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Haste Makes Waste

Chapter Text

It was sound in concept; the methods and schemes Emet-Selch had developed to advance their grand labor, each showed remarkable promise and potential to ensure the Ardor. At one time, they were unanimous in support of his ploys. Lahabrea may have even gone so far as to suggest that his plans improved over time, over millennia. And yet, millennia…

Therein laid the snag, that which embittered his waning patience. Fragmented lifetimes passing by; a race they have constructed from cradle to coffin, horrendously ignorant of what they lack. Miserable, broken existences granted leave to grow and grow old, to live and to die, to be given a gift they had been denied; a gift that was theirs by right.

And thus, millennia…

Reduced to bystanders in the flow of time; observers orchestrating grandeurs for stowaways in splintered reality, dripping between the foundations of one empire into the next. Seamless transition in the rise and fall and rise again and fall again; a maddening repetition that stirred memories best left aside. Lahabrea felt no sympathy in the downfalls; it was the closest the fragmented could come to understanding and it was merely a sliver of the torment. He would watch those that survived crawl their way from flame, death, and ruin with resentment. It mattered not, he knew. Emet-Selch’s empire began anew on the eve. Perhaps their pitiful grief befitted their inferior lives.

And so, millennia…

If Emet-Selch resolved to play his vapid games, Lahabrea would not deny him the entertainment but nor would he allow for it to extend their undertaking. And as civilizations rose and fell before his scrutiny, eons slipping by in gradual certainty, Lahabrea concluded that Emet-Selch's methods no longer retained their sound qualities. It had to be addressed and furthermore revised, Lahabrea would not suffer another millennia of stagnant, miserable progress; to endure even a century more as witness to fraudulent beings was a test to his diminishing tolerance that he would not continue to withstand. For the benefit of all, Lahabrea decided to approach his straying colleague.

The lair that Emet-Selch constructed was wasted upon the occupants, miniscule fragments haunting a labyrinth which dwarfed them in the extreme. An empire, he fancied it; not unlike the other projects he developed. A monstrosity of dark metal in a desolate land, wherein the people mirrored the bleak environment beyond the towering walls. Stern mockeries walking lengths, unseeing despite their value being defined in vigils. Gaunt thralls carrying out menial task after menial task, slipping from one chamber into the next in the ill-defined purpose they were cursed with. For all the supposed life that the lair contained, very little of it seemed alive; even in their reduced meaning.

There remained an outlier even amongst the inhospitable, as was typical amongst the fragmented; there was always one. Shrill laughter echoed down the looming corridor, senseless giggling accompanying the quiet patter of a running youth’s footfalls. Lahabrea located the source, watching a robust boy curve around the corner, haphazard golden mane temporarily obscuring his face. The child made no pause to clear his sight, recklessly rushing down the hall. In passing, through the veil of hair, Lahabrea caught glimpse of a wild eye flicking towards him. There was no recognition, yet it remained curious nonetheless. The boy did not slow his path, soon turning the next corner just in time to avoid being spotted by a man entering the hall from the same corner he had previously.

The man, an emperor made, took note of his visitor and the smile melted from his features. A disguise called Solus straightening gradually with a quiet breath to compose himself following a nonsensical chase. Formal, measured strides carried him closer and yet he stopped a distance from the Speaker. Golden eyes watched him expectantly and Lahabrea accepted that as a notion to speak first.

"I see you have become a patriarch in the trifling sense as well, Emet-Selch."

“To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit, Lahabrea?”

A level tone that dismissed his barb and a simple inquiry, one that Lahabrea readily answered.

“I hold concerns with your progress, Emet-Selch,” he explained, smooth and diplomatic. “Or rather the lack of.”

A challenge it was and Emet-Selch was never one to cower before conflict, thus did Lahabrea adopt a smile from the subtle change in his colleague. A minor fluctuation in aether, ire pricked and swiftly soothed. The flesh he wore responded similarly, bristling in offense as shoulders drew back. Smoothing it over, the vessel eased as Emet-Selch returned the hollow smile.

“So you do? Very well,” he obliged, raising his hand in a short indifferent wave, “Let us address these concerns.”

The dispassionate reply, horrendously nonchalant and dismissive, pricked Lahabrea’s temper and Emet-Selch worsened it yet in the abrupt turn he made upon his heel. Expectant in the way he carried along, he spared no words while he retraced his path down the hall. Lahabrea followed, a spectre to haunt the path, as resentment contorted the scowl across his face.

Traversing as the fragmented did left much to be desired, tediously crossing hall after hall as Emet-Selch meandered deeper into his lair. A singular boon took shape in the space given by the few servants that passed in their journey as none would needlessly interrupt their emperor. It was entirely pointless and unnecessary, Lahabrea simmered in his indignation; he did not have the time to entertain Emet-Selch in this senseless maze. What patience he had for his colleague was nearly spent by the time Emet-Selch reached his destination in a distant corner of his palace.

An indistinct door proved to be the end of his seemingly aimless roaming, unmarked along the wall of an otherwise unpopulated segment. Pushing open the door that protested with a grating scrape, Emet-Selch revealed a simple study, a peculiar dwelling in stark contrast to the realm beyond its door. A singular lamp fastened to the wall kept the compact room bathed in a subtle warm glow, illuminating the bookshelves arming the walls and the dark wooden desk that acted as a centerpiece to the den. Paired with the desk was a plush high-back chair, pulled out and angled away. Dust had since settled in a thin film across the surfaces.

As miniscule flecks danced in the soft light, brought into motion by the disturbance of the owner’s arrival, Emet-Selch crossed the floor in easy strides to round the desk. With the door creaking shut behind him, Lahabrea remained just beyond the threshold. He watched Emet-Selch settle in place, standing behind the desk with his hands clasped behind his back.

“Carry on then. We may address your discontent without concern for prying eyes and eager ears,” he said, returning the severe gaze with a mild one.

“You would spare such apprehension for the fragmented?” Lahabrea could not smother the sneer that pulled at his lip.

“On occasion,” Emet-Selch admitted, tilting his head to the side, “I see no benefit in granting them an opportunity to gain the impression that their emperor is speaking with things unseen .

“It is beyond your power as emperor to snuff out such suspicion?” Lahabrea challenged.

“And expend the time and energy to do so when I can instead simply change locations? I think not,” he retorted.

His hackles rose in the candor of Emet-Selch’s dismissive reasoning and Lahabrea abandoned that train of discussion to resume his original purpose for visiting. A meager shake of his head heralded the address.

“I need not stress the importance of our work to you. However I find that your progress has slowed and thus I wonder if your devotion has similarly diminished,” he elaborated, a polite tone contrasting with condescending indication.

“Ah,” Emet-Selch smiled, a languid expression that repulsed him. “How grateful I am to have steadfast compatriots to steer me away from blundering.”

“This is no jesting matter, Emet-Selch,” Lahabrea scowled, his polite facade withering away with the remnants of his patience.

“Perish the thought. Truly, I am grateful to consider you a dear collaborator. Who else but you would offer such baseless slander?

The dip in tone betrayed his weightless smile. Emet-Selch’s bark could rival his own and yet Lahabrea had long-since found that his associate lacked the fangs to provide any bite; reduced to little more than a vainglorious fool overfond of his voice. However learned minds as they are, the Speaker deigned to engage Emet-Selch in his barb.

“Baseless? Surely you are not so ignorant as to be unaware of our stagnanting progress. How long has it been?” The question posed held little intention for being answered, this Emet-Selch understood by the slight narrowing of his eyes. Lahabrea granted him no opportunity, “Long enough, it seems, to play pretend .”

His mouth went slack, expression undefined. Emet-Selch’s hands moved slow yet steadily from behind himself and were set forward against the desk’s surface, only fingertips disturbing the settled dust. His silence prompted Lahabrea to continue, unimpeded.

“Once more you have amassed elaborate dolls, Emet-Selch. Do they compare? Can they compare? Have the millenia rendered these broken existences to be suitable replacements to you? Can these fragile aberrations replace our brethren lost?”

Lahabrea stalked forward, venturing deeper into the study as his questions piled in the quiet. Approaching the desk, a sneer pulled at his lips. Emet-Selch did not submit nor object, he merely watched.

“Have you no excuse? No defense? Has your faith truly waned so far that it cannot muster a justification?”

Amidst the interrogation, Emet-Selch flattened his hands against the desk and leaned forward, setting his weight upon it. Each provocation darkened his gaze, anger simmering amongst the gold. Expectant silence awaited Emet-Selch’s reply.

“Are you finished?” He asked, his tone low and dangerous and immediately inciting Lahabrea at once. Emet-Selch raised his hand for silence, dismissing the barb that poised on Lahabrea’s tongue. “Beyond your berating, you have offered nothing. Have you come with a solution to the problem you have conceived?”

“Accelerate your schemes,” Lahabrea proposed.

“Is that your solution?”

“It has been proven that desperation is a prime motivator amongst the fragmented. I know you intend to antagonize them. Hasten the process,” he explained, a set of claws coming to rest upon the desk.

“It is known to us the risks of accelerating a Rejoining as well,” Emet-Selch warned.

“Prospects we can safely skirt now with our knowledge,” Lahabrea insisted, watching his gaze temporarily drift to the side. He would acquiesce in time, Lahabrea was certain of it.

“Have caution in your haste, Speaker," he mused, eyes unreadable even in the absence of his mask. "You would not wish to revisit the Martyr’s folly.”

The warning, ill-placed and unneeded, caught him off-guard, igniting a rage that carved scores into the desk’s surface as claws curled into fists. His response was immediate, a furious display of fangs and claws as he hissed his words.

“You dare think of me a reckless fool?! That I would tempt the unknown and suffer another eon of delay?! I will not!”

Silence met the fury, a peculiar look flitting past golden eyes. With disgust, Lahabrea realized belatedly the transient pity in Emet-Selch’s gaze. Recoiling, he dismissed it, dismissed everything. Turning abruptly, his hand rose to beckon the yawning void.

“I will not tolerate any further delay, Emet-Selch,” he warned, “I will not suffer it.”

Chapter Text

Unassuming and easily overlooked, the sanctuary chosen by the Speaker was passable if altogether dismal; a weathered farmhouse haunting an overgrown meadow and no efforts had been attempted towards either in maintenance. A home abandoned in exodus, like much of the countryside, and a condition that can be attributed to Emet-Selch’s toy soldiers. With no sign of recent habitation, vandals or otherwise, the residence was destined to fade away as a memory for what had once been.

Perhaps it was poetic and yet he was not inclined to empty reflection, any facetious parallels drawn were dismissed. The Emissary attended a concern; little else mattered but the outcome. He considered various results, few of which were defined. How unlikely it was for Emet-Selch to call something to his attention and even more unlikely for the something to be their mutual associate. Lahabrea frayed, or so Emet-Selch suggested. Elidibus was not prone to leaving concerns unaddressed and neglected. He sought out Lahabrea.

Manifesting near enough, within a largely undisturbed room, Elidibus found Lahabrea idle. Tucked away near the back of the house, the Speaker haunted a dim room long-since stripped of all identity. Some weathered furniture endured; an armoire, desk, and bed all left behind. Dust generously layered the room, adding stale traits to already stagnant air. He perched at the edge of the bed, form slumped and weary with his head hung as elbows rested on his knees. Lahabrea knew of his arrival and yet did not budge.

A recent shower dripped from the roof and onto the window sills outside, softening the silence that pervaded. The overcasted light nearly brightened the room.

“Lahabrea,” Elidibus greeted.

“Emissary,” Lahabrea returned, raising his head. A tug pulled at the corner of his mouth in a pained expression as he straightened out his neck. “Why do you visit?”

“I would see how you are,” he simply replied to immediate suspicion.

A gaze spared in place of further questions, Lahabrea offered a brief, dismissive sound, “I am as I am.”

“So you are,” Elidibus assented, offering his typical smile; it betrayed nothing. Lahabrea frowned.

“Emet-Selch has brought to my attention your proposal,” Elidibus continued, venturing onward in an even tone. “Is the pace we have set no longer to your liking?”

A question to gauge, one to lure out additional indication to the scene Emet-Selch explained to him. He watched Lahabrea turn guarded, his frown fading into a slacked line.

As he awaited a response, Elidibus moved nearer. Under closer inspection, he discovered the bed to have been brushed clean of the dust that plagued the rest of the room; its rumpled sheets recently disturbed.

“I find my patience waning,” Lahabrea explained, formal and distant. He turned his face away, crimson gaze watching the far wall.

“Is that all?”

He bristled at the question despite his eyes remaining trained at the distance. Lahabrea straightened from his slump to the protest of a weary form, teeth gritting in discomfort.

“I know with certainty that Emet-Selch has told you all.”

“As is his wont to do,” Elidibus acknowledged. “However I would have you tell me as well.”

“I have,” he gave his clipped reply.

“And so it is to be a matter of patience and nothing more,” Elidibus concluded with a lilt to his tone. To provoke as he did was exercise in foul play and yet the devilry befit the task he faced; Lahabrea was strong-willed, an intensity that boarded upon obstinate resolution. It was an underhanded technique yet one the Emissary would willingly use before a remarkably difficult temperament.

He turned his head, a slight motion to set the severe expression of his mask upon his white-robed guest. Lahabrea’s words were quiet, “You misunderstand me.”

“What is there to misunderstand? What you’ve offered is very simple,” he canted his head to the side, feigning callous indifference. It was merely a matter of time before his goading would achieve results. “A matter of impatience is little cause to upend our path.”

Silence was a curious trait to attribute to their colleague deemed the Speaker and yet he sulked overlong in the quiet company of staggered rainfall. Cruel, carved gaze watched the neutral smile that lingered and, in a gradual slip, Lahabrea’s frown returned.

“You misunderstand,” he repeated, bitter words carrying little bite or bark.

“Do I? Then you should enlighten me,” his suggestion paired then with the seat he took on the bed beside his companion, who flinched as the added weight sunk the flimsy mattress. 

“Enlighten you,” Lahabrea mused, frown pulling back into a grimace.

“Yes, I would understand,” Elidibus confirmed, mimicking Lahabrea’s previous interest in watching the far wall. A window marked the wall, grime-coated panes allowing in meager light. The filth did not entirely obscure the meadow beyond, unhindered flora stretching tall against the glass.

“So be it,” he relented, his gaze drifting back to the far wall, to the window there.

In the quiet that settled, Elidibus wondered what Lahabrea saw.

“I do not have the patience,” he recited and then added on in wavering conviction, “I do not have the time.”

“You lack time?”

His head dipped, “It has been so long.”

To that Elidibus offered soft noise of assent, he could not deny the truth of the statement. Regardless, Lahabrea remained vague. As he moved to question, the Speaker proved to have found his voice.

“It has been so long,” he repeated, as if stuck in a loop, “Much too long for me. I cannot-- Each skin that I take, I feel as if I’ve forgotten…”

“What have you forgotten?” Elidibus prompted as he strayed.

“I,” he began, that low tone dwindling off into gritted teeth. Elidibus waited, he was ever patient. He waited for the Speaker to give, a thick swallow that choked down his pride and pretense to hesitantly admit, “I don’t know.”

“I haven’t known in so long,” Lahabrea said in a breathless tone, as if he was torn between laughing at the audacity or choking on the misery. “I do not know what I have forgotten. I do not know what I am forgetting.”

“I should know,” he stressed, watching gloved hands tremble, “ I should know .”

Elidibus listened. Elidibus waited. He rested idle as the unease developed and descended into frenzy, a sudden drop and one Lahabrea yet plummeted from. Still Elidibus stood by and observed.

“I am meant to know and yet I forget. I am meant to remember, I am here to remember! But I forget, I forget what I have forgotten,” he raved, impassioned madness far from spent as he hissed another woe, “And this flesh…”

“This wretched flesh crawls incessantly. There is no peace, it crawls and crawls in rejection. How am I to remember what I have forgotten with this pervasive rebellion? How will I remember when all I can recall is the way this vessel writhes?”

“That is why I approached Emet-Selch. If we only work faster, it will be over. For the benefit of all, it will be over. They will be restored and finally, finally everything will be as it was. All that we have done will be rewarded. We need only to return Him. Then we are free. All of my mistakes will be rectified…”

"You hold yourself responsible."

An interruption by soft statement, one that immediately gained Lahabrea’s attention. His gaze snapped to Elidibus and found the Emissary watching. His typical smile had dissolved, replaced with empty expression.

"I cannot be held responsible," he insisted, “No longer. Not anymore. I cannot withstand it any longer.”

You hold yourself responsible,” Elidibus repeated, yet the emphasis seemed lost upon Lahabrea.

He shook his head rapidly, “No longer, no more. I cannot .”

“Then do not. You are not at fault, Lahabrea,” Elidibus countered with little success.

“I am responsible,” the Speaker claimed with a conviction befitting his hysteria, “By my concepts He brought salvation and by my stolen concepts did He fall. This I remember. This I can picture with ease. The meaningful I remember and therefore I have forgotten something irrelevant. I have forgotten something unnecessary but still I wonder what it was…”

“Why does it worsen with each body I take?”

Elidibus knew not who Lahabrea expected to respond; perhaps he believed a voiced question could become one he could answer. A momentary calm amongst the fury he stirred, Lahabrea turned his head away and to the roof above, seeking answers yet.

“Why does it…” He trailed off, raising his hand to regard it, “Who was this? They were not me. They are not me. And then… who am I?”

A pause, brief and filled by the steady drip of water beyond the window, and then finally clarity. His lips parted in mute recognition and he lowered his hand.

“Who am I, who am I, who am I,” he repeated slowly, weighing out each word for their meaning. In the gradual stillness that seized his body, Lahabrea reached an understanding, “I have forgotten myself. That is what I cannot remember.”

“Lahabrea,” Elidibus spoke gently. He may as well have addressed an empty room.

“Do you remember?” Lahabrea asked, “I cannot… how strange…”

The Emissary found little comfort in being at a loss for route to take; never have they broached a subject such as this. He watched closely as Lahabrea raised his hand to his mask and hesitated.

“We were… friends, were we not?”

“Yes,” he replied and held his tongue.

Elidibus watched a strained expression pass Lahabrea’s lips before fading as he removed the crimson scowl. With his head inclined and hood shielding his borrowed face, Lahabrea studied the familiar visage in his grasp.

“Do you remember then?” A simple inquiry and yet one that set Elidibus at ill-ease with the soft words. He could not forget and yet that too was called into question if Lahabrea suffered as much.

“I do remember you,” Elidibus confirmed, his tone level.

Lahabrea accepted the claim with a mute, distant nod. He carefully pulled back his hood to reveal the vessel beneath. Turning his head back to Elidibus, he asked another question, “Do you remember my face?”

Elidibus canted his head. He could draw scant similarities between memory and the example before him, although not many and none worth mentioning. Age defined by the soft lines carved into his face, the vessel Lahabrea assumed must have been a recent change; he typically wore through them carelessly and this host seemed relatively hale still. Short pitch-black hair had been left largely untamed or long-since disheveled by the hood. He was unremarkable.

“I do remember your face,” Elidibus acknowledged, “This is not you.”

It was neither comfort nor grief and yet Elidibus still found anguish within the weary eyes that watched him. An unguarded gaze was once a weakness to exploit and yet that was hardly the case within this era. The inhabitants of the shard bared their hearts and minds so readily upon their faces. It was endlessly bizarre.

“This is not me,” Lahabrea acquiesced, his eyes closing as he mused further, “Who am I? Why have I forgotten who I am and who I was?”

Neither held answers that would suit him, a fact Lahabrea knew and resented. His lips pressed into a thin line as he turned his eyes back to the more favorable face within his hands. He did not return it to its rightful place.

“I thought I had done the right thing. And yet I’ve been proven wrong time and time again,” Lahabrea shook his head, voice weak. Every addition seemed to tilt him closer to another frenzy, a fit Elidibus would sooner spare him from.

Words were ineffective against the Speaker as it was his arsenal, this Elidibus knew and thus adapted. As Lahabrea fretted, tracing nervous fingers across the mask, Elidibus pulled free his gloves.

“Perhaps this is my penance. A price I pay at the cost of myself… I will pay it to bring them back,” he voiced, a breath escaping him the moment following as warm fingers found the back of his neck. A simple brush had him freeze up, sending an apprehensive glance towards Elidibus.

“If you are to serve penance, you will not do so alone,” the Emissary mused gently, fingers remaining still until Lahabrea eventually relaxed under the touch. “We began this together and will see it through as such.”

The sentiment proved ineffective and yet neither did Lahabrea immediately object to the statement. He settled, still tense as bare fingers played at the nape of his neck left uncovered by his collar, combing through the short black length there; intermittent tugs used to maintain his overtaxed attention from straying too far. It soothed, as intended, keeping Lahabrea from riling himself into another frenzy and yet proved too meager to properly coax him from his brooding. His aether condensed gradually despite the offered calm, pressing inward and curling tight in a similar fashion to how he balled his physical form; as if by the asinine notion that what haunted him may overlook an instrument so miserably small.

Such affection was ultimately a flimsy suture, yet one that bought Elidibus time to consider a better direction. Amidst the sullen company and deafening silence, the Emissary met with some difficulty.

“I cannot offer a solution,” Elidibus admitted. “None which would resolve your plight with the rapidity you desire.”

“I did not expect you to,” he replied simply.

“Your trouble with vessels however,” Elidibus began, drawing his attention. “It may not be you but it could be your own.”

Lahabrea furrowed a weary expression at Elidibus, appearing to miss the meaning. Elidibus elaborated.

“You use the body as a tool and discard it once it breaks. The strain you put upon the body may very well be why it rebels against you. You need not cherish the tool but should it be treated with care, it may become more compliant to you and endure longer.”

The suggestion seemed to fall flat, consideration for the fragmented was far from Lahabrea’s mind. A blank stare was his response.

“Should your vessel last longer, you would not need to assume new ones as frequently which may reduce the rate at which you forget.”

At which you degrade , he had nearly said and yet that was something he would rather consider at a later point. His example seemed to appeal to the Speaker if the question he raised was any indication.

“And so, by your reasoning, if I treat the body as my own then it will trouble me less,” Lahabrea mused, “And how am I to do that?”

"Claim it as your own,” Elidibus recommended, removing his fingers from Lahabrea’s neck as the man seemed suitably calmed. “Make it an extension of yourself rather than a tool to break."

“Yes, but how exactly?”

After a contemplative pause, Elidibus offered, “Find comfort through the vessel.”

Uttering an irked noise, Lahabrea’s typical scowl resurfaced, “Must your guidance be vague as well? Where and how might I find comfort in this wretched skin?”

“Have you forgotten what comfort is to you as well?” Elidibus’ smile returned in the face of the scowl. “Perhaps the simplest example I can offer is companionship.”

Without delay, Lahabrea flatly responded, “I have no companions.”

Whereas Lahabrea lacked hesitation, Elidibus took a pause to compose his patience, making a wordless plea for strength in a subtle upwards glance.

“You truly believe you are so alone?”

“I have no one,” he remarked, no sorrow to be found in what Lahabrea genuinely believed to be fact.

“Then I will challenge that belief,” Elidibus countered, “I will be a companion to you once more. And you may be a companion to me once more. Perhaps you may remember something forgotten.”

Lahabrea’s brow furrowed at his words and only deepened as Elidibus’ hand found his. His words halting as Elidibus’ collected his curled fist, “Once more…?”

“I take no offense that you do not remember,” Elidibus hummed as he eased Lahabrea’s fingers apart, urging them to relax from the tight fist they made. It was similar, he suspected, to working with stone; how miserably stubborn Lahabrea could be even in the face of good intentions. “It was nothing so formal, yet still cherishable memories.”

“I… I cannot remember,” Lahabrea admitted as a strange expression pulled at his face, watching the Emissary’s hands play with his own. He sounded nearly apologetic.

With the Speaker’s fingers finally relaxed, Elidibus paused and asked of him, “Would you accept me as a companion once again?”

Meeting the doubtful expression upon Lahabrea’s face, the slight quirk of his smile had the Speaker rapidly looking away.

“I am not… I… You have far more urgents things to attend I am certain,” he struggled, stubborn beliefs deepening his grave.

“If such was the case, I would not have offered,” Elidibus simply countered, bare thumb tracing the curve of his claws.

“Then I… accept your offer,” he acceded with hesitation, watching from the corners of his eyes.

With a soft hum, Elidibus drew Lahabrea’s glove loose and even the briefest touch against the inside of his wrist garnered tension in response, a subtle flinch. A moment spent in examination, tracing the uncovered palm in slow exploration. The hand he held had been rough long before Lahabrea came to control it. Timid yet tense, Lahabrea submitted to the tender attention.

Uncovered fingers were brought before his lips, granting each worn pad a gentle kiss in slow procession. Cradling both wrist and palm in his hands and limiting the insecure squirm that periodically sought to pull away and free from his hold, Elidibus watched from behind his mask, studying his companion's reactions. Simplistic affection appeared overwhelming if the gradual addition of labor to his breathing was any indication. 

Elidibus traced his lips down across the hand and paused at the center of his palm, Lahabrea’s fingers brushing against the crimson beak and prompting a smile against his skin. His grip slipped slightly at Lahabrea’s wrist, changed to find and press his thumb against the pulse, appreciating the erratic beat beneath the skin.

Languidly returning his lips to Lahabrea's thumb, Elidibus canted his head in brief consideration before drawing the thumb into his mouth. Uttering the sharpest of gasps, Lahabrea stared down at him incredulously, chest yet swelled in the breath he held. The slow drag of his tongue across the pad of Lahabrea's thumb had him deflating with the most unsteady of sighs. 

"Why are you doing this?" Choked and clipped, a demand that could not maintain the typical bite he spoke with. A protest with very little outrage, intrigue dulling his bluster.

Elidibus hummed around the appendage, preoccupied and disinclined to interrupt his work. Another lick and a pattern formed, slow passes across skin in a repetition that coaxed a vibrant flush up Lahabrea's neck. A peculiar noise, perturbed and restless, rattled quietly from his throat. His furrowed brow and pursed lips brought an inquiry to surface and as he parted from the thumb, Lahabrea rapidly looked away.

"Do you want me to stop?"

“No,” came the hoarse reply and a quiet conclusion followed, “I have no right to seek comfort.”

"So you think of yourself as undeserving?"

It was curious how the Speaker could say plenty through silence; a mastery of his title perhaps. Evasive gaze fixed firmly on the window, reluctant to grant life onto concern.

“You think much too little of yourself, Lahabrea. Perhaps you have lost yourself,” his soft words ended in a barb, perhaps sharper than his intention. Genuine worry embittered just slightly by Lahabrea’s perverse commitment to self-flagellation. Even he had a limit.

Taking offense, Lahabrea jerked his arm away and Elidibus permitted, allowing the wrist and palm to slip from his grasp and nearly the fingers as well before he entangled his own with Lahabrea’s. A frustrated scowl contorted his weary face and before he could hiss his retort, Elidibus interjected.

“For all that you have done and suffered, a moment of solace is no terrible indulgence. Your refusal to rest has only worsened the torment. This is why you fade. It is why you forget.”

Lahabrea’s eyes darted to the side in quick consideration, scowl dripping away as Elidibus squeezed his hand. A sigh escaped him, shoulders sinking with the breath.

“If you remember,” Lahabrea relented as his eyes returned to his companion and thus did he issue a challenge, “then remind me.”

Elidibus smiled, accepting the challenge without delay. He disentangled his fingers from Lahabrea’s and held out his hand to tend to his colleague’s remaining glove. Lahabrea understood after a moment, carefully setting his mask against the sheets to free his claws for Elidibus’ attention.

“How would I describe Lahabrea,” Elidibus mused as he paid similar mind to pulling free the glove, finding little difficulty in repeating the routine as Lahabrea eased further into compliance. “How would I describe you?”

He listened, tensing as skin met skin and Elidibus set aside the discarded glove. With a hesitant frown crossing his face, he watched the Emissary entwine their fingers once more.

“I had once heard someone describe you as ‘larger than life’ and I agreed to the sentiment,” he explained in a tone which seemed to soothe, “Anything that grabbed your attention had the entirety of it. Your devotion was remarkable.”

Praise was met with mixed response; the swell in his aether that unfurled in warmth betrayed the apprehension that marred the vessel’s face. Denying still the corporeal, Lahabrea sought familiarity and Elidibus did not refuse the brush against his aether but nor did he reciprocate. The Emissary held greater interest in the physical for the moment.

“I remember the passion you spoke with,” he continued, finding Lahabrea’s eyes closing. A soft breath, almost irked, escaped the Speaker as another caress made against the Emissary’s soul was left unreturned. He yielded finally to the physical, a slow beginning in the meager squeeze he gave to the hand he held.

“And you certainly spoke a lot,” he said and the fondness of his tone was not wasted on Lahabrea, although the twitch of his lips implied some conflict regarding offense. “I could have listened to you for hours on end. I did on occasion when time allowed.”

“Did you speak as well?” Lahabrea asked, eyes opening to regard the crimson mask. He found the anguish remained in the Speaker’s gaze and yet, with some minor relief, it was less severe. Being watched with soft regard, Elidibus smiled.

“When you would occasionally pause to breathe, yes.”

“And what did we speak about?”

Elidibus paused in consideration, hooded head canting to the side. Lahabrea watched, his grip periodically tightening on Elidibus’ hand.

“Countless things,” Elidibus recalled. “Often whatever you were passionate about.”

“Such as my concepts?”

“Amongst other things,” Elidibus replied and the undefined answer brought a furrow to Lahabrea’s brow.

“What other things?” He pressed, exasperation readily showing its head.

He untangled his fingers from Lahabrea, a bit of effort spared to successfully shake the man’s grasp. As he stood from the bed’s edge, Lahabrea tracked his every movement; a few short steps taken to place himself in front of the Speaker. Lahabrea straightened up in apprehension, an unguarded face staring up at the Emissary.

Leaning forward and leaning close, Elidibus replied, “We would speak of ourselves, our interests and goals. Sometimes we spoke of us.”

Despite his previous implications of companionship and further apparent actions, Lahabrea seemed dumbstruck, lips slightly parted in an absent reply. In afterthought, Elidibus wondered if he should have been more explicit. His fingers brushed the side of Lahabrea’s neck, lingering there in warm touch. The man tensed under his touch.

He inclined his head, dipping to speak gently beside Lahabrea’s ear, “Why do you brace? Do you think I will do you harm?”

A sudden hitch in his breath was Lahabrea’s answer, soft words paired with the fingers that traced up to his jaw sent a shudder through him. Elidibus savored both reactions.

“No, no, I do not think that,” his voice ragged as he replied belatedly.

“I am glad. I would do no harm save at your request.”

A light jest it was, an inside joke to which only he recalled, and yet Lahabrea seemed to take it as a vow if the sharp inhale he made was any indication. How strangely familiar.

“I am not one to make requests,” he insisted as white cowl skimmed his face, signalling Elidibus’ slow withdrawal. A transient frowned seemed to mourn the loss of fingers along his neck.

“How true that is. Rarely did I yield to your demands,” Elidibus mused, languid retreat abruptly stopped by Lahabrea’s hand snagging the front of his robes, seizing him mid-straighten and keeping him bowed. A curious smile met the intense look in Lahabrea’s eyes.

“Were my demands so unreasonable?”

“No,” he revealed, “I merely enjoyed your moaning.”

The flush that burned across his face was poorly detracted from by the scoff he uttered as he set his gaze to the side. Lahabrea released the front of Elidibus’ robes and muttered, “How undiplomatic.”

“Nonsense,” Elidibus shook his head, drawing a step closer to brush his legs against the front of Lahabrea’s. His hands found the speaker’s knees, resting idle as the Emissary’s smile grew, “Neither participant left unsatisfied.”

Further encouraging the fluster, Elidibus offered little pause before requesting of him, “Won’t you make your demands?”

Meandering gaze, evasive and reluctant, finally returned to Elidibus. Lahabrea swallowed for what little good it did, his voice still terribly hoarse as he made a demand that carried the weight of a mousy plea, “Just make good on your boasts.”

A quiet hum of assent filled the role of any voiced promise just as well; Elidibus was a man of his word, this was known. Lahabrea was in good hands regardless of how frequently he tensed beneath them.

“Think of me as a braggart, do you?” He inquired, hands easing Lahabrea’s knees apart without resistance. His tone, dipped low in play, was not wasted upon the Speaker. “That I would have the want or need to exaggerate my abilities?”

As the Emissary encroached, seizing the space granted between his legs, Lahabrea did not bend before the crimson guise that hovered a breath away. It was fleeting, the attention he fixed upon the abyss that guarded Elidibus’ gaze strayed to regard those smiling lips. His eyes widened gently as bare fingers played at the hem of his robes.

“You ask if I would compare you to Emet-Selch?” The Speaker returned, a dry quip which gave Elidibus pause. He did not allow Elidibus the opportunity to reply. “I would not insult you as such.”

With the barest of laughs, Elidibus inclined his head down; the crimson beak gingerly grazing Lahabrea's nose as he tipped his face up to watch the Emissary. "Then I will endeavor to give you no reason to."

Seeing lips part in preparation to object, he held little doubt that Lahabrea intended some manner of comment; one that would impatiently call to attention how all of his promises had thus far amounted to nothing. Some things were better not rushed, however what would the Speaker know of that? Very little, Elidibus judged, based on Lahabrea's current state. He proposed a lesson of patience, finding agreement within himself at the notion and yet extended an offering of no small indulgence to tide the Speaker over. To derive satisfaction from the irony of silencing their Speaker through the capture of his mouth and delight in the gradual submission he was rewarded; how at first Lahabrea refused to submit, immovable yet fleeting, and second his warm accommodation to the lips against his own.

To have and have plenty and yet still want for more, Elidibus smiled against eager lips as incessant fingers pulled at the front of his robes. Largely empty gestures that accomplished little beyond beckoning, soundless pleas as Lahabrea's mouth was so nicely occupied. It would not do to spoil him so. As he moved to withdraw, his teeth caught Lahabrea's bottom lip in play, a nip that dragged a low groan from the man. To look upon the disorder so easily wrought to Lahabrea's frame and know that they had barely begun, it filled him with delight. His fond observations found the Speaker panting, chest heaving rapidly. His gaze, heavy with desire and an inkling of betrayal for the loss dealt to him, crinkled in protest.

"Why have--"

"Do away with this," Elidibus ordered, a brief tug made against the Speaker's robes, not unlike the pulls Lahabrea gifted to him. A second pull caught the fabric between thumb and index finger to which he held on as he clarified, "And only this."

"Very well," Lahabrea breathed, obeying without question. It was a simple display and trifling matter to brush aside conjured cloth, to have it meld away and reveal the simple garb underneath. If Lahabrea held concern in shedding another layer of his skin, he did not show it. The dark tunic and trousers were uniform, unremarkable.

Hosting such a rapt audience from the Speaker, Elidibus smiled as his gaze roamed from intent eyes to the flush that stretched down Lahabrea's neck and disappeared below his collar. His fingers returned to play, plucking at the cloth that clung to the Speaker's sides, never quite succeeding it hiking the shirt far above his waist.

"Wonderful," he mused simple praise and appreciation, denying all attempts made to turn meager touches into satisfying ones.

"What of yourself?"

"Myself?" Elidibus asked, a mock-coy inquiry presented in time with the hand pushing past white fabric to settle against the outside of his thigh. With a pause preluding the sudden squeeze, the grip merely acted as a reminder for Lahabrea's lacking patience. It was not about to encourage the Emissary to change course.

"Won't you disrobe?"

"Hm," he hummed, weighing the request as his fingers slipped against the skin exposed and peaking between the fabric he disturbed. There was bliss in warmth and Lahabrea practically burned beneath his touch; feather-light brushes spared attention across his abdomen before dipping between his waistband. "That was not a terribly convincing demand."

"It was not intended to be one," Lahabrea grumbled, incessant grip digging into Elidibus' thigh and accompanied by a pull that sought to draw him nearer. Elidibus refused.

"And so you intended to beg?" He asked, the lilt in his tone bringing a fleeting scowl across Lahabrea's face.

"I would request ."

A sliver of pride remained even as he yielded, sized to befit the Speaker's current situation and Elidibus would not have it without. A familiar stubbornness that tinted the want of his gaze. The Emissary relented, content with the give he pulled from Lahabrea.

"I will oblige your sincere request." 

“How gracious,” he breathed, a frown tugging at his mouth as Elidibus’ acceptance left him bereft of contact; readily mourning the transient loss in scowls and bruising hold.

With a quiet hum, a note of agreement, Elidibus shed his robe in a similar approach, allowing the cloth to meld away in an effortless wave. In the absence of his cowl, silvery hair spilled to frame the crimson mask. A smile overtook his face at the harsh breath Lahabrea made. His fingers found the hem of the Speaker’s shirt once more, lifting the tight fabric to above his stomach.

“Pleased?”

Lahabrea peeled his gaze away from pale mane and smiling lips at the inquiry, making a non-committal sound. A proper answer took form in Lahabrea’s grip on Elidibus’ leg softening just enough to pull at the umber slacks, attempts unobscured by the absence of white robes. His half-hearted tugs intended more as encouragement yet found success in tugging down one side to expose a bit of the Emissary’s hip. Lahabrea’s hand slid up to clutch the bared skin, thumb dragging along the bone’s curve.

“It… suits you,” he confessed quietly, an upwards glance spared and fixed upon the loose silver strands that fell in front of the mask.

A moment’s hesitation wrought by the statement paired with the subtle tilt of Elidibus’ head, hair slipping loose off his shoulder to drape forward and Lahabrea’s free hand moved without delay to brush against the veil, fingers carding through the locks. The unpredictable gesture forced a muted gasp from Elidibus.

“Is that so?”

Voice masked, forced into an evenness that belied the sudden shortness that plagued his breath. Anticipation burned underneath his skin simply incited by modest sentiment, distinct and abundant and entirely tempting with the want it inspired.

Lahabrea’s fingers slowed, stalling at the end of the lengths. A minor snag, a meager tug upon the hair had Elidibus setting his jaw. The reply was near enough to a whisper.

“It is, yes.”

To want and to take, the Emissary allowed himself a moment of indulgence. Catching the Speaker’s mouth in a surge, Elidibus’ hunger appeared to daze, leaving a pliable form under his attention. With his companion slow to regain his footing, Elidibus snaked his hands under the risen shirt to smooth across the skin yet covered, thumbs dragged against stiffened nipples to spur a low groan from Lahabrea.

Picking himself up, piecing himself back together under Elidibus’ unrelenting outburst, Lahabrea’s hand tangled in the mane and tugged. The response was immediate as the Emissary’s body tensed and rewarded by his mouth pressing harder, more incessantly against his own. Abruptly, Elidibus parted with a pant.

“Pull.”

A command and one Lahabrea may have questioned if not for Elidibus claiming his mouth once more. A moment spent and a moment wasted in idleness. Lahabrea’s hand frustratingly motionless in Elidibus’ hair as he arched into the kiss. Once more did Elidibus part from his mouth and this time Lahabrea attempted to chase before the Emissary’s hands against his chest halted him.

“You will not do me harm. Now pull .”

Softer then, with less intensity, Elidibus returned for Lahabrea’s lips. The Speaker obeyed, pressing into the intimacy as he wound the pale locks around his fist and did as the Emissary bade; delivering a pull equal parts torment and delight. With a moan so horrendously unabashed and yet smothered by Lahabrea’s mouth, Elidibus allowed himself a cursory shiver before persisting. His hands dragged down Lahabrea’s stomach as the man’s hold upon his hair eased, allowing the thrill to simmer as Elidibus gripped his waist. Another parting and one welcomed, Elidibus resting the brow of his mask against Lahabrea’s bared brow; sharing a moment filled with harsh breathing.

With some shred of composure regained, Elidibus spoke once more, tone near enough to evenness, “Does your skin yet crawl?”

“No,” Lahabrea rasped, an unabashed confession, “it aches .”

A sentiment shared and one that Elidibus sought to remedy. The kiss he spared, softer than all previous, pressed curt to parted lips before retreat would not be the last and yet Lahabrea lamented the loss with a ragged sigh. Urging Lahabrea back and onto the bed proper with a nudge against his waist, Elidibus found that the Speaker needed little encouragement. Releasing the Emissary from his hands to slide back on the sheets, Lahabrea watched Elidibus expectantly. After a moment spared to kick off his boots, an action promptly copied by Lahabrea as well, Elidibus climbed onto the bed after him.

Something deep and buried and otherwise ignored crowed, an unceasing urge that yet burned through him as he slid between Lahabrea's legs. He knew. He knew the hypocrisy of preaching patience only to forsake his own; to bite and to take of needful companion, plunge absolute into fleeting gratification and reap sweet thrill from hollow frames. He knew better and the conviction of belief struggled against selfish desire; to accept once more the necessity of equivalence in all things; determine the balance between the benefits of staying the steady course and weather the agony of want so intently beating in his veins or submit to the infectious impatience that Lahabrea eagerly spread. To reward his impetuous behavior merely promoted further actions of the same and solved nothing. Satiation as he desired, quick and crude, served no cause regardless of how incessantly he pulled at Elidibus, tempting selfish desire.

"Why do you halt?"

A complaint voiced, groused as his hands took fistfuls of the sheets. Lahabrea braced his shoulders against the wall neighboring the bed, partially reclined as Elidibus sat between his knees. The distance proved irksome for the Speaker, displayed in the way he began to sit up.

Elidibus' hands brushing against his knees succeeded in stalling the motion and Lahabrea stared transfixed as the touch caressed upwards and inwards along his thighs. A quiet hum noted the curious trembling that surged in the paths he smoothed. 

"You tempt me terribly," Elidibus confessed evenly, his thumb tracing languid circles against the fabric blocking his skin.

"Then do not delay," Lahabrea insisted, providing a simplistic solution he had considered.

"In time," he mused, a response which rewarded him a frustrated look and sound. "Certainly you know what comes to those that wait."

"Elidibus."

His warning was far more of a whine.

"Your patience will be rewarded," his assurance, his promise, seemed to appease Lahabrea little.

"You-!" A sharp word, his protest cut short by a sudden hiss wrenched free by hands brushing by, not against, his groin. Almost, near enough and yet entirely too distant, Lahabrea squirmed as torturous hands found their target at his waist, fingers digging in with a sudden pull. Repositioned, his back flat against the mattress, the Speaker stared dazed into open space as Elidibus arranged him in his lap. Remarkably pilant, Lahabrea obeyed wordless instruction as he twined his legs around Elidibus’ lap, welcoming the guidance issued in fleeting carass.

"Such little patience… just a moment longer," he murmured, a chide without bite as his hands divided the tasks he undertook. Deft fingers unfastened the laces at the front of Lahabrea’s slacks, pulling them undone with sure tugs as his opposite hand smoothed along Lahabrea’s waist and to behind to draw his trousers lower.

As progress was made, the skin of his waist exposed inch by inch, Lahabrea hiked his shirt higher in a slow draw, as if expecting rebuke when none would be given. In absence of reprimand, his hand rested idle against the bare of his stomach. He watched Elidibus, eyes fixed yet hazy as he propped himself up on an elbow and made a silent plea in the subtle lift of his hips. Another plea which went unanswered.

“What is your measurement of a ‘moment’?” The Speaker inquired, his tone twinged by a whine.

A breath near enough to a laugh acted as first response, paired then by the blissful hiss uttered by Lahabrea as Elidibus finally pulled the confining slacks down just enough to grant some of the relief he so desperately desired. A squirm, subtle roll of his hips, both permitted for him to savor the new freedom. His hand snaked south, a none too inconspicuous reach to grasp his cock, stiff and reddish against his stomach.

Immediately addressed and resolved, Elidibus seized his hand, mindful of contact and mindful to yet deny his need. Fingers twined together and led away, he smiled in the face of Lahabrea's groan.

"A moment may last as long as I desire," he revealed, pressing Lahabrea's errant hand against the sheets. Smiling still, against desperate sigh and tormented expression, Elidibus squeezed restless fingers before releasing them. “Keep your hands idle.”

He waited a pause following the challenge he issued, studying the man that readily squirmed in the lapse of active contact. Lahabrea obeyed, terribly disinclined and yet followed his request nonetheless. The fond cant of Elidibus’ head paired with whispered praise, commending the Speaker’s compliance for keeping his hands against the sheets, seemed to merely ground Lahabrea further; fingers digging into the fabric beneath him.

Keeping him quiet and idle, content enough with soft praise murmured as Elidibus worked his slacks the rest of the way off and out of the way. With the pants discarded, set to the side with little regard for where it landed, Elidibus replaced his hands at Lahabrea’s waist. Tension trembling beneath Lahabrea’s skin at the caress of his touch, pairing a sigh to the slow drag of his hands; to behind and downwards, Elidibus gripped Lahabrea’s arse. The Speaker wriggled so pleasantly.

“Perhaps,” Lahabrea began his hoarse complaint, “your desire is not so great.”

“And how will you support your unfounded claim?” The Emissary countered evenly, one hand drawn away in the interim and it was not a loss that Lahabrea protested; so intently fixed on the challenge through his lust.

“Certainly, if your desire was greater, this moment would not last nearly as long.”

A sound near enough to the shape of a laugh, equal parts gentle and warm, was spared for the petulant reasoning. Elidibus entertained the rationale with a smile, a passing thought given to the meager conjuration of translucent lubricant to coat his fingers.

“A patient man knows well when to savor,” Elidibus assured, drawing slicked fingers between Lahabrea’s legs, tracing a slow line from the base of his cock to press against his hole. Going rigid beyond the heaving of his chest, Lahabrea’s eyes fixed wide on the crimson mask over him. Watching the unconcealed expressions, each one given so freely, Lahabrea’s desperation and desire on open display; they coaxed a fond noise from the back Elidibus’ throat, one that he allowed to influence the balance of his voice, “A patient man knows when to cherish what he has.”

There was a delay in understanding the sentiment or perhaps it was never due to arrive; whatever protest, whine, or comment Lahabrea could muster died off in a soft moan as Elidibus eased into him with one finger. Adjustment aided by the generous coating upon his fingers, Elidibus rubbed tender circles along the inside of Lahabrea’s thigh as he worked him open. A second finger added along to the first in due time, wringing a strained groan from Lahabrea as he fisted up the sheets.

From the scrutiny he spared Lahabrea’s responses, Elidibus gauged the pace and progress; measuring the worth of parted lips and wild eyes. That another gradual curl of his fingers and the unintended press against his prostate would reward Elidibus with a wonderfully animate reaction; the Speaker arching back into the mattress, pressing back against his fingers and touch with a needy whine. A smile graced his lips as the Emissary decided to repeat the treatment.

Shuddering with urgent breaths, Lahabrea’s hand dragged across the bed in search of Elidibus and found his knee within reach. First a smack against the limb and then incessant pull, tugging at the troublesome slacks that he still wore; a plea unvoiced and one he yet struggled to.

“ … please,” Lahabrea managed, his voice strained.

“You’ve done very well,” Elidibus assented with another curl of his fingers.

Please!” The Speaker choked, almost a sob, as he dripped steadily onto his stomach.

He withdrew his fingers in a slow draw, dragging out one more whine from Lahabrea. Nearly reluctant to interrupt the soft gasp signaling the start of another plea; nearly hesitant to end the scene of Lahabrea begging so beautifully before him, Elidibus conceded to his pleading in a faint sigh.

“How could I deny you,” he whispered, composure growing frayed in tone. Lahabrea writhed as Elidibus began to shift their position, a minor change for better angle, making adjustments with a bruising grip set upon Lahabrea’s hip. Content with their arrangement, Elidibus pushed down the front of his slacks with little ceremony, untucking himself from the confines of his trousers with a nearly suppressed hiss. Lahabrea burned beneath his touch and no longer could Elidibus stave off the blaze that coursed within his blood.

Spreading the remaining lubricant from his fingers across his throbbing length, Elidibus set his jaw with a hoarse breath through his nose. Deeming it an insufficient amount, he drew his hand away in an attempt at hasty conjuration only to be interrupted by feeble, little whine.

Please, Elidibus.

Focus staggered, disrupted in an exceedingly uncharacteristic lapse of sense as Lahabrea’s broken plea struck him, his conjury abandoned at half-completion as a levin-like thrill chased down his spine and ended in a throb of his cock. A peculiar noise pulled from the back of his throat, low and rough and not quite a growl. Yet the sentiment was there, enticed so sweetly and incited into nigh impatience; twisting the sound before it died out into soft shushing, gaining some further obedience from Lahabrea as his cries quieted. Forgoing a steady grasp on composure, Elidibus made quick work of covering his stiff length in the slick he did succeed in conjuring, teeth gritted through the process.

Aligning, fingers digging into his arse, Elidibus pressed close and eased into Lahabrea. His gradual progress readily challenged as the Speaker arched so wonderfully and pressed back against the hard cock, seeking more even as he braced a hand over his mouth to smother the groan that spilled from him. With even a limit to his own patience and one near enough to being met, Elidibus relented, granting Lahabrea what he desired with a shuddering breath. A jerk of his hips rewarded the Speaker, sinking the rest of himself into Lahabrea in sudden thrust, effectively winding the man under him. Hilted deep and pressed flush against him, Elidibus eased the grip of his fingertips, absentmindedly rubbing the faint marks as the pounding of his heartbeat in his ears disoriented him. Belatedly he recognized the slide of a leg wrapping around his waist joined by a heel digging into his lower back.

Moments lended and spared for Lahabrea’s benefit, spent in silence beyond the sound of their breathing. Elidibus twitched, a slight motion in tensed muscle he sought to refuse as the tight heat of Lahabrea’s body tempted him.

“Good?” He rasped.

Lahabrea’s hand had slipped from his mouth, resting above his head as he answered in ragged breaths. Watching the Emissary intently with half-lidded eyes, words seemed lost to one prided as a Speaker; a greedy nod managed as he realized Elidibus waited upon his response.

It pulled an indecent noise from the Emissary; an eager gesture leading him to lift Lahabrea’s leg high to rest upon his shoulder before bending forward and over him, a hand braced against the mattress for balance. White hair spilled in the lean, brushing against the muted Speaker as he took his position above him.

“I’m going to move now,” Elidibus murmured, a notice made with Lahabrea’s best interests in mind.

“Get on with it then,”  he replied heedlessly, a whine with a meager bite. Elidibus would not have had it any other way.

A smile preluded the withdraw of his hips, delighting in both sensation and the low, lewd moan he pulled from Lahabrea. From base to tip, the measured motion set the pace and one Lahabrea seemed content with; his eyes sliding shut as his head tilted back against the sheets. Steady and seamless, Elidibus sheathed himself to hilt once more, a firm smack against Lahabrea’s arse paired with a low groan that he belatedly acknowledged as his own. Submitting to the pattern, fucking soft moans from Lahabrea, Elidibus dragged his unoccupied hand across the sheets to seek out the Speaker’s. Through lust and daze, Lahabrea entangled his fingers with Elidibus’.

Chest heaving in erratic breaths, Lahabrea squirmed as he roused himself into action, submission set aside for want and need; reviving a frenzy, one brought from better cause and one that Elidibus would readily welcome. After all, Lahabrea was rarely content to sit idle. Raised from where it rested above his head, the Speaker gripped a handful of the white mane that tickled his face and, with scant warning, pulled hard on the length. Lahabrea’s reward was immediate.

The abrupt jerk of his hips, a thrust joined by lips parted in a shuddering moan, Elidibus falling victim to Lahabrea taking full advantage of a weakness. Graceless, his head dropped, knocking the crimson face against Lahabrea’s forehead. It did not deter him as he twisted the pristine locks around his fist. With his rhythm broken, Elidibus slowed to a stop, sheathed deep as his hand squeezed the other’s.

Amidst open-mouth pants, Elidibus breathed a warning, “If you continue-”

Imprudent, reckless, Lahabrea titled his head to catch the Emissary’s mouth, uncaring of the beak’s scrape as he coiled the hair tighter in his grasp. Elidibus indulged, sinking into the kiss as he shook his hand free from Lahabrea. Relinquished, his hand joined the other to brace against the bed as the ceaseless pull upon his hair drove him higher. Lahabrea’s rampant disregard for warnings surely justified a bit of tough love.

With Lahabrea upon his mouth, Elidibus resumed his labors, spurred on by the pulling to give more and yet more as the Speaker desired; a faster pace and fierce rhythm. Unrelenting as Lahabrea tore away to gasp for air. His head yet bowed and mask pressed against Lahabrea’s brow, Elidibus sunk into the sensations.

He very nearly missed the creep of Lahabrea’s free hand across the sheets, sneaking towards his unattended cock that dripped so steadily against his stomach. Catching him by the wrist, denied and seized, Elidibus pressed his hand into the bed as he lifted his head just enough to regard Lahabrea; a vision of ardor and insanity, so close to being absolutely gone.

“Ah, answer me this and you may do as you wish,” The Emissary explained, willing his voice into a resemblance of composure.

His brow furrowed, yet Lahabrea’s gaze turned expectant despite the daze.

“Who are you?”

A noise, confused and tormented, echoed from Lahabrea. Elidibus would not grant him the mercy of respite, his pace did not slow. Desperate, almost and not quite, Lahabrea shook underneath him.

“Tell me who you are,” Elidibus insisted, a lilt within his tone wringing a shallow gasp from the Speaker.

“I- I…”

A broken sound mingling with choked breaths, words that couldn’t quite take shape and the unguarded madness within the eyes of the Speaker. He understood the question and Elidibus knew he held the answer. Denial of what he desired inspired response, set the wheels to turn for an answer as it all swam in circles; returning again and again to be rewarded, to be pleased. He knew. He only needed to express it.

“Tell me.”

A demand he could not deny, eyes widening as recollection - as understanding - finally came to him. A sudden flare, a show of strength, a display of power , all revealed in the sigil that blazed above the vessel’s face; beautiful intricacies of crimson that spoke far more than the Speaker could hope to. Searing aether crashing, scrabbling against his form in a fury. In the wake of the display, a purr resounded from somewhere distant and belatedly did Elidibus recognize that it echoed through himself as he submitted to the man’s fervor.

Lahabrea, ” Elidibus exhaled fondly. Releasing Lahabrea’s hand, he reached between the two of them, taking hold of the Speaker’s aching cock before the other could. Hot and throbbing, Lahabrea groaned as Elidibus tended to him while he chased his own completion. The strokes grew faster yet haphazard, almost matching the irregular rhythm set in Elidibus’ thrusts. It proved more than plenty to drive Lahabrea over his edge, arching with a strained cry as he spilled over both hand and stomach.

Reaching his limit moments after Lahabrea, Elidibus buried deep, resting his brow against Lahabrea’s own. A shudder rocked through him as he met his peak, spending himself in Lahabrea with a low groan.

Stealing a moment more in close company, Elidibus lingered before leaning back and pulling out. Easing Lahabrea’s leg from his shoulder and further disentangling himself from the other, Elidibus sat back on his haunches, content to handle clean up in the quiet.

The distant roll of thunder accompanied the slow drips of rain, a reminder of their location. Elidibus supposed the noise was soothing. Tucking himself away and wiping his hand clean with a conjured slip of cloth, he glanced towards his companion.

Peculiar stillness had seized him in the afterglow, a rarity Elidibus doubted he would be lucky to witness from the man again. Flattened against and all but melted into the bedding, Lahabrea made no effort to immediately resume his fevered activity, in fact he seemed rather disinclined to it. Subservient to his vessel's simple demand for air, he laid idle as his chest heaved.

“That the Esteemed Speaker should be so speechless,” Elidibus murmured, idle jest as he cleaned off Lahabrea’s stomach, “I should be flattered.”

A soft grunt was his response, neither amused nor offended. Lahabrea made no effort to rise, content to study the Emissary. His brow furrowed as Elidibus reached and brushed the sweat-slick hair out of his face.

“You took a living vessel,” Lahabrea mused.

“So I have,” Elidibus confirmed, swinging his legs off the bed to sit at the edge.

“You do not do so often,” he carried on.

The Emissary hummed softly, another confirmation as he watched him. A faint frown etched across his face, thoughtful as he reached across the sheets in a moment of aimless searching. His fingers found his mask, pulling it closer to himself before lifting it up. After a moment spent regarding the mask, he glanced towards Elidibus.

“You have my gratitude…”

Formal and distant, their intimacy dissipated by Lahabrea’s nature. Elidibus smiled in his typical fashion. The roll of thunder sounded again, growing closer.

“I would sooner have your assurance.”

Looking back to the mask in his hands, Lahabrea replaced it, setting it upon his brow. Without an answer provided, Elidibus began to rise.

“It will be your own discretion that eases your path. You are not alone, Lahabrea. That is if you allow yourself to be.”

He began to pick himself up, rising up on his elbows as Elidibus started to depart. He swiftly spoke up, “Then I will allow myself. Will you stay?”

The Emissary paused, familiarity gnawing at him in the request. He knew, some small voice within whispering it was out of his hands and ultimately beyond his influence and still something greater contested it in sentiment that he could do more, change the outcome of something beyond his control. Selfishly, he entertained the greater need. Watching the mask and wondering at the expression it guarded, Elidibus closed his eyes.

“I will.”