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The Hounds of Love

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October 2017
Corvallis, Oregon


It was Monday the second, and after a busy morning with his studio art class, Professor Sören Sigurdsson's scheduled break seemed to come on suddenly, taking him by surprise. He was in "the zone" more than usual, creative juices flowing fast and furious, that buzz he got in a room full of artists, helping to guide them. Sören was feeling too restless to sit down somewhere just yet, so the thirty-two-year-old burned off some of the excess energy by taking a brisk walk around the outside of the campus. It was a lovely day for it too - not too cold yet, not really warm, temperate, and the leaves were turning red, orange, gold on the oaks and maples among the evergreens.

Finally Sören went in to the canteen, getting in the queue and glancing at the available food for purchase today as he waited his turn. He decided on a tuna sandwich with potato salad, which wasn't the most exciting thing in the world, but he'd be eating better later, when his boyfriend Mark cooked for him.

Mark Lowry was a fellow professor, teaching music theory - which he'd been doing at Oregon State University since 2010, and now had tenure. He and Mark had been casually cordial seeing each other around campus before coincidentally sharing a beach house this past summer via Airbnb in Sausalito, California where they became friends, and then quite a bit more than that. In the interest of trying to stay professional, they kept their relationship discrete, which also meant that they took breaks together only sometimes. Sören knew Mark would be in the canteen any time now, but he wasn't expecting to break with him today.

Sören grabbed an orange soda out of the machine and glanced around, trying to figure out where to sit. Then he spotted his teaching assistant, Claire James, sitting at a table by herself in the corner.

Even though he'd just seen her in the classroom not that long ago, his heart nonetheless skipped a beat and his stomach fluttered at the sight of her. Today she wore a cream-colored cashmere sweater with velvety brown trousers, and her strawberry blonde hair was worn half-up half-down today, to the middle of her back. She didn't wear much makeup, or at least not that Sören would notice, and she was fond of statement piece jewelry, today wearing an ammolite fossil pendant with a necklace of twelve rough Baltic amber nuggets that led up to a link chain. She had matching dangly amber nugget earrings. He liked her jewelry. He liked the look of her in general, her grey eyes catching his now, her face lighting up with a smile. She waved him over.

Claire wasn't just a pretty face, but Sören genuinely liked her personality - her warmth, her helpfulness, her intelligence, the way she could go between being no-nonsense, like the "mom" of the students, but would also encourage his jokes and random silliness. She was an ideal teaching assistant. They were roughly the same age - if Sören recalled correctly she was older than him by a few months - and Sören wondered why she was just a teaching assistant and not an actual professor in her own right. But he didn't like to pry, figuring if she felt like he should know, she'd tell him one of these days.

He felt a little self-conscious for having a bit of a crush on his teaching assistant, and he tried to hide it, not only not wanting to make her feel sexually harassed, but also because he had yet to have the "I'm terrible at monogamy" conversation with Mark. They had been together since the end of July and Sören had been easing his way into that conversation, and others that eventually needed to happen, not wanting to rock the boat when the relationship was so new. And this was also uncharted territory for Sören as well - this was Claire's first year of working alongside him; his previous TA, Ben, didn't pique his interest at all, so he wasn't used to feeling this way about someone he worked with so closely. But even though he was trying to not have a crush on Claire, he very much did.

And regardless of how things went or didn't go between them, Sören considered her a friend, not just a colleague. It was that part of him that responded now as her smile dissolved and she picked at her seafood salad.

"You OK?" Sören asked.

Claire nodded. "Yeah. Just... have a lot on my mind." She tried to manage a smile, but her eyes were sad. "How's your day going?"

"Pretty good so far. I went for a little walk. I've been living here in Oregon for four years now and I still can't get over how gorgeous it is here in the fall."

"Oh, it really is." Claire nodded again, looking out the window where a breeze was rustling the trees, the fire of them a contrast against the bright blue sky. "It's part of why I moved out here."

"From Scotland, já?" Sören loved her accent.

"And Sheffield before that. But yes, I'd been in Scotland the last several years."

"Scotland seems so pretty from the pictures I've seen, I'd love to visit there someday. Oregon is pretty and all, but I'm surprised you left."

"I could say the same about you and Iceland."

Sören felt that little twinge. He didn't want to get into the sad story of his past with someone he still didn't know terribly well, and someone he worked so closely with, to boot. "It was kind of a long story."

"Same for me." Claire picked at her seafood salad some more. She looked out the window. "I'm not sorry I moved here, though."

Sören needed to cheer her up a little. "Hi Not Sorry I Moved Here -"

Claire narrowed her eyes at him, and kicked him under the table. She waved her fork at him. "You are a brat."

"Takk."

Claire giggled. She took a bite of seafood salad and looked out the window again. "The land really grabbed me when I arrived. It's far from home... both places I've called home... but it's becoming home now, too."

"Oh, já, I felt that same connection with the Pacific Northwest right away. It's why I decided to stay here, I'm becoming a citizen next year."

Now it was Claire's revenge. "Hi Becoming a Citizen Next Year, I'm Claire."

Sören almost choked on his sandwich. "Hi Claire, I'm Sören."

"Wow, really?"

They laughed together, and then Claire said, "I'm glad you feel at home here too and don't you even."

Sören gave her an innocent face that wasn't innocent at all.

"Though..." Claire shook her head, chuckling. "We might have to share it with Bigfoot. My cousin Harrison, who's a real nerd, was the one to inform me that Corvallis, Oregon is 'the Home of Bigfoot' because there's been four supposed Sasquatch sightings here, more than anywhere else in the country."

Sören couldn't resist another joke. "That's not Bigfoot, that's Professor Dooku." Sören's best friend Nicolae Dooku taught ancient history, and he was six-foot-five, bearded, and Sören had seen a healthy growth of hair on his arms and the occasional glimpse of chest hair. Sören felt heat flood his cheeks, thinking about it. Yummy... "Though hmmmm, with that silver hair and beard of his, he's more of a yeti..."

"Oh my god, Sören, that's terrible." Claire giggled.

"Nah, he knows I'm like this. He puts up with my shit. He kind of has to, driving me around like he does."

"Oh, he does?"

Sören nodded. "He lives next door to me and... I don't drive, after the accident I was in." Sören had another bite of his sandwich.

"That's very nice of him."

"He's been very nice to me." Sören took a sip of his drink. Then he laughed. "Bigfoot, though."

"Yeah. Harrison wants me to send him some Bigfoot memorabilia." Claire rolled her eyes. Then she said, "You've lived here awhile, yeah?"

"Five years next year. No, I've never seen Bigfoot." That was when Sören finally saw Mark, getting in the queue. He waved, and Mark waved back. "I may have seen another kind of cryptid, or two."

What Claire didn't know - and indeed, what nobody on that campus knew but Sören himself, was that Mark Lowry's name wasn't actually Mark Lowry, and he wasn't human. He was Macalaurë Fëanorion - Maglor of The Silmarillion, forever exiled from his people, wandering among mortals. Mark narrowed his eyes at Sören now - he'd definitely heard that crack at his expense, and Sören's hole twitched around the buttplug he was wearing under his clothes, knowing he'd be paying for it later. He couldn't wait.

"Speaking of cryptids," Claire said, eyeing a forkful of seafood salad, "I'm pretty sure this isn't seafood." She ate it anyway.

"Jæja, it's that... imitation crab stuff. I'm an Icelander, I can't eat that, it makes my heart weep. Though..." Sören made a face through a mouthful of tuna sandwich. "This sandwich isn't much better either. So salty."

"I don't know what I was thinking, picking this out."

"Their burgers are usually a safe bet. I don't like to have that all the time, but I should have gone with that today. When it gets closer to the summer they sometimes have lobster rolls and those are the best thing they serve here - they use actual lobster. But usually not till school is almost out for the year."

"Actual lobster?"

"You know, as opposed to fake imitation lobster, like whatever that 'crab' is in your seafood salad."

"Yeah, I know. It's just..." Claire giggled. "In the context of us talking about cryptids, it sounds funny. Actual lobster. As opposed to eldritch abomination lobster."

"Cthulobster?"

"Nyalobsterhotep."

Sören and Claire were both laughing again, and then, in a fit of random silliness, Sören reached for his satchel. He took out his sketchbook, that he habitually carried with him - inspiration struck at odd times, and odd places - but instead of starting a sketch, he tore off a sheet of paper. Claire watched as he began folding it. "What are you doing?" Claire asked.

"You'll see."

A few minutes later, Sören had made an origami lobster and he made it dance across the table over to Claire, singing "doo-doo-doo, dun-dun-doo-doo-doo-doo" to the riff of "Rock Lobster" by the B-52s. "It's an even scarier cryptid than Cthulobster. It's a Rock Lobster."

Claire had a gigglefit. Sören put the origami lobster in her hands and she began petting it. "I will pet him and love him and call him George," she quipped.

"Well, if you're keeping him as a pet, he should have a friend." Sören tore off another sheet of paper and began folding again.

Claire made a little squeak when Sören presented her with an origami turtle.

"He's so precious!" Claire said, picking up the paper turtle.

"You have a name for him?"

Claire nodded. "Copernicus."

Sören almost choked on his orange soda. "Wow."

"I, ah." Claire turned a little pink. "When I was small, I had a giant tortoise as an imaginary friend. Named Copernicus."

"That's adorable." Sören's stomach started doing flip-flops again. Her brand of weirdness was after his own heart. You're adorable, he almost blurted out, and stopped himself.

Claire ate another bite of seafood salad. Then she pushed it away, making a face.

Sören pushed over his tuna sandwich. "I know I bit into it so it's maybe not super hygienic, but I don't have any diseases or anything." A bad case of lovin' you, Robert Palmer's voice sang in his head. "I don't want you to starve yourself..."

It was an offhanded remark, not wanting Claire to go hungry because she couldn't stomach the seafood salad, but the haunted look came back in her eyes and though she tried to smile, Sören knew right away that he'd hit some kind of a nerve. The idea that maybe she had starved herself once upon a time made Sören want to scream - she had a lovely hourglass figure. When he found women attractive, they were all different shapes and sizes. To him, diversity was beautiful, exciting. But he didn't say anything about what he'd just perceived.

Claire did finish his tuna sandwich, and Sören ate the potato salad that was considerably more palatable. They were quieter now, but when they were finished eating Claire made her new origami pets walk around the table.

"I'll take your trash for you," Sören said. Then he rubbed his beard. "Sorry, I never know if that's sexist or not. I'd offer regardless of gender."

"It's fine, Sören. You're a gentleman."

Sören fought back a smirk, thinking of the way he'd reamed Mark's ass last night, pulling Mark's flood of hair as he pounded away. He'd bit Mark's neck and shoulder, knowing it wouldn't bruise the next day. No, I'm definitely not a gentleman. Sören took her tray and walked over to the garbage, waving at her again on his way out.

He was so flustered that he almost walked into a student as he stepped into the hall. This was definitely going to be a long rest of the day.


_


When his classes let out, he had an hour before Dooku was done for the day, so he went outside and sketched. He started sketching the trees, and then he found himself sketching a very large tortoise, with the rough lines of a woman riding on its back.

Finally it was time, and Sören waited for Dooku at the designated bench. Dooku came out, looking sharp in a dark navy pinstripe suit - one of the few professors to wear a suit and tie every day, in contrast to Sören's khakis and sweater vest, though Sören was wearing a tie also... something Sören hated doing. Sören's act of rebellion was his Doc Martens boots, that he wore with everything, even on the occasions when he'd worn a suit and tie. Sören also refused to cut his hair short, keeping his unruly mop of dark curls nape-length. Sören stood up as Dooku approached.

They walked out to Dooku's black Jaguar - Sören was always fairly amused by the fact that his best friend and his boyfriend drove the same kind of car.

As Dooku drove, the light began to get that old gold quality as the day faded. It wouldn't be sunset for another couple of hours, but it was coming. They rode in companionable silence, with Dooku listening to classic rock - another thing Dooku and Mark had in common, though in Dooku's case he actually was from that generation, turning sixty-nine in December.

Once they got to their neighborhood, Sören didn't want to part ways just yet. Mark would be over at 7, so he had time to kill. "You want to come in for a cup of coffee?"

"Yes, thank you."

Sören made them both coffee, and as they waited they "talked shop" - what their respective classes were working on right now. Sören normally didn't like to show works in progress to people but he let Dooku see the painting he'd started a couple weeks ago, which was roughly based on the private beach in the neighborhood of the place he and Mark had been renting over the summer. As with all of Sören's work, it had a photorealistic quality as well as surrealistic, infusing magic into the mundane. Mark didn't like photos of himself taken with the need to keep a low profile, but he'd agreed to let Sören paint him as a subject, and Mark was sitting on a stone here, playing harp.

It wasn't the only recent painting featuring Mark. Sören was still putting the last finishing touches on a painting of Mark on Hawk Hill in the Marin Headlands in San Francisco, one of Hawk Hill's famed blue butterflies dancing on his fingertip. Sören had painted nebulas and galaxies into the butterfly's wings, so it looked like there was a little universe in the wings, and there was an intensely saturated sunrise in the background. The painting was very close to being done, and indeed just about anyone would think it was done, but Sören had an eye for the kind of details that you would only notice once you'd seen the painting a second time, possibly even a third or a fourth. Here he was inspired by the Bifröst of the Norse mythology he'd grown up with in school back in Iceland, with the Golden Gate Bridge in the background taking on hints of rainbow iridescence, suggesting a portal between worlds. Dooku looked at that, too.

"You always do such a phenomenal job," Dooku told him.

"I try," Sören said. "It's tough to translate all of the color and detail of the little visions I get, but... I like a good challenge, I suppose."

"I'd say more than like. You always speak of the process of creation with such passion. It's inspiring. You truly love your craft." Dooku gave a little sigh then as he looked back at the paintings of Mark. "It's clear you love your subject, as well."

Sören felt his cheeks flush, reaching out to touch Mark in the painting with the butterfly. "Já, I really do." Sören smiled. "He and I just... mesh, you know?" Sören put his hands together, folding them.

Dooku patted Sören's shoulder. "I'm glad you're happy, Sören."

"Hi Glad You're Happy -"

Dooku pinched the bridge of his nose. "Sören..."

Sören laughed and then he ran to the timer going off. He immediately wished he hadn't run, needing a puff on his inhaler.

After their cups of coffee were fixed and Sören brought them out, Sören invited Dooku to put his feet up on the ottoman. Sören involuntarily cringed a little as he did, even though he'd offered - Sören's abusive ex Seth had sat in that same chair, used to put his feet up on that same ottoman, and Sören would wait on him hand and foot. This was very different - Dooku was a welcome guest, polite, frequently going out of his way for Sören. And Sören hated that even after he and Seth had been done since the beginning of December - since the car accident Seth had put him in - he still had daily reminders of things Seth said, things Seth did. It was bad enough that Sören was still too spooked to drive after the accident, that Seth owned space in his head that way. Sören still had all the old furniture he'd had when Seth was visiting... and the period of time when Seth had moved himself in.

Sören wanted to set that fucking ottoman on fire.

"I shouldn't stay too long," Dooku said after a few sips of coffee. "I know you have Mark coming over in a bit..."

Sören nodded. "I still wanted to see you." Sören reached over and patted Dooku's knee. "I thought a nice cup of coffee would, you know... be nice, after a long day." Sören immediately bit back a groan. A nice cup of coffee would be nice? Perhaps one from the Department of Redundancy Department? He didn't have the excuse of the language barrier, since Icelanders started learning English in school at a young age, and he'd been living away from Iceland since 2006, first in Canada, then in the United States. People frequently commented on how good his English was, when they weren't commenting on his "charming" accent. But sometimes Sören got a bit inarticulate, and it wasn't just because he was having yet another reminder of Seth, he realized, but how very much Dooku was not Seth. Dooku, who had helped him leave Seth for good, had scared Seth out of the state altogether after the accident.

Dooku, who could have had him, if Dooku had shown any signs of interest earlier that year. But Sören didn't think Dooku was even gay, so he'd made himself stop hoping, especially as their friendship got closer, not wanting things to be weird with the man who became his best friend.

Here and now though, in that dapper pinstripe suit... Sören bit his lower lip. He had an eye for beauty in different forms, and he couldn't deny that Dooku was very handsome, with his high cheekbones and patrician nose and distinguished beard, an absolute silver fox, one that sometimes made him tongue-tied. And that voice. Dooku had been living in the States for decades but he was born and raised in London - educated at Oxford - and still spoke with a Received Pronunciation accent, in a deep velvet tone. If Sören could be said to have a type regardless of gender, it was sexy voices.

"You're always so thoughtful," Dooku said.

"Well, I seem to recall you felt otherwise as recently as a year ago." They had once been feuding neighbors, which felt so strange now.

"You were in a bad place then. This is the real you. And I appreciate it." Dooku gave him a little smile, his dark eyes twinkling.

Sören smiled back. "Mark and I have one of our 'off' days tomorrow, so, ah... you want to get together?"

"Yes, I would. And... thank you. As you know, I had concerns when you first told me that you and Mark were an item, that you would become one of those who always spends time with the partner and the friends fade away... but you haven't."

"Ohhhh, Nico." Sören was not only one of the few people - if not the only person - allowed to call the professor by his first name, Nicolae, but Sören had ended up shortening it. It had started in a panic attack, but then it just stuck. "You're my best friend. I can't just forget about you."

"I'm glad of it."

"Hi Glad Of It -"

"Though you try my patience sometimes." Dooku glared, thick eyebrows furrowed.

That glare only made him more handsome. "Only sometimes?"

The way Dooku's eyes smiled let Sören know he wasn't really that annoyed. "Brat."


_


Since Sören and Mark had come back from California in late August, Mark had visited Sören at his place more than a few times, but Sören had always slept at Mark's house. Tonight was notable in that Mark was finally going to be sleeping here. Mark usually cooked when they were at his place, and tonight Sören was giving him a night off from that and they were getting something delivered.

Mark showed up right at seven. He'd changed from the all-black shirt, trousers and tie he wore to school, into a Metallica T-shirt and jeans, and was wearing a leather jacket. The six-foot-nine man with the lean yet muscular build and wavy black hair to the middle of his back came off like an intimidating "bad boy" to most, but Sören felt absolutely safe with him. Mark could be dangerous if provoked - Sören had once seen him throw punches at men who had it coming, and Sören knew from The Silmarillion that Maglor was a killer. Yet with Sören, Mark was a gentle giant. Outside of the bedroom, anyway.

Mark was carrying a bouquet of a dozen roses with him, which Sören was surprised and touched by. He couldn't ever remember Seth bringing him flowers when he came over. Mark had an overnight bag slung over his arm, and in his free hand he held the leash to walk Huan, a Corgi-sheepdog mix in training to be a service dog, who trotted ahead, tongue lolling happily, tail wagging. Huan gave a yip when he saw Sören and trotted faster.

Sören stepped out and pulled Mark close to him, taking the flowers. He gave Mark a kiss. "You're so sweet," Sören husked.

Mark kissed him back. "You deserve it."

Once they were inside, Mark let Huan off the leash, Huan bounding around the house Sören rented. Mark kicked off his Doc Martens boots - he and Sören were shoe twins - and then Sören watched as Mark took a deep breath and his hair fell from the middle of his back all the way to his thighs. The tip of a pointy ear stuck out between locks of hair as Mark pulled off his jacket. In the golden glow of the candlelight that Sören had lit waiting for Mark to come over, Mark's aura shone silver. Mark took off the wire-rimmed glasses he wore to help disguise his eyes, which were silver-grey with iridescence like labradorite. Mark was breathtaking unglamoured, and that was still with his clothes on. Sören's hole started twitching around the buttplug he wore, thinking about Mark naked later, that gorgeous sculpted body...

Mark was flawless except for his right hand, which was badly scarred from the Silmaril he once possessed, burns on the outside of his hand and a geometric burn on the palm, like facets had seared into him. But even that scar was beautiful to Sören, and moreso because of what Sören knew it represented.

Sören found it poignant more than Mark knew - when Sören had read The Silmarillion, he realized that he was Fëanor reborn. There were too many parallels - Sören's connection with fire, right down to it inked on his very skin, Sören's art, his temperament. And Sören had begun remembering details the canon left out. But Sören wasn't entirely convinced it wasn't delusions of grandeur - how mad did one have to be to fancy themselves a fictional character reborn, even when he'd learned that work of fiction wasn't entirely fictional, Maglor had visited Tolkien. And he risked a lot if he told Maglor he was his beloved father reborn, that he remembered Fëanor being lovers with his half-brother and his second son... not simply that Mark would think he was a degenerate pervert if he was wrong, but if he was right, he worried that Mark would resent the magnificent glory of what Fëanor had been, reduced to this little mortal life. So even as they had just passed two months together, Sören still hadn't said anything about it. He didn't know if or when he was going to.

Right now, it was enough that Mark was giving him a couple years to decide whether or not Sören wanted to come with him when Mark eventually had to leave Corvallis per government order to protect the common folk from knowing at least one non-human walked among them, with Mark not aging. That had been a big deal, when Mark was just going to bolt at the end of the year originally.

Sören put the flowers in Sprite, to make them last longer. He and Mark sat on the couch together, listening to music, looking at different menus Sören had saved from places that delivered. They decided on Indian food.

Chicken tikka, dhal, and naan was lovely, lovelier when Sören and Mark fed each other pieces of naan dipped in the remaining sauce from the chicken tikka. Huan had whined, but had been obedient to the commands Mark gave him - Huan attended service dog training school in nearby Lebanon, Oregon during the day when Mark was at OSU. When they were done eating, Sören finally got up and produced dog treats that he'd bought to spoil Huan when he visited, and Huan got up on Sören, licking his face in gratitude.

"Awwwwww," Sören said, petting the dog. "I love you, too."

Mark playfully gave Sören a few licks too, like he was a dog. Sören giggled and grabbed Mark's face and kissed him.

Mark began to rub Sören's feet, which felt incredible, Sören melting at his touch, Mark's hands playing him like a harp. Eventually they began kissing again, necking, and at last Sören was on his back on the couch with Mark leaning over him, hands sliding over each other, kissing more passionately, hard cocks grinding together through their pants.

And then Sören remembered how he and Seth used to make out on this couch - both in the early days of their relationship when Sören didn't realize what a monster he was, before the red flags had started going up, and at the end stage when Seth's cruelty had killed Sören's libido. Seth had forced himself on Sören on this couch more than once.

Sören froze, and Mark felt it right away. He stopped kissing Sören and stroked Sören's face, pet his curls. "What is it, baby?" Mark whispered, his soothing deep voice even more soothing with a note of concern.

Sören took a few deep breaths. "Seth."

Mark sat up. He knew what Sören had been through - indeed, it had been knowing what Sören had been through that had made Mark be very careful about his interest back in Sausalito, so subtle Sören hadn't realized it. "Oh, honey..."

"I'm sorry." Sören pressed his hand to his forehead and closed his eyes, wincing, before his fists clenched. "I fucking hate that he's been gone since December and it's like he's still right here." He gestured to the couch they were sitting on. "He raped me on this couch." He pointed down the hall. "He raped me in my bed. It's why I haven't had you sleep over before, because..." Sören sighed. "I really thought I was getting over this, that I could have you here tonight, that we could take turns for once instead of us always sleeping together at your place, but..." Sören growled. "He's still here. All of this shit, all around me, all the time, he's still living here."

"Baby." Mark pulled Sören close. He kissed the top of Sören's head and tightened his arms around him. "We can go back to my place, if you still want to..."

"I do. I've been looking forward to it all day." Sören looked up at him. "I have the plug in and everything."

Mark nipped Sören's lower lip, and kissed him. "I get it that you're still haunted. It's OK -"

"It's not OK, Mark, I'm fucking tired of living like this."

"OK, I phrased that wrong." Mark exhaled sharply. "What I mean is, I'm not mad at you, not upset with you. We'll go back to my place. It's no big deal."

"It's a big deal to me. I'd like this to feel like my fucking home again."

"I know. But you can't... like... get rid of all your furniture right now at this time of night, buy all new furniture and set it up, right this minute."

A lightbulb went off over Sören's head. No, he couldn't do that tonight... but that was what he needed to do. A purge. New things. Get Seth's energy out of here as much as possible.

Mark patted Sören's shoulder and then he got up. "Let's get a move on."

Sören snuffed out the candles, packed an overnight bag, grabbed his med minder, and then they were off. They drove across town to Mark's house in silence, but every few minutes Mark reached out and touched him, rubbing, squeezing. When they were halfway there Sören started to cry, feeling ashamed. Mark reached in the glove compartment for tissues. "Oh, love. It's OK, baby," Mark husked.

"It's not OK. I'm such a fucking mess." The High King of the Noldor, "get thee gone from my gates" at Melkor himself, and now I'm a fucking scared crybaby. Some king.

"Baby, we're both hurting people. We lean on each other. That's what we do."


_



Once they were at Mark's place, Mark had Sören wait at the door. After Huan was let off the leash and ran into the kitchen to drink water, Mark took off his leather jacket and boots. Then he went down the hall, and when he came back, Sören's angst melted away into wild laughter as he saw what was in Mark's hands.

They had bought some interesting items during their stay in the Bay Area over the summer. Mark put the leather O-ring collar on Sören's neck now, and clipped the matching leash through the ring. He pulled Sören down the hall.

They helped each other undress, and when they were naked, Mark had Sören climb on the bed. Mark had a four-poster canopy bed, the canopy hung with a black gauzy curtain that matched the black walls of the bedroom. Mark tied Sören's leash to one of the bedposts, making Sören lay on his stomach, and then Mark lit candles in the ornate wrought iron candelabras on the walls. He took a box of supplies off a nearby table, and brought them onto the bed.

Sören made a purring noise as he felt oil poured over his back. Mark began to caress, rub and knead the tension out of Sören's body, from his shoulders down his arms and his back to his ass to his calves, and back up again. Mark's fingers lovingly traced the tattoos on Sören's body - full sleeve tattoos of flames on one arm, ocean waves on the other, leading to a firebird and a waterbird on his back. Sören had designed the ink himself, based on the first painting he'd made following his suicide attempt in 2005. Mark leaned over Sören and kissed, licked, the tattoos - the massage oil was vanilla flavored - and Sören moaned, trembled, hole twitching around the buttplug again, cock throbbing.

When the back of Sören was thoroughly massaged and he was feeling floaty, Mark untied the leash and had Sören roll from his stomach to his back. Sören smiled up at him adoringly as Mark worked on the front of him, shoulders and arms, chest, stomach, thighs. Mark paid special attention to Sörens pierced nipples, rubbing in slow circles, and he caressed Sören's cock, playing with the captive bead ring of the Prince Albert piercing in the head. "You're so beautiful," Mark husked. "You deserve to be worshiped."

"So do you," Sören breathed. Mark's aura was shining even more brightly in the black room, accentuating his otherworldly beauty. Sören reached up to play with his flood of hair, run his hands over the sculpted muscles, caressing. Sören stroked Mark's hard cock, before his hands slid over Mark's body again. Mark quivered under his touch, but before Sören could give him the same loving massage treatment, Mark took Sören's hands and kissed them.

Then Mark gave Sören a stern look - though his eyes were mirthful - and he folded his arms. Sören admired the veins standing out, wanting to lick them. "Sören... I am not a cryptid."

Sören howled, remembering earlier. "Hi, Not A Cryptid -"

Mark's response to that was to shove Sören onto his side, and then he began to spank Sören's ass. Sören had been waiting for this, but he knew after his flashback earlier that evening, Mark had wanted to make sure he was good and relaxed before indulging in rough play. "Naughty," Mark said, slapping Sören's ass again and again. He groaned at the sight of Sören's hole twitching around the plug. "The naughtiest boys are the ones who act like brats because they want spankings."

"Mmmmmhmmmm." Sören wiggled his ass and cried out when Mark spanked it again, making his cock jolt. "Please, more..."

Mark spanked him a few more times. "If you like to be such a brat... you deserve some bratty teasing of your own."

"Oh, yes."

Mark pulled the plug out of Sören's ass and then his tongue dipped inside. Sören fisted the pillows, screaming as Mark's tongue brushed the sweet spot in him, stroking it just right. He was already so close. But they'd played this game many times now and Sören knew Mark was going to keep him on that edge as long as they could both stand it. Mark devoured him, rubbing his tongue hard and fast, reaching around to stroke Sören's cock, and before Sören could come he slowed down. Soon he had their vibrator on the frenulum of Sören's cock as his tongue swirled achingly slowly, and Sören sobbed, panted, so good...

At last Mark relented. He rolled Sören onto his back again and began to suck Sören's cock. He brought Sören off to a first powerful climax, swallowing his seed hungrily, and when he kissed Sören, letting him taste himself in the kiss, Sören hardened up again. Mark slicked himself and pushed into Sören, going slowly at first, sensual and loving. The opposite of everything Seth had been. Mark took Sören's hands, before his hands played over Sören's body, fingers walking, teasing everywhere he could reach, loving every inch of him.

As they got closer, Mark sped up, kissing and licking Sören's neck, shoulders, nipples. He loved to lick and suckle Sören's pierced nipples, tug the rings with his teeth before sucking the aching nubs some more. His fingers rolled and pinched and plucked one as his lips and tongue pleasured the other. Sören loved watching Mark feast on him, especially the heat in Mark's silver eyes, the sultry look Mark gave him as he enjoyed his lover's body. When Sören collected his precum and anointed his nipples, Mark suckled harder, lapped faster, like he would eat Sören alive. Sören's cries got louder, and Mark was urged on, pounding away, punishing Sören's ass, Sören's cock throbbing with each thrust, each delicious stroke against that sweet spot inside him.

They came together, drinking each other's cries in a deep, hungry kiss, taking each other's hands again. Mark untied the leash from the bedpost and pulled Sören close, held him tight.

"You are not damaged goods," Mark whispered. "You are my treasure. You are beyond precious to me."

Sören's arms squeezed Mark. "I love you so much."

"I love you too."

With Mark holding the leash and still inside him, Sören shoved Mark onto his back, straddling his hips, and began to ride. Bouncing away on his cock, frenzied, bucking like he was riding a wild bull, Sören felt so very far away from the horror he'd endured a year ago with Seth. There was no pain, only pleasure, passion, no fear, only hunger.

"I love you," Sören cried out. "I love you, love you, love you..."

"I love you, baby." Mark slapped Sören's ass. "You are so fucking hot right now."

Sören definitely felt hot - not just how sexy they were together, and not just the sweat that was starting to drip down both of them, but that fire, rising in him. The fire that not even a monster like Seth had managed to snuff out. It was still there. He rode Maglor as hard as he could, taking all that the ancient Elf had to give, all those years of pent up loneliness and skin hunger and desperate need. "Love you. Want you. Need you."

Mark's hands were on his hips, Mark thrusting up into him, balls smacking against him, tugging on the leash. "Ride me, Sören. Let yourself relearn how good this feels. Let yourself feel how good we are together." His hands slid up Sören's stomach and chest, playing with his nipples.

"Oh shit, oh god, oh fuck, yes, yes, yes..."

"Burn for me, my little flame." Mark leaned up and pulled Sören down into a kiss.