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The new weapon Otto had found in the depths of the catacombs must have been to blame. It was two enormous razor-sharp claws ripped from some unknown horror, bound together, an extension of his own arm. After using such a heavy weapon for so long, it felt like nothing, hardly more difficult to swing than a punch. It was closer range, too, more visceral, more personal. He invaded the space of his enemies, ripping at them, tearing at them, skewering into them, so close he could feel the heat off their bodies, the sharp copper tang of their blood in his nose. It must have been that vicious, building residue that had been the cause.

But, whatever the reason was, it didn't matter. The only way to erase the shameful, creeping thread of fear, the overpowering burn of self-loathing, and the unfathomable scope of his humiliation was to stop feeling it, and that's what he fully intended to start doing.

Ice crunched under his boots as he made his way into the frozen, walled courtyard in the shadow of a sprawling, ruined castle. The frigid wind stung his eyes, rubbed raw the planes of his face.

An enormous corpse-grey hand followed by a bone-skinny arm emerged from below the cliff's edge before him and crunched down into the snow. The creature dragged itself up and over the edge to reveal a head of stringy, greasy hair and a disgusting, distended belly full of blood, sloshing visibly through its translucent skin.

The end of Otto's chain whip hit the ground with a deep, leaden thud. It would never happen again. He would prove that it wouldn't happen again.

The weight of the chain crushed the monster's skull down into the frozen ground, and another horizontal lash sent the beast toppling off the edge of the cliff. Otto looked after it. It lay twitching at the bottom of the embankment, the spreading pool of its dying blood stark and garish against the snow.

Otto's lip curled. These disgusting beasts provided no challenge at all.

He slaughtered the rest of their number with ease in the courtyard of the castle, rage burning hotter and hotter inside him with every painfully slow lash of the chain whip. He would keep fighting like this as long as it took to make this the default in his mind again. It was elegant, it was devastatingly effective. It put him at a bit of a distance during the Hunt, in many ways letting his weapon do the work for him. That was how it should be. That was what the Hunt was about.

It was Man's ingenuity at work, far superior to the mindless beasts he sought to put an end to.

It was slow, though, something inside him gnashed and anguished. It was tedious, it was lazy. It took little intelligence, it was dulling his reflexes and his dexterity, and it was slow.

The last of the beasts died, twitching and gurgling, the end of Otto's weapon buried in its skull. It had been nothing. All of this was nothing. What meaning was there in slaughtering beasts in this remote, crumbling castle? What meaning was there in this hellish, Sisyphean task?

He lifted his weapon and drove the tip of it into the snow, connecting the individual links back into a whole. The scraping clang of it reverberated off the courtyard walls, but then, after that, it was silent. The yawning emptiness of it pushed at Otto's ears, building and building until it might as well have been a howl of accusation.

This isolation was what Otto deserved, and he was overcome with loathing for the part of himself that tried to protest against it. Incandescent with rage, he stomped it down as he had so many times before, gripped by the determination to conquer it.

He threw his shoulder into the castle door, gritting his teeth at its weight, at the inconvenience. He just had to focus on the task at hand. His personal feelings didn't matter. He had received a summons to this place, and he was going to find out why. These beasts were inconsequential, a nuisance. How he killed them was immaterial.

The fact that he was alone, even more so.

As he moved through the castle, the repetitious downward swing and lash of his chain whip did nothing to soothe his mind or quell his anger. Trying to force his mind into even a semblance of calm was an entirely useless endeavor.

In the vast library Otto felt a rush of disgust for the grotesque, hunched echo of a man that he had crushed into the center of a table, now in splinters, with the weight of his weapon. He couldn't acknowledge the feelings seething and roiling under the surface. If he did...

He had needed. Arousal had cut at him from the inside like a blade. He had panted, the sound of it harsh and labored, his nose, then his body following the scent of that man. He'd sucked in breathful after breathful of it, but it wasn't enough. Saliva dripped from his jaws, his heartbeat thundering between his legs. He needed. He needed-

Otto slammed his weapon down into the center of another table, splintering it in half, then another, and another. When he finished with the tables, he destroyed the chairs, too, and the carts. When he finally moved on, all that he'd left behind was a pile of debris. He turned his burning gaze onto a massive stone arch at the end of the room, the bottom of a spiraling stone stairway peeking out through the gap. Nothing to do but move forward.

Then, a rumble through the floorboards. A methodical clanging of machinery, and the feverish, urgent clunk of chains churning through gears, both getting farther and farther away. He whipped his head around. That was from downstairs. The elevator? But no human had visited this castle in years. No one but himself.

The sound stopped for a moment and he heard a loud, metallic banging and a silver screech, like swords glancing off one another. As the elevator rose and the clanking chains grew louder, an unholy and almost human scream pierced the cold air. He heard the doors open and something flew out, crashing into the bookshelves. Hardcover books struck the ground with such force that his teeth rattled. Then, nothing.

He didn’t dare glance over the banister. He readied his weapon as silently as he could, watching the staircase. He strained his ears to hear footsteps, but heard only the faint howling of wind outside. Nothing, for almost a full minute.

Until, swift as fire and soundless as a ghost, he swept up the stairs, his ragged yellow coattails dancing behind him with grim sanguinity. A bright wash of blood covered his torso in crimson hues, red spatters highlighting his cheeks. His bright eyes, unearthly in their shining purple hue, were darting out to scan the room just as Otto quietly hid himself behind a column.

Had he seen? He couldn’t have. The moment had passed too quickly, Otto’s motions too fast. That man had already remarked on more than one occasion--with a disgustingly-warm admiration--how Otto could move faster than even his old eyes could register. Otto was safe, for the moment. If he was careful and made his escape quickly--

"Otto..."

Otto froze, staring sightlessly into the bookshelves, breath frozen, heart hammering in his throat. Emmerich couldn't be certain he was here. He could be silent. He could be still.

Emmerich’s voice echoed through the library, smooth as honey. “Your lamp is still lighted.”

 

---

 

The moon hung swollen and blood-red above the city, tugging it inexorably off kilter with its weight. Blood spilled out over the street, welling in the cracks between the cobblestones as Otto darted from one enemy to the next, ripping into them, tearing their flesh. Emmerich cleaved through their bodies with his axe, one after another. Otto would damage them, stun them, send them reeling, and Emmerich would make the killing blow. Viscera dripped from his weapon, staining the hem of his cloak.

Each one seemed to go down easier than the last. Otto's weapon fit his arm as if it had been made for him. It was instinct-quick, faster than thought. He felt reborn with it in his hand.

A villager ran at Otto, brandishing a sword. Otto leapt on him, knocking him to the ground. He raised his claw, then drove it down into the man's chest once, twice, three times, four times. The man screamed, pink froth flying from his mouth. Otto grabbed him around the throat, yanking him upwards, choking off his cry. The man's sword clattered to the street. Otto greedily watched the light leave his eyes, squeezing harder and harder, chest heaving, breath coming out in quick, harsh pants.

He shoved the corpse back down, eyes wild. Its head struck the pavement and lolled, lifeless, its front a mess of tattered cloth and split flesh. Otto threw himself back into the fray, killing another villager, and another. He could go on forever in the cycle of this rhythm, of this dance.

His gloves were red up to the elbows. It was effortless to kill them, now. His body sung with that knowledge. It flowed through his veins, it burned behind his eyes.

He needed more.

 

---

 

The lamp blew out in a hurried gust. Emmerich’s eyes flickered over to a shadow on the wall, a brief flash of darkness etched into the brown wood in the distorted shape of Otto’s hand. By the time he glanced back, he knew that Otto had already vanished from his hiding place. A few muffled footsteps tramped away softly, their exact location unknowable. 

Now, why would he do such a foolish thing? He had an open doorway, a guaranteed escape to the outside world, and he chose to corner himself among the books. Emmerich couldn’t help smiling to himself. How charming. It was as if he had been hand-delivered a love letter. A declaration written in screaming cursive.

What could he say? Otto never failed to astound.

Flicking his arm out, Emmerich effortlessly brought his axe back to its normal size. Blood sluiced through the shallow chinks in its surface. Otto had left a blanket of corpses in his wake, all skinny gray arms and burst blood sacs, but he hadn’t killed all of them. And that was why Emmerich was there--the reason that he was always there, with Otto, following him to the edge of the earth. To finish what Otto started. What they started.

He picked his way across the wood floor, purposefully avoiding the velvet rugs strewn about the room. Each footfall creaked with a lack of finesse that he hoped Otto would appreciate. At least Emmerich could pay him the kindness of announcing his arrival. A stray squeak glanced off the shell of his ear and he stopped cold in his tracks, leaning on one heel. He listened with that well-trained patience he had mastered as a man of the cloth, who had once glimpsed forever and thought he saw his place in it. He could wait for this. He had waited.

He finally heard a shift of cloth. A millisecond in the silent vacuum, a mere atom of air displaced. He turned his head in the direction it came from, which was a bookshelf on the far side of the room. Grinning mischievously to himself, he pulled his flamesprayer from under his cloak and hummed thoughtfully, “Oh, Otto. I wonder where he could be.” And then, in four silent steps, he crossed the room and poked the nozzle of the golden can around the side of the bookcase. He pulled the trigger and a gout of orange flame shot out. He heard the sound of scrambling and a heavy impact, and then the bookshelf began tilting toward him. He stepped casually out of the way of the shelf, indifferent eyes watching it crash to the ground. As it fell, Otto scampered by, his black cloak desperately trying to keep pace with him.

Emmerich saw a flash of that beautiful face, white and smooth, cheeks dusted pink from exertion. His eyes were filled with a terror for what was to come that Emmerich had never understood, and still couldn’t.

“Why do you run?” he asked pleasantly, taking off at a slow trot after Otto. “It took me so long to find you, and yet you seem unhappy to see me. I am quite miffed.” 

He received no response. Otto merely ricocheted through the library, back toward the stone archway. He disappeared through the entrance. Oh, Emmerich understood now--Otto had aimed to put some distance between them before escaping outside. A surge of unbridled mirth bubbled up inside his chest, along with a curiously-warm agitation.

This time, Emmerich forewent any games. He broke out into a sprint, dashing across the library and outside, up the winding stone steps.

He had waited . Patiently, without complaint, just like the many hours he’d spent at the altar hoping his gods would answer him back. Otto had expressed his distaste for Emmerich more than once, so he had given Otto space. He had observed the precious boundaries that kept Otto just barely laced together. And then he had fallen apart, unraveling himself over Emmerich’s body, pressing him into the unforgiving cobblestone, and thrusting against him until the world went black and every last breath of air was sucked out of that void. When the shroud of death lifted and Emmerich returned to the place they had last been, Otto was gone.

This time would be different. He would catch him, hold him down, choke him, gouge his skin with teeth and nails, kiss him, love him so fiercely that he forgot the names of all of his false idols. He would make Otto feel the same way Otto had made him feel.

As he crested the top of the stone stairs, Emmerich saw the grand, white expanse of the castle’s rooftop, whorls of snow slithering across the old shingles. On the far side of the rooftop, he saw Otto. The man cast a furtive glance over his shoulder at Emmerich.

Emmerich was after him before he even lifted one leg to jump off the side of the roof.

 

---

 

Otto stared down at the villager he'd just attacked, eyes wild, panting, a knee digging cruelly into his bloodied chest. The villager rattled his last breath and went limp. Otto leaned down over his ruined, mangled face, greedily sucking in gulp after gulp of air, sharp with the exquisite stench of blood.

The street was empty, now, littered with corpses along an entire twisting city block. The cobblestones were shining and slick and red. The scent of blood was everywhere, and Otto was hungry for it in a way he had never been before. Something had been breached deep inside him, down in the depths of his very self, and it revealed something animal there, something instinctual, a ravenous hunger that he couldn't see the bottom of. It would never be filled. It could never be sated.

Another group of villagers rounded the corner of a building, and, seeing the carnage, began to run towards him, shouting in rage. Here was the answer. Here was what he desperately craved.

Otto let out a roar of triumph, leaping to his feet. He only made it a couple of steps forward before he staggered, falling to his knees. His hunger had sharpened into a desperate pain deep inside him, all the way down to the bone. He screamed in agony, his back broadening, splitting the center seam of his coat. His eyes bugged out of his head, staring sightlessly into the blood streaked cobblestones. He screamed again, and the sound deepened as his face lengthened, broadened, and the cry became an unearthly roar of pain and rage. Hair sprouted, thick, from what had been bare skin down his back, up his hands.

The villagers stopped in their tracks, beginning to back away. A few of the ones at the back of the group turned and ran. Otto stood, finally, straightening, towering over them, clothes split at the seams and hanging off him in rags. A deep growl began to swell in his chest, louder and louder, his lip curling, baring his teeth. He could smell them each individually, and saliva dripped from his jaws at the stink of their fear, at the hidden, exquisite treasures of their organs, cradled by what would soon be gouts and gouts of blood that he was desperate to spill with his teeth.

He leapt on the man at the front of the group and tore out his throat.

 

---

 

Otto dropped down off the edge of the roof, landing on a lower bit of roof in a crouch. He was off running in an instant, all the way down that roof to the corner, and then down onto another bit of roofing atop an adjoining tower. He could hear Emmerich's footsteps behind him. He couldn't bear to look. He dropped from the tower onto a walkway along the top of the castle wall, then took off running.

His heart thudded. His throat burned with abject humiliation. The idea of Emmerich catching up to him was intolerable. Otto leapt at the ladder inset into the wall at the end of the walkway, pulling himself upwards, hand over hand, as quickly as he could, boots ringing against the rungs. He'd be out of sight at the top for a short time, and perhaps gain the opportunity to shake his pursuer.

He chanced a look down to see whether Emmerich had reached the ladder. There was nothing but a mist of dancing snowflakes. The relief Otto felt lasted a mere few milliseconds. More snow rapidly gushed in as Emmerich’s body slammed into the narrow passageway so hard the ladder sang underneath Otto’s fingertips. He had just lifted his leg to take another step up--perilously near the top, now--and the impact made his boot slip. As he steadied himself, he saw just a glimpse of those bright, ghostly eyes looking up at him.

A hint of a smile just barely warmed Emmerich’s chilly, firm tone. “Please, Otto, make this easier on yourself--”

Otto stared down at him for a split second, frozen. Something electric sparked in his gut. He lunged for the final rung of the ladder, gritting his teeth in rage, and inelegantly hauled himself up and over the top of the wall. He scrambled to his feet and began to run.

The roof was enclosed on all sides, but there was an open doorway at the other end. Otto took off towards it, boots pounding the roof. He would find a way down, and he would leave this place.

On the other side of the doorway was another, almost identical roof. There was a throne at the end of the roof before him, and behind that what looked like another door. Otto automatically started towards it, but realized the nearer he drew that it wasn't a door at all, but a blank stone wall, bricks inlaid in the shape of an arch. Otto's steps faltered. This was a dead end. If he could hide, then make a break back towards the ladder after Emmerich had passed...

Otto ducked behind one of the rooftop spires, trying desperately to calm his breathing. He just needed to escape Emmerich here, and then he could go somewhere he would never be found. This chapter of his life would be over. He would never have to think of that man again.

He paused in fright, realizing that in his momentary distraction, he had forgotten to listen for Emmerich’s footsteps. He gingerly leaned out and around the corner of the spire, careful not to show his face. He saw only the vast emptiness of the open rooftop and far-off dark clouds.

A loud, crunching step right behind him. He whipped around, arm flailing out, to see a flash of Emmerich’s bright yellow hair and dingy coat. A fraction of a second passed and the back of his closed fist collided firmly-- accidentally --with Emmerich’s cheek. Hard enough that Otto felt the teeth stamping bloody imprints into the sensitive inner cheek. More strength than he had intended to use, and the threat of it made his stomach dive into a free fall.

Emmerich’s head shot to the side, lolling on his neck. Not a single other muscle in his body moved. He calmly straightened his neck, pinning Otto with that lucid stare, and Otto turned heel and darted away to another spire.

“Come now, Otto,” he heard Emmerich sigh into the shrill wind. His footsteps followed at a brisk pace, each crunch like a gunshot in the night. “I will admit to loving a game of hide and seek, but this is ridiculous. Are you listening? Otto. Be reasonable.”

Desperate to get away from that mocking voice, Otto circled the spires in figure-eight patterns, changing up his direction a few times. Emmerich was right--Otto really was swift when he needed to be. He danced circles in and out of Emmerich’s path, who was almost--dare he say it?-- sluggish in comparison, in a way Otto had never realized before. Maybe he could do this. Maybe he could put enough distance between them long enough to run away.

As he ran toward another spire, he just barely registered an incoming object quickly enough to step back. Just as he did, a knife whizzed by and embedded itself halfway into the brick of the spire, right beside his nose. Something purple and wet dripped off the blade. Heavy, like mercury.

Visage paling, he threw a disbelieving glare at Emmerich. The other man looked no more confused than normal, other than his eyebrows, which were raised a mere few millimeters higher than usual. He hummed, “Oh my. I apologize, my aim isn’t what it once was. I--” Otto took off, legs pumping like mad. “Otto, I meant to get your cloak. I drew the wrong knife by mistake. Otto !”

Emmerich was between him and any hope of escape back over the roofs towards the ladder. A panic that Otto would have rather died than admit to squeezed at his heart, made goosebumps prickle in an rush all the way up his back. Otto made a break for other end of the roof, desperate for a way out, any way out.

There was a man seated on the throne, Otto realized with a lurch of disgust as he drew nearer. Not a man. An oversized, shriveled corpse. Otto's footing faltered in surprise.

The corpse moved.

Withered skin cracking, joints popping, it flexed its fingers. Its arm moved, then its head. It straightened, its long, rotten, moth-eaten robes dragging the rooftop. It raised a staff, and Otto was able to force his brain to catch up to the situation just quickly enough that he was able to dodge out of the way of a wave of ghostly faces, the color of dead blood, screaming in agony.

Behind him he heard a wet ripping sound, like when the seams of muscle are torn apart. A familiar and alarming cry of pain reached his ears and he heard the heavy thump of Emmerich’s body hitting the snow. He glanced back and saw that Emmerich had fallen to one knee, with his chest, face, and neck wreathed in gnarled, branch-like trails of blood. Dark red splotches quickly began seeping through his undershirt.

The smile on Emmerich’s face, still plastered on stiff and bright, briefly faltered. He spoke around a gob of something thick in his throat. “Well, shit.”

 

--

 

Otto jumped onto one of the fleeing villagers, sending him crashing to the ground. The man sobbed in fear, then screamed as Otto ripped away a chunk of his shoulder with his teeth. Blood spurted into his mouth, the excess spilling out and running down in rivulets through his fur.

He quickly bounded after another villager, closing the distance between them in seconds. He swiped at the man's back with his claws, salivating at the spreading bloodstain at the back of his coat, at the man's cry of fear. He stumbled, and Otto was upon him in seconds. He closed his jaws around the back of the man's neck and shook him savagely. The man's scream was cut off when it snapped.

He whipped his head around, searching for the next kill--fresh blood, fresh terror--when he heard the unmistakable shriek of Emmerich’s axe dragging against the cobblestone.

“Well, now,” that infuriating voice gasped in semi-genuine surprise, “you’ve made quite a mess, haven’t you? And here I thought I would have to coax the beast out.”

Otto froze, claws twitching. A growl welled up from somewhere deep in his chest at the sound of Emmerich's voice, breath streaming between his fangs like smoke. The frigid night air stung his nostrils as he inhaled. The ghost of a scent came with it, trailing over Otto's awareness with beckoning fingers. It was familiar, one he knew, but one that he had been unable to fully acknowledge. It tugged at his attention, and he turned his head to follow it.

He swiveled to see Emmerich behind him, the usual self-assured smile layered thick on his face. With a huff of laughter, Emmerich tucked his axe away in his belt. "Quite rude of you, to only leave a handful for me. They almost escaped while you were--"

As Otto took a step toward him, his expression shifted almost imperceptibly. His smile remained unchanged, but his pupils had dilated just a touch. He had paused in his speech for just a fraction of a second, and now finished as if he had never stopped, "--enjoying yourself. Are you ... feeling well?"

Emmerich's words meant nothing. A growl built in Otto's chest again, a deep, almost subsonic sound. He took another step towards Emmerich, and the scent swelled in his nose. He dropped his jaws open just slightly, gulping the scent in over his tongue in huge panting breaths. A slow, viscous droplet of saliva rolled down his chin and spattered onto the cobblestones.

Otto took another thudding step forward, and another. Emmerich stood his ground, eyes fixed on Otto's. His scent was nothing like that of the villagers Otto had just killed. They stank of fear, of terror, of the inevitable approach of death. This man stood straight and tall, the corners of his mouth curling upwards, only the fascination widening his eyes betraying anything but mild amusement. He smelled as he always did, a dark, indescribable scent that...

There was an undertone beginning to bleed into the scent, now, and Otto took another step towards Emmerich as it continued to tug him forward, as if on a string. He towered over Emmerich, but the man didn't move. It was a steady stream of saliva now that dripped from Otto's tongue. The scent was intoxicating. It pushed feverish, sticky tendrils into the very core of him, and Otto leaned closer, panting, chasing more of that scent. The more of it he tasted, the more pleasure began to swell in his belly, the more his heart began to pound.

A few small drops of saliva splashed on Emmerich's cheek. His eyelashes fluttered briefly as he reached up and brushed away the moisture with a gloved thumb. He looked back up, head having to tilt so far that his neck arched, a few cords standing out. He lifted his hand toward Otto's chin and sighed, "Really, now--"

Otto growled and grabbed his arm with one enormous, clawed hand. He yanked upwards, pulling Emmerich up onto the toes of his boots. He shoved his nose into the fabric of Emmerich's clothing, breathing heavily, chasing the scent from where the collar of his shirt met his throat, to under his arms, to between his legs. Pleasure clenched and swelled between his own legs, and he closed his other hand around Emmerich's body from behind, pulling him closer, panting, intoxicated.

He heard a grunt right next to his ear, one that was not entirely displeased. As Otto took in another deep breath of that smell, his claws clenched in the fabric of Emmerich's coat. Emmerich's breath hitched, and his scent began to thicken, growing headier. Coming in a few short waves from below.

"Otto," Emmerich warned quietly, but his voice was tinged with excitement.

 

--

 

Emmerich pushed himself back to his feet just as the corpse lifted its staff and brought it down over his head with a thunderous crash. As Emmerich dodged to the side, fumbling his footing, Otto saw that at the head of the staff was a black, unforgiving scythe blade. The corpse effortlessly lifted it and swung again, quicker than Emmerich could get back into stance. And Emmerich knew his fate. As he struggled to get balanced, he futilely extended his hunter’s axe with a heavy clink, preparing to meet yet another of his hundreds of thousands of deaths.

Otto leapt forward, thrusting his weapon into the back of the corpse. It faltered, stumbling to its knees. Otto ripped his weapon free, sending gouts of congealed blood spattering across the snow.

Emmerich began to struggle to his feet the instant Otto had stunned his attacker, leaning heavily on his axe. He pulled a blood vial out of the front of his coat and injected it decisively into the side of his thigh.

Otto leaped back from the corpse before it could recover completely, extending his chain whip, slamming the end overhand into the rooftop in front of the monster, as if in warning. It turned towards him and raised its scythe.

That would have been his chance to escape, Otto realized as he dodged behind a spire, just out of the range of the scythe. He couldn't look over at Emmerich. He couldn't bear it. His head felt full of shattered glass. It was impossible to reassemble his thoughts into the order he needed them to be.

The corpse silently slid around the spire, cutting a crescent into the snow with the gnarled toes of its feet. Otto was forced to round the corner and hide behind the other face of the spire, just as another purposefully slice cut the air where he had once stood. He watched the corpse raise its staff and more of that dark red energy began to coalesce in small, pulsating circles. However, before it could fully launch the attack Otto saw Emmerich careen in like a bullet, delivering a heavy strike to the back of the corpse’s ankle. The red circles dispersed and the corpse stumbled forward, just long enough that Emmerich could remove his axe and bring it down on the corpse’s vulnerable side. Another fountain of thick, dark blood spouted forth.

Emmerich quickly extracted his axe again and rolled backward as another scythe strike sailed above his head. This time Emmerich was far more in control of his balance, and he hopped to his feet, backing away as the corpse turned away from its original target and began to follow him again. However, its crowned head still remained partially tilted toward Otto, somewhat subconsciously still aware of his presence. This one was smart.

“Maggoted wretch,” Emmerich hummed with derisive cheer. There was an edge of steel to his tone. He applied fire paper to his axe with a masterfully-executed firm flick of his hand. The outer edge of the blade erupted in crackling flame. He muttered protectively, “Who do you think you’re chasing? Keep your eyes on me.”

 

---

 

Time seemed to dilate. Everything seemed to slow. Emmerich's scent crowded Otto's every thought, syrup-sticky and intoxicating. He panted loudly, breath hot, pushing his nose into Emmerich's clothing. Then, when that wasn't enough, Otto dragged an enormous lolling tongue up the inside of his thigh and across the front of his trousers.

Emmerich’s arm jerked in Otto’s grasp and he almost stumbled on his toes, legs shaking. Otto could feel the muted outline of Emmerich’s half-hard erection molded against his tongue. Emmerich let out a strangled groan before his breath caught, and his scent grew twice as strong, displaced through the movement of cloth. He tasted heavily of desire, as if he had already been aroused for some time before this moment.

“Otto,” Emmerich breathed out shakily, still with the hint of a threat. He reached for the top of Otto’s head with his free hand, stroking through the thick strands of fur.

A growl again began to build in Otto's chest. He roughly grabbed Emmerich's other arm, yanking it upwards to join the first. He returned his attention to Emmerich's body, the growl still building, even as he lapped eagerly at the seam of Emmerich's trousers, at the swelling shape of his erection. Otto could go mad from the scent, the taste of him, the heat of his body. He panted, breath coming faster and faster, as arousal pounded between his own legs. This man was his. His.

The muscles in Emmerich’s forearms flexed as he curled his body forward, still struggling to stay on his toes. He groaned brokenly and his hips clumsily bucked to meet one particularly firm swipe of Otto’s tongue. The motion made Emmerich stumble forward just slightly.

“Fuck,” he cursed, half moan and half chuckle.

Otto continued to lave over Emmerich’s front, chasing the salty tang of his arousal, licking until a dark dampness bloomed across the tented fabric. On either side of Otto’s head, he could feel Emmerich’s thighs trembling, hips shaking. Otto felt Emmerich lean his head on him, plaintive gasps puffing against his fur. Otto had never heard him be so quiet, and yet so loud, his breaths now coming out almost as rapidly and harshly as his own.

Rage and need swept through Otto in a burning rush. Even the taste was no longer enough. He barked and snarled, dropping Emmerich's arms, almost sending him stumbling as his weight was taken off them. He began to tear at the front of Emmerich's clothing with his claws, sending buttons flying, baring a strip of pale skin that he hungrily lapped at. He pushed his snout beneath the folds of Emmerich’s ripped undershirt, picking up heady beads of sweat with his tongue. Emmerich gave a low groan as Otto licked thick stripes across the ridged muscles of his abdomen.

Emmerich quickly pulled his ruined jacket and undershirt off of one shoulder, and as soon as he did Otto’s tongue flicked up to smooth over his pectoral. As Emmerich shook his clothing off his other shoulder, panting and letting out small sounds, Otto painted glistening wet trails all across his torso, in the dips of each muscle, near the concave angles of his pelvis.

Otto growled again, low and furious, and tore Emmerich's sodden trousers wide open at the center seam. They fell halfway down Emmerich's thighs, and Emmerich fumbled to shove down his underwear as best he could. As soon as his erection was bared to the air Otto was on him.

He knocked Emmerich down to the cobblestones, blind with need. His own cock strained out of the ruins of his own clothing, angry red and drooling precome. He held Emmerich down, dwarfing him completely, the heels of his hands pressed into his chest, claws pricking his upper arms. He began to thrust against the bare skin of Emmerich's stomach, hips pistoning wildly, panting breaths harsh in his throat.

“Aah, aha, aah ,” Emmerich moaned, struggling to arch against him. He canted up to meet Otto’s thrusts, every gasp filled with a desperate ache. Otto could feel the jittering rise and fall of Emmerich’s stomach muscles in time with each breath, his cock pressing into the swelling flesh, gliding over it.

He felt Emmerich strain and flex his body, using a surprising amount of strength despite his vulnerable position, and he managed to move his legs and hips just enough that each of Otto’s thrusts slotted against his pelvis. He heard Emmerich groan low in his throat and let out a weak sound.

Otto rutted against him, desperate for release, breath ragged, claws sinking reflexively into Emmerich's upper arms. Four bloodstains blossomed beneath them on his remaining sleeve. Otto's hips snapped forward over and over again, faster, rougher, until Emmerich's cries of pleasure died off into silence, until Otto, frantic with need, grunting, shaking, hips jerking with desperate little thrusts, came against his stomach.

Afterwards, when Otto regained his senses, he was back in his usual human form, clothing hanging off his body in tatters. Emmerich lay dead on the ground, mouth red with blood, his front spattered with white. Otto scrambled to his feet in shock, mortified revulsion rearing cruelly inside him.

He stumbled, and ran.

 

---

 

Otto didn't have time to think very hard on the ease in which the two of them fell back into their usual rhythm, forged in the havoc of countless battles, in all the blood they had eagerly spilled. Individually, they were dangerous; together, they were as swift and lethal as wildfire.

It felt right to ease back into the way of things. It felt right to have Emmerich by his side.

That feeling had bled into Otto's mind almost without his noticing from somewhere deep in his core, dark and desperate and contagious. He was too occupied to stand up to it with anything more severe than mute confusion. The corpse was raising its scythe, ready to bring it down on Emmerich; inertia slammed the end of Otto's chain whip into its back, knocking it out of its attack. It staggered.

As if they had planned this final moment from the start, Emmerich rushed in, thrust his fist out like a whip, and buried it in the corpse’s stomach. The muscles in his arm tightened, and Otto watched as he ripped a long, glistening black rope of unrecognizable meat from the corpse’s abdomen. A spray of dark blood splattered over Emmerich’s torso, and some splattered in maroon-colored splotches over his eyebrow. He didn’t even blink.

The corpse slowly folded over, its wild, untamed hair reaching in vain toward the moon. As it collapsed to the ground with a heavy rush of wind, its physical form dissolved into a whirlwind of ethereal smoke and displaced snow. When the air cleared, Otto found Emmerich staring straight at him, chest heaving and mouth open. An inscrutable yet strangely familiar heat rimmed Emmerich’s pupils, which seemed larger and darker than he remembered.

Otto felt pinned by that gaze like a specimen to a card, an utterly powerless subject of study. His breath caught. Heat dropped sharply through his gut. Emmerich took a step towards him, eyes knowing, the corner of his lip curling. Otto's pulse began to hammer, pounding in his chest, and with a devastating swell of arousal, between his legs.

Otto spun on his heel and made a dash for the edge of the roof. To his shock and utter horror, he felt a hand snag the crook of his elbow and yank him back with a bone-creaking force. He was faster than Emmerich. He was supposed to be faster--

The hand roughly pulled Otto around so that he was facing Emmerich, and suddenly that smug face was right in front of him, so close that Otto could see all the wrinkles around his eyes. Emmerich’s expression was no longer smug, but unbearably soft and terrifyingly unfamiliar. Two hands gripped his shoulders tight enough to bruise and then Emmerich was pushing Otto backward so fast his feet had to scramble to keep up. Otto’s back slammed against a brick wall and his eyes widened, heartbeat picking up even more speed.

Emmerich pressed his whole body flat against Otto's, forcefully pinning his shoulders with his arms and sliding both legs between his to hold his lower body in place. Otto froze, head fallen back against the brick, eyes hazy and unfocused. Emmerich's breath was hot on his mouth, his thighs solid and inevitable between Otto's. Otto's head swam. His fingertips tightened on the wall, his gloves catching on the brick, chest heaving with the effort of not jerking his hips up into that tantalizing pressure.

Emmerich's eyes blazed with that same hunger that Otto had been desperately trying to ignore, that hunger that had sparked a desperate, twin heat in him that would not be doused no matter how hard he tried. It had ripped the reason from his mind and rent his self control in two.

And, yet, despite everything, the man was still here.

Otto crushed his lips against Emmerich's, grabbing at his lapels, trying to drag him closer, gloves slipping in the blood-soaked patches of his coat. Emmerich's hands slid from his shoulders to his throat, to the sides of his face. He kissed Otto back, hard, forcing his mouth wide, licking his palate with one long swipe.

Emmerich held him there for a searingly long kiss, sucking his tongue and swallowing his fervent grunts. Gloved thumbs dug possessively into his cheeks, making it impossible to close his jaw. The bridge of Otto’s glasses dug almost painfully into his nose. Teeth caught his bottom lip and clamped down, pulling hard before Emmerich’s tongue pushed back into his mouth again with a breathy groan. Emmerich’s hips, which had just barely been touching his until now, pressed firmly against him. Emmerich let out a huff of a laugh and then rolled his hips once, slow and indulgent.

Otto went weak, his thighs shoved wider by the press of Emmerich's hips. His own hips jerked forward to meet Emmerich's the second time, and he let out a strangled, impatient cry into Emmerich's mouth. He needed more. Emmerich forced Otto's head back, sucking at his lips before thrusting his tongue between them. Otto's hips jerked again, off rhythm. He felt another breath of laughter and Emmerich shifted his stance just slightly so that when he rolled his hips once more, he held Otto almost completely in place against the wall. Emmerich began a mind-numbingly slow pace, rutting up against Otto hard with each languid thrust.

Emmerich pulled back to nip at his lips again and spoke, his voice filled with gentle heat. “I’ve tried to be good for you. I truly have. But ...” He pressed into Otto’s hips forcefully, and Otto could feel the warm swell of his erection. Emmerich moaned lowly, watching Otto through half-lidded eyes, “Oh, darling. I have waited so long for this.”

A shiver went up Otto's back, his pulse thundering between his legs. Emmerich ran a gloved thumb over his bottom lip, eyes trained hungrily on Otto's mouth, and rolled his hips again, tortuously slow. Otto tried to thrust into him but had no room, no purchase. He yanked uselessly at the front of Emmerich's coat, mouth dropping open, utterly transfixed by the exquisite pressure of Emmerich's erection grinding up the entire length of his.

“Beautiful,” Emmerich sighed with such genuineness that Otto almost whimpered. The ethereal hues of Emmerich’s eyes were hazy and clouded over, the spherical line of his dark pupils cutting sharply out of the fog. His hand briefly left Otto’s face and as he continued rolling his hips, he very purposefully removed his glove. He then pressed the smooth, fleshy pad of his thumb to Otto’s lips once more, pushing it in over his teeth and tongue.

He repeated again, a tender smile crossing his face, “Beautiful.” He leaned his free arm back against Otto’s shoulder, trapping him fully once more, and ground his hips forcefully. He sped up, just enough to stoke the fire but not enough, and leaned in to bite down hard on what had to be the only clean part of Otto’s neck. Otto felt Emmerich’s hot breath against the wounded flesh as he murmured hungrily, “Just as soft as I imagined.”

Otto flattened his tongue under Emmerich's thumb, his mouth dropping open a little. He choked back a groan at Emmerich's words, half protest, half arousal. Emmerich pulled his thumb from Otto's mouth, instead taking firm hold of his wrist and slamming it up against the wall. He sucked firmly at the area he'd bitten, then dragged his teeth again slowly against his slick flesh. "Beautiful," he repeated, and something humiliated and desperate sparked in Otto. He couldn't bear this. He couldn't bear Emmerich's attention, his desire, and yet pleasure throbbed higher and higher between his legs. His erection ached. He couldn't bear the sort of praise one might indulge a boy, and yet it had rendered him absolutely weak with need.

He hated Emmerich. He wished he was dead.

Otto whined as Emmerich ground against him again, his mind filling with the sorts of images he dared not give voice to: Emmerich spreading him open excruciatingly slowly; Emmerich bent over his back, fucking between his splayed thighs; him lashed to a table, hard and straining, able to do nothing but accept Emmerich's every whim.

Another deep, wet kiss momentarily broke him out of his thoughts. Emmerich pulled away with a soft smack and leaned in to deliver another sharp bite to the other side of Otto’s neck. He gave a harsh suck and released him, tilting his head so that his breath brushed the shell of Otto’s ear.

“You hurt me,” Emmerich murmured low, continuously thrusting against Otto with that same infuriating pace, pushing Otto’s legs open just a little wider until his feet almost weren’t touching the ground. “I can still feel your weight on my hips, on my chest, your bare cock against me … my lungs collapsed and I gasped my last breaths while you used my body.”

Otto felt Emmerich’s hips shudder and they ground down with another long, indulgent motion. Eyelashes fluttered against his cheek. The hand that was not pinning Otto’s wrist crawled up his neck and dug its fingers possessively into the meat of his neck, half restricting his flow of oxygen.

“I’ve carried that with me everywhere, struggled to sleep at night in spite of it, and darling,” he breathed that word out again so plaintively, so easily, “darling, I was so proud of you.”

Emmerich's words punched Otto low. He writhed under the terrible, humiliating truth of it, the truth of him, and he wheezed for breath as the weight of Emmerich's erection scraped almost cruelly all the way up along the underside of his own. He threw his head back, panting, deep, open mouthed, his whole body tensing. He let out a choked cry as pleasure crashed over him, leaving him shaking. Emmerich greedily watched Otto tremble, drinking in the sight of him with his lip caught between his own teeth. He continued thrusting through Otto’s orgasm--patiently, steadily, until it was almost too much.

Emmerich braced his hands on Otto’s sides, steadying him. Otto was sure that Emmerich could feel every shake, every twitch of muscle, and was filing them away purposefully. He saw Emmerich’s tongue dart out across his lips hungrily, eyes brimming over with a light of satisfaction. He surged forward and kissed Otto hard, swallowing his shaky gasps. One hand left his side and travelled downward a little in between their bodies, pressing soothing circles into his abdomen.

When Emmerich pulled back, his breath came out as a cloud of white fog, cheeks pink. “Can you stand?”

"Of course," Otto retorted, though it came out much less biting than he had intended. His heart was still racing, pleasure tingling over his skin. Emmerich's hand was still at his waist. He made no move to push away from the wall.

“Should we go somewhere warmer?” Emmerich suggested. He wrapped his arm around Otto’s waist, bracing him a little further. “We have an entire castle to ourselves.”

 

---

 

Blackness. The void. A lead blanket, pearl-stitched from the dense yarn of sprawling eons. Each creature just a single row, or if they were unlucky, half a row, or a single stitch. Heavy, meaningless, unthinking, but still present. This was death. Emmerich had died so many times, and yet this was the only way he could think to describe the feeling. The experience still felt novel every time. With a flick of some unseen wrist, the lead blanket was lifted, the yarn un-knitted, and his life spooled back into the Dream. And as he returned, he had to struggle to remember. How to have a heartbeat. How to breathe. How to see, and think, and feel, and see himself as more than a streak in the black miasma of time. It was such a chore, relearning how to be something approximating a human being.

He laid there on the cobblestones below Gehrman’s cottage. He laid there for a long time. The doll watched him with an empty expression, her jointed fingers laced together. Emmerich could find no voice in his throat, no energy in his muscles--all he could do was rest his head against the ground and feel his renewed heart thundering in his chest so hard that his flesh shook.

So much pain. He had felt so much agonizing pressure, mixed with a singing high of euphoria, as Otto leaned on his chest and thrust against him. Emmerich wondered if he had ever known true pain before that moment, when Otto was finally honest, and became the monster he had never let himself be.

Emmerich pushed himself off the cobblestones and onto his feet. The doll’s head followed him as he decisively strode toward the gravestone which displayed the inscription of the place he had died in. He knelt before it and felt himself spirited into that curious ether that laid between one realm and another.

His blood sang in his veins. Every pulse shook his aching bones. This time, Otto couldn’t feign ignorance. He couldn’t pretend he felt nothing, acting the perfect and infallible nobleman that he had pointlessly suffered to be. He had allowed himself some evilness, and some violation. Emmerich’s chest swelled. Emmerich would return to Otto, gather him up in his arms, and kiss his stoic, blood-spattered face. That is what Otto wanted. He had admitted as much.

Emmerich’s form materialized a few streets away from the place he had perished. He ran through the empty neighborhood, littered with the haphazardly scattered scraps of corpses that Otto had torn apart during his rampage. He rounded a corner onto the street where Otto had taken him, only to find that Otto was gone. All that remained of him were a few shreds of his clothing and stray tufts of fur in the middle of the road. Emmerich was not surprised, but still unsettled. Amused. Frustrated.

Emmerich bent down to retrieve one of the pieces and canvassed the area looking for more. Maybe he could find a trail. After twenty minutes of thorough searching, he found nothing. Otto couldn’t be that long gone, could he? How long had Emmerich been submerged under the current of death?

He knocked on the doors of local houses, broke down doors, asking each living tenant if they had seen a giant wolfbeast or a man matching Otto’s description. By the time he finished, he had asked almost everyone still alive in the neighborhood, and rendered dozens of safe-houses open to beasts. At a loss for what to do, he returned to old haunts that he and Otto had frequented over their journey. He tried the most recent places first, and when Otto never appeared, Emmerich worked his way backward to areas they had visited farther back in time.

While working through the Cathedral Ward, he happened to run into Alfred in the rotunda at the bottom of the long staircase outside the Cathedral. Alfred called out to Emmerich as he ran past, saying, “Emmerich! You seem harried, my friend.”

Emmerich stopped long enough to offer him a cordial smile. “Indeed I am, Alfred. In fact, I’m afraid I don’t have much time for banter at the moment.”

Alfred’s eyebrows raised. “Ah, I see. Well, I am glad to see you are still alive. I thought you had perished forever.”

Emmerich cocked his head curiously. “What gave you that impression?”

“Well, I met with your partner just recently. I asked him why you were absent, and he refused to give me a proper response. I just assumed--”

“You met Otto?” The smile fell from Emmerich’s face. He approached Alfred and inquired, “You wouldn’t by any chance know where he’s gone off to, have you?”

“Indeed I do,” Alfred hummed curiously. “Are you two quarreling?”

“Alfred, please,” Emmerich pleaded in a tone that sounded almost intimidating, “I have been a good friend to you, which is more than I can say for most. Don’t ask questions. Do you know where he is or not?”

Alfred’s keen eyes sharpened. For a moment he stood rigid, locked in an internal debate. Emmerich rested his hand near the handle of his axe, prepared for the messy task of coercion.

Eventually, Alfred shrugged and closed his eyes. He let out a small laugh and conceded, “Cainhurst Castle. He received a summons. He was kind enough to allow me to have it copied. You could not imagine how long that took, or what the copyist had to do replicate the insignia.”

“I certainly cannot. I can conceive, however,” Emmerich replied with a smile, “that you will be just as kind to let me tag along.”

Alfred shook his head, returning a grin. “Oh, friend, how can I say no when I am in such a joyous mood? Your company is welcome, so long as you leave me to my own business after we arrive.”

Emmerich wanted nothing more than to do just that. They arranged a place to meet and agreed to depart within two hours, after they had collected their own respective supplies. Then they set off together for the location described within the summons.

If Otto wanted to run, then let him. Emmerich could chase him. He had been chasing Otto for so long now that perhaps, he thought, nothing suited him better than to continue nipping at Otto’s heels forever. He had been given a reward for his patience, hadn’t he? Now he had to do more work to earn another. Well, that was fine. No matter how long he had to pursue Otto, Emmerich had finally been blessed with an assurance.

Otto was his.

 

---

 

The castle’s bedchambers echoed with their footsteps. Emmerich led Otto down the palatial corridor with a hand around his waist. His trembling had long ceased. Not a word issued from his mouth. A rarity indeed, even for a man as quiet as he. Emmerich didn’t dare look at his face, for fear that the night’s spell would be broken.

He tilted his head to observe each ornate door that lined the walls. He blew a short puff of air out of his nose and commented softly, “Servants’ quarters? At the very least, lesser members of the family.”

He was sure he could find one of the master bedrooms of this castle. Nothing else properly befitted his company.

He led them to an upper floor where the layout looked more promising. A cursory check of a few rooms reviewed stately, luxurious rooms, twice the size of his childhood home. Some of them had complexly-patterned blood stains painted haphazardly about the walls. Getting closer, then. He checked a few more rooms, quickly sensing that Otto was tiring of their long walk. Much to Emmerich’s good fortune, the last door he tried revealed an even larger room, furnished with plush rugs, massive and elegant white bureaus with countless drawers, a vanity with an exquisitely-carved trim about its gleaming mirror, and a bed with a tall canopy, sheer pink curtains draped at each side. Soft pastels covered every surface. A set of imposing windows looked out on the dark grounds below.

Perfect, Emmerich thought. He would have wished a blessing on their behalf, if there were anyone left alive to bless.

He led Otto over to the bed, gesturing to the clean, lush covers. “Please, sit. I’ll take your boots for you.”

Confusion flashed briefly over Otto's face, but it was overcome almost immediately by exhaustion. He hesitated, averting his eyes, but after a moment took a step forward of his own volition and slowly sank down onto the mattress. He kept his eyes averted, trained off to the side, fixed somewhere near the door.

Emmerich knelt down and unlaced Otto’s boots, holding up each calf with one hand as he tugged them off. He allowed himself a few brief glances up at Otto’s face. He looked so lovely, haloed in filtered moonlight, gaze pointedly looking away. Emmerich placed the boots beside the bed and stood up, saying, “And your cape.” He reached in towards Otto’s neck carefully to unhook his cape, tugging it off. Emmerich folded the billowing garment with practiced ease and draped it over a nearby chair. He then removed his own cape and boots and set them aside. He also removed his gloves and tossed them into the pile.

He returned to where Otto was sitting, giving his stoic profile an appreciative once-over. He then reached inside of his vest--one of the few places on his person that were not covered in blood--and removed a pristine white handkerchief. He dabbed some water from his canteen onto the fabric and then gently slid his hand underneath Otto’s chin, careful to avoid his beard. With one long swipe, he began rubbing the blood from Otto’s face.

He suggested conversationally, “Shall I undress you as well? If you would allow it.”

Otto's eyes flicked back up to his for a split second before falling back towards the general direction of the door, perhaps in embarrassment, perhaps to mentally rehearse his escape, should he choose it. A moment passed. The crease between Otto's eyebrows deepened, and he gave a curt nod.

A smile rose to Emmerich’s lips as he tenderly brushed away the remaining blood stains from Otto’s soft, pale cheeks and ran the wet cloth down his neck. An alien ache bloomed in Emmerich’s heart. Otto would likely rescind this kindness tomorrow, but that was okay. So long as Otto could run, Emmerich could chase him. And he would surely remember these moments in between as miracles of the cold, cruel Hunt.

After scrubbing Otto’s face clean, Emmerich quickly wiped the blood from his own forehead and tossed the handkerchief on top of his cloak. When he returned to the bedside again, he could already see the muscles in Otto’s arms and legs tensing. Smile widening, Emmerich bent down and tugged the ascot from around Otto’s neck. He refused to look up, so Emmerich took that as permission to take his time with the buttons on Otto’s vest, popping each one loose with a twist of his wrist. He pushed the vest off of Otto’s shoulders, stroking the tense line of muscle with his palms. He repeated the process with Otto’s shirt, each button revealing the rounded planes of his pale chest, peppered with patches of dark hair. As Emmerich pushed this too over Otto’s shoulders, he couldn’t help a glance at Otto’s nipples, pert from the cold air.

Emmerich placed both hands on either side of Otto’s hips, thumbs pressing into the warm, stiff flesh. He was all wiry muscle, glowing in the moonlight, deliciously tense, and this time Emmerich didn’t stop himself from scanning over all the dips in his skin with a look of appraisal.

He pulled upward with both of his hands. He murmured, “Stand, please.”

Otto hesitated a moment but obeyed him, bracing himself with a hand on the thick, twisting bedpost. He kept it there, holding his other arm awkwardly away from his side. With a heavy jangling sound, Emmerich unbuckled Otto’s belt and removed his trousers, helping him step out of each leg. And of course, he fancied a peek at Otto’s underwear, out from which extended elegant long legs, the sinews carved out like marble. His underwear was black, a fact which hid the evidence of Otto’s earlier pleasure.

Emmerich produced another handkerchief from his vest, which he cordially offered to Otto along with the water canteen. When Otto gave him a confused look, he shrugged and explained diplomatically, “I thought, perhaps, washing that part of you would be something you’d prefer to do yourself.”

Otto's face contorted in anger and embarrassment. He snatched the handkerchief and canteen from Emmerich's hands and turned away, hunched in on himself. When he was finished he turned back around, the color high in his cheeks, and held the canteen back out to Emmerich. The handkerchief remained balled up in his other hand.

Emmerich gratefully accepted the canteen and stowed it away in one of his pockets. “My thanks.” It took all of his willpower not to laugh. What he could not resist, however, was the temptation to lift a hand and caress Otto’s cheek. He rubbed a thumb over the bone, humming with pleasure at the pink hue. He brought his other hand up and took hold of Otto’s glasses, gently sliding them off. All the while the other man refused to look at him.

Emmerich withdrew  and turned away from Otto just slightly, fingers making quick work of the buttons on his own vest. He shucked it off with a casual swivel of his shoulders and started in on the shirt beneath. He tried his best to be somewhat modest, though his body was most likely not such a prize as Otto could acquire were he to have stayed in his homeland. Regardless, Emmerich held one side of his shirt open just enough so that Otto could peek at his bare chest, if such were his wish.

“You may lie down now, if you want. Tell me if you need more pillows.”

Otto hesitated again, and Emmerich did not miss the way Otto did trail his eyes down the opening of his shirt as he turned and pulled back the coverlet. He quickly averted them and slid underneath the covers, his back to Emmerich.

Shaking his head, Emmerich removed his faux ponytail and kicked off his pants. He leaned over Otto’s body, grabbing the covers on either side of his head, and pulled them up over his shoulders, carefully tucking them in against the line of his back. He then pressed a kiss to Otto’s temple and walked around the other side of the bed, slipping into the sheets. As he slid a hand under his own pillow, Emmerich glanced up to meet Otto’s eyes, and held his stare.

Reality suddenly hit him like a mortar shell, and his mirth cooled. This was it. The soft, curving line of Otto’s body, the fire in his ashamed gaze, his quicksilver presence filling the same bed as Emmerich, almost like a declaration of shared emotion. Almost. So long, Emmerich had waited, and now he felt himself in awe. He relaxed muscles that he didn’t remember tensing.

Otto stared back with an expression that was almost defiant. With the covers pulled up to his chin, the challenge in his expression looked nothing less than vulnerable.

 

---

 

Sleep crashed into Emmerich like a wave, over and over, holding him under in one continuous uninterrupted stream of silence. The past few weeks of searching left little time for rest, and he had reserved plenty of nighttime hours for worry--worry about Otto, and about the future, which he had to confess had never worried him before. He slept past the hour when his mind usually woke him and demanded he prepare for a new day.

When he finally did awake, he felt somewhat disoriented. He almost forgot where he was. His eyes blinked open slowly, unfocused images gradually sharpening into something distinguishable. Otto’s face, still across from him, turned slowly from a vague collection of shapes to that handsome visage, all the angles of which, by now, Emmerich could recall purely from memory.

He realized, too slowly, that Otto was staring straight at him.

He quickly sobered up from his grogginess. Emmerich opened his mouth to speak, tongue and throat sticky with sleep. Nothing came out. He cleared his throat but stayed quiet, unsure of the expression on Otto’s face. What should he say, anyway? Should he wish him good morning, or make another joke? Neither would save this moment.

The furrow between Otto's brows deepened. He held Emmerich's eyes almost accusingly for a long, long moment, then he made to sit up, the blankets falling a little off his bare shoulder. He froze, though, braced on one forearm, still staring down into Emmerich's face. All Emmerich could do was gaze back in fascination, the seconds crystallizing as they ticked past. Otto’s eyebrows were drawn, his mouth a thin, tight line, but something blazed behind his eyes. The color rose in his cheeks.

He leaned down and, with only a moment's hesitation, pushed his mouth against Emmerich's. The touch was soft, and yet firm, and Emmerich’s skin caught fire. He remained frozen in disbelief for a few moments, until sobriety caught back up with him. He had suspected Otto would react this way. And yet, for a reason he couldn’t place, Emmerich still felt surprise, and … a lightness. An ease. A crawling desire.

He kissed back, chaste at first, sliding a hand up Otto’s neck. His pulse drummed lightly, just barely beneath Emmerich’s fingertips. Emmerich made a quiet, aching sound, barely more than a whisper, and pressed an open-mouthed kiss against Otto’s insistent lips.

Otto answered with a quick, involuntary inhale, then seemed to hold his breath. Emmerich slid his hand around to cup the back of Otto's skull, holding him firmly as he deepened the kiss, fingers buried in his hair. Otto let out that breath through his nose, and no matter how steady he tried to make it, Emmerich could tell how shaky it really was.

As he slowly indulged in the wet heat of Otto’s mouth, Emmerich lifted his free hand and stroked up the rigid flesh of Otto’s side and over his chest. The hitching gasp Otto released in response sent a low wave of heat curling through his middle. Emmerich brought his hand back down and lovingly stroked one hip, tantalizingly half-covered by his dark briefs. He pulled downward, encouraging Otto to cover his body, the same way Otto had done when he’d lost all of his self-control. Emmerich arched up to meet him, letting their chests brush together.

One of Otto’s nipples grazed him, a dot of cool pressure against his pectoral. Emmerich let out another quiet sound, still kneading the base of Otto’s skull. That thick, wavy hair felt like silk between his fingers. If he gave just a tug, that beautiful pale neck would straighten, adam’s apple exposed, a white column just waiting to be nipped and bruised. The temptation was overwhelming.

Otto still held himself a little bit apart. He'd planted a hand to the mattress beside Emmerich's waist, over his body, and the muscles of his arm began to shake just slightly with the effort. His chest was beginning to rise and fall rapidly, brushing Emmerich's own with every inhale. The way he kissed was almost hesitant, almost chaste, despite the quickness of his breath, despite the eagerness that trembled through his body.

Emmerich rolled his hips up against Otto, back bowing in a reprise of the position he took when Otto pinned him mercilessly to the cobblestone. As he felt Otto’s chest shudder deliciously, each breath a swell of cool skin, Emmerich couldn’t help teasing him, murmuring against his lips in between kisses, “Where is your earlier spirit, my dear? This time, you will not ruin me.”

He stroked one hand up Otto’s back, feeling along the wiry cords of muscle. That hand slowly travelled back down, pushing the blanket further back to expose more pale skin, tracing the dip in his spine near his hips. The sculpted curve just above Otto’s ass felt like smooth, cold marble against Emmerich’s fingertips. Emmerich bit his lip as arousal seeped into his lower body, simmering with anticipation.

He leveraged himself up onto one hand so that his body molded against Otto’s in a line. He cupped Otto’s face and met his eyes, looking up at him from under blonde lashes. He hummed lowly, “My only regret was dying before I could feel you inside of me.”

The breath left Otto's lungs, his exhale shaky with arousal. He dropped his head to the side, away from the burning line of Emmerich's gaze. His cheekbone hovered a scant fraction of an inch above Emmerich's shoulder, and Emmerich could almost feel the heat off it. He spoke, finally, heartbeat thundering against Emmerich's chest. "If I," he began, voice strained, quivering with tension. "Had I been able..." He swallowed thickly.

Emmerich moaned appreciatively, his imagination taking flight from where Otto’s words left off. He could envision the feeling of Otto splitting him open, desperately fucking him with short, grinding thrusts like the animal he was.

Emmerich looped one arm around Otto’s waist and sat up, then swiftly laid Otto out flat on his back. Emmerich leaned over him, pressing a kiss to the corner of his mouth and gently stroking his hand along the inside of Otto’s thigh.

“You’re able now,” Emmerich goaded him with a sweet tone. His fingers drew up over sinews, over Otto’s black underwear, feeling the flesh begin to swell under his touch. As he began rubbing Otto through his briefs, Emmerich licked his lips and sighed with great satisfaction, “I’m going to take this pretty cock in deep. But not before I feel it on my tongue. You’d like that, wouldn’t you? To fuck my mouth, and then push inside of me.”

Otto's eyes were scrunched shut, lips parted, chest heaving. At Emmerich's words he let out an involuntary whine, then snapped his mouth shut, gritting his teeth. His erection throbbed and swelled under Emmerich's hand. "I...I would," he managed finally, one white-knuckled fist twisting in the bedclothes.

Emmerich greedily drank in the sight of Otto’s whole body straining under his touch. He stroked his thumb over the clothed head of Otto’s erection, purring, “Good. Then I’m sure you won’t mind letting me taste you as I please.”

He leaned down and licked a stripe up one side of Otto’s chest, all the way up over his nipple. He bit and sucked at the reddish bud as he ground his palm firmly against Otto’s dick. He felt Otto’s hips strain against him, back arching, his nipples just as pert and hard as his swollen member. Emmerich made sure to take the time to lavish the other side of Otto’s chest with just as much attention while he squeezed Otto’s balls through his briefs.

Shortly after he pulled the hem back, revealing the rosy head of Otto’s cock. Emmerich groaned and pulled the briefs farther, wrapping his hand around the turgid flesh. A vein pulsed faintly in the side of the shaft, and he watched with parted lips as a drop of precome beaded out from the slit. He marveled at Otto’s girth, sizable even when compared with his beastial form. The heat of Otto’s skin, the hitching of his breath, the instinctual canting of his hips, and the sight of Otto’s cock pushing through the tight circle of Emmerich’s hand--Emmerich loved them all, along with the humid fog they ushered into his mind.

He trailed down Otto’s abdomen with kisses, pressing them against his stomach and pelvis, until he reached that beautiful, slick shaft. Emmerich paused above it, mouth open, and flicked his tongue out to trace the ridge of Otto’s head. The taste was heavy with sweat and desire, filling Emmerich’s mouth with the heady tang of precome. He moaned low and took the head into his mouth, eyelids fluttering closed.

Otto let out a gratified, choked cry, then tossed his head to the side in mortification, clenching his jaw, squeezing his eyes shut. The rich tone of his voice made Emmerich’s heart soar in his chest. Otto’s body trembled with tension as Emmerich gave him a long, languid suck, dragging the tight, slick circle of his lips back up to the tip. He ran the flat of his tongue lovingly over the slit, fist closed tightly around the base, and Otto was unable to hold back a shuddering exhale.

Emmerich began pumping him, hand twisting with every stroke. He paused briefly to smack the head of Otto’s cock against his tongue, then returned to stroking at a faster pace as he closed his mouth and sucked hard. He bobbed his head once, twice, swallowing Otto a little deeper every time. The third time he took Otto in as far as he could, until he felt his airway restrict and his throat protest. He held himself there for an agonizingly-long moment, listening to Otto’s whimpers, reveling in the way his breaths caught.

The fingers of Emmerich’s other hand traveled downward, briefly making a stop to massage Otto’s balls before creeping over his perineum. Emmerich pressed in two fingers and rubbed firmly, up and down, all the while dreaming about the night when he might push lower and press Otto open.

Otto let out a strangled sound, hands twisting in the sheets. His breath caught for a long moment as his cock twitched, and Emmerich hummed in satisfaction as the taste of precome hit the back of his tongue. He pressed his fingers upwards once again into the flesh behind Otto's balls, massaging firmly, eyes crinkling as the breath left Otto's lungs in an explosive exhale. Otto's fist flew up to his own mouth. He sank his teeth into his knuckle, sucking in a long hiss of an inhale, trembling with the effort of staying still. Emmerich took him down once again.

Again, he swallowed as much of the shaft as he could, while his fingers continued to rub tight little circles into Otto’s perineum. More than once Emmerich pushed his limits, letting the head just barely seal the opening of his throat for one exquisite moment before being forced to pull back. He tasted more heady precome, but only when he made a choking sound did he hear Otto moan brokenly against his hand. That made an arc of fire light up Emmerich’s spine.

He pulled off Otto’s cock with a pop and repositioned himself slightly. He removed his hand from beneath Otto’s balls and placed both hands on Otto’s hips, leaning his weight to pin them down. Then he returned to Otto’s stiff member and appreciatively dragged his tongue up the head, over the ridge and up the slit. Emmerich took Otto’s cock in his mouth one more time and started up a fast rhythm, sucking hard, making sure to force the head to hit the back of his throat. Every time it did he let out a plaintive, wet, cut-off sound. His eyes clenched shut, a few beads of moisture leaking out onto his cheeks.

Otto's balls were drawn up tight, his breathing shallow and ragged, muffled against his fist. His hips gave tiny, involuntary little jerks into the weight Emmerich was putting on his thighs, the knuckles of his other hand white from clutching so tightly at the bedclothes.

When Otto's breaths became moans, still stifled by his hand, Emmerich pulled off him completely, letting his erection fall heavily to his stomach. He leaned his entire weight onto Otto’s thighs, keeping his hips pinned firmly to the bed. A smile curled at the corners of his lips. Otto dropped his fist from his mouth and slammed his palm to the mattress with a needy cry, eyes flying open, half struggling to sit up. Then he seemed to remember himself, falling back to the bed, passing a shaking hand across his eyes. His chest heaved. He bit back a groan as another drop of precome oozed from the tip of his cock and onto his stomach.

Emmerich licked his lips, lifting off of Otto just enough that he could run a hand down Otto’s chest. The sight of him, pale skin flushed, laid out and trembling, made Emmerich’s hips burn sticky hot. He praised Otto, voice almost rasping from the abuse to his throat, “So lovely. Especially when you try to hold back.”

He sat up and finally removed Otto’s briefs completely before divesting himself off his own. He grabbed Otto by the hips and roughly pulled his body down so that their hips were flush together. He pressed both of their cocks against each other with one hand, giving a heated sigh at how wet Otto felt. He pressed the fingers of his other hand into his own mouth and wet them with his tongue, then reached behind himself and circled one finger around his entrance until it slipped in.

He groaned, stroking their cocks with the tight circle of his hand, and pushed the finger all the way in. He would be sore after this. Very sore. He wanted to feel the ache in the bones of his hips, the swell of his entrance, so that every time his mind wandered he could be brought crashing back to reality--the same one that was kind enough to give him the opportunity to see Otto come apart beneath him.

Otto bit back another groan, hand still half over his face. A string of precome connected the tip of his erection back to his stomach, and Emmerich shifted his hand up both their lengths to smear it around the head of Otto's cock with the pad of his thumb. He tugged insistently at the rim of his own entrance, delighting in the burn, in the stretch. He gave both their cocks a firm squeeze and Otto squirmed, skin glistening with sweat, breaths coming short and fast.

Emmerich continued pumping his hand, waiting until he felt Otto’s legs begin to shake before releasing Otto’s erection and letting it fall back again. Otto ground out a desperate growl of irritation, and this time Emmerich couldn’t help but laugh.

He stood up from the bed, feeling his own member throb in the cool air. “Patience, for just a moment.”

He cast a glance about the room, eyes landing on the luxurious white vanity. The former tenant must have been a stately young woman, but surely she too was prepared to receive the hour of carnal need. He rifled through the myriad of drawers, pawing through old bottles of perfume and makeup brushes, searching for something he could use as slick. In one of the bottom drawers on the right side of the vanity, he found a slew of completely unmarked vials, all filled with liquids that were varying shades of yellow. He uncorked one and took a sniff. Olive oil. He admired the former tenant’s careful preparation.

As he made his way back to the bed, he caught Otto half-sitting up, watching him in confusion. Before Otto could lift himself any further, Emmerich climbed back on top of him. He flashed Otto a smile and showed him the vial. He then collected some of the oil on his fingers and guided them back into his own entrance, pushing himself open.

Emmerich made a show of stretching himself, moaning low in his throat and arching his back. He bit his lip coquettishly. “Ah … Otto …”

Otto hesitantly lay back down, flat on his back, his eyes fixed between Emmerich's legs with an intense concentration, as if he could see the action of Emmerich's hand through his body. Red burned high on his cheeks. His focus was so single-minded that the delighted smile crossing Emmerich’s face went unnoticed.

He fucked himself slowly, his groans gradually growing deeper and more genuine. As he spread his entrance apart in a way that made his hips numb, he stroked his other hand up his abdomen, and then his chest. Palming his own nipple, he gasped, “I’ve dreamt of this moment for so long. Mmnh … to see your dark eyes taking me in … I have yearned for this, every time you’ve had your beautiful hands around my throat.”

He pulled his fingers out and tipped the vial of oil onto Otto’s cock, spreading the liquid onto his flesh in firm strokes. Emmerich crawled forward far enough that he could take Otto in hand and guide him inside. The head caught, meeting resistance for a few moments, before popping in. Emmerich forced himself to breath, taking in hitching gasps as he slid down Otto’s cock with agonizing slowness. He braced his hands behind him on Otto’s thighs and sank down until he met with Otto’s hips.

A breathy moan slipped out of him, eyelids fluttering. He felt so full, the warmth of Otto inside jolting him with a brief shock of pleasure. He looked down at Otto, giving him a slow smile. “How does it feel?”

Otto's eyes had gone hazy and unfocused. At Emmerich's words he squeezed them shut, gritting his teeth. His breath caught as Emmerich began, slowly, to raise his hips, and he let it out in a shuddering exhale as Emmerich impaled himself again on his length. The muscles of his thighs flexed under Emmerich's weight, his hands clutching at the sheets.

Fire travelled up through Emmerich’s hips, his groin, his lower back. By the gods, he loved when Otto held back. He repeated, a laugh escaping him, “How does it feel? Am I tight enough for you? Because I could--”

He sheathed Otto inside for the third time, clenching tightly as he lifted his hips. He could feel Otto pulse inside him, hear his strangled sound of pleasure, feel Otto’s thighs struggle against his hands. Emmerich leaned back fully on his hands, beginning to slowly fuck himself on Otto’s cock with languid thrusts. He made sure to take his time, holding Otto down with his weight, relishing the way his tense muscles resisted.

Though Emmerich had envisioned this moment for so long, his imagination paled in comparison to reality. The slick slide of Otto’s swollen cock made him shudder with a new wave of heat every time the head tugged against his entrance and pushed back in.

He tilted his head back, baring his neck, and groaned, “Fuck …”

Otto's breathing was harsh and labored, head turned to the side on the pillow, eyes scrunched tightly shut. Emmerich took him deep, again and again, until Otto's chest was heaving, until each thrust of Emmerich's hips forced an involuntary sound from his throat. Licking his dry lips, Emmerich bore down on Otto, gradually increasing the speed of his movements. He panted with every strike of Otto’s cock, each one just barely brushing that bundle of nerves inside him.

Thick cords of muscle strained underneath his palms, flexing and relaxing. He could feel just the slightest motion of Otto futilely grinding up against him. Emmerich shifted, letting more of his weight fall on Otto’s pelvis until he was completely subdued, his teeth nipping at the soft, pink crescent of his lip. Emmerich bounced on top of him in sharp, short thrusts, hard and fast. He watched Otto’s deliciously pale neck arch, his tousled hair messily framing his face and collarbones in thick locks. He looked like he was suffering , in a way that made Emmerich’s cock drip with a pearl of precome.

When those quiet sounds turned to whimpers and the tendons on Otto’s neck and legs began rippling, Emmerich pulled his hips up and stopped moving completely, the head of Otto’s cock still trapped inside. Otto tried to buck upward, but Emmerich held him firmly in place.

After a few moments of holding himself up, letting the knot in Otto’s groin untangle itself, Emmerich sunk back down to envelop him completely. Otto's spine arched off the bed, his head falling back, an almost pained sound wrenching its way out of his throat. Emmerich couldn’t help but give a breathy laugh, grinding his hips in a lazy circle.

Otto made a strangled noise, hands desperately twisting the sheets. He tried again and again to thrust upwards, each exhale a half-vocalized pant, each time meeting the resistance of Emmerich's weight. With a hum of delight, Emmerich indulged him, just a little. He once more began to ride Otto, so slowly he swore he could fully trace the path of one thick vein on the side of Otto’s length.

“Do you want more?” Emmerich groaned, hips rolling in long, deep, languid strokes. “Darling, I can't give you more if you don't tell me so.”

Otto grit his teeth, tossing his head to one side. The muscles of his thighs flexed again as Emmerich sank down upon him, and he made an involuntary sound of frustration. Emmerich clucked his tongue and kept pace, clenching around Otto every time he drew up. He would pull up until the head of Otto's cock had almost fully slipped out, then take him in again all the way to the root. Emmerich felt Otto pulse and shiver deliciously inside of him.

"What? I didn't quite catch that," Emmerich goaded. He reached out with one hand to caress Otto's face, drag a thumb across his bottom lip, and Otto immediately retaliated with a thrust that almost knocked him off-balance. Emmerich gasped, laughed, and planted his hand back on Otto's thigh. "Just tell me what you want. Let me hear that sweet voice of yours."

Otto's cock pulsed needily inside him. He was panting, open mouthed, chest rapidly rising and falling. He tossed his head again, brow sharply furrowed in an expression of abject torment. "I..." He clenched his teeth, groaning in frustration. "Release me," he finally ground out, red burning high on his cheekbones.

Grinning, Emmerich increased the speed of his movements, moaning at the slick slide. Warmth came to his own cheeks in a rush. He fucked himself harder on Otto's length, the smack of wet skin echoing through the bedchamber. He arched his back temptingly, in all his motions doing his best impression of a coquettish whore, and hummed, "I should love to. But to what purpose?"

Otto pulled and twisted at the sheets with both hands, jaw muscle working. "Curse you," he spat out, then let out a low, keening cry as Emmerich clenched deliberately around him. He kicked at the sheets, trying to dig his heels into the mattress to get some leverage, but Emmerich's weight left him unable to lift his knees. The heat in his tone made Emmerich's heartbeat quicken madly in his chest, and between his legs.

"Ahh, I love that sound. The deep tenor of your voice when you're angry with me is almost more than I can bear," Emmerich moaned, pausing for a moment to grind his hips in a circle again. And this wasn't merely posturing--thin strings of precome oozed from his slit, trickling down the underside of his shaft in a sluggish stream. Another perfectly-aimed thrust downward jabbed Otto's cock into that special bunch of nerves and he tipped his head back, gasping plaintively. When he looked back down he watched Otto--his Otto, writhing and gnashing his teeth in pleasure--and admonished him tenderly, "You have me at your fingertips. You could reach out, grasp me, claim me without another word. But you won't, will you? The gentleman in you won't allow it. So, then, I ask you again--what do you want ?"

When Emmerich didn't lift his hips upwards again after that thrust, Otto made an anguished sound, his entire body taut as a bowstring. He threw his head back, panting harshly. "I want..." He bit down on his lip, grinding out a frustrated cry. "I want to...fuck you," he finally said, almost brokenly, and took a shuddering sob of a breath.

Emmerich felt that he might unravel completely at the seams. His body shuddered and he purred, "Good boy."

He lifted himself and began a fast and punishing pace, fully sheathing Otto's cock over and over again. Otto rippled underneath him, making euphoric noises so pained that Emmerich almost felt pity for him. Emmerich panted loudly, thighs burning, cock smacking against his own stomach. Every stroke of Otto's cock sent an arc of fire racing up Emmerich's back, curling through his abdomen in wisps of flame. He slammed himself down in faltering strokes until Otto began to quiver again, close to the edge. Just before he could come, Emmerich pulled himself off of Otto completely with a pop. He released Otto and lay back on the bed facing him, chest heaving. Emmerich spread his legs wide, knees trembling--a sign of weakness he knew Otto would recognize. He reached down and pulled his balls up in invitation, giving Otto an obstructed view of his entrance.

Otto's eyes focused on Emmerich's hips with a spine-tingling intensity. Emmerich huffed out a few short breaths, meeting his gaze longingly. In an instant Otto had scrambled up onto his knees. He only hesitated a moment before crawling, panting, over Emmerich's body, planting a hand in the mattress beside his upper arm, the other taking his cock in hand and lining it up. He shoved in with a hoarse cry, the head of his cock easily breaching Emmerich's slick, loosened entrance. His other hand met the bed on Emmerich's other side with an impact that made the mattress creak. He thrust in to the hilt with a low, broken moan, and began to rut into Emmerich with shallow, needy little thrusts, his head hanging low, gasping for breath. His hair spilled over his shoulders, the ends swinging with each snap of his hips.

Crying out plaintively, Emmerich reached up and threaded his fingers into the thick black locks at the base of Otto’s skull, rubbing thumbs and fingers into the subtle concavities of the bone beneath. Every thrust made his toes curl, beating high-pitched sounds out of his chest. He wrapped both legs around Otto’s hips to drive him in deeper.

Emmerich moved one hand up to cup Otto’s jaw and kissed his lowered forehead reverently, his breathing harsh. “There’s my wonderful beast. My-- ahh, nnh, fuck --”

He fell back to the bed and arched his spine, pushing back to meet Otto’s thrusts. His eyes stared unseeingly at the canopy above, fingers gripping possessively in soft, black hair.

Otto collapsed onto his elbows, each breath a shallow, pained gasp. He continued to fuck into Emmerich, hips snapping needily forward. He let out a strangled, guttural cry, thrusting deep, barely pulling out before he was slamming back in. Sounding just as dignified, Emmerich uttered his own yelps of pleasure, kneading at Otto’s skull, his neck, clutching his jaw with a force he just barely checked.

Leaning his head against Otto’s, mouth tipped to his ear, Emmerich goaded in a shaky tone, “That’s my boy. You’re--mmh, trembling, my darling. Are you close?” He had to stop to catch his breath as Otto pistoned into him with such force that the bed shook. He wrapped a hand around Otto’s neck, thumb pressing against the knob in his throat, shuddering at the tender give of muscle with just a simple squeeze. “Aaah, ahaha, mngh, do you want to fill me up, like a whore?”

Otto slammed into Emmerich with an off-rhythm thrust, gritting his teeth in an expression akin to agony, the vibration of his low, choked cry buzzing against Emmerich's palm. He cried out again, shaking with tension, mouth falling open, hips stuttering forward and stilling for one long moment before he was fucking into Emmerich with another shallow, artless series of thrusts, a desperate, wounded sound wrenching its way out of his throat. Emmerich held on tightly, delighting in the wheezing breaths Otto struggled to take in spite of the iron grip on his neck. Emmerich could feel the wet heat of Otto’s seed filling him, oozing out of his entrance in thick strands with every clumsy thrust. He felt perilously close to the edge himself, and canted his hips back encouragingly, milking a few more stiff thrusts from Otto’s softening cock.

Releasing Otto’s neck, Emmerich murmured heatedly, “Good boy.”

Otto dragged in a wheezing breath, and let out a shuddering exhale as his cock slipped free of Emmerich's body. He collapsed to the bed at Emmerich's side, chest heaving, mouth slack. Emmerich sat up and tenderly rubbed the side of Otto’s face, waiting for him to get his bearings back. After a full minute of waiting, and then some gentle jostling, he realized that Otto had completely fallen asleep.

“How rude,” Emmerich sighed to himself, though not without fondness. For all the finesse and pomp Otto exuded, in the queerest of matters he could be a graceless oaf.

Emmerich rolled Otto onto his back, tilting up that beautiful face so that the sunlight kissed the curves of his nose and cheeks. Emmerich threw one leg over his hips and, balancing himself on Otto’s firm chest, took his own cock in hand and started to stroke himself. He made a hard, tight fist and fucked into it, watching Otto’s short eyelashes quiver, dragging a thumb across his pink lips. Otto was so exhausted, so fragile, so vulnerable. Emmerich felt an urgent lurch of arousal in his gut. He could feel the evidence of Otto’s desire dripping down his thighs, onto Otto’s bare stomach. He wanted to paint every inch of this boy. And he knew that, honestly, there was nothing Otto could ever to do stop him.

Emmerich thrust into his own hand, twisting with every stroke, pulling down the soft meat of Otto’s lip with a thumb. Pleasure burned through him, building in his thighs and groin, and he came over his fingers with a shaky moan. White come shot in ropes across Otto’s chest, with Emmerich taking special care to decorate his lovely, sharp collarbone and the soft cords of his neck. Emmerich rocked his hips until he felt sticky and sensitive, and then he sat back to admire his handiwork. Otto, the poor wretch, slumbered on.

He was almost worthy of pity. He flirted with the illusion of independence, believing that fighting, shouting, and blood could free him from love--the purest kind of death, the destruction of the self. Such a naive boy, Emmerich thought to himself, brushing a thin wisp of hair from Otto’s face with his clean hand. He paused, held it between his fingers, and stared longingly at the bright sheen shining across its black surface.

He stood from the bed and retrieved one of his throwing knives from his discarded clothes. Crawling back over the bedspread and Otto’s vulnerable sleeping body, Emmerich admired his beautiful body, the pristine sheets rucked under his torso, ebony hair splayed carelessly around his bearded face. Emmerich wiped his hand clean on his thigh and reached out to carefully cut out a lock of that black silk--a piece from the back of Otto’s hair, one that he’d never miss. The act made him briefly feel foolish. He had never been a man of superstition, but the old healers of the church and commoners alike believed in the power of a man’s biology. Many a priest had sworn that with a lock of hair, even a man dead for a hundred years could be brought back to life. And Emmerich couldn’t have any repeats of previous partners, killed by a stray blow, a common thug, expecting to be revived by the Hunter’s contract only to never to return again. This was one man he could not afford to lose.

Before Otto could wake and see what he had done, Emmerich tucked the strand of hair safely inside the innermost pocket of his vest, where blood nor strike could reach it. He could get a locket for it later. There, it would be even safer. He felt a strange sense of giddiness as he wondered just how many old, dusty crones before him also had a piece of their husbands spirited away in locket, pocket, or chest. It felt … homely. Almost normal. He could hardly remember a time when he felt a connection to the banal, everyday world that regular humans busied themselves in.

He sat on the edge of the bed, glancing over Otto fondly. Absently, he asked, “That’s what you want, right? To regain your life, and return to your home, whole?”

He carefully moved Otto’s body so that he again laid back against the luxurious pillows. He drew the blanket up around Otto’s shoulders, silently watching each breath swell his chest.

If Otto thought he could go anywhere without Emmerich, he was sorely mistaken.