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“Commander.”

“Trainee Hoover,” Erwin said, rising and gesturing for Bertholdt to take a seat on one of the battered armchairs in the corner. “Tea?”

Bertholdt folded down into the armchair, then paused for a moment to try to arrange his gangly limbs. “No, thank you, sir.” He watched Erwin with the wary green eyes of a captured creature, expression blank with force of will.

“All right.” Erwin carried his cup and saucer over and set it on the low table between them, amused despite himself at the foreign experience of having to look up to meet another’s eyes. This must be how Levi saw everyone. He sat back in his chair, crossed his legs, and hooked his hands about one knee, keeping his expression amiable. “Trainee Braun explained some of your customs to me. I have to admit, I didn’t know that by taking charge of your protection, I was swearing you to my personal service.”

Bertholdt tensed, the first crack in that impassive exterior. “Are you-“ he struggled to hold Erwin’s gaze, “-repudiating me, sir?”

“No,” said Erwin, surprised despite himself at Bertholdt’s naked vulnerability, the way he collapsed back into the chair as though fear was all that held him upright. “I’ve been informed of the way your culture sees such things, and while I don’t understand, I will do my best to abide by the norms.”

He took a sip of tea. “But while we’re here, will you explain to me your expectations for this?”

Bertholdt flinched. Apparently asking your- well, your slave’s, as Erwin wasn’t in the habit of lying to himself- slave’s opinion on their service wasn’t expected. He glanced down at his hands, twisted together in his lap, and hunched, as though trying to make himself smaller.

Poor man, so ill at ease in his own skin.

“I have no expectations for how you’ll treat me or what you’ll require, sir,” Bertholdt said, voice a near-whisper in the quiet room. “Nearly every member of my clan is sworn to someone’s keeping, due to our fragility, so I spent most of my life expecting that I would end my days in service. You can treat me however you wish. I’m bound to do whatever you desire.”

“Bertholdt.”

The other man flinched once more, raised his gaze to Erwin’s as though expecting to be hit.

“In private, among us, you may call me Erwin.”

Bertholdt’s eyes widened. “All right. Erwin.”

Erwin tried a different tack. “Did you have hopes for a life outside of service, or what life would be like inside it?”

"Outside of service?" Bertholdt frowned, the expression settling easily onto his face as though it never left. So young to be so careworn. "I." He halted, looked down again, and shifted in his chair, the aged wood creaking beneath his height.

"Bertholdt. Look at me, please."

Bertholdt obeyed instantly, though he struggled to keep his gaze focused on Erwin's. A blush tinged his cheekbones, the tips of his ears. "I never really wanted a life outside of service. I've always wanted..." he wrung his hands, the skin at his fingertips red and raw, "to be useful. To make someone happy, someone who values my service. But I never hoped for it, because back home, service isn't valued. It's an alliance, or the chance to humiliate a rival, not-" he faltered again, and Erwin yearned to take his hands and calm him, to help him.

"A choice?"

Bertholdt shook his head. His courage failed him, and he dropped his gaze. "Never."

Erwin took a deep breath. "Here, Bertholdt, between us, you always have a choice." He held up a hand to forestall Bertholdt's panicked cringe. "This doesn't mean I'm repudiating you. You may remain my responsibility and my servant as long as you wish to, and if you ever don't wish it, you can leave, with no censure. Understood?"

The hesitant nod he received more than showed Bertholdt's lack of understanding, but he didn't press the issue. "Now." Another sip of tea to try and ratchet back the tension. "Anything else?"

"I don't want to leave, sir. Erwin," Bertholdt tacked on with a flinch. "If I were ever to serve anyone, I'm glad it's you."

Erwin paused, lips on his cup. That was definitely unexpected. "Why? Stop wringing your hands, please."

Bertholdt's hands flew to the arms of the chair and dug in. He dragged his gaze up, but fixed it at a point somewhere above Erwin's left shoulder, voice so quiet Erwin had to strain to hear it.

"You respect us, even the trainees, and you trust us to obey your orders without enforcing them with violence, evidence of your faith in others. You don't need violence to command our obedience, which speaks to your inherent command. You're practical, so you see the value in what I can offer, and won't try to drive me away. You're also ruthless when need be, which means you won't let me get away with sub-par service." He fidgeted. "You're kind. It's a weird word to use for you, I know, but you are. Someone who didn't have compassion for others wouldn't sacrifice their life to commanding the Survey Corps for nobility who don't understand or care. In summation, I don't think you'd want to humiliate me or hurt me when there's nothing to be gained. I think – I hope – you’ll be kind."

Erwin set his cup down. The bone china rattled. Uncomfortable, to be analyzed so thoroughly in such a short time, yet impressive, and he didn't bother to hide his smile. "How do you figure all that?"

"I don't talk much," Bertholdt said. "I never have. People forget I'm there, and they act as they are when no one's there to see. I get to see them as they are."

Such incisive analysis of others could be a useful talent to cultivate and have on hand. "Very good, Bertholdt. Correct on all counts." He couldn't imagine humiliating this young man, so intelligent and so desperate for approval and affection, couldn't understand why anyone would want to crush the life from such a simple, sweet desire: to make another happy, to serve them and have it valued.

"Do you have any rules for me?" Bertholdt looked at him with the desperation of a lost child, as though whatever rules Erwin offered would become his foundations.

"Only a few at the moment." Erwin turned to pick up the copy of the contract he'd set on the sideboard and laid it on the table between them. "First, our relationship is not to interfere with your duties and development as a trainee. You'll continue attending all training sessions and perform your chores. Secondly, when not attending to your trainee duties, you can choose whether or not to be here. I'm nearly always here, so if you need anything, come and find me. Thirdly." He paused to glance at Bertholdt, who looked back with the expression of a man seeing paradise.

"Trainee Braun mentioned that the duties of many servants in your home town had a sexual component."

"Oh. Um." Bertholdt managed to look Erwin square in the eye this time, though his voice had deteriorated to a mumble so soft Erwin had to strain to hear it. "Yes." The tips of his ears had turned bright red. "Most marriages, they're political, but if you don't like your spouse you're still not allowed to sleep with other married people, so." Bertholdt shifted in his chair, and for all that he was taller than Erwin (a rare feat) he still seemed to be swallowed up in it, his discomfort shrinking him. He looked down, veiling those brilliant green eyes from sight. "That's one reason the more powerful shifters keep servants."

"Understood." Erwin waited a beat for Bertholdt to look at him again, then said, "Keep your eyes on me. This is important."

Bertholdt's spine snapped straight, and he fixed his attention on Erwin. It was amazing, the change a simple order could produce in him.

"The Survey Corps is not that sort of place," Erwin said, emphatic, leaning forward and holding Bertholdt's gaze. "No one here is allowed to abuse or sleep with another member without their consent. This new dynamic we've stumbled into doesn't matter; you still have, and will always have, power over what you want and who you want it from. I promise you, on my honor as Commander, that I will never take advantage of you."

For the first time, Bertholdt smiled, and it transformed him, lit up his face with joy, made him, for all his shyness and anxiety, beautiful.

“Thank you, sir,” he said, pure honesty in his voice, and Erwin knew for the first time with bone-deep certainty that he was in deep, deep trouble.

-

Erwin, despite himself, hadn't really expected Bertholdt to carry out his role as a servant; the man had chores, and gear maintenance, and companions to carouse with. The more fool, him.

A knock at the door woke him just as his clock chimed the sixth hour. "Enter," he muttered, pushing himself upright and swinging his legs off the bed and onto the worn rug, one of his small indulgences.

Bertholdt peered about the door. His face flamed bright red at the sight of Erwin in his nightshirt, but he persevered. "I have tea, sir, and some bread and cheese. And the morning's correspondence."

Erwin blinked. His grunt seemed to be enough of an answer, for Bertholdt entered the bedroom, tray in hand, and set it on the nightstand. "How do you take your tea?"

Erwin normally didn't drink tea first thing in the morning, waiting until he had breakfast in the canteen, but if Bertholdt was offering stimulant drinks, he'd take them. "One sugar, a little bit of cream." He blinked again as Bertholdt seemingly produced sugar cubes and cream from nothing and prepared the tea, handing over the cup and the plate of bread and cheese.

Bertholdt hovered near the door, hands folded, near-vibrating with painful anxiety as Erwin took a sip.

"It's very good, Bertholdt." But that seemed too easy a compliment, and Bertholdt had said he wanted to be held to a high standard... "Perhaps a little more cream, next time."

"Yes, Erwin." Lord, the man looked like Erwin was delivering holy writ, though he seemed calmer, less rigid. "I have your morning's correspondence, and the news, if you'd like them." Bertholdt glanced down, his hands so incongruously large against the rolls of parchment. "I could read the news to you, if you like?" he offered, half-cringing, as though expecting Erwin to box him about the ears for the thought.

Erwin swallowed his mouthful of bread. "I would. Are any of the letters sealed?"

Bertholdt sorted through them, held out two with the seals of various nobility on the back. "Just these."

"Put those on the desk when you go, and read me the rest." Erwin was never at his best in the mornings, but perhaps having someone read to him would make it more pleasant. Bertholdt had a fine voice: deep and resonant, though soft. He listened, amused despite himself when Bertholdt smartly turned about and read to the wall while Erwin stripped off his nightshirt and changed into his uniform. Apparently the divider between them, and the years in barracks, hadn't cured the other man's shyness.

The recitation finished as Erwin emerged, buckling his straps in place though forgoing the gear. There were no sorties planned for the day, merely logistical work and some inspection of castle structures.

Bertholdt looked him up and down, then frowned, just a little bit.

"Is there a problem?"

"Um. Your shirt collar is a bit crooked, and the tie is uneven." Bertholdt swayed forward slightly, as though itching to fix the problem, then gave Erwin a panicked glance.

"Come here and fix them, then," said Erwin. He held still as Bertholdt approached, feeling, absurdly, that Bertholdt was yet so fragile for all his height and strength. Bertholdt's hands trembled as they touched his collar, tugged it straight with the slightest pressure, shook even more as they rested on his collarbones to even out his tie. His hands were warm, even through the cotton of Erwin's shirt, and Erwin's mouth was very dry.

Bertholdt's expression was fixed, eyes dark with concentration as he straightened out Erwin's tie and laid it flat. Finished, he glanced up at Erwin and almost startled, as though he'd forgotten Erwin was there. "I think that's better, sir," he managed, and Erwin was flooded, despite himself, with a wave of fondness for this strange young man, so shy and so devoted.

Bertholdt held out his jacket for him to slip into, then followed Erwin from the room, two steps behind and to his left, his regard a weight on Erwin's shoulders.

"I think your friends are waiting for you," said Erwin at the door to the canteen. "Bertholdt."

The other man froze. Lean as he was, he seemed a hound, waiting only on his master's word.

"This morning was quite pleasant. If you like, you can do that whenever you wish. Thank you for everything."

Bertholdt ducked his head, hunching into his shoulders, but his half-embarrassed smile told his true feelings. "Thank you, sir."

-

Bertholdt slipped into his life as easily as breathing, until Erwin almost couldn't remember what it was like without his tall, quiet shadow, always two steps behind and to the left. His tea was always perfectly made, his cup silently whisked away when it was empty or cold and replaced with a fresh drink. His uniform was never so well-turned-out, pressed within an inch of its life, and his evenings were now not complete without the sight of Bertholdt sitting by the fire, laboring over his boots with polish and brush until they gleamed.

Often they spoke, though it took Erwin days to draw Bertholdt from his shell, patiently asking him his thoughts, making it clear that he considered Bertholdt's opinions his due. He discovered a surprising conversationalist, a jewel in the rough with a dry wit that could make him smile (when Bertholdt could be convinced that it was all right to be sarcastic), and was glad, despite himself, that Bertholdt's dry humor and incisive observations were his.

Erwin made sure to thank him at the end of every day, selfishly hoarding the becoming flushes and dropped gazes his words garnered him. Sometimes, late at night, when the day's worries had receded, he would lie in bed, hand drifting south, and stroke himself, imagining Bertholdt's fingers, the sulky fullness of his mouth, the desperate devotion in his eyes, turned towards bringing Erwin release. He imagined Bertholdt would learn quickly, always had, submitting himself to Erwin's quiet suggestions as though they came thundering from on high.

So it went, until one night in winter when Bertholdt, setting Erwin's boots inside the wardrobe, turned towards where Erwin sat on his bed, reading the last dispatch of the day from the capital. A pause, green eyes flickering in indecision, before he took the rigid stance, arms folded behind his back, gaze averted, that Erwin had learned meant that he wanted something yet feared to ask for it.

"Yes?" he asked, peering at him over the top of the page.

Bertholdt swallowed, that long, graceful throat bobbing, and avoided Erwin's gaze, cheeks stained red. "I. Never mind, Erwin."

That got his attention. Bertholdt rarely used his first name, seeming to regard 'sir' as Erwin's due, or some form of affection. He only said Erwin's name when he was truly distressed.

"Bertholdt." He set the papers aside on his nightstand and curled his finger to summon Bertholdt closer, aware, despite himself, of the beckoning nature of the motion, the possession it implied. "Sit there."

Bertholdt approached, wary, looking at Erwin and then away, like a creature hungry for affection yet still unsure. He folded into Erwin's chair, though looked slightly ridiculous with his long legs folded so his knees were halfway up his belly (Erwin could only imagine how those legs would look wrapped about his hips).

"If you want something, you have only to ask for it. I can't give you what you won't ask for." Erwin leaned forward, propping elbows on knees, and waited until Bertholdt looked his way, then smiled, just slightly, but enough to capture Bertholdt's attention for good. "Tell me what you want." He paused, debating, then said quietly, unsure, "That is an order."

He hadn't known the change that would produce in Bertholdt. How could he have known? But Maria, Rose, and Sina, he would order Bertholdt every moment he could, if Bertholdt was so utterly undone by the idea.

Bertholdt's eyes widened, then fell half-shut, heavy-lidded, smoky. His lean thighs fell open without conscious thought in silent offering. A flush stole along his cheekbones, sweat dappling the vulnerable hollow of his throat. And lastly, a terrible tease that had Erwin instantly hard in his trousers, a flash of that pink tongue as it wet his lips, left them glistening in candlelight.

"In my hometown," Bertholdt said, his voice rough, with an appealing rawness that made Erwin want to hold him down and make him beg, "servants usually sleep in their masters' rooms, to be present in case they need anything during the night." He moved to twist his hands together, but stilled, remembering Erwin's disapproval of how the tic damaged his fingers. "Do you... not wish this of me?"

"Do you not want to be in the barracks with the other trainees?" Though, to be fair, Bertholdt was not the most social of creatures. He seemed to have a small store of caring, which he parceled out in wary doses to a privileged few: Trainees Braun and Leonheart, Erwin. A lot like Levi, in that respect.

"I see them enough in the canteen and during training. They're my friends, but you are my..." he struggled for a moment, then offered, "My center." Bertholdt's eyes glittered jade-green, his face drawn in silent question. "I want to be near, in case you need me. I could sleep in the office, if you prefer."

Erwin sat back against the wall, studying Bertholdt. He couldn't deny such an appeal out of hand, especially as this was the first request Bertholdt had ever been brave enough to make outright, though his instinctual reaction was to say no. His quarters were his space, private and impermeable, and the idea of having someone else inside made him itch. Still, Bertholdt was nearly inhuman in his unobtrusiveness, and he couldn't imagine Bertholdt ever making a mess or bothering him.

And then, gazing at Bertholdt, who gave so unselfishly and asked for so little in return, he arrived at the crux of the matter. As he was Bertholdt's duty, a willing recipient for all the considerable devotion Bertholdt had to offer, so too was Bertholdt his responsibility, meeting his needs Erwin's priority. If fulfilling Bertholdt's bone-deep yearning to serve him required allowing Bertholdt to share his quarters, then he would do so.

"I'll allow it. Bring up a bed and place it behind the divider."

Bertholdt smiled, though the gleam in his eyes told more of his joy than any expression could. "Thank you, sir," he said, and then, as if caught by some strange compulsion, slid from the chair onto his knees. He looked good there, Erwin thought, and then hated himself for the thought.

"Bertholdt-" Erwin started, then fell silent as Bertholdt pressed his lips to the toe of Erwin's boot, long-fingered, delicate hands wrapped about Erwin's ankle, felt even through the stiff material. The heat of Bertholdt's mouth as he kissed Erwin's feet made it through the leather, the soft sounds of his lips against Erwin's boot a torment.

"Bertholdt," he said quietly, sure to offer no feeling in his tone, "what are you doing? Sit up, please."

Bertholdt sat up, so tall that even on his haunches his head reached Erwin's chest. He'd flushed a brilliant red all down his throat, his lips slick and swollen from the pressure of leather against skin, and Erwin wanted nothing more than to haul him over his lap, undo his trousers, and turn him into a whimpering, keening mess. He could imagine it so clearly: the raw need in that rough voice, the surprised gasp as Erwin brought him over the edge, the buck of those slim hips.

"That's how servants show their appreciation at home," said Bertholdt, confused by Erwin's confusion. "You granted me a request you weren't obligated to."

"A simple 'thank you' would have sufficed," Erwin said, then regretted the remark as Bertholdt colored further and glanced away, near cringing. "No," he said, reaching out impulsively to cup the back of Bertholdt's head. "I'm sorry. That was cruel of me."

Bertholdt half-gasped at the touch of Erwin's fingers upon the warm skin of his neck, then shut his eyes, tilting his head back into Erwin's hand. "I'm sorry, sir. I didn't mean-"

"Bertholdt," Erwin interrupted, "If that is how you were taught to express appreciation, I won't stop you. I apologize for mocking your ways."

Bertholdt slumped, tilted his head until his cheek rested on Erwin's thigh, glancing up every few seconds as he moved as if expecting rejection. Finding none, he settled, daring to curve one hand about the back of Erwin's calf and relax.

Erwin offered no praise or censure, merely stroked his fingers through the silky black strands of Bertholdt's hair, savoring the slow fall of Bertholdt's lashes across his cheeks. A few minutes passed in the still room, lit only by candlelight, disturbed only by the soft sigh of Bertholdt's breathing feathering warm and damp across Erwin's skin.

Erwin hesitated, then whispered, hoping his instincts were right, "Good, Bertholdt. You're so very good."

Bertholdt shuddered, and sighed, as though he'd been waiting all his life for such simple praise, and Erwin felt, with a sudden rush of lust, the twitch of an unmistakable hardness against the toe of his boot.

Bertholdt stiffened, made a low, wretched sound, then scrambled upright, all lassitude fled, humiliation riding in a scarlet flush along his cheekbones. "I'm so sorry, sir- I'm sorry, I'll go-" his words tripped over themselves in miserable babble as he twisted to make for the door.

"Bertholdt, stop!" Erwin snapped, using every ounce of command he possessed, and Bertholdt, so obedient, always so willing, froze in the doorway,

He covered the thick ridge tenting his trousers with trembling hands, and his downturned face - what little of it Erwin could see through his hair - gleamed pale. He gazed at the floor, refusing to even dare a glance in Erwin's direction. A series of fine shudders wracked him, though his breathing seemed stopped entirely.

"You can go if you feel you need to, but stay, please. I want to talk about this."

Bertholdt swayed toward the door, cast a few longing looks in its direction, then took a halting step in Erwin's direction and folded to his knees on the carpet, head bowed. His lower lip, caught between his teeth, swelled red and raw, and Erwin wanted nothing more than to reach over and persuade Bertholdt to release it.

Erwin gazed at him for a long moment, considering what to say. He wouldn't add to Bertholdt's humiliation for the world, but neither could he ignore the fact that he had more control over Bertholdt than he'd ever dreamed or thought of having. Expediency seemed the best path.

"You can leave at any moment," he reaffirmed. "If you are uncomfortable, or I'm too intrusive, you can end this whenever you like."

Bertholdt glanced up at him through the dark fringe of his hair, a flash of green eyes, then nodded, the slight motion so shy Erwin's heart near broke.

Erwin went for bluntness. "Has serving me or receiving praise from me always brought you near to release?"

Bertholdt shook his head, then said, so quiet Erwin almost missed it, "Only recently. Only when I realized how much you appreciated what I could give." He shifted, hands twitching where they covered his erection. "And I wanted- I wanted to give you more. I want to serve you, even in this."

Erwin hesitated, unsure once more of how he could allow Bertholdt to serve him thus and not feel exploitative. "You realize that I don't require this of you, and that I would never want to take anything you aren't willing to give? Your position as my servant, or in the corps, doesn't depend on what you're willing to do for me."

"Yes, sir."

"And you've thought this through? You know that you're my servant only as long as you wish to be."

"I think I'll always want to be yours," said Bertholdt, deep voice lending itself well to the gravitas the statement demanded.

Erwin was running out of excuses. Difficult to find more, considering that he wanted Bertholdt, and Bertholdt wanted him, and in these last days one took pleasure where it was offered. He settled for a feeble, "You're certain?"

Bertholdt gazed directly at him, those green eyes capturing him with their honesty. "You're always asking us to trust you, sir. Trust that I know my own desires."

Erwin gazed at Bertholdt for a long while, and Bertholdt only looked back, waiting, accepting. "All right," he said, and nodded to the space between his thighs. "Come here."

Bertholdt came, clumsy, coltish, in his movements, reached Erwin and knelt, trembling, hands fluttering in confusion. "Thank you, sir," he whispered, tipping his head back, eyes shining in the candlelight, and oh, Erwin wanted him - his sweet, quiet yielding, so rare in a world where Erwin had to fight for every scrap.

He cupped Bertholdt's sharp jaw in one hand and tilted it upwards to study Bertholdt's expression, the heated flush on his cheeks, his lips, pink and shining. Stubble rasped against his palm. Another breath, and he stooped to conquer, holding Bertholdt in place with his hand. Not that he needed it, for Bertholdt gave in gladly, eyes falling shut, mouth soft, copying Erwin's moves. He learned as quickly as Erwin had dreamed he would. His willingness to be guided inflamed, the little whimper as Erwin licked open his mouth and bit his lower lip scalded.

Bertholdt's hands settled, tentative, on Erwin's thighs, tightening in silent annoyance as Erwin drew back. He looked at Bertholdt once more and groaned, cock pressing against the inside of his trousers.

Bertholdt's eyes were near-black, smoky with unguarded desire, and he panted quietly, gazing up at Erwin as though he were a god. His trousers strained to contain his erection, a damp patch spreading where his cock had wept for want of Erwin's touch.

The power was maddening.

"Clothes off and come up here."

With trembling hands, Bertholdt undid the buttons of his shirt, shrugged it off to puddle on the floor behind him, staring at Erwin in mute supplication. He was lean, a creature of bone and sinew, bruised where the Gear straps had cut into his flesh. Scars littered his chest and shoulders, one slicing down to curl into itself by one small nipple, drawn tight and pouting in the cool air of the room.

Erwin looked back, impassive, devouring every inch of revealed skin with his eyes. His fingers clenched on his knees as Bertholdt undid the fly to his trousers and pushed it and his smallclothes off in one motion. His cock, slender as the rest of him, curved into the air, red and slick. It twitched as Erwin deliberately lowered his gaze to it, then dragged his attention up Bertholdt's body to meet his eyes: wide, glittering, wanting.

Bertholdt trembled as he rose from his kneeling position, finally saying, "Do I please you?" Even now, he had no wants for himself, only desiring to make Erwin happy.

Erwin reached out, caught him about the waist, and dragged him to sit atop his thighs, settling his hands on the sharp cut of Bertholdt's hipbones. Bertholdt's height was perfect, placing his narrow chest exactly at eye and mouth level. He glanced up and smiled slow, savoring the shudder that wrung from Bertholdt's body. "You always do." Then he leaned in, kissed a path down that slim silver scar, and set his mouth about Bertholdt's nipple, drawing it in.

Bertholdt hissed, fingers tightening on Erwin's shoulders, hips rocking helplessly down onto Erwin's thighs. He whined once more as Erwin fit his fingers about his other nipple and pinched, tortured that pink flesh until it burned red and warm, stiff with need.

Erwin switched, brought that reddened nub to his mouth and bit, backing off and quieting the hurt with soft laps of his tongue. Every motion garnered something new: a hitched gasp, a flinch of Bertholdt's hands where they grasped his shoulders, a low, raw whine. The power was intoxicating, the need for touch trembling in Bertholdt's every move near addicting.

Bertholdt's hips rocked into Erwin's hands in silent entreaty, the motion unskilled yet wanton as his cock released another strand of clear fluid to stain Erwin's trousers. Erwin fought the urge to close his eyes, to throw Bertholdt down on the bed and rut into him like a stag in spring.

"Sir," Bertholdt managed, his voice wrecked. "How can I serve you?"

Erwin released one sharp hipbone and reached to his nightstand to withdraw a small bottle of oil. His hand shook with need. "You serve me well like this, my sweet boy," and Bertholdt arched his back into a straining bow and sobbed, a high, ruined sound, warning enough for Erwin to get a hand about the base of Bertholdt's cock and hold him back from the precipice.

Bertholdt collapsed, tucked his face into Erwin's shoulder and panted, hips still twitching restlessly. "Thank you, sir," he whispered, pressing tentative kisses to Erwin's jaw. "Thank you for holding me back, I couldn't- I didn't want to disappoint you, but I couldn't-"

"Hush," Erwin said, fumbling the bottle open and coating his free hand in slick. "I would never let you disappoint me." A kiss to the tip of one ear, red and hot with shame and desire, that received a whimper in payment. "As for your endurance," he whispered low, adoring Bertholdt's shudder, "we'll have time to work on that." On the last word, his hand stole about the upper half of Bertholdt's cock, the head, flushed deep rose, peeking between his fingers. "Has anyone touched you here? In barracks?" A glance up at Bertholdt's face, frozen in mingled pleasure and agony. "Move, my darling." The pet name came unbidden, yet seemed appropriate.

At his touch, Bertholdt shook, rocked up into Erwin's grip, skin sliding against skin. "Only Reiner, sir. We were barracks mates."

Not unusual; it was expected for trainees to form partnerships to relieve stress, especially as the barracks hosted floods of rampaging hormones. Erwin had had Mike as his barracks mate, and some of the girls as well.

"But we - ah - only used mouths and hands," Bertholdt added. His voice splintered into a keen as Erwin tightened his hand and swiped his thumb over that silken head, deliberately catching the edge of his nail on the tiny slit. Unbidden, uncontrolled, he tossed his head back, baring his throat and his chest, marked now with Erwin's remnants, and rode Erwin's hand, thrusting in slow, sinuous motions. Every idle pass of Erwin's thumb over his cock made him grunt, and the roll of Erwin's hand over the complex vein on the bottom forced a surprised whine from him, more sounds to hoard.

"You're such a pretty thing," said Erwin, watching greedily how every motion flickered on Bertholdt's face. Such openness, such naked need, these things were so rare, and Bertholdt gave over without thought or care, trusting Erwin to keep him safe, wanting to be molded into what Erwin desired. "And such a pretty cock, too-"

"Sir," Bertholdt gasped, the steady rise and fall of his fucking Erwin's hand taking its toll as sweat-damp hair fell into his eyes, "All for you, sir, just want to be what you want-"

"Maybe someday I'll stretch you out on my bed," Erwin rumbled, working Bertholdt faster, the air full of the slick sound of his hand on Bertholdt, idle fantasies unspooling in his mind, "Wouldn't even need to tie you, as obedient as you are, as much as you want to please me. And I'll spend a day working over your sweet cock-" harsher pressure now, the dig of his nail into Bertholdt's fluttering slit, "I have some sounds, you know, I could fuck your cock with them while I have you."

"Please, please, sir-" Bertholdt's voice soaked him in lust, as ruined and raw and gone with need as it was, "-please use me." His rhythm deteriorated into helpless quivers of the hips, the long muscles of his thighs trembling with exhaustion in the lamplight.

Erwin tilted his head and stretched up to whisper in his ear. "Don't worry, darling. I'll use you 'til you're too sore to move. Now. Come for me. Give it to me."

Bertholdt stiffened and came, silent, his fingers digging into Erwin's shoulders, mouth falling open, face twisted in agonized pleasure. To see him so stripped was a privilege, a rarity, considering his usual blank expression. He collapsed forward into Erwin, trusting him to hold him up, and tucked his face into Erwin's neck as he shook with the aftershocks of pleasure.

Erwin touched him through it, stroking the silken steel of his cock, and continued to toy with the crown until the harsh gasps for breaths against Erwin's neck shifted to pained whines of overstimulation, though Bertholdt never asked him to stop. Still, Erwin did, drawing his hand away and wiping it on the handkerchief he kept in his trouser pockets before returning it to Bertholdt's sweat-damp skin. Holding Bertholdt like this, naked and vulnerable and trusting, felt right, and the thrill of possession settled in his bones. He kept one hand about Bertholdt's waist, stroked the other down the valley of his spine until Bertholdt arched into the touch with a sigh.

Bertholdt seemed touch-starved, greedy for affection, soaking up every kiss and kind word like a plant flowering after rain. He pressed clumsy kisses to Erwin's throat, clutching at him like he feared Erwin would leave him, though Erwin had no intention of abandoning such a sweet, obedient man to his own devices.

"Sir?" Bertholdt said, very softly, against his jaw.

"Yes?" Erwin's thighs were starting to complain about having such a weight on them for a prolonged period, but he told them to shut up. As long as Bertholdt needed this closeness, he'd provide. Even though the pressure of Bertholdt's ass on his arousal was agony.

"Will you teach me how to please you?"

"You already do," he replied, tilting his head to the side so Bertholdt could lay sucking little bites along one tendon.

"No," Bertholdt said between nips, "I mean, with my mouth."

Oh. Erwin breathed out on a long sigh.

"Yes. Kneel." As Bertholdt stretched and slid off Erwin’s thighs, Erwin twisted to grab a cushion and place it on the ground for Bertholdt to kneel on. Even on his knees, Bertholdt’s head was almost of a height with Erwin’s, though his eyes were cast down, fixed on the straining cloth of Erwin’s trousers. All that height and strength, so completely under Erwin’s command, and there by choice-

It left him breathless. He settled one hand at the back of Bertholdt’s head, thumb stroking over the tip of Bertholdt’s ear. The shiver he received in return was beautiful. “Undo the buttons,” he whispered, “and take me out.”

Bertholdt’s fingers were gentle, tentative in opening his trousers and pushing the flies open, and Erwin’s free hand clenched in the bedsheets to keep from coming prematurely. Bertholdt glanced up, a flash of green eyes and a shy smile, and pushed one hand into the slit of Erwin’s small clothes. Callused fingers wrapped about him, lifted him free into the cold air, and as Bertholdt saw him he sighed, swaying forward until the hand fisted in his hair stopped him. The honesty of him made something clench in Erwin’s chest - his cock was not a pretty thing, as blunt and big and insistent as the rest of him, and to have a partner look at him instantly as something desirous was new, and wonderful.

"Thank you, sir," he said. He licked his lips, an unconscious and yet wanton gesture, and met Erwin’s gaze. "I look forward to having it in me, someday."

Erwin barely recognized his own voice, reduced to a low rasp. “You’ll have it. I’ll ride you hard and put you away wet, and you’ll take it gratefully, won’t you?”

Bertholdt shuddered. “Yes, sir. Please-“

"Lean forward, and suck."

Bertholdt practically lunged, Erwin’s hand ripping free of his hair, and got his mouth around Erwin like a man starved. For all his shyness, in this he had none, licking, sucking, letting the plush inside of his lips drag against Erwin’s head as he pulled back. The air was full for long minutes with his soft whines and the slick sound of his mouth against skin.

"God, Bertholdt," Erwin grunted, getting one hand about Bertholdt’s jaw, the other about the back of his head, "slow down, or I won’t last."

Bertholdt listened, sitting back and sucking softly at the head. His eyes were closed like a man savoring a fine wine, and if this was how skilled he was the first time around, Erwin stood not a chance once Bertholdt had more experience.

"Keep your mouth tight," Erwin said, as he tightened his grip on Bertholdt. "If you need me to stop, hit me."

Bertholdt opened his eyes and arched one eyebrow in silent challenge.

Erwin could only grin, wolfish, and adore Bertholdt’s full-body shudder and whimper. “Now, darling, stay open.” He thrust in slow, controlled motions, hips rocking up into that tight, slick furnace, Bertholdt daring to sneak a hand around him to settle on his ass. At the feel of his muscles tensing and relaxing, Bertholdt’s eyes near-rolled back in his head, a moan vibrating along Erwin’s shaft.

"You’re so good for me. So obedient. Perhaps every day," Erwin cut off on a grunt as Bertholdt swallowed, the sudden constriction so sweet, "before bed I’ll have you do this. Would you like to serve me that way, darling?"

Bertholdt’s throat opened, then, and Erwin slid in all the way to the hilt, a shocked shout breaking free of him. Orgasm crashed into him like a runaway horse, and for a moment he hung in darkness and silence and bliss. He came back to himself, slumped against the wall of his bedroom, chest heaving, hands still on Bertholdt.

Bertholdt remained at his feet, softening cock held in his mouth, and looked up at Erwin like he was the answer to every prayer. His eyes closed as Erwin clumsily stroked his hair, the stubble on his jaw, thumbed the necklace of dark marks about his collarbones, muttering, “You’re so beautiful, so willing, darling, and I am so stupidly lucky to have you as mine.”

He blinked, lassitude starting to pull him under, and sat back. His cock fell from Bertholdt’s mouth, and Bertholdt rose to catch him as he wobbled. It’d been months since he’d last had this, and he would never go so long without again if fulfillment made him so clumsy.

"Let me, sir," said Bertholdt, voice raw, and undressed him with heartbreaking carefulness, folding and laying aside his clothes.

Erwin fell back into bed, naked, and as Bertholdt turned to go to his own, he said, “Douse the lamp, Bertholdt, and then come back here. I think we may not need the extra bed.”

Bertholdt paused, turning, mouth twitching in a crooked smile. “As you wish, sir,” he said. The room plunged into darkness, and Bertholdt crawled in beside Erwin, warm and alive and here, and rested his head on Erwin’s chest, daring to entwine one leg with Erwin’s.

"Thank you, Bertholdt," Erwin said, closing his eyes, relaxing as he had not in so long.

"Thank you, sir," said Bertholdt, and then again, softer, "Thank you, Erwin."

A long night, and no nightmares.