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that kind of fever dance

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Here is the thing to keep in mind about Vex and Percy:

They are both private people, and they are both subtle, and neither of them like to have their dirty laundry aired out for the entire Keep to have an opinion on. To that effect, when the members of Vox Machina who stayed in Vasselheim make their way back to Emon, their missing Ranger in tow, and settle back into their normal routines, Percy and Vex, well, they come to a silent, mutual agreement to keep certain things to themselves, and so perhaps aren't as close to each other as either party would particularly prefer.

The first week or so after the entire group is reunited, an occasion which involves relieved laughter (Scanlan), stubborn denial of feelings (Vax), and an amount of crying that's arguably disproportionate to the situation (Grog), and Vex has... actually not seen much of Percy at all. Or rather, she sees him quite a bit, because Vox Machina as a whole seems loathe to let her be alone for longer than ten minutes at a time and more often than not she's got at least one of her friends following her around like a duckling anywhere she goes, and Percy is no exception to this, though she's discovered that it's rather difficult to have a discussion about the specifics of whatever... relationship they may or not have when they're being chaperoned by Grog plying her with food, or Pike offering to pray for her, or, gods forbid, Vax, who has apparently developed a severe allergic reaction to any amount of oxygen that's not within five feet of her and has basically become her sullen, clingy second shadow.

Needless to say, it's not exactly an environment that fosters the opportunity to have a heart to heart, which is something that Vex, at this point, feels she and the resident gunslinger sorely need.

When he'd found her at the Loch, confused and half-disoriented (honestly, the Queen needs how to learn to bloody communicate when She's dumping Vex somewhere new), he'd ran over to her, which was lovely, and crushed her to him in a hug, which was lovelier, and then was promptly knocked aside by Trinket, who'd pushed her to the ground and then quite literally sat on her and spent a good five minutes suffocating her and wailing into her ear while Percy tried fruitlessly to pull him off. Since then the two of them have shared a grand total of perhaps five minutes alone, and only one kiss, which had been a sudden and rushed thing with a bit too much teeth outside of the Raven's Crest before they'd gone to find her brother, who'd apparently just sat in the Temple like a fucking lump for a couple months, and hells wasn't that an experience, meeting the priests of the godly bint with a feather fetish that she'd been hanging out with, and having them all swoon about calling her Champion.

Anyway.

Back at the Keep, with all of Vox Machina taking turns to cling to her like a barnacle, Vex has been unable to actually talk to Percy about much of anything, and especially the things she thinks they need to talk about.

Because, ah-- because she loves him? Those are the kinds of things that people talk about, she'd thought, the sort of conversations that people typically have after they've admitted feelings for each other. And she-- she must love him, she can think of no other word for it, no other name for the warmth in her chest when he's near, the relief she feels when he enters a room and his eyes meet hers, the hypersensitivity of her skin whenever he's close enough to touch. She'd not considered it before, not really; romance isn't a notion she's entirely familiar with, for all that flirting and sex both are relatively old hat, and while previously she'd enjoyed Percy's presence and friendship immensely she'd never really thought of it in terms of the specifics of exactly why.

Death, it seems, changes things, and working in service to a God of it changes them even further.

But what is what she feels now, if not love? With no other basis for comparison, that's the only conclusion she can reach.

------------------

"Can we talk?"

As one, Percy, Vax, Pike, and Scanlan all turn their heads to look at her, with Grog following only a few seconds after, his reaction having been delayed by trying to catch the bit of sausage that Pike'd thrown at him in his mouth. Vex blinks at all of them, taken aback; the reaction is rather like the Queen's ravens whenever she calls for their attention, and while she's long since grown used to the presence of the birds at the periphery of her conscious, to the dismay of Trinket who's never had to share her attention with another animal much less the hundreds of feathered little brothers and sisters he seems to have gained, watching her friends mimic them with such eerie similarity is disconcerting.

"Ah, that one," she says, and points to Percy, and immediately all heads to turn to look at him instead, the dining hall table utterly silent except for his gulp as he swallows whatever part of breakfast he'd been chewing. Vax, who to her knowledge still isn't aware of any, ah, change in the status quo with them, so to speak, narrows his eyes and glares as Percy sets his fork down and pushes away from the table, eyeing her with concern. (It's not-- it's not like she's keeping it from her brother, not really, it's just that nothing has really changed much at all, which is honestly sort of the problem, and besides she is an adult and she is allowed to have some things kept private, thank you very much.)

The rest watch as the two of them exit the dining hall, Percy close on her heels, and as soon as they've put a fair amount of distance behind them he reaches out and grasps her shoulder, his grip gentle but firm, and says, "What's wrong? Is everything alright? Are you okay?"

"Oh, balls, Percival, honestly," she sighs, and rolls her eyes, though she doesn't shrug off his hand; it's warm through the thin material of her shirt, having left her leathers in her room since wearing them these days seems to make everyone antsy. "I wish the lot of you would stop asking me that. I'm fine. It's not like I'm going to bolt off like a skittish horse if the wind blows too hard."

"You'll forgive us for our concern, I'm sure," he says, voice mild but with a bit of steel beneath it, "when you recall that the last time you walked these halls insisting you were fine, you then vanished into the night and led us on a wild goose chase."

She can't help the smile that peeks out at the corner of her lips at that; it's so endearing when he attempts diplomacy while grumpy. "I'm not sure it qualifies as a wild goose chase when you went to literally one other town and then sat there for two months twiddling your thumbs."

Percy's face tightens, his mouth pulling down into a frown, and the hand on her shoulder flexes, gripping a bit harder before he realizes it and releases her altogether. She sighs again, louder, and backtracks. "Not that I'm downplaying it because, trust me, I am aware that it was a very difficult time for you all and I feel suitably guilty for it. I just wish that you'd remember that I didn't exactly leave with a skip in my step, nor did I have much choice in the matter of how long I was made to stay away."

The hallway of the Keep is warm, and where they've stopped to speak is beneath a window, the bright morning sun shining down on them, lending Percy's hair an ethereal quality, a contrast to the heavy frown that mars his face as he squints down at her, eyes narrowed against the light. She feels bad for him, putting his already poor eyesight at such a disadvantage, but honestly she wouldn't trade their positions for the warmth of the sun that seeps into her back. It's such a lovely thing, warmth, one that she hadn't realized how much she'd missed, how little she'd felt, before she'd accepted the changes forced upon her. Percy, for instance, is warm in front of her, a fact that she knows from previous experience, from time spent conversing in his workshop, from countless midnight watches spent leaning against each other where idle talk was the only sure way to stay awake, from climbing into his bed that night and essentially forcing him to cuddle her.

Oh, she thinks to herself suddenly, but maybe he's not warm all the time? Maybe he's not warm right now? What an interesting hypothesis, she should test it. Percy would surely appreciate the science to that. And so she steps forward, ignoring the surprised widening of his eyes, and wraps her arms around him, leaning heavily into his chest.

"Vex?" he asks, curiously, his voice cracking slightly. She smiles into his shirt when he clears his throat.

"Hush," she mumbles, and closes her eyes. Mmm, yes, good, he is in fact warm. Now she knows. After a moment his tense muscles lax and he settles into her, arms lifting to circle her as well, and after a moment more his forehead drops against her hair, so that every exhale stirs the feathers woven into her braid. It's-- ooh, it's lovely, honestly, the weight of him, the softness to his skin that belies the hardness that he holds inside, and for the first time since they'd left Vasselheim she's got a fucking moment to just appreciate it.

This is love, isn't it? She's, she's never really felt the kind of love that isn't platonic, that doesn't fall under the umbrella category of family, and the intensity of it is nearly frightening. She's never loved someone so much that she wanted to protect them and devour them at the same time.

Oh, gods, is that weird? It's not like she literally wants to eat him, she doesn't have that much in common with the ravens, but she can't think of another way to word it, that encompassing feeling, the urge to draw him in and the companion urge to never let go.

Sex is good, sex she understands; love is fucking strange.

"No, wait, hold on. Don't hush." Percy snorts into her hair, his muscles jumping against her as he laughs, and Vex leans back to poke him in the chest. When she meets his eyes they're just disgustingly gentle, reminding her a bit too much of how Vax used to look at Gilmore, at how he looks at Keyleth now, familiar and sweet for all that she enjoys making fun of him for it mercilessly. "We need to have a talk."

"A talk?" he asks, smiling down at her. His hold on her has loosened but it's still there, as if he's loathe to let her go, which is honestly rather gratifying.

"Yes. I suppose. We haven't really had one of those yet, have we? We're probably quite due for one. A talk, that is." She stops and thinks for a moment, winces briefly. "Oh, but that sounds a bit harsh, doesn't it, talk. We should have a conversation. No, that's not much better."

"Discussion," he suggests.

"Chat," she replies.

"Conference."

"Alright you walking thesaurus, you're making it worse, calm down," she says, and then grins at him for a moment like an idiot. It's alright, though, she reasons; he's got a similar look on his face.

"And what are we talking about?" he wonders aloud, and his arms start to fall from her sides, but she stubbornly steps closer when he makes to pull away. She's quite content where she is currently, thank you.

"You love me," she answers, and it comes out a bit more accusing than she'd intended, but-- but sometimes it's hard for her to think about, a difficult concept to wrap her brain around, because for all that she's never fallen in love with someone before, likewise no one has ever fallen in love with her.

He hums thoughtfully, then answers with easy assurance, "I do."

"And I love you," she says, tasting the words, ones she's familiar with and spoken before but never with this connotation, and the difference makes them trip awkwardly off her tongue, but the sentiment is no less true for the questioning, fumbling delivery.

"I should hope," he says, raising an eyebrow, "or I'll be very disappointed."

A few moments of silence pass as she contemplates that, the idea of it. It's... it's not as scary as she thought it'd be. Life has let her down so hard, so much, especially lately, and initially she'd been afraid of it, of loving, of being loved, afraid of the potential of such loss, but the realization that it's not so stressful a thing hits her, not so much like the crashing of a wave as like the rising of the tide, washing over her instead of breaking her down.

Percy glances about the hallway, eyebrow still lifted curiously, before looking back down at her. "Was that the extent of the talk, then?"

"No," she answers, then pauses. "Maybe? No, no it's not. This may come as a surprise to you, Percy," she says, and feels her cheeks heat up in a blush, "but I've never actually been in a relationship before. One that wasn't just purely physical, anyway."

"Ah," he says, and then, surprisingly, meets her blush with one of his own. One of his hands lifts from its place at her side and she lets it, curious, as it rises to sweep through his hair. "Well, we're a bit similar in that regard then, I suppose."

She gapes at him, astonished, and actually leans back to eye him critically. "Really? But you're so bloody proper!"

"Vex," he sighs, a bit strained, bit sad in a way that she hates herself for causing. "I wasn't too terribly old when the Briarwoods... when I fled my home. Between then and now, when have I had the time?"

She regards him, still standing at a distance, before closing in once more and tucking her nose into the skin of his neck. "Well you have it now," she decides.

"Do I?" he murmurs, drawing her in tight, his breath against her ear sending shivers down her spine, but they're good shivers, lovely ones; romance she may not have much experience with, but oh, this is a familiar dance.

"You do," she answers, firmly. "I cannot promise She won't call me to leave, but I can promise that I will always return."

His arms tighten around her, hard, almost painfully, like he wants to pull her into him, and damn but if she doesn't want that too. "I suppose that's all I can ask," he says finally, and she hums in reply.

She doesn't count how long they stand together like that in the hallway. Certainly longer than she'd been expecting, having anticipated one or more of their friends to come looking for her sooner than this. He's warm at her front, and the sun is warm at her back, and the coldness that plagued her, that haunted her dreams, is a distance memory; she hasn't felt it in months, not since she accepted her fate, not since she'd grown to understand it, but even less so now, pressed against him.

When the door opens she's not surprised, though she is surprised by who enters the hallway. Pike and Grog step through, and not her brother, and Percy tenses, his hold on her growing rigid, but she sticks to him stubbornly like a burr and just nestles in closer.

"What the hell are you doing?" Grog asks, though it's less asking and more booming, truth be told, and when Pike sees them she stops in her tracks, startled.

"Testing a hypothesis," Vex answers, keeping her voice calm and mild, and she feels Percy's heartbeat, which had picked up, slow slightly in response.

Pike clears her throat and punches Grog in the knee, the highest part of him she can reach. "We should go, Grog," she says pointedly, then smiles at Vex, a little confused. "We just wanted to make sure you were okay."

Percy stands stock still, unmoving, almost holding his breath until they pass by, and Vex has the feeling that she's anchoring him right now more than he is for her. She rubs a hand across his back, soothing him the only way she knows how.

"Ain't Keyleth said hypo-the-sis is what makes plants green?" she hears Grog mumble as they make their way down the hall, and Percy finally relaxes a little into her hold.

They disappear around a corner, but not before Vex hears Pike say patiently, "That's photosynthesis, Grog."

------------------

When Vex dreams, she truthfully doesn't dream of much of anything anymore.

The Raven Queen doesn't always have a task for her, and that's really the only time that She deigns to communicate. Mostly Vex just dreams of darkness, but it's not the terrible thing that it used to be, not anymore. Sometimes she dreams of cold, but again, it effects her less than it did before.

And, sometimes, when circumstances match up, when the Queen allows, and when she has the energy and can concentrate really hard, Vex can walk into the dreams of others.

It's not always a kind thing, for all that during her absence she used it to quell Percy's nightmares to the best of her ability; sometimes the veil of night, the solitude of dreams, is the most opportune time to carry out Her will, the easiest way to strike from the darkness. There are enemies, after all, and almost all beasts, whether they be humanoid or not, at some point require sleep. She feels bad about it sometimes, but she's a Rogue as much as she's a Ranger, now, and she is well used to darkness.

There are times, though, when she's able to stride through dreams peacefully, when observation is just as necessary as action, and though she tries not to intrude too often in the sleep of her friends, well. Curiosity is what had inevitably killed her, isn't it?

Percy's are the ones she walks into the most, though not for lack of trying with her brother. Like herself, Vax has always dreamed sparsely, has rarely recalled the ones he does have, and though she is occasionally able to converse with him in his sleep his dreams are fluid and shifting things and to her knowledge he's yet to wake from one she's visited and remember it.

Percy's, though, are rich with detail, solid in a way that she's yet to find with anyone else, and unfortunately often dark. Given such a clear view of his subconscious as she now has, she can see why shadowed creatures like Orthax take interest in him, how it would be easy for them to find footholds in his heart. He's aware of her, too, in a way that no other dreamer has been yet, and she thinks that maybe this is why he seems so exhausted all the time, if his quick mind has such trouble slowing even in sleep.

Some nights, though, his dreams are not as terrible as others.

Oh, she thinks to herself, stepping into his dream in much like the way water pours through a crack in a dam and watching from a distance. Now this is interesting.

His dreams are varied, the templates of them often as like to be as differed as the contents; sometimes he is himself and sometimes he is separate, an observer, as a conjuration of his mind moves in his image. Tonight, it seems, he plays his own role instead of acting as an audience, and immersed as he is he doesn't seem to notice her presence, distracted by what is apparently a dream version of Vex herself, sitting atop his workbench and talking amiably as he fiddles with something in his hands, legs swinging just to the side of where he's seated. It's not so much a conversation, the idle chatter of the dream-Vex sounding to her ears as more background noise, indistinct and unfocused, lacking any real cognitive definition.

Truthfully, it could be a memory of any number of conversations they've had in the past-- Vex couldn't count the number of times she's barged into his workshop and infiltrated his peace and quiet, bullied his attention onto her for a distraction, whether it be distraction for him or distraction for her. The feel of it is different, though, something heavy and yet soft at the same time.

She has wandered through countless dreams now, some kind and others not so much, and she has grown well-used to the feeling, the emotion, the intent of them that sits in her mouth like a taste, the sharp bitterness of the dark and the gentle sweetness of the light. She feels on a purely empathic basis the atmosphere of them now, the purpose of them, what they are meant to invoke, and this dream is warm, so warm, and so content, in a way that Percy's dreams rarely are. It leaves a breathless feeling in her chest, a constriction that tightens her lungs in a way that's frightening, that's exhilarating.

How dearly he must love her, and how well he must hide it for her to have not seen before, that he could find such soothing solace in something so simple.

As she watches, the dream-Vex stops talking, seems to notice that Percy isn't paying full attention, and smiles, coy and teasing. She leans down, places a finger beneath his chin to lift his face, and kisses him, and Percy lets her, and oh, this is definitely not a memory then, definitely not a recollection of some past event because she's absolutely certain that she'd remember that. Dream-Vex slips off of the table and into his lap and he places his hands on her hips indulgently, and ah, well, Vex thinks to herself, taken aback and embarrassed by the naked adoration in his eyes, his walls dropped entirely in the security of sleep, this could act as no better cue to leave.

------------------

It isn't that Vex is embarrassed by sex itself, because the gods know she isn't.

(One God in particular probably knows better than the rest of them; the connection that tethers the Raven Queen to Her Champion is a visceral one, built on emotion and control in equal measures, the relationship that a fighter has with their sword, and when She wields Vex as Her weapon against Her foes there is no end to Her, sometimes, and no beginning to her in return, and she knows more about Her than perhaps any other living mortal can or should, and in return She knows Vex deep down to the very fibers of her core.

It sounds more dramatic than it is. Mostly, Vex just complains about the feather motif, and She gets annoyed when she winks at attractive people or haggles for too long.)

She likes sex, and she likes Percy, and she's quite certain that she'd really like the two of them together. The physical aspect of it, the whole 'insert tab a into slot b,' doesn't bother her, never really has. She lost her virginity relatively young and honestly didn't care enough about it to think on the matter much more, and anyway that's always a saying she's been confused about, losing one's virginity. She didn't lose it because that implies that it's something she can find again, something that she's assigned value to. She fucked someone once and it was the first time she ever did it, and it was clumsy and unsatisfactory and she's since gotten better at it and that's that.

And herein lies the issue:

Sex has never meant much to her beyond base gratification, something that she enjoys but could honestly in the long run give or take, and sex with someone she cares about, sex with emotion behind it-- it's something she's never had much occasion to consider her feelings on.

It's scary, it's overwhelming, and hell if it isn't interesting. She already likes sex well enough as it is when it's just something average, when she needs something to pass the time, and how much better will it be to have it with someone she's fairly positive she loves?

------------------

"Hey, are you busy?" Vex asks the next morning, bursting into Percy's workshop and upsetting his concentration, his hands dropping whatever strange piece of machinery he's working with as he jumps in surprise. They both inhale sharply when it clatters to the ground, but after a few seconds pass without an explosion they relax and Percy leans down to pick it up with a sigh.

"I was, but I suspect that if I continue to be then you'll be disappointed and take it out on me later--" She hums affirmatively and he scoffs out a laugh and continues, "--so I suppose no, I'm not." Gingerly he begins to take his contraption apart, removing piece by delicate piece with infinite care and placing each one onto a separate section of his table, clearly having mapped out in his head what goes where. "Just give me one moment to ensure that this doesn't upset itself and decide to detonate and I'll be done. What can I help you with?"

"We should have sex," she announces, and Percy once again fumbles, hands jittering suddenly, and this time he barely catches it before it hits the floor, head jerking up to stare at her in surprise.

"Are you trying to make me kill us?" he chokes out, setting aside his work altogether and placing one hand over his heart, eyes wide behind his glasses. Vex watches, impassive and a little amused.

"I have confidence that you won't," she says, which is a bit ironic, considering he's already killed her once, but she feels like saying that would be counterproductive to her goal, which is getting him in her bed. Well, actually, she'd still likely get him into her bed, because she knows for a fact that he's attracted to her, but he'd probably be a lot less happy about it and it'd be a lot less fun.

Percy takes off his glasses, sets them onto his table, and rubs at his eyes disbelievingly before putting them back on and returning to stare at her incredulously. She meets his gaze with her own easily, arms crossed over her chest. "What, pray tell, brought this on?" he asks, voice pitched higher than usual, a blush high on his cheeks that goes all the way up to the rounded tips of his ears, and she can't help it, she smiles.

"I was just thinking," she says, stepping forward, and on instinct Percy starts to lean back before seeming to decide that pushing against a table holding something that may or may not explode isn't a good idea, "that I want to, and it'd be fun."

Suddenly the trepidation, the unease and stress in his expression seems to hit her, and she stops, frowning. "I mean, unless you don't want to. I just thought--" Oh, fuck, of course she's ruined this already, she's just great at that, fucking things up before they even have a chance to start.

"No, no," Percy says quickly, standing up and moving as if to step closer but thinking better of it, his hands, dark with soot and grease, fidgeting nervously, "I-- I do, of course I do." She cocks her head at him, lips still pulled down, and he runs his fingers through his hair, smearing black into the strands of white. "O-of course I do, Vex. I just--" He holds his hands out to her placatingly, mouth working, and oh hell she must have seriously unbalanced him if this is how he's handling it.

"Don't strain yourself, darling," she says, dryly, and Percy groans.

"Oh, balls-- Vex'ahlia, you must admit that this is very sudden, and very, ah, fast." She raises an eyebrow, unsure if she should be offended, and he groans harder. "I mean-- I mean, of course I want to have, ah, sex with you, but I'd intended-- I mean, I wanted to wait a bit, I suppose, to, that is, ah, court you, first. To do it properly."

Oh, hell. That fool man. Vex drops her head and smirks down at her feet, relieved and a bit touched. "Percival," she says, smile bleeding into her voice, "by my reckoning we've been courting for a while now."

"That doesn't count," he says firmly, but with a blush still high on his face. "Flirting and--and making jokes, that's not courtship."

"And how does courtship work in Whitestone, then?" she asks, amused, arms still crossed and when she cocks her hip he glances down at it and swallows before looking back up into her face, sighing heavily when he sees her smirk and knows he was caught.

"Flowers, firstly," he says firmly, seeming determined to catch his stride once more, and she can visually see him reforming the walls that his surprise had knocked over. "Declarations of intent, though I suppose we've covered that already." She hums in agreement and he continues, not looking her in the eye to maintain his composure. "Though I'll have to speak to Vax about it at some point, which-- oh, god," he says, horrified, his eyes widening, "I'll have to speak to Vax about it."

"Yes, yes," she says, nodding, "back to the courtship."

"Poetry," he states, voice cracking and with a look of distaste crossing his face, "though I may skim over that part, I've never had a knack for it."

"Please do," she tells him, trying desperately not to laugh.

"That's mostly it," he finishes, and just now seems to realize how dirty his hands are, twisting to grab a rag off of his table and rubbing at his fingers with it.

"Doesn't sound like much," she says, taking another step forward while he's distracted.

"There's a lot of it, in multiple steps."

"Alternatively," she murmurs, voice pitched low, and Percy's eyes are startled when he looks up at her, not expecting her to be as close as she is, and she reaches out and rests the palm of her hand against the front of his pants, rubbing gently. "We could just skip all of that."

"Oh," Percy squeaks, fingers tightening against into the rag, and Vex moves closer still, resting her forehead against his shoulder.

"Or we could do it and have sex at the same time," she suggests, pressing in a bit harder, squeezing with her fingers. She can just barely feel the shape of him through the fabric, grateful that he's not wearing his many layers that he pulls himself into when they travel. "I quite like that idea, actually."

He's silent for a long moment, long enough that she's afraid suddenly that maybe she's actually offended him, before he takes a shuttered breath and drops his head to rest on the top of hers, body tilted back slightly as he braces his hands back on the table behind him. His hips cant forwards into her touch and, delighted, she pushes in against him even more.

"That is not usually the way of things," he says, voice having lost its crack and pitch, deep in a way that she feels rumbling in his chest as she leans against it. "But you're not a very usual woman, are you?"

"You're catching on," she tells him warmly, and kisses the skin of his throat. When the apple of it bobs as he swallows, she bites at it, gently, just the slightest scraping of teeth, and he sighs.

It takes some time, surprise and unpreparedness working against him, but after a minute or so of touching, of her fingers moving against the shape of him, of her lips and tongue working the skin of his throat, he hardens enough that she feels it through his pants, and when she pops the button to them and slips her hand inside to finally, finally touch the length of him without the barrier of cloth in the way he hisses out a breath, jerking into her touch. When she draws him out slowly, delicately, his chest heaves, and when she pulls away from his throat to glance down at her prize his face drops into her hair and hides there.

It's not the biggest cock she's had, but certainly not the smallest either, seeming of average size for a human, thicker at the base than she'd expected just from how thin and wiry his frame is. "Vex," he murmurs, the volume of it nearly lost in her hair, but she feels each hitch of breath, each tiny gasp as her hand completes a stroke, and she watches through half-lidded eyes as his hips, bony beneath the muscles of his abdomen, stutter as if trying to find a rhythm, pushing into the circle of her hand. He exhales hard when she twists her grip at the tip of it experimentally, a heavy puff of air.

She's never been the sort of person to find her own pleasure in the pleasure of someone else; she likes making her partners feel good, certainly, but there's always an expectation of reciprocation, the unspoken agreement that she'll help them get theirs as long as they help her get hers. She's never wanted to please just for the sake of pleasing, never felt that anyone's gratification was worth more than hers, at least when it comes to sex. It surprises her, then, that each of his soft exhales drops warmth into her stomach, that every little tremor of his muscles against her makes her thighs clench reactively, that seeing his pleasure, that being the cause of it, pleases her so much in turn that she can feel herself get slick, each minute shift sending a thrum of heat through her spine.

"Vex," he says again, deeper, throatier, and she quickens the pace of her hand as it strokes his prick, resting her other hand on his shaking hip for balance. His skin shivers beneath her touch, jumping erratically, and when her fingers brush over the head this time they come away wet and sticky, pre-release beading up at the tip. "Vex."

"Hmm?" she asks, leaning into his chest and smirking into the fabric of his shirt, her excellent half-Elf hearing picking up the frantic thumping of his heart, a counterpoint to the steadiness of his voice. "Yes, darling?"

Finally one of his hands releases the death grip it's been holding on the table and comes up, grabs her jaw with more force than she believes he means to, a suspicion that's confirmed when he immediately softens the touch, the pressure he exerts into lifting her face more of a guide than a demand and she knows that if she pulls away he won't keep her trapped. She doesn't pull away, though, and he tilts her head upwards, dips down to kiss her, insistent, hard, more teeth and tongue than lip, almost as loud as the wet sound of her jerking him, the only noises in the room that seem to echo about the stone walls.

It's not their first kiss, not by a long shot; she's gifted him with such things before, when he's made her new toys or after a harrowing fight where one or both of them wandered a bit too close to death's door. For all that she's guarded with her heart she's always been willingly free with her affection. This, though, is different, is more, feels like a first despite the dozens that have occurred in the past.

"Vex," he gasps into her mouth, eyes shut tight behind his glasses, and she looks at him through her lashes, the whole of his face, the dark eyebrows with a tiny scar through the left one drawn in together in focus, the red-pink of his lips that are wet and puffy from their kiss, the small smattering of pale dots that cross the bridge of his nose that suggest that maybe he'd have freckles if he ever willingly spent more than an hour out in the sun.

His breathing comes harder now, a direct response to the quickening of her strokes, her palm now entirely slick, and he kisses her once, twice, three more times before dropping his head to her shoulder and giving himself away to the motion of thrusting against her, hand threaded into her hair and hips working so hard into her grip that it nearly unbalances her.

There's a knock on the door.

Percy freezes, goes rigid, his muscles locking in surprise, and Vex's own heart jerks and her stomach drops.

Tilting her face so that it's directly against his ear, she whispers, "Your door locks automatically, yes?"

"Yes," he whispers back, then clears his throat, and with an astonishingly impressive amount of restraint, calls out, "What?"

"Hey, uh, Percy?" Keyleth's voice calls out from the other side of the door, hesitantly, and Vex bites her lip against a laugh when Percy drops his face back against her and groans quietly. "Have you seen Vex? Vax wanted to know where she was."

"I don't know, have I?" he hisses, softly, so that only Vex can hear him, and she struggles not to laugh once more, the sheer ridiculousness of the situation catching up to her. Shock has made him lose some of his erection, his cock not as hard in her hand, and she squeezes him lightly, teasingly. The hand that he'd buried into her hair drops down behind her to swat at her rear. "No," he calls out, a bit strangled, louder so Keyleth can hear him through the heavy metal door. "Not since yesterday."

There's a pause, then Keyleth says, "Um, okay." Another pause. "Are you, uh, okay in there, Percy?"

"Fine!" he half-shouts, annoyance now clear in his voice, and Keyleth squeaks before apologizing a few times, and they hold their breath until the patter of her footsteps, muffled through the door, fades away.

"That was rude," Vex chides, smirking to herself despite the fact that he's half-soft in her grasp and the blush has returned with a vengeance to his cheeks. He won't look her in the eye and he clears his throat delicately.

"Ah, Vex, I, ah--"

"It's alright, Percy," she says, gently tucking him back into his pants. "I should go see what my fool brother wants." She regards her sticky fingers and briefly contemplates wiping them against his pants before instead bringing them up to her mouth and cleaning them with her tongue. The taste is bitter, the musk of a human not as sweet as some of the other races she's been with, but it's worth it for the way his eyes widen, pupils dilated until the pale blue is nearly drowned in black, and though she no longer has hands on him she can almost bet that his poor prick just gave a hopeful jump in his pants.

"Take good care of that, darling," she tells him, leaning in to peck his cheek before backing away with a wink, "I'll be back for it later."

And then she turns, biting her lip and grinning to herself as soon as he can't see her face, and saunters out of the workshop.

------------------

She dreams of the Raven Queen sometimes, of course. She dreams of direction and command, of the force of Her will, of targets that she strides across the dreamscape on the feathers of ravens to reach. She is Her Champion, Her unkindness, Her dagger in the dark when such things are necessary. They often are.

She doesn't tell the rest of them about these dreams. Not Pike, who knows well the trials of being in service to a god. Not Percy, who knows well the shadows that haunts the edges of the mind. Not even Vax, who knows well the terrible deeds that good people do. These dreams are between herself and Her, and the ravens who carry her aloft.

Vex isn't sure if she was an entirely good person, before. She's not sure whose judgement determines if someone is good, or what factors contribute to that decision. Certainly she doesn't believe herself to be evil. But then, neither did the Briarwoods, did they? Did K'varn imagine himself a villain? Did Thordak wrestle with his morality?

She lives in the shadow of a god that is often so incredibly neutral that she wonders, sometimes, if She is even capable of goodness. To Her, death is logical, lawful; mortals are the ones who attach emotion to it.

Regardless, Vex keeps these dreams to herself. If she told the others, they'd only worry about her. Hell, if it were happening to someone else, she'd worry about them. But like Pike she knows well her god's will, and like Percy she knows well that shadows can only be cast from a light, and like Vax she knows well merit of secrets.

Vex has endured death. In exchange for life, she can endure this.

She doubts sometimes that she is entirely good, now.

------------------

She leaves Percy alone for a while.

See, she has this theory: Orthax was the dark manifestation of his soul, right? And he'd manifested as a bird-demon-thing. Therefore, Percy is like a bird.

It's-- look, it's a weird thought, but she's a Ranger and she spent most of her formative years in the woods and she typically ends up understanding things better when she relates them to animals.

Anyway.

Vex knows ravens pretty well at this point. They're Her messengers and harbingers, and she's usually got a good half-dozen of them hanging around the Keep at any given time these days. Vex knows that they're stubborn, and intelligent to a fault, and you can cajole and beckon all you want but if they're gonna approach you it will be on their terms. (She's developed a habit of carrying around bits of dried jerky in her pockets, though, because she's discovered that adding food to the equation makes their terms broaden dramatically.)

She doubts that Percy will be tempted by dried pocket jerky, and so she decides to let him approach at his own pace. She's put the seed in his head and now she just has to wait for it to take root, and when it does he'll let her know, just like the birds. It's-- god, she hates mixing metaphors.

If they're gonna fuck, he's gonna be the one to start it, is what she's getting at.

So Vex carries on, business as usual; she eats meals with the rest of them and converses with Percy but doesn't go out of her way to catch or keep his attention, she goes about her routines and gives him a smile and a nod if she happens to run into him, and occasionally she descends into the dungeons to drag him from his workshop and force him up into the world above, but she does all of this with no more suggestiveness than she used to, and if contact is initiated at all then it's entirely on his end.

For the first few days, Percy seems confused, and then almost hurt, which is sort of the opposite of what she's going for with this plan. Conversation is stunted and awkward at first, as if he believes he's being punished for something, but he's a quick study, her Percy, and catches on before the week's over.

After that, it's like a game, the subtle way he reaches for her hand beneath the dining table, the way he seeks her out when he specifically wants her company, the sneaky kisses he presses against her hair, her forehead, her lips when they part. He's proud every time, like he's conquered some mythic beast, and it's-- ah, but it's adorable, when he thinks he's in control.

And that's all well and good, it's very sweet, but the plan seems to have backfired on her tremendously when two weeks have passed since their aborted tryst in his workshop and the furthest progress they've made is a particularly intense kiss goodnight where she got a little carried away and stuck her hand up his shirt before he pulled away to bid her kind dreams.

Even Trinket had seemed disappointed for her after that. (He's the only other person who knows about their relationship, and he seems to regard it with an indifference that is almost insulting. She's his mother, for gods' sake, shouldn't he be a little protective or something?)

And then the bastard, the utter asshole, the wretched fool man has the audacity to bring her a fucking flower.

He hands it to her with a smirk, because he knows, of course he fucking does, he caught on to the game so quickly, that she's decided to let him make the first move, and in turn he's decided to take his sweet fucking time.

"I hate you," she informs him, inspecting the flower even as she says it. She means it, she really does, but, well, she's never been properly courted before, and as annoyed with the turn of events as she may be she can't stop the giddy feeling that bubbles up in her chest, the smile that tugs at her lips despite best efforts.

"No you don't," he says, and he's right goddamn him, crossing his arms and looking so damn proud of himself, the smug bastard, she wants to kiss that stupid look off his stupid face.

They're outside of the Keep's walls, sitting in the grass along the side of the moat. Vex knows that he comes out here sometimes with a fishing pole, when he gets in those moods that action and tinkering cannot cure, when he just needs to think. For her, though, it's just a quiet retreat, a change of pace from the monotony that is Vox Machina when they don't actively have a task to accomplish, the only witnesses being Trinket, who lounges a few yards away and dozes in the sun, and the four or five ravens that circle overhead. The birds are such a fixture to her at this point that she doesn't even notice them, but every minute or so Percy's gaze will wander upwards and a frown steals over his face until she says something that catches his attention again.

Vex hums, touching her fingertips to the delicate red petals, and then twirls the flower in her hands. "What is it, though, darling?"

"Amaryllis," he answers almost immediately, clearly having been waiting for her to ask, and she smiles to herself at the enthusiasm in his voice, the educational tilt that he takes whenever explaining something. "Indicative of passion, love, and radiance."

"Sap," she accuses, and Percy shrugs, running a hand through his hair and laughing nervously.

"I've-- I've never courted anyone before," he tells her, and though his voice is strong there is a vulnerability underneath it, rather like the man himself, a fear that he masks very well. "Truthfully I've never much felt the urge. My older brother, Julius, was a scoundrel until he met his wife, and so I didn't have much of a, ah, positive influence when it came to romance."

"I grew up with a twin brother and a bear," she reminds him, leaning over to nudge his arm with her elbow. "I didn't exactly have suitors banging my door down."

He snorts and opens his mouth to respond, but is distracted by the cawing of one of the ravens pinwheeling above. Once again his attention is caught by them, eyebrows drawn in, and she glances between him and the birds a couple times before prodding him again.

"Something wrong?"

"Why do they follow you?" he asks suddenly, a trepidation in his voice like he doesn't really want to know the answer. "Is it because of... because of what happened in that tomb?"

(Sometimes, she remembers that he never actually apologized, that he can rarely bring himself to even mention it. That's fine, she thinks; she was angry before, kind of, but she's made her peace with it. That is who he is, and she will love him for it regardless. One day, she hopes, he will outgrow his fear of his own failures.)

"Yes," she answers, as straightforward as she can. Her death is not something she fears, not anymore, not the coldness nor the blackness of it. "They recognize me as the Champion of their Queen. I think they just like to check up on me, sometimes."

He turns to her, eyes serious behind his glasses, and asks, "What does a Champion do?"

Ah, the crux of the matter. Up to this point the rest of them have seemed content to scrape by with the bare minimum of information, relief over her return making them loathe to question it, and likewise she's been reluctant to offer that information up, but she should have known Percy would be the first to approach the topic. She's just surprised that it took him this long, or that he'd disrupt the gentleness of the afternoon to do so.

"Lots of things," she says, evasively. "Trot through dreams. Smite the unjust. I'm not sure what Sarenrae would have Her Champion do, you should probably ask Pike about that, but the Raven Queen mostly just has me kill vampires and the like."

"Vampires?" His eyebrows shoot up and he leans back away from her. Overhead a raven caws again.

"She doesn't like creatures that should be dead but aren't." Which has always rather confused her, honestly, because she's fairly certain that she falls into that category as well, but-- but hey, as long as she's not smiting herself, right? Percy still looks unsure, a defensiveness that she hasn't seen in ages visibly drawing him in, and she sighs. "It's not-- She's not horrible, you know. Just because She's not all sunshine and daisies doesn't make Her bad. She's got ravens as her bloody beasts, and those things are the rudest, silliest creatures in the world. Here, look." And she lifts one hand, whistles sharp and loud, and wills one of the ravens to fly down.

It's, it's different, what she has with the ravens, not quite the same as the connection she has to Trinket. Her innate Ranger magic is what makes him smarter, more empathic, more long-lived and less bestial, but the ravens are not hers and she cannot claim them. They're Hers, through and through, and occasionally they deign to heed Vex's call, if they feel so inclined and are hungry enough for the dried jerky.

Five seconds pass, then ten, then half a minute, and Vex still has her hand outstretched while the birds circle them in the sky. After nearly a minute, when she's sure she's going to be ignored and made a fool of, one of them finally dips low, growing larger and larger as it banks to the left, corkscrewing down towards them. Twenty feet above them and growing closer, it flaps hard, slowing its descent before reaching out with one claw, connecting, reaching with the other, and it steadies itself, feathers rustling, on Vex's bracer.

Vex is silent, and Percy is silent, his face a mix of awe and guilt that she's becoming quite tired of seeing. The raven regards them, twisting its head this way and that before puffing itself up, hunching its wings, and honking.

Percy scoffs, the ridiculous sound shocking him into laughter, and the raven honks again, affronted, and shuffles to better orient itself on its perch. It glares at him, then turns to look at Vex, beady eyes blinking at her as if offended.

"It says you're stupid," she tells him, grinning at the raven. She lifts her other hand up to scratch the top of its beak and it watches her suspiciously before letting her, eyes half-closing but still maintaining its glare.

"Really?" Percy asks, fascinated, and Vex lets out an unladylike snort.

"No, moron, I don't speak bird, I've no clue what the bloody thing thinks."

She sets her flower down, carefully, to the side, before reaching into the pouch on her belt with her free hand and withdrawing some of the jerky. Immediately the raven honks again and starts bobbing its head, flapping its wings excitedly, and she holds the meat out carefully, pulling her fingers away as soon as its beak snaps out. To the side, Trinket lifts his head and watches, letting out a betrayed, mournful groan.

"Mummy loves you most, darling!" she assures him, feeling a bit guilty, and draws another bit of jerky out. She tosses it over to him, but before he can catch it in his mouth a second raven swoops down and snatches it from the air, darting out of the way of his jaws just in time. Trinket roars in frustration and chases it with his eyes even as a third and fourth raven, far more forgiving of attention now that there's food involved, alight onto each of Vex's shoulders, slapping and rustling about her ears in a cawing, honking cacophony.

Percy looks utterly perplexed, drawing away from her in surprise, and she sighs heavily as the ravens use her as a perch, heads swiveling this way and that as they search for the source of the food.

"Feathered rats," she grumbles, swatting at one of the ones on her shoulder when it goes to nip at the pointed tip of her ear. "I don't know why I bothered to call you down, I hate all of you." The ravens all shriek as one, a chorus of denial, and then one of them begins to sing as another starts to pick at her hair.

She glances to the side just in time to see the first one, who'd hopped off of her arm to forage about the ground, peck curiously at her flower. "Oh, no you don't," she hisses, reaching for it, but it plucks it up by the stem and takes to the air in a rush of feathers, cackling just beyond her reach as she makes a grab. "I'll shoot you!" she yells up at the sky, ignoring Percy's incredulous laughter, and the two ravens on either shoulder take off as well, screaming as they go.

"Damn them all to hell," she curses, but Percy seems to have been overcome by the manic laughter that occasionally takes him during skirmishes, an outpouring of mirth which is usually, quite frankly, terrifying when it's caused by battle, but now is only relieving when it's caused by a stupid thief bird. "Oh, yes, Percival, laugh it up."

Obviously he intends to; it takes him nearly a minute to quiet his giggling, and it only comes to a complete stop when the raven returns to her shoulder unexpectedly, nearly clipping her about the head with a wing as it lands. It happens so quickly that she doesn't have the opportunity to react, but in a flash of its black beak it streaks out and tucks the red flower into a strand of her braid. It's a clumsy fit and will likely fall out unless she secures it better herself, but the raven lets out a triumphant, throaty chuckle before taking off once more and joining the rest of the birds in the sky.

They swoop overhead, dancing about themselves, and as Percy and Vex watch they slowly cavort their way West until even Vex's keen half-Elven eyes can't see them in the distance.

When she looks back over at him, Percy's eyes are soft, sad, and on her, and she frowns at him. "What?"

He opens his mouth and closes it, then repeats the process a couple more times as if not sure what he wants to say or how he wants to word it. She waits patiently, and when he finally seems to settle on something it's not what she expecting.

"It looks nice on you," he says, gesturing at the flower that's been placed into her braid, and she pulls it out to inspect it once more. The stem is a bit crooked and bent, but the petals are surprisingly intact, and after a moment of deliberation she tucks it instead behind an ear.

"I should hope," she says, trying to force some levity into the moment, the heavy mood that's dropped on them sitting uncomfortable on her shoulders. "My suitor picked it for me."

"He has excellent taste," Percy assures her, the corners of his lips tilting up unwillingly.

"He's very humble, too," she says informatively, and now he's got a proper smile on his face.

"I'm sure. The epitome of modesty."

"Quite polite," she offers.

"Unpretentious, one could say," he responds.

"Demure as shit," she finishes, and he laughs again, eyes wide as if startled by the sound of it. Once he's calmed he reaches for her, and she goes willingly, and he kisses her. It's a soft thing, and gentle, with that lingering bite of sadness that still pinches at the skin of his eyes.

"I am fearful of what I caused in you," he says, quietly, lips moving against hers as he speaks. "I am fearful for you."

He's such a fool man, she thinks, and he will never say sorry.

"Don't be," she tells him, kissing between the words. "I'm not." She kisses again, but it lacks the heat, the fervor, of their exchange in the workshop. That-- that was sex, she thinks, and this is love, and the two are very similar languages that can be spoken together but she is still learning one of them. "Trust me to know myself. If I don't, then who will?"

"Who indeed?" he murmurs, and then his hand lifts and cups the back of her head, fingers threading into her hair, and he kisses her, and it's not-- it's not what she'd been aiming for, not really, too soft, too sweet, not enough bite, but it's good, and it's progress, and she wouldn't trade that for the world.

------------------

("Oh, hey!" Keyleth says brightly, later that day, when they've parted and Vex is holed up in the dining hall, trying to soothe a betrayed and temperamental Trinket with food. She points to Vex's head, and Vex looks around in surprise, wondering if maybe there's someone over her shoulder. "That's the flower I grew for Percy!"

A moment of silence where the two women stare at each other, Vex's stomach dropping as she realizes the flower is in fact still tucked behind her ear, and Keyleth's face slowly becoming more confused, like she's putting together the pieces of a puzzle only to discover that the picture doesn't match what she's been told it's supposed to depict.

"Holy shit!" she cries suddenly, and points at Vex with renewed energy, eyes impossibly wide. Vex sighs to herself.

Well, balls.)

------------------

Slipping into her brother's dream is like-- she imagines that it's like the way sand feels, when it's pouring through an hourglass.

It's not simple, not easy, the way stepping through Percy's is; it's gritty and she has to concentrate or she'll leave bits of herself everywhere. She's not sure how much of this is because of Vax himself, or because of the Elven blood in him, the blood that she shares, that influences his sleep.

She has hunted Elves before, in the dark and shifting dreamscape, and she knows that their trancing makes pinpointing them difficult.

Still, it is possible, and though he rarely remembers her presence upon waking she does like to visit, to calm the turbulent waters of his mind. He's a tumultuous man, Vax, and he's reluctant to offer himself up to emotional confrontation. Truthfully, beyond her initial return and his relieved weeping, Vax has had little reaction to her disappearance and seems entirely unwilling to acknowledge it.

Having lived through this with their mother's death, with their father's abandonment, with her own death, Vex knows that this is how he deals with loss. She knows, and she thinks he's a fucking moron. Walking away from your problems doesn't actually make them go away, and it certainly doesn't solve them, and this bad habit that Vax has developed of just ignoring everything that makes him the slightest bit uncomfortable is just, just, ugh.

Vax often dreams of dark things, which does not necessarily make his dreams nightmares, because things that are dark are not always bad. He dreams of shadows, of moonlight, of sweeping corridors with nooks and crannies to tuck into and hide, where the scenery changes with every rounded corner. Vex likes his dreams, for all that they're usually a bit too quiet for her tastes, as familiar as she is now with the call of the ravens, and she likes to watch him while he dreams, to guard over him the way he used to guard over her when they were children.

Tonight his dream is a shifting thing, a wild blending of cities and trees, massive leafy trunks jutting up from building and houses, a reclamation of nature over civilization. It looks disturbing and worrisome but the taste of the dream is a kind one, a comforting balm upon her concerned heart. She wonders how much of the influence is taken from herself, who had always disdained cities in favor of the woods in her youth, or from Keyleth, who is, well, Keyleth.

It's harder to find him in his dreams than it should be, she's used to tracking quarry through the night, but when she finds him he sits beneath a tree, a great old oak that's burst from the skeleton of a house that looks distressingly similar to the one they grew up in with their mother, his eyes closed and expression serene, looking rather too much like their sire when he used to trance. She stands at the edges of the dream, where his consciousness starts to lose influence, the wavering images of trees and buildings keeping her hidden from view.

She just likes to watch, sometimes. To make sure that he's alright.

"You do realize I know you're there, right?" he calls out suddenly, startling her, his eyes still closed.

She steps forward, closer, her feet making no noise on the insubstantial ground. Overhead a raven shrieks and when she glances up she sees several, swirling shadows against an already-shadowed sky. There's a gentle tug in her heart, a calling, some part of her rising to attention; She is looking for her.

He makes no movement to look at the source of the sound, though his ears twitch when another caw rings out.

"Have you always known?" Vex asks, surprised, the urge to follow Her commands warring against the curiosity and, yes, hurt over her brother ignoring her.

"Vex'ahlia," he says, a half-smile crossing his face, bitter at the edges but not unkind, "you are the other half of me. I am always aware of you."

The ravens circle overhead, coming down closer, slowly, slowly, and Vex knows that She is being lenient, kind in a way that She normally is not, letting her finish her conversation before She sweeps her away to go hunting.

Finally Vax opens his eyes and looks at her, then lifts his gaze to the ravens above them, several turning into dozens that glide down on silent wings to take her from him. "We'll talk about it later," he promises, surprising her once again with how willing he seems to be to have that conversation. When the first ravens reach her, grasping at her armor with their talons, he raises an eyebrow and continues, "And we'll talk about you and Percy, too."

"Motherfucker," she says, feelingly, and then disappears into a swirl of feathers that take her aloft.

In her head, in her heart, in the deep places that she wasn't aware of until she became a Champion, She laughs.

------------------

So they talk about it. There's some screaming and swearing and crying, from both parties, and twice Vax tries to walk away, and finally Vex pushes him down and sits on him to make him stay.

When she tells him about it afterwards, Percy looks physically ill, and spends the next few days avoiding both of the twins at all costs, looking over his shoulder nervously as if expecting a dagger to come shooting out of the darkness and into his throat. And then apparently they have a conversation, and Percy comes back from it with a black eye, so maybe it wasn't so silly for him to be anxious about it after all.

All's well that ends well, though, as far as she's concerned.

She learns something about Percy as well, actually, and that is that he's as long-winded with romance as he is with conversation. Courting is cute and sweet and all but she's had a taste of him and now she wants more. It's a game they play, but it's a game she's both getting bored of and is determined to win.

When next he brings her a flower (aster, red, patience and elegance, the cheeky bastard), she takes it happily and then draws him into a scorching kiss, one that surprises him, if the widening of his eyes is any indication, but it shouldn't; she's always given him kisses when presented with a gift. She holds him there for a long moment, lips working against his, before letting him go with a wink and walking away.

She starts putting hands on him more, a gentle touch at the small of his back when they walk together, a soft scrape of fingernails against the nape of his neck when she leans over him to look at something he's working on, a light squeeze to his thigh whenever they sit close enough at the breakfast table to hide such things. She watches, delighted, as he gets progressively more wound up, as his gaze seeks her out first whenever he first enters a room, the heat in them that warms the cool blue of his eyes.

Another flower (chrysanthemum, white, fidelity and truth, she thinks he might just be closing his eyes and pointing randomly into one of Keyleth's horticulture books), and when she licks into the seam of his mouth his hands fall to her waist and squeeze there, thumbs working up her shirt just enough to rub at the soft skin of her hips.

She crowds him, leaning against him whenever possible, innocently deceptive, and it's a lovely thing because half a year ago this attention would make him uncomfortable to the point of distress but he expects it now, is disappointed if she doesn't reach for him, if she doesn't part from him with a kiss.

Another (sweet pea, pink, delicate pleasure and bliss, he's getting forward now), and he leans in first this time, taking a kiss instead of receiving it, fingers wound into her hair as he presses in and growling into her mouth when she ends it with a tug on his lower lip with her teeth.

Vax knows, and Keyleth knows, and she thinks that Scanlan may have his suspicions, and she wouldn't be surprised if he did, with how her hair stands on end when Percy's eyes meet hers, the shiver that runs down her spine at the slightest touch, the warmth in her cheeks at the way his voice deepens when he speaks to her. Her brother seems more annoyed than anything, rolling his eyes and sighing heavily whenever they're in a room together, and it's working against her now, this plan, just like the last one did; she'd wanted him to want her, but now she wants, more than she was expecting to, what had previously been a curiosity on how different sex would feel with emotions involved having grown into an ache, an urge, a keening want.

Another (rose, red, devotion and desire, and Keyleth rarely meets her eyes these days, a blush high on her cheeks whenever she sees Vex with a new flower), and when he lifts her up against the wall she lets him, legs wrapping around his waist and hands fisted into his hair, teeth and tongues and upsetting his glasses from the force of it, one of his hands sneaking beneath her shirt to thumb at her breast, the sensation dulled by the wraps she wears to hold herself in but nearly as pleasurable in its teasing as it would be if she were bared to him.

She touches, and he touches, and she becomes familiar with the taste of him and he of her, but it never culminates. They're either interrupted or his senses get the better of him and he pulls away early, breathing heavy and mouth swollen and smirking at her when she attempts to give chase. It's embarrassing, almost concerning, how much she wants him, how hot the fire burns in her skin for him, such that she can hardly remember ever feeling cold.

The only true curb to her desires is Her baleful watch, Her occasional summons, Her ravens that carry her away in her dreams, but She doesn't seem inclined to keep Vex from her happiness, so long as she's willing to answer Her call.

------------------

He dreams, and she's clever; he can't run away or deny her in his sleep.

Percy dreams of blackness but that is an easy thing to manipulate, when dreams are black and empty it's a small matter to fill them, and he startles in surprise when suddenly the shadows he'd been standing in are a room, her room, and he stares, confused, as he's suddenly pushed down against her bed from the force of her will.

"What--" he gasps out, and she crawls over him, straddles his waist, one hand braced on the mattress and the other on his chest, fingers splayed out over the expanse of him, this meticulous attention to detail even in dreams letting her feel the nervous jump of his heart.

"If you don't want this," she says, voice quiet but with enough heat in it that it embarrasses her, "then please, tell me now." She will not push him, not if he truly wants to wait, if he honestly feels he's not ready, but-- oh, there is a burning inside her but she will wait lifetimes for this fool man.

"Am I dreaming?" he asks, incredulous, his heartbeat slowing under her fingers as he stares at her. She sighs in annoyance.

"Bigger concerns here, darling," she reminds him, and grinds her hips against him, and he huffs out a breath, leans his head back and closes his eyes.

"By all means," he says, voice strained as she presses down again, and his hands lift and then settle on the tops of her thighs.

It's different, in dreams, not that she's ever had opportunity or inclination to do something like this before now. Every sensation is muted, muffled, the warmth in her core as she moves against him still there but not as sharp as it should be, the pleasure dulled by the confines of sleep. She leans over him heavily, uses her weight to push herself down and into him, but he doesn't react as strongly as he should, breathing heavily but not gasping for it like she wants him to.

It takes a minute or so of this, of her grinding down against him, feeling him grow rigid against the seat of her pants, before he grunts out something that sounds like a vague denial, and then sits up, unbalancing her from her perch. She yelps in surprise and topples over backwards, and when her back hits the mattress he lifts her hips and settles between them, tucking himself against her center and thrusts, hard.

"Oh," she says, eyes wide, because oh, that is much better.

Why couldn't he dream them up without clothes on? She grasps for the will necessary to strip both of them naked but it slips away from her, her mind too distracted by the feeling in her body as he grinds in against her, rubbing in so close that she imagines she can just barely feel the heat of his cock even through the layers of both of their pants.

"Vex," he hisses, teeth gritted as he works against her, nails digging into her thighs, the sting dulled through the fabric. He's so quiet, quieter than other lovers she's had, his only sounds being panting and occasional soft moans and murmurs of her name.

It's satisfying, the weight of him, the warmth of his body against hers, but it could be so much better, so much more if only they'd been doing it in the waking world. The idea of it, the thought of how encompassing that would be, how pleasurable sends a thrill up her spine that makes her gasp, the first true and pure beat of arousal hitting her and making her hips jerk up, meeting his when he thrusts.

They both groan out at that and he forces himself closer, head bent towards his chest, and she can't take it anymore, it's so close but not enough, nearly disappointing in the lack of intensity, and she reaches up, grabbing ahold of his hair, and kisses him. It's hard, and wet, and he doesn't expect it but recovers excellently, biting into her and breathing hard against her through his nose, and when she pulls away and he looks at her, eyes dazed and pupils dilated, she winks, and with a force of will gestures with one hand.

She wakes, suddenly, in her own bed, sweating, her skin prickling, she wakes, and when she wakes--

------------------

-- the sensations that were muffled in the dream hit her with full force, nipples hard and thighs slick and wet, and she gasps, reaches down and touches herself on instinct, fingers sliding over and into, bowing her back. She's well-versed in her own pleasure, knows exactly how far to push in and exactly where to crook her fingers to have that heat build up inside her, and she pauses only briefly to shuck her pants entirely before going back to her work.

She feels a bit guilty for a moment to be doing this without Percy, considering he's likely just as worked up as she is, but she wants this, actual honest sex, to be his decision. She's willing to sway and manipulate and stack the deck in her favor, but she will not force him to do anything he doesn't want to do. If he comes to her, it will be of his own volition.

It's just as she's thinking this, gasping at the tightening in her gut as she thumbs at her clitoris, that the knob to her door turns and opens, having been left unlocked for this very reason. She has a split second of horror to think to herself, Oh god, please don't be Vax but it's not, it's Percy, eyes dark in the shadows of her room, the only light being that of the moon that shines in through the window.

His breath is visibly uneven and he stares at her for a long moment, looking tensed, muscles coiled, almost dangerous with the intensity of him, and when her fingers hit that place inside of her that she was reaching for she keens softly, biting her lip when his eyes snap down between her legs. He watches for the span of a few breaths before finally moving, crossing the length of her room in mere steps, and when he comes close enough she reaches out with her free hand, touching his face, sliding into his hair when he leans down to kiss her, hard and demanding in a way he's usually not. It lasts less time than she expects, than she wants, and she whines when he pulls away, then gasps as he kneels down, grabbing onto her hips and tugging her forwards, startling her hand away from her slit as he lowers his mouth against her and licks into her, hard.

"Oh, fuck me," she breathes as his tongue works inside of her, lips moving against the slick folds, and she drops her hand back into his hair, nails digging into his scalp as her thighs clench around his head on instinct. He hums out a chuckle against her, the vibration shooting sensation through her cunt and up her stomach, following the line of her body and making her nipples peak even more.

He pulls away slightly, and it takes all of her willpower not to force his mouth back against her by his hair. He kisses the inside of her thigh, nips at it with his teeth and then soothes the sting with a swipe of his tongue, so goddamn close to where she wants him that she keens again, higher, and he smirks against her skin. "I intend to," he says, and then goes back for more, opening her up with his tongue. One of his hands hitches a thigh up over his shoulder, changing the angle of how he hits inside her, and then drops down into her curls, seeking her clit and scraping against it with the calloused pad of his thumb.

Her hips jolt up, stayed by the press of his other hand holding her down, and she gasps, clutching at his hair even harder as her body wars between the desire to jerk away from the overwhelming pleasure or grind down into it, caught halfway between both urges and rocking against his mouth. His tongue is warm as it moves inside her, not as solid as a cock but more flexible because of it, and her muscles clench around him when he leans back to lick up the length of her slit, thumb still circling her clit.

"You're good at this," she accuses breathily, tugging at his hair, and he lifts to rest his chin on her navel, the soft skin of her stomach jumping against the wet slick that coats his lips, and he watches her, eyes dark and half-closed as he dips slightly to press an open-mouthed kiss against the v-shape of her hip.

“Would you believe me if I said that I’d never done this before?” he asks, amused, fingers skimming down from her clit to the wet opening and sinking into her, just one at first as if to get his bearings and then a second one, and when she forces her thighs to relax their grip on him with a sigh and her legs pull apart, widening for him, a third joins the first two.

“No,” she says with a snort, then gasps when he pushes down hard against her clit with his thumb, the sensual pressure toeing the line of pain-pleasure. He kisses her stomach again, then the tops of her thighs, making his way back to her cunt slowly.

“Your mistrust wounds me,” he murmurs against her skin, his voice sounding far more rational than she feels is fair, though admittedly right now she seems to be getting all the attention, which is fine because hell if she doesn’t deserve it.

She opens her mouth to reply, but he finally drops his mouth back against her, suctioning his lips against her clit as his fingers piston inside of her, his eyes falling shut in concentration as he works her towards completion, and gods, gods but he does have a clever tongue, doesn’t he?

It doesn’t take too terribly much longer for Vex to hit her release with a cry, too overwhelmed to even attempt to muffle it, hands tightening their grip in his hair until she’s sure it must be painful for him but she can’t help it, it’s too much, too much, it’s just right, muscles spasming and clinging to his fingers as they move within her, that warmth that’s been building up below her stomach for the last few weeks finally exploding outwards, each touch and heated glance that she’s suffered from him in teasing punishment coalescing into this moment.

“Percy,” she whimpers, too distracted by the heat that runs in her veins, limbs weak and shaky in the aftermath of it, to be embarrassed by the need in her voice. He hums and pulls away from her, the entire length of her body shivering in either relief or loss, and shuffles forward, leaning over her to kiss her. It’s softer than she’s expecting, more gentle, more-- just-- just more. His lips work against her, damp and the taste of them familiar with her wetness, and her hands drop from his hair to his face, cradling his cheeks, thumbs rubbing beneath his eyes.

They kiss for a while, letting her breathing regulate, her body calm from the outburst of pleasure, before she lets her head drop against the mattress with a sigh while he moves his lips from her mouth to her throat, teeth scraping against her in more of a promise than a threat. “Want I should help with that?” she murmurs finally, scraping her nails against his scalp soothingly, struggling to find her words through the blissful haze that’s fallen over her mind.

“In a moment,” he replies, leaning back away from her fully for the first time since he’d entered the room, and she pouts at him as he goes. He sits back on the bed, hissing in discomfort as the movement puts either too little or too much pressure on the very obvious tent in his pants. “Take off your shirt?” he suggests, adjusting himself with the palm of a hand, then apparently gets distracted by the feeling of it, grinding it down against himself with a sigh.

She smirks and closes her eyes, lets herself relax against the bed for a moment and listen to the sound of him, the faint rustle of fabric as he lowers the waistline of his sleep pants, presumably to pull out his cock. “Should have pegged you as a tits man,” she says, still grinning, before tugging at the hem of her shirt, pulling it up and over her head, shivering when the cool night air hits her sensitive nipples, still hard from her pleasure earlier.

When she opens her eyes again, Percy is staring at her, mouth open slightly as he pants quietly, that hand that had fingered her to completion now gripping himself, stroking hard and fast with little preamble. It’s-- she-- she’s already come, and rarely has she been able to pull herself back to that brink so soon after falling over it, but damn if her body doesn’t try, a weak jolt of heat blooming in the pit of her stomach at the sight of him working himself, and just because she’s feeling catty she raises a hand up to one of her breasts and pinches at it, the moan she lets out only half-theatrical.

“Oh, gods,” he groans, shoulders hunched and hips jittering into his hand, breathing hard through his mouth.

She’s-- oh hell, but she wants him, she wants him just for him, just because it’s Percival, her clever human who’s as proud as a dragon but frightened of his own shadow, her wary man who’s too smart with no sense to temper it. She wants him inside of her, over her, encompassing, filling up and surrounding until they are as near to each other as two mortal beasts can get, the closest that two separate souls can touch. This is love, she knows now; oh god, this is love.

“Get your ass over here,” is what she ends up saying, because at the end of the day he’s still him and she’s still her, and if a requirement of love is that she has to turn into a mushy romantic then she does not want it.

Percy chuckles and pulls his pants off entirely, having already been shirtless upon entering her room (and she nearly laughs at the imagery of it, shirtless Percy with a hard-on jogging through the halls of the Keep to her room), and crawls over her. “May I?” he asks, quietly, voice serious despite the smile tilting his lips.

Vex rolls her eyes and opens her legs up a bit wider, an exasperated smirk crossing her face. “If you must,” she says magnanimously, and he laughs again before lifting her hips and settling between them, a mirror of their positions in his dream, and when he guides himself into her, sliding into the wet warmth, they both sigh heavily.

Vex closes her eyes for a brief moment, adjusting to the weight of him, the stretch, and when she opens them again he’s closer, leaning over her, close enough that if she pushed herself up she could kiss him, watching her, waiting for a reaction, a hint that she’s uncomfortable.

“Hello,” she says, smiling in disbelief. How short a time ago was it that she couldn’t imagine this? And now she can’t think of wanting anything else.

Percy huffs out a relieved breath and blinks, his glasses having slid to the tip of his nose with all of their movement and exertion. His eyes are so blue, she thinks. So very, very blue. “Hello.”

“Can I be honest with you, darling?” she murmurs, grinning to soften the words, and he shifts to get more comfortable, moving inside of her just enough that the both of them hiss at the feeling.

“I do appreciate honesty,” he says, voice strained, and she can see him clench his jaw, hips pressing in just slightly closer, he’s trying so hard to restrain himself.

“I’ve never made love to anyone before.” She smiles, wider, loosing a breathless laugh as she wraps her legs around him and pulls him in a bit closer, and he groans again, ducking his head down against his chest. “I’m kind of nervous to try it.”

“What a coincidence,” he says, echoing her sigh, the thumb of the hand that’s holding her hips rubbing gently at her skin while his other is braced on the mattress, keeping him above her. She can see his arm shake from the force of holding still. “Neither have I. We can figure it out together.”

“Okay,” she replies, and a part of her that didn’t realize how anxious she was over the whole thing seems to break away, calmed by the surety in his voice, the affection in his eyes as he looks at her over the rims of his glasses. “Okay. Let’s have at it, then, I suppose.”

He laughs, loud and startled, and her smile turns giddy as she bites her lips. He sees it and leans down over her, the movement once more causing his prick inside her to twitch, and kisses her, soothes the sting caused by the press of her teeth. Then he closes his eyes, and moves.

It takes them a moment to find a rhythm that works for the both of them, a push-pull dance of skin and heat, his pelvis pressed against her hips and then sliding away, nearly out of her, before snapping in again. It’s slow, sort of, charged with the energy that sparks between them, her moans and his little gasps. Sex is nice, sex is all well and good, but this, oh this, what she’s been missing without realizing it. This is good too.

She watches him, eyes on his face, the way his spectacles threaten to slip off of his nose, the tiny poke of his tongue as he breathes through his open mouth, the furrow of his brows, the dark eyelashes that flutter over his blue, blue eyes.

It’s slow, and lovely, until he's pushing in just deep enough that it hits something inside her, a shudder wracking her frame and a cry leaving her lips as she tightens around him with her cunt and legs alike, a frisson of lightning shooting through her, centered on where his hips press in against hers. He picks up on it, the clever man, and aims for that spot again, working himself as deep into her as he can get, thick and hot and hard inside of her, the feel of him bigger than sight would suggest in the manner that such things work. When he pushes against that spot again and she clenches down once more he throws his head back and lets out a groan, the loudest sound she’s heard him make yet, before grunting in exertion, picking up his pace even faster.

Vex has had sex with-- well, she’s had sex with a lot of people, honestly. Virginly virtue is, as previously stated, not something she puts too terribly much stock in. She likes sex and she’s never turned it down, provided the situation at the time allows for the distraction. This, tonight, sex with Percy, isn’t the best she’s ever had, though it’s by no means the worst.

It’s never meant something to her before, though. Not beyond physical gratification, beyond the most basic of pleasures. Vex isn’t going to pretend that she’s entirely in touch with her feelings; she knows she’s fine with dying and that she’s not fine with the people she cares about dying.

It means something to her now.

He goes faster, the slap of skin against skin in the room drowning out his heavy breaths and her tiny moans, the slick wet sound of him thrusting in and out of her, aim nearly as good while fucking as it is in combat, hitting that sweet spot inside of her more often than not, surprising her with how quickly she’s climbing back up that precipice, that pinnacle of pleasure that she rarely crests twice in one night.

“Vex,” he gasps, leaning over her so much that his hair tickles her breasts, bouncing slightly with his thrusts, his exhales hit her navel, the weight of his body against hers pressing her into the mattress. A bead of sweat drips from his forehead and lands the short distance to her chest where it mixes with the perspiration on her own skin. “Oh, gods, Vex.”

He’s close, she can tell; his breathing is labored, chest heaving, skin burning hot against hers and his thrusts lose their pace and depth, focused more on raw speed than finesse. When he says her name again it’s more of a whimper than actual speech, and Vex pats his hip with one hand and reaches down to rub at her clit with the other. He sees this, eyes blinking heavily, and seems to steel himself, redoubling the force of his hips, slamming into her and grinding in deep, and she appreciates the effort but understands when he finally cries out, voice cracking on a moan, and empties inside of her, warm and wet, a strange feeling that she’s still not quite used to for all the times she’s had sex before. She typically doesn’t let men release inside of her, despite having access to teas and herbs that can prevent any, ah, unintentional visitors, but him-- well, she figures he’s entitled.

He slumps against her, breathing ragged, lax and boneless and scorching hot against the length of her body and takes a long moment to catch his breath as she continues to work her clit, biting her lip. When her second orgasm hits it’s a gentle thing, a smolder inside of her as opposed to an explosion, lacking the heat and flare of the first but no less satisfying for it. When her inner muscles flutter around him he hisses, sensitive, but doesn’t pull away until he’s softened enough to slip out of her naturally, grimacing at the rush of fluid that follows him messily.

“Apologies,” he sighs, still pressing against her with the weight of him, and when he lifts up to press his forehead against hers their skin sticks together from the sweat and he grimaces again. “I tried to, ah, wait, but--”

She laughs, breathless, and lifts a hand to cradle his cheek, kissing him, pushing a smile against his lips. “Darling,” she says, soft and gentle, the way she instinctively feels after good sex but usually pushes aside, not enjoying the vulnerability when laying with strangers, but this is not a stranger, this is Percival, her fool tinkering man. “It was lovely.” She kisses again, the barest movement of her mouth on his. There’s a building thing inside of her, something heavy that wells up in her chest, something she can only assume is either love or extreme indigestion. “You’re lovely.”

“I try,” he hums, and finally lifts himself off of her, but only briefly because when he settles into the bed he pulls her back up against him. He’s a furnace on her skin, nearly uncomfortable with the lingering heat of sex and the body warmth that he naturally exudes, but she would not trade it for the world.

“I love you,” she says, off-handed, informatively, like it’s just a small thing.

“I should hope,” he says with a tired grin, mimicking their conversation that morning in the hall completely except for the yawn that breaks the sentence in half, “or I’ll be very disappointed.”

Vex rests her chin on his chest and watches him, watches the smile drift from his face as he relaxes into sleep, breathing evening out and deepening, settling into exhaustion the way that men typically do after such activities.

Sleep takes a long while to find her, but it is a contented while, and she watches him dream from this side of the plane until dreams finally take her too.

------------------

She dreams, and She is calling, a whole slew of ravens screaming at her, their feathers beating against her consciousness, flapping wings and snapping beaks. There is work to be done, and She has been patient, but Vex has been idle and she has a task to complete, an enemy to hunt, a dream to prowl, and She calls--

“No,” Vex tells the ravens. “You fuck right off. I am having a good night and you will not ruin this for me. Come back tomorrow.”

The ravens stop flapping and She stills, Her call going silent. There is a long, tense moment; Vex has never denied Her before and it doesn’t seem like either of them quite know what to do about it now that she has.

Slowly, reluctantly, like a cat slinking down an alley, She withdraws. Vex knows that She’s watching, because She’s always watching, but she’s not scared of Her. Not anymore.

“Tomorrow,” she promises, and She fades away, the ravens disappearing into the darkness, and Vex is again content.

------------------

When she wakes, the rising sun is shining dimly, sometime after dawn. She notices immediately that Percy is not in the bed with her, but her concern is dimmed when she spots him, still naked, standing by the window.

He’s such a pretty thing, cast into the yellow light of dawn, and behind him she can see the hills and fields of Emon, a gray mist covering the grass. This is her home, she thinks. Here, in this place, and he is her home too, as much as Trinket and Vax, surprising her with the intensity of it. She can see his profile from this angle; he hasn’t noticed her waking, but his face is soft, expression gentle as he looks out over the horizon.

She admires him for a long moment, the happiness that he carries so deeply inside of him that he rarely allows himself to feel it, the relaxed set of his shoulders, the curve of his back, before speaking, quiet so as not to startle him.

“Percival?” He glances at her, blinks for a second more smiling. “Come back to bed, darling.”

He looks back out the window for just a moment more before he obeys, settling against her.

Oh, yes, she thinks. This is her home.