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there's no room for innocence

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News travels fast in a royal court; even the dullest gossip streaks through the castle more quickly than one might believe possible.

This news is as far from dull as news can get.

Duke Stilinski has returned to court.

The Duke doesn’t make a formal appearance until the morning after he arrives, and the hall is packed with people. No one quite believes there will be a scene, of course, but one never knows.

The King’s voice is warm as he welcomes Duke Stilinski, but his dark eyes are hard, jaw tight around the words.

They had an... entanglement. Half the court knows it, whispers it in the ears of the ones who haven’t yet heard. But the King is the king is the king - responsibility, duty, pretty babies to carry on the family line. What no one knows is exactly how it ended, only that it did, the ground between them gone slick with ice and vitriol.

Courtiers note the way the Duke meticulously doesn’t watch the King as he escorts the Lady Sylvia to table. They see the King fall into his cups after the Duke and his companion leave Lord Elliot’s ball scandalously early.

Serves the Duke right, some whisper. Honestly, what did he think would happen? Others curse the King for a fool, eyeing long limbs, wondering to what use that sharp tongue could be put.

Sir Lahey arrives at Court for the season, a fair-haired, fair-faced spark that lights a conflagration.

The King takes to him immediately, meeting him on the practice field, delighting in clean sweat and uncomplicated, simple affection, a brotherly arm slung across the man’s shoulders.

As it happens, the Duke also takes to Sir Lahey rather suddenly. Although, the Court whispers, it might be more accurate to say that the Duke allows Sir Lahey to take him.

: : :

Genim lets it happen slowly, soft touches and softer glances, so many smiles his face aches, every one of them right under his king’s nose.

He meets them as they come in from an afternoon ride, combs his fingers teasingly through scattered blond curls, steadying his other palm against the leather-covered curve of Lahey’s shoulder, ignoring the way the King’s gaze snaps to his hand. You are a mess, good sir, he laughs. The King ought to take better care of his loyal subjects.

Lahey laughs, bright and open, and it’s not until his eyes flick to the King’s, sharing the joke, that Genim allows the smirk to curl his lips. It’s gone as quickly as it appeared, before Lahey even looks back, but Genim knows his King.

Knows that he saw it. Knows that he understood the message it carried.

Knows that the King won’t raise a finger to stop it, no matter how much it pricks and stings at him.

And oh, does Genim mean to make it burn.

There’s an answering flash, the King’s face going ruddy. Good. Maybe this time they’ll finally destroy one another.

: : :

This is better than he could have imagined.

A hush ripples along the fencing hall, courtiers turning as the King enters, Sir Lahey at his side. They’re together constantly, so often that the rumors are already spreading.

A fact that will only serve to make things all the more delightful when Genim finally tumbles Lahey into his sheets.

He strips off his face mask, shaking the sweaty hair back off of his forehead as he bows low, first to his partner and then to the King.

“My liege. Sir Lahey,” Genim murmurs, uncurling with a smooth flourish that brings his gaze dragging up the length of Lahey’s body.

“Duke Stilinski,” the King nods, all curt tone and narrowed eyes.

It’s positively adorable, the way he seems to think his facial expressions are at all intimidating, as if a few months away will have erased everything between them.

“Duke, I hadn’t realized you fenced - shall we have a match?”

He demurs gracefully, coy, but Genim’s fingers flex with the itch to wipe the floor with this smiling, innocent thing, grind his face into the bloody dust and then ride his prick until they’re both screaming.

The King tracks the movement, that bastard, and the twist of his lips says that he still reads Genim just as easily as Genim reads the King.

“Why, yes, Duke Genim, I believe I’d like to see the two of you face off. He may not look it, Sir Lahey, but the Duke here is one of my - our finest fencers.”

“Then, with your permission, Sire, I’m afraid I must insist.”

Lahey doesn’t bother with fencing whites, taking a mask from a waiting servant and stepping into position.

You’ll regret this, Genim promises the King silently. The truth is that he is quite possibly the finest fencer in the court; fine enough to take an ordinary bout and turn it into a dance.

A seduction.

Here, on the fencing floor, his long limbs and sharp gestures are assets, the foil an extension of his arm. He lunges, brings his foil up into the battement, catching Lahey’s blade across the center and pushing it to the side, stepping forward, corps-a-corps. Lahey’s chest is heaving against his own.

“Sir,” Genim whispers, before he steps back and flicks his blade into place.

Each movement is perfect, precise and fluid, coaxing Lahey into him step by subtle step. Only a master’s eye would catch the turn of wrist or ankle, a deliberate half-second off-tempo, giving Lahey the advantage.

There’s only one other master fencer in this hall.

A step, a twist, and instinct has Lahey grabbing hold of him as they spill to the floor, slammed together along the lines of chest and hip, his legs cradling Lahey snug between them.

Frantic hands tug off his mask.

“Genim, Genim, are you alright?” Sweaty palms stroke across his cheeks, his temple, the back of his head, checking for injuries.

“I hadn’t realized we’d progressed to first names.”

“I’m - I apologize, my lord.”

“Don’t,” he says, with a dirty twitch of his pelvis. It’s terribly obvious, of course, sends Lahey scrambling off of him, pink-faced and stuttering, but he reaches down in the next moment to pull Genim to his feet, cupping their hands together.

Victory pulses in Genim’s belly.

He turns to the King.

“No concern about my welfare, Sire?”

A royal eyebrow cocks, sarcasm written in every inch of that regal face.

“Was there a need to be?”

“Your highness,” Lahey exclaims, shocked and so precious with it, like an earnest little puppy. “The Duke could have been seriously injured.”

“Believe me, Sir Lahey, the Duke could take all of that and more, without so much as batting an eyelash. He’s very... proficient... that way.”

“Your lack of worry injures me, Sire,” Genim says.

“You should be grateful that’s your only injury, after such carelessness. I would have expected you to display better caution.”

“How little you know of me, then.”

His fingers twitch again, a habit he curses when the King reaches out, all solicitousness and hot palms against his skin.

“Perhaps you were hurt, after all. We certainly couldn’t have that, could we, Sir Lahey? And at my own suggestion.”

The King is speaking to Lahey, head turned, not even looking at Genim, but silky fingertips trail along his joints, measuring out the pound of his pulse at his wrist.

The contact scorches through Genim, met and matched by a rush of hatred so thick he can taste it on the back of his tongue.

“I believe I do feel the slightest bit faint,” he says, yanking his hand away. “Sir Lahey, if you would be so kind as to escort me back to my chambers?”

Lahey’s arm curves around him, protective; there’s a daring kiss dropped on his temple when they part.

It does nothing to erase the phantom of the King’s touch.

: : :

He doesn’t watch as the King whirls by, another in a string of finely-dressed women on his arm.

This one is as lovely as all the others, Genim is sure, poised and graceful, gentle and well-spoken.

The King must enjoy that, delicate flowers that don’t push, don’t press, keeping their thoughts - if they have any - tucked away behind their glossy lips.

They’re undoubtedly the same way in bed, all humility and practiced gestures, yes, Sire, no, Sire, thank you, Sire.

Genim has a far different plan for his own evening.

The Duke turns his back on the dance floor, running his fingers down the brocade sleeve of his companion. Eyes dark, smile sultry; one would have to look hard to note the edges.

Sir Lahey certainly doesn’t notice, pink-cheeked and tousled from dancing and, quite possibly, one too many glasses of the particularly fine wine on the table. All he sees is what Genim wants him to notice - long legs in snug breeches, flushed cheekbones, wine-wet lips.

Lahey leans forward, thinking himself greatly daring, to steal the taste from that mouth. It amuses the small part of Genim that isn’t ticking away, sorting through plans, weighing the consequences. Perhaps it’s time to spring this trap.

The Duke allows himself to smirk, slow, brilliant, suggestive. Gestures languidly toward the door.

Across the room, the King’s knuckles go white.

: : :

“Come now, sir, you wouldn’t want to be branded a coward, would you?” He asks, fingers teasing along the laces of Isaac’s breeches.

Isaac groans, gaze whipping along the length of the corridor as if someone was lying in wait to catch them out.

“No one ever uses these rooms; how else do you think someone like myself ended up with the key?”

A kiss is pressed to Genim’s cheek as Isaac’s hand covers his, turning the key in the lock.

How... sweet.

Genim swings the door open, tugging Isaac into the room after him. It’s a lovely space, always has been, ebony wood catching the light, furs tossed carelessly across the velvet cushions of the chaise lounge.

Isaac drops himself down, sprawling across fabric worth more than his knighthood.

“Right here, I think - all that pale skin must look lovely spread against fur,” Isaac suggests, stroking a palm along the blanket.

Genim swallows convulsively.

“No. No, not there.”

He turns on his heel, pushing his breeches over his hips as he goes. When he bends over the desk, he knows his ass is a perfect invitation.

“Here. Exactly like this.”

: : :

“Hello, Derek.”

The King’s face is so, so blank as he shuts the door behind him, eyes not leaving Genim for a second.

Genim knows what the King is seeing: loose laces, mussed hair, knees filthy with grit, lips obscenely swollen.

“Dear me; I must have forgotten that you prefer to escape here after a tedious engagement. How awkward.”

“You didn’t. You wouldn’t. Not here.”

“Would you like to know how he buggered me, right here, right over your desk, Sire?”

He drags a finger through the smear of come marring the fine, dark wood. The muscles in his King’s jaw go tight, while sick satisfaction burns through the Duke.

“A lovely prick that one has, too. So full I was choking on it.”

At least until Isaac had pulled back, concerned, forcing Genim to dig his fingers into pert buttocks, urging him forward again.

“He used my mouth until I nearly came from that alone; quite an unexpected showing, wouldn’t you say? You know how I like that,” he murmurs, eyes closing in a perfect semblance of faux-satisfaction. “I was begging for it when he finally had me. He barely even bothered to open me, just took what he wanted until I was positively screaming.”

Not true, as a matter of fact. Isaac had taken his sweet time about things, full of earnestness and gentle kisses against the line of Genim’s spine. Nice enough, he supposes, but something’s still crawling under his skin, unfulfilled.

“Frankly, it’s a good thing this hall was deserted. I can get so very vocal given the proper incentive.”

His head tips back, gaze traveling up his King’s form until it’s caught by the bulge trapped behind snug breeches. Derek always did have an appreciation for the way he sounded, for driving the noises out of him with teeth and tongue and cock.

Isaac had liked it too, believed every ridiculously showy moan, fallen for every dirty plea. It had been disappointingly easy.

Genim jerks himself out the chair, turns it into a stretch, a roll of the shoulders that displays broad shoulders and well-toned muscle. There’s a scraping sound, fingernails against wood, and he laughs aloud with the bitter thrill it elicits.

For each step he takes forward, Derek presses further back against the door, until it seems as if he’s about to go straight through the damn thing.

Contempt roils through Genim’s belly. The people would be ashamed to learn their king is such a coward.

He rocks up onto the balls of his feet, gets his mouth close to Derek’s ear.

“His spunk is still dripping out of me.”

Derek’s hands close on nothing, eyes closing, mouth dropping open on a growl; remembering every time he sucked come out of Genim’s ass, undoubtedly, and hopefully the memories choke him the same way they do Genim.

One hand reaches for the door as the other skates over Derek’s erection.

“Enjoy your evening, Sire,” he says, light, conversational, and slips out as Derek’s - the King’s, the King’s, damn it - as the King takes a step forward, hands reaching out.

Ear pressed against the other side of the door, Genim shuts his eyes, nerves strung taut as he waits, listening, listening.

Minutes pass before the silence breaks on a wordless moan, guttural and broken, slipping out of unwilling lips.

Genim walks away, whistling.

: : :

This time it’s the stables, Isaac slipping away bare minutes before the King arrives for his afternoon ride.

The King finds Genim sprawled across a hay bale, shirt hanging off one shoulder, straw caught in his damp hair.

“We had to be quiet, tucked away in here. The grooms, you know. Funny how they so rarely check the hayloft these days.”

Out of the corner of his eye, Genim catches sight of a skinny stable hand, anxious to saddle the King’s horse but completely unwilling to step into the middle of the building tension.

He doesn’t blame the boy; any sane person would be running.

A coin tossed in that direction and a tight nod from the King gets rid of the stable hand; Genim rolls to his feet, reaching for the tack hanging on the walls.

“Are you taking out Hengroen?”

Another white-lipped, terse gesture; apparently the King has decided that simply not speaking to him will be the better choice. He’s wrong.

All the easier to fill the silence, and he lays out the story as elegantly as a banquet would be laid on the high table.

The way that Isaac had crowded him up the ladder, wandering hands and laughter, so much laughter that Genim clapped a hand over his mouth, laughing in return. Warm skin and weak light filtering in, catching on dust motes and the freckles across the bridge of Isaac’s nose.

The kinds of things Genim doesn’t want to notice.

No time to do more than slide loose their breeches, pricks rubbing, spit-slick hands pulling, rolling atop of Isaac to rut into the sweaty curve of his hip. Mouths working at flesh, sucking pink marks into Genim’s neck that force him to muffle a cry against Isaac’s shoulder.

Genim’s voice clogs in his throat, and he prays to a deity in which he no longer believes that the smooth, rote movements of his hands cover the break in narration. No one need know whose name Genim mouthed as he came, silent, pressed into the fabric of Isaac’s shirt.

Digging his fingers into Isaac’s shoulders, loose and boneless with the force of his orgasm, everything sticky-sweet in the pale sunlight. Isaac spills over their fingers a moment later, laying breathless kisses against Genim’s lips-

“Shut. Your. Mouth.” The snarl comes from directly behind him, Genim’s hands tightening on the bridle as he tries not to visibly startle. Hengroen huffs an annoyed breath against his chest.

“What’s the matter, Derek, hmm? I happen to know that I’m an excellent storyteller.”

A single step backwards brings their bodies together, Derek’s cock hard and straining against him, breeches not hiding a thing.

Stop this, Genim. Stop it now, his better self whispers.

No.

His head drops back onto Derek’s shoulder, hips rolling in tiny, filthy circles.

“You can’t help yourself, can you, Derek? You’d take your own knight’s used goods, wouldn’t you? His seed is all over me, and you’d lick up every drop just to replace it with your own.”

They both know it’s true.

Derek shudders against him, hands coming down to dig strong fingers into Genim’s hips, the broken sound he makes getting Genim’s own prick hard.

“That may be,” Derek says, the words hissed out as his teeth work at the fragile skin of Genim’s neck. “That may be, but how many of the people in your bed are there only because I had you first? The very first, wasn’t I, Genim? No matter how many others you spread those pale thighs for, it will always have been me.”

Blood rushes through him, the pound of his own heartbeat nearly drowning out the venom in Derek’s words.

“You know what I remember the most? I remember how you were begging me to take you by the end of it. You weren’t very good, of course, but so enthusiastic, such a little wanton thing, squirming on the end of my prick. I think you might have cried, even.”

He had. That’s what Genim remembers - the sting of tears burning hot against his eyelids, biting his lip bloody to keep them from spilling out, everything too good and too much, Derek’s arms tight around him, voice murmuring in the darkness, thick with affection and praise.

Damn him. Damn Derek, and damn himself for good measure, straight to hell.

Fingers snake into his breeches, brushing the damp head of his cock, a jarring burst of pleasure that tangles with disgust low in his belly. He wants blood, sharp and bitter in his mouth, head whipping to the side to sink teeth into Derek’s neck.

Frantic, mean, they stumble, pushing and shoving and clawing as they slam up against the wall of the stable. The grooms have gone, if they know what’s good for them, and the only other sound is the whuff and stamp of nervous horses.

Genim hates, and hates, and hates, dizzy with it, with the harsh panting of breath in and out of his lungs, with the bite of Derek’s nails against his ass. He closes his eyes just to block Derek out, a blessed moment of peace before a merciless hand wrenches his chin around.

Look. At. Me.

Derek works him slowly, steadily, palm slick with the oil the grooms use on the horses. He uses every trick gained from the hundred times he’s taken Genim apart, every slippery slide of fingers over the head, thumb rubbing down to Genim’s balls, a flick of the wrist that tugs at his foreskin, and through each deliberate, calculated stroke, his eyes never leave Genim’s face.

“Come for me, Genim, do it,” he whispers, slick and seductive, mouth a whisper away from Genim’s lips. “Let me see that pretty flush you get when you’re falling apart for me. It’s not like that with him, is it, you’re still panting for it afterward,” each word punctuated with a vicious twist of his wrist, Genim so close he’s sobbing for breath, “need me, I know you do, need me to fuck you, to have you-”

The orgasm sucks him under, shakes him apart and leaves the pieces scattered where they fall.

: : :

They never could keep away from each other; now they don’t even try. He stumbles from Isaac’s bed, sweat-soaked and freshly spent, only to fall into the King’s cool linen sheets, Derek sucking the come from his ass only to fill him again, leaving behind marks Genim can only barely explain away.

It’s brutal, every time, blood and bone and a visceral, terrible satisfaction as Derek holds him by the hair, stretching his back into a curve that aches. Dirty, sloppy things that barely qualify as kisses, bitten into his jaw, his shoulder, the small of his back. Dirtier words, dripped into his ears like poison, nasty things that only get him hotter, make him come harder.

He hates himself for it afterward, but that’s nothing new.

He doesn’t hate himself enough to stop.

Bent over the bed, Genim’s got his own fingers jammed in his mouth, biting his knuckles bloody to keep from crying out. How many times has he promised it to himself, that this will be the time that he doesn’t plead, doesn’t whine, doesn’t spread his thighs and beg like a slattern in the marketplace?

Derek’s hips slow, dragging out each pounding stroke, pulling back until the head of his prick nearly slips free, the pace torturous, designed solely to drive Genim out of his mind.

Derek wants to make him ask for it, and his fingers tighten where they’re curled over Genim’s shoulders, digging in as if he can force the sounds from Genim’s mouth.

The words are already prickling along the edge of Genim’s tongue when Derek goes still, pressed tight against him. He rocks backward, asking without asking, rutting shamelessly after what he needs, and he prays that will be enough.

“Genim.”

His name sounds strange in the hot, close air, hanging there without the order he’s expecting, the command to beg. Why has Derek stopped, if not to bait him into further debasement?

He lifts his face from the bed, rolling his neck to his left just in time to watch the heavy door swing silently closed.

The servants know better than to enter without knocking.

His eyes shut against the knowledge of the one person high enough in the king’s favour to breeze into the royal chambers with no warning.

“Please... Sire. Derek. Please.”

: : :

The sound of a leather glove dropped to the marble floor should barely be audible.

It’s loud enough to silence the entire court as people turn to stare, incredulous. Sir Lahey has called out the King. Impossible.

Will it end in a lashing, they whisper, or will there be a head on the block tonight?

The more clever among them look from Lahey’s clenched jaw to the King’s white knuckles, to Duke Stilinski’s sudden, sickened pallor.

“Sire. You have committed a shameful act, terrible enough for any man, worse for a noble, a king. I would see you answer for it.”

The King’s face is terribly, coldly furious.

“Sir Lahey, perhaps you would prefer to discuss this matter privately, before you commit a mistake from which there is no return.”

“Apologies, Sire, but no. Your subjects deserve to know the way in which you have abused your position to take advantage of one of their own.”

Even the murmurs from the crowd die down at Lahey’s statement. The King, their king, take unwilling advantage of someone? Women - and men - would come to blows for a night in the King’s bed.

He is the King. It is that simple.

“That is a grievous slander, Sir, and I will give you one chance to retract it, now.” The King takes a single step forward, his very presence eating up the air between himself and his knight.

To Sir Lahey’s credit, he stands his ground, unwavering in the face of the King’s anger.

“I saw it with my own eyes, Sire, a fact of which I know you are aware. I bear witness to the fact that... this person... lay unwilling beneath you, while their heart belonged to another.”

The King laughs, low and cool, bitterly amused.

Genim stands, frozen, along with half of the court as the King’s laughter breaks Isaac’s self-possession into shards, fingers straying towards the hilt of his sword. To draw on the King would be sheer, treasonous insanity, but Isaac trembles, caught on the edge of it.

“Unwilling? You think he came unwilling to my bed, just because he played the tart for you? Did that sweet, innocent face fool you? Half the people in this hall had him before you ever did.”

Avid faces swing in Genim’s direction. If there were any doubts about the subject at hand, they’re gone now.

“There weren’t tears in his eyes when he was with me, Sire.”

The King’s lip curls smugly, arrogance written large in the lines of his body.

“I imagine that was the problem.”

Genim moves without thought, pushing through the crowd as Isaac swings. The moment crawls, and he reaches out, fingers catching on empty air as Isaac’s hand makes contact with royal flesh.

The room erupts; women gasping, knights shouting, the guards rushing forward to flank Isaac and shove him to his knees. It happens in a haze, blurred around the edge of Genim’s vision, slow and very far away.

The only thing he sees, crystalline and knife-sharp, is Derek’s face as they stare at each other, horror and hatred and, even now, the simmering edge of lust.

If there is a god, his benediction lies elsewhere.

There will be no forgiveness for the two of them.