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Lysithea is on her way to the library after the war council when Claude catches up with her.

“Hey,” he says, with that affable smile she long ago learned means nothing much of anything. “Got a minute?”

“Not really,” Lysithea says, always her answer to such a question. “What is it?”

He glances around, which should be her first clue something is up, and nods toward a secluded corner near the entrance to the training grounds. “Just wanted to ask you something.”

That’s suspicious, but she follows him over and leans against the wall, watching as he rakes a hand through his tousled hair and studies her with that sharp, cool gaze.

“Claude, out with it,” Lyisthea says, finally. “If I don’t have a minute, I certainly don’t have all day.”

He gives her that charming, empty smile and ducks his head, going for sheepish. She rolls her eyes. He’s never fooled her with this act, not for a minute, and it’s sort of insulting he keeps trying.

“Okay, okay. I just think maybe you might need to, ah. How do I say this.” He puts his hands behind his head, tilts his chin up.

“Whatever it is, just say it already.”

He drops his hands, and his shoulders straighten -- his smile fades, and there he is, the ruler of the Alliance, their general, a man she knows for a fact to be a ruthless fighter for whom charm is just another weapon in his arsenal. “You’re a ball of stress lately, more so than normal. Have you thought about finding someone to let off a little steam with, maybe?”

It takes her a second to work out what he means, and despite her insistence he should just come out with it, she tries to ignore the sudden flush in her cheeks. “It’s not really the best time, is it? We’re fighting a war.”

“We are,” Claude says. “But I know a stressed-out dominant when I see one, believe me. And yes, I know, you’re an adult and can take care of yourself, but...this battle coming up is important. I need everyone with a clear head, and yours isn’t clear. I think it might help if you put someone on their knees.”

Lysithea’s mouth tightens. He’s not wrong, exactly, but what is she supposed to do about it? “Not a lot of options, you realize,” she says. “Marianne’s collared to Hilda, Ignatz isn’t a masochist and Leonie just wants to do my chores, carry me like a sack of grain and clean my room.”

“Yeah,” Claude says, “I know none of them are really ideal, but you might ask around. There are other submissives. Must be a masochist in the bunch somewhere, yeah?”

A spark of heat washes over her at his phrasing. Damn Claude for making her think about the thing she’s not getting. “It’s fine, I’ll deal. There really are other things I need to focus on, anyway.”

“I know, but you’ll do it better if you let yourself get out of your head for a bit,” says Claude.

Lysithea scowls at him, her foot tapping. “Are you offering?”

He laughs, and there’s a ring of actual amusement in it, which is rare enough to get her attention. “Would it work? I’m not really a masochist, but if you can’t find anyone else, I could try.”

Lyisthea huffs and shakes her head. “That’d probably end up with you frustrated I wouldn’t submit, and me frustrated you didn’t like what I was doing.”

“Probably,” he agrees. “Do you want me to ask around, though? I’m serious, Lysithea. I can do that much, at least.’

She thinks about it, but the idea isn’t really that appealing beyond the theoretical; she’s tried it before with people who are just enough of a masochist, or in need of submitting, and mostly it just leaves her more frustrated than anything. And the idea of Claude breezily waltzing around asking the battalions for a masochist is ridiculous.

“I’ll think about it,” she says. They both know she won’t.

“All right.” He knows her well enough, she’s sure, not to argue when she’s made her mind up about something. “Well, let me know, okay?”

Lysithea sighs. “Fine.”

He must know that’s the best he’s getting, because it’s all he says about it. He leaves her there, staring after him, restless with the desire she’s been pushing to the back of her mind and wondering if maybe she should have told him to just find someone and then deal with the awkwardness of hurting someone she doesn’t know.

But she doesn’t call after him, even though she wants to, and maybe she’ll just go to the library for a while and ignore the restlessness and unsettled urges that are waking her up at night in a sweat, wanting something she can’t have.

After all, she’s pretty used to that by now, isn’t she?

As it turns out, she doesn’t have to call after him. She’s barely taken three steps toward the stairs en route to the library when she hears a silky voice from shadows say, “I couldn’t help but overhear, and I think I have an answer to your problem.”

Startled, Lysithea gives a little shriek -- then a scowl as Yuri slinks out of the shadows, smirking with that pretty full mouth and his sly violet eyes. It’s a shame he’s a dominant - she’d love to smack that look off his face, that’s for sure.

“Don’t sneak up on me,” she hisses. “I know too much magic for you to do that!”

“I wasn’t exactly sneaking, friend,” Yuri drawls, stepping closer. “I happened to overhear your conversation with our esteemed leader and hey, I think I can help. Up to you if you want my suggestion or not.”

Lysithea puts her hands on her hips. “I’d have the same problem with you I’d have with Claude, if that’s what you’re offering. Unless you’re trying to convince me you’re a submissive, which means you must think I’m very stupid.”

He laughs, and it rings hollow -- he and Claude are far too much alike -- and bows. “No, no, friend. Don’t misunderstand me. I’m not offering my services, but I think you and I share some of the same predilections, yeah? More than you and von Riegan do, anyway. And I’m perfectly willing to share my own, ah, outlet. You catch me?”

“I think what you’re saying is you’re a sadist and you know someone,” Lysithea says, with a sigh. “Who is it, then?”

“Balthus,” Yuri says. “He’s a total pain slut and he’d be up for it, I’m sure. I haven’t had the time to give him enough attention lately, he’d probably be grateful.”

Lysithea narrows her eyes. “Haven’t had the time, or you’ll get something out of lending him to me?”

He flashes a grin at her. “Oh, well, it’d be nice if you mentioned it to von Riegan, yeah? Can’t hurt to have him owe me a favor, and I’m sure he’d be grateful if I found a way to help out his favorite mage.” He winks at her. “And he’s fun, Balthus. Loves it rough, however you want to give it to him.”

Lysithea thinks about it. Balthus is big, loud and brash -- they’re rarely in the same formations on the battlefield, but she’s seen him when it’s over; wild-eyed and messy from fighting up close and personal as is his style.

“I’ll mention it to him,” Yuri says. “Keep von Riegan from trawling through battalions and finding someone who might not, ah, be to your tastes. How’s that?”

As much as she hates the attention people are giving to a biological imperative she never signed up for, Lysithea feels a little thrill at the idea of being with someone on whom she could actually let loose. Has she ever? Battle doesn’t count, though maybe if she were facing those who tortured her that would be different.

Faceless enemies on a battlefield don’t engender the same kind of biological response as a willing submissive, which, she supposes, is probably some kind of safeguard nature threw in there to make sure armies of sadists didn’t go on a rampage just to satisfy their needs.

“Do what you want,” Lyisthea says, gruffly, because if Yuri’s a sadist then he must know how it feels to have something like that offered, when you’ve gone so long without. “I can’t stop you.”

Yuri’s laugh is a little more honest this time. “Sure thing, firebrand. I’ll throw it out there and see what he says.” He bows and disappears into the shadows from whence he came, and Lysithea -- restless and wanting, now -- considers skipping the library and going straight to her quarters.

But she doesn’t have time for that sort of indulgence, especially not if it’s just on her own, so the library it is.

She wonders if Balthus really will find her, or if he’ll just laugh at the idea; it wouldn’t be the first time she’s been underestimated, especially when it comes to her dominance and the very specific form it takes. She supposes she’ll just have to wait and see.

As it turns out, she doesn’t have to wait very long at all.

***

“Soooo,” a voice says, loud and jarring, as a very large man crashes like a thunderclap into the chair next to her. “I hear you might have need of my services.”

Lysithea looks up from her book and scowls. “Must you be so loud?”

“What? This is my inside voice!” Balthus booms, grinning, hair wild around his face. He’s a very big man, both in his physical presence and his personality, and there are two people in the library who have both stopped to stare at him. “Seriously, though, Yuri told me what’s up, so, no need to be shy.” He leers at her.

“I’m not being shy,” Lysithea says. “I’m being quiet. It’s a library.”

“Sure, but it ain’t like the books are gonna complain.” Balthus waggles his eyebrows at her. “Like I said, you need a pain slut, I’m your man.”

Lysithea closes her eyes as her face heats up. This is not -- this is -- there are people here. Maybe. It’s possible they left. She’s not inherently embarrassed by the needs of her body, but having them shouted out in a room where people read about battle tactics and crest-based magic is a bit much.

She opens her eyes. Balthus is staring at her, eagerness in every line of his body, and she suddenly finds it difficult to swallow. Literally, and also figuratively, because Yuri is too much of a schemer like Claude to believe any of this is real.

Most people probably wouldn’t lie to a sadist and ask to be hurt if they weren’t into it, but Balthus has a very good reason to do it if that sadist happens to be Lysithea.

“This better not be about my family,” she says, trying to keep her voice quiet as if he might learn by osmosis. “Or what you think you owe them.”

“Huh? Oh.” He laughs, head thrown back, and she finds her gaze drifting to the corded muscles of his neck. “No, no. Not at all, besides, if that were the case, I’d just end up owing more.” He leans in closer, and his voice goes low and heated. “Sometimes I scratch myself with my own gauntlets when I’m real hard up for it. Not the same as having a pro do it, but it gets the job done.”

Maybe she’d rather he went back to being loud. This is almost worse, the image he’s putting in her mind. He’s a big, tough fighter who likes pain and is offering all of that to her for some reason. She frowns. “You know Claude isn’t going to consider this some kind of favor for Yuri to collect on later, if you say yes.”

Balthus laughs again. “I know that, are you kidding? I don’t care if it gets him six favors with von Riegan or none, you tell me there’s a hard-up sadist who needs to let loose on a willing pain slut, I’m there. If I didn’t live my life doing shit like this, how do you think I ended up in all the trouble I’m in in the first place, huh?”

She can’t argue with that, and honestly, she doesn’t really want to. Claude’s not wrong, she does need to clear her head, and if Balthus is really into it...it’s better than playing dominance games with Claude that she’ll lose (because Lyisthea’s not stupid, she knows Claude isn’t using half the natural authority he has) or awkwardly telling some poor Alliance battalion archer to strip and let her scratch him bloody for an hour.

“Don’t look at me and think I can’t dish it out just because I’m not very big,” she says, because that’s important. “I know I’m small, but I can hurt you and I can hurt you bad.”

His smile is slow, wicked and utterly genuine. She spends so much time around people hiding things that she’s almost forgotten what it’s like to be around someone who smiles with their eyes, not just their mouths. His light up like magefire, a fitting accompaniment to that hellishly pleased grin.

“I am counting on it,” he says. “And I got the perfect place, too. Don’t worry. Abyss is all nice and set up for this kind of thing. You don’t even need to bring your toys. Whatever you like, I’m sure we got it and a few more besides.”

“If you wouldn’t mind,” a voice says. It’s Seteth. “This is a library. Take your assignations elsewhere.”

Lysithea stands up so quickly she nearly goes dizzy, though that could also be from her sudden and intense desire to see if Balthus really can take it like he’s promising. “Fine. Give me an hour and I’ll meet you in Abyss. Bring those gauntlets, the ones you use that work with magic.” She pauses. “Make sure they’re clean. You have plenty of time.”

“Hot damn!” Balthus enthuses, and jumps to his feet.

The chair clatters behind him to the floor. Seteth sighs, loudly.

Lysithea walks out of the library with her face on fire and her head held high, and it’s only when she’s nearly back to her room that she realizes she forgot all of her books.

***
She’s there in an hour, and he’s already waiting for her.

Balthus has done something that she thinks is supposed to be “make himself look nice,” meaning he’s combed his wild mane of hair and is wearing a shirt. Which is ridiculous, she’s just going to take it off him anyway.

“This way,” Balthus says, and leads her through the twists and turns until they come to a side room she’s never seen before.

Her eyes go wide as they enter; it’s set up with a bed, restraints, and a selection of toys that are well-kept and neatly organized -- Lyisthea would bet it was Constance’s work -- and some of which she doesn’t even know what they’re for. But she doesn’t really use many toys. Lyisthea’s got enough of her own, and she’s always liked using her hands.

Balthus is almost vibrating with -- something, eagerness maybe, as he watches her survey the room and all the accoutrement she could use to wreck him with. Her breath is coming a little faster at the thought of it, in fact, and she reaches out to a rack of canes, selecting a rattan one and testing the snap of it. She smiles when she hears Balthus’s audible inhalation of breath.

He is eager. Good.

She turns to him, and he meets her gaze for a half second before shifting it down. “Most people say something about how they’re surprised I’m a dom at all, much less a sadist. If you’re saving it hoping it’ll get me to hit you harder if you mention it later, don’t. It’ll just make me want to stop.”

He doesn’t raise his gaze, but she can see his smile. “Are you kidding, ha, I’ve seen you fight. And you know my best friend, Holst Goneril? He’s a menace and he’s not that much taller than you are. Still made me cry spanking my bare ass, once. So, yeah. I’m catchin’ what you’re throwin’ out, believe me.”

All she can imagine is a masculine version of Hilda spanking Balthus, smelling like flowers and purring in a sweet voice while he did it. She shakes her head slightly to dispel the deeply weird image, then picks up a ball gag and eyes him speculatively.

His eyes lift briefly and he laughs. “Want to gag me, huh? Yuri does it all the time.”

“In general, yes,” Lysithea says, dryly. “But not for this. I --” she realizes she’s blushing again, and it really is better that she’s doing this with someone she knows at least a little. She can’t imagine how much worse it would be with someone she’d never met.

Does this mean she’s going to owe Yuri and Claude a favor? Better make it worth it, then. “I want to hear you,” she says. “Strip and lay down, and tell me what you like.”

Balthus starts stripping before she’s even finished speaking. “I like anything,” he says, and again, she’s struck by how guileless he is, how genuinely eager. She doesn’t doubt he knows how to lie with the best of them, but it’s a relief he’s not hiding how into the idea of this he is.

Lysithea’s been hurt before, badly, and she’s never entirely comfortable with the idea that her biology makes her crave doing it to someone else. It’s why she wouldn’t have been able to do this with Claude or even Leonie, who might have offered and has, on occasion, subbed for her when Lysithea needed it bad enough to temper the full extent of her desires.

She wants someone so eager they’re practically tripping over their own pants, like Balthus. Even if it does look more than a little ridiculous, this big, imposing man hopping on one foot in his hurry to get naked for her to hurt.

“I need your limits,” Lysithea says, and eyes the aural knuckles resting on a table next to the bed. “I won’t do it unless I know, and there has to be something you don’t like.”

“Uh,” Balthus stops, sitting on the bed and taking off his boots. He’s naked save his underwear, all rippling muscle and lightly scarred skin. “Look, I’d tell you if there was something, but, uh. If it’s physical, go for it. Pull my hair, scratch me, make me bleed, see if you can make me cry.”

She can barely breathe and has to swallow a few times to make herself speak. “And what about not physical? People think I’m mean.”

He flashes that hellion’s smile at her again. “I probably won’t mind if you get me going enough, but how’s this -- I like making it clear I’m having a good time, so, I’ll be loud about it unless you tell me to be quiet. I’m real bad at that, but if it’s what you’re into, go ahead and try to shut me up.”

She huffs a laugh at that and nods. “You’re trying to tell me I can use my magic on you?”

“You know silence magic?” he asks, blinking. “I thought just Marianne knew that.”

“I know death magic,” Lysithea says. “That shuts people up faster.”

There’s that smile again. “I like you. Nah, don’t worry about me. Just do what you need, I’ll like it. You, uh. Gonna wear that dress, though? Look, I should also tell you I get pretty worked up. Follow me?”

Yes, because he’s getting worked up now, she can see his cock pressing against his underwear, which is all he’s wearing. And he’s not the only one; she can feel herself getting wet, the low throb of arousal in her clit, her stomach fluttering and curling with heat.

“Don’t touch me unless I tell you to,” she says. “But ask if you want something.”

“Sure thing.” He stands up, finished with his boots, and his hands go to his underwear.

Standing, his arousal is even more pronounced and...ah. It’s as big as the rest of him, that much is obvious even through the fabric, and she doesn’t even think he’s fully hard, yet. She’s taken Leonie’s strap before, which isn’t small, and she’s used it on her, too. But he’s probably a lot bigger than that, which is a challenge.

Lysithea is always up for a challenge. “Take them off.”

He steps out of his underwear, and she wasn’t wrong about his size or the fact he’s not even fully hard yet; he gets harder, though, as she stares at him. “Lay down,” Lysithea says, and pauses at the lacings of her dress. “If I said I didn’t want sex but would let you get off, is that all right?”

“Told you it was, sure,” he says, and then, “if you want my cock, though, you can have it.”

“We’ll see,” says Lysithea, demurely, and takes off her dress.

She can feel his eyes on her as she strips down to her thin chemise and her underwear, but she doesn’t mind the staring -- likes it, if she’s honest, she’s never thought herself as inherently sexy or beautiful, not like some of the other women she knows. It might be her sadism and the promise of pain that has Balthus panting for it, but she can’t deny the pleasure she takes in his admiring looks as she lets her hair down and picks up the cane, resting it on the table next to his gauntlets.

“Just that?” he asks. “Yuri broke a cane on my ass, once. Might want a few more.”

“I like using my hands,” she says, and then stands by the bed, staring down at him. There’s so much of him, he’s so big, muscular and sprawled out with the inherent, sexy confidence of a man who knows he’s about to get what he wants. “Thank you for this, Balthus.”

“Don’t thank me yet,” he says, tipping his chin up and showing a bit of his throat. “Make me earn it, yeah, pal?”

“Don’t call me pal,” she says, and smacks him across the face.

He moans, and all right, fine, maybe she is going to owe Yuri a favor or two after this.

Lysithea hesitates for a moment, but then she goes ahead and climbs on top of him. It’s a bit like mounting her pegasus, if she’s honest, and she isn’t even sure where is best to sit; in the end, she straddles his hips, just above the hot press of his cock so that she’s seated on his abs.

They’re -- impressive. His whole body is impressive, really, the corded thick muscles of his shoulders and brawler’s arms, his pecs, his trim waist, the thick thighs she fully intends on marking up. She stares down at him and reaches out to twist his nipples. “There’s so much of you.”

He laughs. “Sure is. What should I do with my hands, huh?”

She shrugs. “Whatever you want. Do you want them cuffed?” She can see there are hooks behind the bed, but she likes watching masochists squirm, likes watching them grab and clutch at the covers or their own hair.

“Only if you do,” he says, agreeable as ever. His eyes are on her breasts. “You’re pretty.”

She flushes at that. “Thank you.” She doesn’t even know where to start, but she knows what she likes so she puts her hand on his chest and draws her nails down, watches him start to breathe faster just from that little bit of pain. “I thought Yuri said he’s a sadist, but it seems like no one’s done this to you in a while.”

“Yeah, he is, and he does, but...let’s just say I’m into how intense you are. Yuri’s a fucking tease. I like it sometimes, but sometimes I just want it to hurt, you know?”

She does know. She gets a hand in his hair and pulls hard, grinding down against his abdominal muscles as she rakes his skin with her nails on her other hand. He moves so much it really is like riding a pegasus.

“Come on, you can do better than that,” he teases, and she doesn’t have a lot of patience for brats, but that’s fine. She knows what to do.

She smacks him, pulls his hair, scratches up and down his chest, digging her nails in and feeling the buzz start in her head as he thrashes beneath her and moans. He’s responsive, urging her on even as she scratches so hard she draws blood.

“Fuck, yeah,” Balthus moans, eyelids fluttering as he crosses his wrists above his head.

Lyisthea leans down and bites him. The rush of it hits her all at once and she keeps biting, and if she wasn’t so into this already she’d laugh at how much he reminds her of a warhorse. Big and eager, hard to stay on top of once it gets going into the fray.

She climbs off him and smiles in pure enjoyment as he makes a desperate, aching sound at the loss of her slight weight -- but now she thinks she needs to slow down just a little, she doesn’t want this to be over too fast. She searches through the neatly-organized drawer until she finds a set of nipple clamps with a weight at the end of the chain, and holds them up with an arched look.

“Hell yeah, bring it on,” Balthus enthuses, and his cock twitches as she heads back over and leans over him, attaching the clamps to his nipples and giving the weighted chain a tug.

“Get up and bend over the bed, brace yourself on your hands,” she orders, and he hurries to obey, hissing through his teeth as he puts his hands on the bed as instructed. The weight pulls the chain down and tugs the clamps on his nipples, and she takes a moment to appreciate his body, his firm ass, the long heavy muscles of his thighs.

“You’re very. Well made,” Lysithea says, and as much as she’s confident in her ability to hurt him, praise doesn’t come as easy.

He chuckles. “Glad you approve, little lady.”

Her eyes narrow. “Didn’t I tell you that calling me things like that won’t make me hurt you?”

“Forgot,” Balthus says, cheerfully. “Not real smart, and you’ve got me half-under just with the clamps. Also, sorry, but you’re hot as fuck and I know you’re gonna cane my ass good and proper.”

She smacks his ass with her open palm, smiling as it makes the chain move and the clamps pull. She knows she can’t leave those on very long, so she takes up the cane and rests it against the curve of his upper thighs, just below his ass.

She doesn’t start slow, because she doesn’t think he needs her to and she doubts it would do anything but frustrate them both. And what a relief it is, to let herself go and flick her wrist, bring the rattan cane down over and over, striping his ass with red marks and hearing him moan, watching the way he goes up on his toes, how it makes his body go tense in interesting and very attractive ways.

“You’re doing well,” she praises, though she doesn’t think he necessarily needs it, she still wants him to know. “Does it hurt?”

“Like a bitch,” Balthus says, and wiggles his ass.

She swats him harder with the cane even though he’s clearly asking for it. Brats don’t usually do anything for her, but maybe she can make an exception.

“Don’t -- ah -- take this the wrong way, but -- I’m gonna -- jerk off thinking about this for, ah, yeah, yeah, basically forever,” says Balthus, and that definitely gets her blushing but she can’t deny that she likes the thought of it, him playing with his sore nipples, fisting his cock, thinking about her caning him.

“Me, too,” she says, and laughs outright when he curses inventively, hips pushing forward like he’s trying to get friction on his cock. “But you don’t get to come today unless I say so. You’re earning it, though. I’m not displeased.”

“Damn, that’s good to know,” Balthus says, muscles in his back shifting as she lays some more stripes of the cane on him. “You gonna break that on me, ah -- what do you want me to call you, huh?”

“Lysithea,” she says. “That’s my name.”

“I know,” he laughs. “And I ain’t gonna forget it, don’t worry.”

“Stay still.” Lysithea concentrates, summoning her magic. She knows by now how to do this, put a little trickle of it into a conduit -- the cane, in this instance -- and this time, when it hits his skin, she can tell when he reacts to the slight jolt of it.

“Fuck, fuck, Lysithea,” he pants, shivering all over.

She’s never been with someone with a body like his, before. The way his muscles jump from just that slight bit of magic is fascinating. Lysithea puts the cane away, gets some of her magic going before she reaches underneath his chest, takes the weights of the chain in her hand. It makes the chain spark with electricity, and he shouts, that big body shaking from the simplest little shock.

“That’s fucking inspired,” he praises, and she rewards him with a smack on his striped ass and watches with pleasure as he half-pitches forward.

“Let’s take those clamps off,” she says, finally. “Stand up straight.”

He does, and turns to face her -- his expression is slack with pleasure, his eyes blurry and his pupils blown, his cock rising full between his legs. She’s interested in it -- very much so -- but for now she just reaches up to take off the clamps. It hurts, of course, and she drinks in every tense muscle, every moan and twitch he makes as she removes them.

Then she pinches his sore nipples, twists them, even though she has to go up on her tiptoes to do it. “Did you like the magic?”

“I fucking loved the magic,” he says, dazed. “You’re amazing, damn.”

What a charmer. Lyisthea pats him on the chest. “Lay back on the bed, on your stomach.” Her eyes dart over to the aural knuckles and she’s nearly salivating at the thought of using them on his back.

He moves fast for such a big man, practically throwing himself on the bed for her, shaking and ah, there, now he’s grabbing the covers and that’s exactly what she wants. She spends a few long, delicious minutes scratching up the marks from the cane and watching him writhe, trying to hump the bed.

“Stop that,” she says sharply, grabbing his hair and pulling his head up. “I don’t care if you move around, but remember, you have to earn getting off and we’re not done yet.”

“Thank the fucking Goddess,” Balthus breathes. “And I’ll try, but you’re giving it to me so good, got me so turned on.”

She likes hearing that, a lot. Lysithea pulls off her chemise so she’s only in her underwear, and shoves his head back down before she takes up one of the claws and affixes it to her hand. She climbs back up and sits astride him once more, straddling his reddened ass, and grabs him by the hair again. “You tell me if it’s too much and I’ll stop.”

“Yeah, gonna bet that’s not a problem,” he says, gasping.

“That’s not what I said,” she says, and she’s so wet, she’s sure he must be able to feel it. “Tell me what I said, Balthus.”

“I -- I’ll tell you if it’s too much and you’ll stop,” he repeats.

“Good.” She pushes his head down, and places the tip of the clawed gauntlet against his back. “Try and stay still. I want to hurt you, not eviscerate you.”

“Ain’t real sure what that means but I bet I’d be into it,” he says. “You have got my number, girl.”

Lysithea,” she corrects, though honestly, she doesn’t really mind too much. “And if you want me to let you come, you’ll make sure I know exactly how much this hurts, and how much you like it. Understand, Balthus?”

“Oh, yeah,” he says, and she shoves his face back into the pillow, puts the tip of the claws against his back, and concentrates. This is different than using her magic on the cane or the clamp chain, this takes more concentration because this is a weapon meant to kill.

And it wants her magic, it pulls at it, draws it from her like she’s using Thyrsus in battle. It takes all her considerable skill to put the right amount into it, and all her self-control not to just shred his back under the claws. She really doesn’t want to eviscerate him, but the temptation is there, the sadism burning as hot as her magic as she drags the claws of the gauntlet down his tense, firmly muscled back.

He screams, and bucks so hard she almost falls off -- would have, if she didn’t grab his hair like a bridle to stay on top of him.

“Too much?” she asks, breathless, as she feels herself tip over fully into that special brand of topspace; the one that makes her feel wild, a yearning to tear at him, to hear more of those screams, feel him buck beneath her.

Balthus is shivering, and she thinks she sees sparks from the magic but it could just be her imagination. He shakes his head, and his no is the quietest he’s been since he found her in the library.

“You’re so -- so good,” she says, tripping over the words, praise is not her strong suit but she really wants him to know that she appreciates how he’s taking this for her, how much he likes it.

“Can feel that you like it,” he says, as she waits a bit, watching the scratch marks on his back from the claw turn an angry, sharp red on his skin. “So wet, you get off on this, it’s so hot.”

She twines her hand in his hair and shivers herself, grinding against him and he’s not wrong, she’s so wet that she would just take off her underwear if she could stop long enough to do it. “I’m going to do it again. Are you ready?”

So ready, beautiful,” he pants. “Lysithea. Beautiful, evil Lysithea, do it harder this time, yeah?”

“You really are a pain slut,” she says, admiringly, and does it again. She lets just a little more magic through, enough this time that she feels the residual shock of it, not just from the weapon but from it spilling out hot over his skin. It’s almost too much this time, especially because she gives in and drags the claws down harder, enough that she smells the sharp scent of blood almost immediately. The magic cauterizes it, though, and that makes him scream and her moan, enthralled by how he moves underneath her and takes it and moans.

“Why the fuck,” he says, because even that doesn’t shut him up, “is there not a line in front of your door to kneel for you, fuck, fuck, I’m gonna get a hard-on every time I look at these fucking things, ah.”

“You talk a lot,” she says, putting the claw aside, studying his back. She leans down and presses her mouth to the skin, welted now, needing a moment to calm down herself. She’s never been affectionate and mostly finds kissing a waste of time, but this is different, soothing them both, maybe.

Except then he says, “bite, c’mon,” and she should maybe make him ask or say please but that’s pointless, they both want it so she just goes ahead and does it. She bites down on the welts but the rush makes her want more, it’s not quite enough.

She sits back up and says, “I want to make you bleed, tear these open,” and her voice is husky, full of dominance.

“Please,” he moans. “Please.”

He begs so prettily, who would have thought? “It’ll. Make a mess,” she says, though she doesn’t know why she’s arguing when it’s so obvious he wants the same thing.

“That’s why we got a laundry, c’mon, do it, tear me up.”

Well, how’s she supposed to say no to that? She sits back up, bites her bottom lip and then lets herself do it; rake her nails over the welts from the claws, over and over, until she’s moaning from it and he’s thrashing beneath her, crying out, his body covered in sweat and blood from her nails breaking skin.

She’s rubbing herself against him, the soaked fabric of her underwear giving her delicious friction against her clit, and when she sees him biting the pillow beneath him, she shivers hard and nearly comes from the sight.

“Lysithea,” he gasps, after another vicious long rake of her nails. “I -- I’m close --”

It takes her a second to parse what he’s saying, that he’s about to come from this, from her tearing his back open with her nails. She pushes away and scrambles off him, momentarily pulling hard at her own hair to channel the hot rush of arousal at knowing just how into this he really is. If it’s ever been this good with someone before, she has no idea when.

“You -- lay on your back,” she orders, and he does it immediately, flipping over and hissing as his sore back rubs against the bedding. He blinks wide, dazed eyes up at her, and she can see his cock is red, slick with precome, fully hard against his stomach.

She gives him a few moments to breathe, then takes off her soaked underwear and resists the urge to shove her hand between her legs and get off just looking at him -- sweaty, marked up, panting and so eager his hips are lifting off the bed. He’s got his hands in the bedding, fisting it so hard his knuckles have turned white.

She could come standing here staring, or…

Lysithea gets on top of him again, pressing her aching cunt to the hard muscles of his stomach, ignoring -- for the moment -- his cock and settling against him. She shifts her hips, gasps and puts her hands on his shoulders.

“Fuck, you’re so gorgeous,” he breathes, blinking up at her and she does, in fact, feel gorgeous. “Can I touch you?”

She nods, and his hands go immediately to her breasts -- they’re big enough that both fit easily into his palms. He rubs them, plays with her nipples, and he’s gentle with it, watching her grind with a pleased little smile. “Feel good?”

She nods, angling down, rubbing her clit against him -- or trying, it’s not quite enough and she wants it to be. “Can you --”

She doesn’t even need to finish. He grins, wild and messy, and his abdominal muscles tense up just enough to give her a hard enough ridge to rub against.

“That’s it, yeah,” he urges, playing with her nipples, one hand sliding down her stomach, skin slick with sweat. “Want me to help?”

“You -- are,” she manages, and curls her nails into his shoulders, grinding harder. She’s almost there, so close, and it doesn’t take much longer before she feels herself start to come. She cries out, head going back, strands of her long white hair clinging damply to her face.

The orgasm is almost as good as the rush from hurting him, and she rubs herself through it and doesn’t stop, wanting to come again just like this. She grabs his hand this time and shoves it between her legs, and he says something like you’re so wet, feels so good as he grinds his palm against her. She comes gasping against his hand and rubbing on his perfect stomach, and slumps forward to catch her breath when it’s over.

He’s sort of awkwardly patting her back, which is cute, though his big body is trembling underneath her and she knows he’s on edge, too. Lysithea stares down at him, then leans in and kisses him.

He kisses her back, open-mouthed, a hand sliding up around the back of her neck to hold her close. He’s very good at kissing. She’s not surprised, given how much he runs his mouth.

When she sits back up, she reaches back and feels that he’s still just as hard, his cock wet. She studies him, thinking about what she wants, what to do now. He’s clearly under, and her sadism has eased into a desire to reward him for taking it so well.

“Want to ride that big cock, gorgeous?” he asks, and honestly, it’s ridiculous and she would laugh, maybe, if she weren’t thinking that was exactly what she wanted.

She nods, and gets to her knees, body languid and still shaking a bit from the intensity of coming so hard twice in a row. It’s a bit awkward -- his cock is big, he wasn’t exaggerating -- and his hands settle on her hips as she tries to get it positioned to take him.

“Let me help, yeah?” His voice is breathless and tight, but his eyes are bright and interested -- he’s under but fully present, eager, his hands still so gentle as they curve around her hips. “Saints, but you’re such a little thing -- hey, now, don’t give me that look, just don’t want to hurt you, s’all. Would hate it if you didn’t want to do this again.”

Lysithea huffs, she hates being treated like she’s incomptent but she is much smaller than he is; so she nods her assent and he helps her, holding her up with effortless strength as she gets his cock pressed against her and starts to take him inside.

Somehow it feels even bigger than it looked. She barely has the tip inside before she has to stop, forcing herself to breathe. “Oh.”

“Yeah, see, that’s it, fuck, Lysithea, you feel so good. Just take it nice and slow, there you go, mm.” He shifts beneath her, smiling, encouraging. She’s never been with someone who’s in such a good mood after being bloodied and caned and scratched to an inch of his life, before.

The thought makes her slide down another inch, then another. His hands are an anchor and she breathes in deep, allowing him to do the work and reaching to rub her clit. “Tell me how much you liked what I did to you,” she demands, bossily, as her fingers slide through her slick folds, rubbing two fingers against her still-swollen clit.

“Oh, I loved it,” he says, easing her down a bit more. “Felt so good, you can scratch me up anytime. Never had someone use magic quite like that. Was hot when you got off on my abs, too.” He grins at her. “King of grappling, has its benefits, yeah?”

She gives a little huffing laugh and smacks him weakly on the arm. “What would I have to do to actually shut you up?”

“Why do you think Yuri uses that gag? He gets off on my abs, too, sometimes.” Balthus is preening, and fine, maybe he’s earned it. “Hey, gorgeous, you’ve almost taken all of me, that’s good, how’s it feel?”

“As -- impossible as the rest of you,” she informs him, and he laughs, as loud and lusty as he’d screamed for her.

By the time she’s fully seated on his cock, he’s stopped laughing and she’s getting used to it, how full she is, trying to find the perfect angle and figure out how, exactly, to ride him when it took her so long to get it all the way inside of her in the first place.

“Just, there you go, like that, do what you want,” he urges, lifting his hips a little, teeth catching at his lower lip. “You’re so tight, feels so good.”

Lysithea wriggles a bit, experimentally, and leans forward to -- she’s not sure, maybe bite him -- and gasps outright as the angle makes it go from uncomfortable to amazing. “That’s -- there, that’s good, move like you did before -- ah,” she shivers, hanging on to him, and starts rocking herself back and forth.

He beams at her, smug and infuriating. “Could call me the king of fu--mmph.”

She slaps a hand over his mouth. “I don’t need to hurt you but I can.”

He winks at her, and when she takes her hand away, he says, “Don’t I know it.”

She’s wet enough, relaxed now, and it’s easier to move up and down on his cock -- he makes gorgeous sounds, almost as good as the ones he made while she hurt him. He talks a lot more, though, so at one point she slides two fingers into his mouth over his tongue, pressing them in deep as she moves.

“Gonna take more than two of your fingers to choke me, beautiful,” he says. “Might wanna try adding another.”

That sounds like a challenge. Lysithea’s found her rhythm now, and his cock feels amazing inside her no matter how she moves or what angle she’s riding him, so she tosses her hair and says with every bit of dominance in her voice, “Let’s try all of them, then,” and shoves her whole hand in his mouth.

It’s worth it for the startled look he gives her, the muffled noise he makes and the way his hips buck up, driving his cock even deeper. She fucks his mouth with her whole hand, practically a fist, and the noise he makes when he chokes, the way he gags, makes her ride him harder, faster, gets her other hand between her legs to work her to another shuddering orgasm. He tilts his head, shows her his throat and chokes on her fingers so hard his eyes tear up, spilling wet onto his cheeks.

That’s enough for her to come on his cock, quick little gasps as her toes point, her calves tensing hard as she grinds herself against him and shudders through it.

“Mmph,” he mumbles, around her hand. His eyes are wide, desperate, and he’s fucking up into her with sharp pushes of his hips.

Lysithea pulls her hand free, listens to him gasp for air and drags her wet fingers against his cheek. “Next time I’ll put a cock ring on you so that you behave until I’m ready to be done.” She makes her voice severe, but she’s teasing -- she’s definitely done, and she wants to see him come for her.

She grabs his hair with two hands and pulls, hard. She almost tells him to put her on her back and fuck her, hard and overwhelming, but she’s enjoying the control too much right now to do it. Besides, she knows he’s close, just waiting for her to say it’s all right -- and she’s as sated as she’s ever been, but still enough of a sadist to smile and lean in, kiss him softly on the mouth before she says, “You can come, let me hear you.”

Not the hottest dirty talk, maybe, but it does the trick. Balthus gasps out something and grabs her hips, holds her still and fucks up into her so hard the bed bounces and she feels shocks practically against her spine and yeah, she might need to be on her back next time for this. He comes with a shout, loudly, and his fingers go bruising tight on her hips; the first time he’s done anything remotely close to hurting her, but she doesn’t mind.

It must be a good orgasm, from the way he shakes through it and moans, head tossing so his messy purple hair is tangled up and in his face when he finally stills.

“Holy fuck,” Balthus says, because of course he doesn’t stay quiet for long.

Lysithea pats him on the shoulder. She’s very sticky, and hot, he feels like a thousand degree furnace beneath her. But she feels -- good. Better than good, actually. She feels amazing, quiet, and she’ll die before she tells Claude that she really did need this, but...she did.

Balthus lifts her off him, and she winces a bit as his fingers press against the bruises he left. He’s immediately contrite, and before she can even tell him it’s fine -- she’s had much worse in battle, she’s had worse stubbing her toe -- he’s kneeling in front of her on the floor, and there’s a warm flash of light as he uses his healing magic to heal her.

“I’m sorry,” he says, gruffly, and he does honestly look contrite. “Didn’t mean to do that. Don’t know my own strength, when I -- sorry.”

“It’s fine,” she says, placing a hand on his arm. “Honestly. I’m not going to break. Believe me. I did much worse to you.” Which reminds her, she’s gifted enough with faith magic if he needs the same from her. “Do you want me to --”

“No,” he says, quickly, glancing up at her. “I like the ache. Feels good.”

Lysithea pats his hair, realizing somewhat belatedly that he’s kneeling for her. “Thank you for letting me do that. I really did need it.”

“Me, too. And hey, anytime.” He smiles, and it’s interesting to see him like this, under and quiet, all his boisterousness calmed and settled. “You’re something else, Lysithea.”

She gives his hair a tug. “I’ve given you all the praise I am physically capable of giving you.”

He laughs. “Yeah, s’fine, I get it. My ego’s doing just great, beautiful, believe me.”

“I figured,” she says, smoothing his hair back. “You should let me see your back, though.”

“Wanna see your work, eh?” He turns around, still on his knees, and lets her look. His back is a mess of scratches and bruises and welts, smeared blood on his skin, but a quick dash of her fingers shows her that nothing is too deep or dangerously in need of attention.

“You sure you don’t want me to heal these?” she asks, and she would, if he wanted, but she’s more than a little pleased when he repeats the no. “All right. But at least let me clean them for you.”

He stays kneeling while she gets up, finds some water and a clean cloth and returns to sit behind him on the bed. He’s quiet while she works, occasionally making a pleased hum when it stings, because he really is that much of a masochist.

By the time his back is clean and they’ve both put themselves together as much as possible, Lysithea is bone-tired and ready for a bath, some dinner, and then to get back to work. Balthus is cheerful as ever by the time they’re ready to leave the room, with the bedding bundled up for the laundry and the toys cleaned and returned to order.

She blushes when he picks up his aural knuckles, and he laughs in delight and chucks her under the chin. She allows it, but makes sure he knows if he does it again, she’ll dark spikes him somewhere he won’t like it.

“Yeah,” he says. “Good luck with that.”

Balthus walks her to the entrance to the monastery, and Lysithea, not one for words but wanting to at least show her appreciation, reaches out and touches him lightly on the arm. “I’m grateful,” she says, earnestly. “Thank you for that.”

“Hey, don’t you worry, I had just as much fun. You just let me know whenever you need that again, yeah? I got a whole array of gauntlets you can play with, if you want.”

“Maybe the gag next time,” she says, but she’s teasing and it’s clear he knows it. She leans up and kisses him on the cheek, which isn’t easy given how tall he is, and then heads back to her room.

On the way, she passes Claude, who takes one look at her and grins widely.

“Don’t,” she says, and pretends not to hear his delighted laugh as she walks by without another word.