The voice in his head when it starts is almost enough to push back at the fog that had started clouding his vision at the fourth or fifth beating.
"Oh Corvo," it sighs, "quite the mess you've gotten yourself into. Why head towards the river? Your boatman has gone, you missed your rendezvous."
Corvo grits his teeth against the pain and staggers to a something solid, leans heavily against the wall and waits for the point. He thinks he sees the mirage of a reflection, young face with black eyes, in a nearby window, the only part of glass unbroken in the pane. He blinks and it's gone, he blinks and he almost goes; losing his balance and slipping further down the wall.
"Careful, Corvo, there are weepers here too," the voice tells him, devoid of anything as could be stretched to concern, "but don't worry. Near here is a shrine dedicated to me, use the heart, come find me."
For a moment he considers ignoring the command or request or whatever the voice thinks it's doing. Considers giving up and letting the rain or the blood-loss or the weepers get him, first come first serve. But the Heart is a tiny, shuddering thing when he manages to rummage through his coat and get his aching hands around it and it hums at him, words he can barely pick out above the rain, his own harsh breathing, and the blood pounding in his ears. It shows him the rune, and he heaves himself toward it, staying close to walls and fences, loath to trip or fall. His feet resist, his limbs, his very bones resist him. Sleep, they urge, just stop and lie down, be still. Instead, the Outsider's voice echoes in the void, in the night, and the Heart leads him on and he decides doesn't have it in him to give up. Emily needs him. He owes it to her to stand.
The rain still batters the buildings as if Dunwall herself is crying, and a weeper staggers by, moaning. Corvo aims and calls it mercy, barely flinches at the crack of the shot.
He finally reaches a door, falling almost off its hinges, and tucks the Heart away, hears its beating slow in time with his own sluggish pulse. He grips the bannister and pulls himself up, one splintering, dangerous stair at a time until he sees it, that purple light that shouldn't be comforting and isn't but is at least something familiar, something that Corvo's stamped and worried heart strains to feel means friend.
There's a bed in the room, sheets once white rumpled. He drags off the greatcoat and collapses, breathes, tries to ignore the blood bruises blooming under his skin. He's sure he must look like quite the tapestry, here's a portrait of the assassin fallen, bitten off more than he could chew.
And then he's not alone.
The Outsider clicks his fingers and the dying fire in the grate wakes up, flaring bright orange against the purple lantern-light. The effect is strangely warming and Corvo struggles to sit up, lets the strange light bleed into him even as he feels life bleed out. Out of the hazy corner of his vision, he sees the red gleam. A phial of Sokolov's elixir on the altar, the Outsider follows his eyes and takes it, boots touching the floor soundlessly as he walks towards the bed.
"Dissonant, isn't it?" he says, holding the phial just out of Corvo's reach. "A roaring fire and the sound of the rain. Is it the cold or the pain that makes your heart race so?"
Corvo glares at him with all the venom he can muster, hates him for his infernal calm. "If you keep this up," he bites out, wincing as the movement pulls the skin that's desperate to knit itself back together across his lips. "I'll be dead before you get to the point."
The phial lands with a dull whoosh on the ratty sheets and he knocks it back in one, hisses as the liquid burns his throat. The pain seeps from his muscles almost immediately just to an ache, leaving him light-headed and lethargic and he tries to remember how dangerous that is, but the bed's softer than he'd have thought possible only ten minutes prior and he can almost believe that he's alone even as his own heart fails to stop its racing.
"You haven't answered," the Outsider says, mildly, pulling on the latch at the window and looking so human and somehow more beyond Corvo's comprehension than anything else ever has been. He stares, then remembers himself. "Your questions are usually rhetorical," he admits, quietly.
The Outsider tilts his head. "Are they?" And then hums what might be a laugh. "Still, it's so loud." Silent steps forward and a hand - shockingly there, unbelievably present - over his chest. "And fast," he continues, pressing his fingers against Corvo's thin shirt, clinging with the damp, and watching him with those dead black eyes.
"Don't flatter yourself," Corvo responds and loosely takes the Outsider's wrist to tug him away. "It's cold."
A laugh and he's gone, his lightly inquisitive voice coming from behind Corvo, the mattress dipping, when he speaks again. Sliding an arm over Corvo's shoulder and across his chest. "Is that all it is?"
The Outsider trails the other hand down Corvo's waist, light touch teasing but wrong and inhuman, no warmth to the skin.
"Would you rather I be warm?" he asks, and he's away now, on the other side of the room, bathed in the solid purple light while the firelight flickers across his features. "Would you rather I be human for you?"
Corvo betrays himself, sucks in a sharp breath at the thought and the Outsider, for once, gives him a smile.
"How odd you are Corvo, others want wondrous or terrible things, but you- " he trails off, and then the empty phial is in his hands. "Just for you," he murmurs, "just tonight," and Corvo holds his breath, waiting, brows furrowed from not understanding until the Outsider frowns, and reaches to where Corvo had thrown his coat for the assassin's blade.
He watches, mystified, as the Outsider sheds his own jacket to reveal a plain white shirt and Corvo isn't sure what he'd expected but it doesn't matter because the Outsider turns to face him and slices a line, evenly up through the middle of his palm without making a sound. The tarry black that isn't any blood as blood should be hits the side of the glass and glows and grows into a ball of shining light not unlike the lanterns. When he stumbles, this time, his boots make noise.
Corvo stands without conscious thought and moves toward him, towards this creature that looks at him with strange green eyes. "What magic is this?"
The Outsider laughs, a hand to Corvo's cheek and it's warm and soft and when Corvo curls his fingers around the delicate wrist he can feel a fluttering pulse. "This is as I once was, Corvo," he says and Corvo reaches his other hand to the Outsider's face. "Another gift?" he breathes, and then adds with wonder he can't help in his voice, "you're young."
Narrowing his eyes the Outsider's mouth twists. "I'm not. I'm older than the-"
"'Rocks this place is built on'?" Corvo mimics. "I know, you've said."
"Be careful, Corvo," the Outsider chides, "I can still leave you, leave your cries for help unanswered like Sokolov's."
Corvo uses the wrist he holds to pull the Outsider to him, and laughs to hide the jolt of excitement that shoots down his spine when the Outsider's warmth is flush against him, "but you won't. You've said yourself I'm far too interesting."
The Outsider scowls for a moment, but the expression clears and a new look of intent creeps into infinitely more expressive eyes. This is the body of a god, Corvo thinks, hardly believing it. This is his skin under your hands. Here are his bones. He is still bleeding.
And he can't say he's immune to this, but he cannot just argue that it's only the time that makes him want, that it's just been too long for him to resist. And when the Outsider shifts against him, breathes against him, and Corvo walks them both backwards to the bed, he also can't say he hasn't thought, specifically about this.
Even human the Outsider seems to know his thoughts as he himself does, he says, quietly, and Corvo thrills at the physical vibration, "Please, Corvo, show me what you would do to this deity," he pushes Corvo down onto the bed. "This new power, how will you wield it?"
But Corvo wanted him human, and so he is, and Corvo wanted him to stay and so he has and Corvo shifts to kneel but only uses the position to pull the Outsider down beside him. He pulls and pulls and the Outsider actually gasps as Corvo gets his hands underneath his shirt. Feels the soft skin taut over sharp bones, and runs his fingers down the line of a too thin waist. The body of a god, he thinks again, the body of a boy.
The Outsider has the bloody hand twisting in Corvo's hair and he tugs, sharp, to bring Corvo's attention back up to meet his eyes. He traces the cut of Corvo's split lip with a fingertip and then replaces it with his tongue and Corvo hisses, pulls him forward by the hip to crash their mouths together. The Outsider's other hand finds his shoulder and clings, keeping them together even as it becomes more and more necessary to breathe.
Corvo wrenches them apart and the Outsider's bright red mouth quirks into a semblance of a smile. And Corvo thinks of heresy, of blasphemy, and takes hold of the Outsider's shirt to pull it up and off him before divesting himself of his and bringing his hands back to better use, to touching.
He marvels at the contrast, the bone-white unmarred skin under his darker, scarred hands. Corvo touches every inch of the skin he's bared, glorying in every sigh and hitch of breath that he elicits. He wonders how long it's been, if the Outsider has ever let anyone touch him like this and the stab of jealousy at the thought makes him curl his hand possessively to grab and bring the Outsider's mouth to his again.
The Outsider kisses with teeth, tastes of a cool fresh breeze off the water, and he pushes Corvo back with a laugh. "This is it, Corvo?" he says, "All this power you have now, over me, and yet you still-"
Corvo stops his mouth, kisses him hungrily, bruisingly, and manoeuvres the Outsider to straddle him, knees either side of his waist, and pins both of the Outsider's to his chest with a single hand. He wonders if this is interesting enough, though the Outsider will surely tell him, thinks about what the Outsider could possibly want from him. Corvo presses his advantage, dips a finger beneath the belt of the Outsider's trousers and watches as the Outsider shifts and gasps. The sight of him, wrists straining against Corvo's one hand and the flush creeping up sends a spark of arousal through him. The bright eyes, still a shock, are deep with what Corvo aches to call want. The Outsider cants his head, looking down at Corvo, opens his mouth to speak.
"Even now you're talking ," Corvo says, releasing the Outsider’s wrists in favour of tracing plush lips. He presses his other hand down against the heat, against the realisation that the Outsider really is human now, human and warm and hard for him. The Outsider leans forward, into the pressure, swirls his tongue around the finger at his lips before biting it lightly against a moan. "How long it must have been for you," Corvo murmurs without thinking and the Outsider's eyes narrow. "If you ever-"
"You don't want to know the answer to that, Corvo," the Outsider interrupts, batting Corvo’s arm away and leaning down to kiss him again. The next words come as a sigh against his mouth: "Trust what's here and now, and hurry up, I'm losing interest."
Corvo rolls his eyes. “Can’t have that,” he says, and slides a hand up to the Outsider’s neck, pressing a thumb against the pulse point to test the waters. The Outsider’s breathing hitches a little and Corvo smiles, taking his time in unbuckling the Outsider’s belt, making sure that he drags his calloused hands against all the skin he gets. He’s rewarded with another gasp and the Outsider grasps at him, urging him on.
He pulls the Outsider closer by the throat and ducks his head to tease him, running his tongue over a nipple and revelling in the sounds the Outsider makes, the small swears he gasps into the quiet air around them, increasing in desperation. In this, this purple-lit bubble, surrounded by the slow beat of the rain against the rooves of the buildings, Corvo can almost forget the loss, the missions, the blood he’s already spilt and will continue to. But if the Outsider’s offering himself as a distraction, Corvo thinks, at least he’ll take it. He bites the white flesh just shy of the sensitive red and the Outsider twitches, moans, rocking himself against Corvo’s hand and the job half-done of his belt.
“Please. Corvo.” The Outsider’s hand are suddenly everywhere, moving betwixt his hair and his jaw and his shoulders, scratching lines across his back trying to bring him closer, to make the friction more. He catches an opened cut - from the whippings at Coleridge, or later, he isn’t sure - and Corvo hisses, bites down again and just a little harder in warning.
The Outsider throws his head back and grinds forward into Corvo’s hand and Corvo sits up a little, bringing the bracket of the Outsider’s thighs to just the right place to send a jolt of unbelievable sensation through him every time either of them shifts. He bites his lip and watches the Outsider do the same as he works his hand to grasp him rough and harsh and barely thinking, treating the flesh as he would his own and getting a gasp for his troubles.
“Not so talkative now,” Corvo murmurs, jacking him hard and fast and the Outsider leans down to rest their foreheads together, his breathing laboured and glorious. This is the body of a god, Corvo thinks again, and you’re taking it apart to hear it respond. This is the body of a god , whispers a voice in his head that sounds like the Outsider but can’t be, not while the Outsider is squirming under his hands, and you can break it.
“You think,” The Outsider starts, breaks off with a gasp as Corvo swipes a rough thumb over the head of his cock, but the insolent smirk remains, so close to Corvo’s eyes he can see every shade of bitten red in his lips, “you think this is enough to quiet me? I’ve heard people scream for you before they hush and you think I would be nearly as eas-”
Corvo kisses him, bruising and merciless, more a clash of teeth and lips than a kiss, nothing gentle. Thinks of the Outsider’s petty desires, his whims, his need for Corvo to interest him. He rather thinks he’d like to see the Outsider be the one to jump through hoops to please him, but another time - here and now he’ll be content to make him scream, to show him just how easy he is.
He pulls back and replaces his mouth with a finger, tracing the Outsider’s lips and then pushing in. The Outsider narrows his eyes but doesn’t hesitate, just laps against Corvo’s fingers, occasionally nipping lightly, and Corvo almost laughs at the teasing before withdrawing his fingers and pulling the Outsider closer, flush against him, abandoning his cock in favour of running a hand up the line of his side.
The Outsider swears, pressing his teeth against the angle of Corvo’s throat and shifting, seeking for friction without Corvo’s hand around him. Corvo laughs and slips his fingertips down, insistent and the Outsider shivers at the first drag against the skin there, untouched but over-sensitive from the rest of it. He sucks in a breath, “Fuck. Corvo.” and the sound of it, the sheer breathless need in it, makes Corvo ache , makes his hips buck up without his input. The Outsider clings tighter but Corvo pulls him up, one hand on his hip the other at his jaw, and turns him around, slaps his thighs to make him shift and widen them and then Corvo leans down to lick a circle around his rim.
Corvo swirls his tongue and marvels at the reaction he gets, the little start forward, and the way the Outsider moans and arches his back, dipping his head in a blasphemous mockery of bowing. “Please, Corvo,” he coaxes the bitten off words from The Outsider, feeling the way his legs have started to shudder with need. He knows it must be not nearly enough and at the Outsider’s whine he stiffens his tongue to press inside, to work the Outsider open, slow and messy and infuriating - revenge for every unhelpful remark and every pointed comment. Corvo waits until the Outsider’s just shy of shaking apart to reach around, to close his hand around the base of the Outsider’s leaking cock and slowly pull his hand up, just once, turning his wrist at the head before sliding his hand away and replacing his tongue with fingers newly slick.
He curls his finger and the Outsider shouts, and Corvo leans over to look at him, sees the half moon marks where he’s bitten into the otherwise flawless skin of his forearms. He adds another finger and the Outsider’s entire frame shudders, hands fisting in the tattered sheets and he’s breathing and of all things Corvo still can’t quite believe that. It seems so unreal, that the pale back, the hair curling at the nape with sweat and the shaking legs and messy, inviting entrance before him belong not to a human man - or boy, a treacherous voice supplies, he bats it down - but to a God. That the jut of hip he grasps as he turns the body around is a memory of human, flesh and blood now but not always, and the shadows will be back by morning light.
“Stop thinking,” The Outsider says, words listless and soft and not an order, just a suggestion. He straddles Corvo again, makes quick work of Corvo’s belt and reaches in to take him firmly in hand. The direct contact after so much friction is almost enough to bring him over but his bites his lip against it, brushes his hair from his eyes.
The Outsider strokes him, eyes bright and fixed on Corvo’s as he sets an angle, lifts himself up - Corvo digs his fingertips into his thigh with the tight heat that encompasses him - they slide closed as he lowers himself home. Corvo watches transfixed as the Outsider shifts and settles, eyes snapping open with Corvo’s aborted attempt to stop his hips from jerking up. “Come on now, Corvo,” he says, voice thin with exertion but still trying to mock and Corvo grips the bedframe for more leverage to move.
He knows that neither of them are going to last once he does, he can see it in the Outsider’s face, in the way he opens his mouth but can’t even moan as Corvo slams up into him. He wonders again if this is what was in mind all along and rakes his nails down the Outsider’s chest, deliberately catching the nipple he’d bitten before. He presses a thumb against the small mark and the Outsider keens, shudders, spills between them and clenches - by the Void - tight around him.
It knocks him sideways when it reaches him, as the Outsider leans forward to rest his head on Corvo’s shoulder, rocks his hips just so and Corvo’s coming with a curse he muffles by burying his face against Outsider’s throat.
The Outsider pulls off and away and there’s a hand in his hair as the world comes back to him, twining the strands aimlessly as they lie together, panting in the purple glow. The fire has died, he wouldn’t know when - the world having narrowed to just the Outsider, their bodies possessed by the frenzy of need - and the aches are seeping back into his muscles and bones, the old aches coupled with the new and even Sokolov’s elixir can’t take it all away. He uses a corner of the sheet to clean the mess off his stomach and the Outsider curls around him, thin limbs intertwined with his, white skin against his darker, scar-covered body. The tiredness seeps back too.
He kisses a line from the hollow of the Outsider’s collarbone to the hinge of his jaw and the Outsider sighs, “When does your boatman expect you?”
Corvo raises a shoulder to shrug. “When the sun rises I suppose,” he says against a yawn.
“Do you know, Corvo, for once,” the Outsider muses, and Corvo thinks he hears a trace of wonder in that voice, “I have no idea how quickly that will come.”