He finds Corvo in Havelock’s room, casually rifling through the man’s leather-bound journal and eating an apple. Teague can smell him all the way from the doorway, a stink of blood and sweat and gunpowder, something darker and far more bitter that’s probably connected to the wretched tattoo on his hand. There are smears of red on his palms and dark patches on his coat, and his lone concession to the relative safety of their location is that he’s removed his mask.
Teague’s relieved on that last score, not that he enjoys admitting it. The mask was designed to be frightening, but in his opinion it does the job too well. It’s all too easy to forget that there’s a face beneath it. Whenever Corvo comes back from a mission and peels the mask free, Teague always stifles a brief stab of horror over his certainty that there will be nothing at all beneath.
“That was nice work with Sokolov,” Teague says. “Havelock said he sang like a bird once you applied the proper motivation.”
Corvo crunches his apple and tosses the journal back onto the desk. “Hungry rats are generally motivating.”
Rats. Teague suppresses a shudder. There had been rats sniffing around his legs while he’d been in the stocks. His guards always killed them eventually, but they’d taken great pleasure in laughing at him while he tried and failed to kick them away. He has no love for rats.
“You couldn’t think of another way?” he says without thinking.
There is a flash of blue and Corvo is across the room before he can blink. The reek of blood is overwhelming, made strange and slightly sweet by the tang of the half-eaten apple, and the man’s unnerving at a distance but almost unbearable up close. Gaunt from his six months in prison, the burn on his face still healing. He’s far more haggard than the man glaring out at the world from the wanted posters, and most unsettling of all is the weird, half-mad light in his eyes.
Teague knows what prison and failure and betrayal can do to a man. He’d expected Corvo to be malleable with exhaustion and despair, easily pushed and even more easily led. But there is something in Corvo that transcends exhaustion. Whatever it is, it’s hard and bright and terrible, and it leaves Teague wondering if perhaps they’d make a mistake in choosing him. Havelock is badly wrong if he thinks they can ever hope to control this man. Corvo is feral, driven by some deeper force that none of them can hope to touch. He is a walking open wound, raw and beautiful in his awfulness, and in moments like these Teague can only be thankful that Corvo has accepted them as allies.
He doesn’t like thinking about what might happen should Corvo decide otherwise.
“You have a problem with my methods?” Corvo says. Eyes intent beneath the shadow of his brows. “That’s funny, coming from a man who won one of the highest positions in the Empire through blackmail.”
Teague’s not going to argue with him. The ends may justify the means, but he’s not going to pretend the means are anything but underhanded and dirty.
Their cause is just. This is what gets him to sleep at night.
Instead of protesting, he simply puts a hand on Corvo’s chest and pushes him back a step, grimaces when his hand comes back tacky and flecked with crimson.
“I hope you’re planning to clean yourself up before the Boyle party,” he says. “Somehow, I doubt the nobles are going to be impressed by a man stalking among them covered in blood.”
Corvo’s grin is a wretched, crooked thing, all dark humor and sharp teeth. “You haven’t spent much time around the nobility, have you?”
“Can’t say as I’ve had the pleasure,” Teague says. Corvo’s got him hemmed in against the bookcase, to what end he’s not entirely sure, and the open doorway is making the back of his neck itch. Too exposed.
Corvo follows the direction of his glance and flicks his hand. There’s a sudden, shocking gust of wind that ruffles Teague’s hair and startles a gasp out of him, and then the door slams shut so hard it rattles the frame. The wind dies as if it was never there at all.
And he doesn’t think he’ll ever get used to this, these bald displays of magic so dark and heretical it leaves his blood pounding. He’ll concede that Corvo’s abilities serve a purpose, but there’s something almost gleeful in the way Corvo uses them. He doesn’t even wear gloves, and it’s like he’s daring the world to call him out on it, to label him a witch, to drag him off to the stocks and the chair and the fire.
As if anyone could ever hope to take Corvo alive, the way he is now.
Corvo touches two bloodstained fingers to Teague’s neck, pressing ever-so-gently against the thrum of his pulse just below his skin. “Your heart always speeds up when I use my powers,” he says. “Did you know that?”
He sounds mild enough, but Teague’s not fooled. The monsters lurking in Corvo’s depths have teeth, and they’re always hungry.
“I’m merely astounded by the ease with which you’d risk your own life,” Teague replies stiffly. “How do you know it won’t be the final straw? That I won’t just cut off your hand to save the rest of you?”
Corvo throws his head back and laughs. It’s the hoarse, rusty sound of a man terribly unused to laughing, and Teague’s pulse ratchets up further. There is something so subtly wrong about Corvo, the knife-edge sharpness of his cheekbones, the pervasive smell of blood and seawater and smoke. Corvo’s laugh is wrong in the way that everything about him is wrong, and sometimes Teague feels like he’s not looking a man at all but a human-shaped hole in the world.
“Don't be ridiculous,” Corvo says. Flash of his teeth. “You and I both know you’re not interested in saving anyone. Except yourself, perhaps.”
“Says the man who would burn down the Empire to save it.”
Corvo leans in, so close their noses are almost touching. His voice is very soft. “And here I thought you’d know a thing or two about cleansing through fire.”
Now Teague does shove him back, hard, but Corvo only moves just enough to make it obvious that he’s humoring him and then he’s back in Teague’s space in an instant, sliding one long leg between Teague’s own to knock his knees apart. The air between their bodies tastes like copper.
“I know why your heart speeds up,” Corvo says. Almost sing-song. Absurdly, Teague is reminded of the Abbey chants, their precisely derived harmonies meant to shield the singers from the Outsider’s long-seeing gaze.
He doesn’t think they worked.
“Do you, now?” he says.
“Oh, yes,” Corvo breathes, and now their bodies are flush, Corvo’s hands on either side of his head and his lips tracing the line of Teague’s jaw. “I know a lot of things about you, High Overseer. I’m curious…does your sordid former life make you more or less inclined to follow the particulars of the Abbey’s teachings?”
He says this last directly into Teague’s ear, and Teague twitches, irritated that he knows exactly what game Corvo is playing and that his body is responding anyway. He’s made no secret of the man he was before he became an Overseer; he’s not sure how or why Corvo knows, but that’s immaterial. The important thing is that Corvo thinks he can use this knowledge against him, but Teague has seen and done things that not even Corvo can imagine and if he thinks he can throw Teague off-balance with something as base as sexual aggression, well…Corvo’s not the only one who knows that particular game.
Besides, he’s reasonably sure Corvo is bluffing. All those rumors about him and the Empress…
He’s sure of it.
So he drags his mouth over Corvo’s cheekbone and says, “What do you think?” Corvo’s skin tastes of blood and dirt and salt, and he’s not stupid enough to try to touch the man, not without telegraphing the move from at least three rooms away, but his intent is clear in his voice and every line of his body and he fully expects Corvo to pull away.
Instead, Corvo turns his head and captures Teague’s mouth with his own. The sweetness of apple still lingers on his tongue, and Teague finds the dissonance strange. The sugary-sweetness of fresh fruit, the disturbing tang of blood and metal. Corvo’s teeth. It’s less a kiss than a declaration of war, and Teague has never been one to let a challenge go unmet. He kisses Corvo back, hungrily, and arousal stabs low and deep in his belly.
Corvo kisses like he fights, all terrifying focus and single-minded intensity. He is precise and sharp, utterly devastating, but Teague knows how to fight too and he fights dirty. Triumph blazes through him when Corvo groans and breaks away first. His breath is hot on Teague’s jaw.
“So much for your Sixth,” Corvo says, harsh amusement in his voice. He’s panting, bites when Teague catches his mouth again, and when Teague doesn’t back down from the kiss Corvo ups the ante by dropping his hands to the heavy buckle of Teague’s belt. Fingers making quick work of the thick leather, mouth trailing down Teague’s neck to suck stinging kisses into his skin. There is sharpness in Corvo’s every action.
They’re locked now, trapped in a battle of wills where neither one of them can back down, and truth be told Teague isn’t sure he wants to. He knows it’s a bad idea – Corvo is much too deadly and sex will complicate matters enormously – but he can’t deny the thrill of the dangerous and this wretched, beautiful, terrible man is as dangerous as they come. His breath catches on a groan when Corvo palms him roughly through his trousers, catches again when Corvo rocks against his hip and there is an unmistakable hardness there.
Teague says, “Couch.”
Corvo ignores him in favor of attacking the buttons of Teague’s trousers and biting down much too hard on his neck.
“Nggh, fuck.” Teague shoves him back, and it probably says something awful about him that the expression of mingled fury and lust on Corvo’s face goes straight to his cock. He winces when Corvo slams him into the bookcase again; there’s a shelf digging into his spine, and while it certainly hasn’t affected his arousal any it’s still less comfortable than he would like.
“A little late to back out now, don’t you think?” Corvo goes right back to what he was doing and quickly makes work of the remaining buttons. There is something frightening in his voice, something brittle and not entirely there, and Teague wonders, a little uneasily, what would happen if he did try to stop this. If he changed his mind.
…it’s probably a good thing he’s not.
“I’m not backing out,” he snaps. He hauls Corvo in for another hard, messy kiss, and when he pushes him away again he propels Corvo rather pointedly in the direction of the small, battered green couch against the wall. “But the bookshelf is uncomfortable and the thought of fucking in Havelock’s bed gives me hives, so unless you have a better idea…”
Corvo grins fiercely. Shucks his coat and lets it drop to the floor in a puddle of dark wool, begins to unbuckle his belt without taking his eyes off Teague. “I could always fuck you over the table,” he says.
The idea’s not without merit, not if the startled throb that rushes through Teague is any indication. Corvo’s fingers digging into his hips, sweat dripping on the maps below, the glorious burn and ache of it—
Teague shrugs off his own outer layers, just as much as he needs to, and advances until the backs of Corvo’s calves hit the edge of the couch. “Intriguing as the thought is,” Teague says, “I have absolutely no intention of turning my back on you.”
The laugh this startles out of Corvo is jagged but surprisingly genuine. It’s the most human Teague has ever seen him.
“So it turns out you are smart after all,” Corvo says. There’s a sudden flare of blue light and then the world spins disconcertingly; Teague finds himself flat on his back and breathless, his heart pounding, Corvo crouched over him and looking far too pleased with himself.
“Unfortunately for you,” Corvo says, “I’m smarter.”
Teague tries to flip them over and discovers, much to his irritation, that Corvo has him quite effectively pinned. “Is there any particular reason we’re on the floor?”
Corvo nips at his jaw, sets up a slow and steady roll of his hips. The friction is maddening.
“You didn't like the shelf,” Corvo says. The hands around Teague’s wrists are as hard and implacable as the stock shackles. He wonders if they’ll leave similar bruises. “You didn't like the bed. You didn’t like the table.” He pulls back when Teague makes a frustrated noise. “And I don’t like the couch.” He smirks. “The floor is a compromise.”
At least they’re on the rug, Teague thinks sourly. He’s tired of being thrown against hard surfaces.
He pushes up as far as he’s able and captures Corvo’s mouth again. There’s something intoxicating about kissing the man. It’s like holding the blade of a knife in his mouth, like putting a single bullet into a pistol and spinning the chamber. Pressing the muzzle to his temple. Pulling the trigger. Kissing Corvo is a glorious act of self-destruction.
Corvo releases his wrists in favor of getting his own trousers undone, and Teague knocks his hands away, ignores Corvo’s low growl of warning. For all their talk of fucking, he knows this won’t be anything but graceless and fast. He’s been on edge since this stupid game began, and while he has no desire to dig deeper into Corvo’s head than he has to, the man’s need is plain enough. Hard and determined, like the rest of him, leaking into Teague’s hand. When Teague gets them lined up and strokes, Corvo bites his lower lip hard enough to draw blood.
It’s fitting, Teague supposes, that they’re on the floor. They’ve all tracked Outsider-knows-what over this rug, and the boards he’s digging his heels into are splintered, warped from spilled alcohol and the perpetually saturated Gristol air. It’s fitting, because there’s nothing sweet about this, nothing gentle, nothing that calls for soft surfaces or softness of any sort. Corvo’s kiss is hard and tastes of blood, and he thrusts with ragged, greedy abandon into Teague’s hand. Mindlessly chasing his own pleasure, utterly unconcerned for his partner.
This would be irritating if it didn’t feel so inexcusably, appallingly good.
Teague gives up on trying to establish his own rhythm. Instead, he lets himself get dragged along in Corvo’s wake, meets him thrust for thrust, tightens his grip when Corvo snarls, “Harder,” swallows his throaty noise of satisfaction. When Corvo’s movements go jerky and he breaks off the kiss to pant against Teague’s mouth, Teague hooks a leg behind his and uses the opportunity to flip them over. Braces himself over Corvo with one hand, strokes them both faster with the other.
“You – ngh – bastard,” Corvo gasps. He makes as if to push up and throw Teague off, but falls back to the rug with a thump when Teague adds a sharp little twist on his upstroke. It’s a very thin line between “too much” and “not enough,” but Teague suspects Corvo likes that faint hint of pain.
He likes it too. He’s always considered it a personal failing, but maybe not so much right now.
“Let’s leave my parentage out of this,” he says, pleased that he’s able to keep his voice steady.
Corvo looks up at him with dark, narrow eyes. He doesn’t so much grin as simply bare his teeth, and in Teague’s peripheral vision his left hand begins to shimmer.
Teague snaps, “Don’t you fucking dare.”
He jerks his head away when Corvo reaches up to palm his cheek in a hideous parody of a lover’s touch. When he pulls away a second time, Corvo simply winds his fingers in Teague’s hair and yanks, drawing his head down so they’re forehead to forehead. His hand is still glowing. Teague can – Outsider’s eyes, he can hear it. It’s the most awful sound he’s ever heard, dark and malevolent and deeply profane. It burns through his entire body and leaves him shaking.
“What’s wrong, High Overseer?” Corvo says. Still grinning, faintly, echoes of the Void glittering in his eyes. “Not a fan of magic? Or is that only when it’s not being used to your own ends?”
His voice is rough and jagged, and Teague thinks he must be close. He’s leaking steadily in Teague’s hand and the movements of his hips are as ragged as the rest of him, breath harsh, sweat along his hairline, but there is also a strange dark joy in his face that makes Teague want to utterly destroy him. Rip him apart and scour every last trace of the Outsider from his bones, with fire if he has to, because Corvo is a beautiful, wretched, unholy abomination and—
Corvo groans and arches beneath him, the fingers in his hair going so tight it’s painful. “Is that what you’d do?” he says, and Teague realizes he’d been talking out loud. It doesn’t matter. He’s close, he’s so fucking close, in this filthy little room that smells of blood and sex and a man who’s Death incarnate, and Corvo’s hand is in his hair and Corvo’s breath is on his lips and Corvo’s hips snap to meet his—
“I would burn you.” Teague’s voice cracks. “I would tear you to shreds and burn you until there was nothing left and you would deserve it—“ and underneath him Corvo jerks and arches off the floor and spills hot and damning over Teague’s hand. Completely silent, save for the momentary catch of his breath.
The added slickness is all Teague needs. He works himself faster, eyes clenching shut as the hot, telltale prickles begin to claw their way up his spine. He’s almost there, almost, he—
“Maybe I deserve it,” Corvo rasps suddenly in his ear, “but so do you,” and Teague utters a low, choked sound as orgasm rips through him.
As soon as the rush fades, he rolls off Corvo and onto his back. He feels strange, and hollow. The certainty that this was a terrible idea is battling with the fact that it felt like a good one. Corvo is panting next to him, his shirt rucked up just enough that Teague can see pearly streaks on the dark hair of his stomach. He smirks when he catches Teague looking.
“Got a handkerchief?” he says. “I’d use my own, but there’s blood on it.”
Teague wordlessly wipes his own hand on the rug, sets himself to rights, and pushes to his feet. There’s a handkerchief in the pocket of his heavy Overseers coat, still crumpled in the middle of the floor where he left it, and he pulls the coat on before he digs out the handkerchief and makes his way back over to Corvo. It makes him feel more secure, more like himself.
Corvo’s pushed up on one elbow, inspecting the mess on his stomach with mild, reptilian curiosity. He doesn’t thank Teague for the handkerchief, merely mops his stomach clean before smoothly rolling upright, and then he gets his clothing in order the same way Teague’s doing. He tosses the soiled cloth into the wastebasket without asking, but Teague’s not complaining; he really didn’t want it back.
The silence isn’t exactly uncomfortable – Corvo seems no more inclined to discuss what they’ve just done than Teague is, which suits him fine – but being alone in a room with the man is enough to leave anyone feeling unsettled. Finally, Teague says, “When are you leaving for the Boyle party?” and he’s relieved that his voice sounds completely normal.
Corvo retrieves his half-eaten apple from where he’d left it on the table and crunches into it with no small amount of relish. Teague tongues the bite on his lower lip, still bleeding a little, and wonders if it was Coldridge that left Corvo with the keen desire to sink his teeth into things. Coldridge, or…something else.
”I would burn you…”
“Just after sunset,” Corvo says through his mouthful. “Hiram’ll have stepped up the patrols, so we need to make sure we’re not seen.”
Teague pulls his gloves back on, tries his best to ignore the alkaline smell of semen on his fingers. He plans to wash his hands as soon as humanly possible. “You sound as if you’re looking forward to it,” he comments absently, and jerks in surprise when Corvo suddenly reappears in the air directly behind him, one arm locked around his neck and his lips touching Teague’s ear.
“Haven’t you heard?” Corvo says. Tightens his arm until Teague is gritting his teeth against the urge to gasp for air. “I love a good party.”
And then the door is open and he’s gone, leaving behind nothing but the smell of blood and seawater. Bite marks in Teague’s flesh. The aching conviction that he’s made a very bad mistake.
It’s probably a good thing, Teague thinks, that Corvo’s going to be gone for the night. He and Havelock are going to have a very long discussion about what they plan to do with Corvo after the plan has come to fruition. After all, even the best hounds can go rabid, and there’s only one thing to do when that happens.
Corvo’s been rabid from the start.
He and Havelock need to talk.