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Brador's only regret was that it was over too soon.

A knife to the throat was all it had taken. The old saint had seen it coming, and with his last words spent, he didn't fight back as his life was ended. Brador would have liked to talk with the man a little more. Perhaps, having accepted his imminent death, he could have been persuaded to divulge more of his secrets. But ultimately it was Brador's first murder, and his excitement had gotten the better of him. He considered it quite forgivable given the circumstances.

The deed was done. Brador put his knife through each of the man's eyes and then pulled back his right pant leg, checking for any visible sign of infection. Saint Lafayette was a hairy old goat but hopefully not enough that any suspicion would be roused. Satisfied, Brador rummaged through the house, stealing the most valuable items he found. It was a surprisingly decent profit, for a man of the cloth.

Brador turned up his collar as he put the house behind him. In the dark of the moonless night he would have appeared as no more than a shadow gliding down Yharnam's alleyways. His heart was light and fast as he hurried up the twisting roads into the Upper Ward, his mind aflame with speculation as to how he would be greeted. Surely, his lordship would be pleased. Even if his station prevented him from outwardly showing it, he would understand and appreciate the gesture.

He discarded his spoils from the saint's home as he went, tossing the gold and gems into the sewer grates.

The Vicar's estate was as grand as its occupant deserved. With its spires tall and eaves sloping, it rose as a piercing and majestic figure of Yharnam's skyline. Construction had only just finished in time for the season's first frost. The stone was smooth and cold, too new for nature's elements to have worn grooves that could have been used for footholds. Brador had no choice but to make his way through the garden, climbing trellises and hopping balconies like a common thief. But his lordship would be pleased to see him. He was sure of it.

The glow from a single candle drew Brador to a small balcony on the north wall. He hopped the rail and pressed up close to the glass, hoping to catch a glimpse of the interior before having to announce his presence.

The room within was a library, walls crowded with shelves that were only sparsely populated; the rest of the old tomes meant for them were piled in crates all about the floor. Among them sat their owner, a thick robe draping his slender shoulders, his legs folded clumsily beneath him. He was leaning over the book in his lap, deeply engrossed. It was very easy to imagine that its dusty pages had distracted him from some other now forgotten duty. The candle light flickered against his skin, highlighting the sharp angles of his profile. His eyes were bright and intense, and Brador was eager to have them on him.

It only took a flick of the same knife that ended Lafayette to unlock the balcony door. Brador frowned with concern for the easy entry, but once he had slipped inside, all his thoughts turned to his lordship as he was in that moment. He crept forward as quiet as the dead, and was able to approach nearly all the way to the man's side before his toe tapping a wayward book alerted him.

Laurence raised his head. Brador took some guilty pleasure in the look of surprise that crossed his handsome features. "Brador," he said, closing the book in his lap. "I ought to have known you would find your way even up here."

"Forgive me, my lordship," Brador replied, not that he felt any remorse. "Does my intrusion displease you?"

"No." Laurence placed the book back into one of the crates. Its cover was too worn and the light too dim for Brador to make out the title. "Your presence has never been unwelcome."

Brador swelled with the compliment, even more so when Laurence raised his hand. He took it, delighting in the warmth of his narrow fingers as he helped him to his feet. It was not with his usual grace; Laurence depended on the strength of Brador's arm, and even once upright he swayed just a bit, awkwardly stretching his shoulders and back. It gave Brador goose bumps to know that he was one of a very select few to see their honored vicar in such an undignified state.

But then Laurence went still. He drew their hands closer and Brador could have sworn his nostrils flared. "Brador," he said, scraping underneath Brador's fingernail with his own. "What have you done?"

Brador's heart leapt, and he had to struggle not to let the truth burst out of him too soon. "Please don't sound so concerned," he replied easily. "I was merely paying a visit to our mutual acquaintance."

Laurence's brow pinched as he tried to puzzle out who Brador meant. When the answer came to him his eyes widened with a mix of shock and possibly relief, but it was the reflexive tightening of his fingers that drew Brador's attention most. "You went to Lafayette?" he asked, hushed like a child. He rubbed his thumb against Brador's fingernail. "This is his blood?"

Brador's lips quirked. "Can you not smell it on me?" he replied just as softly.

Laurence squeezed Brador's hand again, and for an instant he appeared almost swayed by temptation. Then he let go, and his robe swished across the books as he retreated two steps and sank into the embrace of a handsome, tall-backed chair armchair. Brador couldn't help but stare at the silk hem falling open across his knees.

"I did not ask you to do that," said Laurence, reclining deeply. "What if someone suspects?"

"No one will suspect," Brador assured, and as much as he liked Laurence's eyes upturned on him, he lowered himself respectfully to one knee. "I cut out his eyes, so there's no sign of infection left on him. He told you himself he confessed his symptoms to no one else. I even pilfered a trinket or two, to provide motive." He smirked. "Who would dare to think there was any deeper meaning, let alone speak it?"

Laurence relaxed into the cushions, trying to hide how eager he was to be swayed by Bardor's confidence. "And you weren't seen?"

"Of course not."

"Did he speak to you?" Laurence pressed. "Did he say anything of consequence?"

Brador's ears burned, but he managed to keep the words far from his mouth. "No, my lordship. Nothing of consequence."

Laurence must have seen through him. No eyes were wiser than his, no instinct more keen. But he did not question. "Was it swift?" he asked instead.

"Very," replied Brador, his manner sobering appropriately. "I knew you would not want to have him suffer."

At last, Laurence's tension seemed to truly unravel, and he sighed. His gaze wandered to the balcony's glass door and the darkened city beyond. Brador would have killed again to know what thoughts occupied his mind, but he remained still, waiting patiently until his lordship's attention returned to him.

"You risk too much for my sake," said Laurence.

"Not at all," replied Brador. "No risk for your sake is too great."

Laurence considered him for a long, silent moment. Then he stretched out one slender leg, pressing the ball of his bare foot against Brador's lowered knee. "I still don't understand," he murmured, "what it was I did to inspire such loyalty as this."

The gentle pressure drew each of Brador's senses into sharp focus, and his heart fluttered. "Do you need to?" he asked, fingering the delicate bones of Laurence's ankle.

"I suppose not," said Laurence. He parted his knees ever so slightly, allowing his robe to fall further open. "I have only ever benefitted from your service."

It was as much an invitation as Brador had ever received. With a great effort toward concealing his unseemly lust, he slid his palm up Laurence's shin to cup the perfect shape of his knee. "My service is always yours," he swore, his fingers creeping ever so slowly beneath the hem of Laurence's robe. "In every capacity."

Laurence flexed his toes against Brador's thigh. "I accept it gladly," he said.

His eyelids drooped, but there was tension in the fine muscles running up and down his leg, hinting at a sincere interest he, too, was trying to disguise. Brador could restrain himself no longer. He leaned forward, pressing a slow, wet kiss to the inside of Laurence's thigh. The skin was as smooth as cream beneath his tongue, and he took his time with it, gradually working his way higher. Laurence shivering beneath the attention emboldened him; he attended to his other leg with a firm massage, reminding himself not to delve too far too soon. His lordship was a treasure that deserved to be adored.

Inch by inch Brador progressed with eager lips and hands, ears lapping up the quiet sighs that confirmed Laurence's approval. But it was Laurence's long fingers sinking into his hair that enamored him most. They twirled around his coarse locks, gentle and almost playful at first, growing harsher and more insistent the higher Brador reached. He wanted to feel Laurence yank and tear—he wanted the man to beg.

Brador reached both hands beneath the robe, taking firm hold of Laurence's hips. He tugged, not moving Laurence enough to unseat him, but firmly enough to show off his strength. An arched back and a sharp gasp were his reward. Nothing could have been sweeter, and Brador wasted no more time; he nosed past the drooping hem of the sleep robe to wetly kiss the root of his master's cock.

Laurence sighed heavily, gradually relaxing back into the chair as Brador caressed his sensitive flesh with eager lips. Even with arousal stirring, he managed to be so composed, so elegant. But there was a tremor in his façade, a slumbering vulnerability that put the most delicious tension in Brador's own groin. He licked and lipped down to the head of Laurence's cock and took it into his mouth slowly, reverently, as if it were a holy offering. Feeling it grow thick and full against his tongue drew him even more swiftly hard, and he swallowed.

Laurence shivered and tightened his grip in Brador's hair. It was tempting to lean back to see his face, but Brador let his imagination sustain him. It wasn't the first time he had paid his lord proper worship, after all, and he had no intention of it being the last. So he focused only on Laurence's pleasure, easing his cock down his throat and then leaning back, then forward, building a rhythm. Laurence squirmed within his hands, and when Brador took in his full length, he finally surrendered a tiny, breathless moan.

It was a victory to be cherished. A lesser man would have lost himself to greed, but Brador remained steady as he marveled at the heat and weight of his beloved's anatomy. He refused to increase his pace, teasing Laurence with deep, even strokes of his mouth and gently massaging fingertips—each administered with loving patience. Laurence endured as best he could, but the tension winding inside him was becoming ever more obvious. He clutched at Brador's scalp with one hand while the other pawed at the armrest of the chair, trying to covertly press them closer together. His breath grew heavy and panting, his thighs quivered. Even so Brador drew the moment out as long as possible, until Laurence was unraveling, his voice spilling out.

"Brador...." he whispered, and hearing his own name spoken in such ecstasy had Brador tingling. "Please...." He curled over Brador's shoulders, clutching him with hands and knees and quiet moans as climax overwhelmed him. Brador welcomed every shudder of his hips, swallowed every drop. He was all too happy to continue lavishing his lordship with attention until he was spent and soft.

"Oh, Brador," Laurence murmured as he slumped back into the arm chair once more. When Brador finally lifted his head, he was enamored anew with the blush in his pale cheeks, the weary content gentling his features. They were too tempting to resist. Humming with affection, Brador climbed into his lordship's seat and kissed him. Wide, soft lips met his with sleepy but wholehearted reciprocation.

But then Brador lifted his hands to Laurence's face, and something within the vicar grew sharp once more. He turned his head, catching Bardor's forefinger between his teeth. A moment later Brador realized that he was sweeping his tongue along the nail bed; he was sucking Lafayette's blood from him. It seemed to give him an inordinate amount of satisfaction, as if he were quenching a great thirst. Brador was intrigued by his fervor, but then he saw it, just faintly in the dim light of the library: a twitch in Laurence's hooded eyes. An unfocused turn and a blood vessel swollen across the surface.

Brador grabbed him by the collar of his robe and reared back, hauling both of them out of the armchair. Laurence was too taken by surprise to fight. They tumbled to the floor among the crates, books spilling beneath them. Brador shuddered as he pinned his lordship beneath him, one hand gripping his sculpted jaw while the other groped for the candle. He burned his fingers on the flame. Laurence regained enough of his wits to begin struggling, but once Brador had drawn the light close, he stopped once more. Resisting the urge to squint beneath the illumination, he fell very still, allowing Brador to see clearly.

His pupils contracted beneath the candlelight, but not enough; his irises were frayed at their inside edges, so faintly that only the closest scrutiny would have revealed it. Brador saw. He saw, and he wilted.

"Oh, Laurence," he whispered, letting go of Laurence's jaw to instead cup his cheek. All his strength rushed out of him and he was hollow. In the darkness of those eyes he saw a world deprived of his great star, and already he ached to rend it apart. "My dear Laurence…."

Laurence stared back at him. He was making an effort to be unmoved, that much was painfully evident, but as Brador stroked his cheeks his composure began to fail him. Fear crept into the corners of his eyes and mouth, and he allowed Brador to see that, too. Then he reached up, drawing him in by his shoulders.

Brador sank into his arms, draped himself across his chest and buried his face in the silk-smooth curve of his neck. He was breathless and he depended on the steady beat of his lordship's heart beneath his to spur his own blood through him. Laurence wrapped him up and stroked his hair.

"Do not mourn me," said Laurence. "Not yet. There is still hope for me, buried somewhere in these books. Have hope for me, Brador."

"Yes," said Brador, though he suddenly felt so heavy, and he worried that he would crush Laurence beneath him. "What hope is there for any of us, if not for you?"

Laurence clenched a fistful of Brador's hair close to his scalp. "No one must know," he said, as firm as Brador had ever heard. "You understand that, don't you?"

"Yes, my lord." Brador drew in tighter within his arms, imagining himself a blade in his sheath. "No one will know."

Laurence fell quiet for several minutes, just holding Brador close as the candle burned down beside them. At long last he took in a slow breath. "You are swift," he murmured, "are you not?"

Brador closed his eyes. "Very swift, my lord," he promised.

Only once the flame went out did they move. Brador unwound reluctantly from Laurence's arms and helped him to stand. He took a moment to better situate the sleeping robe on his shoulders, and Laurence allowed it. When he started to step away, warm hands on his wrists stopped him.

"Are you leaving?" asked Laurence, squeezing. "I would not have you depart here unsatisfied."

Though Brador was yet in somber spirits, he smiled. "Your pleasure is my pleasure," he replied. "If you are satisfied, I—"

"Come to bed with me, Brador," Laurence said, his tone not unlike that of a scolding schoolmaster. "This house is too new to me. I'd rather not be alone."

It ought to have been a dreary and ominous notion, but seeing the sharpness back in Laurence's face filled Brador with a kind of morbid gratitude. His lordship's secret was his. No one else could know. If Laurence's end was soon in coming, at least he could satisfy himself in knowing that he would be the one to see it, perhaps even to mete it out. No other would ever be closer to his lordship than that. And in the meanwhile, there would be more dark nights like this, a thrill in his hands and a bed to come back to.

If you kill me now, I will not be the last, Lafayette had said. Brador believed it. He could see his future, and oddly, it did not displease him.

"Then you won't be, ever again," said Brador, and he lifted the back of Laurence's palm to be kissed. "Lead the way."