Posted this on AO3 aaages ago and totally forgot to post it here too. Well, enjoy.


Once More, With Feeling

The Outsider likes to see him bleed. It's a suspicion of Corvo's, and time and time again he proves himself right.
Corvo.
He's bandaging his hands which have gotten horribly scraped when he blinked to a ledge and nearly missed. Dirt has worked its way into the open wounds, and they sting when he opens or closes his hands.
Corvo.
There is a rush of cool air on the back of his neck and he knows that it's the closest the Outsider gets to a laugh.
Hurt yourself again, my dear?
They're not so much words as thoughts which appear in his head spoken in the Outsider's voice.
"I'm not your dear." Corvo says for the sake of arguing; they both know the answer to that one.
The kiss below his right ear is cold.
"You've gotten so clumsy of late."
The hands that reach around him and start unwrapping the bandages are warm. A mockery of life.
"A miscalculation." Corvo amends.
"Have any more 'miscalculations' like that and soon no number of bandages will fix them."
"You'd like that."
"Oh, quite the contrary. After all, if you die, who will I watch? Who shall entertain me?"
"I'm sure you'll find someone."
"None so as interesting as you."
The Outsider takes Corvo's left hand and runs his fingers over Corvo's palm. The blood smudges and the brand throbs with a cold fire.
"Stop it." Corvo says when the pain causes him to wince.
The hands come away clean and unblemished; Corvo's is smeared with blood and the half-closed lacerations reopen.
"Sleep well, Corvo. Dream pleasant dreams."
That night he dreams of Jessamine, staring up at him from a pool of her own blood.

-x-

A cut on his thigh, a slash across his ribs, a crossbow bolt in his collarbone. The Outsider always takes the opportunity to run his hands through Corvo's blood as if staining himself with the essence of life will somehow make him more human. Even when Corvo is going blue from the effort of not screaming as the bolt is pulled through bone and muscle, the Outsider pokes a cold finger into the neat hole that's left behind.
"Shh." He whispers soothingly when Corvo lets slip a pained groan.
The coldness retreats and a warm wetness slides over the wound. The pain eases and it's not until the wetness slides upwards that Corvo realises the Outsider is licking a slow stripe up to his jaw.
"You must learn to be more careful, Corvo."
The Outsider holds Corvo's face in his hands and kisses him forcefully. Corvo can taste his own blood, and what is possibly the sane part of him screams at him to stop this. At the same time the rest of him reflects on how much he's missed such intimacy, and cries out for more. The Outsider pulls away.
"Wait –" Corvo says, but he is already gone.

His poisoning by the Loyalists involves no blood, so he's alone as he lies choking on the floor, alone when Samuel drags him to the boat, alone when the rocking motion turns his stomach and he can barely get his head over the side to throw up. He's alone and cold, and the hands that grab him next are warm and not the ones he's hoping for, though he'll die before admitting it.

-x-

Having his clothes soaked with the blood of the man who killed Jessamine should make him feel better, Corvo thinks. Instead he feels empty, and not at all victorious. So he holds her heart in his hand, asks her to take him to the Outsider, and in his own heart begs for her forgiveness.

Corvo slaughters his way out of the Flooded District driven by something more akin to desperation than frenzy. When he drops to his knees in front of the Outsider Shrine and closes his hands around the rune, it's as if something in the world has righted itself. The feeling doesn't settle well with him, but he can't bring himself to leave when the Outsider appears with the faintest hint of a smile on his lips.

"You find your way into such interesting places, Corvo." He says, looking at Corvo as though he were the most interesting thing in the world. A hand reaches out to stroke the blood splatters on Corvo's cheek.
"You just killed the greatest assassin of the age. Did you do it for the love of the Empress or Emily, or was it the primal desire to rise above other men?" The Outsider leans in and captures Corvo's eyes with his black pits and Corvo swears he sounds delighted. "Do you even know why?"
"He deserved it." Corvo says, and the venom he intends to inject into the statement is lost somewhere between his mind and his mouth.
You can lie to yourself, but you can't lie to me.
The words reverberate in his head as the Outsider withdraws his hand, then Corvo is alone again; no Jessamine, no Emily, no friends, no allies.

He turns out to be wrong about the last one. Cecelia, Callista, Piero, Sokolov, and Samuel are still at the Hound Pits and ready to follow him to the end even as he wants to fall to the ground and weep for all he's done. Corvo takes hope in their faith, and vows that just this once he will spare everyone no matter the effort he has to go to.

He's too late to save Martin and Pendleton, too late to save Havelock from himself, but when Emily throws herself into his arms Corvo thinks that just maybe he won't fall into the same spiral of revenge and fear.
"No more." He whispers into Emily's dark hair, and holds her close.

Corvo wakes in his dream that night and steels himself for one last walk into the Void, one last meeting with the Outsider. He's ready to do whatever it takes to rid his life of the capricious god forever, ready to give back his gift and live out the rest of his days as ordinary a man as they come.

The Outsider is standing on the edge of the platform looking into the Void when Corvo ascends the stairs and stops several paces away. His hands are clasped behind his back, but as he turns the Outsider spreads his arms, as if to offer an embrace.
"Ah," he says with a curve of his lips and a hunger in his eyes, "Corvo."
And Corvo knows he's lost the battle.