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For as long as he has made Emet-Selch’s acquaintance, the Exarch has—had—kept his eyes covered. And it was for Emet-Selch and Emet-Selch alone that he took to covering them: in the scale of the Eighth Umbral Calamity he could not harbor any residual concern for their hue, and it has no significance to the citizens of the First besides. Whether it was merely to match the anonymity offered by an Ascian’s mask that they might treat on more level a playing field, or whether truly in his naivete he thought a bit of cloth might prevent a native of the Source from recognizing his particular heritage, the Exarch could not say.

Even before taking on the guise of Solus zos Galvus had Emet-Selch sought the Exarch’s gaze no matter how he turned away, and little did it now matter, when mere days into his captivity had Emet-Selch’s claws ripped the cowl to ribbons in an act of revenge even for him insultingly petty. But while at times he misses its comfort it is only nights like this the Exarch truly longs for it: more than when Emet-Selch curls his lip in mockery, even more than the pout which betrays his pity, the Exarch hates when Emet-Selch takes him to bed on his back, looks into his eyes, and does not let go.

The Exarch sets his mouth and merely turns his head as Emet-Selch lays him bare, robes tossed aside. “You trust me not to run, then?” A non-question, when in months he has not yet tried.

“Do you think you could?” Emet-Selch offers in equal non-answer. He lays a hand on the Exarch’s bare hip, and for a moment it is possible he will have changed his mind, taken mercy—if it can be called mercy—and decided he’d rather the Exarch on his knees, but Emet-Selch is not a merciful man. There was a time the Exarch would not for even a moment have expected otherwise.

Emet-Selch’s hand trails from hip to the outside of the Exarch’s thigh, down to his knee. He presses out only gently with the back of his hand, and the Exarch opens his legs for him. To run or not, even to threaten it, it no longer matters: the sheer weight of a Garlean man atop him, even a small one, is no obstacle easily overcome, and for all the Exarch’s weakness Emet-Selch plainly does not consider him frail. He takes only a small amount of his weight on one forearm and leaves the rest to bear down on the Exarch’s hips, his cock hard dragging against the Exarch’s only half. His hand follows, stroking himself though the Exarch can feel plainly enough that he does not need it.

The mess of come and oil left inside him is enough that it is easy for Emet-Selch to push into him—as easy as it can ever be. The Exarch tips his head back, his legs clinging to Emet-Selch’s waist, wet and fucked past resistance but never so open that cock doesn’t at first feel as though it might split him apart.

Emet-Selch fucks into him not gently, never gently, but neither cruelly, and when at last the Exarch has taken all his length— enough of it, at least, as much as he can not on his knees, Emet-Selch bruising his hips as he forces the Exarch to yield—when he has taken all Emet-Selch has to give him, he pauses, curls forward to rest his forehead on the bedding beside the Exarch’s head. From the matching race of their breath, the Exarch could not say for whose benefit he waits. He shivers for the open hand laid again on his thigh, and when Emet-Selch’s shoulder flexes beneath his clutching fingers he fights to focus on that touch rather than the fullness that threatens to overwhelm him—and when Emet-Selch takes up his weight again to begin, the Exarch steals his lips in a kiss before he can rise enough to truly be seen.

His ploy fails. Emet-Selch returns his kiss but does not allow the Exarch to deepen it; at the touch of the Exarch’s tongue to the seam of his lips he retreats to the Exarch’s cheek, his jaw. He is mouthing across the flesh of his throat when he first thrusts, deep and unforgiving when the Exarch cannot possibly stop him, and he echoes the Exarch’s cry which reverberates beneath his lips.

The Exarch feels the tears gathering at the corners of his eyes for naught but the physical demands wrung from him, the shadow of his earlier pleasure laid over the strain of being fucked and his cock gone soft crushed against Emet-Selch’s hip. But his hands are free: he leaves crystal fingers to dig into what muscle there is in Emet-Selch’s shoulder, and lifts his other to lay across his eyes. There is nothing left that the Exarch can hide—Emet-Selch has seen his tears before, and he will see the tracks they leave this night—but he can at least pretend, and hope Emet-Selch is in a mood to be kind.

He screws his eyes shut when he feels the crystal which makes up his forearm contract before it can be torn from its place, and without so much as interrupting the brutal rhythm he has set Emet-Selch forces the Exarch take bruising hold of his own wrist, wrenching his arms up and back in a motion far too abrupt that makes his shoulder ache until the Exarch is effectively pinning his own wrists above his head. He curls what fingers he can, helpless, and the tears spill from his lashes. Whether through aether or some sense entirely banal he can feel the weight of the gaze upon him, and upon opening his eyes he cannot avert them fast enough that he does not take in the sight: Emet-Selch watching him, blinking little, raking over the Exarch’s tear-stained face. Some drops catch in the crystal of his cheek, others his collarbones, and Emet-Selch’s lips follow his eyes to kiss them away in a moment—in a mockery of tenderness.

In shaky movements worsened by the force of those awful thrusts the Exarch shakes his head in defiance, turning his head to tear his face away—better that he stains the linens, if he must, than his own face.

“No, no,” Emet-Selch taunts, seizing his chin in one hand and wrenching his neck back to the center.

Clear enough, then, and held fast the Exarch sets his eyes upon Emet-Selch’s mouth in the hopes it will be close enough to what he truly wants that he might not be corrected further. Yet beneath the demand, beyond the inescapable pressure within that will no doubt leave the Exarch not merely sore but unable to walk—beneath the grip that, should Emet-Selch decide he has no reason to walk and neglect to heal his wounds, will leave bruises scattered all across his jaw—even this he does not think true malice.

Perhaps given the Amaurotine way of dress, it is a habit to express oneself through the eyes which are left revealed. Perhaps, and likely true in any case, it is simply Emet-Selch’s manner. If the Exarch has upon even one occasion witnessed Emet-Selch both attempt to and successfully conceal his emotions, he cannot recall it—and such an oddity would lie stark against meetings spanning decades, no differently than he remembers those few occasions Emet-Selch has pried a forthright response from him.

Or perhaps he only wants to watch the object of his fascination come apart, and if the Exarch has ever been in any position to deny him, he is no longer: on his back in Emet-Selch’s bed, the tatters of his robes spread beneath him, the Exarch bound by his own hands and his legs holding Emet-Selch buried inside.

“Where are you, Exarch?” Emet-Selch beckons, tapping the edge of crystal above his cheekbone.

Caught, the Exarch blinks slowly, and gathers his resolve to refocus those scant several ilms higher. Upon the Exarch’s face it is his eyes which betray him, as he is well aware—no matter if Emet-Selch believes him it was not only to hide from him that the Exarch shrouded himself for nigh on a century. But Emet-Selch’s own tend to remain blank save for when he narrows them in anger, and otherwise the sharp gold is offset by roundness the Exarch can attribute only to sorrow. It is his lips which are the most expressive: the affected sneers, exaggerated frowns, even the wistful smiles the Exarch would have thought him incapable of until he wore them plain as any other, looking upon his city or recanting a tale from its life. Only in this very bed has the Exarch discovered his tendency to let his lips apart; what for the Exarch would be flirtation, he has discerned for Emet-Selch is vulnerability.

The Exarch steals another glance toward his mouth, and Emet-Selch’s fingers close around his throat. It would not kill him—Emet-Selch would not kill him, or else the Exarch would have long been dead—but it is a threat all the same, a body still mostly mortal unable to understand that it breathes largely out of habit.

He expects Emet-Selch’s eyes will have narrowed, but when at last he does as Emet-Selch wants of him, they are if anything wide with something the Exarch dare not name aught but sentiment.

Emet-Selch has left him no choice, or so he tells himself. He cranes his neck, pushing against and into Emet-Selch’s hold, to slip his tongue between those parted lips—and likewise when Emet-Selch pulls away, the Exarch can do nothing but let his head fall back to the bed in—in frustration, even momentary defeat. His throat is held loosely yet, but there is only so far he can reach when Emet-Selch is inclined to prevent him.

“Look at me,” says Emet-Selch at last, his voice gone dark.

For all the Exarch feels it unwise to obey, neither does he want to disobey—but no matter what punishment may await him the Exarch sets his mind and shuts his eyes against Emet-Selch’s glare. Fresh tears spill when Emet-Selch thrusts into him deep as though to jar them free, but that will not be the consequence. No, he awaits his throat to be seized, frozen aether to coil around his bones, the crystal across his collarbones to fracture—

—but it is only Emet-Selch’s touch he feels, and gentle at that, brushing the tears away with his lips, and then the Exarch can taste salt in the kiss.

If the Exarch had tried to take Emet-Selch’s mouth, Emet-Selch offers his to the Exarch: moving slowly, lips soft, tongue pressing only so far as to tease the Exarch’s own and retreating to lure him forward. The Exarch’s eyelids flutter, trepidation and gratitude and relief all at once—and he takes a sharp breath for the wordless murmur against his lips when enough tension melts from his body that Emet-Selch can fuck him all the harder. He lifts the Exarch’s hips in but one hand, thrusts up into his worn, wanting hole—even as his tired cock struggles to fill he drags his leg along Emet-Selch’s back in some sort of need, catches his lower lip between his teeth, curls his fingers into the linens beneath him—

He stops cold, and Emet-Selch does not notice, braced on a single hand beside the Exarch’s head and letting himself lower to overtake the Exarch’s mouth in his confusion—but no, it is unthinkable that Emet-Selch would not notice, or make such a simple error. His control over the Crystal Tower is absolute, far greater than any the Exarch has ever commanded or could hope to. The Exarch is breathless for more than Emet-Selch’s kiss as he lifts his right arm with care, testing his bounds—and to curl his fingers into Emet-Selch’s hair is to confirm his suspicion. He knows—they both know that the sorcerer who created all the Exarch has ever known would never lose control of that creation, not for a fuck nor a kiss nor any intricate torment he has yet devised for the Exarch’s displeasure.

The Exarch pulls himself away as he tugs likewise on Emet-Selch’s hair, in need of cool air to fill his lungs. To trust that this—leniency is real is to risk becoming a pawn in a new scheme, a plaything in Emet-Selch’s hand. But if it is not, if it is the Exarch whose desire might win this day—and it may be, for Emet-Selch allows him even those ilms apart, holding his hip, moving slowly, deliberately, dragging his cock against sensitive flesh fucked tender so that the Exarch’s leaks between them.

The Exarch scrabbles to clutch above his shoulder, at the linens or Emet-Selch’s wrist or anything that might anchor him, and meets his eyes.

He can hold it for only seconds which feel an eternity—at least to him—but it is not Emet-Selch’s intensity looking down upon him that makes the Exarch lose his focus but the inevitability of it all becoming too much to bear, a second climax forced from him only half-hard and with no touch but the pressure of Emet-Selch’s body as he moves and the ache within—soon becoming unbearable as Emet-Selch does not stop in the wake of it, the Exarch beneath him able only to endure those seconds, half a minute at most, before Emet-Selch comes and falls still, and between them both the only movement is the rise and fall of rapid breaths neither need.

As his thoughts return the Exarch takes stock of his body, a grounding measure as much as any practical. There is the deep ache between his hips even as Emet-Selch becomes soft within him, his spend making a mess of their thighs; his right hand twitches, falling to Emet-Selch’s nape, but still the choice to curl it is his own. His other—his other lays open on the linens beside him, and Emet-Selch’s fingers are laced with his own.

A true slip, it must be: an accidental bit of intimacy in that singular moment even an Ascian is lost to reason. But that moment has passed, and Emet-Selch has again at his command every trace of the aether which fills this room—and the Exarch is held in place by none of it.

If not now, if not today, one of them must break this spell.

The Exarch lifts his head and brushes Emet-Selch’s cheek with his own, and cannot know if it is Emet-Selch’s hand or his own which drags their parted lips back together.