A/N: Holy cow! It's been forever since I updated. Sorry about that! I had some trouble getting this chapter edited by someone, but my friend Katy came to the rescue! So, many thanks to her.
Warnings for slash, blood, questionable stuff, more teenage hormones.
Weight and heat was the first thing he felt, but it wasn't what roused him.
Something was on top of him. Not heavy, but unmistakably there, rocking; rolling pleasantly against his pelvis. He could feel palms pressed against his stomach; fingers curled familiarly in the slack of his shift, but Garrett's consciousness returned sluggishly, prompting him to lucidly wonder if he was dreaming again.
Whatever was happening was good; maybe too good. He could feel it seeping through his body, warm and liquid; could feel his skin prickle, but also, low in his gut, contrasting sharp jolts of something raw; something needful swelling and constricting with every shift of pressure below his waist.
He groaned then, unable to keep from rolling his own hips in kind.
Above, there was an intake of breath, too loud in his ears; too real, and his eyes peeled open.
He couldn't see anything beyond his lashes, lids still heavy with sleep, and he was tempted to close them again as the motion atop his body continued, making him forget all about the momentary draw of breath. A similar sound escaped his own lips as he arched his back, hands seeking purchase anywhere on the undulating weight on top of him. Once his palms clutched; fingers curling around lithe, smooth thighs, he thrust upward as he pulled the form closer, crushingly; a long, slow grind that made him grit his teeth.
He had to be dreaming... and yet...
Blinking against the darkness and haze, he was forced to concentrate for a moment to focus, discerning only a blurry figure above him illuminated by the flicker of his lantern.
He should have probably been panicked – at least alarmed – but those spikes of pleasure inside him were growing hard to ignore; that warmth beginning to dissolve the feeling of anything other than the arousal that flooded him. Shocking himself with how easily he dismissed any thoughts of uncertainty, he managed to look down his body, all shadows under the faint light, and was caught again in the rapture of the wicked stimulation the body that belonged to the hands tangled in his shirt was coiling inside him.
It made sense; the sinful ache between his legs, the consuming heat...
This was no dream.
Searching for a face he wasn't sure was even there, he followed the trail of fisted hands to thin wrists to capable, pale arms to delicate collarbone and slim, lovely neck to a perfect chin. The face was bared to the sky, but even if Garrett still had his eyes closed he would know who it was taking pleasure from his hardened flesh.
Sliding his huge hands across the length of hot, leather clad thighs, a half-confused, half-craving moan dribbled from his mouth. Leto was working his hips in a barely restrained action, rutting urgently against Garrett when the moan had been pulled from him.
The knowledge that this beautiful creature was essentially using him for his own carnal pleasure, and the friction between them; the pressure on his cock, the heated near-skin under his hands had Garrett's head spinning dangerously, heat pulsing in him too quickly.
Completely aware of just how hard his partner was thanks to the barely there leather trousers between them, Garrett gasped, grasp flexing on Leto's thighs in time with his pulse while Leto worked. Hanging on was literally all he could do as the deceptively sturdy elf rode him like a wild animal.
The way Leto was moving, grunting, growling... he must have been completely lost wherever he was.
A brilliant angle Leto discovered had him writhing, causing the sleeper to start swaying, and Garrett yelped, pleasantly surprised. "Ahh – !"
He had been staring up at Leto's chin the whole time, but the needy sound drew the elf's gaze.
Jade flecks glittered around the very edge of his eyes as they discovered Garrett, now awake, most of the natural green rounded out by dark lust. Lips, already wet and shiny, were curled into a sultry smile, the slight sheen of sweat on his beautiful skin seemed to reflect the lantern light...
He couldn't tell if Leto had been shocked to discover Garrett's strained expression, but once their eyes locked together, Leto's lips suddenly parted to raggedly suck in a chestful of air, his hips ceasing their desperate search for friction.
"Unnh..." Leto's deep voice was strained and tenor and wispy; his fingertips digging suddenly into Garrett's taut tummy.
He watched as Leto fought to keep his eyes open; the fluttering of lashes, his wet tongue laving a swollen, oft bitten lip, and the jerking twitch of Leto's covered cock again his own all worked in concert to snap the teenager's last string of control.
And, if that wasn't enough, Leto finally groaned a word as his orgasm gripped him; and not just a word, but a name.
Unlike Leto, and very much without the power to control his own body, a typhoon of impossible pleasure ripped through him, and he arched his back, thrust his hips, and clamped his hands deeper into the slight hips beneath them.
Leto hissed sharply, but Garrett's orgasm was a one-way ticket, blanking his mind as he rode wave after wave while trapped in the elf's dark, consuming gaze.
Somewhere in the back of his mind he knew he'd never come that hard in his whole life. Though, he had never had anyone help like that before...
Garrett's grip did not let up as he lay dazed; his muscles seizing as an aftershock, or two, were forced from his body. Quickly, however, he was able to come back to himself and awkwardly released Leto, depriving himself of the warm flesh under his palms.
Leto slipped off his lap, but pulled back a huge, useless arm and snuggled into the crook of it as if it were the most natural thing to do.
His seed was still hot in his pants, trapped against his belly, and the thought that Leto had been the one to draw it out of him was not helping him calm down.
Lightheaded, he'd been holding his breath, and only started breathing again once he coughed, gasping. Trying to play it off, the younger boy forced an odd sounding chuckle, willing the embarrassing thunder of his heart away.
Leto slipped a hand under his shift, feeling the damp, smooth planes of his lightly haired chest, nothing about his caresses erotic; only a pleasant, fuzzy thought in the background.
Even with the nearness of the small, hot body beside him, and the heady arousal still lingering, the repetitive caresses drifting over his belly and chest syphoned the nervous energy away. Leto discovered places to touch him that Garrett, himself, had no idea would illicit such calming results.
He wasn't sure what to do with the elf tucked away in his arm, but his tingling hand quickly gravitated to the dark, messy tresses. Soft and wood-scented, Garrett rubbed small, lazy, uneven circles against Leto's warm scalp.
Chest pressed against Garrett's side, he could have sworn Leto was purring.
That was a good sign.
Strokes lengthening as his heart finally slowed, he petted the older boy with the quiet affection that lingered in his heart.
And Garrett thought that he could stay there forever.
Neither one spoke for a long while, and just as Garrett's eyes started to droop, Leto's murmur filled the scant distance between their heads.
"I'm sorry..." he hesitated, his voice dropping off "about that... just now." Aside from the apologetic chord in his tone, there was also something that wasn't as easily recognizable. "I... don't know what came over me."
"Neither do I." Garrett commented, hiding his silly smile in Leto's hair, unable to conceal the contentment. "I'm not sorry though... that was uh..."
"Mmm." Leto provided.
His friend, and an elf at that, had just got them off labouring in the naughtiest of ways on Garrett's huge, human lap. He had the wet, sloppy smalls to prove it; knew he had been making the most embarrassing, needful noises, and was still was unable to think properly...
Yes, very naughty. He concluded with the last of his brain-power.
Leto had somehow calmed his lusty desires with an uncanny ability to bring peace over him with a touch, but he was still hard.
Garrett felt a light vibration against his body.
Leto had been laughing silently. "What?"
"I like when you say my name."
Garrett shook his head, remembering Leto's passionate, breathless lilt, and shuddered.
"My voice -" he started, his voice cracking belligerently as if on queue.
Garrett cleared his throat, mortified, and Leto laughed aloud this time, his arms squeezing Garrett tighter. "My voice, uh, isn't anywhere near as..." He was glad that Leto couldn't see the heat he knew was on his cheeks, and anxiety forced his mouth to continue flapping. "I mean... yours... it..."
"Hmmm?" Leto hummed, the deep, unique rasp restored. "It... what?"
He honestly thought that it was incredibly sexy. Especially when Leto spoke low enough for only him to hear, like how they'd spoken in the market. Garrett couldn't help but feel privileged to hear such intimate tones in those words.
He twitched in his pants.
"It's bloody sexy" he blurted, mentally slapping himself, wondering if there even was a filter between his brain and his mouth. He suspected the excess blood in his nether regions assisted with that, obviously unsure which way to flow anymore.
"Well, that is to say, I mean, uh..." he searched, unable to think past the inane words he'd just uttered. "It's just..."
"Thank you, Garrett."
Garrett's eyebrows raised in surprise, then furrowed. Leto sounded far too thankful for such a crude comment, and it was, yet again, a point in which he wished he had half the charisma and way with words that his father did. Leto deserved better than boorish, though Garrett spoke that more than anything else.
"Uh. Yeah. You're... welcome." he mumbled dumbly, closing his eyes, taking refuge in the soft brush of Leto's hair. As long as Leto was trapped in his embrace, he couldn't easily escape, so Garrett decided to take advantage of that.
Shifting, he reached his free arm around to affectionately palm Leto's hip when the older boy nuzzled his chest.
A grit of teeth and a sharp, nasal breath had Garrett jerk his hand away. He recalled Leto's screwed up face when he'd squeezed the same spot only minutes ago. Garrett was so absorbed in the moment that he completely forgot what side he had manhandled Leto on.
The sound of pain had brought back the realization that Leto was still injured from his unjust beating the other night, and Garrett saw his bruises anew.
A long second between them was accentuated by the garden's chirping nightlife.
Instead of holding onto that particular place, Garrett hovered up the long angle of Leto's body and awkwardly hugged him around his shoulders. Quite unused to displaying that type of affection for another, once Garrett relaxed, it was absolutely blissful, but Leto still felt small inside the cage of Garrett's huge arms.
Glancing up to the dark dome of sky, Garrett breathed deeply into his stomach, the fresh scent of the meadow a perfect compliment to Leto's skin.
He was baffled by how one person managed to make his life complete with just his presence.
So many things were running through his head; what they'd just done, and all the things he wanted to do.
He thought about other things, too, some mundane, some otherwise; seeing Leto's sleepy face first thing in the morning, breaking fast, bathing, touching, just talking together.
His thoughts didn't include race or class or complications.
All fantasies and frivolous wishes... but he couldn't imagine doing them with anyone else.
He wanted to commemorate his desires with a kiss, but everytime he even thought about it, his stomach lurched dangerously.
Even after such an intimate act, there was still massive hesitation on his part, leaving Garrett both unaware of what to do next and frustrated under the weight of his inexperience.
And just as he dipped his head to seek out Leto's mouth, the object of his desire spoke.
"Have you ever had to... hurt someone you cared about?"
Garrett blinked. That didn't mesh at all with what was on his mind...
"Had to? You mean for their own good or something?"
Leto fell silent; the communication between the two reduced to the quiet sound of Leto's hair being stroked. When it was apparent Leto had no intention of answering Garrett's question, he figured he might as well answer if it would preserve any type of conversational flow.
"No." He found it hard to think about anyone other than Leto in that instance in regards to himself, but Leto was more than likely referring to someone besides Garrett. "I hope that I don't ever have to." Garrett murmured, hand trembling, tracing the line of hair around Leto's pointed ear.
"What if you didn't have a choice?"
"There is always a choice." Garrett answered simply, and Leto tensed.
"You're wrong." He returned flatly.
From the stiffness in Leto's frame and the lack of warm breath on his collarbone, Garrett's heart clenched.
Something was wrong, indeed.
Sliding his hand around the back of Leto's slender neck, and arm around his waist, he pulled the older boy against him possessively, close enough that he felt Leto's breath once again upon his neck.
The unexpected words swirled around in his head.
He didn't want to admit it, but perhaps his father had been right.
Perhaps he didn't know as much as he thought he knew about what happened in this place.
Why would Leto bring up such a topic of conversation so lightly?
And why would it make him so tense?
In an attempt to soothe Leto with the flat of his hand, his fingers casually slipped under a strip of leather laying around the other boy's neck.
It was the length of leather that had tangled their hands together earlier on in the marketplace; and on the end of it Garrett knew he'd find the gift he'd given. Garrett had not seen it since they'd left the market, and had been a little disappointed. He understood that Leto probably hid it for many reasons, most of which probably involved his safety, but it still nipped at his heart that Leto had to hide something like that. It was just a gift, afterall.
He didn't feel the need to talk about it anymore; everything that could have been said had been said at the market. Leto had accepted it in his way, and Garrett's determination had been bolstered by that acceptance.
Their relationship could have passed for a mere friendship if Danarius hadn't skewed its course so nefariously early on. Garrett had been interested in the slave elf as just that; something he didn't know much about and had no experience with. Though, as they lay there, chest to chest, heat and a strange sense of comfort between them, Garrett refused to believe that it had been all thanks to Danarius.
Anyone would have been captivated by such a creature, and it was completely of Garrett's choosing how he felt towards Leto.
Garrett hadn't even had an impure thought about other men before he'd arrived at the mansion, and if there wasn't something real between them, surely he wouldn't feel the way he did now.
Hesitant fingertips on his jaw summoned his attention to see Leto fingering the beard that began to take shape there.
"Ah. I usually don't keep a beard, but I've been lazy. What do you think about it?"
Leto hesitated, staring as he skimmed gently over the coarse hair.
He edged Leto's hand away from him and scrubbed at his jaw roughly, keeping watch of Leto's reaction from the corner of his eye. "I think I might keep it."
"No!" Leto shook his head. "You look better without it."
Garrett cocked his head, surprised by Leto's strong opposition. "I do?"
Leto smiled and nodded earnestly. "Well, yes. I think so."
"If I look better without it... Then perhaps it should come off..."
Garrett honestly had no feeling about it either way and had intended to keep it or shave it based solely on Leto's opinion, and was glad he didn't have to force it out of the elf.
A sensual tone dropped into Leto's voice. "If that is what you desire."
Garrett smiled his best smile, fighting the butterflies in his stomach. "I think it is."
Then Leto sat up, a little too quickly for Garrett's liking. "Then I shall bring provisions to the baths tomorrow."
Garrett followed suit. "You're not leaving, are you?"
"I should -"
"Can you just stay for a little while longer?"
Leto regarded him for a moment and then nodded good-naturedly. "Alright."
And again, Garrett began the new day as he had the previous one; alone except for the company of Leto's cloak.
Scratching his jaw, Garrett decided that he also preferred himself clean-shaven.
He'd been too lazy to clean himself up from the previous night's activities with Leto, so when he hit the baths, that had been the first thing he'd done. Seated on the simple stool in the shower room outside the bath, he lathered up his belly. The thick hair there stuck together, pulling smartly until they began to soften and come clean, scrubbing until all trace of his release was gone. Idly, he wondered what it would have felt like to have Leto's seed on his belly, mixing with his own; flesh mingling together, hard and hot and needy.
Shuddering bodily at the very thought, he violently dunked the soap into the wooden water bucket, splashing droplets and bubbles onto the tile at his feet.
So much had happened since he'd come to this place. Though, he was practically an adult and it was only right for him to start discovering his desires properly.
Garrett nodded resolutely.
Desires were good.
Typically, Garrett enjoyed the company of girls, no no, he enjoyed the company of women, and men had been something he hadn't deigned to think about in such a manner. Still, if he were being honest, they remained uninteresting; Leto, so far, the only exception. Things didn't feel different than they had been for him before; the idea of sharing sexuality with anyone just as exciting despite the difference in plumbing. He wasn't one-hundred percent sure of the technicalities of the act with a man, but there were basics.
He was sure of that part.
Running the soap over his chest and shoulders, the occasional dip in the bucket beside him served to run helpful suds down his back. Soaping himself all the way up to his jaw, he began to work down, when innocent and dutiful hands discovered the hardening flesh between his legs.
"Ugh, great." he muttered, fisting himself languidly, pulling back the skin to clean all his nooks and crannies. "Garrett, you're such a pervert." His own touch felt as good as it ever did, though he desperately wanted to undo the mystery around what Leto's touch might have been like. He'd been pretty skilled with his hips to keep them rubbing on one another as he did just a short time ago out in the meadow; the thought commanding more blood to flood his vital regions.
He didn't want to think how that talent of the elf's developed, so he didn't.
Instead, his thoughts drifted back to his dutiful cleansing, trying to mentally beat down his erection.
He briefly considered a quick jerk to solve the problem when the door to the baths creaked open.
Startled, the soap went shooting out of his hands and through the air, sliding on the marble floor to stop at those bare feet he knew so well.
Leto was standing there, wooden bucket in his hands as he had before, but this time he had a bit of a smile on his face as Garrett gaped. Hurriedly, he cupped a hand over his length, and reached for his towel with the other, face crimson.
"It's nothing I haven't seen before, you know." Leto teased lightly, bending down to pick up the wayward soap.
Pulling the fluffy white piece of cloth over his lathered lap, he felt a little more comfortable everywhere except his groin, which seemed to only be getting firmer. Though, Garrett was thankful when Leto lingered while retrieving the soap; allowing Garrett a moment to better situate his unyielding cock under the towel.
"W-what are you doing here?"
"I've come to shave you."
"Oh! Right." His hand immediately went to his scruff and he chuckled, suddenly very nervous.
Picking up a fresh wash bucket, Leto began to fill it from the already heated water reserve. "I'm sorry that I startled you. I should have knocked first."
"I'm sorry I'm naked." Garrett replied hastily, and he heard Leto chuckle; heard the smile on his face.
"That's usually how one is in the bath, yes?"
"Uh, yeah. I... well, all naked." he cleared his throat. "You know."
The slight elf's gaze roamed appreciatively over Garrett and his nudity before he answered; both the look and sensual edge in his voice assisting Garrett's growing issue. "Mmm. Perhaps I do. However, it seems as though you are not ready for my assistance...?"
"You need a rinse."
"And you've missed your back."
Garrett swallowed, both scared and elated that he knew what might come next.
Displaying the soap in hand, Leto cocked his handsome head to the side. "May I?"
He thought he might die on the spot. "Uh. Yeah. Please."
Garrett had favoured, out of the four not particularly private stalls, the one farthest from the door. All in a line down the room, the stalls were separated by a very short half-wall that might have provided some privacy to a smaller person, but with Garrett's long human legs and large human body, he even dwarfed the stool on which he sat.
Fereldan's were of a sturdy stock, afterall.
Not to say the room was particularly uncomfortable; the warm steam and the equally warm marble was quite pleasant, and since the stalls lined only the one wall, he ended up having a lot of leg room.
Unpleasantries and awkwardness had the potential to run amok, especially if anyone – other than Leto or his father – had come in while he was washing. Even with Leto present he felt a little unease, but it was mostly due to his Fereldan etiquette. In the Imperium, it was quite common for people to bathe in common. Some bath houses in Minrathous even allowed both men and women to bathe together, whereas in Fereldan, bathing and such activities were done in solitude and in a private dwelling. The definition of a 'bath house' was very different back home than it was in the Imperium...
He'd been lucky having met no one undesirable in the facilities when he was using them, for he had no desire to offend anyone with his differing habits, just as he had no desire to submit easily to local custom. Especially one that was so intimate.
Leto had been quicker than he'd hoped he'd been in lathering up his huge human back; his hands working swiftly and firmly, melding a rub and the cleansing together.
But it was heavenly.
"And now a rinse."
He could hear Leto at the hot water tub, drawing some into another bucket for rinsing.
Anxiety hit Garrett again; the knowledge that he'd have to remove the towel a bit daunting. He fingered the edge of it until a smooth voice caressed his ear.
"Don't worry. I won't look."
He would have never even known if Leto had peeked or not; the elf had been standing behind him the entire time. It wouldn't matter anyway if he did because Garrett supposed it was only fair that he share his own nudity after he'd seen Leto that way. Though, Leto still didn't know Garrett had seen him naked...
Pulling the towel off his lap, there was barely a breath of a pause before Leto began to pour water over his shoulders, dismissing the second skin of bubbles. He wasn't sure what he was expecting – or perhaps hoping for – but Leto was completely professional, and even if he'd seen Garrett's cock he'd probably never say anything. Casually looking down in his lap to assess the situation, he noticed that he was only half-hard. And actually, he was just hard enough that it lent some impressive length to the appearance of a flaccid member.
He did, however, hear Leto clear his throat.
Then the water stopped and Leto busied himself with a leather strop from the bucket he'd brought with him. Attaching it to the dividing wall, he tested it with a tug, and from his pocket, he produced a straight razor.
Garrett watched with interested eyes as Leto prepared the blade for cutting, running it up and down the strop with practised ease. Wanting to be clean-shaven all the time had required Garrett to learn the same actions, but he had never gotten very good at it. In addition to that, his father hated shaving, so he never imparted important techniques to his son.
And in the end, Garrett had to figure out how to do it with help from his mother, of all people. He never told anyone at school because they'd never let him live it down.
He found out later, incidentally, that his father had never actually shaved his own face in his life. He had let it grow from the time that it started, and when he met his wife she lodged a complaint. According to her, he told her that if she wanted it gone that she would have to do it herself.
So she did.
...Right up until about the time the twins were born, then he 'decided' to let it grow wild once again.
Garrett supposed his shaving job was alright, his tutor/mother nearly a professional at it, but probably not anything like what he was about to experience under Leto's hand.
He wondered if there was anything Leto couldn't do.
With the straight edge out of his hands, Leto soaked a pile of small towels in the steaming bucket, wrung them out, and descended on Garrett; all business.
"Do you want me to get up, or...?"
Once Leto was behind Garrett again, he wasn't sure what to do, so he just sat still. Unnaturally warm hands traced over his temples; a bare whisper of a touch.
And Leto's voice had taken on that quiet roughness that Garrett was addicted to. "Tilt your head back."
Eyes open, he did as Leto requested until the crown of his head met with what he assumed was Leto's belly. When he saw those thoughtful green orbs looking down into his face, butterflies gathered in his stomach.
Maker, he was a lovely creature.
Leto could have asked for anything, and, once again, Garrett would have gladly obliged.
"Now close your eyes."
The blond did as he was told, and those hot towels were piled strategically onto his face, careful to not obstruct his breathing.
Instantly, the heat drew all the tension away from his face, and he hummed in contentment. Under the combination of Leto's hot hands rubbing gently at the top of his shoulders, and the solid flesh behind him supporting his head atop his loosened neck, Garrett was little more than putty.
"Have you considered what you might dress as for the Magister's masquerade tomorrow evening?"
"Uh, I haven't, actually." Garrett swallowed. He could feel his Adam's apple against the tight skin of his throat wrapped in heat. "Will you be ... going?"
There was a pause; Garrett recognizing the sound of the bristle brush knocking repeatedly against the sides of a soap bowl as it was lathered. He'd been so relaxed, that he'd not even noticed that Leto's hands were busy with something else.
"Magister Danarius wouldn't have it any other way." Leto commented, sounding almost bored, but the woody sounds of the brush in the bowl became quick and uneven, echoing in the emptiness. "He... enjoys when people look at me."
Despite the heat surrounding him, the way Leto worded his reply caused his blood to run cold.
To show off his possession, no doubt. Garrett had figured as much.
He really wanted to know, since Leto would be attending, what he would be dressed as, but Garrett decided he didn't want to spoil the mood by talking anymore about his bastard host or his degrading ways, so he fell silent.
Leto had set about removing the wet cloths from his face, Garrett watching him work with concentration, and just as Garrett had opened his mouth to speak, Leto's fingertip was pressed against Garrett's lips.
"No more talking."
"Mm." Garrett smiled against it's softness, and closed his eyes, waiting for the main event to begin. Shocked when he felt Leto's hands gently part his knees to stand in between them, his eyes flew back open, and saw Leto's gentle smile.
Leto, as he had promised before, didn't look down at all, but began to coat the thick beard in a familiarly scented lather.
The new sensation on the bristles on his face calmed him, and he supposed he'd only been slightly shocked. It made sense that Leto couldn't shave his face from behind him! Soothing his nerves with a deep breath, he enjoyed watching elf's serious demeanour as he concentrated on the task at hand.
Typically, Garrett enjoyed this part the best when he shaved, but it felt a hundred times better, as Garrett has suspected it would; Leto circling the soft bristles over his face, stimulating and disturbing the usual pattern of the newly softened hair.
And that smell. It was Leto's scent; the same scent of the shampoo at the baths that one morning not so long ago. He'd never associate that smell with anything else, ever. It was Leto's hair; his skin; maybe even the taste of his lips and -
Not surprisingly, Garrett began to loose control of his arousal, and suddenly he was very concerned with the state of his erection.
He really didn't want to seem a lecher, so he moved his hands, as casually as possible, to cover it.
"You can't move like that when I'm shaving you." Leto chided softly, still working.
"Sorry." Garrett murmured, leaving his hands in his lap to cover if things got worse.
Leto dipped the brush back into the thick lather and returned to Garrett's white face, and that was the only thing Garrett concentrated on.
Until the only bit left to do was the upper and lower parts of the lip, so Garrett did what he always did: sucked his lips between his teeth to avoid them getting coated in soap. A small, appreciative smile graced Leto's mouth, and he did a quick, playful once-over with the brush from cheek to cheek before Garrett pushed his lips back out.
If Garrett had ever had trust issues, they would have surfaced in that moment as Leto reached for the blade which he'd drag across the Fereldan's skin. The sharpest edge he'd ever come across was inches away from his throat, and all the could think about was the gentle nudge of Leto's fingertip, beckoning Garrett to tilt his head up and to the side.
Leto did a thorough job indeed, lathering Garrett's face not once, not twice, but worked on a third pass. Usually Garrett lost interest after the second sweep of his face and didn't mind any hair that he may have missed. He never left himself enough time to shave properly, so he'd end up with a patch here and there, and angry red bumps.
And he'd never admit it if anyone asked him, but his mother demanded she give him a proper shave before he and Malcolm left for Tevinter.
"You want to look handsome for all the ladies" She had explained.
How interesting it was that ladies were, unexpectedly, not on his agenda at all...
She'd not lost much technique over the last year since he'd taken over the task, so he was very glad when those bumps were nowhere to be seen. He honestly didn't much care about his own appearance, but was glad for it when he met Leto.
Leto's elven skin was flawless. Smooth like cream and pale; a lovely contrast to his dark tresses and bright eyes. Garrett considered him lucky he didn't have to shave on a daily basis to maintain it. Those bruises, however, had to go. Leto didn't deserve to wear them; the physical reminders of Danarius' cruelty. They were beginning to lighten up, having changed from deep purple marks with definite borders to vague blotches with ugly yellow trim.
Maybe if Leto dressed as a slave for the soiree next night the bruises would make the role more convincing, but Garrett didn't want to see that.
In his mind, Leto should have been dressed as a prince, or an adventurer with a beautiful gilded bow and leather.
Yes, lots of leather.
And Garrett could be a swordsman! And they could be companions just like in his daydreams! Adventure and danger and freedom would suit Leto very well, Garrett determined with a confirming hum.
"Hmm?" inquired Leto, stroking the edge over Garrett's chin one final time, then rinsing the blade in the tub of steaming water.
"Nothing. I was just thinking about something."
It could work. Garrett was convinced it could. They could go anywhere and do anything. Adventure on the high seas, rescuing maidens and fighting bandits! He and Leto could even enlist in King Theirin's army. There had been quiet whispers around Fereldan that another Blight would be upon them soon. It would be exciting to defeat the darkspawn forces and protect the land he loved. They could do it together; as friends, as companions... even, perhaps...
He'd been bent over at the wash basin, but as soon as he straightened up to be level with Garrett's face again, Garrett took the elf's head in his hands and brought their lips together.
Something about just being with Leto felt right, and in spite of his naked teenage awkwardness, Garrett had been compelled to lay one on his friend.
A chaste kiss, but Garrett's impulsive delivery of it brought a surprised blush to Leto's perfect cheeks. And when he released the elf, he couldn't help but laugh.
There'd still been foam on his upper lip, and it had been smeared onto Leto's, giving him a thick, white moustache. Garrett pointed to small mirror posted on the side of the half-wall, and Leto shifted to look.
And then they both laughed, but Garrett was probably the only one hoping to the Maker that all of it wasn't just a wonderful dream.
Garrett was quite disappointed when he showed up to the room Danarius had designated for the costumer. He thought that Leto might have been there to assist him in choosing something to wear, but it didn't happen.
That would have been the perfect opportunity to mess around with Leto – in more ways than just one. But now, he just dug through the racks of costumes with some thin, immactuately dressed man watching him in a way that honestly made him feel a little uncomfortable.
Scratch that – maybe finding a costume, while under an interested eye, wasn't the best time to engage in any sort of naughty behaviour with Leto.
Though, being alone and naked in a bath with him was also the perfect chance to mess around, but nothing past that little peck – and maybe an eyeful on Leto's part – had happened.
Later, when Garrett sat in the bath soaking after Leto had excused himself to take care of, what Garrett assumed were Danarius' needs, all he could do was shake his head. There had been little more than flesh and terry cloth between them, and even with a raging hard on most of the time, the thought of ravaging Leto hadn't even crossed his mind.
One thing that had been on his mind the entire time was the idea of them fighting side by side. It had turned into an obssession, really, and it was all Garrett could think about, so when it came time to choose a costume, his thoughts had translated into the obvious choice; a very convincing old-style warrior ensemble. He was thrilled with everything on the costume – especially the fancy golden breastplate that was crafted cleverly to look like abdominal muscles – and the beautifully detailed greaves, but the bright red undertunic made it look like he was wearing a skirt. And the soft leather subligaria for underwear was much more restricting and tighter than his smalls. He really wanted to wear pants, which he voiced, but the costumer dismissed it outright claiming that if he was going to dress for a costume party, he might as well dress for a costume party.
Whatever that meant.
He supposed he should have been thankful for the subligar. At least he didn't have to go without...
But a skirt? Best not to think about such things just in case he chickened out.
On the other hand, apart from his father and the people of the mansion, there was no one to even know who he was, so there wasn't really anything to be embarrassed about.
...And he did have nice legs.
A hem, discovered by the flamboyant merchant, had come undone in the tunic, and it had to be repaired by the house tailor before it could be worn, so a servant – or slave, Garrett wasn't sure – came to pick it up and advised him it would be delivered before the party tomorrow night.
Done deal, then. Garrett supposed.
On the way back to his room, he passed by Danarius' study. Leto was inside with a cart and some fancy silver tableware.
Stroking his chin, smooth as a baby's bottom thanks to Leto's clever talent, he entered the room with quiet a greeting.
"I just got done with the costumer."
"Oh? And what did you choose to wear?"
"It's a surprise!" teased Garrett with a grin.
"Mmm? I can hardly wait." Leto volleyed sensually.
Garrett almost wished he stopped doing that thing with his voice. He had a hard enough time dealing with his spontaneous erections around the elf without the added difficulty. On the other hand, Garrett did enjoy it so...
Watching quietly as Leto worked, he decided to take a seat near where the elf stood arranging things on a small table by the window. As Leto removed the lid off a serving dish, Garrett recognized the item.
Without thinking, the word just rolled of his tongue. "Zoetleanai!"
Obviously surprised, Leto looked over at him. "That's right! And your pronunciation was very good, too!" he declared with a nod and a smile.
"Thanks!" Garrett replied brightly, Leto's compliment shooting straight to his enamoured heart. It also gave Garrett a sense of comfort; as if they were chatting any normal friends would. "What do those taste like? I officially regret opting out of dessert last night."
"Hmm. I don't know. I've never had any."
"What?" Garrett gaped. "But you cracked dozens of them yesterday, and you didn't even try one?"
Leto just shook his head. "I've cracked thousands, but have never eaten one. Not ever."
"But why not?"
"They belong to the Master." Leto replied simply; as if it was completely natural. "He feeds us what is proper for us to eat as slaves, but we are forbidden to eat anything that he does."
Garrett huffed. It never failed. Everytime he even thought about that greying old man, bitterness crept onto his tongue. This time, though, he remembered Leto, naked as the day as he was born, servicing the old pervert. And the more he fought the memory, the more his mouth twisted into a scowl until words practically spat themselves from his mouth. "Do you always do what he says?"
Leto's face was a mask of indifference. He often saw that face when Leto was performing mundane tasks for Danarius. "I am a slave." he replied mechanically. "It is my duty to serve the Magister in any way he deems necessary."
Stalking to the table where Leto was preparing the spread, he grabbed a half opened shell and split it in two. "Then you should definitely have one!" Pulling out the fruit inside, he offered it to Leto, who looked a little terrified.
"Garrett! If someone sees you...!"
"Then you'd better be quick!" He moved it farther toward Leto's face. "This is your chance. Take it."
Leto shook his head, but Garrett insisted. "He'll never know!"
The elf was reluctant at best, and so Garrett decided to go first; since he was the one to suggest the sample. Popping it in his mouth, he squished it between his teeth just enough to break the skin and press some juice out of it.
The look of euphoria on his face at the brilliant flavour had Leto intrigued, and Garrett confirmed aloud how tasty it was. "Maker, Leto. You've got to try one!"
Leto glanced around the room nervously before he caved.
"Okay, fine, but just one piece."
Grinning, Garrett tongued his piece into his cheek. He wanted to savour it while Leto had his, so he resisted chewing it up. Even after a tiny bit of the juice, Garrett was looking forward to the full experience of the pricey fruit – and all of a sudden it didn't matter if it was that bastard's favourite too.
From that day forward, Master and slave will have shared the same experience, and that made Garrett feel a little smug.
Taking another shell in hand, he had problems prying it open, and snatched a little knife off a nearby tray. Wedging it inside the small existing crack, he worked at getting it open.
When he heard a small hitch of breath, he looked up just long enough to see the moment of fear on Leto's face, and the knife slipped, slicing into his fingertip.
"Ow, shit!" he cursed, dropping the knife noisily on the metal tray, the shell dropping hollowly on the floor and rolling under a lavishly upholstered seat.
Rounding the end of the table, Leto moved quickly. "Garrett!"
"It's okay. I just cut..." he trailed off when he saw Leto's look of horror as his head snapped towards the half open door. "Leto...?"
Snatching Garrett's arm, he drug the bigger boy along and behind a huge set of heavy velvet drapes. Ruffling the curtains around them, to conceal, Leto nudged the gathered up material to hide their feet. Finally, pressing Garrett against the wall, Leto tugged the curtain shut and shoved Garrett's bleeding fingertip into his mouth. Before Garrett could gasp at the hot wet around his finger, Leto fit his free hand over the blond's lips.
All was silent in the room for a moment before footsteps, accompanied by the jangle of expensive jewellery, echoed inside it.
Garrett's entire body screamed in silent protest as adrenaline coursed through him; heartbeat thumping wildly in his ears.
It was Hadriana.
Leto raised his head slightly, looking down the long bridge of his nose, catching Garrett's attention with the movement; something for Garrett to focus on aside from the situation at hand.
Close quarters behind the curtain, Leto had pressed himself flat against Garrett's torso, and straddled a thick thigh to meld their bodies in order to keep the bump of their forms minimal as possible. Leto ran his tongue over the clean cut the tiny blade had made, and swallowed silently, sweet suction suddenly surrounding his finger. It might have been bearable if that had been the only movement Leto's clever tongue made around him, but he kept swiping it over and under the thick digit, almost in a nervous fashion; his huge, green irises shifting to the corners of his eyes as he listened.
She didn't say anything else, but there was no movement anymore to indicated where she might have even been standing.
Millimetres of crushed velvet was the only thing separating him and Leto from discovery and the dangerous gaze of a blood mage.
Unable to take in enough air through his nostrils to feed his pulse, he felt his face grow warm with panic. Finger still in his mouth, Leto noticed the signs of Garrett's anxiety and softened his features, his huge eyes back on Garrett's face' almost hypnotizing, allowing sanctuary in their depths.
Leto was unnaturally handsome; like all those possessing the beauty and grace of Elvhen blood, and it was very easy to concentrate on that fact while his body was pressed intimately against Garrett's. Their forms, joined at unsual places, hot and tense, began to make Garrett tingle all over.
And then, Hadriana's footsteps, along with the telling jingle of metal, could be heard vacating the room.
Once everything fell quiet again, something in Garrett snapped.
Wrenching Leto's hand from around his mouth, Garrett pulled his own from Leto's lips and clutched wildly at the boyish hips. Lifting Leto, probably off the ground, he wasn't sure, Garrett gasped a great breath before he captured those plump lips in a searing kiss. There was no tentative meeting of closed mouths, both boys' lips already parted in anticipation, or surprise.
Some sweet pulp lingered in his mouth, having had no time to chew it before he'd sliced his finger, and, remembering the original reason for the taste-test, Garrett pushed it past Leto's lips. A muffled sound of surprise at Garrett's gift escaped the near complete seal they'd created with their mouths. And, carefully avoiding Garrett's inelegant tongue, Leto bit into it, the warm, fruity juices flowing between them as they devoured one another, Leto thanking Garrett with sloppy, indulgent kisses.
Elven hands were knotted in Garrett's wild hair, and Garrett, oh so achingly hard, ground his length desperately against Leto's hip. Meeting the challenge, Leto rocked against Garrett's leg, his movements much more fluid than Garrett's frenzied motions.
Leto's eager willingness was intoxicating; the reciprocation of desire between them stole breath and inhibitions equally.
Servicing to fuel his lust, Garrett discovered that Leto was just as erect beneath his own breeches. Both cloth and the rigid flesh beneath it rubbed maddeningly between them; not nearly enough for Garrett who had been driven near mad with desire even in spite of his earlier release. Something had happened between them; something he could feel somewhere he'd never felt before.
He was confused about it, but he'd never been more certain about anything.
He wanted Leto. Without a doubt, now that he and Leto had a definite connection, he knew he'd no longer be able to be complete without him.
Hands squeezed Leto's flesh in a twitchy, brusing rhythm, hips working in their own crushing thrusts, until Garrett thrust his hand down the front of Leto's trousers, seeking the other's cock. He thought he heard Leto moan, and it spurred him on, the feeling of hard, silken flesh in his palm sinfully perfect.
Squirming against Garrett's herculean grip, Leto's little hiss of pain and shock tossed a bucket of cold water on Garrett's fervour.
And he realized Leto hadn't been moaning, but been telling him to stop instead.
Face blanched, Garrett's voice was a thin sound as he came to his senses and nearly dropped to his knees in repentance. "Maker. I'm sorry."
Moving his hands to cup the elf's head and bring the pale forehead to his lips, Leto pulled back from him.
He might as well have thrust a dagger into his chest for all the difference it would have made on his face. Breath didn't return to him, Leto's unsure motions sealing his throat off instead, the horror of what he'd done crushing him.
"I... I didn't mean to hold you so tight." he blurted out, the sentiment not at all appropriate, but all he could manage.
He'd been so unbelievably horny, and he let it get the best of him. But that's what Leto did to him; set not only his groin on fire, but also his heart. He had wanted to make Leto feel as good as he made Garrett feel, but he should have controlled himself; he knew that Leto was abused by Danarius; he knew that Leto had to do things that debased him and embarrassed him.
Garrett's hands twitched; empty and useless. Not only had he failed, but he ended up hurting Leto when all he wanted to do was serve.
He had to do better by Leto; he deserved no less.
I am not Danarius...
And then, seemingly in slow motion, Leto freed himself of Garrett's warmth completely and swept back the edge of the curtain.
"Wait!" Garrett choked after his lithe companion, unable to move, but secretly thanking the Maker that he at least had a voice.
Leto stopped and looked back, his face unreadable; blank, unemotional. It scared Garrett to see him like that. He wondered if he had crossed a line he could not uncross.
"I'm sorry. Please. Don't hate me."
Distant eyes regarded him, and Leto shook his head, almost sadly before turning away again.
But he didn't move forward.
"Meet me tonight." he returned solemnly, letting the curtain fall back, once again concealing Garrett and his shame.
It would be a few hours before dinner, and even longer until he'd be alone with Leto again, and Garrett had no idea how to pass the time. He hoped that Leto wasn't angry with him for whatever it was that transpired between them in Danarius' study. He'd crossed the line, he knew, but if the thought about it anymore, he'd drive himself insane.
Still, he couldn't deny that any time spent without Leto felt like a waste, and it always took too long to tick by. As his father liked to point out, he'd only known the elf for a short time, yet he couldn't even fathom what he did before they met. Before, he might have read a book or went for a walk outside in the fresh air to kill time, but his concentration waned when he attempted to do anything other than think about the other boy.
So he figured that he'd just sleep the time away in his chamber. Brilliant idea. He might even have another dream... but even that would be out of his control. Even if he had to change his smalls before dinner, it was an acceptable risk; one he was glad to take.
But the last thing Garrett expected was to when he opened the door to his apartment was his father fingering the expensive hem of Leto's cloak.
"Garrett." Malcolm remarked dryly. "I've been looking for you."
"I wanted to ask you something."
Garrett came completely into the room, turning around unnecessarily to shut the door behind him; breaking eye contact with his father in an attempt to keep his anxiety at bay.
"Um... What about?"
The statement took the tall boy aback, not overly surprised at it surfacing, but still unsure of what he'd tell his old man.
"Uh... What about him?"
"What's going on between you two?"
It was time for 'the talk'.
Garrett had two choices, from what he could see.
He could lie and tell his father that Leto meant nothing, and that nothing was happening, like he had earlier.
If he could manage to be successful with his lie, that would mean getting away from the old man sooner, and on his way to the Fade much quicker. That plan was not without its potential for disaster however; if Garrett was not able to be convincing in the denial, and then was caught in the deception, it would take twice as long to explain himself.
Bottom line was that he knew his father didn't like to be lied to and the conversation would probably not go smoothly.
Or he could be truthful and tell his father that Leto meant – well, that Leto did mean something to him. That route guaranteed an explanation on his part and dispensed fatherly advice on his father's.
It would probably be advice or a lecture, though Garrett suspected the latter as he recalled his father's stance on slaves.
Finally, Garrett didn't relish it, but there was a third option.
He could turn and run the hell away, but avoidance wouldn't make things better, and only bring up more uncomfortable questions.
And Garrett Hawke wasn't one to just run away, either.
Sooner or later; painfree or painfully; he was obviously due to hear his father's, no doubt overcooked, thoughts about the elephant in Garrett's room.
So he took the plunge. It was going to happen no matter what he wanted.
"I..." Garrett shuffled to the edge of the bed, not trusting his knees to keep him upright. "I ...like him."
This was relatively new territory when it came to the father and son. Garrett had never felt this way about anyone before, so he could only assume that the elder Hawke didn't know how to deal with his feelings either. Parents never knew how to deal with their teenagers. Wasn't that how it was supposed to go?
"Hmm. Like, huh?" Garrett heard his father's soft soled steps move across the floor, and the slight creak of an armchair being sat in. "So... How intense is this like?"
If he wasn't so far in already, he would have seriously rethought this whole honesty thing. He wasn't quite sure if he even had the constitution to conduct such a conversation with the Hawke patriarch without succumbing to embarrassment.
"Intense." Garrett admitted simply.
"And at the market?"
"Sometimes I..." Garrett struggled. The taste of Leto's kisses still lingered on his tongue. "I just can't stay away from him."
"You've only known him a few days."
"I know!" he replied incredulously. That fact was not lost upon him, and he was confused and angry about it all at the same time. Taking a breath, he swallowed down the quickly rising defensiveness. "I know... but I've never felt this way before."
His father wasn't shy about not bothering to keep the peace in favour of calm conversation. "He's a slave, son"
This was not going at all how Garrett wanted it to go. Though, he wasn't sure what he expected. Dropping his head to his lap, he wondered what he was thinking in choosing to face things with his father; the words like a stab in his chest. "I know."
"And we're not in Fereldan."
Maybe it was because he was a father, but Malcolm always had a way of making things sound so final without even referring definitively to an end. It was pissing him off how simple his father's statements were and how easy they came from his mouth, when, to Garrett, they were discussing something so terribly important.
He shook his head, as if the action could dispatch the glaring truth.
Somehow, in this place where time was less important than power, he'd almost forgot how far away from home they really were, and how incompatible life in the Imperium was to everywhere else.
Pressing his fisted hands into his thighs, he was barely aware that he spoke aloud. "I know." Almost as if the fact burned his tongue as he admitted it, he had to at least try and work around the sting. "But... I..."
After a long pause, his father sighed.
Only the distinct lack of disconnected, cold fatherly tone prompted Garrett to look up; instead the unusual warm understanding in his father's voice made his heart ache more.
It actually made Garrett want to cry.
He thought that his father would be angry and that Garrett may have an opportunity to be rebellious, not caring about the consequences; young and stupid as he had a right to be.
Compassion was making things worse.
Taking a seat beside his son, knees touching, Malcolm began slowly.
"As a father... I know what I should say to you, but I haven't forgotten what it's like to be in love."
Garrett's head snapped to look his father in the face, and felt it when his brow creased first in confusion, but then in realization.
He felt it when his throat dried up; the exact second when there were no words with which to respond to the seemingly casual commentary from his father.
Could that four letter word really be why his heart fluttered like hummingbird wings whenever he was near Leto? He'd heard rumours about such conditions when one was 'falling' for someone else. Could such a thing be the cause of all of his protective feelings and wants and needs, not just physically, but the also the needs of his unfamiliar heart? Since arriving at the Magister's mansion, he felt like a completely different person.
But he'd seriously never considered that he loved the other boy and that was what all the trouble had been about.
He'd been too busy being flustered whenever Leto was around that Garrett rarely ever thought about anything aside from the that or the stiffness between his legs in response to the older boy; physically present or not.
"You don't have to admit to your old man how you really feel. They weren't lying when they said that with age comes wisdom, y'know. But..." Malcolm inhaled deeply through his nose. Garrett recognized the action as a ritual accompanying the careful choice of words that would soon follow.
"Such feelings are... overwhelming at best, and it is easy to just forget about everything and everyone involved. If we were back in Lothering, and this had been someone you fancied, then I would expect to give you a talking to about the consequences of such powerful emotions and to tell you to be good to whomever trusted you with their feelings..."
Garrett's head fell back in his lap when Malcolm gently posted a hand up on his shoulder.
There was always a but when it came to his father's wisdom.
"I have no doubt that you will make a fine partner to whomever you choose... but, this..." he gestured with his hand "cannot work between you two."
That was quite the but.
He surpised himself though, when he realized he had a but of his own. "But if it's 'love' then doesn't it have to work out somehow?" and as soon as it came out of his mouth, he realized how stupid it must have sounded.
There were plenty of things his father said that he didn't quite get, but he didn't want to even begin to venture down that road of despair. He couldn't think of a reason why things couldn't work out in his – and Leto's – favour.
He should have remembered that his father, ever the clever conversationalist, always had something to say, but he left Garrett's side to say it, gazing out the window at the tended lawns below.
"What will you do when you have to leave he – him behind?"
Garrett squinted; it wasn't often his father misspoke, and the twisted pronoun near the end of that sentence prompted his thought process to grind to a halt.
His father turned around just as a cool wash came over his features, all of the previous warmth gone as if it was never there. But there was no anger either; only a nostalgic look and a sober tone.
"What will you do when you have to leave him behind?"
He didn't have an answer for his father.
Garrett was unable to even formulate anything to say.
And, perhaps out of compassion or simple frustration, Malcolm had just let it go.
The question stuck with him as blood under the fingernails.
What was he going to do when it was time to go back to Fereldan? He'd managed to forge a bond with Leto, and it wasn't one he would let go of willingly. His father's revealing comment about love left him feeling different, yet again.
Indescribable if he was being honest; the queasy feelings in his stomach and fluttering heart in his chest added to that careening, out-of-control part of him that made him crave Leto's attention and affection.
He wondered if it would ever stop.
Somewhere inside he didn't want it to.
Dinner had come and gone without a hitch as it always did. The only thing that deviated was the number of people at the table.
Instead of just the three men with the elf servant, Hadriana and another older man, who was introduced as another Magister, also joined them for dinner. He managed to catch that the other aging man at the table was a good friend of Danarius' and he would also be attending the masquerade. It was really the first time the party was touched on in more detail, and, as it turned out, the majority of the Minrathian Magisters would be there along with many other important people from within the Imperium. It was very exclusive and was spoken about with decorative words chosen to be vague; a sort of 'inside' discussion. Garrett didn't really care about any of that – though he did want Hadriana to choke on some of her food just so she'd stop talking.
It was the first night the harpy ate with them, and after the subversive conversation about the party, the chatter was, once again, restricted to all things magic.
Garrett had another opportunity to confess that he had no magical talent and that he was not versed in anything having to do with the world of mages, but further than that, he remained silent the whole event.
Consumed with thoughts of the events over the last five days, Garrett found himself feening for just a single touch from Leto's hand. But, as he expected, Leto kept up appearances and remained aloof. Garrett told himself not worry about the dark haired elf's cool countenance, and that he was just doing it because no one could find out about them – that part was slightly exciting – but the Fereldan boy had problems with his own reasoning.
Leto really hadn't given him any reason to believe one way or the other how the older boy felt, and it left Garrett feeling cold. He had doubts that if he were in Leto's position he could keep his feelings from getting in the way of things, and that only added to his unsureness. Was it easy for Leto to seem unattached because that's what he actually was?
After all they'd been through, could Leto truly not have developed any feelings for Garrett?
Because Garrett was definitely attached; of that he was sure.
He thought he had things figured out, but all he knew at that moment was that not knowing for sure was a dark place to be.
Regardless, Leto wanted to meet, and that's exactly what Garrett had intentions of doing.
So, after a torturous heart-to-heart with his father and enduring a less-than-pleasant meal, he finally found himself sitting on the steps up to their special spot in the middle of the hidden meadow.
Leto hadn't given him a specific time to be there; that wasn't really the way things worked between them. Leto came when he could, Garrett assumed; when he was done doing whatever demeaning things Danarius had in store for him night after night. And, like every night, Garrett could almost watch the moon travel through the sky as it wore on.
Until he saw someone wade through the wild grasses to the gazebo.
"Serah Hawke." she near gasped, and even in the night he could see her cheeks red from exertion. "I -I have been looking for you."
If she knew to come to their place, then Leto must be behind her arrival. He nearly panicked. "What is it?"
"Leto." she hesitated. "Your presence has been requested, Serah."
She avoided his gaze as she spoke, which wasn't unusual for any of the servants of the household to do when they spoke to him, but for some reason he felt his gut twist a little. "Where is he?"
"Forgive me, Serah. I shall take you."
Garrett nodded; it was all he could do. Cloak in hand, he fell into step behind Orana as she lead the way from the glade.
All he could think about as they walked back to the mansion was his earlier encounter with Leto. He was most definitely angry when he left Garrett behind in the drawing room. Though, it didn't feel like anger was the only thing that caused Leto's departure.
And Leto's steps, usually steady and sure – never a single one wasted – were awkward and uncertain; stripped of their elegant air as he fled.
It was because of that that Garrett had been hoping against hope Leto would show up and didn't extend the invitation simply to placate him.
But surprise had been his visitor as the little elven girl showed up in his place.
They couldn't move fast enough, but once in the mansion, through an entrance Garrett was unfamiliar with, Orana had stopped and opened a heavy wooden door. A set of dark stairs descended; narrow in both step and passageway.
The slight girl avoided his eye again as she bowed.
Something inside him told him not to go; to turn around and go back to the relative safety of his room. He had no idea what he'd find when he reached the bottom of the shadowy corridor, but if it would lead to Leto, then he'd go.
He'd journey anywhere if Leto was to be at the end of it.
Still, it didn't take long for Garrett's heart to jump; the air stale and damp as it curled in his nostrils.
Imagination kicking into overdrive, he imagined a dungeon with plenty of unpleasant implements and a sadistic Danarius wearing leather and spiked heels.
Wherever he got that idea was beyond him, but the randomness of the thought actually made him question his choice of humour with a light-hearted shake of his head.
That was before Garrett arrived at the bottom of the stairs.
It caught his attention straight away.
Hovering a palm over the flames burning in a sconce on the wall, they served to send a cool shock through his bloodstream.
A shift of light as Orana picked up a torch from the opposite sconce startled him, and he skittered back toward the stairs like a nervous horse.
"Apologies." she bowed.
Garrett smiled tightly.
Balling up his hands in the tight pockets of his trousers, he stopped them from trembling. The knowledge that Hadriana might have been involved didn't do anything for his nerves; unable to forget those blue flames had been in the hearth of Hadriana's parlour the first day they'd arrived.
Inadvertently recalling all the events he'd been party to involving Danarius' pupil – her sick brand of charisma, her cruelty to Leto, and her unfortunate timing one night – Garrett was worried.
What was he destined to witness?
He figured that he'd find out soon enough.
Orana moved down the corridor too slowly, passing door after sturdy door until they came to one that was slightly ajar. The wisp of a girl moved aside and motioned to the threshold with an open hand. It took Garrett a moment to place his palm against the cool, unfinished wooden panels and push it open.
Inside, it was poorly lit, but Garrett's vision had already begun to adjust.
He did wonder what all the rooms were used for underneath the manor, but he could only focus on the one he was in now. And even after Orana shuffled across his line of sight, he was almost afraid to look at the surroundings, not sure of what he'd find, so he kept a bead on her instead.
"Garrett Hawke." Purred a familiar voice. "How nice of you to come."
The sickeningly sweet drawl came from the direction in which Orana was travelling, and his eyes closed the rest of the distance on their own.
Hadriana was standing there, dressed in her usual gaudy robes and pounds of finery. The dainty sound of her bracelets tinkling as she extended her hand in welcome made Garrett's stomach twinge. Orana halted and turned, standing off to her side, but was partially hidden behind the mage's form, her head hung subserviently. Her posture was her apology, but she never looked up; just stood there, nose pointed at the ground.
"Thank you for fetching our Fereldan guest, Orana."
Teeth grinding, the quiet sound of Orana's acknowledgment caused Garrett's temper to begin to smoulder uncomfortably in his belly.
"Why am I here?" he inquired impatiently.
The raven-haired woman clucked her tongue. "Really, little Hawke, you aren't much for manners, now are you?"
"You are here because I wanted you here. Isn't that enough?"
"I'm leaving." Garrett declared with – what he hoped was – convincing gusto. "I've had enough of your games -"
"Oh! Speaking of games..." she started, sounding inspired "Do you care to meet our other player before you decide to leave?"
"What are you -?"
Her blue eyes shifted, lids narrowing; the look daring Garrett to follow her gaze across the room.
There, bound to glinting metal rings on a dark wall on the far side, was Leto. His restraints, short leather straps around both wrists and ankles were pulled tight as he slumped lifelessly forward; the weight of his body pulling him away from the brick. He was shirtless, new wounds over the old on his chest oozing; random cuts and slashes of varying sizes drew Garrett's eyes down to the concentration of smeared dark red pooling and clotting down even into the split of his breeches.
Garrett couldn't hear the sound of his breathing, but saw his ribcage rise and fall slowly, gaunt skin stretched over his frame.
Unable to look away from the bloody mess, he nearly choked on Leto's name.
"Very good, little Hawke." Hadriana sneered.
"What have you done...?"
"It's nothing I haven't done before."
The sound of Hadriana's voice was a blade being drug through his mind; tugging across it until he bled as well. He couldn't be sure what horrors she'd given Leto before if her claims were true.
He couldn't hide the concern in his voice even though he knew that he couldn't afford to sound weak in front of her. "Why is he not...?"
"Not moving?" she suggested with a shrug, making a show of stroking her fingernails with a thumb. "He passed out from the pain, poor thing. I did get a little rough this time, I suppose."
"Rough? Just what in the Void is going on here?" Garrett demanded, the fury that fuelled the question muted again by her mocking, icy tone.
"To be honest with you, little Hawke, I am the one sorely lacking in manners." Her malignant chatter held Garrett somewhere in between terror and rage; some middle ground where he couldn't run away or run toward. "I couldn't even wait for your arrival before I began the festivities."
He needed to get to Leto; needed to get him to safety. His state seemed poor, and it worried Garrett.
To say he was enraged would be an understatement. Did Danarius know what Hadriana was up to with his favoured slave down in the deep recesses of his mansion?
Suddenly, he came to the realization that no one even knew where he was; short of the four of them in the dingy, moldy chamber.
The clap of her heels against the stone startled him as she took slow, methodical steps toward him; the sound drawing his gaze to helplessly witness her approach.
"Since Leto, here, has reached the end of his stamina for this game..." She sighed, sounding disappointed for a moment before she ran a pointed nail down Garrett's sturdy, human chest, to summon a shiver that brought a sick, satisfied curl to her lips.
Calculating eyes shifted toward him under thick, dark lashes, promising danger and whatever else; speaking more to him than her words ever could.
"What do you say we try a new game?"
Garrett's breath caught under the heavy question.
Both Hadriana and Garrett looked toward quiet strangle of noise where Leto hung.
"No?" she laughed, a shrill, short sound, the echo bouncing off the walls. "Are you telling me that you think you have a choice in this matter?"
He had his head up now, though he was still hanging painfully suspended by his arms from the wall. The healing bruises on his face seemed to look darker; his face white and unhealthy. There was blood crusted on his face, as Garrett suspected there would be. He didn't reply, but Garrett saw the line of his ashen lips tighten.
"Last time I checked, I do believe that you were the slave and I was the Mistress."
Again, Leto said nothing. Garrett wasn't sure if he couldn't manage to speak or if he was refraining from doing so.
He had to do something, or he might lose Leto... and for what?
"What do I have to do?" He asked quickly, ending any further discussion between the other two.
"Well -" she drawled "Danarius would not be pleased with me if he were to lose his prized pup right before the big soiree, but the solution is simple."
"Quite. All you have to do, my dear, is give me your blood."
"My blood... You mean for blood magic?"
"I do not want that." Objected Leto with a stronger voice than Garrett would have expected from him considering the dire situation he was in.
"But slaves aren't suppose to want anything, isn't that right, Leto? Besides, would you rather I use little Orana here?" Hadriana turned toward the skinny slave girl and put a hand on her chin, turning her face this way and that as she spoke. "She's peaked, to be sure, and is so delicate looking." She sighed loudly, pressing a fingertip against her lips in mock thought. "Would she even have enough blood in her to heal you before she, herself, expired?"
Panic drifted across the blonde's face, but she didn't move.
Leto said nothing more, but there was all sorts of silent conversation between them, reminding Garrett that he was an outsider in the truest sense of the word.
His heart was pounding wildly in his chest, but he couldn't do anything more than try and survey the situation as best he could. He was easily the tallest, sturdiest and healthiest man in the mansion, so, even though he wasn't sure what to expect, he knew he'd have an easier time than poor Orana.
While in thought, Hadriana had come closer to him, staring at him with wide, expectant eyes.
"There is always a sacrifice." she purred "Wouldn't you want it to be yours? Don't you want your blood to heal him; to be a part of him?" He could feel her freshly scented breath puff on his neck. "Don't you want to be inside him?"
Her twisted words woke something deep in his gut – the same way Danarius' perversion did that first night they met – and he couldn't help himself from wanting whatever it was she was offering. He knew that Leto would be unhappy with any decision that was made, so he decided to take that on his own shoulders. If it had to be done, Garrett would do it. That's all anyone need know.
Any other reasons Garrett could keep to himself.
So, with trembling hands, he began to roll up the sleeves of his shirt. He'd heard that blood mages drew blood from a sacrifice – or themselves in a pinch – in order to obtain blood to power their spells.
"Fine. Let's get it over with."
"No." Leto bit out, pulling futilely at the bonds; the quiet sound of the leather being strained too loud in Garrett's ear. "You can't... I can't let you..."
"Do not let the fleeting freedom our dear Master granted you allow you to forget your place, slave." Hadriana slunk toward Leto's body and cupped her hand to his cheek. "Slaves gladly accept what their masters give them." She warned, dragging the tips of her fingers over his cheek, and down his throat, to bloom more bloody lines. Hadriana then slid a thin, sharp nail into the end of the wound and crooked her finger, causing Leto to cry out in pain.
Garrett took a hasty step forward. He didn't think there was anything that could stop him from wringing her skinny little neck, but she turned on him and held out an open palm.
Suddenly he couldn't move, though he could feel magic coursing through his bloodstream; hot and electric and foreign. It didn't hurt, but it felt like she was touching every part of him; violating him.
"So." she began again, eyeing Garrett coolly. "Will you give this slave what he needs?" Descending on Garrett again to place a hand against his chest, she circled around him, stalking like a panther.
It was most unsettling being paralysed by the very blood in his body. It was no wonder blood mages were feared if they all possessed such power. He had understood in theory, but now he understood in a whole new way.
"It also happens to be the one thing he does not desire from you." she added lowly. "What will you do?"
Leto was staring at him, but Garrett couldn't do anything but stare back, utterly helpless.
His voice sounded detached and far away; unfamiliar to even himself. "Will I die?"
Hadriana barked a chortle that made both men start, and the thrum of the invading magic evaporated from his body, allowing him to move again. Though, he dare not make anymore moves toward her. He was trapped and she knew it.
"You Fereldans are a dense lot. It won't kill you... but" she grinned sadistically "I can assure you it will sting a little."
He swallowed, but hesitation didn't enter his mind once before he nodded resolutely.
He would save Leto from this ridiculous game of Hadriana's – he wanted to help – and if it caused him a bit of pain, so be it.
After voicing his decision, he looked back at Leto, but Leto was staring at the ground; refusing to return the glance. He needed confirmation that he was doing the right thing. He needed courage and reassurance he felt only Leto could grant him, knowing that what he was doing was all out of love and a crushing need to protect it.
He needed to connect, but the elf gave him no such satisfaction.
The glint of a dagger caught his eye as Hadriana offered it to him.
Once he held the sharp little dagger in his hand, moments felt like an eternity; as if he wasn't him and wasn't doing what he was doing. He wondered if he was crazy; maybe she'd bewitched him... or maybe he was in the Fade and a demon had somehow got a hold of him.
Or maybe he'd never wake up from this nightmare.
Anything, aside from this, he could accept, but the fact that he was about to slice himself open seemed completely insane.
Pushing the tip of the blade into the soft skin of his forearm, he bit back a hiss. Drawing the blade toward himself, he could feel the pain manifest on his face; the gathering of his eyebrows and the draw of his lips, but he watched the reagent well slowly on the surface.
That's what the blood was to blood mages; purely an ingredient. Alchemists had them, blacksmiths had them, enchanters had them. Even healers used flesh and plants to create potions to heal.
Now it was his turn to be a healer. He would protect Leto with his very life.
"Is that really the best you can do?" Hadriana badgered. "I can't work with that."
Garrett looked up at the blood mage, swallowing tightly, the small wound he'd made already burning with promise.
He had to continue. It was for Leto.
He'd do anything for Leto.
"I didn't think you'd need any more encouragement." Orana shrieked, but didn't fight, when Hadriana snatched her bird-like arm and pressed a dagger against her neck. "Maybe a demonstration will help?
"No! I've... got it." he ground out from under the weight of his anxiety. He couldn't stop now; he'd come too far. There was too much at stake.
Taking a deep breath, he pressed the dagger harder into his flesh; managing a straight incision in spite of his jittery muscles and quaking hands.
Blood – darker and thicker – hot and tacky, oozed from the gash as he insisted it go deeper. He felt the burning sting; every rational thought left in his head screaming.
When everything threatened to overwhelm him, he dropped the tainted dagger, and closed his eyes to focus on the sound of his own breathing. He was getting cold, his arm and hand numb as he bled out. He wondered how much blood was needed to save Leto, and what would happen after.
Would everything be the same with him after it was finished?
Would Leto hate him? He didn't think he could take that. It would be better to die than to live without the one he …
It was hard to focus.
And Garrett heard a chant – possibly an incantation – from Hadriana, but couldn't make out words; the manic drumbeat of his heart drowning out everything else as the fear began to take hold inside him.
Began to take hold in those places that couldn't be touched or bled...
Fighting against sleepy eyelids, he found he wasn't even standing anymore. The cold stone under his knees stole the rest of the warmth he had inside him; warmth he was trying to save.
Unable to understand exactly what he was looking at, and not able to look away, he faced the morbid, disgusting curiosity of his blood curling and dancing upon the dank air. It glowed crimson as Hadriana conducted it, in tendrils, away from him.
Garrett blinked wearily as he watched Hadriana's mouth move; her voice lethargic and low.
She thew her arms up in the air, hands gripping something invisible above her, and pain lanced through Garrett's entire body; seizing every nerve as the moment screamed past him, leaving him trying to clutch onto something he recognized; his senses trilling with sharp agony.
He could no longer fight the sea of cold he'd kept at bay, and let it swallow him whole.