands tightened around Augus’ wrists where he’d pressed his hands back to the tiles.

‘Yeah, yeah, like that.’

Augus closed his eyes, pressed his forehead to the tiles. When Ash let go of his wrists, Augus didn’t move his hands away, more because he thought he might need the extra support.

‘Just like that,’ Ash rumbled at him, and Augus’ gut clenched.

He didn’t like that, he told himself. He didn’t.

He didn’t know what he expected, but Ash soaping his back wasn’t it. Fingers dug into sore muscles, unlocked tension he didn’t know he was holding onto. And Ash massaged with the whole of his hands, not just his fingertips. He used the heels of his palms, the sides of his hands, the tips of his nails, and at one point, finding a particularly stubborn muscle knot, Augus felt an elbow dig into the underside of his shoulder blade and trace the shape of it across, the pressure releasing long-held tension in front of him.

‘You’re good at this,’ Augus groaned. ‘How come I never knew that?’

‘Never asked,’ Ash said. ‘I went on a few courses.’

Augus’ eyes opened and he looked at the white tile in front of his face, surprised.

‘You did?’

‘Mm,’ Ash said, using his other elbow to work the muscles on the other side. ‘One day you should let me do this to you properly, instead of the half-assed job I’m doing here.’

Augus’ fingers curled slightly against the tiles where his palms rested. It didn’t feel like a half-assed job.

‘Maybe I will,’ Augus said.

Ash stroked long, firm caresses over his back, thumbs searching out sore spots, kneading them away. He seemed to have an innate understanding of the body, he pressed at one ligament, and tension in another unspooled. He found a place in Augus’ lower back which was a rasp of pain, and instead of pressing his fingers in, he moved down to his hip, knuckled into the flesh there. It was painful, and Augus groaned, but a moment later his lower back felt fine and he slumped boneless into the tiles.

‘Oh,’ Augus breathed. Ash cupped both of his hips in his palms.

‘Hips are easier to do if you’re lying down. Alright, hold up, legs now.’

And Ash was sinking to his knees on the hard tiles, and Augus felt a flicker of worry for Ash’s bones. It lasted all of five seconds when he remembered how sore he still was. Let Ash’s knees hurt.

His lips pressed together uncertainly when he felt fingers cupping his right ankle, stroking along his Achilles tendon.

‘I always found it funny,’ Ash said, voice muted by the shower. ‘They work so hard, the feet, and yet no one ever cares for them really. Some people I guess. Fetishists, for sure. I’ve always liked your feet. They’re delicate.’

He encouraged Augus to lift his foot, and Augus shifted his weight as he did, pressing his cheek to the cool tiles as Ash ran slick fingers down the bridge of his foot. Pressed fingertips between the divots of his toes. He rubbed them, paying attention to each one, and Augus felt a lump return to his throat. He squeezed his eyes shut. If Ash treated everyone like this, then he likely had an uncountable number of people who were in love with him in the human world.

And then Ash was rubbing lightly at his instep and Augus squirmed and felt a race of ticklishness move through him. Ash immediately firmed each motion, rubbing firm circles that weren’t ticklish, cleaning the soles of his feet, moving up to the heel and pressing his thumb and forefinger gently into the bones of his ankle, as though measuring them. Augus wondered what Ash was thinking, down there on the tiles. And then he stopped thinking at all when Ash dragged fingers and palms up his calf, stroking lightly behind his knees.

Augus hummed, and Ash laughed quietly, he sounded pleased with himself. He moved his hands to Augus’ left ankle and repeated everything again, careful with each part of him. And Augus wished he was lying down, wished he could be falling asleep, because this was...

He’d never had anything like this before.

His mind was drifting when he felt both hands return to his inner knees at the same time and tickle him. Augus’ knees buckled and he gasped out a breath of involuntary laughter. Ash immediately braced his thighs as Augus steadied himself, and a moment later Ash returned with handfuls of water, rinsing the soap off his feet so he could get a more stable stance.

‘Can you pass me the pink tube?’ Ash said, and Augus turned his head, looked at the bottles again, reached out for a pink tube that had no label. He handed it down, unthinking. ‘Cheers for that.’

Ash went back to massaging Augus’ legs, working his way up the back of his thighs, following ridges of muscle and making Augus feel like he was being slowly unwound. His breathing was deepening, his eyes were closed. And when Ash grasped both cheeks of Augus’ ass in his palms, Augus felt a flicker of concern that was drowned beneath fatigue and pleasure, and he sleepily allowed it, flexing his fingers on the tiles.

Ash massaged his ass with an attention that wasn’t lascivious, but technical. He found muscle knots and eased them away, he was careful around the bruises he’d pressed into Augus’ hips.

But when a nose pressed to the seam of his ass, Augus’ hands clenched into fists and he made a short, choked noise in his throat.

‘Ash.’

‘You smell good,’ Ash said, and Augus’ eyes widened as Ash pulled his cheeks apart and even the stretch of it stung. Augus made a sound of protest and Ash hushed him. ‘I’ve wanted to do this for so fucking long.’

How long?

That was becoming the question at the forefront of his mind. The gray towel. This. The relentlessness of it. This wasn’t Ash sleeping with Augus by accident and out of drunken need. This was...

How long has it been, Ash? How long have I not seen this? Why didn’t you just tell me?

‘No one’s fucking done this before, have they?’ Ash said, breath up against Augus’ entrance, making him shiver. And Augus started to answer when he felt a tongue lick a long, broad stripe up against his skin and his mouth dropped open. His eyes widened. He tried to shift his stance, to make it easier, harder, he didn’t know, but Ash’s hands were firm where they spread and grasped him, and he didn’t seem to want Augus to move.

‘Ash, we-’

‘It won’t hurt,’ Ash said against him. ‘Please, Augus. Please, you have no idea how much I’ve thought about this.’

That was shocking and disarming all at once, and Augus sighed out a mixture of exasperation and arousal and exhaustion and nodded, because he wanted to know what it was like, because Ash had already done every other damned thing, so why not this? Maybe they could contain it all – this train wreck – in a single weekend, and Augus wouldn’t be able to forget it, he knew that much, but maybe they could learn to get past it and-

Ash licked him again and Augus swallowed down a cry, sensitised to the intimacy of it. And it was intimate. Ash wasn’t hesitant or reluctant, he pressed the flat of his tongue against him and then pointed it, lapping at his opening with an enthusiasm that made it hard for Augus to catch his breath. He crossed his wrists together on the tiles and rested his forehead against them, clawing uselessly. His fingers were aching again.

Did you take courses for this too, Ash?

Because all this time he’d known that Ash was good, he’d known it through the casual confidence he’d exuded. But he hadn’t known he was like this. He hadn’t known that Ash had been diligent about what he was learning, that he would pick up the things that would be pleasurable so quickly that it mercilessly chased the breath out of Augus’ lungs.

A hand slipped up between his legs, fingers tracing the back of his balls and then fluttering over the space behind, and Augus gasped so hoarsely that he coughed.

‘Easy, brother,’ Ash said. ‘Does it hurt?’

Augus shook his head, then realised that Ash wasn’t looking at his head, because his face was still pushed between his legs and his tongue had gone straight back to licking steady stripes against him. If they were supposed to be soothing, Ash was doing a terrible job. Every motion of his tongue made Augus painfully aware of how sensitive he was. And that hand between his legs was an unfocused, teasing persistence.

His cock twitched, then jumped as he started to get hard, and he moaned in weak denial. He felt bruised. The pleasure being evoked was too intense.

When Ash slipped the tip of his tongue into him, withdrawing and then pushing deeper, Augus’ lungs heaved, it took effort not to push back. He doubted it would have mattered, Ash’s free hand gripped him firmly, holding him in place.

But the combination of Ash’s hand stroking or pressing firm pressure up into his perineum, the tongue slipping into him, opening him, entirely good without evoking a great deal of the previous night’s pain at all, it all combined until Augus found his hips canting backwards unthinkingly. He felt himself strain against Ash’s hand on his hip, couldn’t help himself.

‘Fuck. Deeper.’

Ash made a hungry, happy noise behind him, and Augus’ nerves shot through with a heavy, liquid lightning as two fingers pressed up behind his balls and Ash pressed his tongue as deeply as he could, flickering it at a speed that felt like tiny wings inside him.

Augus sobbed. Ash didn’t stop, following each noise that Augus emitted and repeating the things that he liked most, adding one on top of the other until Augus forgot that he could move a hand down to his own cock, until he couldn’t see more than thick strokes of colour in front of his eyes.

His knees buckled.

‘Oh, oh, oh, got you,’ Ash said, suddenly catching him with both hands, rising up on his knees and wrapping one arm around his abdomen as Augus got his feet underneath himself again. Augus was sobbing for breath, he didn’t know how much time had passed. Ash laughed quietly. ‘Got you.’

Fingers pressed against his entrance, slick with what Augus thought was soap until he sluggishly realised that the pink tube held lubricant. It was viscous, far more oily than whatever he’d used in his room. And Augus squirmed against him, but a treacherous, traitorous part of him wanted it, and he cried out weakly as Ash breached him with two fingers. Ash moved slowly, but Augus felt swollen against him, hated that it still felt good.

And Ash was standing, keeping his fingers inside of him, moving with a slow pace that was sparks and rushing water both. He lazily massaged lubricant into the rim of him. Augus knew what was coming and his abdomen cramped in foreboding, he stared again at the wall as Ash used the arm banded around his belly to pull him back, to push his length against him.

‘Ash, I-’

‘There are humans who can handle fucking three times in the same weekend,’ Ash whispered. ‘You’re better than them, aren’t you?’

Fuck you,’ Augus snarled, as fingers shifted inside of him. ‘I’m not used to this.’

‘Sorry,’ Ash said, sounding genuinely contrite. But then teeth were scraping across his sore shoulder and Augus groaned. Ash licked the warm, grazed spot carefully, tracing shapes with his tongue. ‘You’re not used to this, are you? All this time, all these years, you never knew you could feel so good.’

Augus’ eyes were closed, he was crying. He was so confused.

‘Brother,’ Ash said softly. ‘Brother, it’s okay. Augus, Augus, it’s okay. Look at me, look at me.’

Ash’s face was beside his, fingers still moving slowly inside of him. And Augus opened his eyes only reluctantly, looking at Ash’s lips before he met his eyes. Ash’s eyebrows were pulled together, and he suddenly looked so much younger, and it made Augus’ heart ache.

‘I’m sorry,’ Ash said again, once Augus was looking at him. ‘I shouldn’t have said that. It was stupid.’

‘I’m not used to this,’ Augus said again, hating how oddly defensive he sounded, and Ash watched him and then spread his fingers inside Augus very slowly. Augus’ back arched, his knees felt like they were going to buckle again.

‘Do you want to be?’ Ash purred.

By the gods.

‘How are you not tired?’ Augus cried out, and Ash leaned in and licked his way into Augus’ ear, curling around the shape of it.

‘How can I be tired, when I have you in front of me?’

‘I bet you say that to everyone,’ Augus said, and hated the hardness in his voice, because no, it wasn’t supposed to be envy. It wasn’t. It was supposed to be shutting this down so that they could go back to the way things were, not Augus feeling like his chest had needles in it at the idea of being another one of Ash’s conquests.

‘You’d lose that bet,’ Ash said, his voice deepening.

And then he was shifting behind Augus once more, there was more lubricant being stroked against him. And Augus was bracing himself on the wall and protests were building but what Ash had said – so stupid – made him feel like he had to prove himself. And it wasn’t like him, none of this was like him, he hadn’t known he had anything like this inside of him until Ash had come along and steamrolled past the person he thought he was.

But when Ash pushed himself between Augus’ ass cheeks and rubbed the head of himself up and down in the lubricant, Augus made a faint noise of protest.

‘Please, easy this time,’ Augus heard himself say. Not stop or don’t or any of the words he thought he had on the tip of his tongue.

‘You got it,’ Ash said, and then Augus squeezed his eyes shut at the stretch. He was looser than he’d been the night before, but he was swollen and everything felt far more sensitive. He made a strangled, high-pitched sound, even as Ash’s forehead fell onto the top of his shoulder. One arm was around his middle, the other was up and pulling Augus’ wrist out to the side, pinning his hand against the tiled wall. Augus told himself it was the water vapour that made it hard for him to breathe, that it was the high temperature in the room making him feel suffocated with heat.

Ash, for once, was true to his word. He slid into Augus slowly. He withdrew and pushed back in, a little deeper each time, and Augus whined at the fact that he was still sore, still hard, and he couldn’t tell if his cock ached for some attention, or if he just ached. He was starting to think that if he ever allowed himself to be taken by anyone else again – which he doubted – he wouldn’t be able to make it work, that his body had been primed for only one person. Augus gasped for breath, Ash’s hand flexing over his wrist; tightening as he pushed deeper, loosening as he withdrew.

‘I could do this forever,’ Ash said, but it sounded like an absent thing, something he was saying to himself more than to Augus. And Augus felt a shimmering warmth; in amongst all the confusion, he did know that the one thing that he wanted was for Ash to stay by his side. And if Ash was saying something like that, maybe, just maybe...

A dull ache spread across the inside of him as Ash pressed deeper still, and his breath hitched on a low moan. There was a point where Augus wasn’t sure if Ash would find any more room for himself, and that was always when Ash pushed deeper and found it. This time was no different, only slower, and Augus didn’t realise how hard he was pressing his fingers into the wall until Ash suddenly entwined fingers with his and pulled his hand back slightly.

‘Mm,’ Ash said quietly, when he couldn’t get any deeper. The hand around his waist dropped down to his cock and encircled it carefully, but then Ash dragged the heel of his palm over the head of him and Augus groaned because it hurt, but his body was also telling him that it was good. ‘Okay, just like this then. Sound good to you?’

Augus couldn’t find the words to agree, disagree, he only made a sound of vague acknowledgement and realised that Ash would interpret that however he wanted.

Ash struck up a slow, deep rhythm, keeping his forehead against the back of Augus’ shoulder, occasionally twisting his head to kiss the curve of his skin, to breathe roughly against him. And Augus was tired, pleasure demanding more oxygen and more effort, even though Ash wasn’t doing much more than rock him gently against the tiles.

His eyes were closed, he had to concentrate hard on staying upright, even though he was certain Ash wouldn’t let him fall. There was a difference between feeling weak and still being able to prop oneself up, and feeling collapse threatening. Augus had the sense that it was Ash’s arms, Ash’s cock, that were keeping him upright, and every rolling movement of Ash’s hips threatened lightning and waves in his mind, a strange turbulence.

He didn’t have the energy to hold sounds back in his throat, and they spilled out of him, his mouth open to let them fall. They echoed off the tiles around them, and the more intense ones, the ones that came when Ash pressed deep and ground his hips, made Ash groan in response.

‘Fucking hell, Augus, you sound like...’

But he didn’t finish the sentence. He sped up. The pace – Augus thought – still might be considered slow by some people’s standards. But for all that it was slow, it was thorough, claiming. It didn’t allow Augus any quarter. Augus realised that Ash fucked like he wanted people to feel it for days, regardless of the speed.

The hand around his wrist tightened, the other hand around his cock began to squeeze a little tighter, and Ash had turned his head to the side, kept his ear up, as though he was listening even more closely for Augus’ responses. He was careful of the head of his cock, and Augus had at first been grateful, and now found he wanted the extra stimulation, a palm over the tender flesh, fingers, something. Augus shifted forwards, weakly, into Ash’s hand and moaned.

‘More?’ Ash said, and Augus hesitated, then shook his head. He didn’t want to risk Ash misinterpreting him, becoming too rough. ‘But you want something, right? Tell me. I’m all ears.’

Augus’ breathing hitched. He was so tired. Ash didn’t stop moving, it was hard to even think up the words he needed for a sentence, let alone speak them.

He made a small, thin sound.

‘Tell me, Augus,’ Ash purred. ‘Come on. Harder? Faster?’

Augus shook his head and Ash hummed speculatively. Despite the fact that his breathing was rough, his voice was still surprisingly steady.

‘Slower?’

Augus shook his head again and Ash smiled against his shoulder, pressed his lips to the curve of it. Augus shivered, breathed in air so thick with steam that it was almost like swimming.

‘Oh, something specific then.’

The hand wrapped around his cock became fingers ducking down between his thighs, cupping his balls. Augus cried out, sharply, gasped and heard Ash made a questioning sound. And though it was intense, incredible, it wasn’t what he thought would make him come, and regretfully he shook his head again. If he had any motor control, he’d consider doing that to himself.

Ash’s fingertips trailed up the base of Augus’ cock, across the vein on the underside, and gently over the head of him, catching precome and smoothing it back. And it was sore and sharp but good, and Augus gently rocked into his brother’s hand, biting his lower lip and releasing it immediately, accidentally snagging where Ash had bitten him earlier.

Ash’s hand suddenly curved around the tip of Augus’ cock, squeezing a gentle pressure onto the head of him, and Augus shook, felt caught, was too surrounded. Ash laughed deep in his throat, a sound that was made thicker by his own arousal, the rich sound burrowed inside of him, turned his chest into a furnace.

‘I thought you’d be too sore for this,’ Ash said, working his cock in long strokes, making sure to pay particular attention to the head of him. When Ash pressed the tip of his finger into the slit, and then moved like he was tickling it, Augus whined.

‘So we’ve got all we need then,’ Ash murmured to himself. ‘Not long now.’

And it wasn’t long, the combination of Ash’s steady, claiming thrusts, along with the cleverness of his fingers on Augus’ cock, rubbing at the head of him, added up. His orgasm approached from a distance. His muscles didn’t want to participate, taking a long time to tense, trembling with the fatigue of it. He moaned, edged between pleasure and pain, becoming aware of the soreness in his whole body once more.

‘I can’t,’ Augus said, breathless. ‘I don’t do this.’

Ash didn’t reply, didn’t offer a cocky comeback like he expected. He didn’t speed up, he didn’t do anything more than what he was doing, though his breath came faster.

And then the hand around his cock tightened. He scraped the tip of his thumbnail gently over the head of Augus’ cock, and Augus bucked backwards to remove the too-sensitive pressure, forced Ash deeper inside of him, an explosion of pain-pleasure rocking through him.

‘Fuck,’ Augus shouted. ‘You ass!’

‘You just need a little extra,’ Ash breathed, fingers digging into his wrist now, using his weight to keep Augus pinned to the wall. The thumbnail returned, a blunt, light pressure that wasn’t doing any damage, but made his nerves zing, made him feel raw and over-exposed and coiled bursts of pleasure and pain along his nerves until he didn’t know whether to move forwards or backwards.

Ash latched his mouth to the side of Augus’ neck and sucked hard, and there was a sudden, head-splitting clarity in the sensations in Augus’ body. All at once they jumbled together, and he realised he was far closer to coming than he’d thought.

Short, sharp cries fell out of his throat as it wound up inside of him. And then release – the cramps pain as much as pleasure, and he keened silently, the sound of his breath still bouncing back at him from the tiles. And Ash was riding him through it, keeping him open, hand no longer moving on Augus’ cock but cradling it instead, and it wasn’t exactly gentle but it was attentive and Augus wanted to turn around and bury his face in his brother’s shoulder and he’d never felt like that before, and it was a dread that overlaid the spasms of his weak release.

Ash came a short time after, pressing Augus hard into the wall and sighing, kissing the back of Augus’ head and nuzzling at the strands of waterweed in his hair that he could feel. Each one was sensitive, and Augus revelled in the feel of it. He thought he might faint.

And then hands were wrapping around his torso and dragging him back under the spray, and fingers were between his legs, cleaning him, and Augus felt himself turn unbidden, his body following some deeper instinct, one he hadn’t felt for so long. It was painful, an instinct he feared, to turn towards Ash like this, to declare something of himself he didn’t know it was safe to declare.

He leaned heavily against Ash’s frame as Ash’s fingers moved carefully between his ass cheeks, rinsing away lubricant and come.

After several minutes under the hot spray, Ash moved his hands so he was simply clasping Augus against him. And then his breathing paused.

‘You’re still shaking,’ Ash said, and Augus closed his eyes. He couldn’t tell if Ash said that because he liked it, or because he was concerned, or something else.

I need sleep, brother.

Everything was a blur from the showers being shut off to the huge towel being wrapped around him. His mind wasn’t working properly. It wasn’t only the sex, he realised, but too many revelations, too much stress, not knowing exactly where his core energy was. There was a constant low-grade anxiety. The one person he’d confide in about this, was the one person he didn’t think he could talk to about it.

‘That comment you made,’ Augus slurred, as Ash walked him back into his bedroom. ‘Don’t you ever compare me to them again. Ever. Not like that. Or I will...’ bar you from my house.

Augus’ throat closed on a whimper. He could never do that. But he didn’t know how else to convey how much it had cut at him, hearing Ash say that to him.

‘I won’t ever fucking say it again,’ Ash said, and he sounded sincere. ‘I don’t know what I was thinking.’

Augus was still shaking when Ash towelled him dry, and he was still shaking when he felt blankets being piled on top of his body, being tucked in around him where he’d ended up half-curled upon the bed. And then Ash was curling up alongside him, fingers came out and stroked his hair back from his face, arranging it behind his ears. Augus kept his eyes closed for all of it. He needed sleep.

As he drifted into darkness, one thought flashed in his mind, hung heavy.

What have you done to me?

But he couldn’t ask it, didn’t want to hear an answer. It would require too many words, and he could do nothing more than float into darkness, his body throbbing at him, a hand resting carefully on the side of his head.

*

He woke up in the early hours of the next morning, surprised that he’d slept for so long. He wasn’t quite as sore, which meant that his underfae healing had kicked in. He was hungry, but there was a vague nausea that ate at him, he wasn’t sure he could stomach anything.

Ash was fast asleep, and Augus hesitantly reached out and touched his hair with stiff fingers. He stroked a strand of his waterweed. He was reminded of the times he couldn’t sleep when he was younger, and Ash would be out like a light. Augus could reach out and stroke or pet his hair, could twirl curls around his fingers. At first he’d hated that Ash kept his hair short, but now it felt friendly and familiar. He couldn’t imagine Ash with longer hair, and it likely wouldn’t suit him. He was never a very typical looking waterhorse.

Augus slipped off the bed quietly and immediately stopped moving, reaching out to the bed and bracing himself on it. He was exhausted.

He stood carefully, aware that it wasn’t just his body that felt like it had been used. He wasn’t thinking properly. Things that were familiar, weren’t there. He expected to be able to find sarcasm, a droll inner voice, something, and instead there was just a wasteland of half-finished words and sentences. None of the wit he’d been able to rely on in the past.

He made his way, dazed, to the kitchen and opened Ash’s fridge, wincing at the artificial chill of it. There was a lot of fruit, and Augus had to dig around to eventually find a fresh cucumber, drawing it out and biting straight into it, needing the food. Even eating was exhausting, but the clean, mild flavour of the cucumber helped his nausea abate, and he felt a little better as he walked slowly to Ash’s couch.

He stared at it, frowning.

This is where it all started. You didn’t stop him, and he didn’t stop himself, and now you can’t undo it. What do you think you’re going to think of, every time you look at this couch?

Augus sat on it carefully, reaching down for the remote control. He turned it over in his hands, looked at the television. He didn’t want to think. He didn’t want thoughts in his head. He was aware of a growing, huge ball of something, and he couldn’t even see it. He’d never quite shed the sensation of drowning, once he’d noticed it.

He wanted so badly to go to Ash, to curl up against him, to ask him why. But he didn’t do that with Ash. They didn’t talk like that. He was supposed to be the big brother, not the one who curled up against him. And Augus didn’t know what to do, because he didn’t have anyone else he could confide in, and he’d never really needed to confide in Ash like this before.

He reached down and picked up two of the folded up blankets by the couch, then lay on his side, facing the television. He clumsily piled the blankets around him, and then laughed softly when he realised that he was feeling thoroughly sorry for himself. This wasn’t like him at all. When things were hard, he went about his life like normal, relying on routine and structure and work to see him through. Now he was pressing the blankets up to his face and breathing in the scent of his brother, feeling shaky and barer than his nudity allowed.

He turned on the television, turned down the volume until it was just a low, background drone. He could pretend they were fae, though the way the scenes kept jumping back and forth confused his eyes and he couldn’t watch it after a little while. He didn’t like how scattered it all felt. He didn’t understand why they didn’t just film it all at once, instead of flashing between different images. He listened to the sounds of it though, was grateful for the background noise.

Ash had gotten him a small music player, since Augus’ home was also designed to be able to take advantage of electricity. Ash had given him a pile of music that was pressed into thin discs of plastic, and Augus had doubted anything good could come from them, and indeed the first CD he played – the word ‘punk’ scrawled on the top – was nothing but jarring noise. But he’d found a CD with the word ‘folk’ on it, and he hadn’t minded some of that. It felt wrong to listen to music made by his food, but Ash had given them to him, and Augus didn’t like singing himself all the time, didn’t like to employ singers, and the thin discs gave him something and if he was honest, sometimes the song lyrics were nice and he found himself quietly repeating them when he did feel like singing. It always made him feel strange, uneasy. Like he was infected with something.

Ash told him to get over things like that.

Augus’ mind drifted into a doze.

He woke to the blankets being shifted and someone standing over him, looked up, seeing Ash – naked – clambering over him clumsily onto the couch. Suddenly Ash was spooning him from behind, tucking the blankets around them both, and he grabbed the remote control where Augus had stuffed it between a cushion and an armrest, and pressed a lot of buttons.

‘Gordon Ramsey is an asshole, you’d probably like him,’ Ash said quietly. And he wrapped a hand around Augus’ chest and pulled him back into him with a mix of possession and care. Augus was too far gone to have a problem with it. He still found the television visually jarring, but as minutes passed, Augus found that he was becoming more interested in what was going on, and he smirked at one point, when the human named Gordon Ramsey laid into another human.

Augus was getting engrossed in the show. He began to realise that the reason everything was so jumpy, was because they were trying to fit a story that took place over many hours, into a very short timeframe. Once he realised they were fast-tracking a story, everything was much easier to follow. It hurt his eyes, and he thought they could have come up with a better way of doing it, but he was too tired to care beyond that.

Ash shifted, pulled Augus down by the shoulder so that he was lying on his back, and then shifted his head underneath the blankets. Augus’ brow furrowed, and then his eyebrows shot up when a hot, wet tongue licked over one of his nipples.

‘Ash,’ Augus said, and Ash hummed, reached around with his hand and rubbed at the other one, flicking it with the tip of his finger.

Augus felt like he was vibrating. He didn’t have the energy to stop him, thinking Ash would get bored. Unlikely. Instead, Ash continued, relentless, scraping his teeth over the sensitive flesh, rubbing his fingers over the nipple where it was wet and then sucking so hard that Augus squirmed on the couch, only to find himself pinned down by Ash’s arm.

Oh, fuck. Does he never stop?

‘That’s enough, Ash,’ Augus heard himself say, swallowing heavily.

Ash didn’t listen, and Augus found himself getting more and more sensitive. He went to twitch out of the way and found himself unable to move. Ash’s hands had a very clear idea of what he was meant to do, which was simply experience it.

‘Ash, please, do you not have any mercy in you at all?’ Augus said, breathless.

‘Nope,’ Ash said, his voice muffled beneath the blankets.

Augus reached down weakly, clawed at Ash’s wrist, but Ash didn’t respond and Augus couldn’t get a proper grip on him. The feelings that Ash was drawing out of him were sharper now, more pained, and he squeezed his eyes shut, his breath getting shaky.

‘Last time,’ Ash said, and Augus made a sound that was full of self-pity because Ash had promised that the first time would be the last time.

‘Please,’ Augus said, his voice weak.

‘You’re so sensitive, it’s fucking amazing,’ Ash said, lifting his head above the blankets but still teasing Augus’ nipple with his fingers, plucking and twisting it, thrumming his fingers across it. He saw Augus’ face and something dark crossed his features. ‘You’re so fucking wrecked, brother. You look incredible.’

‘Why won’t you listen to me?’ Augus said, hating how fragile he sounded.

‘Because,’ Ash said, and his brow furrowed before clearing again. ‘Because I find myself starving, and as clichéd as it sounds, you on the menu is something I can’t get enough of. Because I like you when you’re like this. You’re always so cold and aloof and distant, but it turns out when you’re fucked beyond your limits, you become open and vulnerable and warm.’

Augus shook his head in denial, because he knew he could be distant and aloof, but he tried not to be with Ash. It was only that...sometimes he couldn’t tell what Ash was thinking, or what he really wanted.

And behold how off the ball you’ve been with that for however long he’s been wanting this.

‘And,’ Ash said, pinching Augus’ nipple particularly hard and smirking when Augus’ back bowed to get away, ‘I just like to watch you when you don’t know what to do with yourself. Not so sure of yourself now, are you, brother?’

Augus whimpered, moaned in denial when he felt Ash’s cock hard against his ass cheeks.

‘Just watch TV, Augus,’ Ash whispered. ‘Just watch. Relax.’

Augus heard himself sob, the sounds weakening into nothing, as Ash disappeared below the blankets again.

Ash’s fingers and mouth gentled on his nipples, but didn’t relent, and Augus became used to the shakiness in his lungs and the feeling of constantly being touched and the sensitivity of it. And Ash was rocking gently against his ass, not in him, but just – it seemed – enjoying the sensation of it. And Augus had to admit the slow, soft rocking was nice. But feeling Ash’s cock against him, knowing what Ash could do with it, that was a vague threat. It was something that Augus distracted himself from by watching the television, trying to follow the storyline.

Time passed, his mind started to drift. He didn’t think he would be able to doze again, not like this, but his body had other ideas. The rocking was soothing, like floating in the lake when there was a gentle breeze in the air. It reminded him of home, of – strangely – Ash as he once used to be, centuries ago.

He woke to fingers spreading his ass cheeks, a slicked, blunt length pressing against his entrance and he hadn’t even been prepared and he was sore and swollen and his breath started to ratchet up into panic.

‘I can’t, I can’t,’ Augus said, and Ash chuckled against his shoulder.

He pushed in, and Augus cried out because there hadn’t been any stretching, because even though he was loose, and there was plenty of lubricant, he just wanted to a chance to heal. He wasn’t ripped apart, but he could feel that he was inflamed, and Ash just pushed past that, pulled him back with heavy, demanding hands until Augus thought he could feel Ash all the way up in his lungs.

‘Gods, I can’t,’ Augus said, tears streaking down his face. He couldn’t tell if it felt good or bad, only that it was happening, and he didn’t know what to do.

A hand came up and touched his face, thumbed tears away. But Ash chuckled again, a dark, possessive sound.

‘Hey, come on now, Augus. All you have to do is fucking take it, and you’re doing that just fine.’

Ash withdrew and pushed back and Augus slumped into the couch, feeling as though when he came back to his senses – whenever that was – he was going to murder his brother for this. And he hated the fact that he was reacting, that his tired, spent cock was aching like he might get hard again. He didn’t want to.

‘Come soon,’ Augus said.

‘I’m not coming until you come,’ Ash said, and he rolled his hips in a rhythm faster than what he’d found in the shower. This wasn’t gentle rocking anymore, but demanding. Augus was so sore, everything felt too rough, even though he knew that Ash was being firm, not aggressive.

‘I can’t. I can’t handle it. Ash, this is too much.’

‘No, nope, really not,’ Ash said. ‘Hate it a little, huh? That I know you can come and you don’t? We could put money on it. How much money do you want to bet that I’m going to make you come again? How much do you think I can get you to come from too much?’

Augus pressed a hand to his face and shook his head, because he didn’t want Ash to be right, he didn’t want the strain of his body winding up tight again, the spasms of it. He wanted rest, and Ash – angling down deliberately so he could brush more pressure against his prostate – wanted an intensity that Augus had never experienced in his entire life.

Ash fucked into him until Augus’ breathing became so uneven he began to see white spots firing off behind his eyelids.

Ash wrapped an arm around his pelvis and pushed deep, and then stayed still. He groaned softly.

‘Don’t move,’ Ash whispered. ‘Just don’t...move.’

Augus couldn’t move even if he wanted to. He didn’t know what Ash was doing, but Ash seemed content to stay deep, breath gusting out over his shoulder, cock twitching on occasion inside of him. And as the minutes passed and Ash’s erection showed no signs of flagging, Augus felt exhaustion make everything in his body limp, he felt as though Ash being there inside of him was somehow normal, and it was everything else that was the lie.

And then the arm over his pelvis became a hand around his cock, and Augus jerked, but Ash was only holding him. Everything was still except for their breathing, and Augus didn’t know what to do. Didn’t know what Ash was doing.

‘Fucking Christ,’ Ash murmured. ‘You’re incredible.’

Augus couldn’t think of what to say, but he felt his cheeks heat, and his next inhale was a sudden, deep thing, his lungs remembering how to work again.

‘Do you still love me?’ Ash said, his voice sounding rough and easy, like he was making a joke. But beneath that...

Augus suddenly wished for more awareness, something. He couldn’t concentrate properly, and this was important.

‘Always,’ Augus heard himself say, hardly aware of the word as he fell from his mouth. ‘But...this doesn’t happen again.’

‘But you like it,’ Ash said, and Augus laughed a sound that was as much a moan of despair than anything.

He didn’t even know what he liked anymore.

‘Some,’ Augus said, deciding that was too many words for how tired he felt.

Ash, do you still love me?

Augus couldn’t ask it. He didn’t want to know. He didn’t want to hear falseness in Ash’s voice. He didn’t want to hear, ‘I love this.’ He swallowed around the lump in his throat, but couldn’t stop the tears from coming.

‘Please fuck me,’ Augus heard himself say, and then smirked at himself, because he just wanted to not think about anything. Clearly Ash’s denial was contagious.

Ash withdrew slowly and then pushed back in fast, yanking a sound from Augus’ chest. The hand around his cock squeezed him lightly and rhythmically around the base, pulling him back into Ash’s movements.

It didn’t matter that Ash wasn’t being overly rough, it still hurt. And Augus just wanted pleasure to layer over it. He couldn’t direct or alter anything, couldn’t move his hips backwards or forwards, was too tired and pliant. But Ash didn’t seem to mind, seemed to delight in it. Augus let him do what he liked, realising – belatedly – that even if he was certain he couldn’t come, Ash would likely find a way.

It took time, it took time and the reapplication of lubricant, and Augus’ mind had disconnected into a warm, incoherent mess of sensation and movement and the scent of Ash everywhere. It was when Ash reapplied lubricant to his cock and pushed back in again, that Augus felt a flicker of something itchy inside of him, a pleasure that scraped and chafed and became a bully of sensation that clawed at him, dragged him towards something he didn’t even think he wanted.

He was sobbing as Ash started to speed up inside of him, he cried out high and then repeatedly when Ash reached underneath his cock and pressed inquisitive fingers to his balls, cupping them, squeezing lightly, tugging.

He didn’t have any seed left to spill when he came, and he would have shouted, keened, wailed in frustration at the jagged pain-pleasure that it was, but he couldn’t gather enough breath to do anything more than whimper once and then heave for breath, shaking through it.

Ash gentled but didn’t stop thrusting. He returned to the rocking of before. Ash felt even thicker and longer inside of him now that he was tighter from having come again, but he couldn’t move. Blackness was threatening at his vision, far more opaque than usual, fringed with grey.

Augus realised with a sudden bolt of shock, that he wasn’t falling asleep, he was passing out.

The shock wasn’t enough to save him from the tumble into blackness.

*

He drifted to wakefulness three times. The first time he was awake enough to realise that the television was still on, and that Ash was behind him. He was only aware of those two things for a few seconds before he blanked and fell back down into sleep.

The second time, there was movement and he was alone on the couch, wrapped in more blankets than before. Everything was soft and pillowy. He heard the sound of a water bottle being placed on the table near him, he heard paper ripping, a pen moving on it. The television wasn’t on anymore, but there was music in the background. Augus didn’t recognise it, but it was quiet and it wasn’t jarring.

He heard a sigh, and then a second sigh, and he wanted to know why Ash sounded so sad. But he was sore, and his body was tired, and his mind wasn’t up for anything more than those basic observations. He slept again.

The third time he woke, he stayed still, kept his eyes closed for some time. Waited to see if he was actually awake. He had rarely been sick in his life, but when he was younger he’d accidentally poisoned himself when testing the viability of a new type of herb, and he’d been horrifically ill for two weeks. He’d drifted in and out of wakefulness, alone, and he remembered having to let sleep take him, because he wasn’t good for anything else.

This reminded him of that.

But it turned out that he was awake, and after a while he opened his eyes, rubbing at them with the back of his hand.

Ash wasn’t there. Music was still playing softly, but Augus had the sense that Ash wasn’t even home. He hoped he was wrong, sure he was being paranoid. Ash being gone was an old horror in his chest, and he wished he could claw it out of himself.

He levered himself upright into a sitting position and huffed out a pained breath. He hurt.

He stood up and took several deep breaths, waiting for the dizziness to pass, and then looked around the room, the kitchen, wandered down the corridor, one hand on the wall, only lightly touching. Ash wasn’t anywhere. With a sinking feeling he knew that he had left. He made his way back down the corridor towards the lounge and saw a note on the coffee table, by a bottle of water.

He wasn’t thirsty anymore, after the shower, so he picked up the note instead:

Hey Augus,

I’ll see you in a month and it’ll be like normal, okay? I know I should’ve stayed, I don’t have any excuses though I thought of like a bunch, none of them are good. If you need me before the month is up, come find me, New York probably. My door’s always open. I hope yours is too.

Love,
Ash.

The letter crumpled in Augus’ hand as he stepped back to the couch and then sat on it gingerly, his heart pounding hard inside of his chest.

I hope yours is too.

Of course it would be. That was the problem, wasn’t it? The small scraps of Ash that Augus would accept, if it meant that Ash would come back. And he felt like Ash had reached inside of him and scooped his insides out, had taken so much from him that he didn’t know quite who he was anymore. He needed time. He needed rest.

He wanted Ash to be there.

He turned onto his side and faced the back of the couch, drawing his legs up to his chest. He burrowed into blankets that smelled of sex, of Ash, and closed his eyes, willing his mind to sleep. He needed it so badly. He could leave later, in a day or two.

But he couldn’t sleep around the hollowness inside of him, and eventually his eyes opened. A small, lost laugh crept out of his mouth. It would almost be funny, except that it was happening to him. He stared at the fabric of the couch, waiting – knowing it was futile – for Ash to come back and lie next to him again.

Chapter Text

Ash

*

It was not the exorcism that Ash had hoped it would be.

The first two days after he left Augus for his New York apartment, he’d slept. It was a combination of shock at what he’d done, actual tiredness, a need to hide away from his own thoughts.

After two days of sleeping he went back to his underwater home in his lake just be sure, just to check. A part of him stupidly hoped that Augus would still be there and knew that he wouldn’t be. He was only tormenting himself. The CD was still playing on repeat when he arrived, the blankets he’d tucked around Augus’ vulnerable form were folded neatly and precisely, and the cushions were laid back against the couch. It was as if Augus had never been there, except that Ash could smell him now, could smell the lingering traces of sex. The bottle of water hadn’t been consumed, there was no sign of the note.

It had hit him like a physical blow, coming back to his underwater home. He had no idea what Augus thought about it all, and now there were memories everywhere. His bedroom. The lounge. The shower. If he had wanted to expel something from his mind, he’d failed.

And so he’d mercilessly stripped the quilt cover from his bed, ready to obliterate all signs that Augus had been there. If Augus was doing it, then he would too. That was obviously what was meant to happen.

He’d ended up bundled in the quilt cover on the floor, breathing deeply and feeling as though he was falling from a great height and hadn’t yet hit the ground. But he knew it was coming, he knew the impact would smash him to pieces. He lost himself in embroidery and fabric, scented Augus on it and added that to the pile of things that he wasn’t ashamed of, but wouldn’t tell Augus about, because there were things that Ash did that he knew Augus would condemn him for.

Like the entire fucking weekend.

He’d been thoroughly sick of himself after that and had gone back to New York and entered into a spectacular bender, taking two women home on two occasions, one man who had found his damp hair hilarious and in the end needed to be compelled to stop asking about it with; ‘It’s a genetic condition, don’t worry about it, buddy.’ The tins and bottles of alcohol filled a giant bin bag after a single weekend, and he felt sorry for himself, but not sorry enough to stop, not sorry enough to want to be left alone with his own thoughts.

When he was younger – too young –he’d moved out of home. He’d had his bags over his shoulders and human money and fae items for trade and barter, he’d joked about how he’d be back crying in a day, in three days. It was an uncomfortable joke, because he was crying when he left, and Augus didn’t seem anything beyond concerned about him and not particularly upset. But they’d not been talking as well at the time, it was becoming harder for Ash to read Augus, and Augus had never been forthcoming about his feelings. Sure, Augus had raised him. Sure, they’d made it through hard times as underfae. But Augus still always needed Ash to be the little brother, always needed to be playing a certain role, and Ash was sick of it, and they’d fought on and off in the months leading up to his moving away.

The fact was he’d broken down within hours of leaving, and by the third day he was exhausted and dehydrated and heartbroken, furious at the idea of Augus calmly going about his business at home. He told himself he’d go back at the end of the week, when he felt like he was less likely to end up in tears seeing him again.

A week had become two, then three, and then by the fourth he was distracting himself with drugs and alcohol and fucking, and by the time he realised a month had gone past, he realised he’d been away too long and Augus might be angry at him, or worse, might be fine.

He’d stayed away longer. He’d given himself alcohol poisoning and couldn’t go to a human hospital for it. He knew enough to know that he’d nearly died. Nearly died and still didn’t feel like he could go back to Augus to see if he had anything to help him in his herbalism kit. Which Augus would. Augus always did.

What he felt now wasn’t the same relentless pain he’d experienced when he’d left, but it had enough echoes that Ash became scared of returning once more. The only thing that made him go back at the end of a month was that when he’d returned to Augus after nearly a year, it was years before Augus would let Ash touch him affectionately again. Years before he was allowed the privilege of touching his hair, putting a hand on his shoulder.

He was nervous. He felt ill. He’d failed to get his feelings for Augus out of his system. He knew that it would be hard to see Augus again and not wanthim. But Augus wanted things to go back to normal.

Ash wanted Augus under him again, writhing and too weak to hold back noises and keening and it turned out, having a huge vocabulary of sounds to express the entire spectrum of his arousal. He wanted to feel him trembling, to hear the way his voice became when it was raspy and he wanted to be buried deep inside of him and have a hand around him or fingers pumping into him until he released messily, everywhere. He wanted everything.

Yeah, really not a fucking successful exorcism. So much for that theory.

He felt sick when he entered Augus’ foyer, shaking water off his head and towelling himself off. He’d worn water-wicking clothes especially, so that he wouldn’t have to strip off, change, tempt anything.

Augus was in his kitchen, drying off a series of jars and laying them upside down on the countertop, as though he wanted to use them for something. As soon as he saw Ash, he didn’t go about his business like he always did, he stiffened. His eyes widened.

A few seconds later Ash smelt the faintest trace of fear and he swallowed down nausea.

‘Hey, Augus,’ Ash said, tossing the towel in the corner like he always did.

Normalcy.

‘Told you I’d be back in a month, yeah?’

Augus’ eyes narrowed. He looked back at what he was doing like he’d forgotten, then went back to drying off the jar. He was wearing casual clothing, which for Augus was never particularly casual. A long-sleeved pullover that was dark grey, a colour that Ash had always liked on him. Black pants in a formal cut that highlighted his legs.

Just like that, things were awkward. Augus wasn’t making conversation, Ash didn’t know exactly what to say, and that wasn’t like him. He always knew what to say. He searched around for different sentences, discarded almost all of them. The silence between them stretched.

His body was unhelpfully reminding him of other things he’d like to do.

Augus set the jar down amongst all the others, fingers reaching out and making sure that it was lined up. He rested his hand on the bench and looked up at Ash.

‘Did you have a good month?’ Augus said.

‘It was a month,’ Ash said, wondering at which point, exactly, he’d ruined everything. Was it the moment he leaned over Augus and placed a hand on his crotch? Or was it years ago, when he’d accidentally stumbled across Augus getting himself off by his lake, and not leaving like he repeatedly told himself to? ‘You?’

Augus’ lips thinned.

‘You’re afraid of me,’ Ash said, and winced at himself. ‘I can tell.’

‘I’m not afraid of you,’ Augus said, then paused. He laughed, the sound unpleasant. A moment later he slapped the tea-towel down onto the counter and stepped out from behind it, glaring. ‘Actually, yes, perhaps I’m a little concerned that you’re just here for some marathon fuck, and then you’ll leave me – exhausted – to pick up the pieces.’

‘What pieces?’ Ash said. ‘Some sleep and you were fine, I’m sure.’

Augus’ eyes widened, his mouth dropped open. Ash wasn’t used to seeing him look so shocked, and it was disarming.

What pieces?

‘You hurt me,’ Augus said. His voice was sharp, his expression recovered itself back to a composed, level fury. ‘You broke my core, Ash, my heartsong. You left me to deal with that on my own.’

Oh fucking shit. He’d wondered, there were several moments where he’d wanted it, it wasn’t as though he hadn’t tried. But it was one thing to want it in the moment, and another thing to realise that it could have happened, the consequences of it. After all, a broken core was no laughing matter. It could lead to sickness, to despair. It was trauma of the highest spiritual degree.

‘No, I-’

‘You know you did! Don’t bother lying to me. We’ve known each other long enough now, brother, that I know. Or at least I thought I did.’

‘Maybe it’s just shaken,’ Ash said, and Augus laughed.

‘That’s what I thought. But no, it is quite shattered, thank you very much. And don’t tell me some small part of you isn’t satisfied, because I’m not an idiot. I know what it’s like to have someone underneath you and drive hard after the fractures, see where they’re going to break. I know how good it can feel.’

But every word he said was designed to be an insult, and Ash quailed under the force of Augus’ anger. He’d experienced so little of anything outside of his mild irritation, or frustration, that his anger felt almost unbearable.

‘You liked it,’ Ash said, and Augus opened his mouth as though to deny it, and then snapped his mouth shut. His fists clenched.

‘It’s not about whether I liked it.’

‘That seems like a pretty fucking important part of it to me,’ Ash said, and Augus ran an impatient hand through his own hair.

‘We’re brothers!’ Augus said, finally. ‘I want things to go back to the way they were. If I needed sex, I could have gotten it from someone, I would have-’

‘No, you wouldn’t. You know you wouldn’t. Don’t give me that. You hadn’t experienced any of that before, and you had no intention of doing it. You’ve always been a control freak, and I get it, okay? I get that it’s important to you. But you weren’t living, either. Spending all your time here at your lake, never going out or seeing other people, the most emotional relationship you have with anyone being with like your clients, or me.’

‘It is my life, and it is mine to live the way that I like.’ Augus’ voice was cold. ‘And let’s not forget the fact that you can sell it like corrective fucking, but that apparently this was something you wanted? That you wanted and never told me until I was drunk? Wait, didn’t tell me, actually. Just took. How long, Ash?’

‘I can’t talk about this,’ Ash said, his voice shaking.

‘Oh, I feel so sorry for you. How long?’ Augus said, his voice hard.

‘I seriously fucking can’t,’ Ash said, looked longingly over at the couch. He had lain down on that couch more times than he could count. Augus had taken care of him after hangovers, had looked after him, but there was no one to look after him now. He’d done this himself.

‘If you had such a problem with this, you should have said something at the time, instead of letting me do-’

Augus stalked up to him and Ash stepped back, seeing all that intent directed at him, but didn’t step back fast enough. Augus lashed out with his hand, backhanding him hard. It was an explosion of pain, a blaze behind his eyes, and at first he’d thought that Augus’ hands were wet, then realised he’d been scored with his claws. Augus’ teeth were bared.

‘I thought I did a good job of raising you! You’ve made a lie of all of it!’

And in his own chest, a glimmer of anger drowned out all the fear he felt. He grasped onto it, wanting to not feel so unsteady, so insecure.

‘How?’ Ash breathed. ‘How did I make it a lie? Do you think the weekend was a lie? Do you think one invalidates the other?’

‘We’re ruined, because of you,’ Augus said, turning away, his voice more moan than anything.

Ash felt a wash of calm infuse him alongside his anger, alongside the feel of blood welling at four different points along his cheek. Augus walked away from him, faced the wall. Ash licked his lips, took a deep breath.

‘Nothing’s ruined,’ Ash said.

Augus turned to stare heavy disbelief at him.

‘Nothing’s ruined,’ Ash said again. ‘We’ve weathered everything life has thrown at us, haven’t we? Sure as fuck we’ll weather this too.’

Augus’ expression didn’t change for a few seconds, and then his face twisted, showing a depth of anguish beneath the anger, the coldness. Augus stared at the wall again, one arm came up and wrapped around his torso. Ash was surprised to see Augus like this at all, he was usually so composed, so calm, even in his anger. The exception was when he was throwing tantrums over minor things, and they were always an exception precisely because they were minor.

‘How long, Ash?’ Augus said, voice quiet.

The calm he felt vaporised.

‘Don’t ask me that.’

‘You ripped the heart of my...of my truth from me and then left me, I think I have a right to ask about it.’

The worst part was Augus was right. But Ash couldn’t. He just, he couldn’t explain it, he knew that once Augus found out how embarrassingly long it had been, he’d realise that there was something wrong with Ash that he hadn’t been able to let go after all this time, that he hadn’t been able to transform it into something else. The idea of Augus looking at him in horror, sending him away, being angry at him, it left a quaking creature in his heart. It was the very opposite of who he wanted to be, and yet...

‘I really can’t,’ Ash said, and swallowed down his shaking voice like he could unmake it. ‘I can’t.’

‘We need to think about this,’ Augus said.

‘I can’t think about this!’ Ash shouted, and then grimaced at himself, even as Augus turned around and stared at him.

‘Ash?’ Augus said, tilting his head to the side like he sometimes did when Ash had injured himself as a child. And that wasn’t much better. Ash shook his head, laughed, shook it again.

‘Fuck it,’ he muttered. ‘Just...fuck it.’

He stepped forwards and Augus’ eyes widened, his head straightened and he held up his arms so that when Ash pressed his body against Augus’, he felt palms on his chest. Ash looked up at him, just slightly. He felt a little taller than Augus even though he wasn’t. He’d always felt a little more like out of the two of them, Augus shied away and had somehow diminished himself, and he had been the bolder one, taking up more room, more energy, more food, more everything. He often found himself wondering if Augus would have had more presence if Ash hadn’t been in his life.

A beat where Augus just stared at him, and then Ash wrapped one hand around the back of his head and leaned up and forwards, pressing his mouth to Augus’ and tasting something bitter, as though he’d just eaten before Ash had arrived. He couldn’t pick the flavour, so it wasn’t something Augus would have given him when they were growing up. He licked it off the surface of his lips, stepping into Augus’ backwards step, keeping their bodies pressed together.

His other hand came up and splayed around Augus’ waist, feeling muscles over ribs, concerned that he could still feel the ribs themselves. Augus needed to eat more, had always sacrificed his portion of food for Ash when times were tough, and still ate poorly during hard times.

Underneath the bitterness was the flavour of Augus – fresh and clean, slightly sweet, like dipping one’s tongue into spring water. Ash tried to slip his tongue into Augus’ mouth but Augus kept his lips pressed firmly together.

Ash moved his head back and looked up at him.

‘I want to taste you,’ Ash breathed. ‘Let me.’

Augus’ face was a mix of expressions. His brows were twisted up and together, his mouth was a thin-lipped, faint frown. There was a tightness to his entire face. Ash found himself stroking the back of Augus’ head with his fingers, seeking out the waterweed and caressing it, cupping the back of his skull.

Easy, brother, come on now, be easy for me.

‘Nothing’s ruined,’ Ash whispered.

Augus looked past him then, shook his head slightly, opened his mouth to respond and Ash wanted to hear what he was going to say but wanted to take advantage of the opportunity more. He slid his tongue into Augus’ mouth, drawing his head forwards, pressing the underside of his tongue heavily to the top of Augus’, pinning it down for several seconds before thrusting lazily.

He stopped when Augus’ teeth closed around his flesh, a threat. Ash’s eyes flew open, and Augus was staring at him, eyes narrowed. His teeth bit down harder. It was a faint wash of antagonising pain that made Ash’s hands clench too hard in Augus’ hair, the hand at his ribs became biting. The warning in Augus’ eyes remained, but he opened his mouth enough that Ash could move freely again. And Ash withdrew enough to daringly trace Augus’ teeth, to court danger, and he found himself smiling when Augus’ eyes closed. He thrust back in again, languid, tasting.

Augus sighed quietly through his nose, and Ash kept kissing him until one of Augus’ hands curled fingers into his chest and the other slid around, under his arm, to his back. He made a small, bitten back noise, and Ash’s whole body leapt towards the possibility of finding the raw noises Augus could make, the ones he couldn’t hold back.

He kept his tongue inside Augus’ mouth, started encouraging Augus down to the floor. And Augus was resistant but reluctantly followed until they were both kneeling in front of each other, Ash’s cock tight in his jeans and feeling the hard bump in Augus’ pants, thrilled that he wasn’t the only one enjoying this, anticipation a surge of adrenaline through him, aware that he was running hard from something, but that running straight into Augus’ presence and sucking his tongue into his own mouth was a destination he could get behind.

Augus’ breathing became heavier, deeper. Ash brought the hand at his ribs up to his face, stroked his cheek, stroked the seam where their lips met, slipped a finger inside Augus’ mouth and painted his tongue with long, firm strokes even as he kept kissing him. Augus held on, leaned in.

Ash withdrew.

‘Tell me to stop,’ Ash said, listening to Augus’ breathing. ‘Tell me to stop, brother. Or I’m going to fuck you again.’

Augus made a small sound in the back of his throat, his head fell forwards until his forehead was resting against Ash’s lips, and Ash kissed him, stroked the back of his hair, waited. Dread oscillated alongside dark arousal, fragile hope. The predator in him wanted to wrap it’s way around Augus’ body and leave him limp and wrecked beneath him. A tremble charged through him.

Augus didn’t say anything. Ash waited for words, Augus offered none.

Ash pulled at Augus’ shirt until Augus lifted his forehead away from Ash’s lips and lifted his arms. When Ash lowered his hands to the fastenings at Augus’ pants, Augus stiffened and looked to the side, as though denying what was happening. He didn’t struggle away, didn’t say stop, only focused on something else.

Not for long.

Ash pulled Augus’ pants down and before getting them all the way off, wrapped his hand around his cock, feeling like this was more a homecoming than even visiting Augus’ home was. And Augus was tense, chest had stopped moving – holding his breath – and Ash squeezed him as affectionately as he would during any embrace and then trailed fingertips up to the tip of him, stroking a happy, lazy pattern onto the head of him. The slit was dry, no precome, but Ash didn’t expect any yet. He returned his hand to the length of Augus’ cock and pumped him firmly a few times. Augus’ lungs heaved for air.

‘Take them off,’ Ash said, letting go of Augus’ cock and leaning back to deal with his own shirt. He was surprised when, seconds later, Augus slowly shucked his pants. Ash tugged off his own, he’d toed off his shoes in the foyer.

Just like that, they were naked, kneeling on Augus’ floor. Augus was looking at Ash’s body, wouldn’t meet his eyes. Then he laughed, the sound weak.

‘And you say everything isn’t ruined?’

Ash grimaced.

‘Do you want me to stop or don’t you? We can try. We can go back and pretend that everything isn’t different now. But different isn’t ruined, and I don’t want to fucking pretend that last month didn’t happen. I don’t think we can. It’s not just me that’s really fucking hard right now, is it?’

Augus’ eyes drifted up to his, lines across his forehead.

'I wish it hadn’t happened,’ Augus said. ‘Maybe everything isn’t ruined, but you’ve ruined me.’

Ash’s heart twinged as he reached out and folded his hands around Augus’ body, finding his way across skin that quickly became covered in gooseflesh at his touch. He thumbed over muscles, found his way into concaves, rubbed at the spaces where no one really touched themselves – the underside of a pectoral, the base of a shoulder where it was hard to itch. Augus was tense and responsive all at once. Ash felt like he’d tuned his brother to his touch and it thrilled him, because he knew there was more he could do. He wanted to be the radio station that Augus thought of when he felt lonely.

‘Your core,’ Ash said, seeking confirmation.

‘Everything,’ Augus said. His voice was faint. He opened his mouth to say something else and Ash found himself waiting, holding his breath, because Augus never talked to him about anything. Not anything important to do with himself.

Then a strange alchemy, Augus’ expression shifted, closed off, and Ash realised that was it. That was all he was getting.

That’s okay, Augus. Maybe I can help.

He reached into the pocket of his jeans where they were crumpled on the floor, drew out lubricant, and as Augus drew in breath to likely mock or protest, Ash reached out with his other hand and took Augus’ cock in a familiar grip, pulling him forwards, enjoying the strangled sound that Augus made as he had no choice but to follow. Ash pulled him closer and then shifted them both so that they were both kneeling on the floor; his back braced against the couch, his knees bent beneath him.

His mouth found Augus’ again, his hands catalogued those things about Augus that he loved. The softer skin on the inside of his thighs that always made him gasp. The inner crease just above, where his thin pelt of straight, black hair met his leg and reflected his searing internal body temperature, not the lukewarm of the rest of his skin. He found the lifeline of Augus’ palm, dug his nail into it and firmly traced the fleshy part of his thumb. He slid his fingers down Augus’ fingers, before sliding his hand all the way up to sneak under Augus’ hair and cradle the back of his neck, which was damp and sensitive, jarring Augus’ breath from his body.

The more Ash touched, the more he found and rediscovered. Until finally he was just letting his hands wander wherever they pleased, to curves and then flat planes, to concaves and centres of heat, followed by the cool tops of his shoulders, the addictive swells of his ass cheeks, and the way Augus never seemed to know quite how to react when he first touched them.

And it occurred to him then, Augus’ core was broken. That after a single weekend, it was gone. How fragile had it been? He knew very well that he challenged it, but he hadn’t expected to break it. He’d wanted to shake Augus up, not...

He leaned back and looked at Augus, frowning.

Augus made a sound of dissent, as though upset that Ash’s hands weren’t still moving on him. His mouth was open, he leaned forward, seeking.

Oh fucking hell, did Augus always have the potential to be like this? How does no one fucking know that except for me? How?

‘Turn around,’ Ash said, placing hands on his hips and kissing him firmly on the mouth as he started applying pressure. ‘Lean back against me.’

Augus followed hesitantly, legs apart on either side of Ash’s knees, his back resting against Ash’s chest, his head by Ash’s shoulder. Ash stroked the side of his head, the front of his chest, trailed both of his hands down the centre of Augus’ abdomen, curving fingers into the side of his hips. When he moved further down, Augus shuddered against him.

He kept Augus fairly distracted, pulling his hair to the side and biting marks into his neck, stroking his torso with one hand, while he reached for the lube with his other and coated his fingers.

He anchored Augus to him with an arm, sinking his teeth into Augus’ skin just shy of breaking through flesh, and slicked his fingers between the seam of his ass, seeking, hungry. Augus made a sound of protest, but it never resolved into words, and so Ash kept him close, wondered if Augus had his eyes open. Ash wanted to leave memories of himself, the two of them, all throughout Augus’ house, just as Augus was left seared into his corneas whenever he went back to his lake.

It’s only fucking fair, he thought.

There was a thrill in wanting this to be a part of Augus’ home, a part of the place where he grew up and spent his childhood. He wanted it not only to be memories of good times as children or companionship as teenagers or even arguments and debates as adults, he wanted it to bethis as well. He wanted to have Augus everywhere – on his floor, his couch, his bed, against walls and tables and wherever else he might be able to sink himself deep and find himself home again.

When he tickled his fingertips against Augus’ entrance, Augus’ hands found the outside of his thighs and claws dug in.

‘I will ruin you,’ Augus whispered, and Ash huffed out a weak breath of laughter against his shoulder, pressing the tips of two fingers in, feeling the muscle give reluctantly. He should have started with one, but he didn’t want to. He liked taking control of Augus’ senses, liked – perhaps a little too much – knowing how Augus responded when there was pain and pleasure both.

‘Oh, Augus, you’ve already ruined me,’ Ash said, hardly thinking.

Augus lifted up and Ash’s fingertips slipped free, he turned in Ash’s grasp, and he suddenly realised what he’d said, what Augus was responding to, and he tightened his arm around him.

‘Face forward,’ Ash said.

‘I want to see you,’ Augus said. ‘Let me see your face.’

‘Face forward,’ Ash said, switching to a single finger and slipping it into the heat of him, stealing Augus’ focus and opening his mouth as though he could consume the gasp that followed. Augus’ whole body responded, bucking up and away from the motion of it, and Ash pulled him down with the hand at his pelvis, pushed up with his other hand. Augus made a thin, strangled sound.

‘You feel so good,’ Ash crooned. The lubricant eased the way, allowed him to thrust his finger slowly but firmly, closing his eyes at the thought that he would soon be buried inside of him, that there was no place in Augus’ lounge or kitchen that either of them could be from now on and not know that this had happened, not be able to see this point in their peripheral vision. Clients would walk past this section of the lounge and wouldn’t know, but Ash would have him here, would stamp memories into the fabric of his house. Ash would be here now, in a way that Augus wouldn’t be able to forget.

Augus’ fingers were still digging into Ash’s thigh, broke through the skin, drawing blood. Ash hissed but didn’t stop. Augus shivered and Ash remembered how last time, at the end, he’d been shaking nonstop and his hands had stopped working properly because Augus had to clutch and clench and grab at everything until his knuckles turned white. He spoke so eloquently with his hands, even when they were stiff and sore. Ash had just wanted to take them and massage them for hours, until feeling came back to him.

One finger became two, and Augus tensed then relaxed. Ash wanted to praise him for it, but the claw tips hadn’t left his outer thighs yet and he was trickling blood, and he didn’t think Augus would want to hear it.

‘You’re getting my blood on your carpet,’ Ash said, instead.

‘I feel just terrible about it,’ Augus gasped, his voice thick with sarcasm.

Ash thrust his fingers up harder, and Augus jerked, growled out a sound of discontent.

‘Do you actually know how to be gentle about this?’ Augus snarled.

‘Yeah,’ Ash said, grinning. ‘Yeah, I do. Yeah, sure, I’ve taken folks home and it’s been gentle and maybe everything you want it to be right now.’

He spread his fingers and Augus made a noise, squirmed against him, like he couldn’t decide what he wanted to do. Ash went back to thrusting lazily.

‘This is a compromise,’ Ash said.

‘Pardon?’ Augus sounded distracted.

‘A compromise between how much I want to fucking split you with my cock, until you scream for mercy, knowing that I won’t give you a fucking break, at all, until you don’t remember where I stop and you fucking begin, brother. A compromise between that and your desire for things to lack intensity and be everything under your control, precisely, just so.’

‘There’s no compromise there,’ Augus gasped. ‘You did all of that.’

‘Did I hear you scream for mercy?’ Ash whispered against his skin. ‘Because if I didn’t hear that, then no, I didn’t do all of it.’

‘But you-’

‘You talk too much, and I have something for you.’

He withdrew his fingers quickly, savouring the noise that Augus made, somewhere between indignance and loss.

He wanted to be in Augus quickly, weighed not slicking himself up and decided against it, uncapping the lubricant and squeezing some of the clear liquid directly onto his cock, running his palm over the head of himself to spread it more evenly. Augus was shifting like he was having second thoughts, had withdrawn his claws from Ash’s legs and was tilting forwards and Ash used the momentum to grasp him and move forwards with him, pressing bruises into his hip with one hand and fisting himself in the other.

He slid between Augus’ ass cheeks, realised with a strange, vague horror that he was supposed to be avoiding this and he’d lasted a whole ten minutes. But glee that this was happening again was over-riding everything else.

As soon as his cock wedged into the rim of Augus’ ass, Ash let go and wrapped his arm around Augus’ torso once more. He drew him back by the hip, by the torso, and forced Augus to lean back against him once more, thrusting up as he did so.

Fuck, he is tighter than last time.

‘Relax,’ Ash whispered. ‘Relax, Augus. Just let it happen. Just let me in.’

‘Gods,’ Augus cried out, and Ash used gravity and force to sink Augus down onto him, thighs trembling, a squirm in Augus’ spine.

‘Relax, brother. Come on, take a deep breath.’

‘You should...fuck yourself with that cock of yours.’

Ash laughed, the sound hiccoughing out of him. Augus’ snark could be infuriating, it could be distressing, and sometimes he loved it.

‘And you should sit down.’

He jerked Augus down the rest of the way, until Augus’ ass was flush against him, and Augus made a high, thready sound that made Ash feel like he’d accomplished something. It was ridiculous, but he couldn’t help himself. He was sunk into the furnace that was Augus’ body, and Augus already had a light sheen of sweat that had broken out across his back, making his skin stick to Ash’s. He held Augus to him, could smell his own blood in the air. It was drying on his cheek, leaking from his thighs. And beneath that he could scent the musk that was Augus, the faintest bitterness of whatever he’d been eating or drinking before.

‘There,’ Ash said. ‘Don’t you feel better?’

Augus whined, shuddered. He leaned back weakly against Ash’s shoulder, and that lifted his hips up. Ash smirked when he realised what Augus was doing. Augus lifting himself off Ash’s length to try and get himself some breathing space brought with it the lazy, delicious knowledge that he could buck up easily.

‘Isn’t that better, brother?’ Ash said, knowing that he was teasing, unable to help himself.

Augus opened his mouth to respond, and Ash thrust upwards, dragging Augus down again, forcing the breath from his lungs, and his voice followed it with a cry. Ash undulated beneath him, staring hungrily at the floor, knowing that this could be almost perfect if he just...

He leaned forwards slowly, holding Augus’ body tightly to his. Augus tipped forwards, one hand coming out to brace himself on Ash’s thigh. He seemed uncertain about what was happening, which was good, because if Augus had any idea what he was angling for, he’d have a struggle on his hands.

‘You’re doing just fine, just keep leaning forwards for me, Augus. Just...’

He kept moving his hips in small, deep motions and that seemed to be more than enough to distract Augus, who was keeping his mouth closed until he couldn’t anymore, opening it for a brief bursts of panting. And then Augus reached out and placed one palm flat on the floor, and he was almost on his knees now, and almost, Ash thought, so fucking close.

Augus’ other hand came down to brace himself and Ash growled in satisfaction. Because here he was, his brother on all fours in front of him, a cock inside him, and it was even better than he’d imagined because he didn’t think Augus had realised just what had happened yet.

‘So am I breaking you in like a horse? Or am I fucking you like a dog?’

Augus stilled beneath him, he stopped breathing. And Ash watched him hold his breath even as he kept him pinned, kept thrusting lazily, smoothed a hand down his back, following the curve of his shoulder, the outer edge of his torso.

‘Wait...’

He sounded confused, and Ash leaned away from Augus’ back now, kept a hand between his shoulders to keep him face down, and then dragged his hips back before pushing in, catching sight of one of Augus’ hands digging hard into the carpet.

‘Ash,’ Augus said, pushing up against the hand that was keeping him pinned down. Ash pushed harder.

‘Has your home ever seen anything like this? Nope, don’t think so. I’m glad, in a way. Imagine if it’d been some other fae, taking it as gently as you wanted them to. I can’t even think about it. They don’t know what you need, Augus. You don’t even know.’

‘By the gods, will you just wait a-’

Ash’s rhythm wasn’t rough, but it was firm, and it was deep. He dug bruises into Augus’ waist, pulling him back each time he thrust forwards, and Augus had no room for words left in his mouth, hardly any room left for air in his lungs, Ash made sure of it. He looked down at Augus’ back, the muscles shifting beneath his skin, he could see every time Augus dug his fingers harder into the carpet, could see the way his head had dropped slightly, as though he couldn’t hold it up properly anymore.

He didn’t understand how it could be wrong when all the accumulation of guilt and apology drifted away into a mass of wheeling, warm pleasure that moved through him in waves of sensation. Last time he thought he’d been burning away an obsession, but now he didn’t know if it was possible to burn away the sensation of homecoming.

He had fucked countless people, but no one had ever compared to Augus. There were things he couldn’t have imagined. The ripple of flesh when he thrust in, or the way Augus would sway slightly when he withdrew, like he had forgotten how to keep his balance. And there were other things, the way his damp hair would curl against his shoulders, his back, his arms. Ash had imagined that in many different ways, but nothing came as close to seeing it in person.

Sensation built inside of him, unfurling, warm. He and Augus both shared the ability to hold back their orgasm. It came from their waterhorse biology, and it was something they’d both noticed separately and then brought up in a drunken conversation, long before Ash had even imagined what it might be like to fuck his brother.

Augus was making desperate, almost pained sounds beneath him. At one point he moaned sharply, shook his head, and then his elbows started to buckle beneath him. But even as Ash opened his mouth to tell him he could, that it was alright, Augus dragged his arms underneath himself again, kept his mouth open, syllables falling out, sharp ‘ahs’ that never resolved into words.

Ash imagined they were all the beginning of his name.

And then he didn’t need to imagine, because shockingly Augus stiffened and then shuddered violently, his elbows collapsing beneath him, crying out Ash’s name in sharp, repeated bursts. And Ash swore in disbelief when he felt Augus tightening around him in spasms, leaned down, pressed his hand over the head of Augus’ cock and his eyes widened when he realised that Augus was coming without a single hand having touched him.

He gave a single, ecstatic breath of laughter and stayed leaning over him, continuing his rhythm, riding out Augus’ release. His wasn’t far behind, even closer now that he knew that he’d done what he thought might be impossible; make Augus come from his cock alone. He found his own release beckoning almost gently – not some rough, unsteady thing, but an embrace that waited for him. He stroked Augus’ side carefully, even as he rode out his own orgasm deep within Augus’ body.

He didn’t withdraw straight away, but stayed within the heat of him, mouth already wanting to taste, body already aching for the next time he could do this again.

‘It can’t be like last time,’ Augus said, voice hoarse. ‘It can’t be.’

‘Yeah, it can,’ Ash said roughly.

‘I mean it, Ash. I...’

‘You healed, didn’t you? You did okay, right?’

Augus didn’t reply for so long that for a minute, Ash thought Augus was about to say that things had been terrible. But then Augus nodded his head, and Ash breathed out a silent sigh of relief.

‘And you have no core to lose now,’ Ash murmured. ‘Do you know what the next one will be?’

Augus didn’t say anything at all, only shifted one of his arms until he could rest his head on his forearm. He turned his face to the side and Ash could see him looking at his own home, eyes alighting on different items of furniture.

He withdrew and Augus groaned softly, then pushed himself upright on shaky arms, until he was kneeling. A few seconds later he winced, looked uncomfortable.

At that, Ash leaned forwards and hooked Augus in towards him, pulling him into his lap and pressing fingers easily between his ass cheeks, finding his come leaking out, and following it with his fingers, until he had two fingers pressed inside him again. And Augus whimpered behind closed lips, but he didn’t move.

Now we’re both ruined.

The thought bothered him. Bothered him as much as it thrilled some darker, possessive part of him that wanted Augus broken and his.

Because Ash knew what it was to be ruined by something, and he was torn. A part of him wanted Augus to know exactly how he’d felt over the years, to feel some of that anguish and lack and emptiness. And a part of him wanted to shelter Augus from it, so he would never feel it, so he would never know what it was like to feel bereft and alone and full of longing. He’d always resented Augus for not crying when Ash had moved out, but a part of him was relieved too.

He reached out and stroked Augus’ hair quietly, licking at his lips, uncertain. His fingers stayed still within Augus’ body, savouring heat and stickiness and the feeling of lubricant and come mingling together.

Augus said nothing for long minutes, and then swallowed.

‘If you were ready to fuck the fae, Ash, I could have arranged that for you.’

‘Yeah? You’d hook me up? You’d get me a nice fae to fuck? I don’t want them, Augus. You haven’t figured it out yet, have you?’

Augus turned his head, looked at him with lambent green eyes. They were unreadable, and Ash didn’t know what lurked behind them.

‘We should move this to the bedroom,’ Ash said finally. ‘Or the couch. Or another part of the floor. Your house is pretty fucking big.’

Augus closed his eyes, his brow furrowed.

‘I was sore for days last time.’ His voice was faint, and Ash felt the grin he flashed before he knew it was inside of him. A monster inside of him purred happily, content, stretching claws and wanting to dig them into Augus’ skin.

‘So you felt me then? After I was gone?’

Augus shivered.

‘Did you, Augus?’ Ash whispered, moving him until he could put his mouth by his ear, breathe the words into him. ‘Did you feel me all the way inside you?’

‘Fuck,’ Augus turned his head away, and Ash followed the movement of it, pressing his lips to the back of his head.

‘For days, huh? Was it such a hardship? Did it bring back any fond memories? Maybe not when I was a bit rougher with you, sure, you’re not used to that yet. I kind of fucking hope you never get used to that. But what about when I rocked with you against the shower tiles. What about then, Augus? Hm? Was that good?’

Augus made a despairing sound, fringed with arousal. It dropped into Ash’s belly like a stone, a heavy, sore weight within. It was his own arousal creeping back, demanding more, sending pulses of heat through his nerves.

Ash pressed his fingers deeper, grinding them up as firmly as he could, and Augus whimpered and shook his head, panted for breath. And Ash remembered once that getting Augus to the stage where he was panting was where he wanted to start, and it was satisfying having this as his starting place, knowing that Augus had so much more to give.

‘I’m going to find you, brother,’ Ash whispered, turning his fingers and finding Augus’ prostate and rubbing firmly over it, as Augus stiffened from the oversensitivity and tried to buck away.

‘You don’t know what you’re saying,’ Augus gasped, ‘and stop it.’

‘Never. Here’s some things I’ve learned about you, Augus. Tell me to stop when I get it wrong. The first is that you like my cock inside of you, enough that today you came without a single finger on your cock. You can joke about foreplay all you like, but were you itching for it, when you feared me? Did you want to know? Did your body remember? The second is that you let me back in, love, you let me push you down onto all fours so I could fucking breed you if I wanted to. The third is that you don’t want me to stop. Oh fucking sure, a part of you does, but don’t you want to give yourself over to me? Don’t you want to know what you’re capable of? Don’t you want somebody to find you?’

Claws found his thighs again, dug in through skin vindictively, but Augus said nothing. Ash laughed when he realised he was right.

‘It can’t be like last time,’ Augus said, his voice hollow.

‘I’ll go easier then. Not as long or...something.’

Maybe.

‘I don’t believe you.’

Ash removed his fingers and wrapped both of his arms around Augus, pulling him closer. Augus wasn’t exactly limp in his arms, but he allowed it. Eventually he turned his head and rested his forehead on Ash’s shoulder, shaking it over and over.

‘I spoiled you.’

‘Then spoil me, brother,’ Ash purred.

His arms tightened around him, happiness obliterated his dread. He was here in the house he’d grown up in, Augus was in his arms, he hadn’t been kicked out, he felt like he was home.

Chapter Text

Augus

*

He felt humiliated.

His home had never felt less like his own space, and he’d been inviting complete strangers into it for years now. He shifted restlessly where he leaned back against Ash, staring at all the objects and items about the place that made it his, swallowed. His cheeks flushed hot, he could smell Ash’s blood in the air and his heart hammered a thudding, frightened beat at him. He’d gone from his shocking, unexpected arousal, coming on his own floor, to his heart refusing to settle. The scent of Ash’s blood woke an old panic in him.

Ash’s arms tightened around him, holding him close, apparently not caring that Augus was leaking come onto his lap. He pressed his lips together, closed his eyes.

Ash had said: I’m going to find you, brother.

He wasn’t sure it was possible, given how lost he felt. Being pushed down and fucked like a...like a...Augus’ brow furrowed, his lips twisted into a grimace. And if he just hated it, perhaps this would be easier to deal with. But Ash’s words, the way he dared to talk to him, the confidence in his hands and the fact that his confidence was earned, real, the lust that he awoke in Augus’ body, turning him from reserve into someone who writhed helplessly beneath his brother’s hands, he could hardly make sense of it in his mind, he didn’t want to.

It was too dangerous. Ash never slept with anyone again after spending a weekend, a night, a week with them. After that, it was game over. And Augus doubted Ash wanted this for as long as he thought he did.

Ash’s refusal to talk about it...Augus had been shocked to see not only cowardice – something he wasn’t entirely surprised to see – but actual terror. It wasn’t just Augus’ fear that clotted the room, Ash’s had easily eclipsed it, growing fast and strong. The only thing that had made it abate was what they’d done.

His body thrummed lazy, warm feelings at him. He didn’t think he’d ever come so quickly in his life, perhaps not counting when Ash had jerked him off on his own couch. But this, to not have a hand touching him, to come anyway... that wasn’t like him. He knew from pushing fingers into himself that he’d always needed a hand on his cock in the past.

He reached up with a hand and placed the back of it against his cheek, felt the heat there.

‘Let me up,’ Augus said against Ash’s shoulder.

‘Not yet.’

‘Please.’

Augus didn’t have the energy to snipe at him. Ash lowered his arms slowly, drawing back and trying to look Augus in the face. Augus shook his head, and Ash placed a steadying hand on his ribs.

‘You wanted to make me feel like, what?’ Augus said, pushing himself up and away, avoiding the small pools of blood where Ash had bled onto his carpet. ‘Embarrassed? Humiliated? All this talk of breeding? Fucking me like a dog?’

‘You like it,’ Ash said simply from the floor, looking up at him unabashed. ‘I trust my instincts. Those instincts had you coming on my cock alone.’

‘I don’t like being talked to like that.’

He had liked it though, even as he’d been simultaneously horrified. Ash got that dark timbre to his voice and said things Augus had never heard from anyone before. Augus’ gut had clenched in response, his cock had hardened. He walked a few more steps away from Ash, he needed distance.

He needed a shower.

‘You’re embarrassed that you like it,’ Ash said, sounding far calmer than he had when he’d first entered his home. ‘Would you tell your clients to be embarrassed about something like that? Don’t you help them to understand that there are things you can like when being intimate, that aren’t anything like what you enjoy the rest of the time?’

Augus paused, bending to pick up his shirt, looked at him. Ash was looking at him with that implacable gaze he always had when he was trying to explain something and thought he was right.

Augus straightened.

‘What ‘rest of the time?’’ Augus said. ‘The rest of the time the last time you were here, you were fucking me. There’s been nothing else.’

Ash flushed, had the good grace to look away. And then Augus was just watching him. Looking at the casual way he leaned on the floor, back against Augus’ couch. The way his thighs were still bleeding but he didn’t care, his cock was still slick, he was so unconcerned with the state of his body, and in profile Augus was struck by the fact that Ash looked...sad. It left him with more questions than answers, had something happened in his life? What could happen in the human world? He was like Augus, he didn’t form lasting attachments with people, he wasn’t overly connected to any being except for that dog he’d adopted once, a long time ago.

Ash was emotional, but he burnt through his emotions quickly. A night of crying because his favourite bartender had passed away too quickly and he pulled himself together. But Ash’s terror spoke of something different. Augus didn’t have the energy to unravel it.

‘I’m having a shower,’ Augus said. Ash turned back, a spark of excitement in his eyes. ‘And you’re not welcome.’

Ash shrugged with one shoulder.

‘I’m having you again,’ he said, quietly confident.

Augus opened his mouth to say that it wasn’t likely, and closed it again, something shaky in his chest.

‘I am,’ Ash said. ‘Do I already know your body better than anyone else? I do, don’t I? And I haven’t even gotten to suck you off yet. I haven’t felt the inside of your mouth with my cock. I haven’t, god, all the fucking things I haven’t done.’

Augus’ heart hiccoughed in his chest.

‘And then once you’ve done everything?’

‘No such thing,’ Ash said.

‘Actually, I think you’ll find that the list of ways you can use me up sexually is finite, and that-’

‘Nope,’ Ash said. ‘No, you’re wrong. I could take you five thousand ways in the way that I just did, and it would be different every time.’

Ash hadn’t moved, he was still relaxed, he’d hardly even tensed. Augus was feeling increasingly uncomfortable. He didn’t like the conversation, he didn’t think Ash was right. Ash would be done soon, this weekend, or perhaps another weekend, and then they’d have to salvage what they could from whatever was left.

Augus walked off to shower, left Ash sitting on his floor, arm up on the couch like he belonged there, owned the room.

The room and you, Augus. For someone who has made a living out of not being possessive, he is surprisingly...

Augus didn’t complete the thought. There were truths hiding behind it that he wasn’t ready to look at yet.

*

Ash – surprisingly – left him alone while he showered and Augus ended up staying in there for close to forty minutes, letting his body temperature warm up, cleaning himself and, perhaps, hiding. He had been in a terrible way, last time. It wasn’t that Ash had ripped him up or anything so crude, it was only that he didn’t have the stamina, that he had been so unused in the past and that Ash had been so terribly relentless. He’d been sore, his muscles and ligaments had ached, his hips felt like they were creaking for two days.

But worse than that, he’d felt like he’d lost Ash all over again. He’d lost his core, he’d lost Ash, and for days and then almost an entire two weeks he tried to imagine what his life would look like without Ash in it. If Ash just got bored and moved on, what would he do? How would he cope?

Except that he knew.

Because once Ash had left for months, the first time he’d moved out, and he’d said he’d be back in a week and then he wasn’t. And after two months passed, three months, Augus had been convinced that Ash hadn’t only moved on, but that something terrible had happened, that he’d d-

Augus shut off the shower, stared at the tiles for a few seconds.

He took a deep breath, dried off.

When he wandered back into his room, a towel absorbing a steady stream of dampness from his hair, Ash was waiting for him on his bed. The one that Ash had said Augus should have been fucked on. The one that Augus had never taken anyone back to. Ash had slept in it a few times, tangled up in blankets, stealing pillows and cushions until he was practically nesting in it. But no one else had been in it.

‘So you gonna let me fucking taste you, or what?’ Ash said, a glint of humour in his eyes. Augus stared at Ash, naked and stunning, propping himself up on an arm and tracing the embroidery of the quilt cover meaningfully with the other.

Augus shivered. He turned his concentration to something else.

His own bed was larger than Ash’s, in a room that was uncommonly big – high ceilings, arched windows, enough space that he could change into waterhorse form in his room if he needed to and still feel comfortable. Watery blue and green light streamed in from the lake, artificially lit to be warmer and more inviting with globes of pale yellow incandescent magic that he’d been gifted from a client. The bed itself was crafted from the most expensive wood he could afford at the time; black walnut, and the quilt cover was a green so dark it was almost black, sparsely embroidered with pale leaves. The sheets beneath were bright, pale mint.

It made everything about Ash look brighter. The green had always done that. It picked out the red strands of his hair, highlighted the rings of green in his eyes.

Was he infected with the same madness as Ash? He couldn’t look at him without seeing a body that had entwined with his, not just in affectionate embraces, but in ways that made his muscles contract to see him. That made heavy, liquid bolts of arousal stir in his gut.

Wonderful, you really can’t go back to the way things were. Ash is right. It would all be pretend. It’s this or nothing at all.

‘Crawl on the bed and put your cock in my mouth,’ Ash said, and Augus stared at him.

I do not like being talked to like that. I do not.

‘Ash, I’m proud of your ability to talk filthy whenever you feel like it, and I did teach you to curse at a lamentably early age, but I swear, if you-’

‘What would you fucking prefer? Oh, Augus, love, please join me on this grand, comfortable bed of yours, and-’

‘I’m not returning the favour,’ Augus said.

‘Not even a little? With that clever tongue of yours? You wrap it around all those goddamned insults, god knows. You’re not curious? Don’t want to know what it tastes like? It’s good, trust me.’

Augus became aware that his cheeks were burning, and Ash had a smirk on his face. He was doing this on purpose, he knew exactly the sort of effect he was having. Augus’ heart was thumping harder in his chest, a heavy weight, like constantly tossing large round stones into water. It sent ripples through his entire body. He wanted to talk. He wanted to...lie down and learn what Ash’s mouth felt like.

Augus dropped the towel wrapped around his body and hesitated, watching the way Ash’s face had brightened, how hungry he looked. And then he couldn’t move, Ash was crawling towards him, body sinuous, hand extending outwards.

‘Come here, brother.’

‘Oh, because this is so brotherly,’ Augus said, breathless.

Ash stared at him, and Augus realised he was staring him down. There was something challenging in Ash’s gaze. Something that seemed to say this could be as brotherly as they wanted it to be. It wasn’t as though there were any taboos against them doing this. Waterhorses couldn’t reproduce, didn’t have to worry about inbreeding, didn’t have to deal with watchful eyes reminding them that it wasn’t such a good idea – they were fae, this could be as brotherly as they wanted it to be. And right now, in this moment, Ash knew that.

Augus could see it all painted across his face.

He reached out unsteadily and let his hand be grasped, let himself be tugged towards the bed. Ash kept tugging, gently, until Augus lay on his back in the middle of his own bed, looking at Ash, trepidation moving through him. Ash stroked his thumb down the centre of Augus' palm before letting go.

Ash didn’t pounce on him as he expected. He leaned over him, braced himself on both arms and looked first at Augus’ face, meeting his eyes, his lips, then looked down between them, scanning Augus’ body. There was a frankness in the appraisal, and immediately after one of Ash’s hands lifted and followed the direction of his gaze, dragging the back of his hand, his knuckles over his chest, his torso, tracing musculature, curving down his hip and skating past his cock to curve confident and strong over his inner thigh.

He pushed and Augus spread his legs, finding himself breathless.

‘I passed out, last time. You left me unconscious.’

He heard the faintly accusatory tone in his own voice, but it wasn’t so much the unconsciousness that bothered him, as waking up alone, a note nearby, wandering through a house and feeling as empty as it was. He felt like an echo in Ash’s home. A name that someone had called out and forgotten to respond to.

Ash was massaging his inner thigh, tickling his fingers up between his legs, coasting up near his balls, the base of his cock, never touching.

‘I like that,’ Ash growled. ‘Taking the aristocratic creature you are and dragging you down with me, showing you who’s boss. We always thought it was you, but in this, brother, it’s very much me.’

‘You’re arrogant.’

‘You taught me how,’ Ash purred.

He lowered his lips to Augus’, drew his bottom lip between his own and sucked on it wetly until Augus arched at the feel of it and he exhaled through his nose. He opened his mouth, licked at the edges of Ash’s lips with his tongue. He wanted that. He wanted Ash’s mouth on his.

Ash obliged, pressing his tongue deep, slowly curling around Augus’ tongue until they were so entwined that Augus lost track of himself. He abruptly found himself again when Ash wrapped his hot palm around Augus’ cock, squeezing affectionately, and then dragging his palm up and down again, groaning in appreciation.

Augus moved his head to the side, gasped, and Ash pressed small kisses to the corner of his mouth, nipped at the bottom of his chin, then dragged himself down Augus’ body, nipping sometimes, applying suction at others, leaving small stings of pain that were soothed with his tongue, rubbing his lips generously across skin, blowing cool air across his flesh.

The hand around him was still moving erratically, languidly, stirring a lazy arousal in Augus’ loins, chasing the intense lust he’d felt earlier with something that crawled through him, curled thickly across his abdomen. By the time Ash reached his cock and was breathing over it, Augus’ hips were arching up, he was shifting restlessly.

‘You’re not gonna return the favour?’ Ash said, each word puffing directly over the head of him. Augus shook his head restlessly. ‘Not even a little lick?’

Oh, fuck.

‘Stop talking to me that way,’ Augus said roughly.

‘Stop liking it so much. Your cock just jumped in my hand, brother. And look...’ A fingertip pressed invasively into the slit of his cock, pressed deeper until Augus felt the sharp sting of it and grunted in discomfort. ‘Look what I found.’

Augus opened his eyes, saw a small shiny slick of precome on Ash’s finger. As Augus watched, Ash raised the finger to his mouth and painted it over his tongue, smacking his lips as lewdly as possible, at which Augus rolled his eyes and couldn’t help the smile that curved his lips.

‘Do you think I can find more?’ Ash said, hoarse with lust. Augus opened his mouth to reply, and then his whole body jerked when Ash wrapped his lips around Augus’ cock and sucked hard. The pressure was painful and Augus whined high in the back of his throat, not expecting it. His hips twitched backwards, and Ash followed the movement, squeezing his cock threateningly with his hand, using the other to hold him down at the hip. His tongue was flat against the underside of his cock, practically crushing the glans up into the roof of his mouth.

Augus cried out when Ash didn’t let up, was shocked at how quickly he was being speared by arousal. He became aware that he was panting, tried to slow his breathing down, found it hard to concentrate.

Ash leaned up suddenly, released the head of his cock with a pop!

‘Got some,’ Ash said, triumphant. His hand started moving lazily on Augus’ cock again, the change in pace not making things any less intense at all. ‘Oh, oh, Augus. Did you like that? Look, your cock’s all angry at me.’

His hand came up and twisted over the head of him.

‘You’re all red.’

‘Fuck you,’ Augus whispered.

‘Do you though?’ Ash sounded far too gleeful for his own good. ‘Do you want to fuck me? Probably. It’d be nice. I’ve been told I’m a good ride, brother, for all that I’m usually the one doing the fucking. Sure, I’ve let myself get taken a few times. It’s good. All that friction and heat and fuck, it is good. Did you like it earlier? Did you like it when I got you down on all fours and you didn’t even notice, because I was all friction and heat and fucking you?’

Augus bit his bottom lip to stifle the moan he was about to make, and Ash chuckled in satisfaction as he lowered himself down and wrapped his tongue around Augus’ cock, moving his hand to make room, slicking him with saliva, replacing it where it started to dry out. His hair dripped small drops onto his thigh where his head was tilted, coarse curls tickled his skin. When Ash suctioned his mouth to the base of Augus’ cock and sucked like he wanted to give him a hickey right there, Augus’ hips arched. Ash rubbed reassuringly at his skin.

When he slipped down further and sucked Augus’ balls into his mouth with that same brutal pressure, Augus yelped.

‘No, too sensitive! Ash!’

Ash eased up immediately, adjusted the pressure until Augus was moaning and his hips rolled several times in frustration, seeking. Ash moved his hand on his cock faster, thumbing the head, moving precome everywhere. Augus’ eyes closed, rolled back.

Ash’s hand slid from the top of Augus’ hip, underneath his ass. Curious fingers pressed and then two fingers were sliding into him. There was a burn, Augus had cleaned himself thoroughly and he was loose, but there was no lube left. He hissed, but Ash didn’t stop, buried himself to the last knuckles and then spread his fingers, curling them so that Augus could feel the movement against his insides. He groaned, his exhale was a sob.

‘There we are,’ Ash said, moving back up, licking at his pelvis. ‘Caught between a hand on your cock and one in your ass. That’s fucking lovely.’

Augus wished he could open his mouth to respond, but he knew that sounds would just spill forth if he didn’t keep his lips pressed together. Ash’s fingers were curling and straightening, scraping at the inside of him, not moving back and forth, just...exploring. And Augus felt invaded not because of size or length or girth, but because Ash moved his fingers like he belonged there, like it was his right to do whatever he pleased.

It was different to what Augus knew of fucking. It was possessive and thorough and claiming and personal. It was nothing like where he took his clients, which was its own form of intimacy. This was something else, and he lacked words for it, only ending up with the sound of his brother’s name sounding off inside of his head.

Ash had him caught. Augus couldn’t roll his hips up without relaxing them again and sinking back onto Ash’s fingers. And instead he held himself still, toes curling, fingers clenching into the blanket as Ash dictated an unfocused pace, sometimes fast, sometimes slow, always uneven.

When Ash lowered his mouth again, Augus gave himself over to it. One moment he was still aware of being in the room and the next he was reduced to textures. The feel of the quilt against his back, of the heat of Ash’s mouth against his cock, palm sticking to saliva, fingers inside his ass turning him slowly sore, avoiding his prostate, idly moving with no purpose and turning him into a pool of sensation.

Ash built him towards orgasm slowly, occasionally lifting his head up from Augus’ length to simply apply that terrible, acute suction to the head of him, as though he could force Augus to spend by willing it with enough pressure. Augus couldn’t tell if he liked it, made strangled noises every time Ash did it, but whenever Ash stopped, Augus was aware he was closer than before, muscles spasming, fingers hurting where they dug into the blankets. He was pulling the quilt down to himself, upsetting the order of his own bed. He hardly noticed.

He felt himself beginning to spiral downwards into orgasm when Ash suddenly paused everything and lifted up. Augus moaned in frustration, waited, realised he’d have to open his eyes.

He lifted up, dizzy, glared. And then he moaned again, softer, seeing how red Ash’s lips were, how bright his eyes, how direct that gaze. He’d been catching his breath, felt breathless all over again.

Ash’s fingers twisted inside of him, and Augus slumped backwards under that stare, fisting a hand in the bed.

‘Augus, hey, hey, I need to ask you something.’

‘Now? Your sense of timing is egregious.’

‘Brother, you gonna return the favour? Hm? You gonna wrap that pretty mouth of yours around my cock?’

Ash sounded like he didn’t quite have command of his own breathing either.

‘Aha,’ Ash said softly. ‘Look at that, your cock just twitched again. That’s...responsive of you. Maybe I should ask your cock if you’ll let me rest on your tongue, if you’ll let me fill up that witty mouth of yours with my- oh look, there it goes again.’

‘Stop it.’

Ash laughed indulgently.

‘Stop what, this?’

He removed his hand from Augus’ cock completely, cold air washing over him, and Augus kicked Ash’s back with his heel, hard enough that Ash grunted and swore. Seconds later, fingernails were digging into his inner thigh – not claws, but with enough force they would still break through.

‘You could stand to be a little more polite, brother.’

‘Don’t tease me like this,’ Augus gasped. ‘Please, Ash.’

‘Tell me you’ll taste me.’

Augus squeezed his eyes shut. He didn’t want to. He’d never particularly liked the idea of taking someone’s cock into his mouth. It had been an anathema to his core energy of domination, though he couldn’t say exactly why. Only that even with that core energy shoved to the side and no new one in its place, it made him feel unsteady inside himself to even contemplate it. He shook his head back and forth in denial, then whimpered. He didn’t know what to do. It was Ash, surely that wasn’t as bad? He could do it with Ash. He knew the mechanics. He’d demanded it from enough of his clients. He knew how to move his tongue.

‘Just a taste,’ Ash whispered.

‘It’s never...just a taste, with you,’ Augus said.

‘You have teeth, brother. I think you can choose for yourself.’

‘Okay,’ Augus gasped. ‘Okay, just, will you just-’

Augus abruptly stopped talking when Ash lowered his mouth again and swallowed him all the way down as though it was easy. Augus made deep, guttural noises in the back of his throat, every exhale marked with them as Ash applied that crushing suction to all of him, nose pressed against the soft skin of his pelvis, twisting his fingers in his ass, balancing Augus’ pleasure with an edge of soreness making everything more acute. Augus bucked up, but Ash kept him firmly against the bed with both of his hands, fingers digging in, thumbs rubbing slow circles into his skin.

And when Ash tried to crush his cock to the roof of his mouth with the flat of his tongue, applying a pressure that was like nothing he’d ever felt before, he cried out roughly, hips jerking upwards, Ash’s hands keeping him down.

Ash drew off as Augus started to spill, suckling on the head of his cock as though trying to draw out each pulse of his release, making soft sounds of appreciation that went straight to Augus’ head. Ash dragged his fingers out of him slowly as the spasms eased off, and Augus sighed, feeling like he’d been fucked all over again, amazed that Ash could wring that much out of him with only two fingers.

Ash kissed his way back up Augus’ body, pausing to lick into his armpit and then pull a bruise into his skin in the sensitive skin there, holding his arm up when Augus went to lower it to stop him. When he was done, he lifted Augus’ arm up further until he could wrap it around his shoulders, and Augus squeezed absently at the flesh underneath his hand, dragged his fingers up and through Ash’s scalp, massaging deeply.

Ash half fell against him, making a soft, wanting noise in the back of his throat.

‘More,’ Ash whispered.

Augus lifted his other hand and added it to Ash’s scalp, moving both of his fingers back and forth in slow, steady waves of motion. Ash groaned, pressed the flat of his hand to the side of Augus’ face, slid the tips of his fingers into Augus’ hair and sought out waterweed, tickling the roots of it, making him shiver.

Augus returned the favour, using more pressure. Ash’s waterweed was less sensitive than his, could withstand more. And he listened, fascinated, as Ash rocked into him, pressed his cock against his hip.

‘Your turn, Augus,’ Ash said, his voice soft but firm. Augus shook his head, was still catching his breath. His hands paused in Ash’s hair. ‘Fair’s fair.’

‘Oh, let’s talk about fair,’ Augus breathed.

Ash chuckled.

‘I could come up and kneel over your face, if you like. Push myself in, brace myself on my knees, and you could just take it. But something tells me you’re not a fan of that.’

Ash’s chuckle became laughter as Augus dug fingers into his shoulder. Augus was flushed with humiliation at the very idea of it, and he pushed himself hurriedly into a sitting position, trying to wipe the image from his mind.

Ash rolled onto his back, his cock jutting stiffly into the air, not yet leaking precome. Augus would have been amazed that Ash wasn’t more aroused, if he suspected that Ash hadn’t deliberately delayed his own orgasm just so that he could drag this out.

He looked up at the smug expression on Ash’s face and rolled his eyes. It was an expression he’d worn himself. The enjoyment of watching someone else squirm, of watching them make themselves do something they wouldn’t normally do. And as much as Augus wanted to talk his way out of this, he was curious to see how Ash would respond to him. Wanted Ash disarmed and writhing on the bed, gasping out his name.

Straddling him was easy enough, gave him the illusion of dominance, he wondered if Ash had done that on purpose.

Probably. He certainly understands a great deal more about how this all works than I previously thought.

Ash was watching quietly, one hand resting on his belly, the other resting up by his head. He looked like he was in no hurry and Augus appreciated it. He looked down at the expanse of Ash’s skin, pressed both of his hands flat to the top of Ash’s thighs, appraising his cock, the thinner, darker curls of hair between his legs. He fingered one of them, spreading the curl to look at the individual hairs. Even down here, glints of dark red, even black. He pressed his fingers down further and touched the skin beneath, rubbing thoughtfully.

He used to think he knew everything about Ash, but he knew hardly anything about him these days. But he thought he might be learning. If only it wasn’t a part of him that every human on the planet had gotten to know.

He leaned down to hide the sadness that had crept across his face, used his hair to hide his expression, dripped water onto Ash’s lower belly. His hair clung in curls and waves to the skin beneath, and he dragged it, looking at the contrast. Ash’s skin was so much more olive than his, a life spent aboveground in the sun, but also he was just born darker. Augus was the pale, black-haired waterhorse, typical for his kind. Ash was...there’d never been another predatory waterhorse like him. Even previous incarnations of the Glashtyn typically had raven hair, pale skin.

Augus realised there would never be another waterhorse like him again, ever. Even when they both reincarnated into their own forms again, they would not be brothers, they would not be friends, Ash would not be Ash.

A hand came and rested on the back of his head and he pushed into it, full of longing for something he couldn’t quite name.

‘Can I push you?’ Ash husked.

Augus blinked, it took him a while to discern his meaning.

‘Don’t you always?’

But Augus wasn’t in the mood to fight, he didn’t want to think anymore. He looked down. Ash’s cock was pleasing, wider in girth than his own, flushed dusky all the way through. He trailed his fingers along it, feeling the texture of soft skin over thick, hard muscle beneath. When he wrapped his hand around him and moved up and down, Ash made an impatient sound above him. The hand on the back of his head tightened.

‘More, Augus,’ Ash breathed. ‘Do it. Wrap those lips of yours around my cock.’

Augus took a deep, shuddery breath and instead of doing that, licked at the side instead. Everything here was stronger, the scents were more powerful, the heat was noticeable, the hand in his hair soothed at him as he learned Ash’s taste, muddy and silty, like pressing one’s nose to the earth and breathing in deep. And behind it, the faintest hint of chlorophyll, of a piquant green. Augus pressed his lips to the side of his cock in a slow, open-mouthed kiss, tonguing the skin he found there, and Ash sighed.

Augus continued in that slower vein for some time, building himself up to something that he never did, his heart jumping oddly in his chest. He was braced on one arm, and with his other he was playing idly with the curls between Ash’s legs, wondering. He slid his fingers down curiously, feeling warmth against his hand, humidity.

Ash twined his fingers around a single piece of waterweed and tugged, stretching it out, and Augus hissed. It stung, sent a shiver all the way down the back of his spine.

‘Don’t be shy, brother. It’s not going to bite you. Hasn’t it made you feel good so far?’

‘Will you shut up?’ Augus said, baring his teeth in frustration, knowing Ash couldn’t see his expression.

‘I’ve always liked this about you,’ Ash said, voice getting deeper. ‘Your shyness. Most fae have no idea, do they? But it’s always been there. Augus Each Uisge, dangerous and sinister waterhorse, needs to build up to the terrifying act of-’

Ash grunted as Augus dug his claws in, drawing blood from the underside of his thigh. His other thigh wounds were still healing from earlier, and Augus resisted the urge to find every one of those wounds and drag them open further.

Ash yanked hard at the waterweed, Augus choked. They were at an impasse. Augus slowly withdrew his claws, but Ash didn’t let go of the sensitive waterweed growing out of his scalp.

‘Ash,’ Augus warned.

‘Put your lips over me and I’ll ease up. Maybe you just need some incentive, brother.’

Augus glared down, grit his teeth and then yanked his head away from Ash’s grip. It was a single, tearing flash of pain, and the waterweed ripped free, leaving a wound on the top of his head. Ash pushed himself upright, swearing in surprise, touching the space where the waterweed had been.

‘Don’t you do that again,’ Augus said, glaring at him. ‘I will do this in my own time, and my own way, and don’t think you can hold something like that over me.’

‘Jesus fucking Christ, Augus,’ Ash said, shocked. Blood was trickling down the side of his head. He could feel it, hotter than the water he naturally oozed out of his hair follicles.

Augus felt a moment of dark triumph, lowered himself down and did exactly what Ash had been asking for. Except that when he wrapped his lips around the head of his cock, he pressed his front teeth down lightly and scraped.

Ash stilled. Augus did it again, and Ash made a small, tight sound in the back of his throat. Ash’s hands both came up, he was half-sitting, pulling Augus’ hair away from his face, tucking it behind his ear so – Augus guessed – he could get a better view. And then he was tracing the space where Augus’ lips were stretched around the head of his cock – sensitive and spit slick. Augus moaned helplessly, he hadn’t expected that. He felt bared to Ash’s view, and when a finger slid into his mouth, forcing its way in, he jerked upright.

Except that there was a hand on the back of his head, keeping him down.

‘Easy there,’ Ash whispered. ‘Easy, I just want to know what it feels like.’

The finger slid along Augus’ tongue, along his own cock, forced its way underneath Augus’ teeth where they pressed against vulnerable skin. And then it came back around and hooked onto Augus’ jaw, dragging it down, keeping it open. Augus had to suddenly shift his mouth to make sure his teeth weren’t forced further into Ash’s skin, and Ash made a sound of approval at him.

‘Suck me,’ Ash said, and Augus shuddered. Refused. His face felt like it was burning. He threatened Ash’s thigh with his claws again, holding them close. Ash laughed. ‘Go on, cut me again. I’ll fucking heal. Suck me. You know how this works.’

A finger still holding his bottom jaw down, and Augus reached up to pull his hand away and then faltered when the hand on the back of his head palmed his scalp soothingly, sending fingers of warmth across his shoulders, down the back of his neck. It was comforting, it was designed to be. Ash didn’t let up, carefully avoiding the place where the waterweed had been pulled out, and rubbing instead the space behind an ear, the curve of his skull, the hairline where his mane met his spine.

He moaned softly, sucked without thinking.

‘That’s it,’ Ash purred. ‘That’s fucking wonderful. Here.’

He removed his finger and the suction was more complete, and Augus risked shifting his tongue, rasping it along the underside of his cock. Ash groaned softly, and Augus thought he could hear the smile in it. He couldn’t focus properly, Ash had started tracing lazy patterns on the side of his face. Spirals under his cheekbone, what felt like lines and dots – fireworks, perhaps – by the corner of his eye. The hand at the back of his head tamed him, made him feel lulled. Everything became easier, and he was able to concentrate on what he was doing without really having to follow the implications of what he was doing.

He lowered himself experimentally, rose up again, curled his tongue around the head of Ash’s cock and tasted precome. It wasn’t unpleasant, though it was a strange sensation to be able to tell through the taste of him, how poorly Ash treated his own body. If he wasn’t lost in textures, he’d say something. But the taste wasn’t bad, and Ash’s hands were gentle, they reminded him of times long ago, so long he could hardly remember them. He couldn’t recall the last time he’d let Ash touch him like this.

He wasn’t as rough as Ash had been once he was bobbing up and down slowly, getting used to the feel of it. His jaw ached, he had to make sure he was getting enough air in his lungs, and the hand on Augus’ face was tracing his eyebrow, his eyelashes, the bridge of his nose, and then back again where his lips were stretched. He eased his finger in between the tight space again, and Augus made an indignant sound when it broke the vacuum he had around Ash’s cock and saliva trickled from his mouth.

Ash murmured something reassuring, withdrew his finger, and Augus immediately swallowed back spit, wondering if he could flush any harder from embarrassment.

But Ash wasn’t embarrassed, wasn’t mocking him, if anything he seemed pleased. And so Augus decided it was better to get this over and done with, and if a tiny part of him was pleased to make Ash react in such a way, he shoved it away, worried that Ash would compare his performance with humans as he did last time. He hadn’t been able to forget that taunt, and even though Ash had apologised for it, it stayed with him.

Ash began undulating his hips slowly beneath him. Nothing too threatening, and Augus learned how to ride the rhythmic movements, up and then down, making sure Ash never pressed too deep into his mouth.

Minutes later, Ash thrust up and pushed down with his hands, holding Augus’ face still, keeping him pinned by the back of his head. Augus gagged, Ash’s cock pressing hard into the back of his throat, and then further still, forcing its way in. He reared backwards despite the hands, spluttering, lifting up and coughing hoarsely, a hand over his mouth in shock.

He looked at Ash in outrage, and Ash only smiled at him.

‘Do you mind?’ Augus growled.

‘Aw, come on, Augus. Don’t look at me like that,’ Ash cajoled. ‘Here, let me distract you.’

Augus blinked at him in disbelief. He’d stopped coughing, but he could still feel the pressure of it, the force of it, at the back of his throat. Everything had been going well, hadn’t it? And then that.

Augus slid off the bed, and Ash laughed, caught him by the wrist with a strong hand.

‘Hold it, hold it, Augus. Where are you going?’

‘Away,’ Augus said.

‘Come here.’

Augus was suddenly caught around the waist and the chest, two arms banded around him and dragging him back onto the bed. He twisted, tried to extricate himself, but Ash didn’t let him, kissing the side of his face. And then Augus found himself pressed firmly back against Ash’s chest, lips finding his shoulder, mouthing the line of it.

‘You did that on purpose,’ Augus hissed. ‘I was an idiot, I thought you’d let me do things at my own pace. And don’t you fucking tell me that you didn’t realise what you were doing.’

‘I knew exactly what I was doing,’ Ash whispered directly into his ear. ‘Didn’t I say I wanted to know you better? The taste of you? Your mouth? Let’s be honest, Augus. It’s kind of a treat to know what the back of your throat feels like, closing hard against my cock. I like it.’

‘You’re a sadist,’ Augus said, surprised that it had taken him so long to realise it. Ash was laughing softly into his ear as Augus went limp against the grip Ash had on him. He could feel his erection, wet and stiff, jabbing into his hip.

‘Brother, I’m an Unseelie waterhorse. We’re related by species. I’m not like you, but I’m a little like you. I just...have more fun with it, I think. Besides, I’m not always a sadist. Just...sometimes.’

‘Well, I hate to inform you, but I am not actually a masochist, and I...’

It was hard to finish his sentence when Ash was laughing at him.

‘Let me go,’ Augus grumbled.

‘I speared you on my cock earlier,’ Ash said, sounding cheerful. ‘I didn’t stretch you enough and you were so tight it made me feel uncomfortable, and you came all over your nice, clean floor. You must have been aching the entire time. I bet it had hooks in you, that ache. And yet there you were, spilling from words and being split in two. Augus, brother, you can be whatever you like with your clients, I don’t doubt your sadistic streak, I grew up with you, remember? But at least be honest about what you’re like with me.’

Augus went silent, staring blankly at a pot-plant on a side table, shocked by Ash’s words, stilled by the arms squeezing his torso.

‘It’s nothing to be ashamed of,’ Ash said, and Augus’ teeth clenched together. It only served to remind him of the stretch and ache in his jaw.

‘Bring yourself off, I’m not interested in finishing you,’ Augus said. ‘And let me go, I’m done with this.’

But he wasn’t done, he was confused. He needed some space to process his thoughts, and he couldn’t think at all pressed against Ash like this. His head ached slightly from where he’d torn out the waterweed. Ash’s cock was wet and hot against him, erection unflagging. It was close enough to his ass that he worried that Ash might just try and continue things that way instead.

‘What would you tell a client? What would you tell someone who had just realised that they like a little discomfort in the mix?’

‘I’m not a client!’ Augus shouted, and then slammed his mouth shut. He struggled hard against Ash’s grip, and Ash after several seconds of trying to keep him still, let go. Augus got off the bed quickly, stood panting. ‘I’m not your fucking client, and I’m not some easy piece of-’

‘Woah, woah, woah,’ Ash was kneeling on the bed, hands up, palms facing outwards. ‘Okay, okay, Augus. Okay, hey, easy now.’

Augus didn’t like the way that tone of voice sent ribbons into him, tied down the parts of him that were indignant, angry. He stared, confused, breathing quickly.

‘You’re my brother,’ Ash said. ‘The only one I have. Of course you’re not a client. I was just...trying something. It didn’t work. Hey, Augus, oh my god, come here. You’re doing a number on yourself.’

You’re doing a number on me, brother.

Augus’ eyes closed, and he heard Ash ease towards the edge of the bed. And then a hand was slipping into his, squeezing.

‘Do you want to call this quits?’ Ash said, and Augus shook his head, refused to open his eyes. He didn’t know. He had no idea what he wanted. It occurred to him that right up until Ash had tried to simply tunnel down the back of his throat, he’d been enjoying what he’d been doing; the intimacy of it. He’d liked being able to make Ash react like that. And he’d always, always hated the idea of going down on someone. And then he did it to Ash, and the rules changed.

He was tired of the rules changing. That he could have a completely different set of rules for one person that didn’t apply to anyone else.

Because what did that mean? Ash was the one with the problem, not him. Ash was the one who had apparently been obsessed all this time.

Augus pressed a hand to his head, quietly panicking.

He didn’t want to call it quits. He didn’t want it over. He wanted...if things couldn’t go back to the way they were, exactly back to the way they were, then he didn’t want to give this up either. He didn’t know what was wrong with him.

‘Oh, hey,’ Ash was saying, voice soothing. ‘Come lie down. You don’t have to decide now. Come on. Hey, you could put your mouth back on my cock if you want to distract yourself. I promise not to choke you again.’

It was a joke, even Augus could tell he was joking. But something in him flared and he wanted...to not think. And he’d managed to stop the incessant rambling of his thoughts when he was down between Ash’s legs.

‘Actual promise? Or...fake Ash promise?’

Ash’s smile was wiped from his face so quickly that Augus had to search back over what he’d just said to see why he looked upset. When he realised, he swallowed. But Ash recovered quickly, squeezed his hand again.

‘Actual promise. But Augus, I didn’t mean- I was joking.’

‘I know.’

He could tell. Ash wasn’t even fully hard anymore, and losing his erection as the minutes passed.

‘Augus, I think you just need some downtime, you know? I think you-’

‘Lie down,’ Augus said, voice holding the faintest thread of command. ‘Make it so that I don’t have to think anymore.’

Ash stared in dismay. Then Augus shuddered when something dark crept over Ash’s face.

‘Is that what you really want?’ Ash said, and Augus swallowed down the lump in his throat. Ash didn’t miss the movement. Suddenly there was something far more sinister on his face, and Augus kept hearing him say:

I’m not like you. But I’m a little like you.

He realised he was trembling as he lowered himself between Ash’s legs. Ash was hardening beneath him again, he hadn’t even touched him yet. Augus wondered what was going through his mind.

‘Augus,’ Ash said, voice harder, ‘is that what you really want? You want to not think anymore? Because I might go back against my ‘actual promise.’ Just, one thing, do you want me to spill down your throat? Or come on your face?’

Augus’ head dropped until his forehead was touching Ash’s thigh. He focused on breathing. He did not like this. He didn’t!

Ash’s hands were in his hair, careful, firm.

‘You don’t know yet?’

Augus hissed, and Ash exhaled roughly.

‘I’ll check later on, actual promise. Deal?’

Ash lay back again, and Augus pressed his nose to Ash’s cock, still hardening. He shivered, pressed his lips to the side of it again, familiarising himself. This was all...this part was easy. This part didn’t fill him with the shame he expected to feel when Ash had first suggested he take him into his mouth. This was just he and Ash lying on a bed together, and Ash’s cock vulnerable, so close to his mouth. He licked spirals into it, moving upwards slowly, and he tensed when Ash placed a hand on the back of his head.

‘Keep going,’ Ash said. ‘Come on, brother. Hey, Augus, you’re doing great.’

Augus relaxed further into what he was doing, eventually rising up and stretching his lips again, his jaw sore. He wondered at how easily Ash had done all of this, because he found it invasive and strange. But it was Ash, and he couldn’t stop the dull thrill of pleasure that moved through his whole body when Ash groaned in appreciation, when the hands at the back of his head mapped the skin there with an old, ancient familiarity.

Augus kept waiting for Ash to force his head down, anticipated it, but it didn’t come.

Ash began undulating against him again, and Augus rode it carefully, listening to the hitches in Ash’s breathing, the quiet moans he gave. At one point, Augus tongued the precome oozing out of his slit, and Ash’s voice broke. Augus wanted to take the sound and put it somewhere he would never forget it.

‘Okay,’ Ash breathed, and Augus swallowed around the length of him, helpless. ‘Okay, it won’t last long, just a few seconds. Trust me, brother. Just-’

He pressed up, slower than before, he pushed Augus’ head down, and Augus moaned, stiffened, fought against the hands on the back of his head and couldn’t stop Ash from sinking deeper. Ash didn’t push as hard as before, but Augus’ throat still closed spasmodically, his hands clenched, one into the bed, the other scratching helplessly at Ash’s skin.

And then as soon as it had started, it was over. Ash was encouraging him to go back to bobbing up and down, and Augus did, blowing air roughly out of his nostrils.

‘Really, really good,’ Ash praised. ‘Perfect. God, Augus, that was amazing. Okay, take it easy now, Jesus fuck, you’re good at this.’

He wasn’t used to hearing Ash say these things to him, didn’t know it would feel so good, even as he suspected that Ash was humouring him. The steady stream of praise was a golden glow inside of him. Ash rarely offered it to him, and hearing it was incredible. He was tired, his body spent and sore, but Ash’s hands were comforting on his head and he didn’t want to give that up either. He kept moving.

‘Okay, okay again,’ Ash said, warning him, and Augus lowered himself to it this time, accidentally forcing Ash’s cock too far inside of his throat as Ash lifted his hips. Ash pulled back instantly, and Augus flailed, scratching at skin, whimpering. ‘Ah, fuck, I’m close.’

Augus whined.

‘Please, Augus. Please let me come in your mouth. Please. Tell me you’re going to swallow.’

Hearing Ash plead with him like that disarmed him, and he gave the smallest of nods, knowing that Ash would feel the tiny motion in his hands.

‘Oh, fuck,’ Ash said, a mixture of grateful, relieved, aroused. Augus could hear it thick in his voice.

He hummed around his cock, sending vibration all the way through him, and then choked when Ash thrust up hard and bruised the back of his throat. He rose up and off, coughing helplessly, needing a moment as Ash placed an inexorable pressure on the back of his head. He went down again, eyes watering, and Ash was moving constantly now, firm movements that didn’t push too far, but made Augus aware that his mouth was being fucked, and that Ash was fucking it.

He moaned, and Ash moaned back at him.

‘Augus,’ the sound wrecked, and Augus wanted to look at him, couldn’t. There was too much going on, too much to focus on.

Ash stiffened, thickened in his mouth, pressed deeper without choking him. Hands held him down, thumbs rested his ears, fingers hooked around his jaw.

Augus forgot to swallow at the first pulse of come in his mouth, and then quickly started as his mouth started to fill. It was bitter, far stronger than his own, and he was surprised at how much there was. He became certain he wouldn’t be able to keep up when Ash started to slow, the spasms wracking him settling.

Augus kept some of it in his mouth, rolling the flavour over his tongue, deciding that he could get a bit of his own payback for this.

He rose up off Ash’s cock quickly, pressed his lips together, moved fluidly up Ash’s body and sealed his mouth to Ash’s open, gasping one, letting a mouthful of come drop directly onto his tongue.

And he thought Ash would splutter or cough, would make a sound of protest, but instead Ash made a wild, enthusiastic noise and grasped Augus’ head hard, holding it to him, tongue sucking down the rest of his own come and then slipping between Augus’ lips and licking the rest of it from the roof of Augus’ mouth, from his teeth, lapping it from his tongue. Augus stared at him, shocked, but Ash had his eyes closed in appreciation, moaned richly against him.

He sucked Augus’ tongue into his own mouth, massaged his scalp, still avoiding the wound where waterweed was missing. And Augus grunted helplessly, feeling paralysed.

When Ash withdrew to catch his own breath, Augus left his mouth hanging open and gasped softly.

‘I didn’t think you’d like that,’ Augus managed.

‘I like everything,’ Ash said. ‘If you want to get revenge, dumping come into my mouth isn’t the way to do it.’

‘Do you have a manual that could teach me how to best get my revenge against you?’ Augus said, and Ash laughed, wrapped his arms around Augus and forced him down so that he was lying on Ash’s chest. Augus squirmed slightly. Ash’s cock was wet and slick against his own, and he felt sticky all over again. But Ash was dragging lines of sensation down his back, and after a minute of not knowing what to do, he slumped down.

Ash’s legs spread and then his knees bent, legs cradling Augus’ hips, leaning in and enclosing him.

‘You’ll think of something, you’re one of the most vindictive fae I’ve ever met, and I have scratches and cuts fucking everywhere to prove it,’ Ash said. ‘Now. Still freaking out?’

Augus shifted, realised he could hardly taste Ash’s come in his mouth now, Ash had licked it all out of him. He didn’t know what to say. The panic was there, but muted. He couldn’t tell if it was drifting on a current, or if it was sinking down in the depths of him to stay, to come back later when he least expected it.

‘Oh, hey,’ Ash said softly. ‘You are, huh?’

‘I can’t imagine why,’ Augus snarled. ‘My brother of however many years suddenly decided to fuck me, and then didn’t stop.’

Ash massaged around his shoulder blades, was silent for a time.

‘I threw a wedge in things,’ he said, finally. ‘I know I did. I didn’t...know I would. It wasn’t like I planned it. Not that it...not that it makes it okay. I know that, Augus.’

‘But you’ve wanted to for a while, yes?’

Ash tensed beneath him. This was a sore subject, and Augus was beginning to realise it meant that Ash had wanted this for a long time. At some point, Augus had let him down, that Ash didn’t feel like he could just say so. He pressed his forehead into Ash’s shoulder, bit his lower lip, waited.

‘Some time, yeah,’ Ash said, and Augus nodded. It was better than the I can’t talk about it he was hearing before. ‘I hadn’t ever planned to do anything about it. I was just...’

‘Waiting for it to go away?’

Ash laughed bitterly.

‘Oh no, I’d given up on that.’

Ash pressed Augus down to him, so tightly that Augus was sure the air was being squeezed from his lungs. He made a small sound, and Ash didn’t let up, hugged him even closer.

‘I want you tired and sore,’ Ash growled. ‘I want you unconscious and weak and trembling and your fingers stiff and your eyes begging me to stop and your cock about to come again in my hands. I want it so that if you ever, ever let yourself be fucked by someone else, you’re gonna wonder why their cock feels so wrong inside of you, and realise it’s because I own your ass.’

Augus was staring, wide-eyed, at Ash’s skin. It was possessive and dirty and...he shivered all the same.

‘You’re obsessed,’ Augus said, and Ash bit his shoulder suddenly, so hard it broke through skin and blood spilled. Augus tried to pull away, and Ash sucked hard, licking at the blood, poking his tongue into the wound.

‘You think?’ Ash said against his skin. ‘I’m after you, brother. And I will fucking have you.’

Augus’ heart was pounding in his chest, and Ash laughed once against him, the breath hot on his sore shoulder.

'You know what?’ Ash drawled. ‘Maybe you should panic.’

Chapter Text

Ash

*

Ash tightened his grip on Augus’ body, ready to shift, start again, when cold ropes of waterweed slid around both of his wrists, binding him tightly. His eyes widened as Augus moved back, stared down at him, fear and coldness on his face.

Augus used more waterweed to coil Ash’s wrists together, binding them at his chest. And then he sat upright, unmolested. Ash tugged at the waterweed, but Augus had always been stronger than him when it came to his abilities as a waterhorse; he didn’t stand a chance.

‘Before you get started,’ Augus hissed, ‘tell me when this obsession began.’

Ash stared up at him, tugged again. No, he couldn’t do this. No.

‘This is low, even for you,’ Ash grumbled.

‘Well, maybe I have a good teacher,’ Augus said with a false lightness that struck hard at Ash’s heart.

Actual promise? Or...fake Ash promise?

Words he never wanted to hear from Augus’ lips again, and yet even as Augus had said them, what hit him hardest was not the pain of the words themselves, but the fact that Ash knew he had given Augus reason to think that way. And not just in whatever mess he’d started up between them, but in other things too. How many times had Ash sworn that he would be more attentive, or stop doing something, and had forgotten or stopped caring or basically been the inconsiderate dick that he knew he could be?

‘You say you had given up on waiting for it to go away,’ Augus said, staring down at him. There was something unfathomable in his eyes. Ash didn’t know what to do. He wanted to be inside Augus, wanted to own him, to be what he thought about, wanted to pay some of that awful obsession back.

‘Yep,’ Ash said, tugging on the waterweed again. He could still taste his and Augus’ seed in his mouth, faint hints of it. He rolled his tongue, and then forgot what he was doing when Augus started speaking again.

‘So it’s been long enough that you’d given up on fucking it out of your system, thinking that it would go away if you just tried hard enough, long enough that not seeing me for a month wasn’t helping like you thought it might help?’

Ash stilled, his mouth dropped open. How did Augus see things like this? How? Ash had told him hardly anything at all. He refused to make eye contact, not wanting to see that cold green stare in the face of feeling so bared. He tugged harder at his wrists, and Augus placed a hand on his clenched fist. A calming hand.

‘Answer me,’ Augus said.

‘I’m not a fucking client either!’ Ash said, indignant.

‘You’ve been more than happy to treat me like one of your human conquests, I fail to see how this is any different. If you want me to...if you want to do all those things to me, then-’

‘Oh, I fucking do,’ Ash snarled.

Then, perhaps you owe me some answers. How long ago? When did you first look at me and think, ‘wow, I’d like to fuck my brother up the ass?’’

‘Jesus,’ Ash blinked hard. It was always easy to forget that Augus was capable of this, because he could be so meek and unassuming, because everything about him was introverted and contained and even small. And yet Augus had a reputation amongst many fae – some quite experienced – as knowing what he was doing. Ash had never been able to reconcile it with the Augus he knew, the Augus that made those tiny, fractious, vulnerable noises when he pounded away inside of him.

‘Answer me,’ Augus said again.

‘Untie me,’ Ash said, infusing a petulance into his voice that often worked.

‘Months?’

Ash laughed, the sound turning to shattered glass around them.

‘Years?’ Augus said, and Ash bit his lower lip and said nothing at all. ‘Fine.’

Augus yanked his wrists back from his own waterweed, severing it, leaving it knotted firmly around Ash’s wrists. And then he sent new strands out to Ash’s ankles while sliding off the bed. His face was an impenetrable mask and it frightened Ash to see him like that, even though he was trying not to look, trying not to make eye contact.

But this, this was not okay.

‘Hey!’ Ash said, struggling. Augus shook his head.

‘I’ll come back when you’re amenable to talking.’

‘Fuck you,’ Ash growled.

Augus stared at him.

‘That’s what you’ve been doing, and I want to know why.’

And with that he was gone, closing the door quietly behind him.

*

Augus didn’t come back after five minutes, not after ten, and then Ash started shouting for him, and he didn’t come back then either. Ash raised his wrists so that he could set his teeth into the waterweed, but Augus hadn’t been playing around. He’d used the strong stuff, not the weaker waterweed they could both make easily. He couldn’t get his teeth through it. His ankles weren’t much better.

After that he roared in frustration and went silent for some time, and then he started to laugh quietly, because he’d created this situation.

Anxieties crept in. He was supposed to be able to tell Augus anything, but he hadn’t known how to tell him this. Those things were supposed to be secrets, weren’t they? And yet, he and Augus had used to talk about everything. But that had been...centuries ago. That had been long before he’d even moved out. Everything had changed after that, and now he didn’t know how to predict Augus’ behaviour. Every time he thought he was reading him correctly, he was off the mark.

It was why being inside of him, kissing him, tasting him, fucking him, it was all so addictive. It was the closest he’d felt to him in centuries.

Yet he was still far away. A distance Ash didn’t know how to bridge.

‘Oh, fuck it,’ Ash muttered. ‘Fine! Fine! I’ll tell you!’

That Augus was back within only a few minutes indicated that he’d likely heard everything. The laughter. The shouting. The pleading. Everything.

Augus walked back in with a cup of tea for himself. He sipped at his tea with the same primness he’d always done, and then lay the cup and saucer down on the cabinet, coming and sitting on the edge of the bed. He was fully clothed once more.

Damn it. Oh well, guess I’ll just have to pull his clothes off him again, if I ever get out of this goddamned waterweed.

‘You have to believe me when I say I tried to deal with it in a lot of ways. A lot, Augus.’

‘Just tell me,’ Augus said, sounding tired. ‘How long? I can leave again. I know how long you can go without food. And I have other rooms to sleep in.’

‘You fucking would, wouldn’t you? Jesus, fuck, okay. Centuries. Alright? Fucking centuries. Not months, not years, not decades. Like three hundred goddamned years. Okay?’

Augus’ eyes widening slightly was the only sign he gave that he was shocked by the amount of time it had been. Ash knew Augus well enough to know that he hadn’t expected that. He tried to ignore the flush of shame that curled around him, but he couldn’t. His head thumped back onto pillows and he stared up at the ceiling.

‘I came to visit you once, and you were jacking off on that flat stone you have up above, outside. It was sunny, you were going slow, it was...I was...I just couldn’t get it out of my head. I tried.’

‘You’ve been lying to me for three hundred years,’ Augus said softly.

‘Don’t you dare,’ Ash said. ‘Fucking untie me! Fucking do it now!’

And then he was struggling against the bonds until he could feel his wrists burning, grazing them. The scent of his own blood hit his nostrils, washed out the scent of Augus’ blood where he’d opened bite marks into his shoulder, his neck. He panicked, frustrated. After several minutes that he realised that Augus hadn’t moved. He slumped backwards, staring at Augus in disbelief.

‘Come on,’ Ash said, holding up his wrists.

‘We have a problem,’ Augus said. ‘You want this...carnal relationship with me, but you’re not honest with me about it, and you don’t want to be. Well, maybe I don’t want to give my body away to someone who can’t even manage basic courtesy. I spoiled you when I raised you. I know I did. You know I did. But I didn’t think you were a coward.’

Ash bit into the inside of his lower lip so hard that he winced.

‘What do you want, Augus? I’m not sorry I lied to you. For ages I was trying to find a way to get rid of it. I didn’t want it either! I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but it complicates things just a fucking tad, yeah? And on top of that, up until then, you were not...like I’d had a few dreams, but you were not on my radar. So I wasn’t about to tell you something that I was hoping would go away. And when it didn’t go away, Jesus, I just didn’t want you to know. It’s embarrassing, okay? It’s embarrassing. I don’t think you’re not worth it or anything, I just think...you have everything else about me. You raised me, you know all my goddamned secrets, can’t I just have one?’

Augus hiccoughed a laugh.

‘It’s not a secret if you’re fucking me,’ Augus said.

‘I meant before,’ Ash said, voice low.

‘You’re not thinking straight,’ Augus said, carefully. ‘This isn’t about wanting to hold a secret over me, and you know it. If you were a client, I might ask why you were so afraid of rejection, but you’re not, so I won’t.’

Ash’s eyes squeezed shut, he saw pulses of colour flashing behind his eyelids. One after the other. He didn’t move when he felt fingers at the waterweed about his ankles, tearing through it easily. It was thrown off towards the side of the room. A moment later, fingers at his wrists. But they didn’t take the waterweed away, and they withdrew again, leaving his wrists bound. Ash hissed out a sound of frustration.

‘What is this, to you? Is it temporary?’

‘I don’t know,’ Ash said, realising Augus wasn’t done with him and deciding to just go along with it. He couldn’t do anything else, anyway.

‘That’s not a very good answer.’

‘I didn’t know there’d be a fucking exam, did I? Jesus, Augus, what do you want to know?’

‘I want to know why it’s only when you’re...doing what you’re doing, it’s the only time I feel close to you – at times. I want to know why it’s been so long, and I’ve only just now found this out about you.’

Ash’s eyes flew open, went to Augus’ face. Augus wasn’t even watching him anymore. He was looking to the side, his eyes downcast. There was a faint furrow in his brow, his lips were downturned, he looked sadder than Ash could remember seeing for some time. He wanted his arms free, he needed his arms free.

‘I want to know...’ Augus’ lips thinned, he wouldn’t let the words free.

‘What? What do you want to know?’ Ash said.

‘I’m not like you,’ Augus muttered, but it sounded like he was saying it to himself. Ash realised that Augus was revealing something about himself that he hardly ever did, but he couldn’t tell what. It was more than the words he was saying, and Ash thrust his wrists forward again, sitting up, using his legs as leverage.

‘Untie me,’ Ash demanded. ‘You say you feel close to me when I’m fucking you, let me fuck you.’

‘Ah,’ Augus laughed in despair. ‘I didn’t say it was a good thing.’

‘Good, bad, stop moralising it. You say you feel close to me when I’m inside you, then let me.’

Augus cleared his throat, shook his head.

‘It’s exhausting.’

‘Untie me,’ Ash said. ‘You’re over-thinking it.’

‘It’s...’ Augus looked over at Ash’s wrists, and then his eyes trailed up slowly to Ash’s face. There was something in his expression, and Ash felt a predator wake inside of him, saliva rushed to his mouth. He swallowed hard, decided to trust his instincts, for all that it might leave him tied up in Augus’ bedroom for a week.

‘Let me lay waste to you, brother,’ he husked.

Augus froze, then shuddered. He licked at lips with a dry tongue, and Ash leaned closer, tilted his head to the side.

‘Let me ruin you,’ he breathed. ‘Let me get so fucking far inside of you that you panic, and I don’t let you go.’

Augus’ eyelids fluttered closed, he exhaled hard.

Got you, got you, fuck, I knew it. I fucking knew it.

‘Let me go so you can fight me,’ Ash said, his own voice getting rough. ‘So you can be exhausted, and unable to think straight, and know that I’m coming back for you. Let me make you ache, Augus. Please.’

‘You do,’ Augus said, very quiet. ‘You already do.’

He needed more time before he would get hard again, not after blowing his load like that in Augus’ mouth, that had been intense. But he knew that Augus used toys in his own line of work, and it would be so easy. So easy.

‘The longer you leave me tied up, the harder for you it will be.’

Augus swallowed.

‘Then I suppose I shouldn’t untie you.’

He was close enough that he could run his tongue over Augus’ shoulder. He dug it back into the bite mark in the crook of his neck, digging fresh blood out of the wound. Augus inhaled sharply, then held his breath as Ash latched his mouth to his skin and sucked hard, tasting a rush of sweet water and metal. He blew on the wound carefully, mouthing his way around Augus’ damp hair, letting his lips linger at the line of his jaw.

‘I didn’t know it would be like this either, you know,’ Ash whispered against his skin, tonguing a pulse point he found. ‘I thought I’d be gentle, I thought you’d like gentle. I wanted to fucking worship you, and I still...fuck, still do. But we keep getting distracted by this, don’t we? Tell me you don’t want to be hurt, a little. Tell me you hate this, and I’ll stop.’

‘You won’t stop,’ Augus laughed, and then moaned when Ash lipped at the underside of his jaw. Gentle motions that were as much bursts of air as they were anything else.

‘That’s not an answer, though, huh?’

‘If I tell you that I don’t hate this, you will become worse,’ Augus said, as though asking a question. Each word so hesitant that Ash gentled further against him, licking long lines along his neck. And, fuck, he wished he had his hands free, but he’d always appreciated a challenge. He trailed his tongue upwards and skated over the curve of Augus’ ear, before dipping his tongue in and swirling it. Augus made a sound that was reluctant arousal. He shifted into Ash, away from him. ‘You already take liberties.’

‘I do, don’t I?’ Ash said, speculatively. ‘I will again, you know. You can’t keep me tied up forever.’

‘I could teleport away,’ Augus murmured.

‘You could,’ Ash said, smiling. ‘You could tie me up again when I least expected it. Shall I go on telling you the ways that you could stop this from happening? Or should I tell you that when you untie me, I’m going to fuck you until you cry? I dunno, what’s gonna increase my chances? I can’t tell at the moment. I mean I’d think the last one, given how hard you are.’

Ash’s bound wrists lowered – he had to drop his whole body to manage it – and he brushed them over Augus’ erection, barely hidden beneath his clothing. Augus shivered against him. Ash did it again, Augus leaned closer.

Ha.

‘Hundreds of years,’ Ash said, leaning up and kissing Augus’ cheekbone. ‘I’ve thought of a lot of things I’d like to do to you. I tried not to, but I would have these dreams...Speaking of, have you started dreaming about me yet? Yep, shiver says ‘yes,’ I think.’

At this rate, Ash was going to be hard again before he needed any toys to help things along. He closed his eyes tightly, resisted making a sound of frustration. Now that he’d thought about it, he wanted that too. Wanted to ease plastic or silicone or whatever Augus had hiding away in his client rooms past that tight ring of muscle and watch Augus quiver beneath him.

‘Hey,’ Ash said suddenly. ‘Do you keep any toys in here? Or are they all for your clients? Do you ever get greedy? Ever get one and think, ‘No, I’m keeping that one for me?’’

Augus’ eyes cracked open and he looked sidelong at Ash, who quirked a grin at him.

‘No,’ Augus said. ‘Don’t you dare.’

‘I’m tied up, I can’t dare anything,’ Ash said, leaning in and pecking him on the mouth. ‘But aren’t you curious? Hey, look, I’m laying all my plans out on the table for you. You can see them coming from a mile away.’

‘And then let me guess, after you’ve fucked me with a dildo, you’ll get hard, fuck me again. That sounds very repetitive.’

‘Yeah, you’ll probably just fall asleep, I expect,’ Ash said, laughing softly as he sucked Augus’ lower lip into his mouth. It was difficult to balance, but it was worth it to taste Augus’ mouth, that astringent sweetness.

‘I could just shove you off the bed and fuck myself with the dildo, and then get something nice for dinner. A salad, I think.’

‘Yep,’ Ash said, grinning at the triumphant look in Augus’ eye. ‘Yeah, do that. Come on, Augus. Don’t you get it? Anything. I’m gonna love it.’

Augus’ eyes widened at that, and the triumph disappeared and was replaced with something oddly wounded, vulnerable. Ash used his weight to knock Augus back onto the bed, surprised when Augus went, hardly resisting him. Ash used his own mouth to open Augus’, slid his tongue inside, aiming for slow and sensual and thorough, wanting to lick the vulnerable away. He could bring it back later, but right now he wasn’t sure what had caused it, and he didn’t think Augus would tell him.

‘What happened?’ Ash said, bracing his wrists on Augus’ chest, looking down at him. He leaned down again, kissed a particular burst of freckles on his right cheek.

‘I think I want you to do things your way. But I know I’ll change my mind. You never stop, Ash. You broke my core energy, my heartsong. What more do you want from me?’

‘Untie me, I’ll show you. Or don’t and I’ll just dry hump you or something,’ Ash said, grinding himself down even though he was still sensitive, still not hard. Augus twitched against him. ‘Come on, Augus. Please. Pretty please? Untie me?’

Augus raised his hands. Ash lifted helpfully when he felt fingers at his wrists. They didn’t move, and Ash looked at Augus, who was watching him with something that was very obviously dread. The smile that grew on Ash’s face was pure predator, and he knew it. He let the light of hunger come into his eyes, turning them paler and brighter than usual, and Augus swallowed, squeezed his own eyes shut.

‘Give it up, brother,’ Ash whispered, straddling him now, breathless with want. ‘I promise you’ll live to see another day.’

‘Don’t talk to me like that,’ Augus said, half-hearted. ‘Fuck.’

‘Tell me you’re not prey,’ Ash said, and Augus’ jaw tightened.

‘I’m not prey.’

‘Yeah, but let me make you feel like it for a little while. It’s better this way.’

‘There’s clearly something wrong with me,’ Augus said, a confused, dazed light in his eyes as his fingers finally – finally – untied the waterweed. It was the good stuff, but it responded to Augus’ clever claws with supernatural speed, unravelling quickly.

Ash shook it off and leaned down, capturing Augus’ head in his palms and lowering his mouth to his, kissing him in gratitude. His wrists ached, burned, but it was nothing too bad.

His predatory need for retaliation surged through him. He couldn’t prevent the grin that came, even though it altered his ability to kiss, even though Augus stiffened beneath it. Ash nipped at his lips, over and over, and then feathered fingers through Augus’ waterweed, rubbing the place where it met his scalp, still avoiding where Augus had ripped some out earlier.

‘Where do you keep them?’ Ash whispered.

‘Everything’s in the bottom drawer by the bed,’ Augus said, he didn’t even hesitate.

‘You should strip while I see what you’ve got, yeah?’ Ash said, tugging impatiently on his clothing. ‘This is useless on you. Seriously.’

Augus opened his mouth to respond, then pulled his shirt over his head with a fluid movement, glaring at Ash as though he was somehow beating him at his own game. Ash looked at Augus’ torso appreciatively, then leaned off the side of the bed, aware that Augus could tie him up again at any point. But Ash’s gut told him he had this one, and he relaxed as he pulled the drawer open and grinned at what he saw. Two different types of lube, neither commercial, and a variety of dildos, no vibrators. That wasn’t entirely unusual in the fae world, but he vaguely remembered Augus saying he didn’t like them because they were too ‘busy.’

Ash would have to buy one for Augus, later.

He rummaged around inside, listening to Augus stripping his pants off with more hesitation. He ended up choosing one that looked like it may have been made of some fae equivalent to silicone. It had little give, a decent heft to it. It wasn’t as long or as thick as Ash was, but Augus would still feel it. He picked out both jars of lubricant and held them up without looking at Augus.

‘Which one’s better?’ Ash asked.

Augus made an impatient clucking sound under his breath and took one from Ash’s hand, dropping it on the bed.

‘Yep, thanks,’ Ash said, putting the other one back. He closed the drawer, pushed himself onto the bed properly.

Augus was naked, hard, his eyes were apprehensive as he looked at the dildo.

‘Of course you’d choose that one,’ Augus muttered.

‘Hey, you’re the one that has it in here with your personal toys. It’s not like I brought it as some kind of housewarming gift. Lie back, you. I think you might want to get comfortable or something.’

‘Oh, fuck you.’

‘It’s just, we’re probably going to be at this for a while,’ Ash said, waggling his eyebrows with a lasciviousness that he knew would piss Augus off. When Augus opened his mouth to protest, Ash pushed him all the way back down to the bed again, then reached past him and took one of the smaller throw cushions. He smacked Augus’ thigh with it.

‘Lift,’ he commanded. ‘Come on, lift these pretty hips of yours.’

Augus stared at him desultorily as he braced his feet on the bed and lifted his hips in a smooth arch. He rested one hand on his belly, the other was lying up by his head. Ash’s mouth went dry. Augus knew exactly how attractive he was. He always had. But he was flaunting it now. Ash shoved the cushion underneath his hips and then grabbed a handful of his ass as he slid his hand back, digging his fingers in. Augus winced.

‘Oops,’ Ash said, grinning. He squeezed again, unscrewed the cap on the jar of lubricant, bringing it to his nose. It was a muted scent, but still faintly herbal. ‘You made this yourself, didn’t you? Augus’ special self-fucking recipe?’

Augus’ lips tipped up in a knowing smile. There were times when Augus became flustered, and times when he freely displayed how comfortable he was with aspects of his body.

Ash scooped the lubricant up into his fingers and, knowing that he’d fucked Augus open already, he reached out with a hand and grasped Augus’ thigh, pulling it down and apart, sliding two fingers into him. Augus cried out, shocked, back arching as Ash pushed his fingers home to the last knuckle, savouring the tightness. Augus was loose enough to allow the rough treatment, but that didn’t mean it was comfortable.

‘Slipped,’ Ash said, and Augus grit his teeth and then snarled at him. ‘Don’t be like that, brother. I did say I’d get you back for tying me up.’

He slid his hand back and then pushed in firmly, repeating the gesture several times until the muscles in Augus’ hips remained taut and he had fistfuls of quilt in his hands already. There it was, his habit of grasping at things. Ash’s thighs still ached where Augus had dug his claws in, drawn blood. Ash grinned and withdrew almost completely, then slammed both fingers back, rocking Augus up the bed.

Augus opened his mouth to protest, Ash cut him off.

‘You can take it,’ Ash said, his voice deep with promise. Augus looked up at the ceiling as though the answers to his problems were there, and then his eyes closed when Ash curled his fingers up and in. He knew exactly what he was looking for now, brushing his fingers over Augus’ prostate and pinning Augus at his pelvis, underneath his flushed cock, when he tried to rock away from how sensitive it felt. ‘Brother, I said you can take it, and you will.’

‘I’ve changed my mind,’ Augus said, though he laughed somewhere between almost-pain and arousal. His cock bobbed against Ash’s hand where he had Augus pinned back against the cushion.

‘Good,’ Ash purred. ‘Fight me, if you want.’

He slid his fingers out and rubbed at Augus’ perineum, before kneeling between Augus’ legs, grasping him at the sides of his torso, palms over his ribs.

‘You look amazing,’ Ash said and Augus nodded, catching his breath. His eyes were closed, he didn’t open them as Ash slicked up the dildo generously – he wanted to be rougher than usual.

‘And you could stop being such a callous ass,’ Augus said.

‘Mm,’ Ash said. ‘I could. But you don’t know what you’re talking about. I’ve never really been rough with you, have I?’

Augus laughed in disbelief, and then his eyes flew open when Ash leaned heavily onto Augus’ chest, one arm pinned across him, making it hard for him to rear up.

‘Hey,’ Ash grinned. In one movement he placed the dildo and pushed it home, riding the lurch of Augus’ body. He let go of the base, reaching up and needing his other hand to calm Augus, who was pushing at his shoulder. ‘Hey, shhh, come on, it’s in now. Settle down.’

Augus made a thin, broken sound, his head thumping back onto pillows, forehead furrowing. He took deep, laboured breaths, and Ash stroked his hair carefully, amazed that Augus could look so fragile and yet be so strong. All his life, Augus was just so invincible; he survived anything. Hunger, privation, exhaustion. He always came through. Seeing Augus vulnerable, especially in circumstances like this, was like looking at a secret. Knowing that he was the cause and had control over that expression turned his blood to heavy liquor.

‘Augus,’ Ash breathed, and Augus opened his mouth, but no words came. He rubbed his thumb over Augus’ bottom lip, and then licked at it. A broken moan gusted over his mouth. ‘Don’t be like that, Augus. Come on, I’m giving you a break. Savour it.’

‘Fuck you,’ Augus gasped. He reached up and pushed at Ash’s shoulder again, but Ash leaned into the pressure, bunting his forehead down against Augus’ even as he reached down with his other hand and ran it up the side of Augus’ thigh. He curved his hand inwards, lifting it, and then hooked Augus’ knee over his shoulder. He leaned forwards again, and Augus’ body curved and stretched with the movement.

Augus growled, but he didn’t struggle beyond tensing. Ash didn’t know what it was that wiped Augus out so quickly. He wondered if it was connected to why Augus liked to take things so slowly with himself. Perhaps sensation was more acute for him, so it exhausted him faster. Ash really had been with humans who could handle weekend long marathons. But Augus – given that Ash knew he could hold domination sessions that lasted for days – seemed unable to parse consistent sensation when delivered to his own body. It twinged at Ash that he was like that. Did no one ever really touch him properly?

With Augus’ leg hooked up and over his shoulder, Ash slid his hand down and twisted the dildo slightly, and then as Augus gasped and tried to catch his breath, he withdrew it and pushed it back in, letting his wrist find an easy rhythm. He could save rough for later. He watched Augus’ face closely, the way his eyes moved beneath his eyelids as though he were dreaming. He didn’t look like he was entirely present in the room.

Where do you go?

‘What’s it like?’ Ash asked, hungry, feeling like he wanted to sink his teeth into skin and flesh. He turned his head and bit the meat of Augus’ thigh where it hung over his shoulder. Augus’ back arched, he flinched. Ash wasn’t being gentle, he licked at the blood he’d drawn.

‘It’s like my impatient...smug...brat brother, ah- Stop chewing on me.’

Ash stopped sucking blood from the skin he’d broken and kissed it sloppily in apology.

‘Finish your sentence,’ Ash said, keeping pace with his wrist, looking at Augus’ cock where precome had started to spill in nacreous streaks across his belly. It had a slightly greener sheen than Ash’s did. Most humans never noticed once they were glamoured, but Ash loved it; the shine of it, how unique it was. He wanted to bend down and lick it away, but between keeping one arm on Augus’ chest, needing his other to manipulate the dildo, using his weight to make sure Augus knew he was pinned and not going anywhere...he couldn’t.

‘It’s like you’re fucking me with a dildo. What do you want me to say?’

‘Does it feel deep?’ Ash said lightly, pushing the dildo home and then grinding it deeper, tracing circles across Augus’ insides. Augus squeaked, the sound pushed out of him. Ash grinned at the hand that pushed at his shoulder, an unsteady shoving.

‘Or...maybe you need more help? More descriptive words? Does it feel fast?’

He grasped the base of the dildo and his wrist picked up into a blur of movement; shallow, fast thrusts that tore the breath from Augus’ lungs and replaced it with dazed, incoherent syllables. Ash slowed down after a minute, when Augus was trembling, his cock twitching, duskier than the rest of his olive flesh.

‘Maybe soft?’ Ash said, looking into Augus’ glazed eyes when they opened, gentling everything until he was practically caressing him with measured slides. Augus garbled out a sound of approval, and Ash smiled, wondering how their lives would be if they lived together. If he could greet Augus with this most mornings.

Where the fuck did that come from?

Ash swallowed, faltered, but Augus was too distracted to notice. He focused on Augus again.

‘Maybe slow?’ Ash whispered, deepening the thrusts, but slowing them down. At that, Augus’ heel thumped hard against his back, thumped again. One hand knotted in the blankets and the other raked furrows down Ash’s back, arching into spasms as he came across his belly and ribs.

Ash left the dildo inside of him, leaned up and caged his brother with his arms, cradling his head in his hands as Augus shook through the high of it. His eyes were shut, his mouth open on uneven, short, sharp breaths; harsh sounds heading up heavy exhales. Ash thumbed away the single tear that appeared at the corner of his eye, licking his lips.

That’s one.

Ash forced Augus’ limber body to fold on itself when he leaned forwards to demand a kiss. He slid his tongue inside Augus’ tired mouth, lavishing attention. It wasn’t hard to do. He loved everything about Augus. Having him shaking in his arms, a sheen of sweat over him, it was still better than he thought it would be. He didn’t know what he’d do if he wasn’t able to have this anymore, and sometimes when he tasted the inside of Augus’ mouth, he found himself treating each kiss like it might be his last.

Augus moaned like his heart was breaking, his hand thrust into Ash’s hair, tangled up in curls, pulled him closer. His mouth opened, tongue twining with Ash’s, and they stayed like that, slick and pressed close, breathing through their noses and damp hair tracing slow, lukewarm paths down their skin.

When he withdrew, Augus still had his eyes closed.

‘You’re going to keep going, aren’t you?’ Augus said, and Ash nodded.

Augus’ face screwed up, he shook his head.

‘I just want to rest.’

‘You’ll get to rest, brother,’ Ash soothed, and Augus shook his head again.

‘You mean after. I have clients this week. You-’

‘Don’t you want to know what it’s like to feel ruined by me?’ Ash purred, and Augus turned his head aside and shuddered, made a small, cut off noise in the back of his throat. ‘It’s safe, with me. You can give it up, Augus. You don’t have to be fearsome and terrible with me. Let me take you apart.’

Augus’ eyes were open, he stared blankly ahead, but Ash knew that this sometimes meant he was deep in thought. He licked the side of Augus’ face, pressed small kisses onto the temple that housed the brain that had kept them both alive. He traced the delicate curve of Augus’ ear.

‘Augus...’ Ash said, infusing some menace into his tone.

Augus’ eyes met his. He looked confused, his eyebrows drawn up, together. His lips tight with tension. The afterglow of his orgasm was gone, consumed by troubled features. Ash frowned back, because after all this, perhaps it was still possible that Augus could reject him, perhaps it was-

‘Alright,’ Augus whispered, closing his eyes as though pained. ‘Alright.’

Alright...

‘Seriously?’ Ash said, eyes widening.

‘Do it,’ Augus swallowed. ‘Ruin me.’

Ash pressed a careful kiss to Augus’ closed eyelid, feeling how the membrane of skin twitched under his touch. The dark, twisting thing inside of him that demanded blood and flesh and sinew grew in strength, dragged claws along the inside of his gut until his cock started to harden. He exhaled hard against Augus’ face, pressed a kiss to the side of his nose, another to the corner of his lips.

He pushed himself back up on his arms, running his hand down Augus’ torso, slicking through come and precome. It still warm and wet as he traced fingers through it. Augus grimaced in distaste, and Ash rubbed it into his skin, watching him. The look on Augus’ face said he didn’t appreciate it, but it was something akin to the affectionate exasperation he was used to seeing on Augus’ face.

He wanted to erase it, replace it with something lost. He moved his hand further down and slid the dildo out. Augus’ muscles clenched, as though he would have squirmed but stopped himself. Ash tossed the dildo to the side and immediately pushed in three fingers, stretching them, using what lubricant was left behind. Augus grunted, his legs shifted. The one that was hooked over Ash’s shoulder jerked like he wanted to move it away.

Ash curled his fingers up, pressed in. Augus cried out.

‘Just fuck me already,’ Augus snapped, voice thready. Ash clucked reprovingly under his tongue. Augus had made that sound at him all his life, and it was with smug satisfaction that he made the sound back, even as he started massaging at Augus’ prostate.

Augus twisted sharply to the side, Ash followed.

‘Come on, Augus, don’t be like that. You asked me to, remember? I can fuck you any old time. But this? Jesus, are you breaking out in a sweat again already? How intense is it?’

Ash pressed up a little harder and Augus slammed his teeth shut around something that may have been a shriek. He shuddered and tried to arch his hips backwards, and Ash pinned him with his other hand, stroking his fingers with generous attention to Augus’ prostate, wondering exactly what reactions he could draw out of him. He was hungry for more than pleasure, and he knew Augus was too.

Augus had always been antagonistic, after all. Had always liked to fight back, to have the last word, to get his claws out and scratch.

‘Hey, hey,’ Ash said, making sure that Augus stayed focused. ‘Come on, how intense is it? Is it just like...all pain? Some people really hate this, you know.’

‘You’re...I had no idea you were such a sadist,’ Augus gasped, his exhale a sharp, heavy thing.

‘Not with the humans, usually,’ Ash said, ‘but yeah, man, I mean come on. Who doesn’t like having someone at their mercy? I usually get around it by just eating someone out for so long they’re pulling at my hair to stop but don’t really want me to stop and well, that moment, I live for those moments. I like having people at my mercy, Augus. But it turns out when it’s you, oh...oh, Augus, you’re not even concentrating are you? Earth to Augus, can you hear anything I’m saying?’

Augus keened, reaching up with splayed fingers to try and push Ash away. He was fighting back enough to express displeasure, pain, but not enough to make Ash stop. Ash rewarded him by easing up a little, enough that Augus could catch his breath. But his fingers fluttered over his prostate threateningly, and Augus squeezed his eyes shut and one of his hands withdrew and dragged across them. It was the kind of gesture people made when they were crying, but Augus’ eyes were dry.

‘Shhh, brother, you’re doing fine. How about we stop with the deep and meaningful conversation? You seem pretty distracted right now.’

Ash smiled toothily as he started moving his fingers again, keeping Augus’ leg over his shoulder and using his other hand to stroke at Augus’ thigh. Every now and then he had to stop, pin him instead as Augus would writhe beneath him, overstimulated and oversensitive. Ash didn’t know if Augus could come again.

Augus moaned. Deep, long sounds that he seemed hardly aware he was making. One of his hands threaded through his own hair – self-soothing, Ash realised –then fisted in it, his back arched. His cock was soft between his legs, but Ash knew that Augus was tilting into a place where pleasure was creeping back in.

‘Just fuck me, Ash,’ Augus gasped, his voice wrecked. ‘This is...repetitive.’

‘Yeah,’ Ash said, pressing down harder on Augus’ prostate and drawing a high, fractured sound that broke something inside Ash’s own chest. ‘Yeah, repetitive, sure. I must admit, you’re feeling kind of swollen. Right here, can you feel that?’

He pressed with increasing firmness and Augus’ spine arched again.

‘Beg me,’ Ash grit out. ‘Go on. It’s so nice when you remember your manners. You were always such a dick to me about them.’

‘I’m tired, Ash,’ Augus said, and it was true, he sounded exhausted. He sounded as though he was ready to sleep a weekend away. But that was the point where Ash always liked to go a little further. After all, if whomever he was sleeping with at the time was already planning on sleeping, why not make sure they made the most of it? He smirked, bent down, pressed his mouth to Augus’ nipple, licking it slowly.

He grunted when a fist landed hard on his back, then laughed. He closed his teeth around Augus’ nipple and tugged upwards, pressing fingers up at the same time. Augus’ body locked up tight. He let go after Augus whined.

‘Hit me again,’ Ash growled. ‘Go on. Stop fucking confusing hitting with begging. Beg for it, Augus.’

Augus – unsurprisingly – hit him again as he growled and twisted. His leg fell off Ash’s shoulder, and Ash laughed, fucked his fingers in and out of Augus rapidly. Augus swore, struggled, and Ash increased the speed until Augus slumped limp, whimpering, an appeal for mercy in the sounds he was making, the breaths he strove for. Ash realised then that he’d need more lubricant. Augus was open for him, but the friction had increased.

‘Hang on a minute,’ Ash said, and laughed again at the way Augus moaned in relief when Ash’s fingers slid out of him. ‘Come on, Augus, don’t get too comfortable.’

He screwed the cap off the jar again, scooping up a generous amount.

When he looked back, he saw tiny droplets of tears on Augus’ eyelashes, and Ash leaned up quickly, pressed his other hand onto Augus’ chest and licked at them. Augus spluttered, and Ash covered whatever retort he’d been about to make with his lips, licking happily into the inside of his mouth. He hummed, greedy. Augus’ hand came up and pressed against his side. He thought Augus was pushing him away, but the hand became fingers clutching, claws catching fretfully at his skin.

‘Okay, okay,’ Ash said, shifting and wrapping his lubricant wet hand around himself. He groaned as he slicked himself, paying particular attention to the head of his cock. ‘Okay, love, bear with me. You just have to do one tiny thing. Remember what it is?’

‘Don’t,’ Augus whispered. ‘You don’t need that.’

‘You asked me to ruin you,’ Ash said, his voice deepening as he smiled. ‘Brother, brother, I can keep my fingers up against your fucking prostate for at least another four to six hours, longer really, once I took a break and got some water. We have enough lubricant, right? Wouldn’t it be an adventure? Man, you would hurt though.’

Ash let go of his cock and slid his fingers back into Augus, who jerked, cried out, shaking his head.

‘Not begging,’ Augus said.

‘You’ve begged me before, brother.’

‘Not like this.’

Augus cried out, miserable, when Ash slid three fingers over Augus’ prostate. Augus was already going to be sore. Ash wanted to leave imprints of himself all over Augus, inside of him, for weeks.

When Augus started repeating Ash’s name over and over again, begging laced throughout the tone of his needy voice, Ash smiled to himself.

‘Warmer,’ Ash said, as his cock jumped. ‘Definitely warmer, brother. You’re getting close. But it’s still not really begging is it?’

And there, as Ash pressed up into Augus’ prostate again, Augus’ mouth shaped around a word he wouldn’t give voice to. His face stayed twisted up afterwards, his forehead furrowed, he trembled. Ash growled, leaned over him.

‘I saw that,’ Ash said. ‘That doesn’t count either.’

Augus began to sob, shaking his head.

‘It counts.’

Say it.’

Ash’s teeth bit into his bottom lip when he realised he’d just tried to compel his own brother. It wasn’t the first time it had happened, they’d both done it on occasion, they were both immune. Augus trying to compel him felt like a current of water washing over him. Not unwelcome, just odd. Augus arched up, pressed his face into the crook of Ash’s neck.

‘Ash,’ his voice catching.

Ash squeezed his eyes shut. It was getting harder to hold out, Augus’ face pressed hard into his skin, short gasps painting his flesh over and over again. Augus’ hand came up and clung to Ash’s hair, pulling on it. ‘Ash, fuck me.’

He almost gave in. Almost. He wanted so badly to be buried up to his balls inside of Augus, but it was the principle of the thing. He pressed his fingers against Augus’ prostate, drummed a heavy internal beat.

Augus screamed.

The sound was a shock. Ash went still, eyes wide, but Augus didn’t miss a beat, writhing in Ash’s grip, his mouth shaping a word over and over again, a slowly increasing volume giving it voice:

‘Please, please, please, please, please, please, Ash, please.’

And on it went, until Ash felt as though something was wrong. He shifted, withdrew his fingers and Augus was still begging him, the word a desperate litany.

‘Okay, okay, Augus, hang on,’ Ash said, grasping himself and pushing in slowly. His sense that the world was out of balance, tilted at an odd angle, disappeared. But Augus was still mouthing the word ‘please,’ and Ash sealed his mouth over Augus’ even as he pushed home and groaned at the feel of it. He slipped his tongue into Augus’ mouth, stroking over Augus’ tongue until desperate breaths became a long, low moan. Augus went limp beneath him, except where his hand stayed clenched in Ash’s hair.

Ash wrapped a supportive arm around Augus’ back, started a steady rhythm that left Augus quaking in his arms. He closed his eyes at the sensation of it, Augus slippery hot around him, the sound of fucking into him rising delicious between them. Augus was showing no signs of getting hard, likely wouldn’t.

Minutes passed and Augus clung on, claws piercing through Ash’s skin until blood trickled down his side, his shoulder. It added to the patina of scents between them, the musk between them both, the freshwater-scented sweat of Augus mingling with Ash’s siltier, earthier scent. There was blood already in the air, where Ash had worried his teeth into Augus’ shoulder, his neck, his inner thigh, where furrows had already been made in each other’s skin.

But Augus wasn’t getting revenge, wasn’t trying to get Ash to stop, he was holding on as though the bed was kilometres away. Ash kept his arm around his brother’s back, mouth open, panting. He thought about holding off, but there was a helplessness to Augus’ grip, in the way he simply took every one of Ash’s thrusts. There was a hungry triumph inside of him, opening and swallowing them both.

He wasn’t going to last.

‘Please,’ Augus whispered, and Ash exhaled hard.

It was still several more minutes before Ash felt familiar heat stirring and tightening in his balls, coiling low in his pelvis. He knew he was going to spill, felt as though he were being turned inside out, that he might pour into his brother and lose all sense of himself.

He cried out, rough, held Augus close as he came, clutching a handful of his long mane in his fingers.

Augus’ eyes were shut, lashes fluttering against his cheeks, when Ash withdrew. Almost unconscious, not quite. Ash watched him for some time and then withdrew, unable to miss the way Augus cringed, winced. He looked down at his own cock, traced his fingers through lubricant and held them up to the light. He breathed out a sigh of relief at the lack of blood.

He felt restless. He felt as though he had more to give, as though he hadn’t quite impressed himself upon Augus yet. He couldn’t keep going; not now. Augus was falling asleep, blood on his claws and a faint crease between his brows.

He got up, still hungry, wanting something he didn’t have a name for. It wasn’t the sex. If he didn’t think Augus would kick him out as soon as he woke up, he’d lie alongside him, wake him with breakfast...

That’s not going to go down well.

‘Fuck,’ Ash breathed.

He got up, made use of Augus’ shower, standing under the spray and using products that made his skin and hair smell like home.

*

He left after an hour, after sitting on the corner of Augus’ bed, a glass of water waiting on a bedside table. Ash looked around, unsatisfied, then walked away. He knew, even as he teleported into his own lake, that he could have done more. His cells itched at him. He hadn’t done enough. There was more to take. Augus had given him carte blanche to do what he wanted, hadn’t he?

But that wasn’t quite it, and he didn’t know what was hounding him. He knew after his second drink that he couldn’t bury it in alcohol.

He lasted twelve hours before he teleported back. Lines raced through his head, hounds coursing after a lure, ‘I’m not done with you yet,’ ‘Maybe I want you to beg me again,’ ‘I’m pretty sure I wanted you to come at least one more time.’

He shook water out of his hair as he walked through Augus’ foyer, not even bothering with a towel. He walked, bare feet dripping water, into the lounge and froze, his body turning cold.

Augus was hunched up on his side on the couch, shirt buttoned at the top and the lower half forgotten, as though he hadn’t found the energy to button it all the way. A palm pressed into his face, the other was wrapped around his side, his body strained as he curled into himself.

He’d been crying, was still crying. Except the sobs stopped as soon as Augus realised Ash was there. He stilled, his hand came away from his face.

He looked...ruined.

Ash’s mouth dropped open, dry, and they stared. Ash had the briefest thought that something had happened, something terrible, and then he realised that something terrible had happened. He held up his hands, an old gesture of peace, when he scented the faintest fear rolling off Augus’ body.

Oh, fucking...oh, fuck no.

‘I can’t,’ Augus said, his voice broken, a dehydrated rasp as he shook his head. ‘I can’t again. Just give me a month. Ash, I can’t. I can’t. Please, I mean it this time. I do. Please.’

Nausea turned his stomach, made it flip. He couldn’t remember the last time he’d felt so cold.

But Augus, distraught, needed help.

‘Hey,’ Ash said, his voice dropping, softening. ‘Hey, yep, okay. I promise. Alright?’

Augus’ face crumpled, he buried his face into the crook of his arm and the sobs began again. Ash realised that not once, not ever, had he seen Augus cry like this. He’d never even known he was capable. His own hands fell limp by his sides, nausea rose sharp and cold and thick, as though he’d just been dropped into some of his worst hangovers, when he knew he had alcohol poisoning.

He took a step forward, Augus shook his head.

‘I mean it,’ he said, not looking up. ‘I mean it, Ash, please. I can’t.’

He didn’t sound like he expected to be believed.

Ash’s eyes burnt, and he ignored it, focused on calming his breathing as he walked straight into Augus’ kitchen. He found a glass, filled it with water, wondered how much Augus had drank since he’d left. Was it just that single glass? It wouldn’t have been nearly enough in twelve hours. What if Augus hadn’t looked after himself properly last time? Why hadn’t he just stayed to make sure he had?

Because you’re a coward, obviously.

He was sure Augus would reject him as he perched on the side of the couch by Augus’ side. He traced a thumb across the small amount of Augus’ forehead that he could see.

‘Hey,’ Ash said, hating the sound of his own voice. ‘Hey, Augus, you need some water. Okay? Just a little. Come on. Otherwise I’m going to have to drag you into the lake so you can absorb the water directly, and you seem...more comfortable here. Just have a little, okay?’

‘You left,’ Augus said, his shoulders heaving. Ash couldn’t tell if it was an accusation that he’d gone in the first place, or disapproval that he’d come back when he should have stayed away.

What if he was like this last time? Huh?

‘Jesus,’ Ash muttered.

Yeah, Ash, just how fucking invincible was he meant to be again? And if he’s not invincible, then everything you’ve been doing to him...

Ash’s throat worked on a gag, and he swallowed it down.

‘Augus, you need some water. Please, please, brother. How long have you been sitting here?’

Augus unfolded slightly, enough that he could take the water with a shaking hand. He was trembling all over. He seemed frail, he sipped at the water carefully, even though it was obvious he needed more of it. His mane was too dry. Ash was sliding his thumb over it, eyes wide.

‘How long, love?’

‘I don’t...’ Augus’ brow furrowed. ‘You shouldn’t be here.’

‘I know,’ Ash murmured. He kept his voice low, soothing. Augus had always kept his emotions in check. All of them. From his rage to his joy to his fear and his grief. Ash didn’t even think he had emotional outbursts in this way. He knew Augus wouldn’t have wanted anyone to see him like this.

Take a hint from yourself, Ash. He would never have wanted you to see him like this. That’s not invincibility, dick.

Augus sipped at the water until it was all gone, and Ash took the glass, set it down. He’d have to make sure Augus drank more. His nostrils flared as several things slotted together in his mind. Augus hadn’t showered. Augus – who was fastidious about cleanliness – hadn’t even showered. He would be hydrated, if he had.

Augus had turned his head back into his arm, was still for almost a whole minute while Ash tried to think of what to do. And it was as Ash stroked tender fingers over his hair that Augus broke again, the first sob coming thick and heavy and a shock to both of them.

‘Augus,’ Ash said, lengthening the syllables, making them soft.

Ash stared, dread thick and bitter in his throat, as Augus cried. That Augus wasn’t chasing him away, wasn’t telling him to get out, couldn’t hide this, didn’t have that much left of himself; he’d been sure that Augus would wake up, sore, but fine. Would do what he’d always done.

And what’s that? What has he always done while you haven’t been here. Do you even know?

‘Oh, god,’ Ash said to himself. ‘Oh, fuck, Augus. Hey, hey there, it’s going to be okay. It’ll be okay, I promise.’

But he was out of his depth. All his life, Augus had been the one taking care of him. And he knew how to take care of humans, but Augus was another matter entirely. He raked a hand through his hair, realised belatedly that he was getting water everywhere. He didn’t care. Augus was still cringing away from him, wouldn’t turn to him for comfort, possibly didn’t believe it was an option.

Likely thinks you’re here to fuck him and leave again.

Ash forced himself to stand, looking around Augus’ home. Until Augus kicked him out, he could make sure he was hydrated, fed, warm. He could try, at least. He owed him that much. He rubbed both of his hands over his face, his wet eyes, as he walked back into the kitchen, getting his bearings. But there was no inner compass, no direction that felt like the right way to go, only the damage he’d stirred up as he’d galloped the wreckage of his obsession through Augus’ life.

Chapter Text

Augus

*

When Ash sat on the couch again, Augus shook his head. He didn’t understand what was happening. Ash never came back early. Ever. And he felt sore, exhausted, wrung out. He hadn’t meant to start crying. It just happened, and he hadn’t been able to stop once he’d started. He felt so heavy. He was fragments of glass; glinting broken pieces resting at the bottom of a lake.

He’s not supposed to be here.

‘I can’t,’ Augus said, wishing he had sarcasm or force or something cutting, something more than the weak, pathetic pleading he was left with. ‘Gods, I can’t, Ash. Come back later. A week, at least.’

He had clients. He had to pull himself together. But when he’d woken and Ash was gone again, something had shattered. If he’d still had a core energy, he would have assumed it was that. But he had no core, and he didn’t know what had snapped.

‘Augus,’ Ash said, his voice hardening, ‘listen to me, buddy.’

Not your buddy.

‘I’m going to ask you something, and you need to give me an honest answer, yeah? We have two options here, I think. I can leave right now, and come back in a week and check in on you. Alright? Option one. The second – and this is the one I really want to do, okay? – is that I stay, just for a little while, and make sure you’re okay when I leave. Alright? No fucking, and that’s a real Ash promise, not a fake Ash promise. You’re dehydrated and exhausted. I’d...fucking insist on staying but I think you need to tell me which one you want, okay?’

Leave, tell him to leave, tell him to leave. Pull yourself together and tell him to leave.

But Augus was tired of being left alone. Tired of Ash going back to his human world and finding succour amongst his prey, when he couldn’t seem to find it with Augus. To his chagrin, Augus realised he was crying harder than before.

His claws dug into his face, and he broke through the skin just as Ash snatched his hand back.

‘Love,’ Ash said, his voice matter-of-fact and yet now a gentle, crooning cadence. ‘You’re having a fucking breakdown, forget about that part, they don’t last forever. Trust me. Do you want me to stay? Or do you want me to go and come back in a week?’

‘It’s the drop,’ Augus managed, between sobs. Was it? What else could it be? ‘Clients get it at times. Clients...but...’

‘And what do you do when that happens?’

Ash still had Augus’ hand in his own. He was holding it gently now, rubbing his thumb over Augus’ palm.

‘You aren’t supposed to see this,’ Augus whispered, eyes wide and staring at the shadows in his own skin. ‘Ever.’

‘Yep, we won’t ever talk about it again. Augus, listen to me, what do you do when a client goes through...this drop?’

Augus frowned at his skin.

‘Water,’ he said, thinking hard. ‘Rest. Care. Observation. Waiting. Food is good.’

‘I’m staying then,’ Ash muttered. ‘But you’re dehydrated and you’re not clean. I’m going to get you into the shower, okay? I’m going to pick you up.’

Augus shook his head. He was too sore. He couldn’t, not again. If Ash fucked him again, he’d scream, he’d shred himself to pieces. He just knew it.

‘I can’t,’ Augus said, ‘Ash, I can’t. I can’t.’

‘I’m not going to fuck you.’

‘That’s what we do now,’ Augus said, a wave of tiredness turning his words imprecise. ‘I need a week.’

Ash exhaled a curse. But his hand turned infinitely tender where it cradled Augus’ hand, fingers stroked over his fingers. Fingertips pressed to fingertips.

‘Oh,’ Ash sighed. ‘I’m sorry, Augus. When you’re actually coherent later, I’ll tell you again.’

Ash let go of his hand, then slid one arm behind his back, another underneath his legs. Augus closed his eyes, winced as Ash picked him up. He was sore. Twelve hours wasn’t enough for the ache to leave, and he hadn’t wanted to clean himself, because he knew it would hurt. It was stupid, really, because he’d dealt with worse pain. But Ash had left, and if he’d cleaned himself, he would have had to think about the fact that Ash had left him to deal with all of that on his own.

And then he’d walked to the sofa, half-dressed, and thought about it anyway.

Ash set Augus down carefully on the wooden chair in the bathroom. But instead of turning the shower on, as Augus expected, he turned and placed the plug in the bath, turning on the taps and adjusting the temperature carefully. Augus watched, numb, both heels resting on the seat of the chair as Ash crumbled some soap into the bath, watched as he gathered some towels, and then turned his head and watched as Ash walked out again.

Augus closed his eyes.

He was surprised when Ash came back, one of Augus’ sleeping shirts in his hands. He put that underneath the folded towels, then looked at Augus, speculative.

Augus returned the eye contact. He could only hear water and a rough breeze inside his mind. He was scoured out, almost as empty as he’d felt when he was sure he wouldn’t ever see Ash again. But that was so long ago, and Ash had come back in the end. He’d come back.

And Ash was there right now, standing in front of him.

‘Oh boy,’ Ash said a while later, once the bath was nearly full. He turned off the taps, walked up to Augus and moved his arms, moved his legs, undid the rest of the buttons on his shirt. Augus almost told him that he couldn’t handle being fucked again, but Ash didn’t seem to be interested in that, and the bath smelled inviting. Herbs and fresh water. He was sticky and filthy.

‘Can you get in on your own?’ Ash said, once the shirt was folded nearby. Augus realised that was all he’d been wearing.

‘I can move,’ Augus said. But he wasn’t sure if he could. He stood up carefully, his mental state making it difficult to coordinate his limbs properly.

Ash sat down in the chair Augus had vacated, leaned his head back against the tiles as Augus wandered over to the bath and stepped in, grateful for the lukewarm water. He sank in until his mane pooled around him, and then let his head sink beneath the water. He inhaled deeply, letting the water flood his lungs, opened his eyes to look through the water up to the ceiling itself. The waterweed from his mane floated and reached for the surface, the rest of his mane was heavy, drifted around his face, obscured his vision.

He let his body become heavier until he no longer had to worry about floating to the surface. He dragged water in through his nose and exhaled it through his mouth, streams of bubbles rising above him.

He could feel water seeping into his body through his pores. The strange, osmotic reaction that always occurred when he was too dry for his own good. Surrounded by water, breathing it into his diaphragm, he knew when he’d reached equilibrium. It didn’t take long, but he stayed underwater. He reached up and pressed fingers to his eyes. He still felt dirty. He didn’t want to reach between his legs and clean himself, not with Ash there.

After several minutes, he pushed the excess water out of his lungs on a hard exhale, held his breath, bracing himself for the cold sear of oxygen when he broke the surface again. He breathed in gingerly. Ash still had his head leaning back against the tiles. His eyes were closed. He looked like he was doing a very deliberate job of not looking.

Augus hesitantly reached between his legs, carefully brushing at dried come, biting at the inside of his lip when he came close to his entrance. He was sore, swollen. He wanted to drop into the water again. Wanted to disappear. But he focused on what he was doing. He felt more alert, but no less heavy.

When he was done, he bent his knees protectively, leaned back against the bath and looked over at Ash.

‘You weren’t supposed to see me like this.’

‘I’m getting that,’ Ash said. ‘You’ve been like this before, haven’t you? Or sort of like this?’

Augus squeezed water out of his hair, looked at the towels folded nearby. He shifted, careful not to spill water over the rim of the tub, and plucked out the plug. Standing took more effort than it usually did, and he distracted himself by taking one of the towels and wrapping it around himself. He froze when Ash stood up, staring at him, wary.

‘Easy,’ Ash said, holding his hands up. ‘Jesus, I’m not about to fucking rape you. Not again, anyway.’

Augus swallowed hard, stared at him.

‘Ash,’ Augus said, faint. ‘Ash, you didn’t, I asked you to-’

Easy,’ Ash said again. ‘I don’t want to get into an argument over semantics with you, because you’ll run circles of words around me and you’ll fucking win, and it’s not about that. How about you accept that I fucked up something, and that I don’t want to do it again, okay?’

‘You don’t want to fuck me again?’ Augus said, confused, holding the towel to his chest and finding that his heart didn’t leap with relief at the thought. ‘Ever?’

‘Jesus,’ Ash said, sounding miserable. ‘Hell, Augus, I can’t read you at all right now. I’m just...going to put this other towel around you, and help you get dry. You look a bit shaky. And then we’re going to get you to bed. Okay? That sounds like a good plan, right?’

The journey from the bathroom to his bedroom was a bit of a blur. His mind fogged, he drifted, and the next thing he knew, he was leaning against a chest of drawers while Ash stripped the sheets from the bed and replaced them.

‘Talk to me about this drop,’ Ash said. ‘You mean sub-drop right? Like what humans have sometimes? I’ve heard about it before.’

Augus cringed. He wasn’t even sure that was what was happening.

‘I’m feeling a lot better now,’ Augus said.

‘Yeah,’ Ash said, placing blankets back on top of the bed. After a few minutes, he turned the bed down and looked over to Augus. ‘So, you’re feeling a lot better now, so you want to go back to the way things were? Is that it? I go, and pretend I never saw this? I’m actually...Augus, I don’t want to be, but I’m actually a little mad. We’ve known each other for how long? I’m your brother. I’m...we’re everything to each other. You have this whole emotional landscape I know nothing about. And maybe I haven’t earned that lately, but I thought, you know, in the fucking centuries that went before...’

Ash ran his hand through his hair several times, then shrugged.

‘I thought maybe you know, considering I’ve cried in front of you a ton, and been scared, and all of that, I would’ve thought you’d have shared that with me too. I didn’t realise you were...hiding it from me.’

‘Then what did you think?’ Augus said, wishing that asking questions, sounding calm, was enough to make him feel calm.

‘Easy,’ Ash said, reverting back to that soothing tone of voice. ‘You’re shaking again. You need to lie down.’

‘I have clients,’ Augus said, closing his eyes. ‘A client, I need to...’

‘Love, come on, come lie down.’

A hand encircled his wrist gently, tugged until Augus lurched away from the chest of drawers. That same hand led him to the bed, where Augus climbed in and expected Ash to follow. But Ash didn’t, watching him with a seriousness that didn’t suit him.

‘I was supposed to be the older brother,’ Augus said, closing his eyes.

‘I don’t even know what that fucking means. But you’re going to have to tell me some more about whatever that is, because if that’s why you’ve been hiding all this from me, then we have a problem. A big one. What do you feel like eating?’

‘I don’t eat in bed.’

‘I’ll clean it again, what do you want to eat?’

‘I’m not hungry,’ Augus said, his stomach rolling at the very thought.

‘You’re the one who told me food is good,’ Ash said. ‘You’re eating something. All the rest of your advice has been good so far. How about...something plain, okay? Or something bitter? You always used to say that bitter things helped settle your stomach. Maybe some wormwood?’

Augus curled up on his side and didn’t answer. Ash was doing everything right, he was trying. But Augus didn’t feel like he had the energy to be a very good...whatever he was supposed to be, in response. He placed his hand over his face and focused on taking deep breaths. His whole body hurt. He knew for a fact his prostate was swollen. He had battered at clients in the same way Ash had battered at him, and he still couldn’t believe he’d asked for it.

Augus lost awareness of his surroundings. The next thing he was aware of was Ash sitting on the edge of the bed and placing a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

‘I looked in your medicine kit. You had some stuff in a jar called ‘bitter digestive’ and I thought that might be good. But I got some wormwood leaves from your pantry. And some dried lotus root if you want something more plain. So, what’s your poison?’

Apparently brothers are my poison.

‘Wormwood,’ Augus said weakly, holding his other hand out for Ash to place the leaves in them. He didn’t stop hiding his face when he raised a leaf to his lips, nibbling at it slowly. The bitterness made his mouth flood with saliva, and he was sure he was going to be sick. But as he swallowed, the bitterness stretched sharp tendrils through his body and tamped down the nausea, until finally the worst of it rolled away. He took bigger mouthfuls of the second leaf until it was all gone.

Ash set the digestive and the lotus root nearby, and then placed his hand back on Augus’ shoulder again.

‘You’re hydrated, you’ve had something to eat, you’re warm, you’re clean. I think you should get some sleep. We can talk later.’

‘I’m not tired,’ Augus said.

He was tired. But he didn’t know how to sleep. Every time he closed his eyes, he felt like he was drifting in currents he couldn’t control, and that was such an alien feeling it turned his stomach. He wished Ash would just be as easy and familiar as he always was. He wanted to ask him to stay. To lie alongside him.

But he was scared that Ash would fuck him again. Scared that he’d allow it. Scared that he couldn’t assert what he needed the way he knew he needed to.

‘Love,’ Ash said quietly, ‘I’m going to go out into the lounge, yeah? Just for a little while. You’ve got books and stuff. Plenty to do. If you need me, just call me, okay?’

Augus made a sound that was acknowledgement, burying himself beneath the blankets until his head was no longer visible.

Ash sighed. A few minutes later he stood up and walked away.

‘Ash?’ Augus called, his eyes flying open, dread seizing his chest.

Ash stopped, it sounded like he was in the doorway.

‘Yeah?’

‘You’re not leaving, are you?’

A pause.

‘No, Augus.’

‘You’ll be here, when I wake up?’

A longer pause.

‘Yep.’ Ash’s voice was choked up. It was the last thing he said, and Augus heard his door being pulled to with a quiet click.

Despite his fear of falling asleep, the dull pain that threaded through various parts of his body, he willed sleep to come. It crawled over him and covered him; a warm, heavy blanket.

*

Augus woke slowly, stretching his sore muscles in a daze. He sensed a weight on the bed with him, smelled his brother, sighed in satisfaction. It was only once he rolled onto his back and his sore ass complained at him, that he remembered why Ash was even there in the first place. He tensed. Ash was still there. What did he want?

‘You said something earlier,’ Ash said, sombre. ‘You said I had a fear of abandonment. I mean you didn’t say it directly, but that’s what you were saying. And yeah, you know? That’s not...that’s not a fucking leap. Okay? I’ve been thinking about it. But so do you, Augus. I’ve been thinking about all of this. All of what’s been happening.’

‘Have you,’ Augus said, his voice flat. He turned onto his side. He didn’t want to listen to this. Ash’s hand came out and stroked his shoulder several times, avoiding the place where he’d bitten Augus earlier. Then Ash hesitated.

‘Can I lie next to you? Like the old days?’

Augus closed his eyes, thought about it.

‘Stay on top of the blankets,’ Augus said, grudgingly. It wasn’t only that he was worried about what Ash might do, he was worried about what he might solicit. Now that he was certain the fucking was all they had left, he found himself needy for it, and he was too sore, too exhausted, to contend with any of it.

Ash was shifting the blankets, then lay down, spooning Augus. One hand slid over Augus’ arm, hand braced over his chest and the blankets. The other slid underneath Augus’ neck. Ash pressed his forehead to the top of Augus’ spine, moving his head slowly back and forth, tickling his mane with his curls. After a while Ash stopped. He held Augus with a level of protectiveness that was strange to experience. He’d done this for Ash before, but he’d always refused it when Ash had offered.

He couldn’t tell if he liked it yet. If he was supposed to like it.

‘Here’s the thing, brother,’ Ash said. ‘I did a lot of things wrong. I went about this the wrong way. So you’re a masochist and so we’ve had some pretty smashing sex so far, but...that’s not really enough to justify all of this.’

Ash sighed.

‘What does you being my older brother mean? Why does that mean I shouldn’t see you like this?’

Augus hunched in on himself, not wanting to answer. Ash went with him, followed the motion. A minute later Ash swore.

‘Fuck this,’ he muttered, then shifted, getting off the bed. Augus’ eyes flew open, convinced that Ash was, yet again, leaving. But instead Ash pulled back his side of the blankets and slid into bed, pressing his chest against Augus’ back, sliding his arm underneath Augus’ arm and pressing his arm firmly across his chest, holding him. Augus was tense, uncertain. This was not going to end well.

‘There,’ Ash sighed roughly. ‘If it’s intolerable, tell me. I just...alright let’s try this again.’

Ash pressed his nose into Augus’ mane, stroked soothing, lazy circles into Augus’ shoulder.

‘Why shouldn’t I see you like this?’ Ash said, his voice soft.

Augus closed his eyes again, squirmed. He stopped when his ass ached at him.

‘I have to be strong for you,’ Augus heard himself say. He winced at the words. From the motion that Ash made behind him, it seemed that maybe he’d winced too.

‘And what does that mean?’

Augus wanted to know why Ash sounded so sad.

‘You always poured your emotions out, everywhere,’ Augus said. ‘And I...I’m not like that. But I had to be strong, I had to set an example. I was not a typical waterhorse as it was and you needed some way of knowing how things were supposed to be. If you wanted the respect of the Unseelie fae, you had to...be Unseelie. Or so I thought? You certainly needed someone grounded and stable, someone who...’

Ash pulled Augus tighter to him, and Augus tensed again, then found himself relaxing slowly when Ash did nothing more but breathe slowly against him. The blankets were warm, his bed was comfortable, Ash’s body temperature ran warmer than his, he was eased by it.

Time passed, and Ash made a small, shocked noise in his throat.

‘Augus, did you-? Do you remember all those years ago, when I moved out of home? Did you get upset then?’

Augus stiffened, and Ash was immediately making hushing sounds behind him. His fingers stroked gently over his collarbone.

‘You did, huh?’ Ash said, his voice soft.

‘Get out,’ Augus whispered, his voice shaking. ‘Get out. You’ve made sure I’m fed, watered, warm, bathed, and you can put it on your resume that you didn’t ruin aftercare, but I will not- I will not-

‘Brother, brother,’ Ash crooned, voice strained. ‘Augus, please. I’ll stop. I’ll stop, okay? I’m so sorry. If I stop talking about it, can I stay?’

Augus was shaking with the horrified, suppressed dread that something was about to be discovered, and he wasn’t ready for it to be exposed. He felt as though a raw nerve had been abraded, and he hadn’t realised he had any left.

Ash withdrew his arm and pressed it between Augus’ spine, rubbing large circles over his back.

‘Hey,’ Ash said. ‘Hey, love. Do you need me to go?’

Augus didn’t know. He thought about Ash leaving, waking up on his own again, and shook his head abruptly.

Ash sighed in what sounded like relief.

‘Okay, okay then, well, I kind of want to say sorry from here until the next century, but sorry doesn’t mean a fucking thing without actions. I don’t think you can answer this now, but can you just- You need to start telling me what you need. And if you don’t really know, because this whole clusterfuck is a confused mess, that’s okay too. You don’t actually need to have all the answers? You know that, right?’

‘You don’t listen to me anyway,’ Augus said.

‘Yeah, I clearly have a problem.’ Ash’s voice was heavy, and he seemed disinclined to talk after that. Augus turned over his words carefully and sighed, ragged, when Ash started dragging his fingers through Augus’ hair.

‘We both do,’ Augus said, tilting his head back into Ash’s hand. ‘If I truly hated all of it, this wouldn’t be the situation we’re in now.’

‘I know you don’t hate all of it,’ Ash said calmly. ‘I know you don’t. Turns out that in some circumstances, and with certain...people, you’re- You like to be hurt. And you like to fight back and be subdued. I know that’s not my imagination.’

Augus couldn’t answer. The words were an anathema to who he thought he was as a person. Yet he couldn’t spit out a denial. The problem wasn’t that Ash hurt him – though that could be problematic – the problem was that Ash always left. Used him up and left him to pick up the pieces. There were no signs of concern for his welfare. It hurt that Ash saw what he needed on one level; and yet on others, was so oblivious.

‘That must be really scary for you,’ Ash said. ‘I knew it was. I’ve been such a fucking dick.’

‘You treat me like prey,’ Augus said, and Ash nodded, the palm against his back increasing in pressure.

‘I know. Fuck. I know I do.’

‘I don’t understand,’ Augus found his voice breaking again, and hunched in on himself, couldn’t stand how weak he was being. ‘I don’t understand why I like it so much.’

‘Okay,’ Ash was saying in a rush. The hand on his back moved to his shoulder, pulled at him. ‘Okay, turn around. Face me. Come on. Face me, Augus. You can do it. I want to hug you properly, okay? Come on, love, there...there, that’s it.’

Augus turned reluctantly, and found himself folded into Ash’s arms. Ash held him fiercely, pressed his forehead into Augus’ collarbone, stroked long, slow lines across the back of his shoulder.

‘You really don’t understand, do you?’ Ash said, shaking his head. ‘You with all your clients.’

‘I’m not supposed to be like this,’ Augus hissed, and Ash buried a hand in Augus’ hair, still carefully avoiding the place where Augus had ripped waterweed out.

‘Brother, you can’t help what you like. It doesn’t make you any less the Each Uisge. We’ve always been a bit weird for...who we are, yeah? But you’ve always told me that doesn’t make me any less the Glashtyn. This doesn’t lessen you.’

‘Then why- Then why-’

Augus couldn’t say it, his eyes were burning again. He wanted to laugh at the idea that he’d just end up crying all the water he’d absorbed in the bath out of himself again. Ash’s arms tightened against him.

‘What were you going to say?’

Augus hesitated, only managing to keep his breathing calm because his mouth was closed. But without a core energy to guide him, being empty of any signs of what to do, it became harder and harder. He raised a hand to his face again, hiding himself, even though Ash couldn’t see him properly anyway.

‘Why do you treat me like I’m less because of it?’

Ash’s hand faltered against his back. He shuddered, stilled, and Augus waited for Ash to disagree vehemently, to deny how much things had changed between them. But Ash said nothing, and Augus spilled words into the silence.

‘I don’t know if you’ve noticed, Ash, but we hardly talk now. I don’t know anything that’s happening in your life and you don’t know anything about what occurs in mine. I know I should be livid with you, but instead it is as though you have exposed some fault in me, some weakness that I know no other Each Uisge has had. I know you have your life with your humans, and that you’re very busy, but I see you twelve times a year and for all that it might seem otherwise, those times matter to me, Ash. They matter. I don’t know who either of us are, anymore. I have no heartsong. And you, who have always been such a bastion of compassion for others, you leave after you’re done with me. And I know you don’t even do that to the humans you lie with. You’ve made me less than them, Ash. Than them.’

Augus choked on his own words. His eyes widened at what he was saying. He struck out, shoving hard at Ash, putting a foot of distance between them. He wanted the comfort, but he was angry, too. He was letting himself be lulled, but it would all change as soon as Ash got hard again, wanted to satiate himself.

Ash – to his surprise – stayed put. Augus looked up and Ash was staring back at him, his mouth turned down.

Ash, normally so quick to defend himself, saying nothing.

Augus scowled at him.

‘So it’s true?’ Augus spat, trying to ignore the way his chest felt as though it was crumpling.

‘No,’ Ash whispered. His eyes closed. ‘Though I can see how- I can really fucking see how it seems that way.’

Ash took a deep, shaking breath.

‘Augus, I’ve made some mistakes. I let a stupid obsession get in the way of treating you better. That part- That part I can’t deny. But you’re not less than- Than the people I’ve slept with. Fucking...hell, no, you’re- I left because I thought you’d be fine. I thought you would honestly be fine. Because I thought that if you saw me, after everything I’d done, that you would tell me to leave you and never come back. And that was a hard thing to swallow. That I could be rejected by someone who means so much to me, and that he would be fine either way. So, yeah, okay? You called it, Augus. I’m a coward.’

Augus, to his own surprise, laughed. Ash’s eyes widened, but Augus was already covering his face with his hands and rolling – gingerly – onto his back. It was too painful a position to maintain for long, and he rolled back to his side again, grunting softly.

‘Augus,’ Ash said, his voice soft but insistent, ‘I know I should’ve known better, with how this was impacting you, but I always just thought you were numb to things. Like, when I moved away from home, you didn’t cry. You didn’t get upset. You just seemed annoyed that I was still there. And then I came back, Augus, and you were cold and...after that first moment of seeming happy to see me, after that, you didn’t seem to care.’

If Augus had the energy, the will, he would have slid out of the bed and walked away. He felt the very thing that Ash had accused him of being – cold.

His lips thinned.

‘The fact was, Ash, that I had already mourned my dead brother and it was something of a shock, and a grave insult, to realise that you had actually been alive all that time. That, instead of being dead, you’d simply not gotten in touch with me.’

They were talking about something that had happened hundreds of years ago. There was no way it should still twist in his chest just so. No way that it should still jar him as profoundly as it did now. Ash would mock him, perhaps. He would point out that it was – indeed – centuries ago.

Ash took a long breath that seemed too forced, too steady.

‘Mourned?’ Ash said, his voice higher than usual.

‘You said you’d be back in three days, crying,’ Augus said, hating that he was lying down in such a vulnerable position while having this conversation. But everything else was ruined, wasn’t it? It hardly mattered what he spoke about now. ‘You said that you’d certainly be back within a week, to let me know how you were doing, surviving out there in the human world. It was almost a year, Ash. A year I didn’t know what had happened to you. I thought, at first, that you were done with me, bored of it: the tame and restrained life I’d raised you with when you wanted to gallivant around the world and seek thrills and new experiences. But after approximately three months, I couldn’t stop myself from considering the other possibility, that maybe a rival waterhorse had found you, or that you had somehow...’

He couldn’t finish his sentence.

Eventually, he became aware that Ash was saying nothing at all. Far too much time had passed. Augus risked looking up. Ash stared into the distance, his eyes filmed over with tears. Augus watched him, too numb to think about reaching out, and a few seconds later Ash blinked slowly and tears dripped down his face.

‘Of course, you weren’t dead. Everything worked out,’ Augus prompted.

Ash startled. Blinked his gaze to Augus’ and stared like he hadn’t seen him before. Augus didn’t know what to say. Usually, when he saw Ash distressed, Ash was sobbing and Augus was trying to help somehow. But this was something different, and he didn’t have the energy for more. He sank back into the pillows properly, shifting his head until he could find a patch less wet than the others. His hair was dripping a great deal of water now that he’d bathed and restored his equilibrium. He sighed.

It was out in the open now.

Hundreds of years, he’d not ever planned on telling Ash about that.

But then he’d never planned on being fucked by him, let alone multiple times. Never planned on his heartsong disappearing. Never planned on any of it.

‘We’re a mess, brother,’ Ash said, his voice a gravelly rasp.

‘That is something we can both agree on,’ Augus said, not bothering to open his eyes.

He startled when Ash traced his thumb over the side of his face. It was a tender touch, one that made him shiver, awoke nerve endings under his skin. Ash’s thumb moved back up to Augus’ forehead, traced soothingly over the furrow in his brow.

‘It will be okay,’ Ash said, clearing his throat. ‘It’s going to be okay.’

‘We’re both still here, aren’t we?’ Augus said. His heartbeat was slowing down. Sleep tapped away at the corner of his mind. Ash shifted and lay down properly, sliding his hand down until he could squeeze Augus’ shoulder.

‘You’ve been so alone,’ Ash whispered. ‘Augus, you’ve been alone for so long. And in more ways than I-’

‘I like a lonely life,’ Augus lied.

He willed sleep after that, because he no longer wanted to feel the dull, throbbing ache in his chest.

*

When he woke next, the room was empty. Dismay threaded through him, stringy and coarse, but there was a note on the desk by a glass of water and some fresh wormwood leaves:

I’m in your lounge, bro. Just thought you should be undisturbed for a bit. Come out when you feel like it. Love, Ash.

He tried to ignore the relief that moved through him. Augus picked up the wormwood and ate it all, and then crunched through the dried lotus root. The bitter and plain foods together settled his stomach. He had no idea how long he’d slept. It felt longer than the first time, and his body didn’t ache quite so much when he stretched.

He picked up the glass of water and sipped at it.

He wasn’t sure how to begin collecting himself. Ash knew too much. He knew things that weren’t supposed to be uncovered. Not only that, but Augus wasn’t sure when Ash would run out of patience, would want to fuck him again. Surely soon? Augus felt fatigued, he just wanted to get his head in order. For the past few months, all the things he’d had to rely on – his wit, his snark, his buffer of coldness, it was all disintegrating in front of the blistering heat of his brother’s energy.

He’d been stripped down and he didn’t like what was left over.

He put the glass down with a sigh, got up and stretched again, wincing. The bite marks in his neck and shoulder pulled. They were healing, though. His ass still presented a dull, distant ache. The worst part was knowing that in two weeks, three weeks, some treacherous part of him would miss it. Would want Ash to smash through all of his defences once more.

Augus showered, scrubbing himself more thoroughly than before with soap that smelled of neroli, soapwort, rosemary. He towelled his hair as dry as he could, knowing it was useless, and unable to give up the waterhorse instincts of wanting dryness and warmth. After centuries, he still wished for something he could never have.

He laughed softly. That was the curse of the waterhorse, wasn’t it? At least, waterhorses like himself, like Ash.

But, oh, that brother of mine, he certainly found a way of getting something that he wanted. And so did I...in a way.

Augus stilled, closed his eyes.

That was the problem, wasn’t it? He’d had more than one opportunity to get Ash to stop. To find some kind of new equilibrium that didn’t involve weekends of fucking.

‘You imbecile,’ Augus whispered. ‘You lonely, wanting idiot.’

But the insults didn’t help. Didn’t drive away the impulse to seek out Ash, to be near him. And it was harder now that he knew how soft Ash could be, how gentle, how tender.

Augus walked to the lounge like a sentenced criminal walked towards the gallows.

*

He scented the vinaigrette and his stomach rumbled at him. He was probably due a hunt in the next few days. He looked over at Ash on the couch as he entered his lounge. Ash looked up from reading one of Augus’ books on – of all things – first aid, and then looked pointedly over into the kitchen.

‘I was hungry, so I made some stuff. I saved you some.’

Augus narrowed his eyes as he walked over to the counter. A large bowl of salad waited. Ash’s typical food of choice was not salad. To the point where Augus kept his pantry stocked with fresh and dried fruit, even though he never ate it himself. But he picked up a fork and sifted through the salad and could see nothing except ingredients he liked.

‘I feel as though I should ask you what your ulterior motive is,’ Augus said with a weak smirk.

‘Well, I’d like for you to come sit down and like, have a chat with me,’ Ash said, putting the book down and stretching his legs, then his arms. His hands flexed. Augus watched Ash’s fingers and flushed. He knew a side of Ash that he never expected to know, never imagined he could know. He became acutely aware of the pains, the aches, the worn pleasure in different parts of his body.

He tried to distract himself by eating a mouthful of salad.

‘Okay, so, I’ve been thinking. Dangerous, I know, but one of us has to. Oh, also, I cancelled on that client? I just said that an emergency came up, and to reschedule.’

Augus closed his eyes. His clients tended to only see him when they had need, and turning one away felt discomfiting. For all that the Each Uisge within him – that predatory waterhorse that waited constantly to hunt – didn’t believe in responsibility to others, Augus had accepted that responsibility.

Though, lately, he’d been making fewer appointments with clients, referring them on. It had been harder to concentrate on that side of things ever since his core of dominance had evaporated.

He walked over with the bowl of salad, sat in an armchair opposite Ash and folded his legs under himself so he wasn’t resting directly on his lower back.

‘Still sore, huh?’

‘I’m surprised you don’t sound happier,’ Augus said, shifting to get comfortable, before going back to eating his salad.

‘Yeah, well, I would be, but this weekend’s been a bit of a clusterfuck. Maybe next time?’

Augus’ eyes shot up, and Ash returned his gaze steadily.

‘That’s what I wanted to talk to you about. I’ve been thinking like...all day, did you even want this? Because I think we could do it, y’know. Have an actual...relationship. Not me just visiting and fucking you and apparently fucking you up. So, okay, a few things. Do you want that? Or do you want us to like, treat this as some bizarre hiccup that we laugh about or don’t talk about in like a hundred years time?’

Augus hid his indecision by focusing on the salad. Eventually, the silence stretched too far, Ash didn’t fill it, and Augus realised he had to say something.

‘I don’t know what a relationship is,’ Augus said coldly. ‘I’ve never had one, and I’ve never been particularly interested. But I am tired of feeling cheapened, without anything else to balance this out. Could you not visit- Can you not visit at other times- Not often, of course, you’ve always been busy, but-’

‘You being self-effacing does not suit you at all,’ Ash said darkly. ‘Just say it, for fuck’s sake.’

‘I want you to visit more,’ Augus bit out. ‘And not fuck me every single time.’

‘Yeah, okay,’ Ash said. ‘I want you to have a safeword. Two, actually.’

‘No,’ Augus spat. ‘They’re for humans.’

‘No. Nope. They’re for people who don’t know all of their boundaries and limits, like us. Like a lot of people. Not just humans. You don’t need them as a dom, Augus, because you’re fucking amazing at it, and attentive, and have been doing it for ages, and I mean obviously those clients of yours aren’t me. But in this? Fucking hell, Augus, your modus operandi is that you like to fight back. So obviously I can’t stop when you’re telling me ‘stop’ or ‘no’ or ‘I can’t’ or whatever. And I don’t know when to stop! We need safewords. I need that. I need to know you have an out.’

Augus glared at him, and Ash glared back, sat up straighter.

‘I fucking mean it, Augus. I need you to have them. One that means stop, and one that means...I don’t know, that you’re not sure, or that you need me to take it easy or slow down or something.’

‘Then that’s likely all you’ll hear,’ Augus hissed.

‘I don’t think so, but if that’s the case, then yeah, okay, we’ll deal with that if it happens. I still want them. And if you won’t use them, or refuse to use them, then I can’t do this anymore. I can’t. Because every time you fight me in the future and then give in, I’m not gonna know if you’re just accepting what’s happening because you’re afraid I’m going to fucking leave you again.’

‘This isn’t about that!’ Augus said ‘It’s never been-’

‘-And stop fucking lying to me,’ Ash bit out, lips thinning. ‘Or stop lying to yourself.’

‘I’ll not have you lecture me like I’m some-’

‘-We both need to do some growing up here,’ Ash said, his voice turning from hard to soft in an instant. ‘Augus, I’m sorry, I’m so sorry, but there’s been too many fuck ups on my part, and some of them can actually be prevented in the future, okay? Yeah? The best way to prevent all of it is for me to never fuck you again. But we both don’t want that, right? Or this discussion would be going really differently. So if I’m...if we’re going to keep doing what we’ve been doing, I want safewords. And I want to know that you’ll try and remember to use them.’

Augus shifted again, made a scornful noise of disgust. Safewords were human, and most of the fae world eschewed them. He already felt infected enough by Ash’s connection to the human world, the idea that he’d have to do something like that in the middle of physical intimacy made him shudder.

But humans weren’t the only ones who used them, and he knew of some fae dominants who demanded them. His own philosophy was that they could have their place, but that place was far away from him. That they had nothing to do with him or his practices.

Yet he could see the merits of what Ash was saying.

It was humiliating.

‘I’ll think about it,’ Augus said grudgingly.

‘Until then, until you know what they are and tell me you’ll use them, I can’t fuck you again. I want to. But I’m not doing that to either of us. I dunno, Augus. You’re not invincible, and we’re not indestructible. And everything is not gonna be okay if we don’t look after this. Think of it like a baby plant or something. It needs care. And let’s face it, we’re both shit at seeing people more than once. I see humans once, and you see your clients once, and this is all new for us. The only thing that makes it bearable is that we see each other regularly anyway. Right?’

‘You want me to think of this like a baby plant?’ Augus said derisively.

Ash beamed at him. The smile seemed so out of place that Augus squinted.

‘What? You just sound a bit more like yourself,’ Ash said, laughing. ‘A total shit. I was beginning to think I’d fucked the stuffing out of you.’

‘I’m still not sure you haven’t,’ Augus said, stabbing several pieces of lettuce on a fork.

Ash didn’t respond and Augus ate several more mouthfuls while glaring at nothing in particular.

‘You won’t last a month, brother,’ Augus said finally. ‘Not fucking me.’

Ash laughed under his breath, the sound cheerless.

‘Out of the two of us, who of us could out-stubborn who?’

Augus glowered at him, and Ash shrugged. He leaned back on the couch, rested his head on the armrest and stared up at the ceiling.

‘I’ll last as long as I need to last,’ Ash said. ‘And if that’s forever then...well, I can’t even fucking contemplate that, but that’s what it’ll be.’

Augus finished his salad in silence, placing the bowl on the table once he was done. He winced as he settled back down again, shifted to get as comfortable as possible. Ash made a sound of sympathy, and Augus growled at him.

‘Yeah, alright, fine,’ Ash laughed. ‘You’ve obviously hit your quota of deep and meaningful personal conversations about us. So, alright then, talk to me about something. Since we’re always talking about my shit usually. How’s the lake doing?’

Augus felt uncomfortable. He normally listened to what Ash had to say, and he had a very clear idea of what was appropriate and what wasn’t in their familial relationship; but that was part of the problem, wasn’t it?

Ash was pushy, as usual. He prodded at Augus, asking different questions, until – unexpectedly – Augus mentioned that the marsh marigolds wanted to flower early in the season and that Augus was coaxing them to accept a delay might benefit them. From there, the conversation flowed to other matters. The condition of Ash’s lake, whether the rains would be as heavy as signs were pointing, what would happen if Augus’ lake flooded its banks. Augus talked about whether he’d need to send some of the water elsewhere, pre-emptively, as fog, and realised that Ash was actually listening to him.

He wound down, expecting Ash to mock him, prepared to defend the things that he found interesting, but instead Ash only shifted on the couch, blinking at him and frowning.

‘Why’d you stop?’

Augus just looked at him, and Ash grimaced.

‘I want to know,’ Ash said.

‘Today and not any other day, for centuries?’

‘No, I always wanted to know,’ Ash said, ‘but when we were kids and you were gathering herbs and stuff, you always told me to stay away from you. Remember?’

Augus’ eyebrows pulled together as he cast his mind back over those memories, and then frowned. He’d not been able to get much time away from Ash, and he’d desired it desperately. Ash was needy for attention, food, affection, and it was only when Augus harvested herbs for his medicine, or tended his lake, that he truly felt able to demand some space for himself.

Was that why Ash wasn’t particularly interested in the herbs, poisons, flora and fauna around his own lake? Had Augus inadvertently encouraged him away from it? But as he contemplated it, he knew that he’d done just that. After all, they shared a lake, but Augus insisted on taking responsibility for its care, for the plants and animals around it. Ash’s instincts to grow and become unified with the energy of a lake had been stunted, stifled.

Waterhorses weren’t meant to share, and Augus had steered Ash firmly away from lake ownership in his need to have more time to himself.

‘Oh,’ Augus said.

‘So you do want to talk about this stuff?’ Ash said, smiling in a half-hearted way. He looked exhausted. There were shadows under his eyes. Augus realised that Ash tended to only look so worn after hours of crying.

The idea that Ash was out in his lounge, crying on his own while Augus slept...

‘I don’t know how to fix this,’ Augus said, the strands of problem-solving he usually pulled from had disappeared.

‘You don’t have to know,’ Ash said, a tired warmth making lines crinkle at his eyes, the corner of his mouth. ‘We’ll figure it out together.’

Chapter Text

Ash

*

Ash thought that the two months that had passed without fucking his brother had gone better than expected. But maybe that was because he was visiting Augus every two to three weeks, and because he felt like a part of his brain had been turned on. Whichever stupid switch had been turned off in the first place seemed to be flicked back into position now. He felt as though he was seeing Augus truly for the first time in too long. Possibly ever.

Every time the darker, predatory side of him wanted to lash out, drag Augus down to the ground, possess him, all he had to do was remind himself that Augus had spent months grieving for him and that everything since – all of Augus’ distance – was down to how damaged he was because of that experience.

Nothing killed his erection faster, it turned out.

There was just nothing that could have prepared him for that revelation. That weekend he’d discovered the truth, he’d spent the week following in a daze. He’d made sure that Augus was okay when he left, he’d made him dinner and told that client to reschedule later and ignored the possessive streak that made his fingers tense slightly when he’d done so. He wanted nothing more than to bundle Augus up in his arms for a month and not let go.

But it was impractical. He could see Augus itching for something like normalcy, equilibrium, and in the end he’d left because he knew that Augus needed that from him. Space.

Everything in his head had been turned upside down.

Augus wasn’t invincible.

His fragility wasn’t a temporary ripple that only affected the surface of his nature – it went deep, it was a current that was hidden by false, still waters.

Augus didn’t see it, but Ash was sure as hell that they matched each other for abandonment issues. Augus had just chosen to deal with his in a different way. Which meant that everything Ash had done – leaving because he was afraid of Augus leaving him, being relentless because he was sure that Augus could handle it, disappearing for weeks on end – had been wrong.

It wasn’t that Ash was doubting that Augus liked the fucking, it was that he had to reshape his mind around everything else.

He’d spent time in bars since – afternoon sessions, late nights – talking with bartenders and wait staff and strangers and finding himself not very inclined to fuck.

Yet, despite the ache of it all in his chest, seeing Augus was not quite as awkward as he’d thought it would be, because he didn’t let it be. They weren’t trying to go back to the way things were, because – as far as Ash was concerned – the way things used to be weren’t that great either. Not now that he knew so much of Augus’ mannerisms around him came from older, deeper hurts.

With that in mind, Ash found it easier to gently prod Augus into conversation, to hold out a stack of CDs and ask him to pick one, instead of putting a single one in and expecting Augus to like it or tolerate it. He saw how selfish he was and he saw how closed in Augus was. For all of Augus’ wit and snark – though the latter was far less present than it used to be – Ash noticed he no longer maintained boundaries for himself the way he used to.

And, Ash knew, it had nothing to do with him kick-starting the more carnal side of their relationship. That hadn’t helped, certainly; but it was representative of a larger pattern.

Ash had never noticed, because he’d ascribed all of Augus’ strange behaviours once he’d come back to Augus’ home after almost a year of absence, as Augus having moved on.

Which was true after a fashion. Just not in the way Ash had expected.

Looking back, he couldn’t think of one good reason to have not contacted Augus in those months. His fear of being laughed at for being too emotional – something Augus had never done in any way other than jest, and even then, only rarely – it paled in the face of imagining Augus in the home they’d grown up in, grieving. The home Ash had now fucked him in. The home Augus had his breakdown in.

So, all in all, the two months that passed were filled with more than concerns about when he could next get his cock in Augus’ ass, and that was for the best.

He was in his underwater home, in the lake he’d never particularly cared about – though he did like the cosy home he had set up, the space he’d made for himself, the furniture Augus had chosen for him – when he’d heard a loud knocking at the door. It was distinct. Augus always knocked, even after all this time. Five knocks, a musical pattern, but this was loud.

‘Brother, are you there?’ Augus called through the door. ‘Ash?’

Ash rolled off the couch and rushed to the door. Augus sounded distressed. It wasn’t like him to be anything other than self-possessed; even after the meltdown he’d had. Once he found his equilibrium again, he clung to it.

Ash opened the door and knew immediately that something was wrong.

Augus was flushed, his cheeks duskier than usual. His eyes were fever-bright. They flickered up to meet Ash’s gaze once, lingered for long seconds, then Augus was looking at the ground. His hands were clenched into fists. Ash could smell the faintest tinge of Augus’ blood; he’d scraped claws into his own palms.

‘What the fuck happened to you?’

‘Are you busy?’ Augus said, breathless, pushing past him. ‘Why is it so warm in here?’

‘What the fuck, Augus?’ Ash said, reaching out for his arm.

Augus hissed, jerked away, placed one of his hands over the place Ash had touched him, as though burned. His shoulders bowed, his breathing was shaky. Augus laughed in what sounded like despair.

‘I thought it would make things easier,’ he muttered to himself. ‘I’ve made a terrible error in judgement.’

‘Augus, are you poisoned? Do we need to go back to yours? Remember that time I was poisoned and you helped me?’

‘I’m not poisoned,’ Augus managed, still facing away from Ash, tremors moving through his frame. The hand that had been covering his other arm where Ash had touched him, slid down towards his elbow with a sensual slide of fingers. Ash stared, bewildered. ‘Or, perhaps I am. In a way.’

Augus walked over to Ash’s table and faced it. After a few deep breaths, he looked at Ash.

‘I’m in trouble,’ he said, breathless. ‘You’re not going to be happy.’

‘Yeah, I don’t understand what the hell’s going on,’ Ash said, and it was looking over Augus’ body for signs of injury that he saw it – how hard Augus was. Augus, who rarely got aroused unless he willed it. Who wasn’t known for random erections, unlike Ash, who seemed to get them all the damned time.

‘I might...need you to fuck me,’ Augus breathed, his voice slightly higher.

Ash’s cock twitched and he gritted his teeth. He would have killed to have heard those words in the past, now they filled him with dread.

What the fuck did you do, Augus?

‘I did something,’ Augus said vaguely, and Ash was ready to shake Augus until answers started falling out. He took several steps closer, and Augus stiffened, whimpered. ‘I’ve tried fixing it but, ah, you know how fae plants work sometimes, brother.’

Augus was panting. Ash realised that he wasn’t sick, he was aroused. Augus looked at him, pupils dilated, mouth open around his short, shallow breaths.

‘I took...aphrodisiacs. I think I miscalculated the dose. Ash, help me.’

Augus placed his hands on Ash’s table and bent over himself, visibly shaking. He made a rare, thin sound that was need and pain.

Ash took a quick step forwards and then stopped himself, torn between anger and concern and arousal. He wanted nothing more than to see what he could tear from Augus while he was like this, but he’d made a promise. Was Augus trying to circumvent it? Ash wouldn’t put anything past him trying to get past Ash’s requirement that he have safewords. He grimaced. Fae aphrodisiacs weren’t like those in the human world. They usually only burnt through the body with the touch of another. Self-satisfaction wasn’t an option.

If Augus had truly overdosed – and it looked like he had – he would be in agony for days unless someone else helped him.

But Ash had made a promise, not a ‘fake Ash’ promise, a real one.

‘Augus, Jesus fucking- I meant it, brother. The safewords. I can’t help you unless-’

‘Fuck,’ Augus snarled, voice ruined.

He lifted a clenched fist and slammed the heel of his hand into Ash’s table. There was a loud splintering sound, a crack like a gunshot, and the slab of wood split down the middle. The table fell apart, and Augus’ knees looked like they were about to buckle.

He was already fishing in the pocket of his pants, making a strangled sound that Ash assumed must have been him dragging the fabric too hard over his cock. He yanked out a small piece of paper and held it out.

Ash went to grab it, plucking it from the air when Augus’ hands shook too much to keep hold.

‘Please, brother,’ Augus said, breathless. ‘It was an accident. I thought it would make things...make me more amenable, more...less, I don’t know. I took a conservative dose, but I think...’

Ash unfolded the tiny piece of paper. On it, the names of several trees and plants had been crossed out. At the bottom, two words with circles scrawled around them. The whole list looked as though it had been hastily written.

Hawthorn
Lotus

Ash’s eyes widened, he stared at them. Of course Augus would choose the tree of his birth, and one of his favourite flowers. He expected to have to fight for this, and instead Augus had already come over with them in his pocket. He’d been prepared.

Ash’s own cock was hard in response. He’d never seen Augus like this before. Needy, acting in service to that need.

‘Which one means stop?’

‘H-hawthorn,’ Augus growled out, sinking slowly to the floor. One of his own hands slid up the inside of his thigh and he choked out a lost, wanton noise. ‘Ash, I need your help, I need...gods.’

Augus had his palm over his confined cock and his back was slowly arching backwards, but his face was screwed up with pain, not pleasure.

‘You and I are gonna have a fucking talk about this later,’ Ash growled, already dropping the piece of paper and stalking towards him.

He dropped to his knees by Augus’ side and Augus immediately turned towards him, trying to climb him like a tree, fingers desperate and scrabbling and scratching so hard that Ash grunted in pain. But whatever Augus was inflicting on him was nothing compared to what Augus was going through. Ash knew – he’d tried fae aphrodisiacs before – mostly he’d learned not to mess with them again. He didn’t need them for a start. And he’d had an appropriate dose.

Augus, however, was clearly in pain.

‘Easy, love,’ Ash crooned, and then groaned as Augus bit hard into the side of his neck. Not hard enough to draw blood, but Ash swore he could feel tooth ridges in his skin.

He undid Augus’ fly, pulling down the zipper carefully, and Augus made a strangled, throaty noise, and then another, both of his arms now hooked around Ash’s neck, hips thrusting upwards.

Augus’ cock was hard, leaking already, flushed dark. The head of him looked angry. Something dark and feral was tearing through Ash, something he’d tried to bury so he wouldn’t have to feel it around Augus. But they had safewords now. It was getting harder to hold back the animal inside.

He wrapped his fingers around Augus’ cock, wincing as Augus made a pained noise.

‘Come on, Augus. Come for me, yeah? Let’s get the peak of this away from you a bit. Come on.’

He started moving his hand rapidly and Augus warbled a wet sound that made it seem like he wasn’t even fully conscious. Ash ground his teeth together, shifted Augus in his grip. He liked making Augus incoherent, but there was a part of him that didn’t like this. They were definitely going to have a talk about this later.

Augus needed him. Ash didn’t bother teasing him with his hand; it would have been too cruel. As it was, Augus was twitching in Ash’s grip like he wasn’t sure whether to push away or push forwards.

‘Come on, brother,’ Ash whispered. ‘Let it go. Let go.’

Augus made a sound of frustration, clawing at Ash’s upper back, tugging himself closer. His hips trembled. Ash could tell he was too sensitive. He’d spent too long trying to fix the issue himself, then he’d had to teleport while in this state, had probably spent a chunk of time agonising over whether to even see Ash.

Change of plans.

He let go of Augus’ cock, wincing at his cry of frustration and need, and tugged at his pants, exposing his ass. He lowered Augus to the ground, though Augus wouldn’t let go of his shoulder and neck. He placed his hand around Augus’ cock again, using a slower, firm rhythm, moving his whole body in slow undulations to match it. He leaned away until Augus had to let go of him.

He slid his index finger into his own mouth and got it as wet as he could. It would have to do. Augus didn’t even say he’d taken one aphrodisiac, but aphrodisiacs, and goodness only knew what that meant. It would likely be some time before Augus had burnt this through his system.

He stroked his thumb along the cleft of Augus’ ass, and Augus’ hips bucked down and towards him quickly.

Right, okay, he’s fine for this. Jesus.

He pushed the tip of his index finger into Augus’ ass, feeling him hot and clenching around him. Augus gasped like he’d been punched in the sternum, stilled, his cock twitched hard in Ash’s hand.

Come on, brother, come on, come for me.

‘You’re doing just great,’ Ash said, but Augus wasn’t even aware of him. Ash could see that he was just consumed by sensation, his eyes rolling back in his head, mouth open and soft, breathless sounds pouring out on every exhale.

Ash slid his finger deep, all the way to the knuckle. He could tell that Augus had already tried fingering himself. Augus was slick, more open than usual. Ash closed his eyes and groaned, withdrew and pushed back with two fingers.

Augus opened his mouth on a silent scream, his back bowing. His cock jumped in Ash’s grip and Ash squeezed harder as Augus began to come, jets of it striping his shirt. Augus sobbed out breaths, had gone limp, the spasms of orgasm shaking his whole body. Ash eased his fingers out of Augus’ ass and rubbed his hand over Augus’ side, watching him avidly. He needed to be inside of him, and if he was reading the situation right, he would get to be.

Augus moaned in despair as his orgasm subsided. His body still trembled, his cock still hard in Ash’s grip. He blinked at the ceiling, dazed, overwhelmed.

‘By the gods,’ Augus breathed. ‘Ash, it’s not...going away.’

‘You’re overdosing,’ Ash said, keeping his hand around Augus’ cock, knowing it would help. ‘It’s alright, brother. It’s gonna get pretty intense though. You know that, right?’

Augus’ face twisted, he nodded once.

‘Do you know what you want?’ Ash said, but Augus’ eyelids were fluttering and his head was arching back again. Whatever he’d taken must have been potent. But then, even a conservative dose could have hit Augus hard. He lived such a puritanical life that even basic herbal medicines could hit him hard. Almost half of what he had prepared in his medical kit, he couldn’t use on himself.

What did you take?’ Ash said, shaking his shoulder, even while his other hand stayed wrapped around him.

Augus’ hips bucked into Ash’s hand.

‘Why- Why aren’t you fucking me? Do I have to- have to tell you to do everything?’

Oh, so that’s how it’s going to be?

Ash laughed, squeezed Augus’ cock in his grip and smiled with lazy satisfaction when Augus’ breathing hitched and his hips rolled. Augus’ eyes screwed shut, his mouth twisted.

‘I hurt, Ash,’ Augus whispered. ‘Help me. Ash, I-’

‘Shhh,’ Ash said, not wanting to let go. But he had to. He needed lubricant. He grimaced. This part wasn’t going to be pleasant.

He let go of Augus’ cock, and Augus lashed out, reaching out for him so quickly that Ash had to grab him by the wrists.

‘Easy, easy, I need lube, okay? You’re gonna feel better once I’m inside you properly. I know a little of what you’re going through. Fuck, just- Wait here.’

‘You don’t need it,’ Augus gasped. ‘Just fuck me.’

It was obvious that Augus wasn’t in full possession of his faculties, but that cinched it for Ash. He ran his fingers through Augus’ hair apologetically and then pulled back, getting up quickly and leaving the room. Augus made a sound that was desolate and outraged at the same time, and Ash winced.

Augus had certainly taken Proxius, which caused – in safe doses – the desire to be close to someone. At high doses, it caused physical pain to be separated from someone you’d established a physical connection with. Ash jogged down to his room and rummaged around for lubricant, and then grabbed the entire drawer of toys and other items, because he didn’t want to have to leave Augus again, and it could be several hours before they could even make it to a bed.

‘It’s a good thing I’ve got stamina, you little fucking shit,’ Ash muttered to himself, walking quickly back to Augus, where he lay on carpet by the broken kitchen table.

Augus had mostly taken his shirt off. It still hung on one of his arms. He was stroking his inner thigh with his other hand, eyes closed, breath hitching on broken, pained sounds. His eyes opened when Ash set down the drawer, and he stared at Ash hungrily. It turned his green eyes almost to glowing, and Ash was fervently grateful that Augus was nowhere near the human world. If Ash hadn’t been home, Augus looked to be in the kind of mood where he’d sate himself on killing.

Ash stripped off his own shirt, got his hand on his pants, as Augus tilted forwards and crawled towards him.

‘You’re taking too long,’ Augus said, his voice a breath of air. ‘You like to fuck everything. Why aren’t you fucking me?’

‘Give me one fucking second,’ Ash griped. ‘Not all of us are on a bender right now.’

Augus huffed in frustration and placed his hands on Ash’s chest, pushing him backwards. Ash stared as Augus’ hands moved quickly to his pants, jerking the fabric down too roughly, catching his cock. He winced, lifted his hips anyway as Augus yanked his pants off.

This was nothing like what Augus was usually like. Ash squeezed his eyes shut, because he was enjoying this, because it was like several pizza dreams coming true at once.

But when Augus yanked off his boxers and made to sit on his cock without lubricant, Ash leaned up quickly, making a sound of shock.

‘Fucking wait a minute you cock-hungry drug-fucked- Just, wait.’

Augus straddled him, tried angling his ass over Ash’s cock, and it was difficult to keep him relatively under control while Ash got enough lubricant on his hand to coat himself. He groaned at the contact. Augus’ eyes were hooded as he made small breaths of frustration.

Ash grinned, he couldn’t help himself.

Alright, then.

‘You want it?’ Ash said, shifting Augus by the hips until Ash could rub his cock between his ass cheeks, spreading lubricant liberally, closing his eyes at the feel of it. ‘You want my cock spearing you, huh?’

Augus strained hard against Ash’s hands, and Ash moved his hands, angled his hips until he caught at Augus’ opening. He winced at the tightness. Augus may have had his slender fingers inside of himself and two of Ash’s, but he wasn’t worked open nearly enough.

‘Fuck me, fuck me, fuck me,’ Augus was chanting, a quiet outrage in his voice.

‘You got it,’ Ash growled.

He lowered Augus down onto his cock in one smooth, firm movement. Pushing up against resistance, making way for himself, crying out thickly when Augus’ back arched taut and his head dropped back, exposing his throat. His mouth opened on a yowl of sound, and when Ash let go of one of Augus’ hips and wrapped his hand around Augus’ cock, Augus jerked like he’d been caught on a hook.

Ash hadn’t even started moving, and already his hand was being covered once more in Augus’ come. He stared, wide-eyed, as Augus shuddered through his second orgasm in only a matter of minutes. Hunger sparked up like fireworks through his whole body.

He undulated his hips up into Augus, pressing his cock deeper, extending his orgasm and then starting a rolling, hard rhythm that was limited by his position on the ground. Ash didn’t care. He could do a lot in a limited position, and from Augus’ tense, shaking reaction, he was doing something right. He felt his cock moving inside of Augus, swallowed, closed his eyes and bucked up hard, bending his knees for leverage. Augus cried out.

His cock, no longer spilling over Ash’s hand, was still hard.

‘Oh, love,’ Ash rumbled, unable to stop the predatory grin that crept over his face. ‘Ride me, Augus. Come on, lift those pretty hips of yours. If you’re going to take the fae equivalent of Viagra, might as well put it to work, right?’

Ash let go of Augus’ hips, bent one of his arms behind his head and rested back on it, looking up at Augus hungrily. His other hand he left on Augus’ thigh, rubbing at trembling muscles.

Augus didn’t disappoint. With all of his inhibitions blown away by a cocktail of fae aphrodisiacs, he lifted his own shaky legs and lowered himself down on Ash’s cock in a movement that was surprisingly graceful, given that Augus seemed unable to coordinate his body properly. He placed his palm flat on Ash’s belly to brace himself, dug in claw-tips, a fractious movement that wasn’t about causing pain. Augus took short, shallow breaths as he started moved needily up and down, causing warmth to blossom through Ash’s whole body.

Ash closed his eyes briefly, let his arousal disperse throughout his nerves, settle under his skin. It became a muted, dull pleasure. While he normally held himself back from orgasm anyway, he had a feeling he might need to pace himself and stay alert, just in case.

When Augus pushed himself down particularly hard and winced, even through the aphrodisiacs, Ash frowned.

‘You’re gonna hurt come morning,’ he said.

He bent his legs to support Augus’ lower back, then braced himself on his elbow and lifted up, spanning Augus’ left hip with his hand. He dug his fingers in, steadying Augus’ movements, applying a counterpoint of pressure when Augus pushed down too forcefully.

‘We’ve got time,’ Ash said. ‘Hey, alright? We’ve got time.’

Augus bared his teeth at him and Ash snarled back, and their glares locked even as Augus didn’t stop moving.

‘You’ll hurt yourself,’ Ash said, and a strange light came into Augus’ eyes. It looked like he was about to say something, but then he closed his eyes and turned his head to the side, groaning low when Ash ground up into him anyway.

A minute passed, two, and Ash could feel that Augus wasn’t so tight anymore, things were going a bit more smoothly. He leaned back, removed his hand from Augus’ hip after rubbing it affectionately. Augus had broken out in a sweat, would need water later, but for now Ash was content to watch the way his freckles were harder to spot because his cheeks and shoulders were flushed. The dip between his collarbones was darker than usual. His eyelashes fluttered, his mouth was slack.

Minutes later, Augus made a sound that was almost like a growl of frustration, except that his voice was too high and breathless to carry it off. Ash pressed his bent legs into Augus’ back, encouraged him to lean forwards more.

‘Come on, lean in, brother. Come here. I’ve got you.’

‘I just want-’

‘I know, come on. C’mere.’

Augus’ hands slid up Ash’s torso, before one arm wrapped around the back of his neck. His forehead rested on Ash’s chest, he didn’t stop moving. Every exhale was a short, faint sound that sounded pained. Ash wrapped both arms around Augus’ back, rocked his hips up firmly, keeping the rhythm when Augus faltered.

‘You’re gonna come for me again, aren’t you? Your poor body, it’s never seen anything like this before, has it? I don’t think you’ve ever come three times in less than an hour, right?’

Augus sobbed once, thrust himself down like he could ruin Ash’s hip-bones with his own, and Ash chuckled breathlessly.

‘Damn, you’re eager.’

A minute passed, another, Augus still hadn’t come and Ash could feel his frustration and tension. His own body was responding, and he was getting frustrated himself. Unthinking, he tangled a hand in Augus’ hair and pulled his head up, then bit at Augus’ jaw.

‘Augus,’ Ash growled, ‘hurry the fuck up. You’re just being stubborn.’

Augus made a sound of acknowledgement, whimpered, fingers slipping on Ash’s skin because his palms were so damp.

A dark urge to claim came over him and Ash moved the angle of Augus’ head and sank his teeth over his carotid artery, drawing skin into his mouth and catching Augus’ flesh in a brutal grip. Augus stiffened, stilled, and then his claws were scrabbling frantically at Ash’s shoulders. He sounded distressed, wanton, needy.

Ash growled again, letting the sound come from a deeper, hungrier place that he rarely accessed unless he was hunting. He bit lower down and this time drew blood.

Augus clenched around this cock, a spasm that was followed by a full body shudder. He went limp, stopped moving, though Ash didn’t think he was coming. He was close, could feel the fine shivers moving through his body. He licked blood from the side of Augus’ neck and leaned back to look at his face, keeping a grip in his hair. Augus had his mouth open wider, was panting almost silently.

Ash’s cock twitched when he realised what had happened.

‘Did I beat you?’ he whispered, unable to keep the smug purr out of his voice. ‘Look at those old instincts of yours, brother. Are you ceding to me? Am I the stronger waterhorse? I mean come the fuck on, Augus, we both know I’m not.’

Augus opened his eyes until a sliver of green appeared. His hips began to rock again.

‘Please.’ The word wasn’t even a breath, just a shaping of the lips.

Ash leaned forwards, bucked up hard, bit down into Augus’ shoulder and drew blood that spilled down his front, dripped onto Augus’ chest. He could feel Augus’ ribs rising and falling, the way his belly twitched and spasmed, telegraphing his impending release. Could feel the taut tendons of his own thighs where they bracketed Augus’ hips against him. Tasted the rich, bright, almost sweet blood of Augus’ as it trickled into his mouth.

Ash didn’t mind when Augus scored him with his claws, it was just one more scent in the room. He kept his hips pressed up hard against Augus’, mashing their skin together, feeling the way his bones ached. Augus’ cock was trapped between their bellies, adding to the come that had already spilled, each desperate spasm drawing pained, long sounds from the back of his throat.

‘Easy, brother. There we go,’ he crooned with teeth covered in blood, lips red-slick. He kissed blood-smears all over Augus’ collarbones, up the side of his neck, painted his panting mouth until Augus made a weak, desperate mewl and licked at Ash’s lips hungrily.

Augus went to slump against him, but eased his hips back slightly, preventing his cock from getting squashed between them.

Ash rolled them both onto their sides, harder than ever, glad for the stillness that allowed him to step back from his own arousal.

Augus was tired, his cock was softening, but Ash knew enough about fae aphrodisiacs to know this was only a temporary reprieve. He hoped Augus would get at least a few hours rest now, before they kicked in again. But he couldn’t be sure from the way that Augus shuddered when Ash withdrew.

‘I have to get you some water, okay? I’ll be right back.’

‘Don’t leave,’ Augus murmured. But his eyes were closed, he looked exhausted. The Proxius would still be in effect, but Ash figured it wouldn’t cause as much pain as the temporary separation had earlier.

He stood up slowly, stretching his arms out as he walked into his own kitchen. He looked down at his cock – hard as ever – and shook his head. He ran warm water out of the tap and groaned softly as he cleaned himself there instead of in the shower. He didn’t really see the point, he’d be back inside of Augus soon enough, but the lubricant could dry out, would flake and be unpleasant, make his skin feel tacky and gluggy. He ran his fingers over himself freely, before cleaning off his hands and getting several bottles of water from the fridge.

Augus was already starting to make needy, pained whimpers from the ground. But when Ash returned, Augus’ cock was soft and vulnerable against his thigh, and it was the Proxius that was causing the pain.

‘Here,’ Ash said, sliding his hands underneath Augus’ arms. He pulled him across the floor until Ash could sit with his back braced against the couch, encouraging Augus to lean back against Ash’s chest, feeling his laboured breaths against his skin.

‘Your cock’s digging into me,’ Augus grumped, his voice faint. ‘Why’d you take it out?’

‘I wish I had a video camera,’ Ash said fervently. ‘You are not going to believe some of the shit you’re saying, when you come to.’

‘I wanted you to come,’ Augus said sleepily, and Ash frowned as he unscrewed the cap off a bottle and brought it to Augus’ lips, tilting a tiny amount of water against them so that Augus got the message and took the bottle in his own trembling hands. Ash didn’t let go. Augus looked shaky enough to spill the water everywhere but where he needed it.

His eyes narrowed as he considered Augus’ words.

‘Did you take Epimedium?’

‘Mm,’ Augus said into the water bottle. He moved it away, gathered his breath back to himself, shifted on the floor. Ash couldn’t decide if he was uncomfortable and trying to find a better position, or if he missed having something in his ass. Ash looked over to the drawer of toys, considering.

Epimedium sagittatum, Proxius, Ptychopetalum and golden avialec.’

Ash’s eyes widened at the list. He’d tried all of them himself, individually, except for the golden avialec because it was expensive and hard to find. They were all potent in different ways. And they were all capable of leaving one wrung out, wrecked on carnal energy.

‘I love you, Augus. But you’re a fucking moron.’

‘Thought...I took a safe dose,’ Augus said, his voice becoming thinner. He sobbed once, the sound quiet and despairing. ‘It’s not gone. I’m close to you...not close enough.’

‘You overdosed on Proxius at the very least, you idiot,’ Ash said as Augus pressed his spine back into Ash’s body and his lower back rubbed against his cock in a very inviting way. ‘Keep doing that and you’ll find yourself with a cock inside of you again. And I know your refractory period, it’s gonna fucking hurt if you have to come again so soon.’

‘Don’t care,’ Augus panted, rubbing against him again.

‘I care, you twat,’ Ash said, pinning Augus with his legs and shifting so that it was harder for Augus to grind back into him. ‘Do you know a healer we can take you to, in case you can’t fuck this out of your system? Hm?’

Augus was inching towards him as much as possible, frustrated breaths leaving his lungs. Ash gritted his teeth and slid a hand underneath Augus’ ass, and even though the angle wasn’t right, slid the tips of two his fingers into Augus’ entrance.

Augus shivered, whimpered.

‘Tell me what we do in case this has more side effects than you just being some randy fucking teenager? Which, I’m pretty sure, you’ve never been.’

‘I’ll be fine,’ Augus said. He sounded dreamy, and Ash rolled his eyes.

‘You’re so fucking high. Concentrate, tell me what I do if you get worse than...I don’t know, the pain of wanting to be stuffed and fucked.’

Augus said nothing, either he was too caught up in the sensations of his own body to comprehend the question – which was likely – or he couldn’t actually think of anyone who could help them. Ash sighed in frustration.

‘Next time you feel the urge to do this, you take one of those, alright? And make sure I’m there so I can watch how much you take.’

‘You’re so pushy,’ Augus sighed, like it was wonderful.

‘If only your clients could see you now,’ Ash grumbled.

‘No clients,’ Augus said. ‘Not for a weeks. None. The house is empty. It echoes. It’s abysmal.’

Ash’s fingers stilled, he tucked his head into Augus’ neck and shoulder, nuzzling him, feeling his skin beneath his nose and lips. Worry coiled through him.

‘Yeah? That sounds lonely,’ Ash said, and Augus sighed, writhed against him.

‘It is,’ Augus said. ‘But I am so used to loneliness, brother. Will you fuck me?’

Ash wanted to talk, Augus wanted to do anything but talk. That was becoming increasingly obvious. But it also made Augus rawer when he spoke, turned his words emotional. Augus thrust down onto Ash’s fingers and made a frustrated sound of want.

‘You idiot.’

‘Please,’ Augus breathed.

‘Alright,’ Ash said, sending out a wave of warm glamour and watching as Augus went lax beneath him. He reached for the lubricant, trying to find it blindly with his fingers. In the end he actually had to look, finding it underneath Augus’ shirt. ‘Alright, but you need to try and rest, afterwards. You can sleep with a hard on, trust me, most people have had to do it before.’

Augus whined. Was lifting his hips and trying to back onto Ash’s cock. Ash growled at him loudly. The sound filled the room and Augus went still.

Wait a fucking minute,’ Ash said, and Augus choked out a sound of frustration. Ash closed his eyes as he slicked his fingers and then re-slicked his cock. The potent cocktail of aphrodisiacs would have caused a measure of pain even in a healthy dose. Ash could be as mad as he wanted later, but his brother was hurting now. ‘Alright, love. Hang on. Nearly there.’

He lifted Augus’ hips himself, bracing him with one hand and shifting his cock beneath Augus’ ass until he slid in. Augus went to propel himself downwards, but Ash controlled the motion, groaning as Augus sheathed himself once more.

Augus shuddered to stillness, a faint keening in the back of his throat.

‘By the gods,’ he said. He sounded like he was hurting this time.

‘You don’t have to move, okay?’ Ash said, forcing his hips to remain still. He kept Augus’ hips anchored down, kissed the shoulder which wasn’t still marked with blood from the bite of before. He licked stripes over his skin, pressed his chest to Augus’ back, tried to maximise contact however he could. Proxius demanded proximity, golden avialec demanded penetration.

Ash let go of Augus’ hip with his hand and reached up, painting his fingers over Augus’ mouth, before sliding his fingers inside.

Augus made a hitched, broken sound and then went completely lax against Ash, slumping back against him, tongue moving lazily against his fingers.

‘That’s it,’ Ash crooned. ‘That’s what you needed, huh? Alright, just stay here for a little while. As long as you can, alright? I’ve got you.’

I’ve always had you.

Time passed. Augus’ ass would occasionally flutter around his cock, before settling again. His back clung to Ash’s chest, sweat slicking between them, offering them another layer of closeness, transmitting signals between their skin. Augus’ mouth was warm. Ash traced his teeth carefully, the ridges on his palate, the tastebuds on his tongue. He slipped underneath Augus’ tongue and even rubbed the inside of his cheeks. Augus remained still for him, breathing through his nose until some sound escaped him and he shifted, overwhelmed with sensation.

Ash turned Augus head gently with the fingers in his mouth, and saw that Augus’ eyes were closed. He realised this was likely the closest thing to rest that Augus could get. But it certainly wasn’t doing his cock any favours. Ash swallowed down frustration, ignored the impulse to move, and kept himself hard by listening to the bloodflow in his body.

Almost all waterhorses could – through their understandings of water, the currents, themselves – control the flow of fluid in their bodies. That meant for some of them, prolonged erections, holding back orgasm. But it didn’t make it easy, and Ash’s abdomen throbbed a dull ache at him. Ash ignored that too. He knew Augus was feeling worse.

They both lost track of time. Augus’ breathing slowed until he could have been sleeping. And when Ash slowly removed his thoroughly spit-slick fingers, Augus didn’t even protest, sighing heavily through his nose.

Ash let his own thoughts drift, choosing to focus on the things that were comfortable – Augus gloving him, the soft ridge of couch cushions at his upper back, the way his left ankle was tilted, the feeling of his thumb resting in the crease between Augus’ thigh and hip. He pushed away the uncomfortable things, rested his nose and mouth on Augus’ uninjured shoulder and let his breathing even.

Ash’s concentration snapped back to the present half an hour later, when Augus made a sudden, frustrated noise and took advantage of Ash’s lax grip to rise and then lower himself on Ash’s cock. He made a sound that was half-pain, half-pleasure, and Ash realised that was it, that was all the break Augus would get.

‘Jesus, you really are overdosing,’ Ash said in sympathy, as Augus seemed half-mindless again, too incoherent to talk.

Ash shifted, keeping Augus pinned against him, encouraging Augus to lean forwards. Unlike the previous time this had happened, Augus showed no resistance, and went down to his hands, and then collapsed down onto his elbows, pushing his forehead to the floor and tilting his hips invitingly into Ash’s body. His back became an elegant arch, his shoulders tensed and relaxed, tensed again. Augus was digging his fingers into the floor.

Ash rubbed Augus’ lower back, traced his fingers along his spine and leaned forwards until he knew he couldn’t get any deeper. And then, as Augus was catching his breath, squirming around him like he couldn’t stand it and didn’t want it to stop, Ash pulled his hips backwards and bucked forwards, drawing a shout from Augus’ throat.

Ash started a rhythm that was intense, persistent. His whole body had been itching to move for almost an hour and now that his hips were finally given range to move, he couldn’t stop the harsher pace with which he took his brother, ploughing him, taking advantage of the looseness that had been created before.

The noises Augus made – increasing in volume – were hypnotic. He wished he couldn’t hear pain in some of the sounds. Normally that would be deeply satisfying to the predatory part of him, but he had no idea how long the aphrodisiacs would last, and his worry for Augus’ health was taking over his mind. He had no idea what healer to go to, to get help.

A frightened part of him had no idea if Augus would even survive the wait. Unsated, fae aphrodisiacs could burn up the body, ruin the heart, eat at organs.

They were both trapped in Augus’ actions, and Ash didn’t like it. Hated it, because he thought their discussion last time had solved any need for this; because he was bewildered as to Augus’ motives, and because he couldn’t talk to him.

He took a deep breath and forced the worst of his worries away, drew his concentration back to Augus who moved back into him, helpless to the siren song of herbs inside his blood.

‘It’s okay,’ Ash said, reaching between them and fisting Augus’ cock in his own, feeling how much warmer it was than usual. Augus wailed into carpet, and Ash bit at his lower lip and began encouraging Augus to yet another orgasm. ‘It’s going to be okay, brother. I’ve got you.’

But Augus felt far away, and Ash didn’t know what to do.

Chapter Text

Augus

*

Augus woke groaning, pain flooding his body. He didn’t know how long he’d slept, how many days had gone by.

A sob made its way out of his throat, he didn’t know what to do. His fingers curled, they ached viciously.

‘Hang on, hang on,’ Ash said from somewhere nearby. ‘Hang on. Drink this, bro.’

His head being lifted, he was too weak to hold it up. And then something bitter trickled into his lips through...a thin metal tube of some kind. He coughed weakly and then swallowed down herbs that he was too tired to identify. When that was gone, water was pressed to his mouth and he swallowed it gratefully, feeling his body clawing at it with a harshness that hurt. He whimpered when the bottle was drawn away.

‘More?’ Ash said.

Augus nodded, realising that there must have been analgesics in the herbal tincture, because the worst edge of the pain was dying down. ‘Got it, love. Hang on.’

Another bottle of water, and Augus drank down the last drops, licking at the rim. But even that was too much effort and as his lips went slack, Ash lowered his head back down to the bed, stroked fingers through his hair.

‘The healer I saw made some medicine up for you. And she said you probably can’t take golden avialec again, love. She doesn’t think you’re allergic, but maybe oversensitive.’

Healer?

The last he remembered was a foggy sense of pain and an itching need to drive after pleasure, taking over all of his thoughts. He remembered coming dry for some time. He remembered at least two days passing. The dull despair of fearing the aphrodisiacs would never burn through his system, that he would be burnt up with them, a slave to the chemical warfare in his body.

The fingers in his hair caused tingles over his skin, but they didn’t – thankfully – make him hard. He wondered if the Proxius was still active as he turned into Ash’s touch, mouth open as he tried to gulp for breath. Drinking had exhausted him.

‘Augus,’ Ash said. ‘Augus, you have to sleep some more. Okay?’

Augus nodded, wondered why Ash sounded so sad. He yawned hugely, and slept once more.

*

When he woke a second time, his body still ached, but he felt more alert. Ash was already waiting by his side with a bottle of herbal tincture. There was a metal tube at the end, the kind used on fae that couldn’t drink properly.

‘Really?’ Augus said, staring at it. Ash frowned at him.

‘Augus, you probably don’t remember a lot of the last three days, but I fucking do. You could have died, alright?’

Augus scoffed as he reached for the bottle with weak fingers, and Ash withheld it, glaring at him.

‘You. Could. Have. Died.’

Augus saw the paleness in Ash’s face, the brightness in his eyes, frowned. He couldn’t remember. Surely he would have remembered nearly dying? He took the tincture and began sucking it down, and his eyes widened when he realised just what herbs were present. Ash would never have known how to blend them. Had he mentioned a healer before?

‘Did the healer see me?’ Augus gasped, mortified.

‘Yeah,’ Ash said, smiling through the tiredness on his face. ‘But don’t worry, you were unconscious at that point, and not trying to fuck everything that moves.’

Augus said nothing else as he drank the rest of the tincture down obediently, and then took the bottle of water from Ash. He touched his hair briefly as he drank, surprised he wasn’t more dehydrated.

‘You’ve had a bath,’ Ash said, shrugging at Augus’ curious look. ‘It got water back into your system at least. But she said to keep giving it to you, to help flush the toxins out. Did you hear me about golden avialec? No more. And she said you can’t take more than one aphrodisiac at a time, ever again.’

Ash took a deep breath, looked like he was trying to remain calm, and then anger flashed in his eyes.

‘What the fuck, Augus? Were you trying to kill yourself? What possessed you to do something so fucking stupid? You, of all people, who’s always told me to take it easy with the fucking drugs and to not fucking neglect myself.’

The force of Ash’s anger was a blow, and Augus stared. He felt fragile, used up. But Ash’s anger wasn’t abating, and even as Augus pinched his eyebrows together in the hopes that he could manipulate a gentler response out of his brother, he realised one wouldn’t be forthcoming.

He pushed himself upright and tried to scoot backwards to lean against the headboard of Ash’s bed, and then made a strangled sound as agony shot through his lower back. Ash was there in a second, hushing him, easing him back down again.

‘Wh-at?’ Augus said. ‘I don’t remember things being this bad.’

‘Oh, so you don’t remember that you started to get so desperate for something inside of you on the second day, that we had to switch to toys? No? Or the screaming? Don’t remember that? So you probably don’t remember these...’

Ash lifted his shirt and showed Augus repeated rows of vicious, angry scratches, some which looked infected.

‘They continue across my back, and on my thighs, and are great fun. And you probably don’t remember me leaving to get you water, and coming back to find you shoving two fucking vibrators inside yourself and tearing yourself. You...asshole.’

Augus swallowed, his heart was beating faster. Ash looked like he wanted to cry.

‘Just tell me why? After...after last time, why?’

Augus sipped at his water. Knowing that he’d torn his rectum explained some of the pain. The rest of him felt like one giant bruise. He’d not taken a beating before, but he wondered if this was what one felt like.

‘Augus,’ Ash said, persistent.

‘Wait, please,’ Augus said. He looked down at the water in its plastic, then pushed the human invention away, shuddering. ‘I don’t know why I did it.’

‘Something must have crossed your mind. It wasn’t an impulse. You had to locate those aphrodisiacs. I know you don’t just have them lying around. What can’t you tell me?’

‘I won’t do it again,’ Augus said. ‘Does that help?’

‘I need to know why, Augus. You have to tell me. Things go on in your head that I don’t understand, and I can’t keep making assumptions about what you’re doing. Augus...’

‘I thought you would like it,’ Augus said, frowning at the bedspread. ‘I thought you would prefer it. I don’t know what I was thinking, given how much you like the fight.’

‘I don’t know either,’ Ash said, sounding unconvinced. The fact was, Augus still wasn’t quite sure of his own motives. It had seemed like a good idea, and he’d had the funds and ability to acquire the herbs. Looking back, he’d not taken the herbs with any measure of intelligence, even though he’d convinced himself that he had. Four at once was dangerous, and he’d ignored that at the time.

Why?

He didn’t know.

‘I don’t want you drug-fucked and hardly aware of your surroundings,’ Ash said heavily. ‘It was fun like...at first. But also scary, and worrying, and only got more like that. It was fucked up, Augus. And I know it’s hypocritical of me to say this after everything I’ve done to you, but it also gave me no choice. I couldn’t...say no. Not without really, really hurting you. The healer said if I hadn’t been there, you would have died faster. I get that I must just come across like a mindless fuck-machine, especially these days, but did it occur to you that-’

‘You spent two months not fucking me,’ Augus said, his voice prim and contrasting with Ash’s raw desperation. ‘We saw each other and you wouldn’t do anything. And I couldn’t initiate without...that. I just couldn’t. It turns out when I’m not dominating a client, I can’t.

‘You could have asked me,’ Ash said.

‘You wanted safewords,’ Augus said grudgingly. ‘I didn’t want to think about it.’

‘God, what is it with you and the goddamned humans? I swear to god, Augus, you’re not supposed to hate your food. Most fae don’t. Most humans don’t. But you have to go and do this thing where you loathe what keeps you alive. Jesus.’

Ash was angry. Augus decided he didn’t like it and curled in a little more, ignoring the throb in his belly. He pressed his cheek harder to the mattress and closed his eyes when Ash’s fingers touched his shoulder. When Ash lay alongside him, he knew a talkwas coming. He had discovered that Ash liked to have conversations when Augus was too tired or wrecked to think properly.

Which, he realised, was probably when Ash knew he was mostly likely to get honest answers.

‘Augus, are you telling me you did all of this because of safewords?’ The fingers stroked over his skin, as though Augus was fragile. Normally he’d resent it, but in that moment he did feel rather fragile. He huffed and shifted position slightly, tried to shift his hips. A cry lodged in his throat.

‘Apparently aphrodisiacs make me determined to ruin myself,’ Augus said, voice hoarse.

‘Seriously,’ Ash said, tracing the shell of Augus’ ear. ‘You don’t even know. What’s the last thing you remember?’

‘It’s all a bit of a blur,’ Augus admitted. ‘I remember coming here and the first...few times. I remember being so desperate and not knowing how to stop myself, not even having the faculty of mind to think that I might want to. I remember a bit after that. The more time goes by, the less I remember. I’m sure I remembered more when I woke up before.’

Ash said nothing. Augus tilted his head and Ash started rubbing his thumb into the soft skin behind Augus’ ear, trailing down to the lobe and stroking tiny circles into it.

‘I remember pain,’ Augus said, frowning. ‘Not acute physical pain, like an injury. I remember an ongoing swell of it.’

‘Yeah,’ Ash said. He sighed. ‘Please don’t do it again.’

Ash traced strands of Augus’ mane and carefully lifted each one away from his face. His index and middle finger came back and started finding random places on Augus’ cheek, and Augus realised that Ash was touching his freckles. It was something he used to do when he was a child, when he had trouble falling asleep because the world was so big and he wanted to see the stars in the night sky. Augus would tell him to find the stars on his face, and Ash would find whole constellations on Augus’ cheeks. It felt so much like home that Augus lifted his head and licked a small benediction into Ash’s palm.

‘You need to get some more sun,’ Ash said. ‘And you told me that you’re taking less clients, what’s up with that?’

Augus shook his head. He didn’t want to talk about it. He didn’t remember saying anything about it, but clearly he had. He didn’t like Ash knowing that since his heartsong had been extinguished, it had been harder to professionally dominate clients the way that he used to. Without that domination singing through his blood as it had in the past, without any core energy at all, he focused instead on small, true things – the ecosystem around his lake, the waterweed growing on the lake-floor, making sure his first-aid kit was stocked.

He didn’t know what he was going to do. He’d built a reputation for himself, and now that reputation meant nothing; he could hardly follow through on his work.

He’d had no clients for three weeks. The worst part was how little he minded.

‘Get some sleep, brother,’ Ash said, his voice soothing. Augus nodded absently. He was tired again. Perhaps there was a sedative in the tincture, because this was the second time he felt sluggishness wash through him. It took away the aches, but it turned his mind quiet and let him drift in slow currents.

He fell asleep to Ash’s fingers smoothing over the lines in his brow.

*

It was another day before Augus woke. He was surprised to feel the twinge in his bladder. Most fae hardly needed to worry about the same kind of ablutions that humans needed to. Augus rarely needed to think about the waste a body could produce. But his body was eliminating a poison, and required his help to move it out of his body.

Ash was fast asleep, lashes hiding the hazel of his eyes, looking so much like the boy he once was, that Augus couldn’t help but trace his jaw with the backs of his fingers.

He slid out of bed carefully, mentally logging every twinge, every screech of pain. He wondered if the healer had left a salve with Ash, because he needed something for the tear inside himself. He could tell it wasn’t infected; he wasn’t running a fever, and the tincture was likely keeping anything like that at bay – whoever Ash had found was competent at least. But he didn’t wish to be in this much pain for longer than he had to. He felt like he’d sell half the waterweed on his head to be able to remove the horrible pain that reminded him of his actions.

It was after he’d pissed into Ash’s toilet that he felt it again. The familiar and unwanted twinge of aphrodisiacs pulsing in his blood. He looked down in horror as his cock started to harden. His hands clawed at his sides. He couldn’t do this again. He was injured. He couldn’t.

His breathing was coming faster. The aphrodisiacs were supposed to be gone.

He stared at himself in Ash’s mirror. His hair looked fine – constantly weeping water through the pores in his scalp meant that it stayed in relative order. But his lips were chapped, there was an unsightly bite mark on the side of his neck and shoulder and he winced to remember Ash claiming him like he was an unwanted invader on Ash’s territory, to be taken down and subjugated with posturing and biting. He was far paler than usual – his freckles stood out. His pallor turned his lips darker than usual. His eyes were worn, he touched the corners tentatively.

Five minutes later he was still hard. He looked down at his cock, then glared at himself in the mirror.

The next thing he knew, blood trickled down the side of his hand where he’d lashed out with a flat, firm palm. Bits of mirror still fell to the floor. Augus breathed quickly, fury still surging in his blood.

‘Augus?’ The panicked voice of Ash. Augus couldn’t move when he heard footsteps. ‘Augus? What-?’

Ash paused in the doorway. Augus laughed a dead sound.

‘I’m hard again.’

‘Jesus, Augus,’ Ash said. ‘It’s fine. It’s fine. Think about it – you’re flushing toxins from your body, remember? It’s going to take time. Come lie down again. Come on. We’ll see if we can get you through it with some more of that medicine.’

Ash stepped carefully into the bathroom and looked around, shaking his head in awe.

‘You broke my fucking mirror, man. And my table.’

‘I’ll buy you new ones.’

‘Yeah, I can afford it. I just...was this always you?’ Hands came around his shoulders and turned him slowly, and Augus was careful not to walk on the shards of reflective glass. He ignored the flashes of anger that lanced him as his cock bobbed as he walked. He still hurt. He couldn’t do anything, and he didn’t want to anymore. But arousal was building, thick and leaden. He wanted to claw the remainder of the aphrodisiacs from his body.

‘Hey,’ Ash said. Augus realised he’d been asked a question.

‘If you’re asking if I regularly break mirrors, the answer is no. But if you want to know if I was less emotionally put together on my own, than I was around you or others; isn’t that true of everyone?’

Ash hummed in his throat as he encouraged Augus to sit on the bed. But Augus realised quickly that sitting down without bracing himself was going to be painful. He managed to ease himself onto the bed using his arms and hip, and even that hurt. He growled uselessly at the ceiling as he rolled onto his back, trying to bring his legs into a bent position and finding that difficult.

‘Here,’ Ash said, coming back with more of the tincture. Augus snatched it quickly, ignored the grumble Ash made when he saw the cuts on Augus’ hand. He sucked at the herbs, narrowing his eyes. They were all designed to cleanse his liver, his kidneys, to keep his organs clearing his body of poison. Surely he hadn’t taken that much?

‘Please tell me she gave you salve,’ Augus said, handing the bottle back to Ash and propping himself up on his elbows, looking around.

Ash nodded, though he looked apprehensive.

‘Give it to me,’ Augus said. ‘I might as well apply it now while I’m hard.’

‘There’s a reason we haven’t used it yet,’ Ash said, finally. ‘The herbs in it interact poorly with some of the herbs in the tincture, and the healer said it was better to wait until all the medicine was gone. So...it’s yours, but you shouldn’t use it now.’

Augus lowered himself back to the bed and stared at the ceiling, deciding that now was as good a time as any to feel thoroughly sorry for himself.

Arousal built slowly, unwanted and as insidious as an encroaching tide. He lowered his hand down to his thigh and left it near his cock, pursing his lips.

Ash crawled back onto the bed and placed a hand on Augus’ belly. Augus exhaled slowly. Touch from another person was...difficult.

‘It’s the golden avialec,’ Ash said quietly. ‘It’s like a very shitty kind of Viagra.’

‘What?’

‘Never mind.’ Ash hesitated, his blunt fingernails trailed over his skin and Augus’ cock jumped. ‘You know that’s not gonna go away on its own, right? Not without you hurting more?’

‘I’m so tired,’ Augus said, shaking his head faintly. He knew Ash was right. He just wanted it to be over.

‘I know, love,’ Ash said. ‘We’ll take this slow, alright? And see if we can’t burn this out of your system properly.’

Augus wanted to claw and tear at the world with his bare hands. He shook with frustration and his claws were digging into his palms when Ash took up one of his hands in both of his own and started prising his fingers into an outward position. Augus refused to open his eyes. Ash sighed.

‘We can try waiting it out.’

‘Alright,’ Augus said. ‘Let’s try that.’

Ash settled down beside him and kept one of his hands wrapped through Augus’ fingers, forcing the fingers into a more relaxed position.

They both waited, Augus desperately hoping the arousal would eventually bank and fade.

*

An hour passed and Augus leaned his face in a pretence of relaxed nonchalance against Ash’s shoulder, except he was trying to console himself. The arousal wasn’t leaving, and the swelling tide was becoming an ache through sorely used muscles. He shook his head faintly, Ash kept stroking his fingers. Augus knew it was futile.

‘I’ve already learned my lesson,’ Augus said roughly. ‘I don’t particularly see why I should have to learn it again.’

‘What do you want to do?’

Nothing,’ Augus bit out. ‘I want to sleep.’

‘She said it should be the last time.’

Should be?’ Augus said.

‘Let me distract you with a story,’ Ash said, shifting until he was on his side, leaning over Augus’ body. Augus refused to open his eyes. Refused to acknowledge this needed to happen. When he felt fingers on his inner thigh, he wanted to scream.

‘Once...’ Ash said, his voice becoming so warm that Augus wanted to fall into its depths, ‘Once upon a time, I went to see my brother. He wasn’t in his lake. So I thought he might be by the bank, or foraging for herbs. Since it was such a fine day, I decided to look for him.’

Fingers trailed down and stroked up and down Augus’ chafed cock, and Augus moaned a broken sound. It felt good, it felt awful. Ash didn’t move for several seconds, waited, and then took a deep breath and continued.

‘I found him on a flat, grey stone overhanging the far corner of his lake, where weeping willows trailed over the water and hid him from most greedy eyes. Imagine my surprise when I saw him naked, lying down in the sun, eyes closed, the most gorgeous thing I’d ever seen.’

Augus’ breaths came faster. He went to that rock often in spring and summer. Sometimes he only napped, but other times he would touch himself, or sun himself while reading a book. He’d spent a long time turning his lake into a haven, and he saw no point in doing that if he couldn’t enjoy it during his quieter moments.

Ash’s caresses turned into a hand loosely fisting him. Hooks of arousal spiked in his blood, his hips shifted, stopped, shifted again. His muscles were fatigued. He twisted sideways, pressing his cheek back into the bed.

‘He was touching himself,’ Ash continued, ‘in a way that seemed all about sensuality. He went so slow.’

Ash started moving his hand on Augus’ cock. The pace was as slow as Augus naturally preferred, and he groaned deeply.

‘I was almost mad, you know, that he took so much time. But he was so beautiful. I told myself to walk away, because you know – he’s my brother. And I did, but I- Something drew me back. He was stunning. Everyone knows how exquisite he is. He’s always told by other fae what a perfect specimen of eldritch beauty he is. But I liked other things, his hair fanned out on the rocks, the elegance of his fingers. And all this time, he just...moved slow.’

Ash moved his hand so slowly that it didn’t hurt as much and gave his body a chance to process arousal as something other than pain. It was a heavy pool of liquid flowing back and forth inside of him, and his eyelids fluttered against his cheek, his fingers curled and uncurled against the bed. The room smelled of sex, sweat, herbs, lubricant – even fear.

Augus knew the difference between his and Ash’s fear-scents enough to know that Ash had been terrified.

All thought disappeared as Ash smoothed his thumb over the head of Augus’ cock.

‘Gods,’ Augus breathed.

‘Good?’ Ash said.

‘I don’t know.’

‘Should I go faster?’

‘No,’ Augus said.

‘Got it. Don’t really want to anyway. See, Augus, I can do it your way too, you know. I can actually fucking compromise. And really, this isn’t much of a compromise when I see you looking like this. I don’t blame you for not knowing you couldn’t ask for something different. We got stuck for a little while. I...steamrolled over you, over everything. But this is good too, Augus. Sometimes slow is what you need, yeah? We’ll just...ease you through this. And then you’ll get some more sleep and you’ll be fine.’

Ash’s voice was hypnotic and warm, like he was still telling a story, and the words washed over Augus in waves.

‘It was so different, watching my brother touching himself like that. I’m all about...marathons, multiple orgasms. But he was doing things so differently. Imagine my shock when I watched him build himself to a peak, touching himself everywhere, before slowing down and stopping – orgasm denial, not actually something I do a ton.’

Augus wasn’t paying much attention. He could feel the heat of an orgasm building, like a slow-approaching muscle cramp. His toes curled, the arches of his feet threatened to spasm. Warmth was becoming heat.

He gasped as his orgasm came closer, dreading it, wanting it.

Ash slowed down, then let go of his cock entirely, murmuring something soothing while stroking his flank instead.

Augus opened his mouth and focused on breathing, unable to tell if he was frustrated, or if it had actually helped. But after a minute he sagged back into the bed, tensions unspooling.

‘A break?’ Ash said, and Augus nodded.

Ash sighed, kept his hand on Augus’ body, and it helped.

‘Augus, if you think you need aphrodisiacs to deal with what we have, I don’t want to do this anymore.’

Fingers curled gently over his thigh.

‘It wasn’t like that,’ Augus said, though he wondered if it was. He wasn’t sure anymore. He’d been lost in his own thoughts. Since his core energy had been broken, his mind offered less clarity than it used to.

Arousal itched at him, caused his cock to twitch.

‘Again,’ Augus said, shifting uncomfortably. ‘Ash, again.’

Ash’s hand returned to his cock, but not before tracing circles in his flat, black pubic hair. He stroked the underside of his cock for a couple of minutes, before curling his fist around Augus once more. It was so careful that Augus was able to keep track of his thoughts, wasn’t too swamped with pain. He’d missed this. He sighed and his body began to relax. Even with the aphrodisiacs, the soreness, this was familiar. This was hundreds of years of familiarity; Ash was touching him the way Augus touched himself.

‘I still want whatever we’ve become,’ Augus said. ‘I’ve learned more about you in less than a year than I have in about two hundred. However, it is hard for me to admit that I like how you treat me, sometimes.’

‘That’s why we have the safewords.’

‘It is also rather repulsive that you think we need those too. But-’ He interrupted Ash’s intake of breath. ‘But, you know what they are now. Surely my...bending on that requirement is a sign that I do want this?’

The novelty of being able to string more than one sentence together was something he savoured. Ash was so good at driving his ability to think away, but like this – the gentle pleasure of what was happening – he kept a hold of himself. He was overcome with an urge to reach out, to touch Ash back, to return the favour, but he couldn’t. He could hardly move.

‘I can bend too, brother,’ Ash said. ‘It can be this too. Not just when you’re recovering from like, nearly fucking dying from a drug overdose. I mean, the rest of the time. It doesn’t have to be my way. It can be our way.’

Our way.

Augus began to sigh, but the sound was broken off by an unexpected flash of pain. It wrenched his nerves and his body jerked under the force of it. Ash stopped moving his hand, withdrew it, but that only made it worse.

‘Don’t stop!’ Augus shrieked. Ash returned his hand, Augus dug his nails into fabric, tearing it. ‘I just want it over.’

‘It will be,’ Ash said. ‘Really soon. I promise. The healer said it was nearly out of your system. The herbs are helping. You’ve just gotta give it time.’

Ash built Augus towards orgasm slowly and it helped to ease the pain, but even so, the hugeness of the orgasm itself seemed too daunting. He was grateful when Ash stopped once more, slowing down, rubbing circles over his belly.

‘You told me you were used to loneliness,’ Ash said, and Augus squeezed his eyes shut.

It was a shame the aphrodisiacs didn’t stopper up his tongue, as well as his ability to think.

‘Augus, that’s not good, love. No one should get used to loneliness.’

‘It’s fine,’ Augus said. ‘I don’t know what I was saying. I was rendered incoherent by those drugs.’

‘You’ve said something similar before, Augus. I know you weren’t lying.’

Augus said nothing, turned himself loose in currents of warmth. The orgasm that was building didn’t hurt as much this time, and as it approached, he thought the pleasure of it almost outweighed the pain. But he still wanted Ash to stop, and Ash did just before he tipped over. Augus panted out a combination of frustration and want.

‘Don’t stop, next time,’ Augus said.

Ash didn’t stop next time, though he kept the slow pace throughout. Augus watched the orgasm approach like one might watch a large wave roll in from the horizon, a rogue wave. He tried to brace himself for it, but couldn’t, sparks and whirlpools twisting inside of him, pain turning his lower body into a throbbing ache that stole his breath and his words, left him dependent on Ash’s hands. Softly spoken words that he didn’t understand guided him through the flood.

He managed two small spurts of semen when he came, which was – he realised dimly – better than the agonising screech of coming dry too many times in a row. But it still hurt, and he tried to ball in on himself, half-sobbing through the pain of it.

Ash waited quietly, stroking Augus’ side, and then rubbing the heel of his hand into Augus’ hip. When Augus sighed out a long breath, Ash left and got a damp washcloth, cleaning him off. He put that nearby and lay alongside him. Augus could feel the weight of his confusion, his care, and hated it.

But it had helped. His cock was limp again. The arousal was gone. He felt only as though he were made of fatigue and pain. At least he would recover, given enough time and enough rest.

‘I don’t know why I did it,’ Augus said, voice still broken.

‘It was destructive and neglectful,’ Ash said. ‘And you don’t know how to take care of yourself or what you need anymore. And I...didn’t help, like, at all. Fuck. I’m sorry. Augus, I want you around forever, you know? I don’t want you to go out in a blaze of miserable fuck-toy glory, okay?’

Augus breathed out a bitter laugh. Ash didn’t join him.

‘I’m not sure where I got the impression that would be fine. It’s not as though my brother has been treating me like that for some time.’

Augus waited for Ash to retaliate, to say that it hadn’t been like that. When Ash said nothing, Augus opened his eyes and twisted, glared up at him.

‘It’s cool that you’re angry,’ Ash said. ‘I’m...I kind of think you should be more angry. And I think the only reason you’re not is because you’re still scared I’ll leave you again. Like I did a long time ago.’

‘Not everything is about the past,’ Augus said, infusing his voice with as much contempt as he could manage.

‘Not everything,’ Ash said. ‘But some things. Augus, I don’t want you to treat yourself like shit to spite me, or to spite yourself. I did the wrong thing. A lot of wrong things. I don’t want you to do them too.’

Augus bit his tongue to stop the childish retort that was waiting. He was so tired. Ash had just treated him with respect; like a cherished, loved brother.

His heart ached.

It reminded him so much of how he’d been trying to treat Ash all his life; he hadn't realised he needed it too.

*

Augus woke tucked into his brother’s side, his head on Ash’s shoulder. Ash’s other hand stroked his hair, and Ash hummed a song under his breath. Augus wanted to laugh, to push him away, to say that he might be a waterhorse, but he wasn’t so needy that he needed a lullaby. But he did none of those things, because none of them would have been the truth.

‘I want you to stay here for the rest of the week,’ Ash said.

‘No, I have...’

He didn’t have clients.

‘No,’ Augus said.

‘It’s your choice, but hear me out. You’re not well, and I’m worried about you. You’re fucked up, bro. There’s a lot of stuff about you that I thought was fine and normal and it’s all actually fucking symptoms. Look, it’s just a week, and then you can take as long as you need. I just want you to stay long enough for me to see you like...not dragged down by the herbs you took and make sure you’re functional and stuff. Once I’ve seen all that, you can do whatever you like. Please, Augus? Pretty please? With a cherry on top?’

‘Keep your cherries,’ Augus said, wrinkling his nose at the mention of the sweet fruit. He wriggled more deeply into Ash’s grip, turned his head towards Ash’s hand. ‘But I suppose...if I must.’

A week living with Ash in his home away from his own space. Away from the food he’d found for himself, the lake ecosystem. The plants would do fine in his absence. That wetland was designed to be self-sustaining, but he still liked to walk through it, he still-

He realised he could go back and visit, it wasn’t as though Ash was saying he couldn’t leave.

Augus felt weak, realised he had poisoned himself. Ash was right, it had been a destructive and neglectful act.

‘Tell us a story, love,’ Ash said, and Augus hummed under his breath.

His hands came up and stroked over Ash’s forearm where it rested underneath Augus’ arm, holding him. He traced the fine auburn hairs, the knob of bone on his wrist, the fleshy part of the underside of his thumb.

‘Once,’ Augus said, sighing, ‘there was a waterhorse called the Each Uisge. There was only one Each Uisge; and there could only be one at a time. No one knew who had made the rules, but those were the rules and they were inviolate. To make up for this, the Each Uisge returned, called back into existence by a lake whenever a previous Each Uisge died. The last six Each Uisge had each built a reputation around the same identity, that of a single, malicious creature. Glorious and beautiful, charming and dangerous, sinister and serious.’

Augus looked out into Ash’s room and wondered how long it would take for the pain to fade, and when he could start using the salve.

‘The seventh Each Uisge called into existence was anomalous from birth. A tad too fastidious. Fantastically powerful. Far more thoughtful than the calculating creatures that had gone before. The fae will never know whether the introduction of another young horse changed him, or if he was already changed. But when the seventh Each Uisge was young, the lake he lived in spat out a tiny runt of a thing; a dappled, bedraggled colt.’

‘Born hungry,’ Ash murmured.

Starved,’ Augus amended. ‘Underfed from the very moment the spirits of the lakes didn’t talk to each other and you were born at the wrong place, at the wrong time. It seemed nature intended for you to die, killed by the Each Uisge, a Glashtyn’s lifetime snuffed out in but a moment.’

Augus paused. It was a moment he’d thought of often.

‘But no,’ Ash said, continuing the story. ‘Something overcame the Each Uisge. Instead of tearing that tiny thing apart, he fed it.’

Augus nodded, thought about how to continue.

‘He was not like the other Each Uisge that had gone before. Oh, he would grow to love the lust of the kill. He was Unseelie down to his very bones. But he was not quite so mindless. He thought about that tiny runt, and forced thought before instinct, dominating his own will, telling the part of him that was teeth and the tearing of flesh to wait.’

‘But it was too hard to keep it up in waterhorse form,’ Ash said, rubbing at Augus’ side briefly. ‘He had to make himself look human. A different shaped brain, a different body, better able to carry thought and not instinct. He had to be even more different, spend far less time in waterhorse form than most.’

‘Nothing was the same again,’ Augus said, sighing.

‘Do you want to be like them?’ Ash said, running his fingers along a strand of waterweed and bringing warmth to Augus’ body. ‘Do you want to be as cold and callous and fucking mean, as the previous Each Uisge that went before you? Do you think you’re letting the team down because you became this incredible, intelligent creature of self-mastery?’

‘I wonder what legacy I leave behind for future Each Uisge,’ Augus said quietly. ‘And worse – what if I die and come back next time, and we are nothing but enemies again? Nothing but creatures that hunt and kill and hate? What if this is it, Ash? The only lifetime where you and I...’

‘Yeah,’ Ash said, and squeezed Augus closer to him. ‘I know.’

They said nothing else.

Chapter Text

Ash

*

The week that Augus stayed over ended up being a quiet week. Augus didn’t want to have sex again – which Ash was kind of relieved about. His brother seemed to have entered a place where – for all that Ash tried to convince him otherwise – he was ashamed of his actions. He was also exhausted. He recovered from those aphrodisiacs like a human might recover from a severe bout of the flu. He was mostly bedridden or bound to the couch, and though the aphrodisiacs didn’t flare up again and force him to have sex, he was weak and plagued with the need for sleep, bad dreams finding him frequently.

That was when Ash learned that Augus had nightmares about Ash disappearing, Ash dying, Ash not coming back.

Ash wanted to be brave enough, strong enough, to sit through those and comfort his brother; but he couldn’t. Listening to Augus’ voice breaking, knowing the tossing and turning was because of something he’d done, he couldn’t bear it. He had to leave the room. Sometimes it took all of his energy not to teleport away and just leave.

Augus was always so contained and composed that seeing him show these fractures in himself – fractures Ash had never known were there – was like looking at a horrid, infected wound.

Ash made salads for his brother, but he knew that Augus would have to hunt as soon as he had his energy back. He spent the times during Augus’ wakefulness either lying in bed next to him, pretending he was just as tired as an excuse to cuddle up close to his brother, or bringing Augus books to read from his own house. Augus was a surprisingly good patient, given that being snappy and catty was his normal disposition. But Ash saw a meekness that he didn’t like. He would have preferred the wry, snarling creature that he’d grown up with. Augus was not okay.

He’d nearly died.

Nothing would make him forget the desperation he felt when he’d grabbed that healer, or how he’d started crying without realising when she’d told him that there was a chance Augus wouldn’t make it. It had all started off like a dream coming true and quickly became one of the worst experiences of his entire life. Augus had the audacity to say he didn’t know why he did it.

After that, Augus became quieter, withdrawn, and Ash felt like he needed eyes in the back of his head, and perhaps in all the rooms of their houses, to make sure Augus couldn’t hurt himself again without knowing why.

Ash almost hadn’t wanted to let Augus go, but he had to. Augus needed his space and...Ash needed it too.

Still, he visited in two weeks. Shamefully, he watched Augus move easily, calmly through his house and thought of fucking him even while Augus made uneasy conversation. He thought that his cock should have waited longer to get back in the saddle, but obviously it had other ideas.

It had been months since he’d been able to take a lucid, coherent Augus, and his cock was reminding him – very unhelpfully – that pulling passion and noise from this quiet creature was something he wanted very much.

He remembered, too, that Augus said he couldn’t initiate, that he’d used the aphrodisiacs to help. But Ash didn’t want to initiate either. Not two weeks after Augus had nearly died.

At the end of that weekend, just as Ash was leaving, Augus had placed his hand on Ash’s forearm and squeezed.

‘Yeah?’ Ash said. Augus looked away.

‘Next time,’ Augus said. His chest moved quicker than usual.

Ash’s eyes narrowed.

‘You sure?’

Augus bit his bottom lip and looked at Ash in a way that made him want to rip his clothing off right there. He’d been right. They had been aware of each other the entire weekend. Ash had refused to act on it, and Augus probably wanted a reminder that things could be about something other than sex. But even now, Ash was pretty sure he could make a move on Augus and get a genuine go ahead.

‘I’m coming after you, Augus,’ Ash said. ‘I know I shouldn’t, but...’

‘No, I – will regret saying this – but I want that too.’ Augus laughed, breathless.

‘Fuck,’ Ash said, and Augus smiled an agreement. ‘I still don’t even know if this is the right thing.’

‘We’re on the road now,’ Augus said, licking his lips slowly, leaving them wet, and Ash was sure he knew what he was doing. A glint in Augus’ eye, the slowness of the movement. He swallowed down a growl.

‘Next time,’ Ash said, reaching out and squeezing Augus’ shoulder. ‘You’d better plan a quiet fucking week after.’

Augus shuddered in his grip, closed his eyes as though pained.

But he nodded a few seconds later, and Ash left, the predator he’d been holding back stalking through the back corners of his mind until he gave up and got smashed for four days straight, living in some hangover hell designed especially for ‘brothers who want to fuck their brothers unconscious.’

Ash still wasn’t even sure he’d pay attention to a safeword if he heard one while he was in the grip of his own need to hunt, his need to slake his thirst for blood and pain and fear. Augus had mocked that he’d be safewording all the time, and Ash thought that was probably for the best.

Really, in the fucking war against ‘brothers who want to fuck their brothers unconscious,’ probably using a safeword every five minutes is best.

But he hoped Augus wouldn’t. He hoped – from the signs he’d seen, from his ability to read people – that Augus, spending all his life being such a consummate predator, simply needed the chance to be consumed by someone he trusted.

*

It was a beautiful day when he went to Augus’ lake two weeks later. Instead of going straight to Augus’ foyer, he swam up to the top in waterlogged jeans and a wet shirt. The sun shone down upon him, birds twittered and chirped their songs and he chirped back to them. Tiny guppies and other little fish swam amongst him easily, mouthing his bare feet and hands, likely used to Augus letting them feed on the small amounts of salts and other minerals that accumulated over his skin.

Nearby, a small collection of frogs watched him and croaked obnoxiously – sleepy, summer sounds that were echoed by cicadas nearby.

This was the lake of his childhood and he loved it. He turned in a circle, looking around, and his lips quirked. He had an idea.

*

He was dripping wet when he entered Augus’ house, stripping his shirt off and letting it fall the floor, ignoring Augus’ indignation as he walked straight to Augus’ bedroom. He opened the drawer and pulled out lubricant, pocketing it and turning to Augus, who was watching, wide-eyed, in the hallway.

‘It’s such a gorgeous goddamned day outside,’ Ash said, walking forwards and taking Augus by the wrist. ‘Come on.’

‘I’m fine, thank you. How are you?’ Augus said by way of reply, and Ash huffed a laugh through his nose.

‘Shouldn’t be cooped up down here. Those freckles of yours will fade.’

When they got to the foyer, Ash turned and slid fingers into Augus’ hair, deliberately seeking out the waterweed. The strand he’d pulled out months ago had grown back completely, and when Ash ran his fingers along it, Augus shivered. Ash kissed his cheek, then turned his head and kissed his other cheek.

‘Strip for me. Here.’

Ash decided to help, lowering his fingers to Augus’ shirt, unbuttoning it slowly, baring his chest from the top down. Augus hesitated, then reached for his belt, unbuckling it, sliding it free with a single, practiced movement. Ash took it from his hand, dropped it to the floor where the buckle landed on tile with a sharp noise that made Augus tense.

Ash nuzzled at Augus’ nose until he started to relax, letting the sharper point of Augus’ nose rest against his softer one. He pressed light, even kisses to the bow of his upper lip, scenting herbs and something like citrus, except that Augus never ate fruit. Ash wondered what it was, and licked his way curiously across Augus’ lips, but still couldn’t tell.

Augus hesitated where his fingers were over the button of his pants.

‘Everything,’ Ash said against his mouth. ‘Come on. I’m fucking you in the sunlight today.’

‘Ash, you-’

‘I said strip, brother,’ Ash crooned. ‘Come on, Augus. I know you go up there in the buff. I’ve seen it, remember?’

Augus’ cheeks flushed. He stepped back and shrugged off his shirt, folding it and handing it to Ash. He growled when Ash dropped it to the floor. He looked like he wanted to pick it up again, then seemed to think the better of it and slid his pants off.

Like so many of the fae, he didn’t wear briefs or boxers or any kind of underclothing. Ash found human clothing suited human underwear, and fae clothing was designed for whatever the fae wanted it for.

Augus stepped out of his pants and smirked.

‘Want to recapture that moment where seeing me wank under the sun corrupted your sweet, precious mind?’

‘Oh, you little-’ Ash grinned in spite of himself, all teeth. There was a light in Augus’ eyes, and Ash’s heart leapt at the thought that Augus was enjoying himself.

Something made of teeth and claws and poison inside of him curled a sharp grip around Ash’s lungs and reminded him that he liked to see that light temporarily chased away. He liked to make Augus uncertain of himself, uncomfortable.

Augus must have seen the change in his expression, because he swallowed.

Ash grabbed a small shoulder bag from a hook nearby and took the lubricant out of his pocket and put it in. After a thought, he added one of Augus’ small water-wicking towels as well. Then he stripped off his pants, his boxers, watched as Augus’ eyes drifted to his half-hard cock.

‘You don’t need to look at it,’ Ash said, taking Augus by the wrist again. ‘It’s going to be in you, soon enough.’

He dragged Augus out of his front door, through the green bubble of magic surrounding his home. It was one of the few innate types of magic that waterhorses like he and Augus had – the ability to have a home that remained dry because of the dome that housed it.

Now, surrounded by water as they were, Ash wrapped his arm around Augus’ torso, and they both moved up towards the surface. Ash preferred to kick up with his legs, but the water listened to Augus’s power and propelled them faster than was natural. The cold didn’t bother him, didn’t bother Augus. Though Ash had a vaster tolerance for hot water than Augus did, at the end of the day they were made for the frigid depths of lakes.

They both breached the surface at the same time. Ash spluttered when a handful of water smacked him across the face. He blinked water away, blew it out of his mouth, saw Augus treading backwards, a mischievous glint in his eyes. Ash raised his eyebrows, and Augus raised them back.

‘I can’t tell,’ Ash said, striking out for him as Augus turned and swam away, ‘if you’re trying to have some fun, or put me off my game.’

‘It can’t be both?’ Augus said, disappearing underneath the water, leaving almost no ripples behind him.

Ash followed, laughing, calling currents to his fingers and putting on supernatural speed. He saw Augus disappearing into the depths again and let waterweed fly out from his palm and wrap around one of Augus’ ankles. He dragged him back, mouth getting wet with saliva, wondering if Augus even knew how much he was tempting Ash’s waterhorse side.

Ash gathered a mildly struggling Augus to his body, pressed his now-hard cock between his ass-cheeks and then laughed when Augus stilled. There, underwater, Ash took a deep breath of water and let it fill his lungs, before tightening a coil of waterweed around Augus’ waist. Augus was trying to look over his shoulder at Ash, but Ash didn’t let him, instead running his hand down his torso, stroking fingers through the pelt of his pubic hair.

‘You shouldn’t forget what I am, brother,’ Ash said, his waterhorse voice, the one he usually hated – detested – rippling from his frame. It was deep and forbidding like Augus’. And Augus gave a full body shudder to hear it. After all, Augus would use his only rarely when they were growing up; Ash tried not to use his at all.

Augus took a breath of water, exhaled excess air. He gave a faint, persistent growl that stopped when Ash trailed his hand up Augus’ torso and pushed two fingers into his mouth.

‘I own you,’ Ash said.

Augus bit down on his fingers, his struggles became less token, more desperate. But Ash coiled more waterweed around his brother, growled loudly, sank teeth into the back of Augus’ neck.

Augus went limp in Ash’s grip.

Ash pushed them both up to the surface with water currents. He didn’t trust himself underwater. It made the waterhorse inside of him – that perfect predator – want to do awful things. There was only one reason he tended to stay underwater like that anyway, and that was to rip his food apart, then digest it.

They both pushed the water out of their lungs before they reached the surface, sucked down air hungrily even as Ash dragged Augus to the bank. He cut the waterweed with his own hands, noticed Augus’ serious, questioning gaze.

‘Don’t,’ Ash said, pre-empting whatever Augus was about to say. He thought he knew what might be on Augus’ mind. ‘Don’t even, man. I couldn’t ever seriously challenge you like that. If we were both in waterhorse form, you’d fucking own me.’

‘You’ve never done that before,’ Augus said, pushing himself upright. Ash didn’t miss the wobble in his knees, though it was quickly masked.

‘Well, the last fucking time you decided to play ‘bait in the water’ was when we were under the age of fifty. Maybe some things have changed since then.’

He propelled Augus forward by the small of his back, more than a little suspicious now that they were out of the water. Since the aphrodisiacs, he kept seeing small but significant signs of self-destructive behaviour in Augus, and he couldn’t tell if this was one of them. But he pushed his anger away, there was no place for it here. Augus had his safewords, and he wasn’t likely to be responsive to any sort of interrogation or questioning on the subject. They were talking better than they used to, but since Augus’ breakdown, it was still difficult to get Augus to yield on many subjects without pushing hard.

They were also naturally antagonistic. They could both respond to anger with more anger, if they perceived it as threatening.

Ash took several deep breaths, pushed his predator back, focused instead on the scent of his brother, on his own arousal. He focused on how satisfying it was to push Augus up the narrow pathway through marigolds and weeping willows, towards the stone overhang at the far corner of his lake.

Augus gave another shaky exhale, Ash noticed the way he held his hands in that tense way, like he wanted to claw at something.

He grabbed him by the wrist and yanked him back, ignoring Augus’ curse and trailing his hand down his bare torso, slicking through water droplets until his fingers found a semi-hard cock.

‘You liked it,’ Ash said, his voice triumphant. ‘You fucking loved it. Jesus, Augus, are you thinking about it now?’

‘Shut up,’ Augus hissed, voice much less sweet than usual, made hard with embarrassment. Ash fingered Augus’ cock curiously, holding him tightly when Augus struggled. When he slid his hand around Augus’ hip and behind his ass, sliding fingers between his ass-cheeks, Augus made an indignant sound and lurched to get away.

Ash didn’t let go. He laughed softly.

‘Stop being precious,’ he said, and Augus went still, breathing harshly, as Ash slotted his fingers neatly until they were pressing against Augus’ entrance.

‘It’s called lubricant. Look it up,’ Augus snapped.

‘And I’ll use it,’ Ash soothed, pressing one of his fingers and testing the unstretched, unslick hole. Augus jumped against him, and Ash pressed again. Not enough to really gain entry, but he could tell Augus was uncomfortable. He grinned, glad Augus couldn’t see his expression. ‘There we go, love. You can just call that a teaser, if you want.’

He withdrew his fingers and pushed Augus ahead of him, and Augus glared over his shoulder in a way that managed to be half-venomous, half-apprehensive. Ash only smiled back as benignly as possible. It was an infuriating smile – he knew, because Augus used to do it to him all the time when they were younger.

Augus’ lips pressed together and he practically stormed up the rest of the small, grassed path. It was soft under their feet, flowers and plants brushing their ankles, frogs hopping to get out of their way. Augus’ lake was idyllic, that was for sure. Ash’s was functional, it was appealing but...nothing special, especially by fae standards. But Augus’ lake was a haven. It sung its strange magic even to the fae. Every plant sang with life, every insect, amphibian and crustacean was healthy and cared for. Wild species that needed shelter, protection and could live in the environment would come and find homes if Augus allowed them. Even the weeping willows were huge, friendly trees.

The lake only became foreboding when Augus wanted it to be. When he was on the hunt, when he could change the weather around it, make the shadows larger and the darkness darker.

But now, in the warm, summer sun, walking uphill amongst the willows that were always growing in breadth and height, it was only inviting. Ash could occasionally enjoy the fae world, and it was usually times like this.

They both got up onto the flat stone where he’d first seen Augus pleasuring himself. Augus stood, not exactly awkward, but he obviously wasn’t sure what to do now that he was there. Ash threaded fingers through his and tugged them both over to a large, upright rock that would form a good enough backrest for Ash’s purposes. He knelt down, amazed at how smooth the stone was. Once, he figured, all of this must have been underwater, eroded until it gleamed.

‘Straddle me,’ Ash said. ‘Spread those legs of yours and kneel over mine.’

‘Ash...’ Augus said, looking around.

Ash laughed.

‘You think someone’s gonna see us? Fucking who? You can sense when most people enter your land anyway. Come here. Come on, Augus, let me take your mind off things.’

Augus looked at him, at his cock between his legs. He turned like he could tell fae were coming.

‘Augus,’ Ash said, his voice staying just as easy despite a darkness thrilling through him. ‘If you don’t come over here, I’ll come over there and knock you down and crush that pretty cock of yours into rock. Wouldn’t you be happier if you just came over here?’

Augus gritted his teeth and came over. His sassiness was kept behind closed lips. Augus started to lower himself and Ash smiled up at him.

‘No, face the other way. Back to me. Look out there. You know, if someone’s coming.’

Augus muttered something deeply unimpressed in a language Ash didn’t recognise, but turned and lowered himself gracefully, making sure he wasn’t directly over Ash’s cock.

Ash took off the shoulder bag, drew out the towel, the lubricant. Their knees were going to get scraped up, possibly, but he didn’t care.

He raised his hands to Augus’ shoulders and massaged the heels of his palms into them, digging underneath the ridge of his shoulder blades. Augus groaned, the tension in his thighs relaxed and he settled down on Ash properly. His head tilted forwards. It was something Ash wanted to make sure he gave more of – affectionate touch. They both lived on the stuff, needed it to make sure they weren’t too uncomfortable or uneasy. If they hadn’t been brothers, they would have tricked human prey into providing it first, before feeding. But they were brothers, and they could give it to each other.

Ash owed Augus more of it, and it was something almost too easy to give. His fingers drummed over a smattering of Augus’ freckles on his shoulders. He kissed the bumps at the top of Augus’ spine, licking into divots, pressing thumbs to the middle of Augus’ back and rubbing small, slow circles.

Augus gave a slow exhale that Ash thought might have been a moan if they hadn’t been in public.

‘You like that, huh?’ Ash said, his voice rougher.

Augus nodded, quiet, and Ash reached up and stroked his mane, before trailing his hand down beneath it and massaging the back of his neck. With his other hand he reached out and grabbed the vial of lubricant, taking off the cork and wishing for the ease of plastic tubes. He still managed to get a decent amount on his fingers, kept massaging Augus’ neck when he reached down and rubbed cold slickness between Augus’ ass cheeks.

Augus jerked. Ash thought he might have been about to move away. His fingers dug into Augus’ neck.

‘Take it easy,’ Ash said, and Augus breathed hard through his nostrils, then his head lifted and he looked around. ‘Not distracted enough, are you?’

‘I usually check the boundaries before I...’ Augus bit down whatever he was going to say when Ash slipped the tip of his index finger into Augus’ entrance. His thighs were tense again, but then so were Ash’s. He lowered his hand from Augus’ neck and wrapped his arm around his torso, yanking him back and thrusting his finger deeper. The sound he pushed from Augus’ throat was delicious.

‘Too late to check them now,’ Ash said. Augus squirmed in his grip. He was tight around his finger, and Ash twisted it, then thrust back and forth firmly until he thought he could feel the ache of it in his own abdomen.

He pushed back with two, and Augus opened his mouth, tilted his head back for a few seconds.

‘We should- We should do this inside. Or at least let me check the boundaries.’

‘Nope,’ Ash said. ‘Keep your senses open. Tell me if someone is coming.’

Ash,’ Augus complained.

Ash shifted the angle until he could thrust more thoroughly, and Augus’ breath fell rapidly from his mouth, he shifted like he wanted to brace himself on something. Ash’s lips quirked when a long-fingered hand found his knee and pressed into it.

But he didn’t want too much preparation today. He didn’t want this to be easy and gentle. Augus had asked and Ash had said he would deliver – promised to come after him. Promised that Augus would need a quiet week after.

He removed his fingers, wrapped whatever slick was left on them around his cock, and in a quick series of movements, hitched Augus up and backwards. He could feel when Augus realised what was happening and bit his tongue carefully as he positioned his cock, positioned Augus, and thrust up before Augus could get himself together and move away.

Augus yelped as Ash breached him, then sucked in a harsh, high breath when Ash spread his knees between Augus’ and tugged him back firmly, so that Augus was well and truly seated within a matter of seconds.

Augus made short, pained noises, thickened with lust, but they were still pain. Ash held him still for several seconds, shushing him, making sure he didn’t get away.

‘Do you need one of your safewords?’ Ash said, biting the inside of his cheek so hard that it hurt.

Please say no, please say no, please say-

Augus made a sound close to a whine. The back of his neck and ears flushed.

‘Augus,’ Ash prompted.

This was tricky. Augus didn’t like being reminded that he wanted this, but Ash had to be sure. His hands stroked carefully over his skin where he held him back against his chest. Augus’ heart-rate was fast, and he was so tight. Ash shifted his hips experimentally and Augus gave an exhale so hard it could have been a sob.

‘You could have...taken it slower,’ Augus said, finally, his voice thready.

‘I said I was gonna come after you, and I meant it. Now, just...nod or shake your head. Do you need one of your safewords? Either one?’

Augus made a sound of frustration and paused before shaking his head.

Which meant Augus didn’t even want to use the one that meant slow down or take it easy. Ash raised his eyebrows and then beamed at Augus’ back.

He held Augus to him with one arm and with the other, took the bulk of Augus’ mane and twined it in his hand before pushing it over the front of Augus’ shoulder, baring his neck. He lowered his hips and thrust up, making room for himself, answering Augus’ lurch forwards by pushing harder until there was no more room. Augus trembled.

‘Just...’ Augus said, but he couldn’t seem to get the words together, and he was reduced to gasping when Ash started fucking him rougher than he usually did. Augus groaned, and Ash lowered the band of his arm to Augus’ abdomen.

‘It aches a little, yeah?’ Ash said, knowing full well that it did, but wanting to let Augus know that he was perfectly aware of what he was doing. All his life he’d never thought of himself as a sadist, but around Augus, during times like this, he found himself wishing for claws and sharper teeth, for tears and fractured, broken noises. He didn’t need any of Augus’ toys, none of the accoutrements of one of his dungeons or playrooms or whatever Augus called them.

Augus braced one hand on Ash’s thigh, as though he could control the depth. One hand clutched so hard at Ash’s forearm that pinpricks of pain flared along his skin.

Time passed, Augus relaxed into what was happening, he was looser around Ash’s cock. He let go of the crushing grip he had on Ash’s wrist and his hand started to drift down towards his own cock.

‘Ah, nope,’ Ash said, reaching quickly and grasping Augus’ wrist, pulling it back against his own belly. ‘Just like this.’

‘You can’t be serious,’ Augus said, sounding breathless.

‘You’ve done it before, brother. I have faith you can come without it. Can’t you? Hm? What if I went harder?’

He punched up into Augus’ body, and Augus shook his head, moaned thinly. Augus’ fingers curled hard against his own body. It was a reflex Ash was now very familiar with, and he didn’t want Augus to do any absent damage. He pushed his fingers between Augus’, made sure he wasn’t hurting himself, keeping his short claws away from his skin.

‘You make me wish for a bigger cock, sometimes,’ Ash rumbled at him. ‘And I’m not unhappy with myself or anything, it’s just you’re so, so good like this. One day I’m gonna find a dildo or something that is just a little bit shy of too big, and I’m gonna make you take it all, brother.’

Augus mouthed a word that might have been a curse, but it was lost in his breathing.

‘Maybe...the next time I take you out for drinks, I’ll find a decent sized plug. I bet you’ve got a ton. And I’ll get you nice and wet and then shove that in, share some drinks with you knowing you were spread wide open for me. You know all about plugs, don’t you? Do the big ones hurt to sit on? Yeah?’

Augus wasn’t able to answer for some time as Ash thrust rhythmically into him, and then he nodded, bit off a sound in the back of his throat.

‘I could drag you into some filthy, disgusting, human bathroom, into a stall, yank your pants down, pull it out, and just shove into you. You’d be all open for me. And after, I’d push the plug back in, make you remember who you belong to.’

‘Gods,’ Augus said. ‘You’re such...a cliché.’

‘It’s working though,’ Ash said, smug. ‘Isn’t it? Maybe I’m not the cliché here.’

Augus huffed out a weak laugh, then focused on his breathing as Ash sped up. After a minute of harsh gasping, Ash felt his own balls start to ache with the need for release, he took a deep breath, started to push his own arousal away, then realised he didn’t need to.

Augus cried out. He was doing it behind closed lips, each sound never making it past his mouth. He was trying to keep it down, which – Ash reasoned, from the volume of Augus’ gasping – was kind of pointless by now. If someone was around, they would have heard.

‘Open your mouth, brother,’ Ash said, and hummed in satisfaction when the words alone loosened Augus’ lips. A few seconds later they were closed again, and Ash’s tongue curled in his mouth at the challenge of it.

‘Yeah,’ he breathed, shifting his hips so that he was grinding hard into Augus and thrusting them both forwards until Augus had to catch himself on the stone with his hands. ‘We can do better than that, can’t we?’

Even at high speed, the sound of his skin smacking into Augus’, he kept the undulations up, kept the movements fluid, and snarled in satisfaction when Augus cried out loudly, interrupting birdsong.

Thirty seconds later Augus convulsed, back arching sharply and one of his hands fisting and slamming into the rock so hard that it was likely to bruise. His keen was a high, lost sound, and Ash breathed it in until his own head tipped back and he sucked in lungfuls of summer air, redolent with pollen and chlorophyll. He kept himself deep as he spilled, laughing towards the end as Augus slumped down onto the rock and his spine shuddered with the force of his breathing.

He stayed inside for some minutes afterwards, and then as he slid out, his fingers slid in and took the place of his cock, moving in the mess he’d left behind. Augus made a faint sound, squirmed weakly.

‘You are feral,’ Augus managed, and then moaned, twitched, when Ash turned his fingers and rubbed over his prostate gland. When Ash did it a second time, Augus stiffened on a strangled noise. Faced him, a thread of fear in his gaze. ‘Not again. Not like last time.’

There was enough trepidation there that Ash pulled his fingers out slowly, wiping them on the rock, hoping it would leave a stain that Augus would see later. He also realised that Augus wasn’t even counting the time he’d overdosed on aphrodisiacs as ‘last time.’ Last time to him meant...the time Ash had come back looking for seconds and found something else entirely.

‘Got it,’ Ash said, keeping his voice light, even as his breath caught in the base of his lungs. ‘Come here, come on. Easy now.’

He slid his arms under Augus’ sweat-sheened body and pulled him backwards until Ash’s chest was pressed hard to his sun and sex-warmed back. He frowned when Augus turned into him, arm hooking around his neck, face burying into his shoulder.

‘Hey,’ Ash said, rubbing a hand over his back as he leaned them both back into the warm stone. ‘You’re okay.’

‘Oh, shut up,’ Augus snapped, his voice sharp given that he was still quaking in Ash’s arms. ‘I know that. I’m just...trying something different.’

‘Well, I’ll be the first to say it’s really fucking welcome,’ Ash said, tightening his arms around Augus and looking at the swaying branches of the weeping willow around them, at the birds that were returning after Augus had scared them away.

Augus slumped, mouthed the skin where Ash’s neck met his shoulder in a lazy, sensual way. Ash groaned and closed his eyes, feeling sticky and slick, knowing Augus must feel worse, somewhat comforted by the fact that the lake was only a few steps away. Ash didn’t particularly care for picking dried come out of his cock slit; he’d experienced that enough times to know that it was unpleasant.

Augus’ legs shifted and he hissed.

‘Sore?’ Ash said, smiling.

‘If you fuck me again...’

‘I’m fucking you again.’

Augus hung on tighter, as though he wasn’t quite sure he liked that. Ash’s smile broadened. He didn’t realise it would be so addictive to be able to do this to Augus. It soothed the savagery inside of him, left him feeling as lazy and sated as he did after he’d finished a hunt. Except that this carried far less of the bleakness and despair with it.

Ash shifted and pressed his lips to the top of Augus’ head.

‘But a break first,’ Ash said. ‘We’ll go for a swim in a minute and clean up, and then I dunno, you can tell me how you’ve been over the past two weeks, yeah?’

Augus didn’t reply. His breathing was slowing, deepened further as Ash lengthened the strokes along his spine.

‘You falling asleep?’ Ash said, and felt something odd when Augus nodded against him. It was a strange, bittersweet feeling that sank heavy into his stomach and lay there like a cold stone. He closed his eyes and curled into Augus, pressing his nose to his hair.

It usually didn’t take a long time for him to recognise his feelings, but this was a type of sadness he was unfamiliar with. And, underneath the cheerful sun, by singing cicadas, he realised he was lost in grief for everything Augus had suffered. That he was lost in a current of sadness for himself too – he’d missed so many opportunities to mend things with his brother. Because – he realised – it worried him that in order to feel so close to his brother, he needed roughness, he needed to hunt Augus and break down his walls. Could there have been another way to access this? Could he have known this type of closeness centuries ago?

‘Could it have always been like this, between us?’ Ash said.

Augus didn’t respond, asleep and warm in his arms.

Chapter Text

Augus

*

He ached already.

But he also thrummed with excitement. He refused to limp around his kitchen as he poured herbal tonic into glasses and paired it with water. He could feel that he was still stretched and open, though Ash’s come no longer leaked out of him, thanks to a quick swim in the lake.

Ash looked through Augus’ books again, occasionally asking about certain titles, more frequently flicking Augus looks of promise that made his knees feel week. That was both disconcerting and rather disgusting.

He realised what a difference it made to be mentally prepared for Ash to take him. Even if it was painful. He’d come so hard against those rocks that his hand still throbbed; he was lucky he hadn’t broken anything when he’d slammed it down. It was impossible to ignore the fact that, yes, in some contexts he was a masochist. He couldn’t say whether he liked the sharp pain racing up his spine when Ash had penetrated him so quickly. But his body had responded with fervour, and Augus still felt as though he were coming down from the kind of bright, sparked high he could attain in the middle of a successful hunt.

He sipped at his herbal water, looking towards his foyer, the front door.

Once, Augus had taught Ash the mechanics of how to hunt by using himself as bait. It wasn’t abnormal; he’d covertly witnessed other Unseelie families doing it, and decided it would be better than how he, personally, had abruptly learned that he was carnivorous and fed on humans. This way Ash would get a warning, would have some idea of what he was supposed to be, supposed to do.

Ash found those games fun, even when he didn’t want to hunt humans. It riled his predatory side, but never enough that Augus ever saw his hazel eyes light too brightly with the need to tear something apart.

Today had been different. Ash was right – time had passed and he was far more of a predator than he used to be. It was easy to forget. Most of Augus’ impressions of Ash came from their childhood – an Ash who was far more naive and innocent. The Ash who had broken down inconsolably after he’d killed and fed the first time. Who had cried so long, so hard, that he’d made himself sick and needed over two weeks of care, eventually slipping into a deep, unresponsive depression that had required all of Augus’ skills to help him recover from it.

He’d been afraid of losing Ash completely, in those months.

The Ash he’d seen today, the one that had secured him underwater, used the voice of his true-form to assert ownership...

Augus shivered. He hadn’t meant to get aroused by that. It wasn’t an appropriate reaction.

But then, I’m almost certain that Ash using his true-form to assert sexual dominance instead of, oh, I don’t know, eating me...also quite inappropriate.

Even thinking about it now made his cock twitch in his pants, made his ass spasm around something that wasn’t there. It was infuriating. He wanted to hate it. It left him breathless with strange excitement.

Ash was clued into it as well. The looks he gave him were filled with promise, and though they made occasional light conversation, Augus knew it was only a matter of time before he was under Ash again, filled while currents of excitement and fear whirled through him.

‘Are you hungry, brother?’ Augus said, voice soft, perfectly aware of what he implied.

Ash grinned at him, showed teeth.

‘I could eat, yeah.’

‘I’ll put something together and then we can...ah.’

Augus laughed under his breath. Without his heartsong, he was awkward. But Ash only quirked a warm smile at him and went back to trailing his fingers along the spines of the books with the same attentive care that he showed Augus’ back.

He wandered into the large pantry. It was connected by a single, wooden door to the kitchen, and opened into a room larger than the kitchen itself; a childhood spent worrying over having enough food for he and Ash meant he frequently overstocked.

There were cabinets, floor-to-ceiling cupboards, a fridge that ran on magic to replace the cooler he used to have. The shelves were all elaborately organised – jar after jar of fresh and dried ingredients. Above his head exposed beams had herbs hanging; rosemary, lavender, elodea, more. It was large enough that it had a bench within it, underneath a single, circular stained glass window that depicted a bulb under the ground, and a single bud rising from it.

Towards the back was a large basket of dried lotus root. He took several circular slices with their swiss cheese holes and lay them down while he reached for the jar of dried lemongrass. The aroma of sweet lemon filled his nostrils as he opened it, and absently he took some up in his fingers and bit into the dried leaf and stalk. It released more of flavour, was grounding, and he closed his eyes and lost himself in the sensation of it.

He felt a prickle at his back.

He turned quickly and Ash was standing there. No, leaning, both forearms up and resting on the doorway, blocking him in.

Augus’ heartbeat picked up.

‘I’m nearly done,’ Augus said, pointing to the dried lotus root.

Ash’s serious expression became one of dark mischief, his lips eased into a smirk that looked far more playful than the ones Augus tended to make. Augus’ eyes shot to Ash’s hand, where he’d curled his fingers slowly, possessively over the edge of the door.

‘Ash, we should-’

‘You know why I’m here, Augus,’ Ash said, his voice dark.

Augus’ eyes flickered briefly around the pantry as his heart rate shot up. Some of it was biological. He couldn’t help it. A predator was before him, blocking off the only exit, and his fight or flight response was gearing up. Normally he would be primed to fight; he’d done it before, he had a solid track record of defeating all intruders.

But this was Ash, and instincts were sending him towards a flight response. He wasn’t used to it. It felt like bubbles popping rapidly in his chest. He couldn’t get through the stained glass window. There was only one way out.

‘We should eat first,’ Augus said, aiming for sternness and grateful that he actually managed it.

‘Look,’ Ash said, looking down at himself. Augus’ eyes landed on the bulge in Ash’s pants and he swallowed. ‘What are we going to do about this, hm? And you look so, so good in a room you can’t get out of.’

Damn it. Ash was aware of it too. Either Ash had come to visit in a more predatory mood than usual, or Augus had excited it unwittingly when he’d played ‘bait in the water’ before.

‘You can’t just run into your little pantry and expect I’m gonna leave that alone, bro. And you can’t run out of your little pantry now and get away from me.’

‘It’s hardly little,’ Augus said, and Ash looked around lazily.

‘You know? I think you’re right. It’s just the right size for what I’m thinking.’

Augus had a sudden vision of broken jars, of crushed herbs and scowled.

Ash, we have the rest of the house and-’

Ash stepped forwards, projecting menace, and Augus’ voice died in his throat.

They were both quite certain that should they ever seriously pit their strength against each other – predator against predator – Augus had the raw strength and the raw skill to triumph. But, like this, Augus wasn’t so sure. He felt an overwhelming temptation to yield, and it left a sour taste in the back of his throat.

‘You know running away makes me want to come after you. You going to whatever fucking bolthole you can think of, coming here and hiding...’

Ash took a deep breath, another step forwards, and Augus felt himself back up and snarled at himself. Ash’s expression became delighted, pleased. He grinned.

Augus’ fingers curled into fists.

‘Get control of yourself. You’re being a bit of a stalker right now. When was the last time you fed?’

‘You worried?’ Ash said, lifting an eyebrow, laughing quietly. Augus had a sudden image of how charming Ash must be, on the hunt. Even now, his glamour rolled forth in warm, inviting waves. But behind that, a tangle of something ominous. A promise that one might be about to have an encounter with the dark.

‘Augus,’ Ash crooned. ‘I caught you. Look. No exits. Yeah...I like this a lot, brother. No exits in your pantry. Where you gonna go?’

‘Ash, pull it together,’ Augus snapped, stepping sideways and wondering if he could make it out if he was fast enough. Ash was touching on too many of his own instincts. He couldn’t resist them as easily now and his fingers curled into loose claws. Ready to defend and attack. Beneath all of that, a deeper swirl of arousal. Augus would have laughed at himself if it wasn’t for the fact that he could practically taste his own heartbeat in the back of his throat.

‘Nah,’ Ash said, winking. ‘Not gonna pull it together. I’m gonna make you come apart.’

‘That is the worst line I’ve ever-’

‘Why are you inching away from me, bro? Don’t be like that. Are you worried? You seem a little tense.’

Augus’ breath was caught in his throat. He froze. He was reacting foolishly, but he couldn’t shut down the behaviour, and he was in the strange position of never quite having felt like this before. Normally he was the one on the offensive, he was the one attacking others, making them feel like this.

‘Ash-’

‘You should be a little worried,’ Ash purred. ‘Just a little.’

Ash took a quick step and one of his arms flew towards him. Augus was surprised into action. He bolted, focusing on the doorway to the kitchen. But he had to pass Ash, and Ash was already turning into the movement, far quicker than Augus remembered him being, fingers tangling in his hair and an arm wrapping around his torso.

Augus struggled, panic flooding him, and Ash was laughing, laughing as he dragged him down to the floor, not reacting when Augus scored his face with sharp nails. The smell of blood in the air, and Augus could hear himself breathing.

‘Gotcha,’ Ash whispered into his ear, biting down hard on his neck.

Augus’ body wouldn’t listen to him. His muscles felt weak, it was harder to struggle, and Ash forced him down to the ground and was already yanking his pants down, groaning at the thin moan Augus made, helpless to the confounded arousal that was ratcheting through him once more. He was hard, his body sore from the intensity of it.

‘Just wait,’ Augus said, and then made a sound of surprise when he felt slick fingers sliding up the seam of his ass, before pressing firmly over his entrance again. Where had the lubricant come from? ‘Ash.’

Fingers pushed into him and something clattered to the floor when Augus’ arm flailed out, nails scraping on stone. Air choked out of his throat and he tried turning, squirming on the ground, only for Ash to lie on top of him. Ash’s weight increased as he called on his waterhorse weight, and Augus wheezed for air even as Ash’s fingers were crushed deep inside of him. They wiggled, as though tickling him from the inside, and a surprised, thin sound was forced from Augus’ throat.

‘Gods,’ Augus rasped. ‘Ash, just-’

Ash’s other arm slid around the front of his shoulders, forearm pressing up into his throat, and Augus made a sound of panic. He called his own waterhorse weight, ready to fight back, and then slumped when Ash’s fingers shifted inside him.

‘You’re still open,’ Ash said, smiling against the back of his neck. His breath a gust of heat against his skin.

It happened too quickly for Augus to follow. One moment he opened his mouth, ready to tell Ash that the pantry wasn’t the best place for this, and the next he felt a shift, the sound of fabric hastily moving, and then fingers were roughly withdrawn. Before Augus could hiss from the sting, Ash had fisted the head of his cock into Augus’ ass and pressed down heavily. There was more lubricant, but it was still-

Augus cried out, tried to get his hands underneath him, Ash knocked them away.

‘Shhh,’ Ash said, growling afterwards. ‘Shhh. You liked it, didn’t you? In the lake? Before? Yield, brother.’

Ash’s cock was something his body should have gotten used to by now, he was sure of it. But instead he felt split, gasping into the tiles of his floor, smelling polish and dirt beneath his nose, the taste of lemongrass still in his mouth. He squirmed and Ash took advantage of the movement to slip both of his legs between Augus’.

Augus made a broken sound, pressed his forehead against grit, focused on his breathing. That pain again, the knowledge that he felt bruised inside. For a moment he was terrified that Ash wouldn’t stop, that it would be like...before; months ago. But even that was mown away by Ash bucking into him, settling his pelvis heavy against his ass, balls resting between his legs as they slotted together.

The arm around his front shifted, and Augus thought that Ash was going to gentle, going to calm things down, but when Ash dragged him backwards, forced his spine into an arch, Augus realised that this was going to be rough.

‘Ash, can you-’

‘Hold on,’ Ash husked, and Augus’ eyes widened. His fingers dug into stone, clutching at it.

Augus squeaked as Ash rolled his hips forward as though testing something, then undulated in hard, as though he could find more room for himself. Augus moaned open-mouthed, his cock pressed at an odd angle into the slate. He tried to roll his hips to adjust the position, but he couldn’t get the leverage needed.

‘Ash, I need to-’

‘Nope,’ Ash gritted out, starting a fast rhythm that stole the breath from Augus’ chest, left him with an ache flourishing in his belly. He bit out a thin sound, scraped teeth over his bottom lip, and his forehead dropped to the floor. But Ash was too rough and he couldn’t rest his head on the floor without his skin scraping. He lifted his head, gasped for breath, knuckles already aching. He never thought that the greatest ancillary damage he’d be dealing with, aside from his ass aching and his hips feeling bruised, was the pain in his hands.

He could feel his claws beginning to fray on stone, and then he stopped thinking about them at all. Ash was moving too fast, too hard, but he kept the smooth roll of his hips and Augus was overstimulated, felt too full in his own skin, as though he would split at the seams. He was hard and the angle was wrong. He cock felt bruised, likely wasn’t going to forgive him for this later, he was sure.

Oh, by the gods, I don’t know if I can do this.

Around that time, the cries started. He couldn’t prevent them. They fell from his throat on every exhale, and Ash growled in response. A deep, bass thing that throbbed through Augus’ skin and lay like syrup over his muscles. Augus caught his breath enough to cry out long, a sound of protest, acceptance, lust – he hardly knew. The sound echoed in the small, stone space as he went limp in Ash’s grip. Only his hands remained tense – his nails where they were splitting, the pads of his fingers where they grazed on slate.

The pain escalated alongside arousal, and he blinked away heat in his eyes, belatedly realising that it was tears when his cheeks became wet. But even now, something sang through his blood. An excitement. A yearning. He couldn’t name it, but it swelled and banked and swelled again, a tide rushing towards him. He was going to be swallowed whole.

Minutes passed, Ash working his way up into a movement so rough that Augus hadn’t felt anything like it in his life. And just as he bleated a pathetic cry for mercy, Ash’s hips stuttered to a hard stop and Augus felt the moment he swelled, began to come inside of him.

He was still making sounds on every exhale, had been wound up to a point where he couldn’t stop.

Fuck. Okay,’ Ash was saying. The sound came from a distance. ‘Alright, Augus. Are you okay? Are you good?’

Augus’ head dropped onto stone once more, the thump echoing a mild headache. He focused on breathing. Ash’s arm around his front loosened and then he was rubbing at Augus’ shoulder, circles that did nothing to make the heat inside of him disappear. He shifted his hips and Ash let him.

‘I’m close,’ Augus moaned, trying to get a sore hand beneath his hips.

‘I’ve got you,’ Ash said, warm and husky, and Ash rolled them both onto their sides – still deep in Augus’ ass and only just beginning to soften – and slid his hand carefully down Augus’ torso.

The contrast, the gentleness, was enough to make Augus moan thickly.

‘Ash, Ash, please, I can’t-’

‘Got you,’ Ash repeated, sliding strong fingers around his cock, moving once, slowly, before reaching up and slicking his fingers with precome. It wasn’t as good as lubricant, but it was better than fingers catching on dry skin.

The motions were firm but slow, and Augus’ mouth hung open, his breathing dry and almost painful. It wasn’t going to take much at all. He focused on currents of warmth, the feeling of Ash’s hand, the scents of his home around him.

He came quickly, arching back into Ash’s body, head tilting and resting on his shoulder. He took long, shuddering breaths through it all as Ash murmured things to him, comforting words, completely at odds with what had just occurred.

Afterwards, feeling scraped up and bruised, apprehensive, tired, Ash lifted a come-soaked hand to Augus’ mouth. Augus licked at his skin, tasting the faint muddiness of Ash’s sweat beneath the greenness of his own come. It wasn’t an act that bothered him, and he knew Ash liked it from the shaky breath he took, the groan he gave when Augus wriggled his tongue between Ash’s thumb and forefinger.

‘Jesus,’ Ash breathed. ‘Jesus fucking Christ, I love you.’

Augus continued to lick, quietly, even though he felt like he’d just been sucker-punched in the gut.

It wasn’t as though they hadn’t said the words to each other before. But the fervency in his tone, the way the words had pressed into Augus’ hair – not a brotherly declaration of affection, but something else; a different shape of love now, a change that set off a deep-seated fear in Augus’ body.

‘I don’t deserve you,’ Ash said quietly, against his ear. ‘You know that, don’t you?’

‘Don’t,’ Augus said, voice hoarse. ‘Don’t do that. That’s not like you.’

‘Yeah, well...I’m not the same person I was a few months ago and I don’t think I’m the same person I was...before that, either.’

Augus opened his mouth to reply, realised he was too tired. He could hardly move. When Ash went to withdraw, Augus winced and groaned. He was sore. He possibly had a small tear. He wasn’t sure. He hadn’t noticed at the time, but he could feel it now.

‘I need some painkillers,’ Augus said quietly, and Ash hesitated, stroked a hand over Augus’ hair.

‘Let’s do that then,’ Ash said, slowing as he withdrew, placing a calming hand on Augus’ hip. Augus rolled onto his knees slowly, wanted a shower. When he braced his hands on the floor, he winced.

Ash noticed, swore. He lifted one of Augus’ hands and turned it, then sighed.

‘Do you have stuff, for this? And maybe a nail file? You’ve split some of your claws.’

‘It’s stone in here, and you’re a jackhammer, what did you expect?’

Ash chuckled softly.

‘I didn’t say it wasn’t worth it.’

Augus laughed under his breath, then stilled when Ash moved his hand from Augus’ hip to curve around his ass, sliding in amongst lubricant, his own come and pressing towards-

‘Wait,’ Augus said, feeling uneasy. ‘Ash-’

‘Let me,’ Ash whispered, sliding his fingers inside. Augus’ breath hitched, a sharp flare of pain without arousal to balance it out.

His brain scrambled. He tried to move away, and Ash crowded him, leaned into him. Augus’ eyes widened. It wasn’t supposed to be like this anymore. He was already sore, already used up. Maybe in an hour...two hours. Maybe...

Not now.

He felt horror when he realised there was something he could try, but he was scared to try it. His eyes squeezed shut when Ash twisted his fingers, and he grunted out a noise that was more pain than anything.

‘Ash, later.’

‘Nope,’ Ash said, and Augus shook his head, shook it again.

He didn’t want to. He hadn’t ever planned on saying...

Ash brushed against his prostate and he felt his face screw up. He couldn’t go through that again. That last time, with Ash, he’d felt something break inside himself. He didn’t generally mind his prostate being rubbed over, even pressed into, but something about Ash doing what he was doing left him afraid.

‘Ah,’ Augus said, eyes squeezed shut. ‘L-Lo- fuck.’

He wanted to claw his own tongue out.

Ash stopped. They both held their breath.

‘Augus?’ Ash said softly.

Augus shook his head.

‘Augus, were you going to say lotus?’

‘I would very much like to not talk about this,’ Augus said, defaulting to formality.

‘Hey, yeah, okay, just...’ Ash was – miraculously – sliding his fingers free. Augus didn’t realise how much tension he’d been carrying in his shoulders until Ash did that and he sagged forwards, breathing a sound of relief. He’d been fucked twice, roughly, in a short space of time. Perhaps he didn’t have the stamina of many of Ash’s lovers, but there were just some things he couldn’t do. ‘Oh shit.’

‘What?’

‘Blood,’ Ash grumbled. ‘Not much. Shit.’

‘That’s not…the part that bothers me,’ Augus said, pushing himself up onto his knees and offering a faint smile.

‘Seriously?’

Augus laughed and rubbed a grazed, scraped up hand over his face. He was tired. When Ash slid hands under his arms, he stood shakily and surveyed the damage. Surprisingly, aside from a tin of crushed herbs that had been knocked over, everything was still intact.

‘I feel, I think, the term is ‘well tumbled.’’

‘You look it,’ Ash said, coming around and facing him, smoothing a thumb over his cheekbone. They stared at each other, Augus taking in the scratches he’d left on the side of Ash’s face. Ash offered him a lopsided smile. ‘What about food and then a shower? Like, I’ll go first while you make something and then you can go afterwards. And then maybe a nap before something else?’

‘Something else?’ Augus said, uncertain.

‘I was thinking of going down on you until you came down my throat. You shouldn’t be the only one who gets to taste that now, should you?’

Ash leaned up and pecked him on the cheek, and Augus blinked, flushed, followed him out of the pantry. He limped a little, raised a hand to scratch at his neck, winced again. He looked at his hands. He couldn’t make food in this state.

‘I’m not that hungry,’ Augus said, and Ash looked at him, eyes narrowing, then sighed.

‘You go shower first, okay? Go get the nail files and stuff, and I’ll make us something. I can do that, you know. Yeah?’

‘Are you sure?’ He didn’t know how he felt, leaving Ash alone in his kitchen. It seemed wrong. Augus was always the one making food.

‘Totally,’ Ash grinned. ‘Go on, go fucking shower. You’re throwing off my groove.’

Augus walked down the corridor after shooting him an uncertain glance, and found himself aware of the fact that even if he hated them, even if he didn’t see the point most of the time, even if they made him feel ashamed and polluted...

The safewords were effective.

*

Later, Augus’ fingers were covered in salve and he’d filed the claws that were split so they could grow out properly. They’d finished eating. Ash hand-fed him peppery lettuce leaves and bits of dried lotus root, as well as the lemongrass from earlier, claiming that Augus’ hands were too injured for him to do it himself. Then he’d stolen kisses all the way through, licking in and tasting the inside of Augus’ mouth, humming happily.

It was almost romantic.

Augus found it all confusing. Ash didn’t have relationships with other people. He fucked them. That was what he did.

It had to be temporary, at best. Ash wasn’t going to change. He’d had a fairly fixed personality for centuries.

‘Is it pity?’ Augus said, his voice quiet but venomous. ‘Is that why you are being like this? Do you pity me?’

Ash hesitated where he was drawing his hand in long lines down Augus’ side, then withdrew his arm. Augus told himself that he didn’t mind the loss even though he felt the absence acutely. He looked away, pretended an aloofness he didn’t feel.

‘You think I’m being like this with you because I pity you?’ Ash said, and Augus made a scornful noise.

‘So it appears you can listen, after all.’

‘Yeah,’ Ash said, irritation sliding into his voice and making it harder. ‘Yeah, Augus. That’s why I listened to you when you half-assed your safeword, because you couldn’t say it. Answer my question. You think I’m being nice to you because I was like, ‘Oh, hey, that Augus, what a pitiful creature he is.’’

‘That’s not what I-’

‘No, come on, I want to hear you say it,’ Ash said, his voice changing from loud and goading, to something softer. Augus refused to look at him.

‘I feel bad for you sometimes,’ Ash said, when Augus said nothing. ‘But I’m not doing this because I pity you. I’m doing this because I’m a selfish, indulgent little shit. I wanted this. The affection. Touching you. Spending time with you. I always wanted more of it. I took the sex without offering anything else because I was sure you’d push me away. Alright?’

‘You feel bad for me,’ Augus said, meeting his eyes.

Ash shook his head slowly.

‘Right, that’s what you heard, out of everything I said? Who’s got the listening problem now, Augus?’

Augus glared, felt a spark of anger like thorns twisting through him, and Ash’s expression shifted, he frowned.

‘Jesus, hang on,’ Ash said, reaching out, placing a hand on Augus’ side. Augus wanted to twitch away, wanted to make Ash follow him with that touch; but he suspected Ash wouldn’t do that. He thought Ash might respect Augus’ body language. Seething, he forced himself to remain still. He wanted the touch. ‘I don’t want to fight with you. Okay, let’s go back to what this is about. You think I pity you, right? And that’s why I’m being nice to you right now? Augus, I love you. And I love...a lot of fucking people. But none of them like you.’

Ash laughed ruefully.

‘You haven’t ever wondered why I’ve never settled down with anyone? I mean aside from my heartsong being...whatever it is. I would’ve lived with you and never moved out, except that I thought you didn’t want me here. You kept fucking telling me I needed to go out and see the world! Or like, not see it – because I was already travelling a lot – but you kept suggesting I should leave.’

‘It suited you, to live in the human world,’ Augus said, a sour taste entering his mouth again.

‘Maybe. It suited me to live here as well. I know I didn’t love you like this back then, but you were still way more important to me than anyone. Than anyone else I was meeting. This isn’t about pity. I’m not doing this out of pity. I’m too fucking impatient for that. I get bored too easily.’

‘That’s just it, Ash. You get bored too easily. I want to know when this expires. I’d like to know, now, so I can prepare myself for it.’

Ash took a deep breath, and Augus frowned when he felt fingers sliding over his damp hair. He looked like he was about to say something very heartfelt and Augus shook his head, he couldn’t hear it.

‘The thing is, Ash, obsessions aren’t real. They’re based in delusion. And you’re a predator. Can we mention that there is a large element of the chase, going on here? You’ve...there’s nothing left to chase. I think it’s rather self-evident that you have me. I happen to think-’

‘Wow, Augus,’ Ash said, his voice soft. ‘Just…wow. Listen to me, you’re not gonna believe me when I tell you that I’m in this for the long-haul. You’re just not. I’ve been all over the fucking shop with how I’ve treated you; why would you believe me? I’m sorry, man. I’m sorry. Because I think you’d believe me more if I hadn’t dicked you around so much from the start. And that’s on me, okay? But Augus, you are so not okay in general. I don’t think it’s healthy for you to not take on clients anymore. For you to stop seeing people. You can’t spend all this time in your own head. You just...can’t.’

‘We are solitary waterhorses, that’s our nature.’

‘It’s not,’ Ash sighed. ‘Not anymore. The thing that makes us hang out with each other- Augus, if you were a fucking solitary waterhorse, you would’ve handled me dying back then; the thought of me dying. Think about it. You would’ve – I don’t goddamned know – reverted back to ‘type’ or something.’

Augus’ fingers twitched and he grimaced at the ache. He quietly held his salved hand out to Ash. Immediately, calloused fingers rubbed over the soreness in his knuckles.

‘If I had another heartsong, a new core, I might be able to master clients,’ Augus admitted. ‘But I cannot master them while I cannot master myself. I refuse. To do so would be irresponsible.’

I cannot treat them as you’ve treated me, brother.

Ash didn’t say anything for some time, and Augus wondered if Ash was thinking something similar.

‘Do you think we should stop?’ Ash said, muted. He looked at Augus’ knuckles, his shoulders hunched. ‘Do you think it’d be better if I kept seeing you more often but we stopped...y’know, me banging you?’

Augus leaned towards Ash, frowning. With his other, sticky hand, he touched fingertips to the stubble sprouting from his chin and encouraged his head upwards. Uncertain eyes met his, and Augus knew he was making a similar expression. Ash’s face twisted, he looked away, a smear of salve making a section of his skin shine in the dimness of his lamp-lit room.

‘I’ve hurt you a lot,’ Ash said, lips quirking in a kind of smile Augus didn’t think suited him. ‘A fuckton. I can’t stop thinking about it. I’ve bored so many bartenders to death, I swear. And from like, our childhood, Augus. I mean I’ve hurt you for a long fucking time, I don’t just mean now. You always joke about how spoiled I am, but all those jokes – I did take more than my share. All the time.’

‘I don’t want to stop,’ Augus said, and Ash grimaced. It left an unease floating like rotting leaves in Augus’ chest. It occurred to him that Ash had swung too far into his compassion, too far away from his inner predator. It amazed him how he could swing between the two like a pendulum. How – not that long ago – he could exercise his waterhorse side so freely in the lake and now talk of remorse. The scent of Ash’s worry was acridity in the air. He was afraid.

‘There are things I want from you,’ Ash said, eyes flickering to Augus’ as he sat up cross-legged and kept Augus’ hand in his lap, smoothing the taut lines of his palm. ‘Things that will hurt you. Things that I’m ashamed to want. Stuff I’ve never done to like, humans. To anyone. I want to fucking take you apart.’

This was something Augus understood, though he’d never thought to be having such a conversation with Ash. He shifted until he could curl closer to Ash’s bent knees, pressed his forehead against his thigh.

‘It’s fucked up,’ Ash rumbled at him. ‘I love you, but I just sometimes want to take you down. Do you ever like...regret me coming back? After that year?’

Augus sat up, a bolt of fear moving through him.

‘Please tell me you did not just say that to me,’ Augus said, staring at him. The hand not in Ash’s lap gripped his jaw hard, fingers digging in. Ash winced, his eyes widened. ‘You did not just say that to me.’

‘I only meant-’

‘I did not raise you the way I did, to lose you in a sump of self-pitying drivel. Especially when it leads to you saying the sort of tripe that you’re saying right now. Yes, you almost ruined this, ruined us. Yes, I spoiled you, I was never as honest as I could have been. If you ever tell me that you shouldn’t have come back after that year, if you ever tell me that again, I will take you to a healer only after sinking my hands into your viscera.’

He shook his hand for good measure, and Ash started to jerk back, but Augus tightened his fingers.

‘I mean it,’ Augus snapped.

‘Right, Jesus. Okay, okay, I’ve got it.’

Ash turned Augus’ other hand in his own and stroked it more gently than before. His eyebrows twisted up.

‘I get it, okay?’

Augus let go reluctantly, then closed his eyes and sighed.

‘You might want to...look for human groups or perhaps find a fae that isn’t me, to talk about some of the urges that come with wanting to dominate someone. It’s normal to want to take someone apart in certain circumstances, Ash. It’s how you do it that determines what kind of person you are.’

‘What kind of person am I?’ Ash whispered.

‘An idiot,’ Augus laughed.

‘Asshole,’ Ash said, eyes sparking with amusement. ‘That’s not very constructive, you know. Haven’t you ever heard of constructive criticism?’

‘You and your human buzzwords,’ Augus said, leaning towards Ash and pressing his nose against his cheek. The movement caused an ache to throb in his lower back, but it wasn’t unbearable.

‘Shut me up, then,’ Ash said, and Augus grinned, licked a narrow stripe over Ash’s lips before sucking his bottom one between his own.

Ash’s lip tasted a little of the salve Augus had on his fingers, the inside of his mouth tasted of silt, herbal tonic, a savoury warmth that was specific to him. He slid his tongue over Ash’s, a happy groan vibrating into his own mouth as Ash leaned forwards and rubbed at his back with his other hand.

Ash’s hand slid up, twined into Augus’ hair. Augus licked slowly at the roof of Ash’s mouth, delicately traced the back of his teeth, then pushed his tongue underneath Ash’s and moaned warmly, encouraging, holding back a smile when Ash sagged towards him. He had no particular inclination to dominate Ash, he never had, but offering him something sensuous when he was upset and uncertain was easy to do, especially when Ash was so enthusiastic about kissing.

Ash tried to pin Augus’ tongue inside his mouth and then laughed through his nose when Augus made a sound of frustration. He felt the gusts of air against his skin as they kissed in earnest, hardly stopping for breath. Augus tried to resist smiling as he played his lips across Ash’s, rubbing them back and forth.

The world tilted as Ash pushed him onto his back, grinning against his cheek.

‘I owe you a blow job,’ Ash said, his voice rough. Augus closed his eyes slowly, his hands flexed and ached at him.

‘That sounds lovely,’ Augus sighed.

They were both already naked. Their clothes were still in the foyer where Ash had dropped them earlier. Augus lay on his back, one leg drawn up towards his hip, Ash settling between them, pressing wet, sloppy kisses to his knees that made him smirk and shake his head, sent a flush of warmth through his entire body that had nothing to do with arousal.

‘How could you think I want to stop?’ Augus said, closing his eyes and tilting his head back when Ash ran his hands firmly along the inside of his thighs. He dragged his fingertips back down again, pressing faint scratches into Augus’ skin, and Augus hummed, hooking his bent leg over Ash’s back. His cock twitched hopefully. His bruised hand was sore, a constant counterpoint.

‘My birthday’s coming up,’ Ash said, before planting his face in the crease of Augus’ thigh, stubbled cheeks brushing against balls; damp, curly hair bowing over his still limp cock.

‘And?’ Augus said, opening one eye to see Ash’s head between his legs and deciding that this was something he needed more in his life. ‘You want something, I suppose?’

‘I had an idea for a celebration. But it’d be intense for you.’ Ash looked at him briefly, keeping his chin pressed to Augus’ balls. Augus licked at his lips, Ash followed the movements.

‘I have the words now, don’t I?’ Augus said, something hesitant entering his voice. He didn’t like them, could hardly use them, but they worked.

‘Yep,’ Ash said, but his eyes were still serious. ‘Augus, it’ll probably be one of the more intense things we’ve ever done. But after that...that’s it. That’s the last hoorah. Like, I’ll never do it again. I mean we’ll still fuck; but…yeah.’

‘As a present to you?’ Augus said. ‘When I don’t believe in birthdays?’

‘Kind of,’ Ash said, huffing out an exhale that was warm on Augus’ cock.

‘You’re not going to tell me what it is?’

‘You’ll see for yourself, when it’s my birthday. I’m gonna get you to come over mine if that’s cool.’

‘Maybe,’ Augus said, rolling his eyes. ‘We’ll see.’

‘I just wanted to warn you.’

‘I just want your mouth on my cock,’ Augus said, voice arch. ‘And I’m not returning the favour, today.’

‘Yeah, yeah, I know. Dick,’ Ash laughed, the seriousness on his face breaking into amusement. His hand came up and petted the tight skin over Augus’ pelvis, lingering where Augus was almost ticklish. His skin sprung up with gooseflesh at the touch. His head sank into pillows, his hands rested lightly, sticky, on his own skin.

‘Make it good,’ Augus said, risking it, and then a smile graced his mouth when Ash burst out laughing, the sound filled with cheer as it skated over his skin.

‘I missed you being like this,’ Ash said, lightly poking him.

‘Let me guess, the spark makes me more fun to break the rest of the time,’ Augus said, and Ash slid his fingers around the base of Augus’ cock and tugged slow, firm, until Augus’ hips tilted into a different position.

Ash lapped at the head of his cock without answering, treating it like it was an ice cream. Augus hummed, wriggled briefly, sensitive and nostrils flaring. Ash’s tongue was generous and talented. He used the flat of it, the sides, the tip as he began to explore Augus’ cock, as he edged between foreskin and the head itself. Augus’ fingers flexed into a stretch and he arched further, savouring the sensation.

Augus’ cock hardened slowly under the push-pull of Ash’s hands, the furnace that was the inside of his mouth. Ash’s other hand smoothed over his thigh, stroked the flat, straight pelt of his pubic hair – ruffling it, settling it. Augus felt fingers searching into the humid crease of his thigh again, stroking down towards his ass, before he grabbed a handful of his ass cheek and squeezed in a way that was affection, not hurt. Augus shifted his leg so that he could run the heel of his foot carefully down Ash’s back, and Ash groaned in response, sucked harder at his cock.

‘Ah,’ Augus sighed. ‘But you are good at that. I suppose you do cunnilingus rather well, also?’

‘Well, I don’t exactly need to come up for air,’ Ash drawled after lifting off, massaging Augus’ balls with a familiarity that Augus displayed with his own body. He groaned, nodded absently, and Ash chuckled before lowering again.

When Augus was fully hard, Ash took him all the way down, moving his hand away and enveloping Augus’ cock in his mouth and throat. He stroked all the way up Augus’ chest until he was scraping the side of his thumb over Augus’ nipple, over and over, matching the movements of his bobbing head. His other hand had taken the thigh that wasn’t wrapped around Ash’s back and shoved it outwards until Augus felt a stretch in his muscles. It added a slow, hot burn to the arousal threading through him, and his mouth opened on short exhales.

He pressed one of his sticky hands to Ash’s where a thumb and forefinger rolled the small point of his nipple; held his hand in place.

‘Ash,’ Augus groaned.

Ash hummed around him in response, and Augus shifted, his thigh ached where Ash forced it out, his other leg wrapped tightly around Ash’s back now, hardly moving. It was a heavy, persistent pleasure – not the kind that coaxed, but the kind that demanded. Augus’ mouth opened on sighs, soft moans, he could feel the lazy thump of his heart speeding up as Ash drove him towards orgasm.

The ache within him expanded as his muscles pulled taut – but the orgasm approached gently. Not a hard, ruthless thing, but something warm and liquid, coiling in his balls, making his cock twitch and throb in Ash’s mouth, forcing him to concentrate on not digging his fingers into Ash’s skin or the blankets. He groaned, pleased, and Ash didn’t move away, didn’t seem interested in teasing him or holding back or forcing it to be more intense than it was.

‘Ash, you’re probably aware, but I think I’m going-’

His hips rolled into an arch that Ash rode easily, and he hung on that precipice for several seconds before release found him – a weighty, intense pleasure – come spilling into Ash’s mouth, his body shuddering with a welcome, sore heat.

Ash drew Augus’ orgasm out carefully, slowly drawing Augus’ leg back towards his body even as he suckled on the tip, pulled on it like he might be able to more release. He made hungry noises that sent a flush through Augus’ chest. Augus heard him swallowing, the sound noticeable amongst other wet noises. Long minutes passed and Augus shuddered and then sighed, his toes flexing, Ash’s tongue a love letter against his cock.

Ash moved up over his body afterwards, trailing slow, full kisses up his torso – over his hipbone, along his ribs, he licked lines along the centre of his sternum, kissed the other, neglected nipple and then flicked his tongue over it several times. Augus laughed in his chest at the sensation.

‘I don’t want to stop either,’ Ash said, before thrusting his tongue into Augus’ mouth. At the same time he ground down, pressing his cock alongside Augus’ softening one.

Augus moved his mouth away.

‘I can’t right now,’ Augus said, and Ash hummed an agreement at him.

‘Sleep first,’ Ash said. ‘How does later sound?’

‘You’ll make the tear worse,’ Augus said, looking at him sidelong, and Ash nodded, pressed kisses to the freckles on his cheeks.

‘Do you know what intercrural is?’

‘I wasn’t born in a barn,’ Augus laughed, and felt a wave of relief and curiosity move over him. Intercrural – Ash sliding between the tight space of his thighs as he pressed them together, fucking him without actually fucking into him.

‘Can I try it?’

‘Of course,’ Augus said, leaning into Ash’s arms, disturbed by the strange equilibrium they’d found. There was too much lassitude for him to be upset. Yet only a short time before, they’d both been unhappy.

It had been centuries since they’d found it so easy to talk through some of their concerns. And certainly some remained, but Augus felt content in a way that he hadn’t for a long time.

Ash had listened to him; more than once. Ash who now snuffled into his neck and licked stripes from his collarbone up to the back of his jaw, nibbling at his skin, making happy, sweet noises of contentment even as he tried to clumsily drag a blanket over them both.

He still didn’t know what his heartsong would be. He knew there were a lot of problems ahead of them and he refused to think about what Ash had planned for his birthday. Refused. Because that was likely going to hurt, and he wanted Ash to enjoy himself and he knew himself well enough by now to know that he’d likely put up with a lot. Too much.

Augus was distracted from his thoughts when Ash twined their legs together, settling his cock against his torso easily, like it wasn’t bothering him at all. His arms looped at the back of Augus’ neck and Ash nuzzled his face, his hair, found a loose strand of waterweed and licked it, making Augus shiver.

‘You taste good,’ Ash murmured against his hair.

‘Mm, so I’ve been told.’

Really good,’ Ash breathed, taking the waterweed in his teeth and biting down just enough that Augus felt it as a mild zing of pain that spidered across his scalp and shot partway down the back of his spine. He grunted, and Ash let go. ‘You’re sensitive.’

‘I’m tired,’ Augus said, turning his head towards Ash’s and feeling himself relax more deeply into the bed.

‘Yeah,’ Ash said, and then grinned against his cheek. ‘Alright, tell me a story about something as you fall asleep. Anything. The worst winter. The best summer. I like your stories.’

Augus smiled, thought of a story to tell even as Ash nuzzled him with a level of care that left him feeling heartsore and loved. Though worries lurked like tadpoles, he chose to drift in words and warmth.

Chapter Text

Ash

*

He was nervous. He was really fucking excited. It was his birthday and Augus was coming over.

He’d had the idea for years – longer even. Augus had once told him about something very exciting, back in the days when Ash was still trying to ignore pizza dreams and convince himself that he absolutely did not lust after his brother and that mysterious boners in his presence were just that; mysterious.

They’d been bowed over drinks – Augus hardly drinking as usual – and Augus had mentioned a client asking him if he worked with schema crystals.

‘Schema...what now? I know what schemas are in the human world,’ Ash had said, thinking back over the philosophy and psychology texts he’d read. ‘Different aspects of selfhood? Basically?’

‘Mm,’ Augus had trailed his finger lightly over the rim of his glass and Ash had watched as a liquid curl of heat blossomed in his gut. ‘Essentially, yes. They’re very expensive. I don’t work with them because they don’t really gel with my practices. You make multiple selves through the Magecraft of the crystal itself, and then a client can be worked over by two or three of me, instead of one.’

‘Jesus,’ Ash said, staring at him. ‘Are they clones?’

‘Magical constructs,’ Augus said, shrugging. ‘They pull from aspects of the self, and they lose all corporeal form once the crystal runs out of charged energy, or is shattered. I believe that some higher class fae use them to literally be in a few areas at once. I think it’s dangerous to do. You can’t be guaranteed that what comes out through the crystal is an exact replica of yourself. And I don’t want to be controlling three different people in a scene.’

‘Not even if two of them are yourself?’

Especially then. You’ve met me, I believe.’

They’d laughed, but Ash had looked into it afterwards. It was expensive – high-end Magecraft, and none of that was cheap anyway. But Ash had been investing wealth in the human and fae worlds for some time, and sometimes he cruised the stock-market for fun. He gave long-term investment a whole new meaning, and he had enough fake identifications from semi-reputable sources to last him many human lifetimes.

In other words, he was cashed up enough to afford something like a schema crystal of his own. Mages were one of the few who sometimes bartered cash instead of objects or trade.

Now he stared at two versions of himself. They were obedient to him. The Mage had explained that without several spells woven into the crystals, the schemas became confused and often tried to exert power or experienced identity crises. So their personalities were constrained within magic. They had to obey Ash no matter what, and despite possessing many of his personality traits, they were not capable of a great deal of philosophical, self-reflective thought. Ash had tried prompting it. One had given him a blank look and changed the subject. The other had gone along for a little while, then asked when the last time he hunted was; disturbing.

It wasn’t as strange staring at two versions of himself as he thought it would be. He was calling one of them Nice Ash, and the other one Ashton. The latter name developed because he’d started off calling him Mister Sarcastic, and then decided that he should come up with something a bit more...official, and less confusing. Besides, Ashton seemed the most different of the three of them. Nice Ash had a sweet-tempered sense of humour, seemed enthusiastic about everything that was to occur, talked about how gorgeous Augus was. Ashton was mostly silent, taciturn, his hazel eyes perpetually bright, his curly hair darker than average. But he was biddable, and a smirk alit upon his face every time Augus’ name was mentioned that seemed promising enough.

Hours later, a knock at the door and both Nice Ash and Ashton followed him. Ash’s heart pounded fiercely. Nervousness had built into an anticipation that tasted like liquor in his mouth.

He opened the door wide and Augus’ eyes flew open. Ash could see the whites all around them. Augus’ jaw dropped, eyes flickering at the Ashes behind him, and then he took a step backwards.

‘I can barely handle one of you,’ Augus breathed.

‘Happy birthday to me, brother,’ Ash grinned, grabbing his arm and yanking him inside, closing the door behind them both and pushing Augus against it. ‘You gave me the idea.’

Augus stared over Ash’s shoulder at the two of them.

‘Hey, look at me,’ Ash said, placing his fingers on Augus’ chin and tilting his head. Augus’ eyes slipped to his, and Ash placed his other hand over Augus’ chest, measuring his heartbeat. ‘You remember your safewords, right?’

‘How much did this cost?’ Augus said, eyes flicking back to the others. His brow furrowed as his gaze lingered at a point beyond Ash’s shoulder, and Ash looked behind him to see Ashton raising his eyebrows back at Augus, something challenging on his face.

‘Doesn’t matter. I’m only gonna do this once I’m pretty sure. Okay? We’re all really into you.’

‘By the gods,’ Augus murmured, as Ash dragged his nails down Augus’ shirt, ending with a palm curved around his ribs.

‘The one to your left is Nice Ash, and the other one I’m calling Ashton.’

‘I suppose you want to get your money’s worth?’ Augus said, his expression snapping into one of easy confidence. Ash knew better than to trust it, but he was relieved to see that Augus had the will and energy to manage it.

‘You’d better fucking believe it.’

He stroked Augus’ hair, then leaned in and kissed him, opening his mouth and encouraging Augus’ to open, sliding his tongue inside. He hummed in happy surprise when he felt a hand that wasn’t Augus’ on his back. His own hand, scraping nails along the curve of his shoulder blade. He chuckled a moment later when one of the other Ashes reached forward and trailed fingers down Augus’ arm.

Augus moved away from Ash’s mouth and took a deep breath.

‘Are they like you?’ Augus said, looking between the two again, looking down at the hand on his arm. It was Ashton’s. Ash watched as he dug his thumb in possessively, then went back to idle, relaxed stroking. Augus tried to ease his arm away, and Ashton moved in alongside Ash, ducking down and latching his lips to Augus’ neck.

Augus’ eyes were wide as he stared at Ash, and Ash kept his hands on him as an anchor, leaned in and navigated Ashton’s damp, curly hair to kiss Augus again.

‘They’re like me,’ Ash breathed against his mouth a minute later, when Augus had relaxed against the door. ‘A bit different, but they’re both really into you.’

‘It’s easier to tell the difference between- Ah.’ Augus’ back arched, and from the sound, Ashton was biting Augus’ neck.

‘I don’t want any blood drawn,’ Ash said, immediately, and Ashton withdrew with a pop! A bruise already darkening Augus’ neck, bite marks around it.

‘Now where’s the fucking fun in that?’ he drawled, but then offered a quick, cheerful smile, before returning his mouth to Augus’ collarbone.

‘Turns out I’m a fucking vampire,’ Ash breathed, and Augus smirked, eyes drifting shut.

‘He has a clever tongue, like yours,’ Augus said, trying to blink himself back into awareness. Ash liked a dazed, overwhelmed Augus. As he leaned in, taking his mouth once more, he groaned as the Nice Ash behind him stroked heavy lines down his own spine.

I guess I really am into that whole self-love thing. Nice to know.

‘Hey,’ Nice Ash said softly. ‘Let me kiss you. I want to taste him on you.’

Augus made a sound that Ash echoed in his own chest, helpless and wanting. He lifted up and Augus was nodding.

‘I find I want to see that too.’

Nice Ash was already turning his face, fingers at his jaw, and then firm lips were on his, stubble brushed against his own stubble. A dexterous tongue licked over the dampness of his lips and pressed inside, fingers sliding into his hair and pulling tight as Ash felt his own mouth opened wider. Ash tasted not the fresh sweetness of Augus, nor even his own mustier, silty taste. There was something strange and electric about Nice Ash’s saliva. Ash became aware that he was drinking magic down, and smiled against Nice Ash’s lips. In response, Nice Ash deepened the kiss, slid a strong hand around the back of his neck.

Ash was distracted up until Augus made a small, choked sound. He turned back, lips slick, to see Augus’ mouth being thoroughly claimed by Ashton, hands clasping him at the hips, thumbs digging into his hipbones.

In that moment, Augus blinked his eyes open and stared at Ash, arousal and uncertainty painted across his flush features.

‘Ashton,’ Ash said, thinking that he could have done a better job with the names and then not really caring; it wasn’t like he was going to see them again once the spell wore off.

Ashton pulled away, kept his hands on Augus’ hips.

‘We need a bed for what I want to do, hey,’ Ash said, grinning.

Augus stepped forwards – jerking his hips out of Ashton’s grip – and moved closer to Ash, sliding his hand into his. Ash’s brow furrowed at the gesture, he couldn’t read Augus’ expression.

‘We have the safewords,’ Ash said, pulling him towards his room gently. ‘And I can break the spell at any point. Yeah?’

‘He doesn’t taste like you,’ Augus said, refusing to look at Ashton, instead meeting the gaze of Nice Ash as they all made their way down the corridor.

‘I like to think that nothing tops the original.’

‘We’re just here to help, hey,’ Nice Ash said.

‘That’s really nice of you, Nice Ash.’ He held up his hand for a high five and they shared a grin.

‘I’m suddenly very glad you weren’t twins. Or triplets,’ Augus said fervently. ‘What if there had been three of you from the beginning? I can’t even contemplate it.’

‘You know you ramble a bit, when you’re nervous?’

‘Oh, be quiet,’ Augus snapped. ‘It’s not like your ass is facing prospective ruin. Have you got that healer on hand?’

‘I love your flare for hyperbole,’ Ash said, dragging him onto the bed, taking a handful of Augus’ shirt in one hand and ripping it out and sideways, buttons flying everywhere. Augus glared at him, and Ash pushed him down onto his back, even as Nice Ash climbed on beside them and Ashton waited nearby, standing, looking down at all three of them.

Getting Augus undressed was easy enough with Ash distracting him with kisses, while Nice Ash helpfully removed his boots and his pants, easing them off without being overly rough. From the two short, sharp moans Augus made, Ash suspected his other self was fondling him with a familiarity that he appreciated.

Ash kept him pinned to his back on the bed, one hand on his sternum, the other fisted in his hair so that Augus couldn’t move his head easily.

‘Can I taste him?’ Nice Ash asked. ‘Go on, let me.’

‘The question is how?’ Ashton said, from a darker corner of the room where he watched everything with an unfathomable expression on his face. ‘Do you want to swallow him down? Shove your tongue up his ass?’

‘Whichever, hey, I’m not fussy.’

Ash lifted up long enough to gasp:

‘Rimming.’ He turned down to meet Augus’ gaze, at once defiant and vulnerable. ‘Get your legs up, bro. He’s gonna make you feel good.’

Augus started to bare his teeth, and then Nice Ash did something that made his expression melt into something else entirely.

He raised his legs slowly, and Ash hooked his arm under one of Augus’ knees, keeping his other hand in Augus’ hair. He leaned back in, forcing Augus’ spine to stretch, and licked the hiss out of Augus’ mouth.

‘You’re doing fine, Augus,’ Ash crooned. ‘Just fine.’

Ash’s cock was hard in his pants, throbbed heavily when he felt Augus’ nostrils flare against his own nose, heard the hitch in his breath that meant that Nice Ash had likely touched him or laid his tongue against his ass. He was almost jealous – which wasn’t really like him – but that disappeared beneath the knowledge that if he played his cards right, he could get a great deal more of Augus than either of these two magical constructs ever could.

He wondered, briefly, if – once the spell was over – he’d have three different perspectives on what was happening. Would he absorb their memories, or would they drift off into the ether?

He shifted to make his cock more comfortable and then focused on licking the breaths and sounds out of Augus’ mouth. Augus was holding back, focusing on his breathing, far more uninhibited when it was just the two of them. He thought about saying something but decided against it. Even he found the other two Ashes a little weird, he wasn’t about to tell Augus that it was the same as having three of him in the room.

A shadow fell over him and he looked up to see Ashton closer, blocking the light from one of the lamps, face hidden. His head was tilted.

Apparently a part of me is a giant voyeur. Awesome.

Ashton was easy to ignore though with the quaking of Augus’ body beneath him, the sound of Nice Ash going to town nearby. Ash caught the first full-bodied moan from Augus in his mouth as it coasted across his tongue. And then Augus ripped his mouth away, unable to hold back his panting.

Fuck,’ Augus managed. ‘Fuck, more. More.’

Ash looked down between Augus’ legs, saw a bush of curly hair bobbing there and hitched Augus’ leg up higher, helpfully. Augus’ breath gusted from his lungs, and Nice Ash made a muffled sound of gratitude.

‘Can you come from this?’ Ash said, turning back to Augus.

‘Yes,’ Augus gasped.

‘Don’t,’ Ash said, his voice darkening. ‘Hold it back. Use that feted waterhorse ability of yours.’

Ash,’ Augus said, a faint desperation weaving through his voice, turning it ragged.

‘You heard me,’ Ash said, kissing the freckles on his right cheek. ‘You’re so good at doing it on your own, right? You’re doing it now. Hold back for me, love.’

‘I think I hate your birthday present,’ Augus said, sounding surprisingly articulate given the broken noise he made immediately after.

Augus wasn’t nearly ruined enough for Ash’s liking and he leaned in and kissed him again. Augus’ breaths painted the side of his face, and Ash let himself loose in the sensation of wringing the reactions from Augus that he wanted, while still being able to indulge in the more affectionate things he wasn’t always able to do. As much as he wanted the ring of Augus’ ass fluttering over his tongue, there was something delectable about being able to lick the sounds and breaths from his mouth as someone else ate him out. Ash couldn’t exactly repeat the experience on his own.

Besides, there was a certain thrill to knowing that Augus wasn’t quite able to catch enough air. He squirmed beneath them both, made faint sounds of frustration. Ash opened his eyes in time to see Augus screw his face up on a wince as – Ash figured – a particularly strong wave of arousal flooded him.

Ash leaned back in and Augus’ mouth stayed open, followed. Sharp teeth captured his lower lip and sucked, Ash hummed in surprise.

Augus’ eyes opened when Ashton stepped closer, and he gave him an uncertain look. Ash couldn’t quite figure out Augus’ reaction to him. Ashton was under his control, if he did anything that Augus didn’t like, a single word would make him stop.

‘If you ask me,’ Ashton said, lowering a hand to Augus’ face and tracing his eyebrows with a steady finger, ‘he looks ready to be fucked.’

‘Hit me up with some lubricant,’ Ash said, and Ashton smirked and walked over to the drawer, coming back and holding it out patiently. Unlike Ash, his movements were far more controlled. They even – to a point – reminded Ash of Augus. But not quite. There was still a playfulness in his eyes, a mischief that Augus showed far less frequently.

‘You,’ Ash said to Nice Ash, ‘you know what to do right? You don’t need any lead-ins from me.’

‘I’ve got this,’ Nice Ash said, voice still muffled.

A click of the cap coming off, and then Ash felt the moment that Augus was breached, riding the line of tension in Augus’ spine, the way his thigh stiffened against Ash’s arm, his calf contracting.

‘Easy,’ Ash purred. ‘Yeah? Be easy for me, Augus.’

‘How thorough do you want me to be?’ Nice Ash said, now that his mouth was mostly free. He descended frequently to kiss his thighs, the base of his balls. Ash watched as Nice Ash rubbed stubble around Augus’ sensitive skin, turning it a flushed, dusky red.

‘Thorough enough that I can be rough,’ Ash said, and Augus shuddered beneath him.

‘I’m still in the room,’ Augus snarled.

Ashton lowered his fingers to Augus’ mouth, snatching them back briefly when Augus went to bite.

‘I want his mouth,’ Ashton said, his voice flat.

Augus’ eyes shot up to him, and he opened his mouth to say something, when Nice Ash started rocking his hand back and forth firmly. Augus swore and then his lips clamped down around whatever noise he’d been about to make.

‘You can have it,’ Ash said, his voice deepening. ‘But he can be a bit mouthy.’

‘I know,’ Ashton said, meeting Ash’s gaze and raising his eyebrows. ‘I’m you, remember?’

Augus opened his mouth to speak and Ashton slid two fingers into his mouth, staring down at him. Ash’s mouth went dry. Augus’ eyes narrowed and then he moaned, distracted by Nice Ash, the sound distorted around Ashton’s fingers.

‘There we go,’ Ashton said, not looking away. Ash looked back over his shoulder and saw that Nice Ash was pumping two fingers into Augus, sucking marks into the soft skin of his thighs. When Augus whimpered, Ash turned back to see Ashton thrusting his fingers back and forth sensuously, hooking over Augus’ bottom teeth before sliding back, pressing deep enough that Augus’ throat spasmed.

A second later, Ashton yelped and jerked his fingers back, inspecting his fingers for blood. Augus panted through Nice Ash’s treatment of him. Nice Ash’s tongue pressed where his fingers moved; hungry, wanting noises coming from between Ash’s thighs.

Ashton glared at Augus, who managed a weak glare in response.

‘Come on, love,’ Ash crooned, smoothing his hands over Augus’ ribs soothingly. ‘Come on. It’s my birthday.’

He interjected a faint whining into his voice and Augus’ eyes slid reluctantly away from Ashton’s. They stared at each other, and then Augus shuddered as Ash’s thumbs scraped over his nipples at the same time as Nice Ash pushed in with particular force.

‘It’s meant to be a bit overwhelming, isn’t it?’ Ash reasoned with him.

‘I know where this is headed,’ Augus said, voice shaking. ‘You want me to…’

‘Yep,’ Ash said, and Augus closed his eyes, face seared with a dusky flush. His spine arched and Ash looked down at the head moving between his legs. He reached out and palmed the back of Nice Ash’s head and hummed appreciatively. ‘How many fingers you got in him now?’

‘I’m…in the…in the room, Ash,’ Augus breathed.

Nice Ash held up three fingers with the hand that had been pushing Augus’ thigh out, and Ash smiled. He turned back to Augus and kissed wetly across his mouth, licking at his lips, rubbing his tongue over his tongue.

‘Don’t come, remember? And let Ashton get familiar with that mouth of yours.’

‘Please,’ Ashton said, looking down at Augus and reaching out, sliding fingers along his cheekbone. Augus shuddered, watched him warily. When Ashton rubbed fingers over his lips, slipping between Ash’s mouth and Augus’, Ash shuddered and mouthed them. Ashton briefly slid his fingers inside of Ash’s mouth, stroking the inside of his cheek, scraping a claw tip very lightly down the centre of his tongue. Ash moved backwards, mouthing a curse. There was a part of him that wished he could afford to do this all the time. Screw Augus, he wanted to experience this for himself. Turned out he really was self-loving.

He looked up at Ashton, who still looked down at Augus, face composed.

Augus must have given some signal, because Ashton slid his fingers back into Augus’ mouth, moving slowly, carefully. Augus rumbled out a groan and Ashton smirked.

‘You like it,’ he murmured. Augus eyes slid closed and Ashton’s fingers slid deeper. His belly spasmed when Ash started pressing kisses to it, open-mouthed, tongue painting spirals and circles across taut skin.

Ash was delighted as they wound Augus up. As the minutes passed, Augus began to tremble, gasping for air around Ashton’s fingers, beginning to make more of those cut off, desperate sounds in his throat. Nice Ash, in particular, was working him over very thoroughly, and at one point Ash slid his hand between Augus’ legs – avoiding his leaking cock, his balls – and felt the place where Nice Ash’s tongue was thrusting into Augus between a gap in the fingers he had inside of him. It left him with a delicious heat, like how he felt when he drank in front of a fireplace, the burn of good whiskey at the base of his throat.

Ten minutes later Augus was covered in sweat, the sounds he was making short, each one of them a plea. Nice Ash looked up first, wiping his palm over his lower face and then licking hungrily at his lips.

‘Do it,’ he breathed. ‘Fuck him. If you push him up to all fours I can help him stay up, if you like? I think he’s gonna find it pretty hard, but it’s the best position for this.’

‘I like the way you think, friend,’ Ash grinned against Augus’ skin.

Ashton undid his pants and drew his cock out – not even bothering to undress properly – as Nice Ash slowly withdrew his fingers and Augus’ spine still twisted, his toes curling on the bed.

‘Where’s that vaunted orgasm control of yours?’ Ash laughed, and Augus whined.

‘I can’t…eat myself out like that,’ Augus said.

‘Well, get it together, brother, because I don’t want you to come yet, hey.’

Ash opened his mouth to say something else when Nice Ash pressed close to his face and then bumped his nose against his cheek.

‘Kiss me,’ Nice Ash said, voice low.

Ash grinned and grabbed him roughly, sinking fingers into coarse curls with a firm grip, tongue-fucking the taste of Augus out of his mouth, not even caring about seduction or nice, neat kissing. He knew what he liked, and outside of the sensual, sometimes delicate kisses with Augus, he liked to make kissing a filthy, vulgar affair. Nice Ash agreed, moaning generously, curling his fingers around the back of his neck.

They withdrew a couple of minutes later. Augus’ breathing had calmed and he was already turning onto his stomach, pushing himself upright.

Ash’s mouth felt like it’d gone dry, even as he could still taste Augus’ musk and the magical, strangely flavoured spit from Nice Ash in his mouth.

Augus looked over his shoulder, raising an eyebrow and smirking tiredly.

‘I did hear you.’

His eyes drifted to Nice Ash, who looked stunned. Augus’ smirk stretched into something that was almost a smile.

‘At least I know it’s appreciated.’

Augus bowed his spine, pushing his hips up, and then dropped his head to the bed and laughed in despair.

‘I’m going to regret this,’ he added.

‘You’re singing our themesong, bro,’ Ash said, getting into position behind him and running his palms up and down the back of his thighs generously, following the contours of lean muscle, scraping lightly where his buttocks met his upper thighs. Augus shivered and his forearms shifted on the bed, he pushed his hips back. ‘You’re not normally this forward.’

‘It’s your birthday, isn’t it?’ Augus said. ‘If it’s only going to happen once…well. Happy birthday, brother.’

He sighed when Nice Ash began kissing his flank, scraping his teeth across skin and making Augus shudder.

‘Also,’ Augus gasped, ‘I’d like to come soon.’

Ash thought he was too coherent – he was aiming for an incoherent Augus, only able to manage sounds. He fisted his cock in his grip, applying lubricant to the head, knowing that Augus was already well slicked. He rubbed himself up and down the seam of Augus’ ass, letting the blunt head catch on his opening, listening to the way Augus’ breath hitched. He slid down and bumped heavily into the space behind his balls and Augus’ fingers clenched at the blankets.

‘You do feel a little wound up there, Augus,’ Ash purred, and Augus didn’t say anything, head bowing.

Ashton stepped closer, palming the back of Augus’ head. The calming gesture wasn’t lost on Ash, and he found himself feeling more well-disposed towards him; even though he still couldn’t really work him out.

Nice Ash licked into Augus’ armpit, making Augus moan, and Ash slid into Augus slowly, pressing one hand firmly into Augus’ lower back, forcing him into a steep curve. Augus cried out as Ash hilted himself in that slick furnace of heat. His hips shifted, his legs splayed further. Ash rubbed at his lower back and then withdrew a couple of inches and pushed in hard, rocking him forwards. Augus’ breath was pushed out of his lungs, his shoulders shook.

‘Keep him up,’ Ash said roughly, and Nice Ash nodded, shifting so that he was half underneath Augus, holding him up with one arm and licking and biting at his chest.

He started a persistent, fluid rocking at first, knowing that he couldn’t be too rough while Ashton was still getting into position. He wasn’t even sure this would work. Augus could say that he knew it was Ash’s birthday, but Ash remembered very well just how resistant Augus had been the first – and only – time he’d ever gotten a cock in Augus’ mouth. But that didn’t mean it wasn’t worth the attempt, and judging by the hungry, lustful look on Ashton’s face, the schema was certainly going to try.

Ashton lifted Augus’ head by the chin and then slipped fingers between his lips. Beyond that, Ash couldn’t tell exactly what was going on until Ashton stepped closer and rubbed his cock over the side of Augus’ face.

‘Take him, Augus,’ Ash husked out, and Augus looked back over his shoulder towards Ash. His eyes were dazed, pupils blown with lust, but there was something concerned in his gaze.

‘Nope,’ Ashton said, turning his face back. ‘Don’t look at him, look at me. You’re going to be fine, Augus.’

Augus choked on a moan when Ash swirled his hips. He shuddered as Ash scraped a line down his spine with is fingernails, all the way from the top of his neck to the place where his cock moved back and forth.

‘How’s that sensory overload going, bro?’ Ash said, and Augus shook his head, panted.

‘Concentrate,’ Ashton demanded, and then shifted his position in front of Augus’ face.

Ash heard the exact moment that Ashton must have slipped the tip of his cock between Augus’ lips. His panting disappeared, replaced by muffled breathing, a harsh exhale and inhale through his nose. Ash grinned, met Ashton’s dark gaze, and then thrust hard, rocking Augus’ mouth forward so that he had no choice but to take Ashton deeper. Augus made a wet sound of surprise, and Ash repeated the motion as Ashton’s hands came up and cradled Augus’ face.

‘Fuck,’ Ashton drawled. ‘Fucking hell, that’s really nice.’

Ash started a shallow, rough rhythm, groaning at the feel of it, one hand drawing Augus back into him, the other smoothing over his lower back. Beneath him, around him, Augus trembled, his breaths choked and muffled. At points, his muscles strained beneath Ash’s hand, he tightened like he was trying to push Ash out of him, and Ash grinned, knowing that Augus was wound up and had nowhere to go. He licked at his lips hungrily and leaned forwards, catching Ashton’s gaze.

Ashton leaned in and their lips met over Augus’ bowed body. Ashton bit at his lower lip, hard enough that he almost split the skin, and Ash – not normally into pain at all – felt his cock throb heavily inside of Augus’ body.

But then Augus made a strangled, shocked sound and struggled backwards, away from Ashton, getting his mouth free despite Ashton’s attempts to keep him in place.

He gasped for breath, panted. Ashton tried to move his cock back into position and Augus knocked his hands away.

‘Fuck…off,’ Augus gasped, and then moaned when Ash didn’t stop moving. ‘Ash.’

‘You okay?’ Ash said, never stopping what he was doing, not liking the pissed off look that had crept across Ashton’s face.

‘I don’t deep throat,’ Augus managed, each word coming out on a breath.

Ashton stroked Augus’ face and Augus jerked away, only for Ashton to catch it in a firm, careful grip.

‘You can do anything if you put your mind to it.’

‘Hey,’ Ash said, rocking forwards and frustrated that he couldn’t just lose himself in the sensations. ‘Hey, take it easy, alright?’

Ashton glared at him, but then nodded once, curtly.

‘Augus, you good to keep going?’

Augus didn’t seem to be concentrating. Between Ash fucking into him lazily and whatever Nice Ash was doing to his chest, Augus’ head was bowed again, hair falling around his face. Ashton slid a palm over the back of his head once more and Augus stiffened, shuddered, his arms buckled. Nice Ash made a sound beneath them, pushed Augus back into place.

‘There, love,’ Nice Ash said, voice muffled against skin. ‘I’ve got you.’

Ash shivered to hear the words he associated with himself spoken by someone who was him, but not quite him. He was tired of thinking and closed his eyes, sinking into the rhythm of what he was doing, feeling Augus’ entrance pulling on his cock, viced by heat, surrounded by the scent of their sex; the faint siltiness of Augus’ sweat and the freshwater taste of Augus in the back of his mouth, as though he’d just swallowed his come, which he hadn’t. Sense memory assailed him and he found himself having to hold back his own release which tried to draw up tight in his balls, turned him into heat and hardness.

He looked down, mouth opening, when he saw that Ashton’s cock was back in Augus’ mouth again, bobbing back and forth carefully, even as Augus was being held up by Nice Ash’s arms and making sounds like he was wounded. He could feel Augus clenching around him haplessly, knew he was close, felt it in the constant bunching of muscles underneath his fingers.

‘Hold back, Augus,’ Ash crooned. ‘Come on, you’re always…always asking everyone else to do it.’

Augus moaned brokenly, and Ashton met Ash’s eyes and smirked. He had one hand over the back of Augus’ head, the other keeping his jaw tilted at the right angle. A part of Ash wanted Ashton to just sink deep, to force his cock in, watch as Augus struggled between the two of them, unable to get free, pinned like a butterfly on a board. He groaned, forced himself to look down, watched his cock moving back and forth and wanted to extend this moment for days. Augus would never be able to handle it.

‘Fuck,’ Ashton said, voice shaky, as the minutes drifted by.

‘You gonna spill?’ Ash said, not looking at him, eyes closed. ‘Do it in his mouth.’

Augus made a sound of protest, but it must have been too late – or perhaps the command that Ash had issued controlled Ashton’s release. Augus jerked when Ashton pressed deeper, made a choking sound, his body tensed and one of his arms came up off the bed, pushing at Ashton’s pelvis. Ash pressed deep and couldn’t – in that moment – bring himself to stop, listening to the sound of Augus trying to swallow fast enough as Ashton groaned deeply, murmuring something under his breath that Ash didn’t quite catch. He was distracted by the way Augus’ ass clenched tight around him. He patted absently at Augus’ back, noticed a stray hand – Nice Ash – soothing Augus’ flank.

‘Swallow it all, Augus,’ Ashton crooned, and Ash’s cock twitched.

‘Well, fuck,’ Ash rasped, starting to move again, unable to stop himself.

Augus scratched hard enough at Ashton’s pelvis that he drew blood, and Ashton stepped away, lips turned up in a half-smile, pressing his palm to the wounds in his skin. Augus went down to one arm, gasping and coughing. When Ashton placed a palm on the back of Augus’ head, Augus growled and jerked away once more.

‘Leave him,’ Ash said, and Ashton gave Augus one long, considering glance and then walked back to the wall where he leaned against it, watching everything that was happening, pressing his shirt to the wound over his skin.

‘What about me?’ Nice Ash said, easing out from underneath Augus so that Ash could see his red, flushed face.

‘Whatever you like, darling,’ Ash said, voice hoarse. Nice Ash seemed not to push at any sort of boundaries, and he touched Augus with a careful reverence, a look in his eye that was worshipful. Nice Ash smiled at him – nothing mischievous on his face at all – and then Augus shouted. It took Ash a moment to realise what had happened, until he felt fingers fluttering friendlily where his cock was sliding into him, and realised that Nice Ash must have wrapped a hand around Augus’ cock, his other hand floating around his perineum, the back of his balls.

‘Ash, I’m going to c-’

His voice was deliciously ruined.

‘You can do better than that, Augus. You’re not even trying,’ Ash said, laughing. ‘Just wait a bit longer, okay?’

‘Can’t,’ Augus said, voice weak. ‘Can’t, can’t, I-’

His body stiffened and Augus pressed his forehead to the blankets and wailed a sound that scraped over Ash’s heart, would stay there forever. He jerked and spasmed, and Nice Ash petted him again, stroked the outside of his thigh with one hand and – Ash guessed – likely jerked him off with the other. Ash had to slow down as Augus tightened around him, draped both of his arms over Augus’ back and rubbed circles into his shoulders, chest pressed against his skin, sticking to his sweat.

Augus’ release went on for some time. Afterwards he pressed the side of his face to the bed and panted. Ash could still see Ashton’s come around his mouth, a pale, greenish sheen sticking to his lips. He reached with his hand and thumbed at it, and Augus’ eyes squeezed shut, his lips thinned.

‘Let me,’ Ash murmured. ‘Come on, let me.’

Augus relaxed his mouth and Ash wiped the spill away, then slipped his come covered thumb into Augus’ mouth. Augus’ eyes opened, a lidded, unimpressed gaze rolled to his and he kept his mouth slack, didn’t suck or respond.

Ash glanced up to Ashton briefly, who was staring at Augus with a dark hunger on his face, holding his cock with his other hand.

He felt faintly uneasy, slid his thumb out of Augus’ mouth and wiped it on the sheet instead. He braced himself on Augus’ hips and slid free, Augus making a hollow sound like he’d been punched in the gut.

‘You haven’t come,’ Augus said, not lifting his head from the bed.

‘You want me to?’ Ash said, and looked down when he felt a hand stroking his thigh. Nice Ash had reached around.

Damn, you are a generous little shit, aren’t you? Ash flashed him a grin and Nice Ash winked back, tickling his fingers at the underside of Ash’s cock, before trailing his thumb to the head of him and rubbing over it, keeping him hard.

‘Mm,’ Augus moaned. ‘Please. It’s your birthday, isn’t it?’

‘You don’t believe in birthdays,’ Ash husked, moving back into position, heat moving through him like honey. Augus moaned thickly as Ash slid back in, and Ash found himself groaning because Nice Ash had wrapped fingers around the base of his cock, then cupped his balls, pushing them up and causing a detonation of pleasure in his gut. Ash bucked forwards unthinking and Augus hissed, Nice Ash hummed happily.

He kept his thrusts liquid, smoothing his hand over Augus’ back, tracing into dips and over curves, appreciating how Augus was both lithe and boneless beneath him.

Nice Ash’s fingers trailed from Ash’s balls to the back and forth slide of his cock. Then his hand disappeared and Ash closed his eyes, focused only on his brother, the heat of him, how much looser Augus had become now that he was already spent and Ash wasn’t moving too roughly. For a moment, he wished the others weren’t in the room with him. His head was all over the place. He wanted Augus ruined. He wanted to curl up at his back and hold him protectively.

‘Fucking hell, Augus,’ Ash said roughly. ‘You don’t know what you do to me.’

Augus moaned in agreement.

It wasn’t until newly slick fingers moved up against his cock that he realised Nice Ash’s fingers had moved away and come back again. He opened his eyes, looked down, and Nice Ash was petting Augus’ ribs with one hand and the other quested towards Augus’ entrance meaningfully, something curious, hopeful in his eyes.

Ash slowed down his thrusts and then paused, mouth opening on a wet exhale, because oh, he wanted that. Wanted to know if Augus would writhe or pant or something else.

‘Careful though,’ Ash warned, and Nice Ash nodded vigorously.

‘Hey baby,’ Ash said to Augus, ‘just hold still a moment, okay?’

Augus didn’t move, arms sprawled out by his head, back rising and falling on heavy breaths.

Ash spread Augus’ ass cheeks, and thrust a few times, shallowly, watching as Augus’ ass swallowed him and closing his eyes at the bliss of it. But when he felt blunt fingers tracing the rim of Augus’ ass where it met his cock, he looked down again, he didn’t want to miss this at all. Augus made a sound of discontent beneath him, and Ash absently hushed him, thumbs digging into the muscles of his ass, keeping him spread.

‘Do it,’ Ash said, and Nice Ash pointed his index finger and pushed inexorably, forcing room. Augus whined but otherwise, surprisingly, didn’t move. At least, not until Nice Ash’s finger slipped in, slid deeper, making space. He shifted abruptly, tensed, made a sharp sound.

‘I can’t, Ash,’ Augus said, his voice catching in his throat. ‘I can’t, I- fuck.’

Nice Ash slid his finger back and forth, changing the angle so that he was stretching Augus out even further, and Ash moved with the motions, shallow thrusts that made Augus twitch.

The second finger pushed in faster than Ash expected, and Augus’ body twisted like he was trying to find a more comfortable position. His legs splayed out further, breathing turned heavier on the exhales. He shook his head, damp mane clinging to his back, the bed, his shoulders. Sweat glistened on his body.

Ash thrust faster, deeper, and Nice Ash did the same. Augus shifted beneath them, held up by Ash’s grip on his ass, occasionally muttering fractured syllables that never resolved into words. He pulled the bedspread towards him, wrinkled it around his head without realising, cried out long into the bed.

Nice Ash pushed a third finger in and Ash started fantasising about what they could really do to Augus – so much possibility – because if Augus could take this much, then it was possible that-

‘Lotus,’ Augus cried out, the word a hard rasp.

‘Stop,’ Ash said to Nice Ash, stilling, not withdrawing. Fear swirled through him, worry, even as Nice Ash paused – fingers still inside Augus’ ass, unmoving. ‘Hey, hey, Augus. Too much? You want to say the other one?’

‘No,’ Augus gasped. ‘Just…’

He shifted again, writhed, hands clenching and unclenching.

‘Fuck, I don’t know,’ Augus said, voice breaking.

‘Okay,’ Ash said, wincing and withdrawing slowly. ‘Okay, we’ll stop.’

‘No,’ Augus said, voice sharper. Heat flared through it, even anger. Ash pursed his lips speculatively and then leaned forwards slowly, cock pushing deeper by increments into Augus’ body.

Augus wailed into the bed.

‘Oh, love,’ Ash breathed. ‘Oversensitive? I can feel you moving around me, you know. You glove my cock so fucking well. Do you think you’ll come again?’

‘He’s got a semi,’ Nice Ash said helpfully from his vantage point half underneath Augus’ pelvis. Nice Ash shifted his fingers against Augus’ cock, and Augus made a sound like the breath had been knocked out of him.

‘You know what I think?’ Ash purred, ‘I think you’ve never been this stretched before, have you, brother?’

Even as he said it, he realised with a flash of unease that it wasn’t true. He saw – an unwanted, intrusive image that was like charcoal in his mouth – how badly Augus had torn himself, stuffing himself full of sex toys and high on aphrodisiacs and Ash hardly able to listen to the panic and pain in his voice. He stilled, took a deep breath, another, tried to concentrate.

He didn’t want two cocks inside of Augus, he realised. A part of him did, but that part of him would have once thrilled at Augus ruining himself via aphrodisiacs, delighted in taking away all control, revelled in too much pain. He looked up at Ashton, who watched from the corner with a dark, knowing expression on his face.

Augus was still moaning, writhing beneath them both. Too taken up in sensation to be aware of any of Ash’s thoughts, and Ash sunk himself into texture; the feel of Augus’ skin beneath his fingertips, the way his ass dipped under his thumbs, heat around his cock, Augus’ knees resting on the outside of his knees, their skin connected by sweat. He flared his nostrils and took up the earthy, rich scents of sex – come, sweat and more. He could scent the magic in the air from the schema crystal and the two Ashes around him.

He groaned softly, reached down and stroked Nice Ash’s arm.

‘Let me help,’ Nice Ash said, voice husky.

‘Wrap your hand around his cock,’ Ash said. ‘Stroke him how you know he likes it.’

‘Slow,’ Nice Ash whispered. His arm shifted and Augus shuddered, lurched forwards, small, high sounds on every exhale.

‘Gorgeous,’ Ash murmured. ‘Perfect. Keep doing that until he comes. Don’t speed up, got me?’

‘And here?’ Nice Ash said, twitching his fingers between Augus’ ass and Ash’s cock.

‘Keep them in. Move when you feel like you’re not gonna overload him more, got it?’

‘Tame,’ Ashton observed from the corner.

‘Still hot though,’ Ash gasped, not looking at him.

And it was hot, Augus overloaded and not backing out and allowing himself to be ruined by sensation, his voice breaking as Nice Ash jerked him off, kept his fingers in the tightness of him, stretching him, never letting him forget that he was there. Crying out as Ash pushed in, making sounds like he’d been hurt, waking conflicting instincts of protection and predation, both swirling through him like whiskey, taking up his thoughts and turning them honey-gold.

He smiled, moaned happily when he realised how close his orgasm was, when he felt the molasses thickness of it, sluggish and warm. He held it back, would turn into it when Augus was ready.

Augus was dry sobbing when his orgasm approached. His mouth shaped words that were pleas, Ash’s name, cries of ‘can’t’ alongside ‘gods, more.’ His body quivered. Ash felt like he was holding him together, making sure he didn’t fly apart. Nice Ash kept up his slow rhythm, though his body arched and he groaned like he was aching. Ash looked down at his flushed, dark cock between the thatch of curls at his legs and wished he had a hand free. He thought about asking Ashton but decided against it.

Augus keened when he came, legs starting to collapse, held up only by Ash’s hands on his hips. Ash’s bedspread tore, and Ash kept moving in that increasing tightness, letting his own orgasm come at him – not like the ruining beast of Augus’ – but like a gentle tide. It washed through him, turned his world to sparks and mellifluous colour and he sighed, humming as his cock jumped and spurted its release, more pulses being drawn out of him with each thrust he made. Everything was heat and he gasped softly through it, feeling oddly touched when Nice Ash’s thumb stroked gently along his sensitised cock, blinking alert and looking down at him.

Nice Ash smiled back up at him, winked despite his flushed face, the arousal marking him.

Ash slid to a halt in Augus’ ass and stroked him gently with one hand before reaching down to Nice Ash’s cock and baring his teeth on a predatory grin. Nice Ash gasped, stiffened, didn’t look away, hazel eyes meeting his own and flashing with an odd, needy light.

‘You feel great,’ Ash said, grinning at his own joke, and Nice Ash laughed and then stiffened as he began to come, shooting release over his stomach, the whitish liquid sheening green as it caught the light. Ash milked the rest of his release out of him, then smeared his thumb over Nice Ash’s still hard cock, taking up the rest of his come from an oversensitive tip. Nice Ash shuddered, his back arched, he trailed a hand down his own chest and closed his eyes, sighing shakily.

Ash drew the come to his lips, licked at it curiously.

It tasted nothing like him.

‘Magic is really fucking weird,’ he said to himself.

Augus groaned in agreement.

Ash withdrew slowly, Augus collapsing to his side, chest heaving. Ash wanted to check if he was bleeding, but there were no signs of blood on his cock, and he realised that – all in all – they’d gone pretty easily, no matter how intense it all felt. Ash moved over Augus, crowding him with his arms, pressing his face into the side of Augus’, licking gently at his ear, swirling his tongue inside, before trailing it down his cheek and kissing at the sharp curve of his cheekbone.

‘Thank you,’ Ash husked.

‘S’it over?’ Augus murmured.

‘Not yet, unless you want it to be. But we’ll go slow. I was thinking maybe a massage like before, remember? I have some oil I could heat up, and we could work out some of the kinks I’m sure you have after all that.’

Augus reached up with a lazy hand and grasped clumsily, roughly at Ash’s curls, twisting his head and dragging him down for a wet, thorough kiss. His tongue licked inside, twining with Ash’s, hand flexing and releasing in Ash’s hair, kneading him almost like a cat. Ash bit softly at his lips, then sealed his mouth over Augus’ and kissed him until Augus’ spine arched and one of his legs came up, wrapping around Ash’s thighs.

Best. Birthday. Ever.

Chapter Text

Augus

*

He wasn’t asleep, exactly, but drifted in a doze as though being rocked gently beneath the water. Three hands touched him. Ash folded him in his arms, and one of the other ones stroked his back, running his fingers through the ends of his mane. He felt thoroughly seen to. He ached, though he wasn’t quite as exhausted as he’d been in the past. It turned out that three Ashes still weren’t as taxing as Ash had once been back when he’d steamrolled past everything Augus wanted, and engraved his own desires deep into Augus’ marrow.

He was sore; though not as sore as he’d expected to be when he’d first seen the products of the schema crystal that Ash had purchased. Two more Ashes that were patently not him. One practically a sycophant, the other…

Augus turned his head, looked up and saw the third Ash still standing in the corner, staring at him. Augus glared back. That Ash – whatever it was – raised the hairs on the back of his neck, made him want to stand and fight, made him want to shift. It was an odd instinct to have. The darker hair, the unblinking, bright, greener gaze – Augus knew that this was more the Glashtyn than just ‘Ash,’ and it left him queasy to know that he’d had his cock in his mouth, as well as his come, his tongue, his teeth pressing against his collarbone. Everything about that Ash was possessive, predatory, hurtful.

He didn’t want to be the one to look away first, but it was clear that all the creature – the third Ash, the Glashtyn – wanted to do was stare. He could feel his gaze prickling over his body when Ash worked him over, and it was only as things progressed that he’d been able to lose himself in sensation, but even so, as soon as his conscious mind came back to him, he became aware of it again.

He made himself look away, instincts flaring.

He wasn’t going to let that one touch him again. Ash at least seemed to understand that much, hadn’t pushed the issue. Perhaps – Augus thought – Ash was as disturbed by seeing this predatory manifestation as he was.

Ash’s lips – tasting of home where the others didn’t – moved sleepily over his own. Dragging lazily, still sensual, capturing his top lip and sucking it lightly, before giving his bottom lip the same treatment. Augus made a small, unconscious noise in the back of his throat and leaned closer, sighed through his nose when Ash cradled his head with one hand, thumb brushing over his cheekbone, the curve of his ear, fingers massaging lightly where his waterweed grew out of his scalp. It sent warm laces of ribbon all the way through him, and he moved even closer, skin sticking to Ash’s skin, a sated ache in his gut.

He’d never realised how much he required Ash’s scent, the taste of him, until he was made to swallow that electrical, magic-laden come, until he had the saliva of another in his mouth. It felt clinical. For a moment he’d felt less like a brother and more like he was at work, trying to decipher what might best please himself and his client, what the strategy might be to elicit truths and healing. The others lacked that silty base note Ash carried in both his scent and his flavour, the savoury musk of his cock that was thick and heavy, and even vaguely unpleasant when he’d been drinking. The brighter signs of fresh water in his come, his saliva, the reminder that he too was born in the dark, depths of a lake, that he was born to a clan of fae that reigned over the few naturally occurring loci of fresh water in the world.

His nostrils flared, he inhaled deeply, liking the slight bitterness of Ash’s scent, the sour-fresh mesh of the both of them.

He was stretched open, sore, the back of his throat bruised. But it was once, Ash’s birthday, and he could do once.

Stupid things always seemed to happen around Ash’s birthday, after all.

More lazy kisses and he lost himself in them. Ash was in no rush, and they both licked slowly at each other – over the lips, into each other’s mouths, slicking their tongues side by side. It was wet, messy, delicious.

Before he knew it, he’d drifted from a doze into sleep, and the world turned dark and soft around him.

*

He woke to the door clicking shut. Some ancient, feral instinct jolted inside of him, forcing his eyes wide, leaving his heart thumping an unsure, wary beat. He turned quickly, alone on a bed that was still warm on either side. The only other person in the room was the Ash he didn’t like.

‘They’ve gone to heat up the oil, yeah?’ the third Ash said, a half-smile on his lips.

‘And you, the loyal watchdog?’ Augus said, wondering where his clothes were. He wanted to reach for the blanket and pull it up to cover himself and then realised how that would look, how submissive that would appear. He was one of the strongest waterhorses the fae had ever seen. He submitted to no one.

Except your brother.

Augus resisted the urge to snarl.

The third Ash took a step closer, and Augus felt his skin prickle with gooseflesh and rued it. He felt threatened. He was supposed to be the one doing the threatening. His teeth felt sharper in his mouth.

‘I never get to eat enough,’ the third Ash said, his voice a lazy croon. ‘You know what that’s like, don’t you? Forcing both of us into this…starvation diet. What happened to you, do you think, brother, that you made us like this? That I can’t just…eat…whenever I like?’

‘Oh, you are much closer to the original Glashtyn, aren’t you?’ Augus said, smiling, allowing a predatory light to enter his eyes.

‘I’m just a guy who’s really fucking hungry,’ the third Ash said, stepping closer until his knees rested against the bed. Augus slid off the other side, standing straight, a mattress between them. He wondered if he should get Ash. Decided against it. ‘And that’s because of you.’

‘Is it?’ Augus raised an eyebrow. ‘You mean you have no autonomy at all? How does it feel knowing you’re the facsimile of the original? Or – wait – the magic doesn’t really let you think about it, does it?’

‘Nope,’ the third Ash said – almost cheerfully. ‘It just lets me think about how hungry I am.’

The movement was fast, and Augus was moving out of the way before he was aware of moving. The third Ash leapt, and Augus ducked, then felt a bolt of confusion when he hit the floor hard, landing badly on his wrist, rolled quickly to his back. He struggled, unsure of what had happened, and felt claw-tips digging into his cheek and a palm over his mouth, a hand wrapping around his throat.

‘Shhh, shhh, brother,’ the third Ash whispered. ‘Wouldn’t want to spoil the birthday surprise, would we?’

Augus tried to bite at the skin of his palm and stilled when he felt a knee slip between his bare legs, pressing threateningly against his balls.

‘Ash wanted to be happy today,’ the third Ash said, reproach in his voice. ‘It’s just one damned day after all that you’ve fucking put him through. All that angst over food and eating. All the misery. Hundreds of years of confusion and misery because you couldn’t just make a decision and either kill him, or raise him like you were supposed to.’

The knee dug up into his balls and caused a sickening swoop of pain to fall like a stone into his gut. Augus tried to wriggle backwards, the hand around his neck tightened.

He should struggle more, he knew he should, but it was hard underneath that hazel-green gaze, difficult to remember what he was supposed to do.

‘Something broke you early and you aren’t even a goddamned runt. Beats me how you’re so fucking powerful and can’t function the way you’re fucking supposed to. I mean – seriously – you ever wonder why you are the way you are? He does. He wonders it about you, I mean. You’re just so weak beneath all that posturing, aren’t you? And you know it. You know. That’s why you whined about it the other day. Poor Augus, wants to be so separate from what he really is that he gave himself a first name. Imagine that!’

The third Ash chuckled richly, pressed his lips against Augus’ nose in the parody of an affectionate kiss. Augus tried to jerk away, and the third Ash bit the tip of his nose so hard that Augus’ eyes watered.

‘I don’t love you,’ the third Ash snarled, scraping his teeth down his cheekbone as Augus struggled. ‘I want you dead. I want that lake. I want you gone. Hundreds of years we’ve put up with you and you’ve had all your stupid, piece of shit rules. You don’t even know what it’s like to be really broken.’

The knee jammed up so hard against his balls that it was a delayed lightning strike of pain and he yelped, struggling hard, calling on his waterhorse strength and needing to get his mouth free, anything. He was surprised when it didn’t work, called on more of his strength, his weight, only to be pinned and held still, laughter sounding softly in his ear.

‘I’m a fucking waterhorse too, broski,’ the third Ash said. ‘I can do it too. And guess what? I might not be as strong as you in waterhorse form, but I wrestle. And you fucking don’t. Guess who’s stronger right now?’

Augus’ eyes widened and he tried to flip his body over, then shouted in pain behind a damp palm when the knee withdrew slightly and rammed up.

He couldn’t move, toes curling, winded.

‘Now you settle the fuck down like a good colt,’ the third Ash rumbled. ‘Let me get some of this hunger out of my system, yeah? Jesus, you’ve even tried to fucking tame us in this, haven’t you? Safewords. You disgust me. You both do. This isn’t the way it’s supposed to be, and you both know it, and you let yourself – stop moving.’

Augus had enough presence of mind to know he could move again and forced himself through the pain, eventually managing to scrape supernaturally sharpened teeth down the third Ash’s palm, drawing a welter of blood that fell directly into his mouth, tasting of nothing more than magic and electricity – burnt carbon on his tongue. The third Ash made a strangled sound, whipped his hand away.

‘Ash!’ Augus gasped, but he was too winded, he couldn’t get any volume.

The third Ash laughed as he punched Augus in the side of the face, and Augus flipped bodily and managed to unseat him enough that he could drag himself away. His head throbbed. He felt his waterhorse form there, waiting, but instincts told him not to do that – not yet, soon, if he had to. The waterhorse never liked to show itself before others.

‘Ash!’ Augus shouted again, trying to get himself up onto his hands. His arms weren’t working properly. What was wrong with him? He growled in panic, the sound reverberating in the room.

‘Why, but that’s my fucking name, lover!’ the third Ash said in cheerful abandon, looming over him before reaching out with a hand and dragging him upright with a fist in his mane. Augus scratched out blindly, panicking, shouting Ash’s name again, hating the laughter he heard every time he did it.

‘Hawthorn!’ he shouted, finally managing to get some volume behind the word. ‘Hawthorn! Hawthorn! ASH!’

The sound of running. It was hard to concentrate. He was drawing blood, he was being hurt. Had he been scratched? He didn’t know. A door flew open and he heard concerned shouting and he looked away long enough that he got scratched down the side of his face; ugly jagged rents that moved down to his neck, even as Ash ran past them both and slammed the heel of his palm into something that cracked, broke.

Augus fell, unsupported, to the ground. He could hear his breathing, Ash’s breathing, looked around wildly, it was just the two of them.

Augus stared at Ash in confusion, then realised that Ash had broken the schema crystal. Ash held his hand to his chest, blood dripped from it.

‘You cut yourself,’ Augus said, voice hoarse.

‘Oh my god,’ Ash said, staring in horror. ‘Oh my god. Oh fucking Jesus. What have I done? Fucking- Are you okay? Augus? Are you okay?’

‘Calm down,’ Augus said, pushing himself up onto the bed as white bursts of pain exploded up and down his spine. He sat gingerly, wanting to feel between his legs to see if any damage had been done to his balls and not willing to do that while his hands were still covered in blood. He wasn’t even sure who it belonged to.

He was working hard to compartmentalise the pain, to stay functional. It was like damming a flash flood.

‘Look at what I did to you!’ Ash’s voice breaking badly, and suddenly there were shaking hands not quite touching his head, not quite touching his chest, his hands. ‘Oh fuck. Oh, fuck, what do you need me to do? What do you-’

Calm down,’ Augus said again, taking several shaking breaths. He pressed the back of his hand to his forehead. He felt disoriented. ‘It wasn’t you.’

‘It might as well have been. I was only gone for a few- I was only-’

Ash’s voice shook, turned wet, and Augus looked up to see Ash press two hands to his face, one still dripping blood – now trickling red down his wrist. His shoulders heaved, and Augus frowned. His mind started to pick up the pieces, but it was happening too slowly.

‘We can’t do this anymore,’ Ash said behind his palms. ‘We can’t. I’m destroying you. I can’t keep fucking-’

‘It wasn’t you,’ Augus said, wanting to stand, to draw Ash down to the bed with him. He felt too bruised to move. There was something in the fervent way that Ash had spoken that struck off fear in his heart. ‘We can keep doing this. Perhaps we’ll just avoid the schema crystals for a while.’

He wanted to say more, but he felt dizzy, realised that the heavy throbbing pain in his gut wasn’t leaving. He couldn’t keep it back the way he wanted to. His eyes widened in shock as he bent over sideways and retched heavily, pressing a palm to his belly. He retched again, then surprised himself even more when he brought up bile. He could count on one hand the amount of times he’d vomited in the past centuries.

‘Can I…can I come closer?’ Ash said, breathing like he was trying to forcibly hold back tears. ‘Can I check up on you?’

Augus nodded even as his stomach spasmed again. He still felt like he couldn’t catch his breath, pain rocketing through him, getting worse. He tilted sideways onto the bed and then curled around his gut. Groaning, he tried to lift one of his legs onto the bed and couldn’t manage it around the pain.

‘Kneed in the balls…several times. Can you make sure…there’s no damage?’

‘What the fuck?’ Ash breathed, tears forgotten. ‘I…’

Gentle but firm fingers on his knees, pulling them apart and then helping him shift on the bed. He wondered if he should have felt embarrassed, annoyed, but it was Ash. The one who had come when he’d called. Who had shattered the schema crystal. It was incredibly easy to see that he and the magically-made, electricity-scented creature of before were not the same. Even as Augus worried about what the third Ash had said to him – he knew they weren’t the same.

He made a choked sound when Ash encouraged him to spread his legs wider, squeezing his eyes shut at the gentle hushing sounds he heard. Fingers crept up and he cringed, but Ash only lifted his cock out of the way. Augus realised that was sore too.

‘You look bruised already,’ Ash said, voice hitching. ‘Do you want me to get the healer? It’s pretty normal to want to throw up after… after. So, like, if that eases up- but we can get the healer?’

‘No,’ Augus said. ‘Can you help me get my legs on the bed?’

He laughed at how pathetic he felt.

‘Yeah, easy now, this is gonna…not feel great,’ Ash said, and Augus bit the inside of his lip as Ash helped both of his legs onto the bed at the same time. He felt that deep ache in his gut flare, his stomach cramped and he gagged on it – but not enough that he went through the proper motions of vomiting. Once on the bed, he let his legs fall slightly to the side, and then rubbed at the blood on his face as Ash propped his legs up with pillows.

‘This is humiliating,’ Augus murmured.

‘It’s really not,’ Ash said fervently. ‘Not for you, anyway. Hang on.’

Ash returned minutes later, and Augus felt a damp cloth brushing over spots of blood on his abdomen. Ash moved up to where it was drying on his hands. He took his wrist and paid particular attention to his fingers, even rubbing into the creases of his claw beds.

‘A lot less of this is yours than I thought,’ Ash said, though he didn’t sound relieved. Another minute passed and Ash swore under his breath, swore again. He murmured something, and Augus’ hearing sharpened, bent towards catching it.

‘I’m a fucking monster,’ Ash whispered to himself.

‘No,’ Augus said, trying to inject some force into it.

‘Look at what I did to you!’ Ash shouted, and Augus’ eyes opened, he stared – seeing tear tracks on Ash’s face, misery imprinted into his skin even as he quietly cleaned Augus up.

‘I have that part of me too,’ Augus said, turning his hand and lacing his fingers with Ash’s. ‘I have this beast inside of me that doesn’t like the way I live. Doesn’t think I eat enough. Doesn’t like you. Doesn’t like anything except the hunt, tearing things apart, doing it all over again.’

Ash blinked at him, looked horrified.

‘You have that part of you as well,’ Augus said. ‘The Glashtyn lives inside of you no matter what you do. We are what we are, brother. I’ve always told you as much.’

‘And you’re telling me I’m that? That…deep down, I’m just someone who wants to do that to you? This?’

Ash’s voice was breaking again, and Augus realised he wasn’t helping.

Can you help? You can’t unmake him. Can’t undo what he is, even as you would have when he was younger.

‘Ash,’ Augus said quietly, ‘you-’

‘I can’t believe I let this happen. Why am I always letting this fucking happen, why am-‘

‘Will you shut up?’ Augus snapped. ‘Let go of the existential crisis for a minute and listen to me. Ash – you are the one who came running when you heard me calling your name. You are the one who smashed the schema crystal. You’re the one who’s looking after me now. You’re the one who came up with the idea of safewords because you didn’t trust yourself and you didn’t trust me to look after myself; and then when I was resistant, you reminded me time and again to use them. You’ve learned how to listen to me. You’ve…’

Augus shook his head when he realised that all of it was true.

‘We’re making this work, brother. We are. Months ago, if you had asked me, I wouldn’t have believed it was possible. But we are, and mostly because of you.’

‘That doesn’t make this okay,’ Ash said, hands shaking as he kept wiping at the blood on Augus’ forearm.

Augus didn’t remember scratching the other Ash that much, but he must have.

‘It doesn’t,’ Augus agreed. ‘Which is why we’re not doing it again.’

Augus took a deep breath to say something else and caused a flare of pain in his lower back that made him groan. He pressed his head back into the bed.

‘Ah, Jesus fucking Christ, look at me making it all about me again, when you’re the one that took several hits to the ‘nads,’ Ash said, sniffing loudly.

Augus closed his eyes, nodded weakly. A wave of nausea was sending tendrils throughout him again, and dragged something heavier, tangled through his body. He felt infested with bracken. It pushed up through him, left a burning sensation in his eyes, a shaking in his limbs. He lay on the bed, exposed, and it was too much. It had been fine but now it was-

He tried to bring his knees together, to curl up, but there was too much bruising and his breath caught in his throat. A thin sound clung to the room.

‘Hang on,’ Ash said, his voice gentling, still wet. ‘Hang on, I’ve just gotta-’

Footsteps leaving the room, and Augus blinked wet eyes open, stared up at the ceiling as tears leaked from the corners of his eyes. There was still blood on his lips, in his mouth, around his cheeks. The scratch down his face and neck was bleeding. He could feel it leaking warmly into the bed beneath him. The room had smelled of sex, but now it was layered too heavily with the scent of violence, and for once it didn’t cause a corresponding thrill in his blood.

Ash returned with two of the blankets from his lounge and shook them out. He looked speculatively at the bed and then – face twisting when he met Augus’ eyes, something still deeply shaken on his face – he pulled back the edges of the bedspread until they were bunched against Augus’ body. It took some careful manoeuvring – some caught breaths and jags of pain on Augus’ behalf – but Ash managed to lift Augus onto clean sheets and then strip the bedspread and top sheet off the bed entirely, piling them onto the ground. He draped the clean blankets over Augus, then thumbed carefully at the tears on his cheek.

‘It’s just shock,’ Augus said, closing his eyes again, shivering.

‘Yeah,’ Ash said, bitterly. ‘Just shock. Give me a sec.’

Ash took the bedspread and sheet out of the room. A door opened and then closed, and Ash returned with another blanket and layered it over the other two. Augus shifted his legs, felt less exposed, sighed in relief. Ash touched his hairline so gently that Augus winced, and when Ash withdrew his hand with a sharp jerk, Augus frowned.

‘You can touch me.’

‘Can I?’ Ash said, trailing his fingers along Augus’ hairline tentatively. ‘Because it seems like a lot of the time when I do, you get really fucking hurt.’

‘It wasn’t you,’ Augus said, looking at him.

Ash offered a half-smile that had none of its usual cheer.

‘You’re a lot more forgiving of my slights than you should be, brother.’

‘It’s my choice,’ Augus said, glad when Ash returned with the damp cloth and started wiping the blood away from his face in smooth, firm strokes. They pulled at the slashes on his face, caused the pain to increase, but Augus didn’t particularly care. ‘And you need to see to your hand. I can smell your blood from here. You’ll have pieces of crystal embedded in it.’

‘I will in a minute,’ Ash said, pensive.

Time passed, Ash making noises of concern as he cleaned blood away from the scratches and saw how bad they were.

‘What happened?’ Ash asked, following the scratch to where it finished near the top of Augus’ collarbone. ‘Not an ‘Augus summary,’ but really?’

‘You don’t remember?’

‘Nope,’ Ash said. ‘Can’t tell if that’s a good thing or a bad thing right now.’

‘It’s a good thing,’ Augus said, fingers curling into the blankets and drawing them closer. He was being pathetic; he knew that he was. But if there was a time to be indulgent, to seek comfort, it was after a predatory somewhat-clone of the person he loved most had tried to take him apart.

Augus laughed in the back of his throat.

‘Where do you want me to start? Did you know he was more Glashtyn than you from the beginning? The darker hair made me suspicious; even before he started…being more overtly cruel. I didn’t feel right about him from the beginning.’

‘You couldn’t have told me?’ Ash said.

‘I thought you knew, and I thought…I thought you knew and were alright with it, and expected me to be alright with it because it was – as you said – your birthday. You knew I wasn’t fine with him.’

Me,’ Ash said.

‘You’re being obtuse. It’s one of your favourite things to do, I find. You are the Glashtyn. I am the Each Uisge. And in order to become brothers, to live the way we do, we had to become more than that. Our waterhorses aren’t terribly happy about it. You repress your hunger – but it’s not just your hunger, Ash, it’s the beast that lives inside of you. You’ve heard him. You know what it’s like to have him whisper at you before a kill, to tell you to take it that one step further, to do a little more, to eat more frequently.’

‘I just pretend it’s my…’hungry voice,’’ Ash said, sighing. ‘But, okay. Can you tell me what he did?’

‘I woke up, he went on a bit about being hungry, about that being my fault, about us both being…not right for what we are, and then he attacked me. Rather embarrassing to learn – the hard way, I might add – that I’m not as strong as you physically, at least in this form, even when drawing on waterhorse strength. Cue physical injury, some fighting back, and then me shouting for you; the end.’

‘What do you mean he said it was your fault?’

‘I wonder how much of that is true,’ Augus said, his voice smooth, betraying nothing of the shakiness in his chest. ‘Do you wonder about it? Do you think it’s my fault that you feel so much conflict over what you eat?’

‘I didn’t get that from you!’ Ash said, incredulous. ‘I got that because I didn’t want to fucking murder and eat people! Because I was happy before I realised how things were supposed to be! You didn’t make me have to do that. That’s…that’s fucking biology.’

‘A part of you wonders,’ Augus said, swallowing.

‘A part of me tried to fucking murder you,’ Ash snapped. ‘A part of me is clearly batshit and evil as fuck and let’s just be glad for repression and not falling to our basest desires all the time, yeah? Except that I’ve only like, dragged you through the-’

Augus made a sound of frustration.

‘Yes, I’m angry, alright? I’m angry at how you treated me. But you ignoring me, neglecting me, coercing me and more is still notattempted murder – alright? Do you understand the difference? Because even though I know what you are capable of, because you have inflicted it upon me; I also know you would never ever do the things to me that disgusting schema clone did.’

Augus breathed heavily, unable to stop even though each inhale brought on a flash of thick pain.

He waited for Ash to leave. To lose his temper. Something.

‘Cheers for that,’ Ash said, and Augus looked at him, surprised by the smile he heard in his voice. His expression was rueful. ‘No, really.’

Augus opened his mouth, questions on his tongue, and then decided he was too tired, too sore to bother. He closed his eyes, his head dropped back to the bed. Ash feathered fingers through his mane and hummed thoughtfully. It was a sound he’d learned to make from Augus. One of the many traits they shared with each other.

‘Actually, I think I’ve got some of that salve left from the healer. Will probably help with the bruising you’ve got. Sound good?’

Augus made a non-committal sound of agreement and looked for the black well inside of him that would lead to sleep. He wanted to not hurt anymore. His body throbbed.

His last thought before sleeping was that he was right; stupid things really did happen around Ash’s birthday.

*

A day later, some salve, and Augus was feeling much closer to whatever counted as equilibrium these days. He was surprised at how quickly he was recovering, especially with the intensity of all that had occurred. Not just the third Ash’s attack but…even the sex that had gone before. He knew he was doing better now due to Ash’s watchful eye, and Augus’ own awareness of when he got too close to his limits.

Which are, let’s admit, in need of some restructuring.

He treated himself with far more self-deprecating wrath than he would any client. Technically he knew he needed to pay better attention to his limits, but the advice he’d been doling out for years he found very difficult to embrace.

They sat on Ash’s large bed, both sipping at the tea Ash had made.

‘It’s not half-bad,’ Augus said, savouring the warmish liquid.

‘Not as good as yours,’ Ash grinned and Augus shrugged.

‘But you don’t cultivate. If this is the quality that’s growing around your lake naturally because of your energy, you have a lot of potential.’

Ash’s eyes brightened at the praise, but he said nothing and continued to sip. He made a show of it. Lifting his little finger, sipping loudly, in all ways showing that he generally preferred to be drinking soft drink, whiskey, fruit juice or something else. He was trying it because he knew Augus liked it, and Augus was amused at the show he was getting in response.

‘I’ve been contemplating the possibility of apprenticing to a healer,’ Augus said, looking down into the clear, dark green liquid.

Ash paused mid-sip and then put the cup down on the bedside table.

‘What?’

‘Think about it, for a moment. Indulge me. I am competent at herb-lore for freshwater fae. I’ve been making my own poultices, tinctures, salves and more for you, for centuries. My side hobby – not so much a hobby anymore – is trading in rare herbs and ointments in exchange for half the things I own in my house! At least, until I started working as a dominant. And even that – let’s be honest – I found fascinating because it married my predatory nature with healing.’

Ash stared at him, and Augus smirked.

‘I’ve also had new reasons to reconsider the value of healers; given they did save my life recently, and the salve has made things far less painful since I’ve woken.’

‘Yeah, but…healing. You’d have to move out of your home.’

‘I’m an adult, they’d let me return for homestays.’

‘One weekend a month? For years? I’d hardly see you. I’d…’

Ash swallowed, took a deep breath. Augus waited patiently.

‘It’s a big fucking decision, that’s all.’

‘I know that,’ Augus said, putting his own teacup down. ‘That’s why I didn’t do it when I thought of it years ago, when I was younger and you needed me more. But you don’t need me as much now, and I have been thinking that some time apart might do us good.’

Ash swallowed, his cheeks flushed. He looked ashamed. Something hurt crept into the cant of his eyebrows, the way his lips pulled together.

‘I don’t want things over,’ Augus said. ‘But you’ve been right, Ash. I’ve lost all sense of myself, I have no internal compass. I want to be with you, but I don’t want to be an extension of you. I want to do this; apprentice to a healer and then…come home and see you, once a month; unless I really need the space.’

‘We were only seeing each other once a month before this whole clusterfuck happened,’ Ash said. ‘What if I start doing what I-? I mean what if I forget and-?’

‘What if you forget and start assaulting me again? Unlikely; consider also that I may be looking forward to it.’

Augus smiled at expression Ash gave him; uncertainty, hope, trepidation…something in the wideness of his eyes that suggested excitement.

‘You see the merits, don’t you?’ Augus said, his heart-rate picking up. He would have apprenticed even without Ash’s approval, but he dearly wanted it.

‘What colour healer?’

Augus took a breath, he’d been trying not to overthink that side of things. Healers in the fae world were classed by colour, across a broad spectrum.

‘Green or brown,’ Augus said. ‘Though honestly it will depend on who will have me. My knowledge of wortcunning is specialised, not broad. I am…hoping that my knowledge of the way fae minds can work – aside from my own, evidently, and yours – might come in handy too. I may not be accepted, knowing how rigorous the initiatory tests can be.’

‘You’ll be accepted,’ Ash said immediately. ‘You would’ve ages ago and you will now. Oh man, I can see it – you know? But Jesus, I’m gonna miss you. I’m gonna-’

‘No healers will be taking on students for another two months or so, Ash. We have time.’

‘But you want some time apart,’ Ash said carefully, and then lay back on the bed, staring up at the ceiling. ‘Well, as far as things go, I kind of expected worse, y’know. When my evil schema comes up and tries to, I don’t know, murder-rape you, rape-murder you…whatever, usually brothers don’t then go, ‘Sure, buddy, let’s keep this thing going.’’

Augus shifted closer to Ash.

‘I wouldn’t say ‘sure, buddy,’ in the first place.’

‘Got me there,’ Ash grinned.

‘The fucking was good though,’ Augus said, pursing his lips. ‘That sycophantic one seemed alright.’

‘Oh, oh, trust you to be all over the slavish sycophant. Is that what you want more of, hmm?’ Ash turned to his side and nuzzled into Augus’ neck, a ticklish, snuffling weight that made Augus squirm, hum happily. ‘I bet you do. More worship. More ‘Yes, Augus, I’ll do whatever you say, Augus.’’

Ash’s hand came to rest possessively on his hip, and Augus turned into it.

‘More of that, please,’ Augus grinned toothily, deciding more serious matters could wait.

Ash smoothed his hand heavily over Augus’ stomach, starting in the middle of his sternum and ending at his pelvis. Long, soothing strokes that pushed him down slightly into the bed. Augus drifted in the weight of it, the ache in his body spreading out and becoming background noise.

Being a healer meant he’d have to travel. Clients wouldn’t often come to him, he’d be expected to see clients. Ash wanted him to see more of the world, but Augus wanted to spend almost all his time at home. The monster inside of him demanded it, scratched at him for it. Even spending time in his home wasn’t spending time hibernating at the bottom of his lake, and the great waterhorse inside him knew that.

Then again, he’d spent most of his life finding the balance between those different aspects of himself; perhaps he could find it again.

‘I keep expecting the shit to hit the fan,’ Ash murmured. ‘The fact that you’re not more upset, I think, isn’t really a good sign?’

‘I just know it’s not you,’ Augus said. ‘I pray you never truly meet the monster that lives inside me, brother. Because we won’t be brothers on that day.’

Ash shuddered.

‘I’m…not alright,’ Augus said, hesitant. ‘But we know that. Why dwell? We’re moving in a direction I appreciate. That’s all that matters. Do you truly want to wallow? I’ve been stuck most of my life, Ash, because of this mess. I’m tired of it. I could punish you for how you treated me before, but I think you’re punishing yourself quite enough, and I also think you’re showing progress. What more would punishment achieve, except harm?’

‘So you’re…looking forward?’

‘Expanding outwards,’ Augus said, and then decided he very much liked the way that sounded. It resonated like a truth within.

‘Will you ever dominate people again? Take on clients like you used to?’

‘Actually, yes. I didn’t think I would, and I don’t think I want to now, and not for some time; but I think I will again. Anyway. Shut up. You owe me some care, I think.’

He smirked, and then found the expression kissed off his lips as Ash licked his way over them.

‘You got it,’ Ash purred. ‘However long you want.’

Chapter Text

Ash

*

The whiskey was better than he’d expected, given its age and that he’d stolen it from a new distillery. He’d meant to pay, but apparently his reputation of stealing from the fae preceded him and they’d blacklisted him before they’d even given him a chance to show that he was good for it. So instead he decided to live up to the old reputation. Assholes.

He set the tumbler down on a clean counter and went back to chopping the sprouts he’d harvested. He’d taken a vague interest in culinary herbs and edibles over the months that had passed, and was surprised to find that he was caring more about complexity of flavour, the way things could taste. He still preferred things to be sweet – he could make a killer herbed fruit salad that went down a treat with some of the human guests he went home and fucked thoroughly – but he had a decent grasp of Augus’ tastes and was catering to that more as well.

His months had been lonely and full at the same time. Uncomfortable realisations floated alongside all the frivolity and joy he usually carried with him. It meant bending the ear of bartenders and wait-staff, it meant that sometimes he didn’t go out just to fuck but to find someone to talk to, it meant that a few times he scanned the placards of psychologist’s names in the human world on the side of buildings and wondered if it was worth it. He’d tried it before, a long, long time ago. Hadn’t done much for him. But perhaps he hadn’t approached it with the right spirit. He wasn’t sure he would now, either.

A sound of a doorknob turning and Ash looked up, a grin plastering his face and flattening the low thoughts in his mind. He put the knife down and sprang around the counter, walking with a skip in his step because why the fuck not, he was fae after all, best live up to that reputation – whatever it was – sometimes.

The door opened and Augus stepped inside, placing a waterproofed, wooden kit on the floor by his feet, looking up with a weary smile at Ash’s approach.

‘You got it?’ Ash said, stopping and staring at the kit. ‘You got the kit? You’re-’

Augus nodded once.

‘Passed all the preliminary initiations. You’re looking at a level one healer, brother,’ Augus said, shaking water droplets off his collared shirt, off the cuffs, smoothing the material. He looked up and his nostrils flared. ‘You made lunch?’

‘You are lunch,’ Ash said, and Augus stalked towards him, a growl in the back of his throat. Ash’s eyes widened, a rush of anticipation flooded him as Augus pressed himself close to Ash’s body and damp hair.

‘I am hungry,’ Augus said, licking his way into Ash’s surprised mouth. Ash made a sound of enthusiasm and kissed back, letting Augus lead.

That had been happening more in the past eight months. Ash wasn’t sure exactly when it had happened, except, yes he was…

Two months after Augus apprenticed, he’d come to Ash’s house for a surprise visit and entered his house without knocking. That was unusual enough; but Ash hadn’t expected to be straddled in the middle of playing Call of Duty, and he certainly hadn’t expected a hand in his pants, jerking him off with firm, precision strokes as Augus thrust his tongue into his mouth like he’d been leading from the beginning. After that, come in his jeans and on Augus’ hand and licking it off his fingers eagerly while Augus watched him with a lidded expression and a smile of satisfaction on his face, Ash had pushed him to the floor and given him the fastest, dirtiest blowjob he’d ever given anyone, resulting in Augus coming so fast he complained of a stomach ache afterwards.

Since then, Augus took the lead far more often. It was still obvious enough that Augus preferred to be dominated, but the balance was shifting.

Ash wasn’t complaining.

He chuckled when he was backed into the kitchen table. He’d been hardly aware of moving, Augus’ tongue masterful at stealing his concentration and his breath, the hand in his hair massaging with a firmness that Ash enjoyed, even as blood started to thicken his cock and turn his hands warm with the need to grasp, pull. He mimicked Augus’ movements where he held onto his back, and Augus groaned into his mouth.

‘You’re in an awesome mood,’ Ash gasped when Augus scraped teeth all the way down his neck and sucked a mark onto his collarbone.

Augus laughed darkly against Ash’s chest where he’d started to pull down the collar of his shirt, and the sound twisted in Ash’s gut. One of his legs wrapped around the back of Augus’ legs and he turned them both, pressing Augus back into the table and leaning over him, breathing heavily.

‘What’s the occasion?’ Ash said, lifting Augus’ shirt and dragging fingernails up his ribs, watching Augus shiver, his eyes drift shut.

‘I’m not a green or brown healer,’ Augus said, excitement bright in his eyes when he opened them. ‘I’m argent. Master Ytris said I can combine my specialised wortcunning with- ah.’ He gasped again, back arching, absently showing how limber he was. Ash had scraped fingernails over his nipples, wanting to see Augus come apart through all the excitement. Augus’ impish, happy mood was contagious.

‘Specialised healer,’ Ash said, lips quirking up. ‘So not surprised.’

They kissed until Ash’s mouth felt bruised, lips swollen, and Augus’ face was flushed, freckles standing out stark against his cheeks. They’d gotten darker – more time spent outside, travelling, away from his lake.

He hadn’t even gotten to see Augus once every four weeks like he’d initially hoped. They’d both forgotten to take into account the fact that Augus also needed to hunt, and the week-long digestion process took away from his apprenticeship. Augus had to make up time, and Ash only got to see Augus once every six or seven weeks, and he felt the lack.

Augus handled the distance well enough, but Ash could tell he was homesick. He dragged himself away from Augus’ long fingers and the travel-worn, slightly bitter taste of his mouth.

‘Come on, let’s have lunch. Everything will wilt, otherwise,’ Ash said. ‘Listen to how domestic I sound, isn’t it great? I mean, I’ve always been kind of awesome at some of that stuff, but like…I dunno, it’s kind of cool to be making you food. Mister ‘I used to have to do everything for myself and other people.’’

Augus adjusted his erection in his pants, then left his hand on it, watching Ash lazily. He had a shamelessness that Ash appreciated; so rare in the human world. Besides, Ash thought his hand looked really good against his own pants. Ash waggled his eyebrows and Augus flicked a wave at him with the fingers by his cock.

‘Tease,’ Ash grumped, a smile on his face.

‘I have to practice chastity when I’m staying in Master Ytris’ home? I’m just desperately undersexed, brother,’ Augus breathed.

‘Chastity? What the fuck? How come you haven’t told me that before?’

‘It’s so…’ Augus moved away from the table fluidly and stretched his hands behind him, looking around his home, taking in all the details. ‘It’s unpleasant. He’s an ascetic.’

‘You’re so not ascetic,’ Ash muttered, finishing off with the sprouts. ‘Wait, are you supposed to be practicing it on your days off?’

‘He says ‘he can’t stop me,’’ Augus said, air-quoting and rolling his eyes.

‘Wow, the asceticism so hasn’t made a dent in his passive aggression, has it?’

Augus laughed under his breath and pulled several books out of his bookshelf, stacking them on the coffee table. He ran his index finger along the table’s edge, inspecting his finger for dust. But Augus’ home wasn’t like human homes; it was well-preserved by fae magic, there was little dust to deal with. Still, he sighed and looked around again.

‘It feels unlived in. I don’t like it.’

He walked over and picked sprouts off the chopping board, ignoring Ash batting his hand away. Ash’s eyes widened when he realised that he used to do this to Augus all the time, and his vague annoyance was chased away by a rush of affection, knowing there was a strange symmetry in what they had become. He looked up, and Augus was picking things directly out of the salad bowl.

‘Hey, I haven’t dressed that yet!’ Ash said, smacking his hands away and laughing when Augus sauntered out of the way like he’d been about to leave anyway.

‘I want to fuck you,’ Augus said, crunching into a dark green succulent and pinning Ash with a promising stare. ‘That’s what I want. Now, look at me and tell me that doesn’t make you uncomfortable?’

Ash swallowed.

‘Fucking is more than just your cock in my ass. It’s more than just penetration. You’ve…fucked me before.’

‘Then let me be precise,’ Augus said, each word sharp like glass, sliding under Ash’s skin. ‘I want my cock in your ass, brother.’

‘Goddamn,’ Ash said, putting down the knife again. ‘Look, I know you think-’

‘You don’t know what I think,’ Augus said. ‘But I do know it makes you uncomfortable. I don’t want it all the time, or even often. But I want it.’

‘Why? You didn’t before. I mean okay, sure, I’ve been fucked and pegged and bent over things before, but…you know it’s not- You know that’s not my jam, Augus.’ Ash was aware of a faint pleading in his voice.

But he knew that Augus had a right to ask for it. After all he’d done to Augus. Distance between them had made them both more aware that Augus was recovering from some of the things Ash had done. Prostate massage was still an iffy subject, Augus often safewording out of something that he’d once enjoyed; Ash aware that he’d been the one to ruin that.

He only hoped it was temporary.

Augus sniffed at the dressing that Ash had made and dipped his finger into it, lapping at his finger with a conscious sensuality that had Ash shaking his head and realising that at some point…he was probably going to end up with Augus’ cock in his ass.

He’d seen Augus’ cock. It wasn’t small.

‘I want you to know what it’s like,’ Augus said, licking his lips slowly. ‘I want you to know what it’s like when you identify as a top, when you’re also naturally dominating. I want you to know what it’s like when you let someone you love into you like that, like you’ve been…doing with me. That’s why. I want you open, Ash. Open, loose, wanting.’

Ash’s breath shuddered in his lungs and he gripped the counter.

‘I want you to know you’ll be okay, after that,’ Augus purred softly. ‘That you trust me to make that okay for you.’

‘You’re killing me over here,’ Ash laughed.

‘Am I?’ Augus walked around the counter and came up behind him, resting his chin on his shoulder, pressing his chest to his back. ‘You don’t think that would come later when you were coming while I was inside you?’

‘Jesus, Jesus fuck, this is my game,’ Ash said, breathless. ‘You’re not supposed to be the one who-’

‘You so conveniently forget that I used to do it for a living, Ash,’ Augus murmured, trailing two fingers up his side and not stopping until they pressed up into the heat of his underarm, stroking too firmly to be ticklish. Ash stared at the salad.

Guess the tables have turned then.

‘How long have you wanted this for?’ Ash said, and Augus shrugged.

‘Not too long. Long enough that I was a little put off that I couldn’t jack off to it a few weeks ago.’

‘That asceticism, huh?’ Ash said, laughing, as Augus’ other hand slid underneath his shirt and rucked it up, as fingers grasped a handful of his flesh and pulled, possessive. It ached, but it was nothing to the burn of pleasure, the gooseflesh that rose all over his skin. He dropped his head slightly, tried to imagine it, Augus inside of him. He couldn’t. He’d not really allowed himself to think about it. None of the pizza dreams involved Augus approaching him like this.

His cock twitched in interest, but his cock was a sex enthusiast, and Ash was…

…Ash was unusually wary.

‘Is this like…revenge?’ Ash said, wanting to laugh but not finding the energy for it.

‘No,’ Augus said, voice faintly soothing. ‘Not at all.’

‘Because after like, everything, I wouldn’t be surprised if-’

‘Ash,’ Augus crooned. ‘Don’t do that.’

‘You’re always telling me you’re a vengeful fae,’ Ash said, and Augus nuzzled into the side of his neck, scraping teeth across it, nipping. Ash closed his eyes, it wasn’t like the salad really mattered anyway.

‘Maybe it is a kind of revenge,’ Augus said, licking into his ear and pressing his voice right there, making Ash feel threatened, turned on, his cock getting harder and his fingers pressing into the counter like he wanted to push away. ‘But not the kind you’re thinking. You’ve made me feel – shall we say – quite good. Perhaps I just want to return the favour. In this particular way.’

‘Yeah, but-’

‘Ash? Overthinking?’ Augus laughed and dragged clawtips over his belly, causing muscles to twitch. Ash groaned softly. ‘But that’s very much not like you, brother. Perhaps you need help turning off that mind of yours for a little while. And I could dearly, dearly use the break.’

‘Stop it,’ Ash breathed. ‘Stop using that…client voice on me.’

‘No,’ Augus said, laughing. ‘No, I think I’ll keep using it until I have you opening for my cock. Hm? Doesn’t that sound lovely? Come on then, Ash. Indulge me.’

Augus slid his fingers between Ash’s and pulled him away from the counter. Ash laughed again, wanted to be the one racing to the bedroom and found himself not exactly lagging behind, but not moving forward with a spring in his step either. He knew he could say no. He did know that. Though he felt like he owed Augus, somehow. After everything he’d taken from him, how could he say no? How could he say no after tearing so much from his brother in turn?

‘I quite like this,’ Augus murmured. ‘How nervous you are.’

‘Shut up,’ Ash said, blowing a slow exhale out. ‘Just shut up. This is so not my style. And unlike you, I am not a closet fucking masochist. And I really don’t think I’m about to discover like, some hidden latent talent of being a hidden sub or something like that.’

‘I know,’ Augus said. ‘That’s what I like about it. And that’s why we won’t do it often.’

‘Often,’ Ash said, staring at Augus’ bed as they entered his room. Augus let go of his hand and closed the door behind them, unbuttoning his shirt easily, something detached in his motions.

Ash watched him. He suddenly had an idea of what Augus might be like with his clients. Aloof and withdrawn, with that seductive voice and forthright way of saying what he wanted. Directing them where he wanted them, pulling the responses he wished while staying…separate.

He didn’t want Augus to stay separate. Didn’t want their first time doing this to be like…

Yeah, but look at all the things you did that Augus didn’t want in the beginning. You just snowed him. Fucking snowed him. You could at least show some remorse or something and just deal with it. He’s not gonna be like you, is he?

‘Shit,’ Ash whispered.

Augus shrugged off his shirt and draped it over the back of a chair. He undid his belt buckle lazily and met Ash’s eyes as he slid it out of his pants in a fluid movement.

‘I doubt the humans get to see this side of you very often,’ Augus said, sounding pleased. ‘The great Ash Glashtyn, on the back foot, apparently fucked and pegged and bent over things before.’

‘This isn’t the same and you fucking know it,’ Ash said.

‘I do,’ Augus said, undoing the fly of his pants and then pulling them down, stepping out of them, naked and already half-hard and gods, Ash had no idea how long Augus had been entertaining this particular notion but the fact that he was already getting off on it likely meant he was thinking about it even before he got home.

I don’t know if I can do this.

He watched – words pooling in his chest like so much debris – as Augus walked up to him and trailed a hand down his side before curving in and grasping his now limp cock. He pressed the heel of his hand in easily – as though this was something they did all the time – and began massaging. Ash closed his eyes, his mouth opened, heat washed through him.

‘You can say no at any point,’ Augus said, voice less mischievous than before. ‘I mean it.’

‘You mean like, basically, you’re gonna be the opposite of how I was.’

‘Yes,’ Augus murmured, pressing his lips to the stubble on his chin, ‘and also no. I plan on taking you apart quite thoroughly, brother. That’s something we’re going to have in common.’

The hand between his legs was sliding up and unsnapping the button of his jeans one-handed. Sliding down the zipper. Slipping underneath boxers and finding the weight of him. Lukewarm fingers against his cock, massaging friendlily through his pubic hair before grasping him and working him in the tight space. Ash groaned again, his head tilted back. He liked this part. His fingers twitched with the need to grasp, to throw Augus down to the bed, to wrest back control.

He pressed his lips together and forced himself to stay still.

‘You know I would never hurt you, don’t you?’ Augus said, moving his hand, talking like it was casual conversation. His other hand was up by Ash’s face, fingertips playing over his lips, encouraging them to relax.

‘Yep,’ Ash said, and Augus laughed.

‘Sound a little more convincing there, Ash. I only want two things. I want to make you feel good. And I want you beneath me. That’s all. Not revenge. Not to treat you the way you think you deserve to be treated.’

‘Yeah, but when you-’

‘No.’ Augus hooked his thumb into Ash’s mouth and kept his lips apart. Ash growled a sound of frustration. It was hot, it was the kind of thing he would do to someone else. His cock twitched and grew in the tight space of denim and he wanted to take his jeans off, wriggled like he could just make them fall to the ground – but they were tight around his waist, especially with Augus’ hand in there too, and they weren’t going anywhere.

‘That’s all I want. Hm? Don’t pretend I’m some stranger now, Ash. Not after all we’ve experienced. Look at me. Do you think I’m going to hurt you? Really?’

Ash opened his eyes, met Augus’ green ones, saw the lambent light in them that meant that Augus was aroused, that he wanted this. His hips strained into Augus’ hand, breathing heavy and large in his chest.

Augus, the one who had raised him, who had the bad habit of hiding his emotional states from others when it counted and who sounded like pornography when he was being split upon a cock. Who had cared for him when he was sick, hungover. Who always had blankets and fruit waiting for him, even though he never ate fruit.

Something settled in Ash’s chest and he offered a wry smile.

‘Guess I was freaking out a bit there, huh?’

‘A little,’ Augus said, stroking Ash’s jaw. He tugged harder on Ash’s cock and jerked a sound from him. A low grunt. ‘I want you to undress for me and then lie down on the bed.’

‘You dominating me? Hm?’ Ash said as Augus let go of him, fingers drifting away from his cock slowly, as though he didn’t really want to let go.

‘A little,’ Augus said. He walked over to his chest of drawers, leaned back against it and folded his arms. ‘Go on then.’

‘Fuck you,’ Ash said fervently, hopping out of his jeans and making a small choked noise when the denim caught on the foreskin of his cock. He shrugged out of his shirt at the same time, dropping clothing everywhere, boxers following. He grasped his own cock briefly, squeezing it, reminding himself that this was going to be fine. Better than fine, even.

‘The bed, huh?’

‘Please,’ Augus said, waving a hand in its direction.

Ash jumped onto it with enthusiasm, bouncing from the force. He cracked up laughing and flopped onto his back, taking a pillow as he went and throwing it at Augus, who caught it and shook his head, dropping it to the floor. Ash was still laughing when Augus walked towards him, and then the laughter died in his throat at the way Augus placed both of his hands on the bed before crawling upon it, slinking up to Ash meaningfully. He swallowed, stared up as Augus looked down at him, bracketing his head with his arms, knees on either side of his waist.

‘Are you quite done?’ Augus said, and Ash licked his lips.

‘I’m really nervous, hey.’

‘Good,’ Augus said, before dropping his lips to Ash’s and biting at his bottom lip hard enough that it hurt. Ash opened his mouth on a curse, and Augus slid his tongue inside, one hand coming up and twisting in Ash’s hair, the other bracing himself on the bed. He shifted his knees until they were pressed hard against either side of Ash’s body. Augus’ tongue was a hot weight in his mouth, twisting and exploring, tasting and then thrusting leisurely, mimicking what was to come with carnal fervour.

Ash’s cock stayed hard, his hands came up and stroked down Augus’ back, needing to calm himself, participating in the kiss and licking the taste of dressing and salad out of Augus’ mouth.

‘You’re the one who’s all about multiple orgasms,’ Augus said against his mouth, letting go of his hair and reaching down between them, wrapping strong fingers around his cock. Ash arched up into the touch, hips shifting. ‘How long does it take before you can come again?’

‘I don’t know,’ Ash breathed at the firm, steady rhythm Augus was setting. ‘Like…I don’t fucking know, maybe five, ten minutes before I can get hard again. And then it just depends on like…what’s happening. Humans are pretty impressed by it.’

Augus kissed him viciously, teeth and sparks of pain, and Ash realised belatedly he probably shouldn’t have mentioned humans and what they were impressed by, while Augus had a hand wrapped around his cock. It wasn’t something that ever went down well, and usually he kept better track of those kinds of things these days. It was getting harder to concentrate. Augus’ fingers were demanding, not coaxing, and the claw-tip that skated around the flushed curve of the head of his cock felt like a threat, a promise. When Augus did it a third time – not breaking the skin, not even scratching it, but stirring up unsteady reactions of pleasure-pain, Ash growled in the back of his throat.

Not a masochist,’ he said, tearing his mouth away, panting.

‘Your cock doesn’t mind,’ Augus said, speeding up, working him with none of the slowness that he showed his own body. Augus was clearly driving towards one goal, as quickly as possible.

‘Jesus, I know- ah, fuck. I know what you’re doing.’

‘Do you?’

‘You’re…ngh.’ Ash panted, hips bucking up into Augus’ hand, shuddering at the speed of it while Augus’ lips hovered close to his own. ‘You’re…working on the theory that if I come, I’ll be more relaxed for-’

That was it, he was giving up on language, it was too hard. He arched his back, sensations popping like fireworks down his spine all the way to the top of his neck. He didn’t often get himself off this fast, and Augus clearly knew his way around his cock. Even the occasional gentle claw scrape was winding him up.

‘Mm,’ Augus hummed, licking the side of his face possessively. ‘It’s a good theory. Now shut up and focus on what I’m doing. Just let me take care of you, Ash.’

It was the words, in the end, that did him in. Just let me take care of you, breathed over his skin, the warmth of his voice wrapping around him and shooting down between his legs, tightening in his balls. He braced himself on the bed, arched hard, chest pressed to Augus’ chest, feet digging into the mattress as his cock pulsed in Augus’ hand. One of his arms came up, his fingers bruising Augus’ back. He groaned, capturing Augus’ lips with his own and kissing him, rocking up into that tight, sticky vice of precome and the sweat on Augus’ palm, skin catching, each spurt of come a hot spill on his pelvis.

‘Ah, fuck,’ Ash rasped. He winced when Augus tugged at his cock again, moved back and forth like he was just going to keep jerking him off. ‘Wait, fucking-’

‘You are beautiful,’ Augus breathed. ‘Did you know?’

‘I’m sensitive, get off,’ Ash mumbled, shoving at him. Augus didn’t budge. ‘Augus, I swear to fucking god, if you don’t-’

‘Indulge me,’ Augus said. ‘Indulge me, Ash. Just a little longer. Persevere for me. You can do that, can’t you?’

Ash’s voice broke into nothingness as Augus kept moving his hand over Ash’s cock, forcing stiffness to it that was nothing more than ache and oversensitivity. Ash’s head tilted back, his mouth was open as he shallow breathed his way through the dull thud of it. The faint pain wasn’t a turn on. But the knowledge that Augus was looking down at him, watching him with that assessing, calculating gaze, was more thrill than it was fear. His legs shifted to try and make himself more comfortable, but Augus’ hand held his focus and he moaned a pained sound, hips twitching to the side.

‘You’ve had your fun,’ Ash gasped.

‘I suppose I have,’ Augus said, sliding his hand away and trailing fingers and claw-tips through the come on his pelvis, before pressing his fingers into Ash’s open mouth. ‘There we are. Eat up.’

Ash made a hungry noise, slurped at his fingers messily and then sucked them down until his long fingers touched the back of his throat. He opened his eyes, met Augus’ gaze, tasted silt and musk and salt and water on his tongue. Beneath that, the faintest hint of the dressing that he was going to use for the salad. He grinned around Augus’ fingers, scraped his teeth along the fleshy undersides, winking when Augus shivered.

Augus only withdrew his hand when there was nothing but saliva left on his fingers, and then he painted fingertips across Ash’s cheek, his chin, his lips, marking him, something intent in his gaze. Ash watched Augus’ face, his expressions, the driven way he did everything; nothing like the uncertain creature he had around him the rest of the time.

‘I can see it, you know,’ Ash said, as Augus pressed his thumb into his larynx, causing his heart to skip a beat. ‘I can see how you’d be good at this.’

‘That’s not as flattering as you think it is,’ Augus said.

‘No, I mean, fuck- I mean really. I mean, I think-’

‘I’m not dominating you,’ Augus said. ‘You’ll know, the day that happens. If it ever happens. This is sex. I’m taking the lead, certainly, but…’

Augus tilted his head, looked speculative.

‘Turn over,’ he said, voice steady, dark.

Ash blinked at him. Augus raised an eyebrow, lips downturned; he looked displeased.

‘Did you not understand me? I said turn over.’

Something rebellious roared to life in Ash’s gut. Augus didn’t talk to him like this ever, and he opened his mouth to say just that, but there was something menacing on Augus’ face. Something in the way he used his body, arched it over him. He closed his mouth and didn’t like the mix of feelings that were stirring inside of him. Trepidation and arousal and something like apprehension snagging with fear.

He looked at Augus searchingly, before turning onto his stomach, deciding that if things didn’t get better in the next…sixty seconds, he was done. He was done.

A hand pressed between his shoulder blades, holding him in place.

‘Raise your arms above your head and cross your wrists together,’ Augus said.

‘I don’t want to,’ Ash breathed, realising the difference. That there was a difference between Augus topping, taking the lead, and him actually being dominating.

Augus grasped both of Ash’s wrists in a grip that brooked no disagreement and pulled his arms up – ignoring Ash’s resistance – and crossing them at the wrists above his head, pinning them down with his hands and waterhorse weight.

‘If you were a client,’ Augus said, ‘there would be consequences for this continued disobedience.’

‘I don’t like this,’ Ash said, wincing at the way he sounded.

‘No,’ Augus agreed, his voice turning soothing. ‘No, I know you don’t.’

He let go of Ash’s wrists, pressed the palm of his hand to the back of his head in a soothing gesture that made Ash’s breath catch in his throat.

‘That’s why I’m not doing it,’ Augus said. ‘But you should know there is a difference.’

‘Fuck,’ Ash shuddered, evening out his breaths again. ‘I just don’t get it. I don’t get how people like that. Never knowing if they’re doing like…the right thing.’

Augus laughed softly, massaging the back of Ash’s head.

‘They do the right thing by obeying me, and gain security and safety by knowing that the orders I’m giving them are ones they can fulfil. For many, it’s very rewarding, even in those moments when it does bring elements of fear and uncertainty. It’s freeing. Didn’t you tell me that you talked to a dominatrix about all of this? Didn’t you try it?’

‘I may have like…glamoured her a bit. I guess she went kind of easy on me,’ Ash said, and Augus’ laugh was full-throated; the kind of laugh Ash hardly ever got to hear. Unexpectedly, his eyes burned, his heart ached. He licked his lips, found the taste of his own come there and shivered.

‘Well, for many who enjoy it, they get both the ability to know they are doing the right thing by obeying me, along with physical gratification – if that’s something I wish for them. It’s challenging, yes. Sometimes it’s supposed to be, and I am…of a challenging nature.’

‘No shit, Sherlock,’ Ash breathed.

‘The reason you don’t enjoy it, among others, is that you don’t like to obey,’ Augus whispered into his ear. ‘Because you’re a cocky, precocious, spoiled brat.’

Ash shifted his arms where Augus had placed them and then reached up, grabbing a hank of Augus’ long mane and dragging him down, glaring a mix of arousal and need at him.

‘Fucking kiss me already, if I’m so fucking spoiled.’

Ash cut the inside of his lip on his teeth when Augus pressed forwards, snarling, forcing Ash’s head into an awkward angle and biting his tongue when he slipped it into Augus’ mouth. Ash grunted and then growled softly, only for Augus to return the growl, rolling his hips down meaningfully where he straddled him. Ash abandoned viciousness, moaned plaintively. He didn’t know what he wanted, but he didn’t want it to be rough.

He withdrew and watched Augus as he reached over, limber enough to stay straddling him even as he bent himself into almost a right angle to reach his drawer and take out a vial of lubricant. Ash’s heart was beating hard.

It’s happening. It’s going to happen. Jesus.

Augus dropped the vial beside them, then dragged the heel of his palms from the base of Ash’s back all the way to the top of his shoulders, stretching out over him as he did so. He licked into the curve of his neck, snaking under curls of hair and following his hairline. Ash hummed, he could certainly do with more of that. And he did like Augus in a more…forthright mood. Participatory Augus was something he wanted more of. At least sometimes.

‘That’s really nice,’ Ash said, and Augus stroked his arms in long, languid strokes.

‘Would you do me a favour?’

‘What?’

‘Would you raise them above your head, cross them at the wrists? You have no idea what a picture you make, Ash, stretched out like that for me.’

Ash hesitated, then felt like he was melting into the bed when Augus repeated those long strokes down his spine, over and over. Each one pressed in hard into his lower spine, rocked his pelvis down into the bed in slow, rhythmic strokes. He blinked hazily. It didn’t matter that much, did it? Augus asking him? It wasn’t like he was being told.

He raised first one arm, then the other, crossing them at the wrists, fingers flexing uncertainly before settling into loose fists.

‘Good,’ Augus purred. ‘You look…’

But however he looked, it was clearly so good that Augus didn’t really have the words for it. The long strokes continued down his flanks, curving underneath and dragging back at his belly, before returning to his spine. They were hypnotic, soothing. Augus would reach up from time to time and start at his wrists, before dragging his palms and fingers down all the way over the knobs of his elbows, over the curves of muscle in his arms, before sneaking into his armpits and pressing in firmly, Ash huffing out exhales of pleasure.

If he was honest with himself, he could’ve put up with thisa long time ago.

Ash relaxed further into the bed, closing his eyes, occasionally shifting his wrists, but never uncrossing them.

‘Spread your legs for me,’ Augus said, his voice warm.

Ash didn’t tense, but he paused before responding. He turned it over in his mind, even as Augus shifted his weight off his back and began to slide down his body, playing Ash’s skin like an instrument as he went. A palm curved over one of his ass cheeks, before sliding further down the back of his thigh to the dip of his knee, where fingertips fluttered and Ash giggled before he could help himself.

Ash slid his legs apart, spine arching as he did so, the closest he’d get to squirming in discomfort. Augus knelt between his legs immediately, and Ash’s eyes opened in shock when Augus placed palms flat on his inner thighs and spread them further.

‘Hey,’ Ash protested. ‘You don’t-’

‘Let me,’ Augus said quietly. ‘It’s not painful, is it? Are you telling me that you, of all people, are embarrassed?’

Ash muttered a curse at him under his breath and ignored the burning in his cheeks.

It was different than it was with everyone else. He’d had a lot of experiences, but there weren’t too many he could truly call new experiences. This would be one of them. He focused on calming his breath, assisted by Augus stroking him again, over the curve of his ass, over his spine and down over the back of his thighs.

Augus reached for the vial and Ash laughed helplessly, the sound more nerves than anything else. He half thought Augus would check on him, but Augus only popped the cork out of the vial, and Ash’s fingers curled, his hands clenched into fists.

‘Aren’t you normally telling people to relax, right about now?’ Augus said.

‘Yeah, yep,’ Ash said, opening his eyes and staring down into the dimness of the blanket. ‘Yep. I’m- It’s a bit different when it’s you.’

‘I’m finding this quite a novelty,’ Augus said, a smile in his voice. ‘Normally you’re all over me, exerting all manner of control, and here you are – quite the pretty picture – and all that sureness of yours seems to have evaporated. Why, Ash, are you feeling shy?’

‘Fuck. Off,’ Ash said, abashed. He was. He was so going to make Augus pay for this. Turned out that coming once didn’t take the edge off at all.

‘Do you fuck yourself with your fingers when you jack off?’ Augus said, sliding slick fingers between the crack of his ass, Ash resolutely refusing to twitch, but not exactly relaxing into it either.

‘Sometimes,’ Ash said. ‘It’s not like…it’s not like I’ve never done this before. It’s not…my first rodeo.’

‘Are you sure?’

‘Jesus, of course I’m fucking-’

Ash yelped when Augus pressed down and then in, not stroking over his entrance, not doing anything that acted as much of a warning. One moment Augus’ hand was slick and cool and close, the next moment he had a finger sliding inside of him and was still moving, pressing deep until Augus was in him up to the last knuckle.

‘Are you sure?’ Augus said again, and Ash wanted to claw the smug smile he heard in his voice off his face. But he was too busy gasping. This wasn’t his first rodeo. But the fact that Augus’ finger was inside of him, Augus between his legs – it did something twisty to his chest. He gasped for breath, then moaned sharply when Augus’ finger slid back and fucked forwards. He’d expected…he didn’t know what he expected – slowness? For Augus to treat him with the same languor with which he seemed to touch himself?

This was nothing like that.

Augus’ finger curled inside of him, and Ash felt like one of his feet was going to cramp.

‘Cross your wrists for me,’ Augus encouraged.

Ash realised he’d slid his arms apart in order to clutch at his own hair.

Huh.

He slid his arms back, confused, because this was Augus taking control of the situation. He knew that it was, no matter how sweet Augus’ tone was. But Augus was…right. It did feel good to have something to do, something to hang onto that he could do. When Augus hummed a sound of rich approval at him when his wrists crossed again, he thought something was melting all the way down his spine.

‘Damn it,’ Ash muttered. ‘You’re a fucker, you know that?’

Augus slid his finger back and pressed in with two, and Ash groaned thickly, realised he probably shouldn’t bait Augus while he was in such a position. The stretch of it was good, and he hesitantly pressed his hips into Augus’ fingers. At that, Augus’ other hand slid under his hip and jerked him back, his fingers hilting and curling in a single, fluid movement that scraped his breath out of his lungs.

His cock was starting to fill again, and he shifted against the bed to make himself more comfortable, even as Augus fucked him open with his fingers, the pace firm, each thrust rocking him hard against the bed. Ash twisted his wrists until he could clasp his own hands together above his head, wanting something to hang onto, pressing his forehead down and deciding that when Augus wanted to take someone, he took.

A glancing brush against his prostate and Ash opened his mouth on a cry that never voiced, because Augus was already sliding his fingers free and shifting over him.

‘What, already?’ Ash said, ignoring the way his voice sounded a little higher than normal.

‘You’re fine,’ Augus said. He slid length of his cock along the seam of Ash’s ass and Ash locked up, ready to call it quits. ‘You’re fine.’

‘You promise this isn’t revenge?’ Ash said.

‘Trust me,’ Augus said, pressing his chest against Ash’s back, laying his arms over Ash’s arms and pressing the palms of his hands around Ash’s interlocked hands. ‘Ash, just because we’re trying something new, doesn’t mean I’m a different person, does it?’

Ash was trying to think of how to answer that question when Augus’ hips lifted and he lowered an arm to adjust himself and push forwards. Ash’ eyes widened as he felt the head of Augus’ cock slide through lubricant until it rested, blunt and pushing faintly, against him.

‘Do you trust me?’ Augus breathed, his voice shaky. It was the first time he sounded uncertain. The first time, since he’d come home. But that was oddly familiar, and Ash sighed something that would have been relief, if he hadn’t been charged with so much anticipation.

‘Yeah,’ Ash rasped. ‘I always have.’

He wasn’t surprised when Augus pushed in at that moment – that’s when he would’ve done it as well – and the stretch was noticeable, stung a little, but Ash was too busy focusing on the fact that this was Augus pushing inside of him and he would never be able to repeat this moment again. Not like this. His awareness opened and his body turned itself over to sensation, shoving away the anxieties that tried to swamp him.

Instead he became aware of Augus’ fingers stroking over his wrist. He smelled their sweat mingling together, his own come, the faintest hint of blood from where he’d cut the inside of his lip. He felt the ache of Augus pushing deeper, withdrawing, pushing in again – shallow thrusts that allowed him to work his way steadily inside. He felt tight, full, pinned, and he turned his head to the side and moaned freely, wanting to find a way to express it all, finding himself unable.

It was good. Augus was good at this, and he spread his legs wider, pushed his hips back on a thrust and grunted, seeking leverage.

‘Yes?’ Augus said.

‘Yeah. Fucking, yes, Augus. Just keep- Keep doing that.’

All that anxiety and it turned out that when Augus was finally inside of him, he just felt easy about it. It was Augus, and he did trust him, and there was the ache of being fucked – sure – but he didn’t mind that, that was a different kind of pain. He moved his hips back into it, pushing back into Augus’ pelvis, listening to the way Augus’ breathing was becoming increasingly uneven.

It felt good, his cock was hard and he needed to grasp it, take it in hand, something. But he was pressed flat against the bed and the motions he used to push back weren’t enough to get the room he needed.

‘Can- Can we shift?’ Ash gasped. ‘Yeah?’

Augus withdrew in a single movement that left Ash feeling hollow and he grunted, dazed for a moment. But then there were hands at his hips, pulling him up, and he went with it quickly, pushing onto hands and knees. Unlike Augus, he had no problems with the position once he got started. It didn’t make him feel threatened or intimidated to be mounted like that, even though he was aware he probably should.

Augus knelt between his legs, fisting his cock and sliding back in. Ash wasn’t prepared for the change of angle, which sent a thick heat through him like molasses. His back arched, he groaned.

‘Give me your arm,’ Augus said, breathless. ‘This isn’t going to happen again for a while, I suspect. Let me just…’

Augus encouraged Ash’s arm behind his back and then grasped it by the wrist, pulling it up and pinning it between his shoulder blades. It wasn’t painful, but as Augus resumed his thrusts, it was difficult to keep his balance, and he could no longer get a hand between his legs to touch himself.

‘Jesus, fuck, Augus. Come on, man.’

‘But you look so good, brother,’ Augus said, the words fervent, and Ash shook his head in frustration and then bowed it because Augus was getting better contact with his prostate and actually the whole thing was starting to feel pretty damn great. He couldn’t come from a cock alone – not like Augus – but it would get him close enough that he was starting not to care.

Augus’ thrusts became harder, faster, without Ash having to ask, but it was upsetting his balance too much and he went down to his elbow, his other arm sliding up higher between his shoulder blades and Augus hilting inside of him in a way that did hurt.

‘Fuck,’ he cried out, and Augus withdrew a little, rubbed his thumb into Ash’s palm. ‘Okay, okay, but don’t fucking stop! I mean-’

Apparently Augus had no intention of stopping, because he began moving again – if possible, harder than before. Ash turned his head sideways and focused on catching his breath. He didn’t know what he’d expected, but he was fairly certain it hadn’t been this.

He realised that if he twisted his other arm on the bed, tilted his body, he could maybe get fingers around his cock.

He reached in stops and starts, finally managing to first stroke fingers in a quick swipe down the head of his bobbing cock, and then when Augus withdrew, he reached and grabbed himself, crying out because he was sensitive and Augus wasn’t stopping – not even accommodating his attempts to bring himself off. He moved his hand awkwardly, elbow pinned to the bed, angle all wrong, an ache moving down his arm.

But even that much contact was enough, and he spread his legs. The grip Augus had on the arm behind his back – fingers digging into his wrist – was brutal, commanding. It was a hint of how things could be, if Ash had any sort of tolerance for it. As it was, he felt torn between arousal and feeling protected. This wasn’t threatening. This wasn’t intimidating. Augus had never used his waterhorse territoriality against him. Had always used it to defend Ash from others. Had always been the one coming to his rescue, time and time again, when they were younger.

The fact that Augus had all that strength wrapped around his wrist, ploughing into him with thrusts that shouldn’t be so fluid for how hard they were, was like being snatched up in a bubble of arousal and promise; that Augus would always be there for him, even in this.

Ash laughed in bursts. These were not feelings he expected to have, not right now, not with a hand around his cock and his thumb reaching up to shakily strain for the head of himself.

He took a deep breath and clenched hard around Augus, and Augus faltered, moaned weakly.

‘Come on, love,’ Ash breathed. ‘Come on, baby.’

Augus’ grip tightened on his wrist, twisted his hips in a way that had Ash forgetting about trying to speak as his cock jumped in his hand. He swore, mouth wide, flooded with heat. Augus’ other hand was unforgiving on his hip, and Ash decided to abandon himself to it. He was so close anyway.

He was aware of swearing more as he got closer, but he was focusing on the fireflies of light behind his eyes as they became more and more agitated. He heard himself make a sound like keening, didn’t care, hoped Augus liked it.

He tensed, gasped when he realised he was going to come; hardly able to get a decent rhythm with his hand – especially as Augus’ thrusts were the kind that would be pushing him up the bed in a different position; his hand had gotten knocked away twice from the force alone. But heat raced along his back and then shot back down it again, his cock was so hard it ached.

He came with a shout, clenching around Augus helplessly, creating a friction that Augus ignored, thrusting so hard that Ash felt as though Augus was milking him of everything he had left. His hand fell away from his cock and braced himself on the bed, he could hear his breathing – heavy, long rasps as his thighs trembled and his back felt like it was going to spasm.

Augus kept on going after he’d finished, and Ash shifted slightly, still coming down from the high of it all.

‘Come on, love,’ Ash said. ‘I want you to. Come inside me already.’

Augus let go of his wrist instantly and his hand slammed down behind Ash’s face as his hips stuttered, pressed deep.

‘That’s it,’ Ash breathed. ‘That’s the way. I’m so- I’m so glad we did this.’

‘Gods,’ Augus moaned, head dropping down between Ash’s shoulder blades, hips moving in spasmodic pulses, filling him with heat.

Even now, Ash felt protective in turn. All this time thinking Augus was invincible and didn’t need any protection, and it turned out he did. He clenched around Augus again and again, drawing whimpers from his throat. He reached out with an aching arm and pressed it against Augus’ hand where it rested on the bed.

Augus shuddered over him, breath gusting out hot over the sweat on his back.

He slid out a few minutes later. Ash waited to see what would happen. But Augus was oddly silent, and as soon as he was empty, leaking, he turned and took Augus with him, both of them lying side by side on the bed, Augus’ face still flushed, freckles standing out like tiny beacons.

‘Are you okay?’ Ash said.

‘Am I okay?’ Augus stared at him in shock.

‘That’s what I said, yeah. Are you okay? I’m fine. That was great. You fuck like a champion. Guess it really does run in the family.’

He reached up and smoothed some of Augus’ hair away from his head, neatened the waterweed and watched the way Augus shivered beneath his fingers. His sensitive brother. Ash stroked his cheek, his shoulder, stroked a line down his arm and circled his wrist carefully with his fingers.

‘Level one healer, got your healer’s kit, fucked your brother. Good day for you, huh?’

Augus’ lips turned up in a rare, genuine smile. One that reached his eyes. Ash leaned forwards and kissed it, wanted to see if it would taste any different even though he knew very well that it wouldn’t.

Ash wrapped his arms around him, not caring that they were wet and warm and sticky – liking it, even. He only let go to reach behind them and grab the edge of the blanket it, flipping it over them.

‘Well, there’s salad there, for whenever you’re ready,’ Ash said.

‘I don’t know how you do it,’ Augus said. ‘I don’t know how you can be so nervous, for so long, and then be…so alright with it. Because you are, aren’t you?’

‘Yeah,’ Ash said, closing his eyes and pulling Augus even closer. ‘I am. I just realised it was you, I guess. I realised that like, you’ve always done your best for me. Always. Out of the two of us, I’m the one who kind of…needs to buck up a bit. And I know I’ve been doing that! I do. But like, yeah, I guess I just realised that you’re the one who saved my life when I was a tiny thing. You’re probably not going to do anything to hurt me on purpose.’

‘You’re doing fine, Ash,’ Augus said. ‘You can’t blame yourself for being an Unseelie waterhorse forever.’

‘Can,’ Ash grumbled.

Augus laughed, pressed his lips softly to his forehead.

They didn’t sleep or doze, but stayed entwined together until they realised that showers were probably necessary, to stop them from becoming glued together in their own come.

*

Later, sated on salad and herbed roasted vegetables, Ash asked Augus about his healer’s kit, and watched – pleased – as Augus opened it up and showed him everything in it so far. He talked with a rare excitement, showing each herb and fungi and ointment, explaining what they all did, sometimes pausing and watching Ash critically as though he couldn’t quite decide whether Ash wanted to hear about it or not.

It was something Ash had been working on; though in truth it wasn’t that hard. It turned out it kind of was interesting, even if it wasn’t his area.

After that, they swam naked through Augus’ lake and made their way to the flat rock under a heavier, summer sun. Ash lounged on his side, hip pressing hard into stone and hardly minding. Augus lay on his back and had his eyes closed, hair fanned out around him, looking every inch an eldritch creature of the kind that seduced others to their doom. His thick black lashes were a smudge against his cheeks, his mouth pulled down in that perpetual faint frown.

‘I still think about it,’ Ash said. ‘You know. Everything. That…part of me that attacked you like that. And like, everything else. That you still have to use safewords for some things. Things you used to enjoy. That’s not- It’s not fucking right.’

‘Ash,’ Augus sighed. ‘It wasn’t, so we did something about it. I can’t believe that you – of all people – can’t see that, can’t be more relaxed about it. You who are usually so happy to encourage others to move on, to accept things as they are.’

‘This matters, man,’ Ash persisted. ‘It matters. Okay? You fucking matter to me. I can’t just…jettison it out there and forget about it.’

‘You haven’t, you idiot,’ Augus said.

‘Don’t you worry still? That I’m gonna leave, or get bored, or that…I don’t know, that I’m gonna move on or do something else that’s terrible to you? I mean come on, there have been a few times in the past eight months where I’ve still pushed you pretty hard.’

‘You like extremes,’ Augus said, keeping his eyes closed. ‘I like them too, in certain circumstances. It’s okay, brother. You just need some more time to get used to it, I think.’

‘Yeah, but-’

‘It’s fine,’ Augus said again, sounding as though it truly was.

Ash scooted closer to him and rested his hand on Augus’ warm belly. He was absorbing heat from the stone, from the sun. He was a secret creature coming out to make the most of the warmth, the gleam of it. Ash pressed his nose to Augus’ shoulder. He used to think of them as the sun and the moon, and he thought about it again. The way he burned his brother like fire, scored his flesh, marked him and then ached for him when he was away. The moon always disappeared, it had to.

He wondered what Augus would say, if he knew the way Ash thought about them both sometimes.

Probably take the piss.

‘You dominated me a little, before, didn’t you?’ Ash said, and Augus smiled then.

‘I did. Some soft topping. Nothing much. Could you handle it again?’

‘I think…yeah,’ Ash said. ‘If it’s like that, yeah. Not the other way though.’

‘Heaven forbid,’ Augus said, yawning and turning. He didn’t even open his eyes as his lips pressed to the side of Ash’s face and kissed his way down, finding his lips. ‘I’m going to do it again. Though I think I prefer…the other way around, with us.’

‘Me taking you apart?’ Ash laughed.

‘Putting me back together again.’

Ash stroked idle lines across Augus’ skin, and then some time later pressed lazy kisses across his flesh, generous with his tongue and finding his way into dips and curves that he had learned almost off by heart now. The place just below Augus’ left pectoral which could elicit more of a reaction than when he licked his nipples with the flat of his tongue. The inner curve of his left collarbone, where Augus always sighed the first time it was mouthed and didn’t seem to notice he did it – as predictable as any poker tell. The slight way Augus first tried to move away from being licked along the neck, a tiny twitch in the opposite direction, before arching into the touch. All things that Ash had mapped and remembered.

‘It’s good that you’re feeling alright about today,’ Augus said, his voice scratchy with pleasure. ‘I was sure it was what I wanted, but unsure how you would take it.’

‘And if I’d said no?’

‘I think I might have pushed, actually. Not the way…you used to. But I think it was important. For me. Besides, I’ve been feeling more, shall we say, expansive lately. Trying new things and what have you.’

Ash kept kissing his body and then froze mid-lick.

He looked up and laughed.

‘Really?’

Augus grinned up to the sky, eyes still closed.

‘I was long overdue a new heartsong. And you have wanted me to ‘get out more’ as the saying goes.’

‘So all this…you becoming a healer. Fucking me. I don’t know…the other things we’ve been doing lately – it’s been…it’s been in line with your new core energy?’

‘Perfectly in line,’ Augus said, and he blinked green eyes open and met Ash’s gaze. ‘You’ve been good for me, Ash. I know you still have your uncertainties, so do I – I’d be a fool not to. But never doubt that my life is better with you in it.’

Ash pushed his ear to Augus’ chest, listened to the heavy thump within and was glad that he knew where home was, even after losing his way so many times. Augus dragged his fingers through Ash’s hair and Ash shivered, smiled. Their fingers threaded together and Augus hummed, content, stretching out further beneath the sun, both of them soaking up the heady warmth of summer’s bounty.