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Teyvat is a strange place. Its people are nice enough, and the countryside is beautiful; from the gentle, rolling hills around Mondstadt to the sheer Liyue cliffs, Aether really lucked out in terms of worlds to be stuck on.

Dragonspine, though. Dragonspine is awful. A place made from the ire of a fallen god, deathly cold and far too dangerous by half. Nobody is built for Dragonspine. Aether puts most of his energy towards the bare minimum of going from torch to torch and back again and trying to keep everyone from freezing solid. All the rest goes towards Albedo’s odd requests, which he mostly humors in exchange for being able to return to his nice, warm camp. Simply put, he does not have the extra bandwidth for any kind of scheming, so when the Fatui show up, he is just as blindsided as the next person and even more so when Albedo accuses him of luring the Agents and the Skirmishers there.

“Did you?” Albedo asks. There’s a tangible threat behind his careful composure, something lurking behind his eyes that makes Aether go hot all over for a split second.

“I would never!” he says, taken aback. “What reason would I have to be collaborating with the Fatui?” Albedo’s eyes narrow and his mouth sets in a firm line. It makes a dull heat bloom in the pit of Aether’s stomach, sends static up his spine that dances across the tops of his shoulders and out to the tips of his fingers. He wants to fidget, but he’s damned if he does. Albedo turns without so much as a glance back.

“Follow me.”

They trek back to Albedo’s setup. Aether is practically frozen by the time they arrive, but Albedo looks no worse for the wear except for the dirty snow stuck to the soles of his boots. He leads Aether towards the back of the camp and into a small tent pitched in a cranny between two immense boulders. It’s blessedly warm inside; there’s a small, heavy-duty bedroll tucked lengthwise against the back, and what looks to be a permanent warming bottle set in the middle of the tent. Small burners with bubbling flasks sit dangerously close to the concave walls. “You know, I was really hoping that I could just trust you, traveler. However, it was my fault for failing to examine you more thoroughly.” Albedo pulls a vial from a black bag stealthily placed between the far corner of the tent and one of the burner setups. A viscous, golden liquid shimmers and slides around the glass without leaving any residue—he still has that dangerous look in his eyes despite the soft smile on his lips, and Aether’s stomach knits itself into an anxious knot. Albedo laughs gently. Aether’s stomach pulls tighter. “You’re so earnest. You wear your emotions so plainly. It’s fascinating.” Aether’s mouth opens and snaps back shut. It’s not like he really has anything to say, not if he values his life. He just nods stiffly, and Albedo chuckles again. “Would you humor me one more time? Drink this.” Gently, Albedo takes Aether’s hand from where it’s cemented to his side, turns it palm-up and presses the vial into it. Aether swallows heavily.

“Will you tell me what it does, before I do?”

“No, I won’t.” He’s got that same look on as before. Aether feels that static again, more acute this time, and his mouth is very, very dry. “But it won’t have any adverse side effects, if that’s what you’re worried about. As long as you do as I say.” He chances a glance at the glass in his hand. It doesn’t seem particularly hostile, glimmering serenely in the low light, no sparks or sickly green bubbles or anything that would read as dangerous. Albedo would be smarter than that anyway, Aether thinks. He’s stuck, quite literally, between a rock and a hard place, and since he is not intent on incurring the wrath of the best alchemist Mondstadt has to offer, the only thing to do is to drink. So, with a deep breath and under Albedo’s watchful eye, Aether pops the cork and downs the stuff in one go. It doesn’t taste like much, like minty sugar-water more than anything, and a whole lot of nothing happens for a few achingly long moments. Aether stands there as the mint settles on his tongue and across the roof of his mouth.

Albedo wears a ghost of a smile as it happens.

The heat that’s been lurking beneath his skin flares. The knot in his stomach untangles itself at frightening speed and is replaced with something hot, heavy, like his blood has become molten, sticky syrup. A haze settles just behind his eyes and he can’t think straight. The room is warm, but each breath is a frigid, rattling shock to his system. He gulps down air, opens his mouth to say something, ask some question, but before the words can even make themselves up in his head Aether is slammed against the unforgiving cliff with only the thin, shiny material of the tent for a buffer. Albedo’s sword is freezing against his throat. A deeply embarrassing noise escapes him as he’s trapped, and he can feel his whole face flush with a vengeance.

“All you need to do, traveler, is answer my questions. Can you do that for me?” Albedo murmurs. He’s so close, a foot between Aether’s and a hair’s breadth from him, and it sets his nerves on fire. Carefully, so not to disturb the blade, he nods. The corner of Albedo’s mouth quirks up just slightly. “Good.”

Oh.

All thoughts, stringent though they were, are replaced with an overwhelming and unfamiliar feeling of want. “I know you’ve been travelling with that harbinger.” How does he know that? Tartaglia isn’t in Dragonspine. “You are not in the position to be asking questions.” Aether blinks and swallows. He said that out loud? What was in that stuff?

“Answer me. What is your connection to Tartaglia of the Fatui?” Albedo’s cold gaze pierces through him. There’s another long moment. Aether’s strung-up and stranded between the single-minded, demanding ache screaming at him to do something, anything, and what he knows in the back of his addled mind that he must accomplish. Albedo is so close. “Well?”

“I…” Aether’s mouth opens, and the story just spills out—Liyue, Zhongli, the Exuvia, the Adepti, what happened at the Jade Chamber, all of it. He didn’t know he remembered it all, but it’s laid bare for Albedo to assess, all the way up until when Aether wouldn’t let Tartaglia come with him into Dragonspine, despite his adamant protests; they didn’t need his Hydro vision ensuring that they would all be extra frozen. Albedo does not move. Aether swallows. His tongue feels like lead in his mouth.

“As far as I know, he’s back in Liyue Harbor, probably paying for whatever Zhongli needs,” he finishes. Albedo presses forward, chest-to-chest, and Aether’s already-fried brain shorts out entirely.

“And that’s all?” Aether can feel the rumble of Albedo’s chest. This close, he can see that there’s a ring of dark blue around the edges of Albedo’s irises, can trace the gentle slope of his nose and the prominent curve of his cupid’s bow. The edge of Albedo’s blade presses harder against his throat and threatens to draw blood.

“Yes!” Aether cries, “yes. That’s all. Whatever Tartaglia’s up to, it has nothing to do with me.” Albedo blinks once, twice, and he steps back to do away with his sword. Aether collapses, gasping desperately—he’s passed the test, but that hot, heady feeling still hasn’t gone away. Albedo catches him, one arm hooked under each of Aether’s shoulders. His cheek burns where it’s mushed against Albedo’s jacket. He smells faintly of mint and Aether’s head spins.

“Good job, Aether.” The praise makes him shiver. “You did well. I gave you something of a truth serum; no such thing really exists, of course, but this is functionally the same. It increases your emotions to the point where it would be extremely obvious if you were trying to keep something from me. It should wear off soon.” Albedo goes to stand, supporting Aether’s weight, but his thigh is between Aether’s legs and he’s just so close and oh- Aether gasps as Albedo brushes against him, sends a shockwave of sheer pleasure coursing through his system. The heat that’s been clawing at him rears its head and he moans; it’s a tiny, cut-off thing, but it’s a moan nonetheless, as embarrassing as it is damning.

“Oh?” Aether freezes, caught between his body and his horror—but then it comes again, Albedo nudging his thigh between his legs and pulling another, longer sound from him. He gasps and falls farther forward, mouth open and eyes closed, short, hot breaths landing against Albedo’s chest. Albedo moves his leg very slightly, slow, languid, to make Aether’s breaths come faster and tease at the idea of sound. “Interesting.” His voice is cool, collected. Analytical. “Do you like this, Aether?”

“Yes,” he gasps, before he can stop himself. He buries his face farther into Albedo’s chest. The hands under his arms slide down to the backs of his thighs and the next thing he knows, he’s being hoisted up and off his feet and it’s all he can do to wrap his legs around Albedo’s slim waist. He’s pressed against the hard rock just outside the tent again. One of Albedo’s hands relinquishes its hold on his thigh and slips just beneath the hem of his short shirt. It feels good, refreshingly cool against his overheated skin.

“Don’t worry,” Albedo murmurs against the curve of Aether’s neck—when did he get so close—nudging the earring out of the way so his breath ghosts across the sensitive skin there. “I’ve got you.” Aether squirms where he’s pinned between Albedo and the tent. It’s all too much, but it’s not enough, and he wants, he wants. “Tell me what you want,” Albedo demands. Aether swallows. He doesn’t know, not really, not in any way that matters; he wants everything, he wants relief, wants Albedo to dispel the heat that’s raging in the pit of his stomach and under his skin, but he doesn’t know how to phrase it, doesn’t know what his options are, and the not-quite truth serum is still viscous in his veins so the first thing that comes to mind is what tumbles out—

“You,” he pants. The hand that was gently running beneath his shirt slips out to instead take hold of his jaw and coax him into looking directly at Albedo for the first time since he’d been released, and he almost—almost—wishes he hadn’t. Albedo’s eyes are dark and intense, pulled-back hair ever so slightly askew and if he didn’t know better, Aether would say that there’s a light flush across the tops of his cheeks. Aether wonders what he tastes like. He resolves to find out. “I want you.”

Albedo hums, contemplative, and it makes Aether’s stomach drop. Did he say the wrong thing? It’s not like he can help it, not in this state; maybe he should’ve just made an ambiguous noise or something, but god, Albedo’s lips look so soft, he smells so good and he’s so warm and he just wants

“Alright,” Albedo says. He maneuvers Aether back into his arms as if he were weightless, one arm underneath the seam of his thighs and the other pulling out the delicate tie of his braid, undoing it as he takes the few steps over to the bedroll. “What was it that got you like this, I wonder?” he hums, gently placing Aether atop the weatherproof comforter. Aether’s head is spinning. “Was it thinking about Tartaglia?” No, no, it’s not him, Aether wants to scream, but Albedo is leaning over him and looking at him with those dangerous eyes, unclasping his cape and shoving it aside and his mind is so scrambled that he can barely keep up, “Or maybe it was being at my mercy that wound you up.” Aether’s breath hitches. “Was that it?” Albedo smiles devilishly, self-satisfied in a way that, were Aether any less gone, he’d think almost uncharacteristic. But his head is in the clouds, so when his shirt is pulled over his head and the first thing he opens his eyes to is that look, a whine pulls itself from the back of his throat and he flushes ever harder. Albedo’s hands are soft and cool as they trail down Aether’s bare chest. He thumbs delicately at Aether’s nipples and oh, it sends lightning down his spine. He arches into it, body begging for more, more, more.

Albedo is as careful and methodical in taking Aether apart as he is with anything else. The kisses he presses all across Aether’s collarbone leave him aching, and when Albedo latches onto one of his nipples and sucks a dark pink bruise over the sensitive skin there, Aether practically screams. He makes his way down Aether’s body like he’s trying to memorize each reaction, log which places draw the sweetest sounds (the hollow of his throat, the jut of his hip) and have Aether clawing at the bedspread (just above the waistline of his pants, right under the curve of his jaw). Aether is rendered useless by the serum and the warmth of Albedo’s body. He can’t make heads or tails of what’s happening, not really, but when Albedo’s elegant fingers finally, finally, ghost over his leaking cock and tease at his waistband, he breaks.

Please,” he begs. He just wants relief. “I’m-ah!” he cries, back arching as Albedo divests him of the rest of his clothes and gently wraps his fingers around Aether’s weeping cock. His vision whites out, and he comes like that, staining his stomach and Albedo’s bedspread. He lays there for a moment, just breathing, but his head is still worse for the wear and his cock is still achingly hard and Albedo is looking at him like he’s going to devour.

“Interesting. I didn’t know the serum was so potent,” Albedo muses. His tone is worlds away from the hunger in his eyes. Aether watches as he swipes two fingers through the mess on his stomach, trailing white up his sternum before tapping them against the swell of his bottom lip. “Open up,” Albedo says, and he does. The taste of himself sends him crashing back into want, want, want. He moans around it, laves his tongue against Albedo’s fingers until they’re soaked with his spit. “Good boy,” Albedo says. Aether moans again and spit leaks from the corner of his mouth, trailing down his chin. Aether chases Albedo’s fingers as he draws them from his mouth—he liked how full, how useful he felt—and brings them down to circle around his hole. Aether gasps. It’s new, foreign, the way Albedo has his leg pushed up against his chest (when did he get that flexible?) and the way his fingers tease, turning everything into a haze of yes yes yes and please and fuck me. Albedo laughs softly, more of an exhale than anything, as he pushes the first finger in. “You want me that badly, hm?” and Aether just moans as Albedo opens him up; that torturous heat is finally getting what it wants, and it’s nothing less than blissful.

Aether goes pliant as Albedo fingers him, first one, then two then three, murmuring sweet nothings into the skin of his neck that make him shiver and arch, praises like beautiful and just like that and so good for me. He almost cries when Albedo removes those blessed fingers. He can feel the tears gathering at his lashes until something else presses against him, something big and firm that makes his cock drool against his stomach. Aether grinds down against the head of Albedo’s cock, whining, needy and open. He begs for it, and chokes out a gasp when Albedo enters him in one smooth, firm stroke.

Albedo fucks him at a steady pace, thrusting in and out and unfailingly hitting somewhere deep inside that makes Aether see stars. He’s helpless to do anything but lay there and just take it, relishing in how he’s so stretched and so full. He moans loud and unbidden when Albedo takes his leaking cock in hand and pumps it in time with how he fucks him, wrenching ah-ah-ahs from the back of his throat each time he bottoms out. At some point, Aether opens his eyes, and he almost comes again right there—Albedo is still clothed, but his hair is all askew and there’s a dark, lusty look in his eyes as he fucks into him hard. He’s still got one of Aether’s thighs flush with his side, pulling him open and inviting the most delicious ache that’s sure to last for days, reminding him of where he’s been and who he belongs to.

It’s whorish.

It’s heavenly.

Aether comes a second time on Albedo’s cock, vision blanking and ears ringing and adding to the mess on his stomach, going loose for Albedo to use, nothing more than a hole to chase his pleasure with. Albedo slams into him one, two, three more times, each electric and just this side of painful, and then he comes, staining Aether from the inside out. Aether moans like it’s the last thing he’ll ever do.

He doesn’t remember what happens after that. As far as he’s concerned, anything could have happened in the time between Albedo coming inside him and when he next awoke, clean and snuggled down in Albedo’s bedroll with a warm body next to him. He aches all over. His memory of what exactly happened after he drank that serum is spotty at best. Firm arms around him tighten ever so slightly—there’s a shock of ash-blonde hair tickling his nose. He feels his eyes grow heavy and he lets them close.

He’ll deal with all this in the morning.