"Stop fighting," Ripper growls, his voice low and dark in Ethan's ear.
Ethan doesn't stop; he'd have to be a great deal more naïve than he is to believe that Ripper isn't expecting that, isn't kneeling astride his thighs precisely because of the twisting and writhing of the body beneath him.
Ripper shifts his weight, and Ethan's pushed harder against the floor, breathing in dust from the dingy rug, his wrist still aching from smacking it against the floor as he fell. He squirms again, arching up against Ripper, and hears the quiet, breathless cursing that tells him that oh, yes, Ripper's holding him down just because he knows Ethan's going to struggle.
"You're the one who said we needed to do this," Ripper says, and Ethan's been focusing so hard on the ragged sounds of Ripper's breathing that he's forgotten, for a moment, what "this" is. Then he raises himself up on his elbows, craning his neck, and sees the brush and the bottle of ink in Ripper's hands.
He manages to throw Ripper off him, or possibly just to squirm enough that Ripper moves of his own free will, but he doesn't get to his feet; instead, he rolls over onto his back, smirking up at Ripper. "No, I didn't."
Ripper's straddling his thighs again, looking less irritated than his tone of voice would imply. "No, you didn't," he agrees, "but if you think I'm letting you get near me with that knife, you're either mad or bloody stupid."
Ethan grins again, looking up at Ripper--stripped to the waist, his chest and shoulders covered with arcane symbols--runes and sigils intertwined with Latin script--all meticulously painted onto his skin over the course of the past three hours. Ethan probably could have finished sooner, but once he found that the tickle of the brush-point made Ripper twitch and shiver, he'd decided that it couldn't hurt to take his time.
"The magic will be stronger if there's blood involved," he says. "I didn't say it had to be your blood." He studies Ripper's face, watching for the moment when he catches on.
And there it is: a sudden blink, a convulsive movement of Ripper's Adam's apple as he swallows hard, a flush creeping up his neck, emerging from beneath the ink. Ripper knows what he's saying, now. Good; Ethan rarely has the patience for explanations.
But Ripper's not moving, and Ethan doesn't have the patience for that, either. "Go and get the knife," he says, speaking slowly, like he's addressing a small, stupid child. "What did you think I nicked it for?" The blade is made at least mostly of silver, the hilt inscribed with more symbols like the ones adorning Ripper's torso. Ethan had discovered it purely by chance, but he'd decided straight away that it was worth the risk of stealing it. He was obviously meant to find it, to use it for this particular spell.
He looks over at the table, then back at Ripper, scowling when Ripper doesn't move immediately. "Oh, for fuck's sake," Ethan says, finally. "It's not like you've never drawn blood before." Teeth scraping over lips, blunt nails raking over skin, a fist in Ethan's face once when they'd argued so long and so fiercely that it had seemed like their only options were to fight it out or to never speak again--Ripper's well-acquainted with his blood.
Ripper must reach the same conclusion, because he gets up, slowly, and goes over to the table, bringing back the knife and the bottle of whisky they'd left half-finished the night before. "Where's the diagram?"
Ethan realizes he's lying on it; he pulls the bit of tattered paper out from under his right shoulder and holds it up. "Put it on the floor," Ripper says. "You're not going to be able to hold it up for me once I start."
The whisky, it seems, is for the knife; Ripper sloshes some of the alcohol over the blade to clean it. "So very solicitous," Ethan murmurs, and Ripper glares down at him. Ethan just smiles; Ripper's apparently a great deal more nervous about this than Ethan himself is, and Ethan wants to savor that. It isn't often that Ripper lets Ethan see him anything less than supremely confident.
Ripper looks down at the knife in his hand and Ethan grins up at him. "Go on," he says. "You're wasting time, and I want to do that spell before the others get back." This, all of this, is mere preparation, raising power, and there's no point in raising power if you don't have time to use it.
He wonders if Ripper has thought, even for a moment, about what it might mean that Ethan's this unworried about Ripper carving into his skin. He isn't absolutely certain whether he hopes Ripper hasn't, or that he has; keeping Ripper in the dark could be useful, but on the other hand...
On the other hand, Ethan rather thinks he might like Ripper to understand it, and it isn't as though Ethan's going to come out and say what he means. He isn't an idiot.
Now Ripper takes a deep breath, stretching his hand out--the knife in his grasp--to let Ethan see that it's perfectly steady. Ethan has to admit that's unexpectedly comforting. It'd be idiotic to let Ripper do this if he isn't even going to get the bloody symbols right.
Ethan closes his eyes; he's not afraid to watch, but he doesn't want to, not just yet; he wants to feel this without any chance to brace himself against the sensation.
It's only a scratch at first; Ripper's nails can do worse, and Ethan chuckles. "I think you'll find that drawing blood requires a bit more effort than that."
"Shut it," Ripper grumbles. "If you keep distracting me, I might not be able to remind myself that doing you a serious injury isn't the goal here. No matter how tempting it is," he adds, smirking.
Ethan smiles to himself, not at all intimidated by the threat in Ripper's words. The next touch of metal to skin has a little more force behind it. Ethan feels the pressure of the point against his chest; the knife moves on, and the pressure gives way to pain. It isn't intense, only a stinging sensation, but Ethan opens his eyes, lifting his head off the floor to make it easier to see the drops of blood welling up along the path the knife is taking.
"Perfect," Ethan murmurs, and it is--deep enough to draw the blood that will strengthen the power of the symbols Ripper is carefully etching into his skin; shallow enough that Ethan shouldn't have any excessively interesting scars. Ethan closes his eyes again, blocking out everything but the sensation.
And oh, yes, there's the power they need; he can feel it prickling against his skin, blending with the sharp hot pain of the shallow cuts Ripper leaves in his flesh. He wonders how Ripper is standing it; the ink-drawn symbols may not be as powerful, but he's nearly covered in them--chest and shoulders, stomach and hips and thighs. Even if the sensation is only a tenth as strong, he's impressed that Ripper's managing to keep his hand steady.
Ethan doesn't even try to hold still; he arches his back, hips lazily thrusting upward against Ripper.
"Damn it!" Ripper mutters, and his hand stills. "If you're going to move, then I'm going to end up carving you like a Christmas goose."
"No, you won't," Ethan says. No, you won't, Ethan thinks, because there's something beneath the surface that leaves Ethan confident: if Ripper slits his throat or stabs him, it won't be by accident.
He opens his eyes to see Ripper bringing his free hand up, tracing the symbols he's carved; they sting again as he smears the droplets of blood into Ethan's skin, making the symbols bolder, darker. His left hand's at his side, the knife-point away from Ethan, and Ethan takes that as an invitation to move again, arching against him in a way that can't possibly be taking Ripper by surprise, no matter what his expression says.
This has always been part of the plan, after all, the whole point of all this preparation. No better way, in Ethan's opinion, to raise power than by fucking, and if the sex isn't quite as satisfying when it has to stop before the natural conclusion, the magic's more than an adequate substitute.
"You're not done yet," Ethan murmurs, writhing underneath him, and now Ripper's eyes open wide, although he doesn't say anything. Ethan smirks up at him, realizing that Ripper genuinely is surprised; he's been expecting Ethan to fuck him in spite of the shallow cuts decorating his chest, not because ofthem. His voice sounds hoarse in his ears, his breathing loud and ragged. "Keep going. Finish the pattern."
Ripper starts again, and Ethan tries to hold still, not wanting to mar the precision with which Ripper is carving the sigils in Ethan's flesh. Very meticulous, is Ripper, and Ethan sometimes thinks he sees flashes of the fussy git Ripper would have become if he'd done what his dad wanted. It's not so bad, though, when it's just with the magic; Ethan's seen enough spells wrecked by carelessness that he won't complain.
Ripper's fussy about books, too, but privately Ethan finds that almost endearing, or something close to it, without the cloying sentiment attached. Ethan keeps that all to himself, though; he prefers to keep Ripper guessing about what he thinks of him.
Although there's not much to guess about now, Ethan supposes, not if his own eyes are as dark and hazy as Ripper's are. He knows there's the same faint sheen of sweat covering his skin; he can feel it, salt stinging the open cuts.
Ethan groans as the tiny flashes of pain wake up every nerve in his body, turning every touch, no matter how light, into an electric jolt going straight to his cock. He feels the power gathering, hovering somewhere just outside his reach, taunting him. It's in good company; Ripper is undoing the zip on his jeans, taking advantage of the arch of Ethan's hips to tug the trousers down toward his knees. There's a broad, strong hand on his hip, a familiar weight pressing him against the floor, but Ripper doesn't touch his cock, even though Ethan's hard now, his cock throbbing at the feeling of Ripper's hand on his skin.
And then Ripper does touch him--or at least, the knife does, the flat of the blade against his cock--and Ethan shivers. The cold metal balances the stinging heat of the cuts, and Ethan moans, is about to demand that Ripper do something else when he realizes that Ripper hasn't finished, is trailing the point of the knife across the thin skin over Ethan's hipbones. It isn't until he moves down to Ethan's thighs that he starts to cut again, his eyes fixed on his work even when he begins to speak.
"You like this," he says, and there's just a hint of incredulity in his voice. They've played rough before--Ethan can't remember them ever playing any way but rough, for that matter--but not like this. Their usual is more wall-slamming, biting and scratching and clawing at one another, frantic and desperate. This is slow and deliberate, and there is no way for Ripper to make himself believe that the damage is anything but intentional.
Ethan's been aware of that all along; that, more than just the pain, is what's got his cock lying flat against his stomach, hard and hot and leaking. He knows Ripper, though, and Ripper's going to have to be tricked into enjoying himself; there's a Puritan streak in him somewhere.
Ethan's had practice getting him past it, and so he rolls his eyes, looking up at Ripper. "Considering what all this was meant to be the prelude to, it's a good thing I am enjoying it." And he's not quite sure how he could have failed to enjoy it. Every inch of his skin is alive with magic, mingling with the blood drying on his chest and filling his lungs with every breath he takes. There's no better feeling.
"Finish up with that, and then you can enjoy it too," Ethan murmurs, nodding toward the knife in Ripper's hand. There might be a trace of doubt in Ripper's eyes, but Ethan can see Ripper's cock straining against the front of his half-zipped jeans, and Ethan knows he's already won this argument.
This is about the spell, Ethan has to remind himself. This is about raising enough power to try some of the things they haven't been able to achieve yet, things they don’t want to bring the others into, even if being able to draw on their power would make it easier.
But it's also about Ripper grinning back at him, his right hand coming up to trace over the cuts on Ethan's chest again. "You just want more of this," he murmurs, and then he twists around, looking down at the scrap of paper on the floor before he starts the final symbols.
Ethan's own breathing sounds unbelievably loud in his ears, loud and ragged and harsh, while he struggles not to beg for Ripper to stop drawing this out any longer. No matter what Ripper thinks, Ethan can be patient, when it's worth his time.
Despite the occasional evidence to the contrary, he's convinced Ripper's worth the time.
The sound of the knife clattering to the floor startles Ethan into being more aware of his surroundings. Then the pressure on his thighs lifts, and Ripper stands up, peeling out of his jeans. Ethan keeps his eyes open wide, letting Ripper see how much Ethan does want this. How much Ethan would want this--blood and pain and all--even if they didn't need the power.
Ripper looks away. Ethan's not surprised; Ripper always looks away. He has to be tricked into taking the things he wants, and too much honesty spoils the game.
When Ripper rejoins him on the floor, Ethan raises his legs, resting them on Ripper's shoulders. This isn't a familiar position for them; neither of them is completely comfortable looking the other in the eye at times like this. But the symbols on Ethan's skin need to match up with their mirror images on Ripper, and so this is the way things need to happen.
Ethan tries to focus on the magic, to think about the runes on Ripper's skin--Ripper's are the reversed ones; Ethan trusted his own artistic ability more than Ripper's--and the remaining pain from the cuts on his own, rather than thinking about Ripper, and what they're about to do. But Ripper's hands move over his skin, and Ethan groans. The groan is from pain as much as pleasure, but if Ripper hasn't worked out yet that Ethan doesn’t mind it when Ripper hurts him--even if he pretends to be surprised every time Ethan makes that obvious--then he's a damn sight less intelligent than Ethan thinks. Ethan's hard, aching, and when he sees that Ripper's found the Vaseline, he groans again.
He designed the pattern of symbols; he's the one who chose for it to be this way. It's the way he works, setting things in motion so that it's inevitable that he gets what he wants. It's the same thing he does when he goads Ripper into a fury, until he shoves Ethan against the wall and fucks him, because Ripper isn't rough enough unless he's angry.
Luckily for Ethan, it's not that difficult to make Ripper angry. And again, luckily for him, he knows Ripper won't ever do him a serious injury. Not by accident, and Ethan never pushes Ripper far enough that he'd do it intentionally.
And since Ripper doesn't really have a choice--not if he doesn't want to waste all this effort--he doesn't have to argue with Ethan, just slicks his cock with the jelly and looks at him expectantly.
"Just fuck me," Ethan says, impatiently, before Ripper can start to think this calls for more preparation. It's not important for Ripper to understand that Ethan wants to feel his cock inside him, stretching him open, splitting him in two, or that he trusts Ripper to be careful enough not to do any serious damage. It's enough that Ethan knows he's in no real danger
No more danger than he's ever in just being around Ripper, at least, but that's something that's not only unimportant, but also impossible for Ripper to ever understand. And then Ethan doesn't care who understands what, because Ripper's inside him; Ethan's breath catches in his throat at the pain, making him forget the blood and the cuts and everything but the slow, sweet burn as Ripper begins to move.
Ethan moves with him, his hips rising up to meet Ripper's thrusts as the pain recedes before a surge of magical energy. The pleasure's there, streaking along nerves already buzzing from the pain, but it's not important any more; nothing's important but the magic. Ethan almost thinks he can see it, swirling between them, drawn to the cuts on Ethan's body and the matching patterns on Ripper's, settling into their skin and disappearing.
Ripper thrusts in again, hard and deep. Ethan hears him groan, feels his muscles begin to tense, and he wonders when it was that he became the one responsible for making certain they achieved what they'd set out to do.
"Stop," he gasps, even if Ripper stopping is the last thing he wants. He wants Ripper to pick up the knife again, to pierce his skin with it as Ripper's cock plunges deeply into his arse. He wants Ripper to leave him raw and bleeding and vulnerable, laid open for the blade and Ripper's cock and Ripper's sharp green eyes.
But Ethan doesn't want to waste the magic, and even more than that, he doesn't want Ripper to look away from him. Not this time, not like this, and he would if he knew what Ethan wants. So, "Stop," he says again, louder this time, and this time, Ripper hears him.
Later that night, after the summoning and a few hours at the pub and another hour listening to Diedre and Thomas bicker about whether or not Thomas was staring at the barmaid's tits, Ripper fucks him again. This time, Ethan's face is pressed against the wall, and there's no way Ripper can see his expression when he comes.
Afterward, Ripper traces the cuts with his fingertips, and Ethan feels lazy and boneless enough to let him. "They're not deep," Ripper pronounces at last. "I don't think they'll scar."
"No," Ethan agrees. "Those won't leave a scar." Ripper looks at him quizzically, but Ethan doesn't explain. It doesn't seem worth the trouble; even if he did explain, it's something Ripper's never going to understand.