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nobody loves me like you

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“Emet-Selch. Sleeping again.”

Emet-Selch barely twitches in response to Elidibus’ sudden appearance in their bedroom. Doubtless they sensed his presence as soon as he reached the First – Zodiark knows that Emet-Selch’s own wellspring of aether stands out like a stark bruise on the surface of this light-ridden world. So the fact that they didn’t even see fit to get out of bed can only mean they’re in one of their difficult moods.

“It’s a wonderful way to pass the time,” Emet-Selch says, voice muffled by an abundance of pillows.

Elidibus steps over scattered articles of clothing – fur-embroidered robes that are unmistakably Garlean in style, although why Emet-Selch would spend the energy to conjure replicas of Garlean clothing baffles him – and comes to the side of the bed. It’s a plush, oversized affair, lined with pillows and covered with a silk comforter. (Silk and fur. They’ve definitely gone native.) And like everything in the city, it is constructed of aether.

One person’s aether. The experience of walking through the streets of this ghostly Amaurot is akin to tracing the blood vessels of a body. Elidibus extends a clawed hand and touches a corner of the comforter absently.

“We need to talk.”

“Do we? I was under the impression that I would be handling things here in the First.” One arm extracts itself from the blankets and makes a dismissive gesture. “Now, if this is a social visit on the other hand…”

“Hades,” Elidibus says, voice low.

He takes what pleasure he can out of seeing that uplifted hand falter for a moment.

Emet-Selch sits up with a theatrically put-upon sigh, swinging their legs over the edge of the bed. “Look at me, I’m not even dressed.”

They aren’t. A thin silk nightgown offers them the semblance of modesty, the silvery fabric doing more to accent their figure than cover it. It hangs loosely off their chest and pools in delicate folds around their hips, dipping just low enough to cover a bit of thigh before coyly showing off their bare legs. Elidibus looks, and looks away.

“This form you wear is a most unbecoming vanity.”

Emet-Selch smiles, leaning back against the covers. Despite himself, Elidibus turns back and follows every curve of their body with his eyes, each one accented by the subtle gleam of their nightgown. From the way their smile widens, his attention does not go unnoticed.

“Well, now. That might be the most back-handed compliment I’ve ever received.”

Elidibus frowns. “It’s not a compliment.”

“Are you saying you don’t like it?”

He does. There’s no use voicing a denial.

“You were always terribly easy to read,” Emet-Selch laughs.

They lean forward, looking up at him through their lashes. Their hair is tousled, their customary eye makeup fuzzy and smeared. One strap of their gown has slid off their shoulder, pulled out of place by the movement. The look of it makes Elidibus’ blood run hot – he can hardly help himself – he leans in and drags Emet-Selch into a kiss, curling his fingers in the other’s hair. Though he can’t see what he’s doing, the knowledge that he’s mussing it further brings a strange satisfaction.

Emet-Selch’s lips curve against his mouth and it occurs to Elidibus that he is being seduced. Successfully, for that matter. At this point, all he can muster is vague irritation.

Emet-Selch tugs on the front of his robes and he gives in, climbing onto the bed and straddling the other Ascian. Without their usual heavy draped robes Emet-Selch is slender and angular, brittle under Elidibus’ gauntleted hands like a bird’s skeleton. He kisses them, and as he kisses them he presses them down into the mattress, he grips their jaw hard with his clawed fingers and feels the shape of them against himself. And Emet-Selch pulls him in, inviting and mocking in equal measure.

Hades had always been a nightmare to work with: a born manipulator, blessed with great foresight and a restless mind itching to put plans into motion. Their lives were nigh-endless, but Hades always needed to keep themself occupied with something. In the post-Calamity age it’s gotten harder than ever to keep that voracious mind from teetering over the brink. That’s why Elidibus doesn’t begrudge them their elaborate fantasies, recreated worlds, or yes, even these trysts.

Which isn’t to say Elidibus doesn’t get his own pleasure out of these moments. They aren’t lovers, but Elidibus thinks he does love them sometimes, a faded feeling like a half-forgotten dream. When they’re together like this the two of them can almost remake themselves anew. He can’t remember how it all started – it hardly matters – and they don’t touch each other with joy, only desperation. This is about imperfection, disparity, irresponsibility; a feeling like transgression. A dirty, fragmented love for a dirty, fragmented world.

Emet-Selch seems to sense his preoccupation and breaks the kiss, lingering close enough that their noses nearly touch. For a moment Elidibus sees a new-old expression on that alien face, the careful plodding calculation that appeared whenever they discussed arcane theories. Then it’s gone, replaced with a sly look. “What would the others say? Our illustrious Elidibus, ensnared by such base contrivances.”

He’s forcibly reminded of the shades that wander outside these windows, the dead still dreaming of life. Back in the day… Well. Elidibus has no illusions. In the real Amaurot, this would never have happened.

“We are only as perfect as the best among us,” he murmurs at length. “And there are so few of us now.”

Emet-Selch pushes against his chest, scowling up at him from the pillows. “You’re ruining the mood.”

“My apologies.”

Perhaps it’s better not to think. He scoots back, putting his gauntleted hands on Emet-Selch’s thighs. That gets their attention—they spread their legs a little, the thin fabric of their nightgown riding up to expose another inch of thigh. Elidibus pauses for a moment to admire the picture they paint against the covers but they quickly grow impatient, letting out an annoyed huff. It speaks to how many times they’ve done this over the millennia that Elidibus knows exactly what they want. He slides his hands up their legs, pushing them apart and forcing their nightgown up to their waist. Emet-Selch watches with heavy-lidded eyes as he settles between their spread thighs.

Elidibus presses his lips to the inside of their thigh, the beak of his mask digging into the sensitive flesh—and then gives in to a perverse urge and puts the flat of his tongue to their skin, dragging it up to the soft place where their leg joins with pelvis. It tastes faintly chemical. Soap, perhaps. Emet-Selch makes a quiet noise, somewhere between a sigh and a hum. Elidibus turns his head unhurriedly, brushing against sensitive flesh with the smooth curve of his mask, and he hears Emet-Selch’s breath stutter, just a bit.

Emet-Selch likes to watch. So Elidibus puts on a bit of a show, wetting his lips before putting them to flesh, leading up the other Ascian’s length with a feather-light touch, a bit of tongue, a warm breath. They lay a hand on his head, not pushing, just tipping his hood back to card their fingers through his hair. The tenderness of the gesture is jarring, uncomfortable. He pushes their legs further apart and takes them into his mouth, spurred on by a sudden feeling. An unbidden desire to give them pleasure. He bobs his head slowly, testing his limits, and then faster, taking more and more of them each time until the tip of his mask presses into dark curls. Now Emet-Selch grips his hair, urging him on breathlessly, curling around him, over him—and then suddenly, with a yank, “Wait—stop.”

Elidibus pulls off of them with a wet pop. Before he can get a word in edgewise, they clarify: “I want you to fuck me.”

His skin prickles like he’s burning. He can’t remember the last time he wanted someone like this.

“That can be arranged,” he says hoarsely.

The gauntlets have to come off first. With a few flicks he undoes the buckles and is pulling it off when he hears a snap—and then his vestments are gone, mask, clawed gauntlets and all. A flash of surprise crosses his face before he can control his expression, and then irritation—he’ll have to fashion the whole ensemble out of aether again when he leaves.

Emet-Selch must have noticed his annoyance, because they laugh and say, “You were taking too long.”

“Always so demanding.” Elidibus conjures a bit of oil on his newly-bare fingers and dips his hand down to their entrance. The first finger slips in with little resistance. He works them open slowly, methodically, curling his fingers until he finds the spot that makes them hiss and arch off the bed.

“I wouldn’t have to demand if you weren’t so—insufferably—slow,” Emet-Selch grits out, but it’s hard to take their words seriously when they’re pushing greedily back against Elidibus’ fingers. “Just fuck me already, damn you.”

Elidibus acquiesces wordlessly, pulling his fingers out to line himself up at their entrance.

“Hades,” he says, pausing and trying to catch their gaze without really knowing why.

They don’t answer, but they dig their heels into the small of his back and urge him forward. Elidibus takes the hint and begins to thrust roughly, pressing them down into the mattress, and they arch up to meet him, not bothering to disguise their sounds of pleasure. The picture they paint is obscene, skin and silk and sweat, a beautiful mess. He could live in this moment forever.

The air around them is thick with shifting aether, unformed fantasies and desires emerging and dissipating in vague shapes. Without warning Emet-Selch grabs him by the back of the neck and pulls him down, their sigil flaring into life inches from his face. Elidibus feels a dark current of Emet-Selch’s essence lap against his soul. He shudders and reaches back without thinking, surrendering himself to the insistent pressure of Emet-Selch’s power and allowing the blood-red wings of his own sigil to unfurl over his mortal flesh.

“There you are,” Emet-Selch whispers. Their legs tighten behind Elidibus’ back, urging him in closer, deeper.

Compared to the warm sensation of Emet-Selch’s aether curling around his own the waves of coarse pleasure washing over his physical body is like harsh noise, overwhelming his senses, tearing him to pieces. The dissonance is too much. He can hardly breathe, hardly think; all around him is Emet-Selch, their aether, their flesh, their voice. He comes with a ragged sound, blindly pressing his face into Emet-Selch’s neck as he empties into the other’s body.

With a curse they take themself up in a hand and stroke themself to completion, spilling messily between their chests, staining the delicate silk of their gown. Elidibus presses his mouth against their jaw, feeling the mad flutter of their pulse against his lips. He kisses them again, almost chastely, and feels them relax beneath him as the fever pitch of orgasm gives way to gentle contentment.

The aftermath is strangely companionable. Elidibus lays naked against the covers, panting, recollecting his thoughts. After a few moments Emet-Selch snaps his fingers and the mess of their act is gone, but their makeup and hair remain disheveled as evidence. It makes Elidibus want to kiss them once more.

“Stay the night.” Emet-Selch says quietly. “Whatever you came here for can wait until morning.”

Elidibus shouldn’t. There is always work to do; always something he’s missing, always something he needs to take care of. But in this city of dreams, far below the surface of the sea, it all seems somehow distant. The warmth of Emet-Selch’s aether pulls him in as inexorably as the tides.

Elidibus slings an arm over Emet-Selch’s shoulder in answer, and they smile.