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In Summer I Drowned You, In Winter I Found You

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Walking north I can hide for a season

Are you here in the dark with me?

With your voice in the stars

I hear you crying

- The Other Side by Birthday Massacre 

It's much too early to get up but Candles is roused by kisses across its head and ears. Small nips and wandering hands. Veils is tired still, evident in how slow it moves, but it rocks its hips gently. Claws slip between its legs, rubbing lazily. 

Candles can't bring itself to complain, merely hums sleepily, pressing back into its mate. Veils nuzzles its head, leaving kisses down its jaw to its neck. Candles can't recall when Veils climbed into its bed this night. The had all been busy trying to finalize the deal for the next city and Veils had been gone more often than not. Leaving Candles to fall asleep alone. 

Although, without fail, it is always there when Candles wakes up. 

"Candles, Candles, Candles," Veils chants quietly, kissing the scar of its old bite. A bond. A life-sentence.

"I'm here," it replies softly, turning its head to kiss the other. "I'm not going anywhere."

There's an odd shudder from Veils, wings spreading to wrap around Candles protectively, possessively. A laugh? A sob? There's no noise to accompany the movement. Before Candles can ask, a claw slips between its fold, rubbing its clit. It gasps, whines, and bucks forward. 

"Shh. Easy, songbird," Veils purrs, voice tired.

"You've been distant for weeks and now you're teasing me," it whimpers. 

"I'm sorry," a claw slips inside, moving slowly as it grows more wet, "The… arrangement has me scared." Words feel thick and heavy and wrong on Veils’ tongue. Not a lie but close enough it aches

"S-stop thinking about it right now," Candles huffs, a low moan leaving it as it reaches up to cradle Veils face. It finds the other's mouth with its own, kissing softly. Veils sighs into the kiss, adding another finger carefully as Candles deepens the kiss. Their tongues swirl against each other and Veils curls its fingers in a way that makes Candles thrust its hips forward with a hiss. 

"I love you," Veils whispers as it pulls back from the kiss. Its claws withdraw, leaving Candles empty and panting. 

"I love you too. Now please . I need you inside me."

A hoarse chuckle, "And they call me impatient," Veils shifts and then Candles feels its hot erection against its back. It takes a few moments for Veils to adjust their positions so it can finally slide inside but once it does they both groan. 

" Oh , yes," Candles breath catches, cunt tightening. It tosses its head back and Veils leans down to nuzzle it. The stretch is welcome and wonderful. "I missed this." 

"I'm not even halfway in. Don't cum yet," Veils teases, easing deeper inch by inch. Candles can never get used to its length, cunt clenching and trying to memorize each ridge and spike. Slick pools between them and the position doesn't allow for anymore than slow, shallow movements. Still, it's perfect as Veils sinks in deeper with each thrust. It feels like it's drowning in the warm-wet of Candles. 

Too soon is Veils hilted. It stills, cock pulsing inside, as it enjoys the all encompassing feeling. Flesh meeting flesh. Candles gives a small whine, ass rubbing against its hips to coax Veils to just move . Veils leans down to press its nose to the scar at Candles neck, a small crescent that may well have been the sun to Veils. A star guiding it back home. 

"You're mine." Veils whispers, low and barely there. 

"Every bone and ligament. Every ounce of flesh and fur. Yours ." Candles agrees breathlessly.

Veils doesn't say: " Oh, if only that was true. I'll take all of you before they get even a little ." But it doesn't. It can't. So instead it pulls its hips back and thrusts back in hard enough to draw a sharp moan from Candles. It ruts into Candles, trying to say what it can't voice. It grunts and growls. There are no words here but there are songs. A duet. And Veils will dream of this morning forever.

(Like right now, Veils realizes. It doesn't dare try to wake up, though. This is a good dream, a good memory, as much as it hurts.)

The two of them cum fast, but not before Veils leans down to bite Candle’s neck. The blood is too hot, molten gold dripping down its throat. (That's wrong, Veils thinks. That's not how it tasted.)

After, when Veils stands back as Candles approaches the Priests, it reaches out for Veils one last time. Veils does not reach back. Not until it sees the glint in the Priests’ eyes, not until it realizes humans are capable of horrible things. Only then does Veils reach back to grab Candles and by then it’s too late.

After, when one of the Priests returns covered in golden blood and licking their lips, they hand Veils a bundle of ripped cloth and bones to drop in a well. (A red ribbon, torn lace.) Veils closes its eyes, clutches the fur and bone and turns away. 

The Priest calls out, "You’ve tasted it too. The blood of a God. Are you no better than us?" 

(Had they really said that?)

Veils jerks awake, swallows. Tastes blood. When it stumbles out of bed to vomit, it’s gold. 

The Vake attacks pick up after the Second City. The other Masters know Veils hunts to forget. Just like Wines drinks to forget. Veils sleeps less and less these nights. The others begin to worry. Its work suffers. Stitches are uneven and unsteady, cloth turns up on the market with bloodstains.

Besides Vake hunters, Seekers show up dead in ways of not their own doing. The Veils Wing of the Royal Bethlehem Hotel is full. They are postponing something they can't. One will go north eventually. The Horizon will open.

But until then, Veils hangs up his robes and let's the Vake out to play. 

Wines stops Veils before it can leave the Bazaar one night, blocking the exit. "Sit with me." No royal we needed when it’s just them. Wines can’t bare to use it here anyway. Can’t bare to put itself above Veils, not after everything. Here, their sins make them even. The Chain sags with the weight of it. 

Veils snarls, "I already gave you enough blood for your next batch of Absinthe."

"That's not what this is about."

The wine Veils is given is laced with honey. It realizes this after its first sip. It doesn't say anything, just lets the alcohol numb its mind. When its vision is hazy, Wines glows softly in the low light. Wines doesn’t flicker, just refills Veils’ glass. It downs it quickly.

Wines lips tastes like Candles', Veils realizes later that night.  

Veils hates dreaming but the honey-dreams are something else entirely. It hadn't partaken in honey since Candles. The air smells sweet. The sun is too bright. Too orange. Too hot. (Was the sun even here before? It's not real. The light is a memory, a mockery, of a real sun.) But it can spread its wings. It doesn't fly, just steps away from the empty mirrors to find a place where it can stretch out into its full size, something it can't do in Neath.

Unfurls, unfolds, Veils hasn't been able to grow this big in years. But it's not the Avid Horizon and so the darkness of its pelt and wings shudders and hesitates before the full elegance of its mass is reached. The cosmogone light reflects strangely off the false-stars in its wings, unsure how to react. A real sun would have melded, would have known what to do. 

"Did Wines shine like me?" The voice makes Veils flinch, drawing back into itself slightly. 

"No," it replies without thinking. Wines burns cold, not warm. Halo an angry red scar rather than a gold ripple. (And neither are orange. Veils glares at the sky.)

"You should thank Wines for the honey." Just like Candles to give advice on how to be kinder. 

Veils finally turns and Candles is just like it remembers. Its back is to Veils, legs hanging over the edge of a well that Veils is sure wasn't there before, kicking like a carefree pup. White wings folded as it looks up at the sun. The orange light makes Candles look wrong, illuminated by light not its own. A memory of light. The Once-Master doesn't glow here. 

"Candles–" 

"Don't. You don't have to explain yourself. I remember how you looked at me. How you cursed the Neath's roof. Love, you did it for freedom, mine for yours."

Veils feels sick. The cosmogone light is too strong, giving it a headache. The color of remembered sunlight. It forms a halo around Candles. It’s words are too kind for the betrayal Veils did. It had wanted its hunt, its stars and in its impatience it had killed the only thing that brought a semblance of happiness. Was it worth it, Veils asks itself more than it will ever admit. It has yet to find the answer. 

"Do you regret it?" It continues, finally turning to meet Veils' gaze. There's a bite mark at its neck (right where it should be), bleeding down its chest. The blood, too, shimmers with cosmogone. 

Ah, Veils thinks, yes, flesh of the Judgements’ realm. Candles had been the best of them. Had willingly shed its divinity for the Bazaar’s mission (or perhaps even before that). Unlike Wines, forever hurtling towards the earth with teeth and fangs bared. But Candles had known the price the Bazaar put on its head. It had heard the whispers, yet, it still believed in the good in people back then. Still believed the God-Eaters would keep their promise of ‘only a little bit’. Still believed if not, Veils would sew it back together, not drown it in a well. (The rage is not Candles’, its Eaten’s.)

"I regret as strongly as Storm regrets," Veils croaks. 

Candles hums, legs still swinging, claws hitting the inside of that damned well. "When Storm chased away Salt, he wept because he no longer had anyone to travel with."

Veils' throat is tight and it finally, finally realizes. "I'll return home alone."

"You will. And you will finally spread your wings to their fullest extent again. You will feel the stars judge you, accept you back home. You will hunt and you will be free."

"No. I won't be free. I will never be free of you." 

Candles smiles and it's almost sinister. It hops off the well, closes the gap between them. Standing on tiptoes, it reaches up to pull Veils down into a kiss. 

"Never. I'm yours, after all," Candles whispers and its breath smells rancid. Still, Veils kisses it again, harder. It's filled with fury and remorse. Candles tastes just like it should, but as Veils deepens it, tongues meeting and fangs knocking (seven times seven), Veils feels its lungs fill with salt water and ammonia. 

Lacre, Veils realizes, pulling back to gasp for air. Candles' claws pet its ears, run down the back of its head. Veils doesn't want to look, but it opens its eyes. Candles smiles, flesh dripping from its body like wax. 

"Please," Veils rasps, unsure what it's asking for. Forgiveness? Pity? Did it want to suffer as Candles did? 

"Shh," Candles coos, nuzzling the other. "I'm here." Almost all of its skin is gone, leaving yellowed bones littered with teeth and knife marks. Gold-red candle-light flickers in its eye sockets. Its horns are decorated with gore like a young stag shedding it's velvet. 

And Veils can't help but still be in love, despite the cold terror climbing up its spine. The voice is the same. It digs its claws into the shredded robes clinging to Candles body. A slimy tongue hangs from Candles' skull, licking Veils neck like its trying to groom the other. 

The world spins, then, and Veils hisses as its back hits the ground. Candles descends on it, kissing and biting. The conflicting contrast between pain and pleasure makes its vision blur, mind reeling in confusion. All the emotions bubble to the surface like bile. 

"Candles, why are you doing this?" 

"I love you," it purrs and Veils closes his eyes, body shaking. There's no malice in its tone which leaves Veils clawing at its robes. Then claws slip between Veils' legs. "Let me hear you sing, again – let the stars hear you."

"I don't want the stars to hear," Veils snarls, voice cracking. "You are the only star that matters. Then, now, forever."

"Cry out, my love, cry out for the horizon."

All this madness to open the Avid Horizon before the Bazaar is done? Is that it? No, no, it's worse. They were used, the most tragic love story the Bazaar could produce. The Chains need to be broken, the suns doused. (Who’s thoughts are these?) Veils is dizzy. It doesn't understand, can't bare to think anymore. Candles traces the lines of its wings with a single claw, ember-eyes watching. It’s writing words of Correspondence on the membrane. ‘Almost Never Remembered’ over and over. It burns. 

Veils shifts, taking its skull between its hands and draws its tongue across Candles' teeth. Veils is shaking, scared and so very in love. Candles' hands are cold like well water, claws digging into Veils' hips.

Something sticky and cold makes itself known against Veils inner thigh. It doesn't want to know what it really is but Veils tosses his head back, clenching its jaw. 

"Do it. Claim me, Candles." 

A sharp thrust and whatever has formed Candles' cock is forced inside Veils' cunt. Veils hisses, tensing. It feels wrong . Clammy and wet and it squirms inside. 

Like a dying, dead, sullen sun. 

Veils had not been nearly wet enough to accept the girth but the appendage is slick enough that it doesn't matter. It still hurts. Teeth come next, sinking into Veils' neck. The Master can't help but moan then, the bite right at its scent gland, igniting hot pleasure in its veins. Its cock finally starts to slip from its sheath. 

With its eyes squeezed shut, Veils can almost pretend this is Candles. Not whatever Candles has become. Not Mr Eaten. 

"There you go. Just like that, Veils," it coos, hand pressing against the bulge in Veils abdomen. Just how big had it made its cock? Veils lets out a shaky breath, tilting its hips to ease some of the pressure. It twitches inside, twisting deeper and rubbing Veils' gspot until the Master is hissing and shaking. The appendage leaves sticky residue against every inch it touches, staining. But still Veils can't help but grind its hips down against it. Still more forces itself inside, spreading and filling.

Just as Veils thinks it can't take anymore inside of it, Eaten starts to move, thrusting sharply. The tendril keeps moving with each thrust, making the sensations overwhelming. Veils shudders, claws ripping the already tattered robes around what remains of Eaten's body. 

" Candles ," it whines harshly, words burning in Correspondence. It's moaning and shaking; a broken song is still a song. The could-be-Candles wraps a hand around Veils' cock, with a gentleness that surprises it. Veils is leaking precum all over its own abdomen. It hisses, hips tilting up. 

"You can take more for me, can't you, Proud-Singer?" 

Veils turns its head to the side, a low noise leaving its throat and ears pressed back in embarrassment. Shame, maybe. How many times had it done this same thing to Candles? The tables are turned and Veils' cock twitches. Something bulbus and wet rubs against its cunt. A knot? Veils shudders, mind and world spinning. Does Eaten really intent to try and breed it?

"Just-just do it." A curse in Correspondence burns Veils’ tongue as it falls from its mouth. "I can take it." It’s not sure if that’s true but its so close. So desperate to be claimed and ruined . Eaten chuckles and it still sounds so much Candles. Teeth graze its neck, almost tenderly and then with an angry jerk of its hips, Eaten forces its knot in. Veils snarls, filled to the brim. And yet, with the soft strokes against its cock, the pain melts into pleasure like wax. Veils cums harder than it had in years, whole body tensing up. 

Eaten rolls its hips sharply, milking Veils for all it's worth, until it, too, cums. A cold rush of fluid, enough that or makes Veils flinch back. Eaten digs fangs into Veils' shoulder to hold it still. It's too much cum for any normal being, more like a rush of water, icy and sticky. Veils hisses, laying placid. 

It doesn't feel like atonement. It doesn't feel like punishment. Soft kisses against Veils' neck. It closes its eyes. It sees flickering candle-light. Teeth come again, over and over, and Veils is sure it hears its own flesh tear. But, the worst part is the lack of pain. 

Veils wakes up drenched in cold water. The space next to it is empty but drops of water lead from the bed to the door. Every bone and muscle Veils has aches. There's blood on its bedding, its own. There's a bite wound at its neck, right where it should be. 

It sends Spices a request for more honey.