Warnings: unhealthy relationship, possessive behaviour, mildly dubious consent.

Disclaimer: Amnesia property of Frictional Games.

The Lights in the Shadow

Sometimes Daniel's nightmares were different. Alexander had become adept at distinguishing the different dreams Daniel had night to night. He could trace the change in Daniel's breathing, his face, his movements, as he twisted and turned restlessly under the covers. The nightmares that plagued him nightly were most often about the Shadow stalking their every move and Alexander could quite easily distinguish when Daniel was having that particular night terror. His violent thrashing and cries for help were not particularly subtle indicators.

Other nights however, and far more intriguingly, his nightmares would take on a different form. Something far quieter, more insidious. They were things of shadow and figures that flitted in and out of focus. It was difficult to perceive what was occurring on the brief jaunts Alexander made into Daniel's mind. Something he enjoyed doing on occasion, though not often enough to arouse suspicion (though Daniel was so very credulous that he doubted he would ever suspect his kind benefactor of anything untoward). It was achingly intimate, being entwined inside Daniel's dreams, even dark and sharp as they were. He longed to go deeper, to twist himself around Daniel's mind, but even a credulous mind knew when it was being, to put it crudely but succinctly, fucked. It would have to wait.

Alexander had taken to sitting on the faded chaise-longue against the wall opposite the cavernous canopied bed that seemed to swamp Daniel's slim, delicate form. He was such a fragile thing. All breakable limbs, trembling pale flesh, dark eyes that were solemn and searching and almost pleading. He knew the young man was greatly enamoured by him, and Alexander would admit that even his resolve, single-minded as he was, could not withstand the enthusiastic attentions of a desirously handsome and charming young man. Even if he was a human. One that he had initially dismissed as being particularly dull, even among the astonishing stupidity and small-mindedness of his species.

It had taken him time to see that past Daniel's almost childlike fascination with, well, everything, was a curious if not sharp mind and a quickness to learn, with Alexander there steadying his hand of course. He had not missed the way Daniel's eyes all too often trailed away from what he was doing to settle on Alexander, searching and asking. For approval, for guidance. It was painfully endearing. Alexander almost despised how rapidly he had overcome his natural aversion to humanity and found almost everything about the young man supremely compelling.

A soft moan interrupted his musing and he looked over to where Daniel's face was bathed in an almost unearthly glow from the oil lamp perpetually lit at his bedside. On their descent through the castle, Alexander had tried not to too keenly enjoy the way Daniel quivered at his side, all but clutching onto him as he shrunk away from every shadow and darkened corner.

Daniel moaned again, hands beginning to clutch at the bedding, head tossed to one side. Alexander went to his side, glancing over his face and the little frown that marred his winsome features. He had the sort of face Alexander would be hesitant to share with his peers at home. They hadn't known true innocence and vulnerability for millennia. Not even in children. They would eat Daniel alive if they could.


Daniel gave a small cry and an almost violent thrash. Alexander had to step out of reach so he wasn't hit across the face.


The word was combined with a sharp, frightened gasp as Daniel awoke. If Alexander hadn't been so close, he probably wouldn't have heard it. He quickly knelt down, affecting the appearance of concern.

"Daniel!" He gave him an unneeded shake.

Daniel's eyes (blue, so ridiculously blue, Alexander noted bitterly) fluttered as he looked up at him, flushed and panting. The older man curtly pushed away the thoughts the boy's current state had far too quickly awakened inside of him.

"Al-Alexander?" Daniel's voice was croaky from sleep.

He struggled to sit up, pushing slightly damp hair out of his eyes. That damned hair, Alexander noted without force. It would have to be cut before they made their journey.

"I was shaking you for about five minutes," Alexander lied easily, sitting beside him on the bed.

The flush had drained away, leaving Daniel very pale. An arm of his nightshirt had slipped down, exposing one shoulder. Alexander wondered at how something so innocuous could fill him with such a fierce possessiveness and heat.

"Just another dream," Daniel said, eyes slipping away from Alexander's, looking embarrassed, as he often did when the older man happened to so conveniently be by his bedside as he woke in fright. Alexander knew enough of humans to know that Daniel was very glad of his presence, and flattered by his attentions. "I have been taking laudanum-"

Alexander waved away his apologetic tone. "Come sit with me by the fire. It will calm you."

He got up and walked into the parlour nearby, hastily lighting the lamps and fireplace. Daniel hovered in the doorway, nightshirt and hair charmingly rumpled. He only edged in when the room was suitably light and even then he clutched the oil lamp from his bedside table to his side. He placed it on the table, awkwardly perching on an armchair. Alexander smirked a little as he sat opposite him, pouring two glasses of brandy from the decanter on the sideboard. He poured a little laudanum into Daniel's, unseen by the distracted young man.

He passed the glass to Daniel. "Drink, Daniel. You'll feel better."

Daniel took the glass with a thankful grimace and gulped from it, a bead of the liquid trickling down the corner of his mouth and settling tantalizingly on his jaw. Alexander forced himself to look away, staring at his own glass with disinterest.

Daniel drank almost the whole thing in seconds, wiping his mouth with the back of his hand. Alexander cocked his head with a concerned frown. "I took the liberty of adding a little laudanum to yours, Daniel. I hope it wasn't presumptuous."

Daniel looked momentarily alarmed. Alexander supposed he wasn't so eager to be put back to sleep and back into the grips of his nightmares. "No, of course," Daniel stammered in spite of himself. "Thank you, my Lord."

Alexander smiled. "No need to look so alarmed. It was not enough to knock you out." Or was it? He really never knew when it came to Daniel and his susceptibility to substances.

Daniel smiled back at him, shaking his head with a small frown. "Of course. My apologies. My dreams have been so… bizarre of late."

Alexander would need to broach the subject gently. He refilled Daniel's glass without looking at it and Daniel instinctively reached for it.

"Slower, if you please," Alexander said, as he brought it up to his lips. "We don't want you passing out."

Not yet.

Daniel took a few mouthfuls and put the glass back down. He stared into the fireplace, the same delicate frown settling on his brow as the low flames flickered in the reflection of his clear blue eyes. Alexander waited. Pushing would do little good. Daniel had a tendency to snap shut if he felt he was being probed for information he wasn't willing to give. And he had been very forthcoming on most issues. His fears, his desperation to escape the Shadow, his willingness to do what was necessary to survive, the events that had led to his arrival at Castle Brennenburg. His disclosures had been earnest, and quite intimate. He clearly hadn't spoken about himself in any great detail to anyone for some time.

Daniel closed his eyes, an almost pained expression crossing his face before he opened them again. "I- I wish to-" He took a deep breath. "I'm sorry. You must think I'm such a fool."

A divine fool, Alexander thought.

"Nonsense," Alexander said dismissively, swirling his drink and pretending to take a sip from it. He had never liked brandy. "Would I be so eager to save the life of a fool?"

Daniel smiled with a genuine warmth that would have melted a younger, less bitter heart than Alexander's. No creature had the right to be as disarming as this human. He could sense that he wanted to confide, wanted to share the meaning behind those shadowy dreams and his cries for his father. It must have been a burden to keep it from Alexander when he had shared so much else with him. Perhaps more brandy.

Just as the thought came upon him, Daniel was already reaching for his second half-empty glass. He poured the liquid down his throat and wiped his mouth with the back of his hand, eyes meeting Alexander's almost sheepishly.

"My Lord, can I…" Daniel hesitated, biting his bottom lip. Alexander often mused on what it would be like to bite Daniel's lips like that. What lovely noises he might make for him. "Can I ask something of you?"

"Anything, my lo- my dear boy," Alexander smoothly corrected himself.

He didn't know how Daniel would react to him declaring his passions openly, though he had a hunch. The boy was so buttoned-up and burdened by the repressive morals of his inferior species. But Alexander was nothing if not patient. He had led him softly by the hand every step of the way, the way one would a frightened deer. And that description wasn't entirely unapt for Daniel.

"Why are you helping me?" Daniel's look was uncharacteristically sober. Even given his current state, Alexander noted to himself as Daniel accepted his third glass of brandy. He took a gulp, eyes never leaving Alexander's. He cupped the glass between his hands. "I'm not very clever or talented. I know I must be a burden to you. Why then-"

"Enough." Alexander's voice was a low rumble. Daniel jumped at hearing it. "You underestimate yourself. And you are avoiding the subject."

Daniel looked sheepish again. "I've told you so much about myself, surely-"

"I do wish you would stop assuming what I do or do not wish to hear from you," Alexander said sharply. "I am a man of much power and means, Daniel. I am not in the habit of suffering fools gladly." Daniel blushed, looking very much the scolded child. "Which is fortunate, as I do not believe you a fool."

Daniel took one more sip of his drink and set it down, seeming to find his resolve. With a slight sway in his seat Alexander noticed. He wasn't speaking with a slur yet however, so he trusted he was still reasonably lucid.

"You know of my nightmares concerning the Shadow," Daniel said, to which Alexander nodded. He would show all of the patience of a dedicated teacher. "I sometimes have… other nightmares. Of the more garden variety." Alexander hadn't heard that element of bitterness to his voice before.

Daniel sighed and sat back in his chair, silent for a few moments. He was certainly at least a little inebriated now, because he seemed to be having trouble focusing on Alexander's face, his eyes were just a touch hazy. Alexander always overestimated the human capacity for alcohol. Their bodies were so delicate, and Daniel's especially. He hoped he hadn't overdone it. As pleasant as it would be to have Daniel faint into his arms, it would render his interrogation rather useless.

"My father was…" Daniel seemed to be avoiding his eye now. "A…" He licked his lips, and Alexander noticed that he was trembling. "Well, he was a bloody brute." The words were spat out like poison. They quivered with an almost crackling resentment. Alexander sensed that he would have liked to use stronger terms than that but was loath to do so in front of him. "And, well, I'm sure that my childhood was not the only one devoid of-" He seemed to struggle for the right word. Alexander sensed that he was straining not to use the word "love".

Silence settled on them. Alexander was considering. He had gathered from Daniel's oft repeated exclamations of "father" that some such familial trauma was haunting him. That he could still be so scarred by it these many years later spoke volumes. Alexander thought on Daniel's fear of the dark.

"Is that why…?" He left the question hanging between them.

Daniel exhaled softly. He knew what Alexander was asking him. It seemed to take an incredible amount of effort, but he gave the tiniest of nods, little more than a jerk of his head. It took even longer for him to finally be able to verbalize the words: "There was a cupboard."

Alexander had been calm, impassive until now, but those words caused an intense burst of anger within him. He impatiently waved away the sensation. It wasn't the time for emotions. "You were mistreated?" It may have been the most inadequate question he had ever uttered.

Daniel finally met his eye, his cheeks fiercely flushed. He was ashamed. He probably hadn't spoken about this in years, or perhaps ever. Alexander could have been the first being he had trusted enough to disclose it to. "Many children are."

Alexander looked at Daniel in a new light. Suddenly his almost slavish admiration, his shy, desperate need for Alexander's approval and guidance was brought into sharp focus.

"Daniel, do you view me as a substitute for your father?" he asked rather bluntly, not seeing the point in mincing words.

Daniel looked utterly taken aback by the question. His mouth dropped open as he gaped at him and his face went furiously pink. Alexander idly observed that it was rather charming.

"I- It-" Daniel was back to stammering and blinking in an embarrassed way. "Of course not!" he managed to splutter out, so flushed now he looked like he was badly sunburned. "Oh God, I should never-"

He rose to get of his seat and gave an unsteady wobble on his feet. Alexander hurried to his side, steadying him with a hand on each of his elbows. His skin felt very cold. "Daniel," he scolded. "You're freezing. Let's get you back to bed."

Daniel meekly let himself be led, still too flustered to look at him. He slipped back beneath the covers of his bed, settling himself back against the pillows and staring determinedly up at the canopy above him. Alexander smiled wryly to himself.

"Daniel," he said gently. "Surely we are beyond such childishness. You can come to me with anything and I will aid you in any way that I can."

Daniel finally looked at him, eyes uncertain. "Will you?"

Alexander sunk back onto the bed beside him, smoothing the covers over Daniel. Daniel looked up at him with a slightly bleary expression. He still seemed a touch intoxicated. Perhaps he would never have had the nerve to tell Alexander if he hadn't been a little addled by alcohol and laudanum, or perhaps he would have been perfectly willing. Alexander honestly didn't know, but what was done was done.

"You do confound me," Alexander mused.

"Will you help me?" Daniel's voice was so soft and imploring. If it had been any other person Alexander would have questioned his sincerity, but he doubted Daniel was even capable of deceit- and certainly not in his current state.

"Very well," Alexander replied coolly, retracting his hand.

He stood up and began to undress. Daniel scrambled upright, looking confused and uncertain. "Alexander?"

Alexander looked unconcernedly at him over his shoulder as he dropped his overclothes onto a chair next to the bed. "I am going to sleep with you tonight, Daniel."

Daniel flushed and Alexander realised the double-meaning to his words, but decided not to correct himself. Daniel's blushes were too enjoyable. And he would be a very untruthful man if he claimed he hadn't had idle thoughts on how his claiming of Daniel would unfold. It had always been clear as day to him that one day the young man would be his lover, his own, and so such fantasies were, to him, simple musings on what was to come.

Alexander slid under the covers next to him, the bedding pleasantly cool and crisp from disuse on his side of the bed. He was very conscious of the heat of Daniel's body just a few inches to his left and the stiffness of his limbs as he clearly tried to process this new development in their relationship. Spilling drunken confessions to his mentor was one thing but sharing his bed with another man seemed to utterly confound the poor boy.

Alexander rolled onto his side, stroking away the stray hairs from Daniel's face. Daniel didn't pull away, though he seemed rather mortified by the attentions. Alexander had already ascertained from both fragments of his mind and his general demeanour that Daniel was almost certainly untouched. Whether this was by choice or due to his species' primitive attitude towards inversion he wasn't certain, though perhaps it was a combination of the two. The thought of being the first to claim Daniel was far from an unwelcome one, though Alexander was far from some marauding barbarian looking to rape a helpless innocent. Like with just about everything else that concerned Daniel, he would be gentle, easing him every step of that way like a child by their-

Alexander almost scoffed at himself. Now he was beginning to sound like Daniel. He was loath to play into the young man's foolish delusions. He did not intend to be Daniel's father when he finally took him to his bed. He hoped that he would be able to at least soothe the part of Daniel that had been so irrevocably broken by his failure of a father and that such fantasies would dissipate. He simply would not tolerate Daniel attempting to force him into the guise of his parent.

"Do you trust me, Daniel?" Alexander's voice was little more than a growl and he watched with no small amount of pleasure the goosebumps that erupted on Daniel's neck at the sound.

Daniel looked up at him. He was groggy now, on the cusp of sleep. The laudanum had done its work. He seemed to be considering him, eyes tracing the outline of Alexander's features in the shadowy half-light of the bedroom. Finally, he gave a small, barely perceptible nod.

Alexander felt a thrill of victory and edged closer to him under the covers, close enough that their temples were almost touching. If Daniel was unnerved by the unusual closeness, he didn't show it.

"You can sleep now, my love," Alexander risked using his pet name for the young man. Daniel was so close to sleep now that he doubted he even heard him. His eyes were hooded, eyelashes quivering with the effort of keeping them open even a little. "Sleep." He breathed, brushing his lips against Daniel's temple.

Daniel, as though following his order, fell limp beside him, head rolling to one side and touching his shoulder. Daniel's scent was heady. He used some sort of spiced cologne on his skin that rushed up Alexander's nostrils in a heated wave. If he had been a lesser man, he might have been tempted to push his face into Daniel's dark, tangled hair and inhale.

Instead he rested his own head against Daniel's. The closeness was necessary, but he wouldn't pretend that it wasn't also immensely satisfying. The shared body heat was welcome under the cold sheets of the bed.

Alexander wondered if other humans existed like Daniel. He hadn't ever seen another like him, in all of his time exiled on their dismal planet. He had such becoming features, a softness and innocence to them that he hadn't seen in any other human being- and certainly not in his own species- in all of his very long life on earth. When they arrived back home Daniel's youth would be preserved, he decided. He would ensure that he didn't lose himself to age or bitterness. It was something he could not achieve while they were still stranded in the human world, limited as his resources were, but once they were home his work would be unlimited. And his first act would be to preserve Daniel as he had been, still lovely, but unburdened by the terrible things he had been forced to trade in return for his life.

Alexander held up his own hand in the gloom, lined and aged even with all of his attempts to slow his decline. Even he would die one day, if he remained in this cursed world. He could slow it almost to a crawl but he could not halt the passage of time, much as he might want to. Not yet.

When they were home, he would rejuvenate himself. He would give himself not just a merely handsome face, but a prize. Someone Daniel would be captivated by. And would not be able to resist. He smiled to himself at the thought.

Alexander closed his eyes, willing sleep to overcome him. He sent out the tendrils of his mind to entangle and invade Daniel's. In sleep he would be unable to resist him, all mental barriers at rest, almost begging for Alexander to enter. Daniel made a soft, breathy sound next to him, maybe feeling the invasion of his mind, or perhaps already beginning to fall into another nightmare. Alexander needed to hurry. He pushed a little harder and felt himself break through the fragile walls of Daniel's resting mind. Daniel gave a little moan beside him, causing the hairs on Alexander's neck to stand on him. He pictured himself rolling over and pinning Daniel beneath him, pushing up his nightshirt and-

He hit the ground surprisingly gently. Without missing a beat, he climbed to his feet, casting a look at his surroundings. The ground appeared to be flagstones, but when he pressed down on it he felt it give under the pressure. He dusted himself off, noting that he now appeared to be dressed in daywear.

He held up a hand in front of his face. The lines and wrinkles were gone. The skin was soft, the colour of alabaster. He touched his face and felt it was smooth, free from the imperfections of age, free from any imperfections at all in fact. He smirked to himself.

He had seen this dream before. He had never dared to stay long enough to see where it led to, and what it pertained to, but he did not feel the presence of the Shadow. This was something else. He hoped he had found the correct nightmare. Daniel did have so many of them.

He held up a lamp that had appeared in his right hand at a thought. There was a light some way ahead, through swirls of grey mist that lingered over the seemingly endless expanse of flagstones. He headed towards it, arm kept aloft to light his way. It was extraordinarily dark but for the flickering light in the distance. Daniel would have been drawn to that light like a moth. His mind had become extraordinarily good at tormenting him. The darkness was unnaturally thick. It was almost a living entity in itself, created by Daniel's damaged mind purely to mock and torture him into mad terror.

Alexander was close now. He heard the sound of a voice. It was shrill, begging. He broke into a brisk run, glad for his dream self's increased agility and stamina. A dilapidated farmhouse came into view. He didn't recognise it. A figment from Daniel's childhood? Warped and twisted to better reflect the miseries experienced there. There were slaughtered animals in the yard, though they resembled no animals that Alexander had ever seen in this world. Their bodies were mutilated, grotesque bulges of flesh, sharp, broken bones, limbs contorted at odd, impossible angles. He weaved his way through them, seeing that the light was coming from the upper story of the building.

The house was terribly dark. There were misshapen, shadowy shapes of furniture, imperfect and imprecise, like a child's drawing. There was a horrified cry from upstairs.

"No! Please!"

Dropping the lamp, Alexander hurried up the stairs and burst into the lightened room. The door swung open, bouncing off the wall noiselessly. Daniel was cowering into the far corner, tears streaking his frightened face. The figure standing over him was shadowy, wisps of it seemed to twist and drift off of its form. It turned to look at him. It had no face. Just a darkened crater, an abyss that seemed to descend eternally. He looked away from it. He did not feel it wise to gaze into that abyss for any length of time.

"Daniel?" he went to him, ignoring how the creature's warning gnarl. It made a deeply unpleasant sound, high-pitched and brittle, like fingernails on a chalkboard but somehow sinking deeper and more noxiously, creeping into his bones and spine.

He knelt by Daniel's side and Daniel clung to him. It was gratifying, though he surely couldn't know who he was, different as he now looked. He pulled the boy's face up to look at him. His eyes were blank with fright. They kept fearfully flickering to where the creature was, watching them, but not coming nearer.

"Daniel, this thing cannot harm you." Alexander cast a disdainful look at the misshapen being. "It's a parasite, nothing more."

Odd that it did not take the physical shape of Daniel's father. No doubt it was due to a gap in Daniel's memory. He remembered only the fear and pain.

The thing let out a foul, shrill sound, causing Daniel to give a shudder against him. "I-I cannot-" His face was pressed against Alexander's shoulder. "He will-"

Alexander grasped Daniel's jaw, forcing him to meet his eyes. "He cannot hurt you. He is a mere wraith. See how he does not touch you?" He threw a dismissive hand at the entity. "He has no power to harm you. He is not the Shadow."

Daniel shook his head, trying to twist from his grip. "I will never be free of-" He cast a frightened look at his tormenter. "I will never be free."

The words filled Alexander with fury. Daniel was his. Was his. This aborted creature, this failed caricature of a failed human being had no right to lay claim on what was already his. He would banish the thing. He would not share Daniel's mind with any being, let alone a dream.

"Get up," he said roughly, pulling Daniel to his feet. Daniel trembled and clung to him.

Alexander suddenly noticed that the light that had been weakly but surely filling the room had very slowly, but noticeably began to recede towards them. Daniel was too preoccupied to detect it, but when he did his terror would be uncontrollable. Alexander would miss his chance.

Alexander stood behind Daniel, not wavering or letting him go even when he tried to writhe out of his grip. "No! Please!" he cried out again, shrinking in terror from the creature that still stood watching them silently.

The darkness around them was licking at its form now and Alexander realised that the creature was absorbing the light into itself. It was growing as the light died. Soon it would take up the entire room, the entire house, swallow Daniel whole. He would be entrapped, in darkness, inside his father.

"No!" Daniel's thrashing had become more violent. His eyes were closed and his hands were pinned to his ears. "Stop it!"

"Block it out, Daniel," Alexander commanded him. He knew not what echoes Daniel was hearing: the words of long-dead tormenters, the whispers of the Shadow, but it was all just trickery to break him.

Daniel let out a dismayed sob, hands pressed hard to his ears. "Please. Please."

Alexander dragged Daniel's hands down to his side, forcing one hand underneath Daniel's chin, pulling his face towards his. Daniel's eyes opened, bright with frightened tears. "Daniel," he said through gritted teeth. "You have faced worse than this. I am with you."

Did he imagine it, or did Daniel's breathing slow just a little against him?

Daniel was pressed almost painfully into his chest. He didn't have the time to admire the boy's slim waist or the curve of his behind pinned rather indecently against his crotch. No matter. There would be later.

He drew his right hand up underneath Daniel's. He pressed the hilt of a knife into Daniel's hand. A knife not unlike the one they used while working. Daniel jerked his head to look at it. If he wondered where it had come from, he didn't ask.

"Hold my hand, my sweet," Alexander said gently into Daniel's ear. The boy's breath hitched at the sensation against his neck. He did what was he was told, his hand wrapping around Alexander's. "Good boy."

Daniel finally looked up at the creature and gave a spasm of fear against him. "No! The light!"

The room had lost almost three quarters of its light. The creature had swollen to almost twice its size, like a leech feeding on blood. The wispy edges of its body were almost indecipherable from the darkness around it. Alexander wondered what would happen when it completely absorbed the light. Would they both be dragged inside?

"Daniel, we don't have much time." Alexander did not let him loosen his grip on the knife. "You need to act." He had a vision of another time when he had held Daniel's hand like this, urged him on with gentle, coaxing words, telling him of the necessity, the need. Daniel had shaken then as well.

"I can't." Daniel's breathing was shuddery, desperate. His hand trembled almost uncontrollably under Alexander's. "I can't kill him! He's my-"

Alexander gave Daniel a frustrated shake from behind. "This beast is not your father, Daniel!" He forced Daniel's hand forward, the knife held up like a lantern against the encroaching darkness. "And even if it was, would that stop you?" His voice was soft as he spoke into Daniel's ear. "He tormented you, Daniel. Instilled in you your fear of the dark. Wounded your mind so badly that you still dream of him even now. He deserves…" he paused, stopping himself from saying "to die" just in time, "to be cast out from your mind," he finished quietly.

The darkness was pressing in on them. Just a few more minutes and they'd be blind. For all of his talents, Alexander couldn't kill the air.

The thing was closing in on them too, its body bloated to a grotesque size. When it moved, the remaining light shuddered, as though struggling not to be drawn into its mass. Alexander willed it to last, to withstand the darkness, just a bit longer, just until they had done what needed to be done.

The light didn't seem to hear him or heed him. It buckled, the remaining light diminishing before his eyes. He forced Daniel forward, ignoring the man's cry.

"Now! Now or be taken by the darkness!"

Daniel, in a blind panic, thrust the knife forward, a sound of terror leaving him. Alexander watched as the knife slid through the entity's body. Daniel stabbed it again, wrenching himself from Alexander's arms as he struck it, again and again, maddened with fear. At first Alexander didn't think the blows were having an effect, but then the house shook with a deafening cry of shrill, sharp rage. It curdled his blood. It threatened to swallow them as surely as the darkness would.

Daniel dropped the knife, pressing his hands to his ears. Deep gashes had appeared in the creature's mass. The dark around it was lurching and churning. The light that had moments ago been rapidly dying, was bleeding out of the creature. It was bleeding light. Alexander was fascinated as he watched. It poured out against and over the darkness, rushing over it like water.

Daniel crumpled to the ground. Strangely, he seemed almost more in shock now than the first time Alexander had guided him through a sacrifice. Perhaps actually fighting against his tormentor had never occurred to him as something he could ever hope to do.

The creature was writhing and wailing as its lifeblood poured away. The darkness was forced first into the corners of the room, and then through the door and out of the grimy, broken windows.

Alexander knelt beside Daniel, coaxing his head up. "Daniel," he said gently. "You did well. You did so well, my love."

Daniel looked up at him. The tears on his face were beginning to dry. The growing light played on his lovely, fragile face. His hair was a mess. Alexander pushed it back from his face. He wondered if there would ever be a time when he wouldn't have to push that damned hair away from Daniel's face. Part of him hoped not.

For the first time, Daniel searched his face closely, seeming almost to forget the dying figure of his father beside them. "Who are you?"

Alexander smiled, stroking Daniel's face with a finger. "I think you know, my love."

Daniel swallowed. "Alexander?" He cocked his head to the side. "You look…"

Alexander cupped Daniel's jaw. "When we go home, I'll take this form for you. You will have everything you desire."

A little frown crossed Daniel's face. He pulled away. "Home?"

If they'd been in the waking world, Alexander would never have spoken so candidly. But Daniel wouldn't remember this when he woke. It was a bittersweet thought. "You and I will go home. To our true home."

Daniel, as he often did, looked confused. Alexander was overcome with affection for him. He leant forward and pressed his lips against his. Even in the dream, Daniel's lips were exactly as he had imagined. Soft, pliable, gentle. A child's mouth.

Daniel didn't reciprocate, but neither did he push him away. At first. After a few moments, Alexander touched the back of his neck, deepening the kiss, teasing Daniel's lips open with his tongue. A jolt went through the younger man and he bolted backwards, his cheeks delightfully pink. He touched his mouth with a scandalized look.

"You're a man!"

Alexander smiled in a predatory manner. "Do you not desire me, Daniel? Is that flush in your cheeks, that sudden rise in your temperature not caused by your arousal?"

Daniel choked, scrambling to his feet. Alexander followed him. "This is improper. I thank you for your aid. For all of your aid, but I simply cannot."

He was looking around the room, which was now dimly but fully lit. His creature-father had disappeared, no sign of it remaining. It might never have been there. Alexander knew Daniel was considering how to make his escape. It was an amusing thought. Even if they hadn't been completely surrounded by darkness outside that room, Daniel was substantially weaker and slower than Alexander. The thought of having to chase the man down, catch him sent a considerable thrill through him.

Daniel turned to face him, finishing his curious search about the room. "I owe you much. But I cannot go against all that is good and natural."

It was Alexander's turn to cock his head. "We harbour no such qualms in my world. We celebrate all loves. You would be welcomed warmly as my lover, my mate." He took a step towards Daniel. Daniel backed away with a wide eyes. "I will give you every pleasure, fulfil every desire you've ever harboured in that lovely head of yours."

Daniel spluttered. "I am not a plaything!" He turned for the door and abruptly stopped. It was pitch black. He exhaled softly.

Alexander came behind him, threading his hands around the man's waist, pressing his lips to his neck. To his surprise, he did not struggle. Perhaps he realised the futility of it. "I have looked deep into your heart, Daniel. You harbour more than simple admiration for me. Even in my poor, worn guise of the Baron."

Daniel didn't reply, but tilted his head just a bare inch. His lovely, pale neck was exposed, almost trembling to be tended to. Alexander smirked to himself and lowered his mouth to it, letting his breath play against Daniel's skin. He let out the softest, most muted of moans. But a moan nonetheless. His claim of looking deeply into Daniel's heart was little more than a lie, but his gamble had paid off in the most wonderful of ways with that soft, needy little moan.

"Your father needn't torment you again, my love," Alexander mumbled into Daniel's neck. "I will guard you, protect you. We will banish him just as we will banish the Shadow."

Daniel's head jerked upright. He turned to Alexander, his eyes imploring. "You will banish it? You will save me?"

Alexander's heart, if it hadn't been hardened by hundreds of years of disappointment, could have melted. His fingers ghosted over Daniel's face. "I will destroy anyone who tries to take you from me. I take a very dim view of those who try to steal what is mine."

Daniel leant up towards him. "Am I yours then?" His voice was almost teasing.

Alexander pulled him against him roughly, intending to put all doubts to the contrary to rest for good. Just as Daniel's mouth was upon his, something heavy fell against the side of his head. He jerked backwards an inch, throwing up a hand to feel what had struck him.

His hand came into contact with soft, cold material. His eyes fluttered open. Daylight was streaming in from the windows of the guest room and across the dusty floor. The lamps had long since burnt out.

He turned and realised that it was Daniel's head that had fallen against his. He was stirring from sleep, his eyes slowly opening, his body arching as he awoke. He gave a wide yawn, hand flying up to cover his mouth and rub his eyes. Alexander could have gathered him up in his arms right there, he was so precious.

Daniel's eyes fell upon him and he looked for a moment as though he didn't quite believe he was there. Then he sat up, his nightshirt crumpled, hair sticking up in several places. "Alexander?" He blinked confusedly. "Why are you in my bed?"

Alexander sat up next to him, fighting the urge to smooth down Daniel's hair and fix up the shirt that was twisted around his slim form. "You were having nightmares. Do you not remember?"

Daniel frowned. He closed his eyes. After a moment he opened them, shaking his head. "I don't." He smiled and it was like the sun breaking through clouds. "I thank you though. I'm in your debt." His smile became guilty. "Again."

Alexander straightened up and threw the covers off of himself. "Nonsense. I would not see you suffer." He got up, leaving the younger man swamped in the covers of the bed. "Now, I shall have the servants bring you breakfast. We mustn't tarry. There is much to do today."

He left Daniel to wash and dress.

A few evenings later he was making his nightly pilgrimage to Daniel's chambers. He slipped inside the guest quarters, finding it dimly lit as usual. Daniel's clothes and some of his belongings were strewn across the floor and sofa of the parlour. Alexander tutted in fond disapproval and crossed to the bed.

Daniel had kicked the covers off and was sleeping with just the sheet twisted around him. It caught on every curve of his body in a way that filled Alexander with an almost predatory sense of possessiveness. That body was his. Every inch of the man's form, every corner of his guileless mind belonged to him. Daniel knew it in his heart, and when the right time came, Alexander would make it plain to him in a way that even Daniel's naïve mind could comprehend.

Daniel gave a sleepy groan and rolled onto his side, the covers wrapping around him in a most pleasingly tight manner as he did. Alexander smirked to himself and went around to the unused side of the bed. He slid under the covers, inching closer to Daniel's sleeping form. He wondered if he waited long enough, the thrashing and crying out would start, or if the Shadow would let him have his prize for that night. It had been very accommodating those past few nights, sharing Daniel's mind with him without complaint.

He touched his forehead to Daniel's as he did every night now and even allowed himself to slip his hands around his waist, pulling him half an inch closer. If he awoke and asked why, Alexander would feign ignorance. Daniel had become used to waking beside him now. In fact, Alexander had a feeling it calmed him considerably to know he wouldn't be alone when he awoke. He certainly had been falling asleep much more quickly those past few nights.

Alexander closed his eyes, letting the coils of his and Daniel's mind curl and loop around each other. The smell of Daniel's hair and cologne and the soap he'd used to wash himself before bed filled his head. Sometimes he would catch the scent of alcohol and laudanum on his breath. He still depended on it to ease his night-time anxieties, but Alexander would cure him of that by and by. To be truthful, he didn't always mind Daniel's reliance on the substances. It kept him docile and manipulable. Even more so than when he was in his right mind.

"You guileless creature," he murmured with tenderness into Daniel's temple.

He landed on his feet this time. The flagstones were a familiar constant now. As was everything else. Still the blanket of mist hanging low over everything, still the almost impenetrable darkness.

He didn't waste time in heading for the familiar light in the distance. As he drew closer, he found himself at the farmhouse. Its exterior had changed greatly since his first time there. The peeling, water-stained weatherboards were now pristine, the decaying animal carcases had disappeared, long blades of grass moved idly in an unfelt wind. He went through the freshly painted door, finding the exterior gloomy but handsomely outfitted with clean, tasteful furniture. The sort of furniture found in Daniel's rooms in the castle, which was no doubt where his mind had taken it from.

Upstairs, the same room they had encountered Daniel's father in was lit by the same dull glow of light that seemed to have no source and no power outside of that one, small room. Alexander pushed open the door, letting it fall open on its hinges with a soft growl. The bed was a new addition, and considerably grander than the one Daniel slept in at the castle, with its moth-eaten hangings and faded covers.

A figure lay motionless on the bed, bare from the waist up. One pale knee was visible between the covers, almost teasing, almost coaxing him to explore the vulnerable body just hidden from sight.

Daniel sat up when he saw him, covers tumbling down to rest around his hips. He looked sweetly bleary, as though he had been dozing before Alexander arrived. His eyes became almost immediately hooded when he saw him. They darkened with something Alexander had barely hoped to ever see in the young man's eyes. Lust.

"You came," Daniel said almost shyly, as Alexander sat beside him on the edge of the bed. "I thought perhaps-"

"I could never tire of you." Alexander touched his neck, pressing a kiss to the man's lips. "You feel cold, my love."

Daniel's hand wrapped gently around his collar. "Warm me up," he breathed, pulling the man towards him.

Alexander crawled on top of him, pressing kisses to his temple, jaw, neck. Daniel's fingers tangled themselves in his hair, urging him forward. He gasped when Alexander ventured a nip.

"Oh, Alexander," he said breathily, as Alexander began to unbutton his shirt, fingers clumsy with desire and not willing to give up Daniel's throat. "Oh, Alexander. Do you love me? Do you really?"

Alexander leant back to look at him. His lips were very pink from his ardent kisses. He could not imagine loving any creature more than this one, and still Daniel asked him night after night, begging him to repeat it. "You are ravishing," Alexander growled, pressing another passionate kiss to Daniel's mouth. "And I adore you."

"But do you love me?" Daniel insisted, tilting his neck to give him greater access.

Alexander tossed his shirt to the floor. He sat back, looking at Daniel, dishevelled and flushed against the pillows. "My love, why do you ask this of me every night? You must know that I love you. Ardently, desperately."

Daniel's fingers curled and uncurled against the sheets. He moved to envelop Alexander again, but Alexander pushed him back gently.

"Answer my question, Daniel." He was not above using the same stern tone in which he instructed Daniel on how to extract vitae to get an answer. "Your attempts at distraction are not artful."

Daniel blushed, lowering his eyes. He fingered the coverlet embarrassedly. "I know I can be dull and that I must burden you terribly-"

Alexander tutted impatiently. "Silly thing." He fixed him with a hard look. "Do you think I would come here every night if I thought such things?"

Daniel looked confused. "But this is a- In the waking world you might-"

"The waking world and this world have more in common than you might think," Alexander said silkily, crawling back on top of him and resuming his ministrations.

Daniel was still and silent for a few moments. Alexander leant back to look at his face. He was watching him with a troubled frown.

"This is a dream."

His eyes searched Alexander intently.

"Isn't it?" he said with less certainty.

Alexander smirked wordlessly. He guided Daniel's hand down to where the clasp on his breeches was, and then a little lower. Daniel blushed furiously, pulling his hand back.

"Does that feel real enough to you?"

Alexander could not be more charmed by Daniel's innocence, his newness to everything. Not just in matters of the heart- and body, but to everything Alexander had always thought of as perfectly mundane. When they were home he would introduce Daniel to everything, every sight and sound. He would hold his hand, drinking in the wide-eyed look of fascination that came across his face whenever he discovered something new or novel.

Daniel still had the same troubled expression on his face. Alexander pressed his thumb to the frown between Daniel's brows, as though he would wipe it away. "My love, that look does you no justice." He pushed Daniel carefully onto his back and Daniel let himself be pushed, though he strained to keep his eyes on Alexander. Alexander pressed a kiss to his quivering Adam's apple and then his collar bone.

Daniel arched, one hand threading again through Alexander's new, softer hair. "Yes," he breathed. "Yes. Oh…"

Alexander ventured a lick and a roll of his hips. The combination caused a shudder to travel up Daniel's body. His body rocked with pleasure.

"Oh." He moaned. "Alexander. Daddy-"

Alexander jerked upright so quickly he almost cricked his neck. A moment later his head came into contact with something unpleasantly solid. He growled in pain, eyes flying open.

The guest room was still dark. The lamps had burned low, throwing them in an almost funeral gloom. Outside the windows he could hear owls calling and the frigid wind coming over the top of the forest.

Beside him Daniel had thrown almost all of the covers off of him. His nightshirt was twisted around his body, barely covering anything at all. Alexander should have covered him up to preserve his modesty, but the sight was too beguiling. One of Daniel's arms was thrown over his head, his face was tilted to one side and free of the frown that too often came across it- in dreams and in waking. He gave a soft groan in his sleep, tossing his head to the other side. Alexander wondered if he was wandering, bewildered, looking for his disappeared lover- or whether his mind had quickly elected a replacement for him to work out his frustration with. Alexander felt a foolish flicker of jealousy. He couldn't be jealous of a figment of Daniel's imagination, even if it was currently doing everything to him he so desperately wanted to.

Alexander got up from the bed, wrapping his robe around himself. He crossed to the fireplace, staring at its dying embers. Daniel's shirt and trousers were tossed carelessly over the sofa in front of it. He held up the shirt blankly in front of him. It was clean. Not spotted and stained with blood like the ones he wore when they worked. Daniel liked to change out of his work clothes very quickly at the end of the day. It was almost as if he thought that by shedding those clothes, he was shedding his responsibility too. He shook his head, dropping it back down onto the sofa.

He had been deluded to think Daniel would return his love in as pure and ardent a form as his own. The man didn't have his experience, his intellect to realise their bond to each other. Of course the little fool would reflect his own damaged relationship with his father onto Alexander, thinking him a mere stand-in for a lost parent, a parent who had never loved him, never protected him once in his life. What an imbecile he had been!

He swirled around angrily, casting a heated look over Daniel's sleeping form. Daniel was deeply mistaken if he thought him a mere proxy for a dead man. How dare he was the phrase that came readily to mind. Alexander had the urge to throw the empty brandy glass on the parlour table across the room. Wake the silly boy. Show him just how fatherly his interest in him truly was. When he was finished with him, he wouldn't dare think of him as anything but his lover, his keeper.

Daniel gave a moan in his sleep and rolled onto his back, his legs sprawling apart. Alexander's heart stopped in his chest. One of the young man's hands trailed downwards, underneath the covers. Alexander forced himself to avert his eyes. The sight might cause him to completely lose himself and the last shred of his buckling self-control.

Alexander thought. Turned over the entire situation in his mind. He could visit Daniel every night- and intended to- until they were prepared for their journey. In waking, he couldn't be so open with his intentions. Not quite yet. Daniel saw him as a mentor, and crossing the line between teacher and lover couldn't be done carelessly. Now that he had aided in banishing the nightmarish remnant of Daniel's dead father, he would even more closely cling to Alexander, desperate for someone to fill the void. Even a nightmare version of a parent was sometimes better than no parent at all. A flawed protector was better than no protector.

Alexander slowly looked at Daniel. He was at rest again, though his hand was still buried under the covers. It was close to dawn and soon they would have to descend to begin their trials for the day. Thoughts were rushing through Alexander's mind and the fury he had felt just moments before was trickling away. Perhaps he hadn't seen the advantages of such a situation. Confused as Daniel was, desperate as he was for human kindness, safety, it would be all too easy to coax those confused feelings to the surface. It would be easier than declaring his ownership over Daniel moments before they plunged through the portal and then having to forcefully prove it on the other side. He did so hate having to use violence against those he loved. And when he laid claim to Daniel, he was determined it be gentle. He had done enough to the boy's poor, broken mind.

He let his robe drop to the floor and went back across to Daniel's bed. He slipped back beneath the covers, allowing himself to trail a hand up Daniel's body. The first rays of sunlight were beginning to drift through the window, fighting against the fog and gloom of the Prussian forest.

The more he thought about his decision, the more strongly he felt that he had underestimated the opportunity presented by Daniel's trauma. The pain of losing his father, twice, had sent him straight into Alexander's arms, and with some gentle coaxing, those feelings and yearnings he felt in dreams could be brought out in his waking mind. He imagined Daniel utterly and eternally devoted to him. It sent tingles up his spine.

He leant close to Daniel's ear, almost tempted to press his mouth right against it. "Daniel."

Daniel gave a jolt and his eyes flew open. They really did look beautifully blue first thing in the morning. "Alexander!" he spluttered, trying to cover himself up. "What on earth is it?"

Alexander feigned a look of concern. "You were crying out again. Nightmares?"

"I was?" Daniel sighed, shaking his head. "I'm sorry. Those damn things." He pressed his head into his hands. "You must be dreadfully tired of rushing to my rescue."

"Never." Daniel looked up with a start. Alexander cleared his throat. "What I mean to say is that I am now certain I have a way to make the nightmares stop for good. Shadow, or otherwise."

He got up from the bed, holding out a hand to Daniel. He took it, following him to where his belongings were strewn. "You do?" he asked hopefully.

Alexander smiled to himself. He turned to face him. "Yes. Though you must do everything I say." He felt an amused pang. "I have a rather useful method for… ah, killing nightmares."

Daniel looked thoughtful. "You know, it's the oddest thing. I just haven't been able to remember the nightmares lately after I wake. I used to remember them." He gave a shudder. "Vividly."

Alexander ventured to touch Daniel's face to get his attention back on him. "Daniel, do you promise you will do everything I ask of you? It's very important. I can only protect you if you agree."

Daniel looked him in the eye. He seemed to search Alexander's face for a moment. A second later he smiled. "Of course, Alexander. Anything."

Alexander couldn't contain his own smile, perhaps a little sharper than Daniel's. "Excellent." He gestured to the door. "Shall we? We have a long day."

He went first and Daniel followed him without a word.