December 2005

Disclaimer: A yuletide gift. No profit. Not mine. Many thanks to elynross for the original idea and for editing and encouragement. Written as a yuletide story for Harukami. Don't archive without permission.

A common fate

Hold perfectly still, a cold voice breathed in his ear, and the back of his neck prickled with ice and the awareness of danger. Damien kicked violently, struggling to free his legs from the tangle of sheets and fear. But his arms were trapped as well, and though the bonds were invisible, he could not break them.

Fae, then.

Of course, whispered that same cold voice, and Damien didn't need to be able to turn his head to know who this was, didn't need to see the remote, inhuman beauty and staggering arrogance. Cold breath against his skin, far too close for comfort, and then the brush of lips against his ear, his neck, tender as water freezing into ice.

Damien fought against the entrapping fae, every muscle straining. He tried to Work, but there was nothing, no fae for him to touch, no Working to stand against this. Tarrant's mouth brushed against his neck, soft and gentle and unsmiling. It has been a long time since I tasted the blood of a cleric. But Tarrant's tongue lapped at him and tasted his skin, his sweat, his fear. His fears. He sank into the past, into the thick red darkness of helpless fury.

"Until tomorrow, Reverend Vryce." Tarrant began to turn, in a perfect sweep of clothes and hair and jawline, the moonlight wrapping around him like a shimmering cloak.

Damien grabbed him by the shoulder and spun him round, recklessly, and punched his fist into that delicate chin. A trickle of blood ran from the corner of Tarrant's mouth.

"Just so you don't forget," Damien said.

Tarrant touched his fingertips to his lip. "No," he said, reaching out and brushing his fingers across Damien's forehead, marking him with blood. "No, I won't."


"I thought you would like to know."

The pounding of rakhene drums played counterpoint to his pulse, and his every breath seemed to hold an echo of Ciani's laughter. He took a step forward and closed his hands roughly about Tarrant's shoulders, feeling blood soak through the cloth, feeling bones grind under his grip. Tarrant jerked his head back, and Damien could see under his hood now. A face out of a nightmare, with charred and blackened flesh barely clinging to the bones. But the eyes, the eyes were the same as always, clear and steady and cold and beautiful, watching him unflinchingly as he put his hands about Tarrant's neck and twisted until he heard the spine snap and break.

"Yes. Yes, I wanted to know."

The darkness in his cabin was not absolute, but his vision was hazy and blurred, as if he were watching through clear water and every touch of Tarrant's hands and mouth made the surface ripple. No darkness is absolute, Tarrant breathed, not for those who can always See. With fine, precise strokes of his fingertips, he outlined the muscles in Damien's shoulders and chest, locked in struggle, unable to break free.

The helplessness went deeper than that, into the certain knowledge that he could no more break the grip of Tarrant's hands than he could break the grip of his Working.

But it's quite entertaining to watch you try, soft voice, so close, to see you fight against me. And yourself. You want to go deeper.

Damien tried to shake his head, but the fae rose about him and pulled him down into an even darker, redder present. No matter how hard he fought, he could not stop Tarrant from seeing. Could not stop himself from wanting.

"What would you do to keep the lady safe?"

"Anything," Damien said.

The Hunter looked amused. He stepped closer, and closer still. So close that Damien could see the fine-grained pores of his skin and the individual threads in his silk garments. "Ah."

Long-fingered hands began to unfasten the delicate buttons, and Damien went to his knees on the cold, hard floor. "Anything," he repeated softly, steeling himself.


While the storm raged around them, Damien dragged Tarrant off the deck of the ship, manhandled him down the steps and into Damien's cabin; he didn't think he could wrestle Tarrant all the way down to the hold while the ship still pitched and bucked like a wild thing. Tarrant was as icy as the last wave that had broken across the deck, and Damien shook him, brushed at him to get the ice out of his hair and away from his clothes, rubbed him in hard strokes though he knew that Tarrant's body would never have the warmth of even Damien's wind-chilled hands.

Piece by piece, Damien shoved the wet silk aside, uncovering and touching more and more of Tarrant's pale, pale skin with roughly eager fingers. Tarrant seemed to be made of a substance other than flesh, at once dense and fragile under Damien's hands, and Damien thought he could sense a faint hum and vibration of fae from every cell, a current that arced into his own body and set his nerves on fire.

The precise line of Tarrant's fingertips tracing across Damien's chest turned into a loop, a swirl, a slower and excruciatingly deliberate caress that mocked his sensitized flesh and its inevitable response. Damien clenched his jaw and tried not to move; his invisible bonds would give, he knew, just enough to let him struggle, try to pull away from this touch, and in struggling, push into it. The heavy coil of sensation low in his belly was not, quite, nausea. No. Because you want, Tarrant whispered, and now his teeth were against Damien's skin, much too sharp. You want.

A shift in the air, a pressure, as though the darkness itself pressed voluptuously, tauntingly closer. Damien sobbed for breath, close, so close. Teeth and tongue, and that silken silent voice. But there's more. Go deeper.

Damien struggled after all, but the fae had him, taking him deeper still, past the rage, past the darker, deeper desire, past the present and into a slowly building terror of what was yet to come. Go deeper, and he didn't want to, he never wanted to, but Tarrant's soft words were powerful enough to send him hurtling forward into the future that he feared most of all.

"Not yet," he said; the church he served had not yet rejected him as it had rejected Tarrant. Tarrant came to stand next to him, put a hand on his shoulder, and that cold touch made him shiver. Support in that touch, sympathy, even, but this was the icy, inexorable hand that had pulled him away, that was still pulling him away, from the vocation he had once chosen and the life he'd once planned. He would go with Tarrant to Mount Shaitan. He'd already gone into hell for him, so what was one more burning inferno? They'd be together. They'd burn together.

Tarrant's hand moved to the back of Damien's neck, thumb brushing along the hairline, as if brushing away the day's accumulation of human sweat and grime. Damien drew a shivery breath. Then, wordlessly, Tarrant walked to the door and let himself out into the first thin grey streak of dawn.


"Yeah. Only until one of us dies." Tarrant nodded. Their hands were still clasped, stuck together with ash and sweat, Damien's, and blood, Tarrant's. Damien knew that moments after he let go, the grime would vanish from Tarrant's skin. He chuckled, he couldn't help it, there was ash in his hair and sulphur in his lungs, and he leaned forward and pressed his bloodstained mouth briefly against Tarrant's clean, perfect lips. "Bet you I'll die first. Just take what you need, Gerald."

Darkness closed like a vise around him. Where were you, Tarrant whispered, where were you, and Damien couldn't answer, loose-jointed with the joyful horror of it, trying against the grip of fae and hands to press closer after all. It sickened him, and he wanted to, so badly. I need, he whispered back, tasting the weight of the words, and cold sweat sprang up on his skin and shook him loose, sent him down into a different darkness.

* * *

Damien woke in his cabin in a tangle of bedding soaked with sweat and other things he wouldn't think about, the air reassuringly stale and ordinary about him. He sat up, relishing the free and easy movements of his body, and swallowed, hard; scrubbing the floor would be a pain, and he'd rather not have to explain.

When he stood, the planks were solid under his feet, worn smooth. He pulled on some clothing, the first things he could reach, and padded barefoot like one of the sailors out of his cabin and up on the deck. Night, still, and the stars shifting towards morning. The air was rough with salt.

A tall, slim figure of a man stood by the railing, staring out across the slow swell of waves. Damien had to stop and swallow hard again, pushing everything down. Then he took his courage in his hands and went across the deck to lean against the railing, too, just a little more than an arm's length away.

"I'm not sure how much more of this I can take," he said conversationally.

Without looking at Damien, Tarrant said, "You're not giving yourself enough credit." He paused, and what Damien could see of his face was colder and more expressionless than ever, then went on, "But I think perhaps in the future, it will be better if I create your nightmares. Yours are rather too... disturbing."

Damien drew breath, but couldn't speak, as Tarrant turned and walked away, going belowdeck as the first thin lines of pale blue and white appeared on the horizon. All he could do was stand there, wordless, and watch the sun rise.

* * *

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