Falling Action

by Wo Xi Huan (我喜歡)

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/60105.html)

The trees used to be people. All the little elf children knew this, sang sad songs to ward off their snatching spirits, danced melancholy dances to appease their uneasy souls. The adults would watch and whisper to themselves, hss, hss, and the children would dance.

Winters would dash into the forest; summers would laze in. Springs would whisk in with the smell of cold on them; falls would slink in through the shadows like unwelcome guests. Time passed and the world around the forest, around the elves, changed. The trees that were once people remained the same. The elves stayed the same.

And then one day the dances and songs no longer soothed the people-now-trees. The elf king fretted and paced and raged, but there was no solution to be had in the safety of the palace. He prepared his eldest son for a journey in search of knowledge.

The young prince came back with ill news, terrible news: of rituals to be followed that would devastate and maim, shatter and remake and shatter again.

The king began to prepare his youngest son.

Nico flicked an ear, loosening a few bits of leaf litter stuck in the fur. He crouched low, body tucked close to the ground, tail tense and still. He could still hear it, whatever it was, and he didn’t like it. It had struck his party with the speed of a sandlion, killing Faas, Ivo, and Rutger in one single strike. What the strike had been with, of, from- Nico couldn’t say. He didn’t know. He shuddered to think of it, the motion sliding down his skin and ending with a violent quiver of his tail.

The crunching sound Nico had been listening to stopped, and he flattened even closer to the ground- but no, there was no sound of approach or pursuit. Nico relaxed as he peered out from behind his chosen bush, tail swinging around to curl into a loop at his feet.

There had been a scramble to get out of the clearing, and in it, Nico had lost track of the rest of his party. He could only see himself now. Just himself. Just himself?!

He dashed over to the bloodstains and circled them, looking around for the bodies that had previously been occupying the area. Nothing. No drag marks, no disturbance of the leaves. No- now, as Nico watched, even the bloodstains were fading. In a second they were gone and Nico’s ears were pressed flat to his skull, his growl thrumming throughout the clearing.

A cloud of birds screeched and exploded out of a bush nearby, sending Nico dashing to hide behind a tree before he had realized. They were bright, noisome animals fitting of this bright, noisome forest, Nico thought sourly.

“This place…” He forced his tail to slink out from between his legs and his ears to perk again. But nothing could shake from him the cold that had crept into his feet and hands, and nothing could stop him from keeping his knives drawn as he slunk through the shadows.

He found one twik at last, standing on some water- most likely another one of those ridiculous elf-tricks- with no shirt on. It was a kid and he wasn’t bloody up or down, so Nico figured the twik was all his.

“Hey, kid.” The kid turned, and sandwinds but his ears were long, long as Mieke’s were, her having some desert jackrabbit in her a few generations back- but in elves, that meant… royalty, didn’t it?

To be honest, Nico didn’t know and didn’t care. He’d seen the twik first- it was his. That was all.

“What?”

Nico sneered at the imperial tone. Yeah, a royal all right. The kid’d learn under him, though, and fast.

“C’mere. Weird shit happening.” And the idea of a protector of the forest had occurred to Nico as he was wrestling through the foliage, along with the idea that having a native immediately on hand might be nice.

The brat strolled to him as if he owned the place, his richly embroidered pants sliding sinuously over skinny, bony hips. Luckily for the twik, he wasn’t into fucking kids, but Nico figured that in a few years and with a few beatings in him, he might turn out to be a pretty good lay. Something about royalty-turned-slaves: they never really got used to the whole obedience thing. Made it hotter, sometimes.

“Like what?” There was something… off… about the way the kid rolled his words around in his mouth. It reminded Nico of the way pros rolled cactus wine around in their cups before sipping- the twik was savoring the unease in the air. Nico repressed another sneer and motioned vaguely, fixing his features into an expression of comfort and welcome. The kid responded better to that and was at his side in a flash, eyes kitten-wide, green as new plants after a rain.

Nico grabbed the brat and had him pinned to the ground, face-down, arms locked behind his back, before he could blink. He drew out one of his knives and held it up to the kid’s cheek for good measure- something about the slow sway of his hips had made Nico’s ears flatten again. He recalled that some royals had power over their lands and held the knife close enough to slice a little cut into that fair little twik cheek. If this kid was why his party had vanished, the brat was screwed. Royally, to forgive the pun.

“Listen, you little twik, and listen good,” the boy flinched at the slur, his eyes narrowing in anger and his fingers making little fists, “me and mine, we came here for you. Not to keep you safe or any other pansy-ass thing,” he got close to that long, curled-at-the-tip, stiff-as-wood ear, “we came here to take you and break you and use you. And no matter what kind of rhetorical bullshit you spew, that’s that and you’re mine now. We’re Animalia and we don’t take prisoners- we take slaves.”

Predictably, the brat had something to say about that and spent the next ten turns spewing off the kind of bleeding-heart crap and ‘what-did-we-ever-do-to-you?’ that had marked the finale of all previous slave-collecting expeditions. Nico used the time to pull out his brander, calling it humming into life in his hands. By the time it was ready, threads of magic grasping for but recoiling from its master’s hands, the kid had noticed the tool and fallen silent. His eyes were huge, the eyes of prey. Nico’s tail quivered.

“What- ….what’s that?” He asked in a small, broken voice. Nico gave him a look- not blank, not angry or pleased or anything else, just- a look. “Is it going to… please, please don’t-” Nico snorted and pressed the humming golden brander onto the twink’s skin, just below the neck and between the shoulders. He’d done it a dozen times to his new slaves, and then a dozen times more for others. It was nothing new- until the brander hissed and stopped. Nico looked over the brand, chalky-black on sand-colored skin- it had just been finished as the brander broke- and then slapped the kid, hard.

“You’ll be paying for that out of your belongings. Branders don’t come cheap.” The kid started to wail, but another slap and it receded into a soft whimper. That Nico could handle, and allow- kids had to do something, but hell if he was going to let the kid cry himself out and be useless for the rest of the day. “Now come on. Stand up and let’s start to get the fuck out of here.” The boy stayed where he was when Nico got off of him, prompting a nudge with his tail. “Did you hearRRA-!”

Nico swatted at the kid, claws out. He caught them on the hard, jewellike family markings on the other’s right cheek, but there was a satisfying ripping noise and then the kid was really sobbing, rocking back and forth and clutching at his bleeding marks. Nico felt no pity- his tail was bent at an angle normally only seen in temples, jagged and sharp. He sat down and dragged the limb into his lap, tried to move it. It hurt, enormously, and in the end he had to give up and gasp for air feebly a few times. Fucking twik had broken his tail. Broken it! He should have felt lucky- most other Animalia would have nudged the kid up with their feet.

The brat was still crying and bleeding, getting the red stuff all over his nice white-and-green pants. Nico flashed him a look of utter hatred, bent over double and trying to buck up the nerve to fix his tail’s angle.

And then that thing was there again, all slashing green and brown, and for a dumb, stupid moment all Nico could think about was that dumbass sheltered royal brat, sitting there and sobbing his eyes out about a cut smaller than the lines on his hands. Nico had been trained since kittenhood to be bold and strong, to fight and maul and kill. He had murdered and enslaved and hurt and been hurt, and for one dumb second, he wanted to have protected somebody besides himself before he died.

He threw the kid into the water and dragged himself up to his feet. His broken tail sent waves of pain up his spine as it dragged on the ground, unable to perk up and curl above the earth. Nico drew his knives, flattened his ears, and braced-

But there was nothing to fight.

“Wh-?” He glanced around. There was nothing. Nobody. Not even- “Hey!” The brat was running away, down a green path and towards what Nico thought might have been the royal palace. Typical of a twik.

He was wary of the palace, especially so when he discovered what might have been guards. As they were, they were being consumed by vines, more armor shells than dead elves. They’d obviously been deceased for some time, then- not by his party’s hand, nor any other’s. It looked like they had simply fallen asleep where the stood and been devoured by plants- not a nice thought, in Nico’s opinion.

Nico stood back and looked around. His injured tail was now pulled straight and bound into a splint, looped around his waist and wedged into the space between his knife sheathes and his hip. His clothes, light and night-sand-colored, were unmarred by blood or even tree sap. The space in front of the gate to the castle was another clearing, but this one had a better view of the sky. Vines hadn’t consumed the blue yet, and it was nice to feel the sun on his sweat-soaked skin. Nico paused in his pursuit of the royal brat to pull off his shirt, using it to wipe some sweat off. He paused a moment, then tossed it back on and sighed.

“If I’d been thinking, I’d’ve dunked my shirt.” Nico shrugged, hissed as he jarred his tail, and forged on, further into the palace.

The place was creepy as hell. It reminded Nico of the tales he’d heard from a party- the Rosa group- that had gone to get some slaves and come back missing chunks of their bodies, some fingers, and one ear each. The place they had traveled to had been half-dead, the residents insane and flesh-eating. That party had been lucky to escape alive, let alone mostly whole. Nico had the sinking feeling that his party was going to be the next Rosa group.

There were the residents being consumed by vines, the green ropes running through the skeletons like some sort of sick parody of veins. They were always guards, Nico noted, and wondered where everybody else was.

He found the servants in some of the smaller rooms They were blooming with flowers, more recognizable as lumps of moss and floral scent clutching household items than anything else. There was one servant – somebody important, Nico surmised from the gold pendant it had on its once-forehead – that had flowers growing out of the eye sockets the blue of a puppy’s eyes. There was a small pattern of flowers on a bulge near its stomach that Nico frowned and crouched down low to examine. After a moment of confusion, though, he sprang back, breaking into a feverish pant- the little pink flowers were in the shape of a baby.

He left that room more disturbed than he had been in a while. There was something wrong here, something very wrong, and he was seriously regretting having come in with his party. But he couldn’t back out, not now- his pride in his perfect record- at least one slave per raid- was too intense for that. And besides- the kid was alone in this bizarre form of a morgue. He knew personally that he’d rather be enslaved for the rest of his life, at someone else’s whims till the day he died, than stay here much longer.

The next class of people he found was nobles, and he stared for a long time before being able to process what was happening. They were alive, as far as he could tell, pressing against the multiple pillars in what might have once been a beautiful audience room. There were strange, reddish-brown plants down around the bodies, and when Nico stepped closer, taking care to not touch any pillars, he recognized what the plants were and almost screamed.

He didn’t remember what they were called, but he knew what they did: they formed a tube around the trunk, then secreted a glue on their supporting structures- trees, in nature. The glue they made was strong enough to hold people, for sure. The plant slid down around the tree, secreting more glue onto the victim, and… Nico stared in horrified fascination at a man stuck to a pillar, eyes vacant, mouth slack and wide, his little round elf teeth covered with thin red tendrils reaching in and down. The plants digested things, people especially, from the inside out.

Nico licked his lips a couple times and flinched when something dropped onto the ground next to him. It was just a bird dropping, though, so he shook the shivers out of his body as best he could and walked on. Those plants were tales told to naughty Animalia children, he tried to remind himself, they weren’t real.

He found a lot more servants, guards, and nobles before he got to the audience room. By that time Nico was bracing himself, ready for the worst, but even so he hesitated to open the fantastically-jeweled door. There was no guarantee that he’d find his slave, that snotty little prince, but if he did it was a job well done and he could return-

Well. Who was he kidding? He could run home with his tail between his legs, dragging the lone survivor of sandwinds-knows-what with him.

“Hey, brat, you here?” Silence. Nico steeled himself for something terrible, something to make all else he had seen today look like a child’s carefree rhyming. He stepped into the audience hall and stopped, stunned.

He doesn’t quite know what’s happening, but the world is opening up again, curling out and around and towards some indefinite point in the future. He’s not sure what this animal-human-thing has to do with any of it, but there he is. He’s standing in the middle, almost, and maybe the only reason he isn’t exactly centered is that he’s wandered away on his own will.

He’d always wished, when he could, when he was he enough to, that somebody would come and rescue him. Only…. he hadn’t expected, not ever, to be rescued by a bad person.

He’d always thought that they couldn’t rescue people.

Nico approaches the man sleeping in a bed of flowers with some trepidation. A fatalistic part of himself is insisting that this is the place where he’ll die- things have been escalating, vines to bodies to monsters. Where’s the crescendo?

But there isn’t anything- nothing dangerous, anyways. Just an impossibly beautiful elf, royal again, with the same leaf-shaped green markings on his cheek as the kid. His hair is oddly straight, sticking out from his head like the rays of the sun. White, too, which Nico thinks is weird- amongst his people, white is common, but he’d always thought that elves didn’t have that color.

The man’s eyes are slitted a quarter opened, like the way Nico himself likes to sleep sometimes. His eyes are the same wild green as the kids, and suddenly Nico starts to wonder about something. He reaches over and traces the face with his hands- no response.

His hands run over a lean, thin chest with small nipples the color of an animal-kitten’s nose. He can feel the ribs as his hands run over the skin lightly, his fingers leaving goosebumps after like the wake after a boat. Nico’s fingers trace the elf’s- they’re long and thin, just like the rest of him, but with the hands it’s because they have an extra joint in them. At first that makes him nervous, edgy, but after a moment of examination it seems normal. His hands trace back to the chest and down, to a small tuft of white pubic hair, weirdly straight just like the hair on the man’s head. Nico looks at the penis, twists his mouth as he contemplates that elves don’t circumcise their kids. Decides to move on. His hands trace long, long, long as the day under the sun legs. Hairless. Of course. Elves don’t grow beards, the pubic hair was scant- of course there would be no leg hair.

But the fact makes Nico squeamish for some reason. It makes him think of the brat and something occurs to him. He hesitates, then touches the man’s face again. The eyes remain empty and still under their pale lashes. His thoughts go back to the nobles, devoured alive from the inside out, so he slides arms around the elf to lift him up. He wants to be sure this man isn’t some kind of plant-lure, a trap connected to the monster that has to be lurking around here. Or at least, that’s what he tells himself.

He’s examining the man’s smooth, non-plant back when he notices something. It just confirms his suspicions, but it gives him the willies anyways and makes his tail hurt when it tries to go between his legs without permission. Instead of thinking too deeply on it, Nico shakes the man gently, then harder. Nothing happens, and it feels creepy to shake him any more. He holds a hand in front of the elf’s mouth, and yeah, he’s breathing, but he’s thin and empty and… Nico almost punches himself in the face. He wants to protect this man. It’s the same feeling he had about the kid, brat or no, and the brand on his back telling Nico he’s his sure doesn’t help.

“Great. His astral projection’s a seven-year-old bitch, what’ll the actual guy be like?” Saying that doesn’t wake the man up much, but it does make Nico feel a little more sure of himself.

He lays the elf down again and decides to wait for a bit. Maybe think. He knows his childhood isn’t exactly the best place to draw inspiration from, but when all else fails… Nico leans over and presses a kiss to the elf’s cheek. Sure enough, there’s a small slow motion in the eyes, just a dilation of those inky empty pupils. Just a dilation, but it’s a start. He just does what his mother used to do to him- it always woke him up in one hell of a hurry.

He drags his rough, rasping tongue up the man’s neck and is rewarded with a faint flicker of the eyelashes. His hands trace lines on the man’s sides, and he straddles the body to better balance. Nico kisses the elf on his lips and is gratified to find them warmer than they had been a second ago. He deepens the kiss, nudging the jaw open with a twist of his hand. He’s used to being the uncooperative one in this, the dead weight- it’s kind of creepy to be the instigator.

The creepiness vanishes, though, because the elf is waking up fast now, his tongue languidly curling around Nico’s like a snake around a wind-twisted tree. A hand, long and bony, comes down over his. It feels really slow and erotic and like he’s touching his wife who he hasn’t seen in ten years, and that’s nice, it’s as good as coming home and way better than being screwed by his mother with tears running down her face-

The world suddenly explodes in a shock of white. Nico lies still. After a second he realizes that he’s on the floor, that the elf is sitting up, and that he’s just been hit.

“Ow,” says this- this stranger, this creepy man who’d been kissing him the way his mother and father kissed. As if he has some kind of right to be in pain, when he’d just-

He spits, spits again. He doesn’t want a bad man’s saliva in his mouth.

“That was rude,” He cracks out, or tries. His voice is low, deep. When did that happen? His body doesn’t work right, not the same at all any more, and he really wonders why he didn’t just kill this man when he had the chance. Now he’s blocked into this fleshy wet soft human shell. It disgusts him. Why had he led this man here, why why why?

“Yeah, well. You weren’t waking up any other way.” The man rolls onto his feet and looks down at him. He quails, just a bit, at the way the man’s cat-gold eyes trace his new body. It seems like the sort of thing he should think bad man about and be done with. Instead, it excites a new part of him. He feels a blush gather in his ears and looks stoically at the man’s furred cat ears. It doesn’t help much- it just makes him think of those ears brushing his cheeks, tucked forwards probably, and the soft, careful wet feel of another’s tongue in his mouth.

He tells himself that he should be disgusted, that good people don’t do things like that to little boys, and then catches sight of his body again. Remembers all the places he’s gone, the things he’s seen.

“You do all this?” The bad man asks, jerking a thumb at the palace behind him. He stares at the other blankly, then nods, then shakes his head.

“I- Ba tried to get me to help stop the trees. But. They were-” he remembers, abruptly, the feeling of a thousand and five people inside him at once, using his royal magic to twist the world around his mother and father and brother. Scooping him out of his body like the seeds from a melon, the trees had sent him to wander while they used him, probably until he was all gone.

And he understands why he let this ruthless, bad man with a sweet face and darling little soft ears come padding in. The only person he could trust to force the trees up and out of him? Maybe not. The only person to continue on no matter what anyone else wanted? Yeah, that worked. He’d survived the trees’ attacks. He’d forced him to wake up. Okay. Now he could grow a spine, like his brother had always told his maid to do.

“What’s your name?”

Nico reaches down without being asked and pulls the elf to his feet. “Nico. You? You a prince or whatever?” The elf staggers and collapses on Nico’s form once he’s up. His breath is warm on Nico’s shoulder. His penis is still a little hard. Nico ignores it.

“Zen,” he says, and the expression on his face says clearly that he doesn’t understand the name. Nico flicks his ears and looks at the flowers under their feet. Zen recovers himself and stands up straight, ears swinging back to stick out behind his skull. He pushes his hair back and it sticks up from his head like the crest of some kind of weird bird.

“Where’d your pants go?” Nico asks, for lack of anything better to say, stripping off his shirt again and handing it to the- to Zen. He reminds himself that Zen is his slave, forces his eyes over to the family whorls marking the base of the elf’ neck, but. In the end, he’s slightly scared of this huge guy, who to be completely honest looks more like a tree than a person when he’s vertical. Nico’s small, even for his people. He’s not sure how he feels about being in such close proximity with a giant, knives or not.

Zen accepts the shirt. Nico’s always liked his clothes large, large enough that nobody can ever tell what his body looks like. Even so, the shirt pulls on the elf’s shoulders and looks ridiculous. It covers him down to just below the important parts, though, which is a small miracle given their respective sizes. (Nico doesn’t mention anything, but he can still see the elf’s cock and it’s kind of funny looking, peeping out from under his shirt like that.)

The silence from the elf makes Nico squint. Tension builds in the air, somehow squeezing itself in between all the wet and fear already up there. Eventually he turns and starts walking out of the chamber.

“Come on. Let’s get out of here.”

Nico, always the fighter, always the planner, is tensed and ready for some kind of retribution. He’s walking out of the forest with what must be the place’s crown jewel. Better yet, the crown jewel itself is afraid of the place, like he knows he’s doing something he shouldn’t be.

Zen’s ears are flicking forwards and back almost as much as Nico’s. They pass through the clearing where Nico’s group vanished. There’s still no blood, but Nico wagers that it might be a good thing with a sissy elf trailing him.

They see no monsters, or birds, or even any flowers.

Zen hears it before his bad man does. He breaks into a run, dragging Nico by the hand. The faint sound he’d heard turns into an echoing crack, then a ripping of foliage that sounds like flesh being rendered. Nico catches on, ears flying to press back against his skull, and he takes the lead, even though Zen’d been raised to know that shorter people are slower.

“This way,” he snaps out, voice low with the terseness of the situation. All around them, vines are starting to sway and whisper, hss, hss, and the trees they’re suffocating are moaning. Zen follows the moon-white bobble of hair in front of him, trying his hardest to ignore the pain in his body- the feeling that he can’t do this quite yet. But Nico’s tail is coming loose from his waist, and the tuft of red bandages around the limb remind Zen that yeah, he can.

He catches up to Nico, tearing through the underbrush as they are, and snatches up his tail before he can trip on it or get it caught on something- or by something.

Zen chances a look back, whips his head around, and wishes he hadn’t. There’s a cascade of bark following them, moving like water and grasping like pain.

Nico must have looked back too, because they both manage to speed up.

They’re pounding the ground and gasping for breath and suddenly the world goes out from under Nico’s feet. Zen doesn’t let go of his tail. Nico’s scream of pain- tension on a tail undamaged isn’t pleasant, let alone on a broken one- alerts the elf, and he stops. Turns around. He moves like he’s about to hit the corded vines with a hammer, one foot back, the other extended, body pivoting- on the wall of vines that resemble a tide of snakes, his thin, long hands look ridiculously small.

The vines recoil, though, suddenly, as the area where Zen had touched turns brittle white-brown and withers.

Nico staggers to his feet, bleeding on his chest from where the vines had begun to bore into him. Zen drags him out, into the sands of the desert surrounding the forest. They collapse there, watching the vines and trees and bushes grasp for them furiously. The desert rebuffs them, however, and by the time Zen is satisfied that they’re safe, that they’ll be left alone, the desert is starting to war with his old home. Sand is creeping up the line of grass set down by the forest, and where it goes, the plants turn to what looks like rock.

It makes Zen feel safe.

Nico is dazed and panting for breath and in pain. As much as Zen would like to think of this bad man as just that, some kind of slaving treasure-hunting fiend, he recalls Nico’s support when he collapsed.

“You bitch,” Nico hisses, lying on Zen’s clothed chest. His nose is tucked into the junction between his neck and shoulder, and though Zen knows he should feel worried with those kitten-sharp teeth near his skin, he doesn’t. “You fucking bitch,” he rasps again. His hands are trembling as they smooth, anxiously, over his sides. Zen looks down at the small, black-spotted and -striped ear pressed against his chin. It makes him want to think of Nico as soft and small.

He’s well aware that Nico is no such thing, however- he can feel the knives Nico wears against his belly, sheathed in leather.

“You’re still my slave, you know.” It would be a lot more threatening and terrifying if the speaker wasn’t some kind of fluffy-tailed cat man curled up on his chest and trembling. Zen shuts his eyes and shrugs, sits up. The movement dumps Nico into his lap. “There’s a cache of supplies around here.”

“All right.”

They’re sitting around the fire, or, well, sitting next to each other while looking at the fire, when Nico brings up the question of what happened.

Zen hesitates- then tells him, about evil tree spirits and quests and how his brother left to get help for Zen when their father decided to offer him to the spirits. How the forest had fallen asleep as the trees took him over, his people included, how he’d been wandering for years and years and years without any knowledge of who he was or what had happened, all around the world and through endless lands and peoples-

“Stop,” Nico says, undoing the belts securing his knives to his hips. “It doesn’t matter, really, does it? You’re done with that now.” He puts his things to the side, then brushes some sand off the edge of the blanket they’re perched on. “It got better in the end.” Zen hears something in the timbre of Nico’s voice. A faint echo of a similar pain, maybe, or even of emptiness? He leans down and rests his cheek against the smaller man’s, which prompts a narrow-eyed glare.

“How about you? Aren’t you going to do whatever slavers do? Take advantage of me? Whip me?” Nico tucks his chin to his chest and titters, evil look forgotten.

“In case you hadn’t noticed, I don’t have a whip. And I think you’re more trouble than you’re worth,” the words hurt, like Nico has taken up his knives and brought them slicing down into his heart, “especially as a slave.” It’s not that Zen wants to be a slave, of course. Never! But… he’s aware that Nico is selfish and hard and cruel, and his morals aren’t so much something to be suspect of as to run screaming away in the opposite direction from. He’s also… brave, Zen decides, picking words carefully, keeping in mind Nico’s original intentions for Zen and his people. Warm, when he wants to be. Playful, judging from the way Nico enjoyed making Zen carry him to the cache. Nico can be persistent, Zen acknowledges, and it seems like he might be overly so, given his adventures in the Home Forest.

He’s trying to mentally balance the facets of Nico’s personality out in his head when the other man starts to take off his pants. Zen’s seen other people have sex- it would be hard to avoid, given how long he must have wandered while his body slept. The thought that he might be the one having sex one day hadn’t occurred to him often, but when it had he’d dismissed it as an uncomfortable and messy task.

Zen attributes the sudden pool of heat within him to being body-bound again. Even so, he allows his gaze to slip over to Nico, who is…. also looking at him.

“Your shirt,” Nico says, making a motion with his hand that Zen doesn’t think is that erotic but somehow seems it anyways and he’s leaning down now, reaching for the fabric and Zen puts his hand on Nico’s back, and-

Nico is again surprised by the actions of that infernal elf. Thankfully, this time, he’s not lying on the floor with a head injury.

He doesn’t mind being on the bottom, normally, but with a man roughly twice his size in all ways (he checks this with a quick grope and is rewarded with an oddly skilled nibble on his lower lip)- he finds himself envisioning his return home. The image in his head involves limping like a beaten dog, while Zen strolls along behind merrily- clearly not a grand entrance befitting the survivor of a psychotic forest. He flattens his ears against his skull and flips them over, yanking the shirt off Zen’s body and shoving it beneath the other man’s head in one fluid motion.

“You want sex? We do it my way.” Apparently Zen’s wanderings had brought him into the company of some serious BDSM fetishists, because when Nico glowers at the end of that sentence, Zen’s cock perks up. “Lie back.” Zen obeys but keeps his eyes on Nico, eyes glowing life-green in the lingering death of the fire.

Nico swims up Zen’s body like a swimmer, a snake headed for the last human in the Garden, and the way the moon shines in his hair as the fire dies- Zen isn’t sure what to think, but he kisses Nico when he feels lips against his own. It’s good enough, he supposes. Nico seems to think so too, because his hands roam down, down. One hand settles on his sides again, and Zen realizes that it must be a habit of Nico’s, that side-stroking thing.

Zen gasps a little when Nico slides into him. Nico’s nicer than he lets on, though, and it doesn’t escape Zen’s notice that he waits, kissing a path down his stomach and still caressing his side, until Zen’s stopped clenching and unclenching in anxiety around him.

“Is it good?” Nico asks, beginning to snap his hips forwards. The movements, unhurried, deep, dangerous- they grate on Zen’s nerves like nothing else, and before he knows it he’s squirming, splaying his hands on Nico’s shoulders. With the height difference, it’s all that he can reach, but somehow that just makes it better.

“Unh,” Zen comments, watching Nico’s ears twitch like somebody’s bothering them. “Ya- yeah.” Nico grins, sharp-toothed. Zen tosses his head back and pants for breath, his brow furrowing as he feels Nico continue on with the same infuriating speed. “Faster?” He doesn’t quite know what he’s asking for, only what his body is telling him he wants, no, needs. He pushes his hips up on Nico’s down thrust, something that Nico’s tail, lashing flatly on the ground due to its current state, seems to like. Still, it’s difficult to match the tempo with such a slow speed, when Zen is wanting so badly.

On his part, Nico is enjoying the shifting expressions flicking across Zen’s face, enjoying the throaty, windy little mewls he lets loose. “Faster, huh,” he grinds out, then, on a whim, obeys.

The results are pleasing, to say the least. Zen arches up and his hips find the rhythm with ease. There’s an occasional hiss from Zen when Nico strikes that spot inside (he doesn’t want to be bothered with unsexy facts right now, especially not given he’s in a hot, tight fuck with some random elf prince plant guy), and when Zen reaches down and starts to jerk himself off, panting double what he previously was, Nico almost comes in him right there.

He waits and holds off, though, best he can, crouched ferally between those impossibly long legs. Zen likes the look of him, it seems, so who is Nico to be so stingy as to not give the man some nice visuals? Zen’s hand on himself speeds up, his eyes do some kind of rolling-back kind of thing, and he’s suddenly limp and pliant as Nico himself has been at times.

He’s still going, though, hands buried in the blanket, each one braced on one side of Zen’s hips, and he moves them up to mid-chest level to better brace himself. Zen lets loose some half-pants, half-moans, as Nico pours all his force into sliding into that good, sogood, warm body under him. The ferocity of the thrusts makes Zen, hypersensitive from his climax, keen lowly, the sound reminding Nico of a wolf lonely and lost in the desert.

“Ah, ah,” Nico pants out, eyes closing as he feels Zen leaning up to kiss him. His lips travel north, and the next thing Nico knows a hand is wrapped around the base of his tail, teeth nibbling on his sensitive ears. He starts to writhe, unsure if he’s trying to escape the hand or allow the teeth more access, but what he does know is that his senses are shutting down, closing him off from the world one by one. Zen’s teeth scrape over the fur of his ear and Nico shouts. The hand on the base of his tail scratches, then massages, and it’s his turn to mewl and spread his legs, withdrawing from Zen and pushing himself down onto him in one brisk, sex-jerky movement. The cum still on his cock allows Nico to do it, to move right away, allows him to brace a hand on Zen’s leg and wrap an arm around his neck and kiss, sliding up and down. With anybody else Nico would be horrified at his lack of control, of his sudden submission, but it’s pretty good like this, and to be honest Nico’s never really liked topping. He grinds down, twisting his hips, expression turning to tensely agonized bliss, and then he’s come, too. It feels good and boneless, leaving him content to go at it a few more seconds before Zen comes.

Nico takes a look at the brand on Zen’s back the next morning, seated on his back and trying to scrape the dried cum off the base of his tail. He isn’t sure if the guy is sleeping for real or just likes Nico over him, but either way, he comes to a decision and slips under their blankets again. Zen must really be sleeping, though, Nico decides, because when he slides up to mutual eye-level, he can see a blank slit of green.

“We’re not going back to Animal,” Nico tells Zen, slipping on a spare shirt. “We’re going to Town.”

“Town?” Zen repeats, looking sadly down at his legs. None of the extra supplies had been pants in sizes to fit him. “What, in Santia? Why?”

“Well,” Nico says, pinching Zen’s buttocks as he reaches for the water, “we can get some food and clothing, at least.”

“But Nico,” Zen protests, sounding exasperated and mature, making a part of Nico proud to be able to listen to him, “what on earth will we do?”

“Well, we could always go into the tailoring business.”

“Are you serious.”

“Why not? You’re good with plants. I’m good with sharp pointy things. Most fabrics are made of plants, and most tailoring tools are sharp pointy things.”

“You- ah, whatever. Fine.”

Nico didn’t feel particularly fatalistic, but he wished he could think of things, of events and happenings, as happening, not what had already happened and would happen again and again. He supposed he might as well feel whatever way he wanted, though, especially since he’d be heading off to capture some elves soon. People told him all the time how dangerous they were- he might as well stick with reality as something gone and past.

The first time Zen learned about past tenses, he attached them to the way he thought and lived. His brother took him aside soon thereafter and asked him not to, though. ‘It makes me sad, little brother,’ he smiled and his hair shone golden in the sun leaking through the canopy, ‘to think that you’d not want to live in the now.’ But his brother was gone now, and his father and his people were in agony- there was no now to exist in, nobody to exist with.

“What’s your favorite color, Zen?” Nico asks, squinting at the elf, hoping selfishly he says ‘white’.

“White,” says Zen, stealing a sideways look at Nico’s white fur, wondering what brought this on. “You?”

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