Chapter 1: the earth
Velvet rounded the corner, expecting the exact scene that met her eyes.
Rokurou, half-disrobed, whirled around and shouted as he swung that wooden sword. He always looked so uncharacteristically serious when she happened upon him.
“You told me to remind you to stop at a reasonable hour,” she chided.
A week or so before, Rokurou had slain his target at Mount Killaraus. But rather than resting afterward, Rokurou redoubled his efforts to train, citing time and again that his victory was an uncertain fluke. It made travel difficult when he wouldn't rest. She couldn't afford his carelessness leading up to the final battle with Artorius. After all, what was an indebted soldier for?
“Hey, Velvet,” he called back, facing her with a grin he reserved for greeting her. Sweat glinted off the exposed part of his brow, where his bangs didn't shield his eye. Seeing him exposed and in his element like this was a welcome sight. She couldn't complain. She might pretend to.
“You need sleep.”
She rested her hand on her hip, settling in the doorway as he swung through a few more repetitions. Whenever she stopped by to watch him practice, she was reminded how little she actually got to see him fight. Mostly, he fought alongside her, a constant in the corner of her eye rather than her focus. It was clear he’d done this all his life, conditioned his every muscle for it.
She could have come across any swordsman in that prison hallway, but she found him. And he never faltered in her service.
“You staying for the whole show?”
Rokurou had stopped and rested the sword atop his shoulder with bent arm.
Velvet smirked at him. “Probably not. It’s nothing I haven’t seen before. But that’s got me thinking…”
“Why is it that you always practice without a shirt when I’m around, then enter battle with at least three layers and armor?” she asked.
“Well, you see, it’s because… hey, why do you only talk to me alone when I’m not wearing a shirt?” He stepped toward her, away from the space he’d emptied in the inn’s storehouse.
Her face heated. “I—don’t only— ”
“Ha ha!” he bellowed. “I’m just kidding. I enjoy your company.”
She watched him set the sword on a couple crates in the corner, and it finally dawned on her that they were truly alone. It had been a long time since they’d crashed against the shore by Hellawes, dropped Magilou, and sloughed through the snow just the two of them. Back when she found out she couldn’t taste; when she found out he liked to ask a lot of questions.
“I enjoy watching your style change and evolve,” she noted. “You’ve changed since you defeated Shigure.”
He reached for the jug of sake that rested in the same corner, but halted and turned to her instead.
When met with his questioning expression, she almost backpedaled. Even by having asked, he wasn’t insisting he was a jerk or mean old daemon for what he’d done, or for stalling their journey by staying up well after hours. That was a difference from the week before; but more than that, she felt a strengthening in their bond. Little glances seemed longer. Perhaps because his own vengeance was over and his focus could afford to drift.
Perhaps that’s why watching him practice was a painful delight.
“Seems like you’re staying out later. You’re not gonna give yourself a break?” she asserted.
“My real goal hasn’t changed much.”
“Your real goal,” Velvet echoed.
Rokurou didn’t seem to be bothering to cover himself as he approached her again. Or rather, the doorway, the one she was blocking. Wholly inadvertently.
“Well, I should probably go shower or something, huh? That is, if you’ll allow me to stay up a little later, Lord of Calamity,” he teased.
“Oh… right. I might allow that,” she countered. She let herself look him up and down, a rare moment of shamelessness. She expected when she’d first stumbled across his training sessions that she’d be put off by the sweat or the hollering or, really, anything about him. His closeness reminded her that that threshold hadn’t been reached. Had she allowed herself to feel the jolt it sent through her, thinking of the ways he was the opposite of off-putting?
“Or I could just stink up the place like we did when we first got out of Titania, am I right?”
With him still before her, gazing at her with that wild grin, she envisioned him in the shower he’d mentioned, washing his hair or with suds sliding down his body, this very real body that stood before her. Had she not trusted this man with her life, she might not have tolerated a modicum of desire from her selfish heart. But he wouldn’t mock the burning of her cheeks, even if he would notice them. He was far too close not to notice.
“Never bothered me,” she said. It sounded like a bizarre way to compliment someone, even to her ear. Why was she bothering, in the first place, stopping by to remind him to sleep when she knew he was practicing? This was stupid. There were other things she could be doing.
“Hey… was there another reason you stopped by?” Rokurou asked.
Her pulse raced. She took the slightest step toward him.
“Do I need one?”
Before she could consider which one of Bienfu’s confiscated romance novels she’d picked that up from, his face lowered. She wasn't sure what to do, but she was certain Rokurou could read her expression, as he had countless times before.
He reached for her shoulder, thumb gently swiping over her skin.
“Well, I thought, if there's something you're looking for, maybe I can help you find it,” he offered.
She looked at his smile for the edge of a joke, as though it would give her a reason to hesitate. He simply waited, as he ever did, for her to decide what she wanted.
“I'd like that.”
Velvet lifted her head and closed her eyes. She felt his nose brush along hers, felt his breath on her chin. But his nose veered to the side and his lips were on her cheek. She opened her eyes and he was centered in front of her again. He kept looking at her; didn't people close their eyes? And why hadn't he gone for her mouth in the first place?
The longer she blinked, observing him, she realized he was still waiting for her to cue him in. Perhaps if he'd been foolish enough to join her vengeful quest, he'd be foolish enough to follow her through her ignorant expressions of desire. She had the feeling he wasn't planning on bailing even if he did aim wrong.
She leaned in, heart pounding, looking into his eyes until just before she met his lips. There it was, that jolt again as he kissed her, then again a little stronger. His hand slipped down her shoulder, over the bandages until he held her hand.
Rokurou pulled back gently.
When she opened her eyes, Velvet glanced meekly at her hand joined with his. He squeezed it, sending another warm rush through her that pooled between her legs. She kissed him again, mouth tense and focused. A moment later, he brought his other hand up to her cheek.
“What?” Velvet snapped.
He kept grinning. “You nervous?”
She furrowed her brow. “No, why?”
Running his thumb over her lower lip, he encouraged her to open her mouth slightly. She complied. To her surprise, his next kiss was barely a flutter on her lips, yet it felt multitudes deeper. His hand drifted to her jaw, her ear; he brought their clasped hands toward his shoulder and let go.
As she slanted her mouth to his, she realized she was touching his bare neck, his blighted skin under her wrapped hand. Her fingers crept up to the side of his face, lifting the hair that obscured the rest of his markings. This was where he’d defeated death and was born anew.
Rokurou’s upper hand now weaved behind her ear, bordering her hair. His other hand rested on her back, although she wished it had ventured further. She fitted her unoccupied arm around his neck to draw him closer. Then, his mouth drifted along her jaw, turning her head as he found her ear. Suddenly, she felt his teeth on her earlobe.
Her little sigh must have startled him as much as it had her. Though he pulled back, she buried her face beside his neck to hide her embarrassment. She led him with her arm, entreating him to try it again.
He didn’t need to be told twice; his teeth grazed the soft skin of her ear, accompanied by the exhale of his breath all around. She felt his fingers dig a little more into her back but he kept his distance. She ached for something more.
Rokurou pressed his lips to her ear.
“I can… smell you,” he said softly.
She pulled away from his mouth’s attention. “... What?”
His eyes burned as they darted to hers. “Y’know, how you smell different when…”
She blinked, feigning understanding but tripping to put the sum together. If she didn’t, he might catch on. Though she supposed it wasn’t difficult to surmise that an isolated rural life followed by an isolated prison life didn’t account for much experience.
“Don’t I smell different?”
He lowered his head toward the crook of her neck, and she flushed.
“You can’t possibly ask me to keep track of how you smell,” she said.
He inhaled through his nose, then exhaled gently on her skin. Her skin rose in bumps all up and down her body; not unlike when she used to be cold, except the chill felt like lightning.
“No, like... how I can tell you’re aroused.”
She straightened up and he backed off instantly, searching her expression.
“Too much?” he asked. “We don’t have to—”
Velvet stammered. His remark wasn’t untrue; she could feel the change herself, but wouldn’t have named it so outright. But maybe he needed it to be spelled out. “W-we can skip all the unnecessary stuff.”
“Unnecessary?” he scoffed. “It’s not, for me. Rushing this isn’t an option.”
“You have options,” Velvet said, glancing around the storeroom. Though there were stacked boxes in each corner and lining the walls, a fair amount of space remained on the floor. They could easily throw down his robe and no one would be the wiser.
“What I mean is, you’re not an option to me, Velvet. I want you.” He reached again for her shoulders.
Such a line wouldn’t cause her to swoon so easily.
“You bound yourself to me all because I’d seen Stormhowl in passing,” she conceded. Now wasn’t the time for the impossible debt, which he would say he couldn’t possibly repay even if he did address the ache within her. She knew what the flicker across his face was; devotion beyond duty.
“That wasn’t why. Er, it might have been at the beginning, but…”
She placed her hand on his chest. Staying by her side was a risk she’d disclaimed for him countless times.
“Don’t say anything you might regret. There’s... a chance I’m not going to get out of this alive.”
Concern darkened his visage. He offered his hands to her.
“I don’t regret a single second of my time with you, Velvet. Whatever that ends up being. Whatever you want.”
She sighed. “You really do go all out with that debt.”
“... You have been listening, right? The debt isn’t—”
She took his hands. “Shh. Why don’t you show me how this isn’t unnecessary?”
After a moment, his devilish grin returned, the one that set her trembling.
“As you say.”
He let go of her hands and leaned into her, reaching for her waist. Expecting him to resume his path upon her neck, she opened to him. Instead of diving toward her, he paused and took stock of the space around them.
“We should, uh, probably go somewhere a little comfier? I don’t want your first time—”
He squinted, eyebrows raised. There was no hiding her weaknesses, not to him. If he managed to defend her as she raged in combat, how could he not know? She tensed.
“You know it’s nothing to be ashamed of, right?” He placed his hand on her cheek. “It doesn’t change anything. You lead the way, just like always.”
Her heart skipped.
“Then… exactly which room am I leading us to, if the others are sleeping in the room Tabitha rents us?”
The glint in his eye reflected he’d already been considering their options.
The lock on the door clicked, and Velvet turned the knob with the hairpin still wedged in it.
Rokurou delighted the achievement and followed behind her. He dislodged the hairpin and shut the door, depositing Kurogane Stormquell across the handle even after locking it.
“Add that one to the list,” he said.
Velvet busied herself with kicking off her armored boots and effects.
“Of our crimes? You mean, the one you started rambling off to me when you were drunk?”
When she looked across the room, he had bent in an effort to arrange his armor and short swords by the door; how he managed to carry all that and his ever-present sake escaped her. He left his shoes and tabi beside it all, but didn’t shrug off his robe. Before they’d left the storeroom, he collected himself in case they’d run across anyone they knew.
They had inconspicuously walked through the bar, up the stairs, well past their group’s room and to the end of the connecting hallway. A quick listen behind a few doors revealed a room with no occupants, and it was lucky that when Velvet picked the lock there were no foreign belongings, either. But it wasn’t altogether unsurprising; it would benefit the Bloodwings to have a few empty beds to loan comrades here and there, if necessary. They could slip the maid some gald for the casualty.
A casualty prolonged by his failing to remove what he’d already had off in the storeroom.
“Hah! I did that?”
“You did that,” Velvet recounted, “and then you asked me if I’d have a drink with you.”
She unbuckled her coat and placed it over the back of a chair.
“I did that? You said you couldn’t drink,” Rokurou said with a chuckle. “That was smooth of me.”
Velvet crossed the floor, waiting expectantly at the foot of the bed. “Does it matter now?”
“Well, did I respect your wishes and back off?”
He stepped toward her. “And what are your wishes now?”
“I wish you’d get comfortable like you were before,” she said, staring down his robe. “And then help me get comfortable.”
He raised his eyebrows and began untying and shrugging off the offending garment.
Velvet backed her legs against the bed, but didn’t sit. Instead, she waited until he was bare-chested and focused on her, and straightened up her chest.
Looming over her, he stared at the brooch, searched the sides of her shirt, then tucked his finger under the lacing at the bottom.
“How do you… this whole thing?” He gestured with his hand over the whole of her top. “I’ve kinda always wondered.”
She smiled gently. “Can’t figure it out?”
She guided his hand to her upper back, where his fingers fumbled with the set of straps. Finally, one of them unhooked and opened. Velvet’s hand accompanied his to unhook another strap and fully unlace the back. When it drooped, she caught the front and held it over herself.
“It was from the back this whole time?!” Rokurou yelped, incredulous.
“Yes,” she replied. “What, did you lose a bet?”
“... Let’s leave Magilou out of this,” he yielded. He turned his attention to her bare skin, drawing his lips to her collarbone.
Even before she abandoned her modesty, she felt her nipples raise. Why wasn’t he making a beeline there?
As if reading her mind, he looked up at her. “You still with me?”
“Are you gonna get on with it?” she pressed.
He dove his face back to her neck and mumbled, “Not rushing.”
As she awaited him, Velvet tugged down the remaining cover of her top and let it fall to the floor. His hands held her steady before him while he sucked on her skin all the way to her breast. She sighed softly. Before he continued, Rokurou peeked mischievously up at her, then down at her body.
“Wow,” he marvelled.
Not that the shirt hid much of her breasts, but she began to feel genuinely exposed by his tone of voice. He resumed gently mouthing the swell of one until he neared the pointed tip, then veered under and over to the other. She breathed unevenly as he grazed a nipple, then opened his mouth over it. He suckled and flicked his tongue across it in a short burst that reignited her desire for contact, everywhere. One of his hands slid from her back and met her other nipple with a tug. Barely halting, he switched his hand and mouth across, and bit and pinched her until she released the same little moans as she had when he’d bitten her earlobe.
She realized her hand had grabbed the back of his head, unsure whether any of it was typical behavior. She’d ask later. Or never. He pressed a kiss between her breasts. Then a bit lower. Then lower.
“Where do you think you’re going?”
He smiled into her belly.
“Oh, sorry, right, I’m not supposed to look at the midriff,” he said, muffled.
She pulled him back up, and checked behind her before collapsing onto the bed. She reclined with her legs parted, inviting him to climb atop. But that didn’t seem to be his plan, as he clambered beside her. When he didn’t take the hint, she moved her leg further aside and nearly kneed him. He lurched back protectively.
“Let me take care of you.”
Velvet looked to him and noticed the protrusion she’d almost hit. She was eager to see what excitement hid beneath the layers of his pants, having been entirely unfamiliar. All she knew is that he would be hard, and that’s the part of him that would be inside her, a thought that caused her blood to quicken.
His fingertips touched the top of one of her stockings. “These?”
“Off,” she instructed.
He ran his hand down her leg to roll it down, then carefully worked it around her heel and set it aside. She almost helped him with the other, but wanted to feel the strength of his hand down her leg again, the assurance that he would continue to touch her like that.
Now all that remained were her bottoms; she wondered if he would guess at her lack of undergarment before he got there, if he’d paid attention to any of the laundering. She sacrificed the last pair to Titania’s cruelty and hadn’t found a need to replace them. That is, until now, when she soaked uncomfortably in her aroused state.
His hand hovered over her stomach again. “Is this off limits?”
“No, but…” She surveyed the hint of legging from under his hakama. “Are we even?”
Now he flushed. “You want them off?”
She smirked, her curiosity itching. “I thought you didn’t feel shame.”
“All right,” he capitulated.
He turned and untied the white belt that held up those voluminous pants. He leveraged his hips off the mattress and pulled just those past his knees, collecting and discarding them quickly. What remained was a pair of tight leggings that betrayed the shape of his organ.
Velvet let her eyes linger over the bulge, its fullness apparent.
“Later,” he insisted. He leaned to kiss her cheek, and as she turned, her lips, which pursued him hungrily.
He replaced his hand on her abdomen, which then wandered to her hip, then drew the outline of her muscled thigh. She opened her hips yet more, but he traced her inner thigh only languidly. As she kissed him, she hummed in urgency.
Rokurou pulled himself away from her mouth.
“Please,” she hissed.
He palmed the mound of her sex through her shorts, pressing firmly. A moment of relief, then the ardor resumed. She lifted her hips and he pressed again, rubbing slightly lengthwise.
“Ooh.” The whimper of her moan startled her, but she bucked into the sensation of his hand regardless.
He turned to her ear and nipped it, whispering, “Do you want my fingers inside you?”
“Y-yeah,” she responded. He shifted away from her face, maintaining contact with his hand until the last moment before he poked his fingers under the top of her shorts.
He grinned at her. “It’s my honor.”
Then, he pulled her shorts over her hips, off the cusp of her ass, down her thighs and clean off before he knelt in front of her spread legs.
“H-holy shit,” he said.
She glanced down as he placed his hands firmly on her inner thighs. He eyed her sex intently. “What are you doing?”
“Making a map,” he replied.
Meanwhile, she wasn't sure she had a map to give. Inspecting herself seemed cumbersome when she could direct by feeling, those nights she dared to touch herself. If she watched his arms, it felt like a medical examination. But she watched his face, drawn sincerely with awe and excitement, and it stoked her to think that it engorged him.
“Your fingers,” she reminded him.
He settled his hand on her thigh and climbed back up to her, touching his forehead to hers before walking his fingers back to the folds of her sex. His fingertips slid easily down across her clit and dipped into the introit.
Velvet blinked, waiting, tipping her hips up. He gently nudged a finger in, and when it met little resistance, pushed it further in and up several ties. She sighed. Without trying, another of Rokurou’s fingers juxtaposed the first and he reached deep inside her. The rest of his hand formed around her and bumped against her clit, and as he began to thrust his fingers up, her thighs tensed.
“Good?” he asked, continuing to press in and up.
Overwhelmed, she blurted something affirmative and bit her lip. His hand felt unlike anything she’d done when she’d touched herself, deeper and wider and reaching some incurvation unknown to her. Her wetness resounded as he worked in her, and she felt something build all around and through her.
Another of his fingers worked into her, which she imagined still wasn’t opening her enough to match his girth. How she longed to feel him inside her even as he breathed on her neck. Her hips chased a particular angle he’d hit with desperation. He curled his fingers a bit more and she lost herself to a burst of relief, her sex contracting in waves. The warmth bounded through her and she sweated and gasped.
When she could feel it subsiding, she called to him. He removed his fingers but kept pressing onto her with his palm.
“You want more?”
She beheld her own naked body as she laid beside him and saw he was more hardened against the front of his leggings, which now threatened to gap at the waist. Bending her arm weakly, she managed to weave underneath the cage of his arms to touch him lightly.
“I want…” she trailed. What could she even call this most intimate part of him? “You.”
Rokurou seemed startled. “Yeah?”
“Yeah, now get those off.”
He sat up, thumbs guiding the waistband of his leggings around and down his hips. As he finished removing them, Velvet observed the full and flushed state of his organ. She felt as though it reflected the ache she still felt, even more now as she looked at it. She thought of it inside her, of Rokurou fully surrounding and penetrating her. She wondered why she hadn’t thought of it before.
She tugged at his shoulder when he returned to her level.
“Here, you should get on top. It’s easier the first time,” he offered.
The thought sent another thrill through her. She rolled aside and let him lie back, eager to straddle his hips. He was eager, too, if the bead of some fluid at the head of his organ indicated. She was unsure what to do other than align herself generally above it.
“Okay. Do I just…?”
He grabbed his hard organ to angle it better up toward her.
“Guide me,” he said. She lowered and tilted her hips forward.
Watching barely aided her; it was feeling the head of him on herself the made for a better hint as to how she’d get him inside. She aimed for where his fingers had been inside her, but this thick organ lacked the same subtle movement. All at once, he’d slid to her opening, and she lowered herself with a sharp inhale. It wasn’t painful, but a surprise that he would be so well-fitting and she still so slick that the work had almost been done for them.
“Hey, hold my hand, look at me,” Rokurou said. With his free hand, he reached for her, intertwining their fingers. Her instinct was to write it off as a cliche, but as she eased down onto him, his hand was an encouraging anchor. He held out all night for some relief for his own ache, but even though he must have felt a shock of pleasure when she took him in, he still gazed with such an indescribable patience.
The first part was cautious, slow. But as he filled more of her, she felt the spark of their union and accommodated the whole of him all at once. He flinched, but grinned and clasped her hand tighter. A wave of warmth overcame her as she leaned forward.
“Oh,” she sighed. This was what she craved.
He craned his face close to hers and nudged her nose with his.
She exhaled onto his lips. “Yeah.”
“Good. You feel incredible,” he whispered. He kissed her again, as though it were brand new, with parted lips and a softness she hadn’t expected.
He tensed underneath her.
“What do I…?”
“Move however feels good. Maybe…?”
Rokurou gripped slightly behind her hip and urged her forward, then back, not unsheathing so much as rocking her pelvis. Moving like that, his abdomen made contact with her clit and she let out a soft, pleading moan. She braced the mattress beside him and tried the motion again. This time, she felt him slip just a little out of her and her body clenched to draw him back in. Again, she rocked forward and back, and he groaned, nearly closing his eyes.
“Yeah—good,” he strained.
Faster, she ground her hips into him, matching the pace of his fingers when he’d worked them into her. As she looked at him, she felt her breasts bouncing with her rhythm. Yet, maddeningly, he only looked into her eyes, clutching her hand and steadying her hip. The strange pleasure grew from the back of her thighs and down through her every nerve as she rode him. She panted, but the sensation wasn’t building enough.
“Want me on top?” he clarified.
She nodded and slumped forward onto his chest, clinging to him as he gripped the sides of her thighs and flipped her onto her back, careful not to slip out. Seeing him above her, gazing attentively, she felt as though she took him into herself even more.
He propped up on an arm and reached for her other hand, placing her fingers over her clit; when she began to rub herself in short drags, he cupped her face.
“I’m gonna move now,” he said.
He began by pulling out slightly, then back in. Then again, alternating, faster, and huffing breath across her cheek. His thrusts were much different from what she’d done atop him, but reached a profounder part of her ache. He pushed into her again and again, moving the mattress under them.
Velvet kept stroking herself and watching his concentrated expression. Too soon, she was too perfectly thrumming and tipping over her threshold, muscles clenching around the whole of him inside her. She grunted through the waves, and found him grinning back at her.
Sweat beaded on his brow again, and she was reminded of catching him in the storeroom earlier. He quickened his pace, then groaned and wrung out his pleasure into her.
He rested his face in the crook of her neck and her body released another strange sensation, one that made her heart flutter.
“Sorry,” he muttered. “I didn't last very long. Are you okay?”
“If you wanna keep going, I'll…”
Velvet, perplexed, wrapped her arms around his still very bare and sweaty form. She held him tightly. While part of her wanted to remind him not to overdo it, that seemed insulting for the moment. He'd given himself to her at her command and more than satisfied her. Yet, he felt fragile resting here. Their first real embrace; her heart swelled.
“Just gimme ten minutes.”
“That's... Let's lie here,” Velvet suggested. To her own surprise, she kissed the side of his face. “You don't have to prove anything to me, you know.”
He laughed and lifted his head. “Nah, that’s just who I am.”
Her hips started to pinch under his weight, but it wasn’t unbearable. She let her legs fall.
“Ready at a moment’s notice if I need your aid? That does sound like you.”
“Hey, I said ten moments,” he refuted playfully.
She snorted a laugh but once, with the realization that he was still somewhat inside her and that those muscles were inseparable. It squeezed him and she felt an unfamiliar seep.
“Oh— oh. Yeah, don’t move,” he warned. He remained connected while scrambling to reach the leggings he’d chucked just out of reach. “Things they don’t tell you about.”
He eased out of her and followed with a wipe of fabric that caught his seed. The thoughtful twist of his lip in concentration reflected something other than what should have been the most unromantic gesture of their meeting. When he finished tucking the stain within itself and resumed his place on her chest, she felt her cheeks burn all over again.
“Thank you,” she mumbled, turning away her head. “What happens now?”
“We can stay here a bit, if it’s what you want. Eventually, we gotta clean you up some more. I should definitely shower at some point, which I was gonna do anyway,” he rambled. “Think they’d catch on if we used the towels in this room?”
Rokurou propped his chin above her breast. “Or you. Just you. I can go back to the room and use the other bathroom and we can forget this—”
“I don’t want to forget,” Velvet said. “It might help one of us be a better fighter.”
He brightened. “I’d be okay with that.”
She hummed and closed her eyes, feeling him push reverent lips to her skin.
“But,” she taunted, “I worry that if I let you bathe with me, you might lose your fighting spirit.”
“Wait—How is that any different than seeing you right now?!” he protested.
She smirked down at him. “Maybe you could show me that, too.”
... there's a chance I'm entertaining a bonus epilogue.