“Billie Lurk would have pursued you, if she thought it would have come to anything,” the Outsider says, idly, as if he were discussing the weather, if a being so unconcerned by the mundane would have deigned to make small talk about the weather.
Daud frowns at him. “Get to the point,” he growls, in no mood for the Outsider’s word games. He’s still smarting over Billie’s betrayal, and weary from the effort of dealing with the fallout of the Overseers’ attack on their Rudshore base.
He’d worked so hard in the hopes that he’d be exhausted enough to sleep like the dead when he finally collapsed on his bed, ignoring the bloodstains left by the Overseer scum who’d set up in his office; he should’ve known that the Outsider wouldn’t let him go so easily. The deity’s downright chatty after ignoring Daud for so long, and the assassin doesn’t appreciate it.
“Merely an observation.”
Well. Observation would be the Outsider’s specialty.
Daud crosses his arms over his chest and waits; time passes differently here – hours, days even, span no more than a period of rest, in his experience. If Daud finds this fragmented, nonsensical world to be disinteresting, he can only imagine that it is impossibly dreary for the Outsider himself, who spends so much time watching the world and those he bestows with his mark. Daud can outlast the Outsider in this; he has no other alternative, even if he has been given the ability to speak for once.
“Usually,” the Outsider says, as if they have been speaking this entire time, “such- base- matters are of little interest to me. Blood works just as well as the alternative; it’s a bit easier to procure, in any case. I found myself quickly losing interest with those who lusted after me, or convinced themselves that they loved me. But my marked usually have some interest, be it in me or another mortal. I cannot recall having one similar in this regard to me, before you.”
“And that’s why you marked me?” There had been some talk of Daud’s particular brand of idealism and fatalism being interesting, if he recalls correctly; it had been- long ago, and after he realized that the Outsider had lost interest, Daud had not thought of it any longer.
The Outsider shakes his head. “No, no. I care not for a mortal’s predilections.”
Daud exhales, not quite a scoff, and glares. “Is there a point to this, or do you simply intend to discuss my lack of sexual interest?”
“I find myself,” the Outsider says, apparently unbothered by Daud’s tone, “at a loss. Never before have such matters interested me-”
“Oh, no,” Daud says, somehow sensing the direction the conversation is about to take despite his general obliviousness in all matters romantic and/or sexual. “No. Absolutely n-”
“-but now,” the Outsider continues, implacable, “they do. And I am uncertain how to proceed.”
Daud stares at the Outsider in disbelief, then glares a bit for good measure when the Outsider merely looks at him expectantly.
“I don’t know why you’re asking for my advice. I’ve never had that problem before,” Daud says. He almost asks who before firmly reminding himself that he doesn’t care and also that it’s the Outsider. This entire situation is more irritating than usual, but that’s just the Outsider all over, isn’t it?
“You’ve dealt with your fair share of similar situations,” the Outsider says.
Daud considers asking how the Outsider deals with people like Granny Rags, then realizes that he probably just ignores them until the problem goes away or they die, or both.
“I’ve never wanted to pursue them any further,” Daud says.
The Outsider sighs, the air around him seeming to hum with tension. “Pretend, for interest’s sake, that you were amenable to a relationship with me.”
“Impossible,” Daud says, appalled.
Once he can breathe again, Daud waves a hand. “Fine, fine,” he says, his voice hoarser than usual. “I’m pretending. I’m pretending very intently.” He wipes the beading sweat away from his forehead and resists the urge to adjust his collar. His heart’s beating loudly in his ears, though not enough to drown out the Outsider’s next words.
“What would I have to do to gain your regard?” the Outsider asks, merely the facsimile of a capricious, pining youth once more, as if he hadn’t nearly obliterated Daud on the spot a few seconds earlier.
“I seem to recall something about giving one’s heart to another in these sorts of situations,” Daud says.
“I already did that,” the Outsider says, shoulders sagging. He adds, “It wasn’t mine, of course, but a heart was given.”
“A literal heart.”
Daud tries very hard not to allow his judgment to show; he isn’t sure how well he succeeds.
“Well, so you’ve got gift-giving down,” he says, vaguely. “Next time, try to give them something they’ll actually like.”
“He already has all the weapons he could want,” the Outsider says, revealing far more about his mysterious infatuation than Daud ever wanted to know.
“Then find something else he- they- like,” Daud says. “Books, or clothes, a favourite meal? Something like that.”
The Outsider makes a thoughtful sound. “What would you like, if someone was courting you?”
Courting. Daud tries not to cringe at the very thought.
“Nothing. I think we’ve established that I’m not interested,” Daud says. He raises his hands defensively when the Outsider narrows his eyes and quickly adds, “Hypothetically? I like a good bottle of Old Dunwall, or a decent history book.”
The Outsider doesn’t say it, but his bored expression conveys the message rather well all the same. “I see.”
“Couldn't you have asked someone else,” Daud says. Clarifies, not that it’ll help, “Someone who actually cares.”
“All of my chosen would take it the wrong way,” the Outsider says. “Besides, I didn't see you complaining while completing Vera's little wooing rituals.”
“What,” Daud says, appalled, as he wracks his mind for any incriminating hints. Nothing comes to mind, and Billie hadn't said anything either. “That was just for the runes!”
“I'm aware,” the Outsider says mildly.
Daud grits his teeth, reminding himself that the Outsider had nearly brought him to his knees with just a word. He can only assume that lashing out and prompting a more severe response would result in his death.
“So in return for this-” Daud gestures vaguely at the Outsider, “-you can tell me what Delilah's planning.”
“No,” the Outsider says. “It's more entertaining this way. I will give you another reason for this visit, however: you're the only one of my chosen in the same demographic as- him.”
“Ugh,” Daud says, because hearing more about this is pretty low on the list of things he wants to know. Not at the bottom, of course, but close to it. Then, realizing, “Wait, what the fu-”
He wakes up cursing.
“You've got to be kidding me,” Daud mutters a couple of days later, glaring down at the list in his hand.
“What was that, sir?” Thomas asks.
Thomas doesn’t make any smart comments about Daud dragging the unconscious “couple” into Granny Rags’ ritual circle, though, with a pang, Daud can imagine the sorts of things Billie would have to say, particularly about the bit with the wedding ring.
What does it say about the Outsider and his marked that Granny Rags is using another of her would-be lover's chosen to carry out her supposed “wooing”? Or that Daud’s willing to do it, for that matter.
It’s for the runes, that’s what Daud keeps telling himself, and pointedly ignores the Billie in his head going, “Of course it is, old man,” with the eye roll obvious in her voice.
“Daud, Daud, Daud… When will they shut up about him?” a witch mutters disgustedly as she stalks past Daud’s hiding spot.
Daud can agree with that; he’d seen a few of the witches he’d dealt with in the past, and most of them were talking about him – and not just because they expected him to attack their base.
Still, though. He transverses behind her and chokes her out instead of killing her, then drags her body behind a bush where it won’t be discovered.
“I don’t know why,” Delilah says later, “some of my witches are so taken with you.”
You and me both, Daud thinks, before he seals her into the painting of the Void.
Daud casts a cursory glance over Corvo’s gear. A few spare bolts, enough bullets to fill the magazine of his custom pistol, a full supply of sleep darts loaded into the crossbow.
“And there’s this, sir,” Rulfio says, gingerly holding up a lump of meat that it takes Daud a moment to identify as a mangled, semi-mechanical heart, a literal human heart.
“Fuck, no,” Daud says. “Slip that back in Attano’s coat when we reach the refinery.”
“It could be a weapon,” Rulfio says.
If he could get away with it without raising uncomfortable questions from the Whalers, Daud would leave Corvo with all his weapons anyway.
“I said put it back.” His tone brooks no arguments, and he snaps the case of gear shut, prepared to pay a visit to the good Royal Protector.
A few months after Daud’s settled into his new role as Emily Kaldwin’s Spymaster, Corvo finds him in his office. It’s around midnight, and judging by the bags under Corvo’s eyes, he could use the sleep- but Daud doesn’t remark on it.
“Does he,” Corvo says, slumping into the chair opposite Daud’s desk.
Daud finishes the paragraph he was writing then sets the missive aside.
Corvo’s staring at him, blankly, and doesn’t seem inclined to finish his sentence. He looks, if possible, even more exhausted.
“You’re referring to the Outsider,” Daud says, because even if Corvo doesn’t seem inclined to, Daud would like to sleep sometime tonight.
Corvo nods slowly, his gaze focussing on Daud. “Every night,” Corvo begins, and Daud winces because he does not want to know. “These- trials. Every night. Kill as many people in an area as quickly as possible. Sneak into this mansion to steal that object. Fight until you drop.”
“Oh,” Daud says, relieved. “Those.”
“So you’ve done it too,” Corvo says, equally relieved. “But I’ve done everything perfectly and he still drags me into the Void every night.”
Daud leans back, reaching for his glass of whiskey- empty, of course. He thinks about pouring another, but then Corvo starts speaking again.
“He doesn’t visit you every night, does he?”
Daud pulls the half-empty bottle of whiskey to him with a flick of his left hand and pours himself that drink.
“No,” he says, after taking a healthy swallow, “I lost his interest. It’s only recently that he started appearing again- and it was never that frequent even when he first gave me the mark.”
Corvo nods again.
“I think, Corvo, that you’re- a special case,” Daud says. He’s tempted to mention Delilah, and how the Outsider had pointed Daud in her direction; he claims he doesn’t interfere, but in hindsight it seems terribly obvious.
Possibly, Daud should be more upset about being used so blatantly, but it did go a little way to assuage the guilt and regret that still sometimes threaten to choke him.
“He’ll lose interest in me,” Corvo says. “He lost interest in you, and Granny Rags.”
“Maybe,” Daud says, shrugging. “Maybe not. A few decades is no time for him at all, and as I said: you’re a special case.”
Corvo glances down at his hands, bare again. He’s taken to wearing gloves in court and when he accompanies Emily into the city proper, but otherwise he bares the mark for all to see.
“Right,” Daud says, remembering the one time that these matters hadn’t been a complete pain – when Billie had come out and asked. “Do you want to fuck him, then?”
Corvo splutters, his face growing red.
“So do it,” Daud says. “I think he’ll be- amenable. And if not, well, you’ll still have the mark, and the powers. No loss.”
“There’s a bit more to it than that,” Corvo mutters, still avoiding his eyes.
“Don’t want to know,” Daud says, firmly. “Do not want to know. Now, Lord Protector, kindly fuck off so I can get some sleep.”
Daud walks into Corvo’s office a week later to find the Royal Protector on the desk, the Outsider’s slender frame pressing him down.
“Ugh,” Daud says, after he overcomes his shock and disgust, and kicks the door shut behind him so any passing servants or guards can’t see. He looks away because he would rather not have seen, thanks, but not before the Outsider catches his eye and gives him this smug smirk over Corvo’s shoulder. At least they're clothed.
“Shit,” Corvo says, his voice wrecked. He tries to push the Outsider off, but the deity remains implacable. “Let me up-”
“I’ll come back later, shall I?” Daud says politely, and stalks back out, ignoring Corvo’s squawked attempts to explain and the Outsider’s pleased, “That would be best.”
“The Royal Protector’s busy,” Daud tells Curnow, when the officer rounds the corner.
“The morning’s briefing-?” Curnow sounds bewildered; it’s not like Corvo to slack off on anything.
“Still putting it together,” Daud says. “He’ll send word when he’s ready.” Adds, when Curnow doesn’t look liable to leave, “There’s a matter I wanted to discuss in the meantime.”
Curnow makes an agreeable, if doubtful, sound and follows Daud away from Corvo’s office.
The Outsider owes Daud, damn his eyes.