The Dandy and the Beast

by Zack (ザックス)

(mirrors http://s2b2.livejournal.com/156789.html)

Sometimes, Gaillard drank too much. It wasn’t something he’d ever admit to anyone, and he rarely even acknowledged the fact himself. He was a man who took pride in his brawn over his brain, although that certainly didn’t mean he was a fool. But, on certain nights in the tavern, Gaillard simply drank a little bit too much — and when that happened, his tongue had a tendency to slip away from him.

The stranger came to the village right in the middle of the changing seasons, that dreary time where autumn is over — trees bare and dry leaves littering the ground — but winter hasn’t quite seen it fit to step in and grip the land in its cold grasp yet. It wasn’t unusual for travelers to pass through, and they always took the time to stop by the tavern, so Gaillard paid the old man little heed.

Then, he began to talk. Stumbling over the words, excitement and fear warring in his voice. He’d come from the north, and had been forced to cross the forest to get to the village. Half way through, he’d stumbled upon on a dilapidated castle.

By now, a crowd was starting to gather around the man. Gaillard didn’t care, instead lazily waving over the barkeep for another beer. As he lifted the mug to his lips, he heard it.

“And then I saw it! It was a man, but at the same time not a man, and — and he was huge, like… like that guy, but even bigger!”

Gaillard stiffened before swirling around fast enough that the beer spilled over the mug’s edge, froth coating his whitening knuckles. As he had suspected, the stranger was pointing straight at him. Him, the man that everyone knew to be the strongest. He was renowned for his strength and hunting skills, the envy of every man — and the out-of-reach desire for women everywhere. And now, a stranger sat in his tavern, claiming to have seen some bastard in the forest — his hunting grounds — that outclassed him.

Gaillard would not stand for it. And, judging by the way the other regular patrons of the tavern shrunk back, that came as no surprise to anyone. Only the stranger seemed to not understand the severity of the situation; sitting still and sending Gaillard a patronizing smile.

The beer mug shattered in his grip and the stranger’s smile wavered, only to disappear completely when Gaillard stood up and crossed the room in a couple of powerful strides. He gripped the scrawny man by the front of his shirt, hauling him up from the chair.

“What did you say?” he bit out.

“I’m sorry,” the man wheezed, panic clear as day in his eyes. “I didn’t realize you’d…”

“Quiet! Where did you see this alleged man?”

“H-he wasn’t a man; that’s what I was trying to get across! Please let me down, I’ll explain.”

Taking a deep breath, Gaillard released him — it wouldn’t be wise to beat him up before he had talked, after all.

“Thank you,” the man muttered, futilely trying to straighten his clothes.

“Talk,” Gaillard growled.

“Yes, right. As I was saying, what I saw was a man — yet at the same time wasn’t. It was a beast, a man-beast! Like half human and half… I don’t know how to describe it. I admit to running away shortly after spotting it, so I didn’t get a very good look.”

Now, had Gaillard not been borderline drunk, he would’ve laughed heartily. The man was clearly insane, and not worthy of his time — much less his anger. But, as it were, he just nodded thoughtfully. Eyes narrowing, he gripped the stranger again. “Where did you see this creature?”

A low rumble rose in the tavern, but one look from Gaillard silenced them all.

“M-maybe a day’s march from here, or so. Close by the gorge.”

Gaillard knew where he meant. He’d hunted all over the forest, and that place was no exception. It made sense that he’d never seen the castle though, because he’d only been there once. A roebuck had gotten away from him there, escaping his arrows by leaping off the cliff. He’d lost a good trophy, not to mention a fine piece of meat, and the frustration and fury he’d felt at that had made him vow to not frequent the area anymore.

“I will find this man-beast,” Gaillard loudly announced, “and when I find it, I’ll make it very obvious which one of us is the strongest. Its head will soon be mounted on my wall, I swear it!”

The roar of encouraging voices knew no bounds.

—-

The birds were too loud. The dry leaves under his horse’s hooves, crisp and crinkling, were too annoying. The winter sun was too sharp. All these things combined with his own foolishness made Gaillard fume.

The beer had flowed like a river after his declaration, a fresh and full mug offered to him wherever he turned — people got generous when promised even a glimpse of adventure; a break from their boring lives as peasants, that only a man like Gaillard could give.

He’d woken up at noon with a hangover — the sign of a weak man — and the creeping feeling that he had done something utterly stupid. It came back to him when he found himself unable to down the usual raw eggs he ate every morning, thus completing the wretched situation.

Gaillard would rather die than take back his word, however, so he set out for the gorge despite knowing that it was bound to be a pointless journey. A beast, hah! He’d laugh out loud if it weren’t for his aching head. With his luck there probably wouldn’t even be a castle there. Although he couldn’t help but hope that the traveler had told the truth, because a strong opponent would be a nice outlet for the anger that clouded his mind — and, if the beast did exist, he wouldn’t need to return home empty-handed.

A sudden whirring sound alerted him to the presence of a grouse, his stallion having stepped too close to the tall grass where it had lain hidden. He made a blind grab for his musket, eyes never leaving the bird’s swift ascent. The bay, used to the habits of his master, barely twitched his ears when the shot rang out.

Smirking, Gaillard vaulted off the horse and went to pick up the dead grouse. He tied it to the saddle horn, and mounted his horse again — feeling a lot better.

—-

He reached the gorge by nightfall. The day’s march that that the traveler had described hadn’t factored in a horse — nor Gaillard’s expertise; if there was a shortcut in the forest that he didn’t know about, then it was simply not worth knowing.

It was only a matter of thoroughly searching through the area, then. He gave the stallion loose reins, letting him walk along the edge while he himself focused on their surroundings. The forest was thick in this area, and apparently no one had dwelled long or often enough to create any trails. After a while he had to dismount in order to clear their path, and was so relishing in the feeling of working up a decent sweat that he didn’t see the castle until he almost stumbled over it.

All things considered, it wasn’t much of a castle. Dilapidated and overgrown, and rather small to begin with. Still, it could’ve be a grand sight, had only someone kept it in shape. It was nicely secluded though, and — if it was as abandoned as it looked — could be taken advantage of in the coming season. He enjoyed sleeping under the open sky, and frequently did so during his hunting trips, but the snow and ice of winter often prevented such things. He could handle it, of course, but a chance to stay inside overnight would surely be appreciated by his horse.

“Beast or no beast,” he said, “looks like we’ve gotten something good out of this after all. Stay here while I take a look inside.” He gave the bay an encouraging shove on the rump, sending him to graze in what appeared to have once been the garden.

He quickly walked up the stairs, almost expecting the stone steps to crumble under his feet. But they stayed put, and he soon stood in front of the large door. The knocker was cold as ice when he gripped it, and the sound seemed to reverberate throughout the entire courtyard. He knocked once more, and then opened the door on his own. It creaked the entire way, rusty hinges protesting at the unusual exercise.

The inside of the castle was dark, dusty, and desolate. But the lack of cobwebs and stale air made him think twice, unsheathing his poignard before he ventured any further.

He quickly passed through the dark hall, and came to a large room. It was lavishly furnished, and some light seeped through the stained glass windows. There were footprints on the dusty floor, illuminated by the colored sunlight. Footprints that did not belong to a normal man. Gaillard felt his heart begin to race; the beginning rush of an impending hunt coursing through his veins.

There were two different prints, which meant the beast walked upright. Judging from the outline, it was a bear-like creature — though it was impossible to say for sure; no matter how good a tracker a man might be, reading from a dirty floor was far from ideal.

He briefly debated going back out to get his musket, but decided against it. This had initially been about proving himself, and using a weapon like that would defeat the whole purpose. Mind set, he moved deeper into the castle. Up a winding stairway, and through several rooms (the castle even had a library, something that greatly amused Gaillard — books were nonsense to begin with, and in the paws of a beast they were doubly useless). Upon finally reaching the last door in the corridor, he found it impossible to open. The handle seemed to be jammed, and so he put his shoulder to it. The door flew open with a loud bang, and Gaillard almost tripped over the broken remains of a chair. Cursing loudly, he looked up only to meet the red eyes of the beast.

It stood on the opposite side of the room, still as a statue. Brandishing his poignard, Gaillard took a step forward. As soon as he moved, so did the beast. It raised a hand to its forehead, palm facing out, and then toppled to the ground.

Gaillard froze. He stared at the beast for a good minute, mind not comprehending what had just transpired. Had the beast swooned? Swooned?! If that was the case, then it was only natural to assume that it had also tried to barricade the door with that puny chair he had just smashed.

Walking closer, Gaillard carefully studied the beast. It was indeed very large, but not more so than him. …Well, maybe just by a little. It had a relatively human build, but with a lot of animalistic traits; large feet covered in fur, bushy tail, clawed hands (that looked like they could do a lot of damage — so why had it not even tried to fight back?), and a pair of ears that looked like they belonged to a wolf. Its face was partly hairless, but had stripes of fur — like a really odd beard — that extended down its jaw and throat, disappearing under the shirt. And that, that was almost the strangest sight of all; to see such a creature wearing clothes. And not just any clothes either — though they were worn and fit badly, it was obvious that they were made of opulent fabrics.

Slowly extending his booted foot, Gaillard toed the beast’s ribs. It squeezed its eyes even tighter shut, and he heaved an exasperated sigh before giving it a hard kick. Its eyes flew open, and the beast scrabbled at the floor until it finally got itself into a sitting position, back defensively against the wall.

“What are you?” Gaillard snapped. “Quit cowering, you damned mongrel.”

That got a reaction. “I’ll have you know that I am a pure-blooded marquis,” the beast hissed — voice raspy, as if not having been used for a long time.

Gaillard raised an eyebrow. “It talks.”

“And I am most certainly not an ‘it’!” The near-yell made the beast lapse into a coughing fit, eyes watering.

“Maybe not… You’re certainly not what I had expected, that’s for sure.”

“I beg your pardon?”

“I came here to kill a man-beast. You qualify for the beast part, but a man? Hardly.”

The beast slowly stood up, baring a couple of impressive-looking fangs. Gaillard gave him an eager sneer in return, raising the poignard in anticipation. Instantly, the beast’s demeanor changed back — but the glimpse had been enough to rouse Gaillard’s interest.

“Why would you want to kill me?”

“Why not? I’m a hunter,” Gaillard replied.

“You don’t even know me,” the beast mumbled, dragging a large hand through his mane.

“Unfortunately, that’s not true. I’ve seen enough to know what a pathetic creature you are, and that makes me uninterested in killing you.”

“Is that so,” he chuckled bitterly. “Showing pity for the beast, are you?”

“No,” Gaillard said bluntly, sheathing his poignard before continuing. “I’d simply be ashamed to have your head on my wall. Others might’ve admired me for it, but I would have known the truth.”

The beast just stared at him for a couple of seconds, an incredulous look on his face. “You’re really something else,” he finally laughed.

Gaillard chose to take that as a compliment, as the laughter had been rather good-naturedly.

“Well then,” the beast continued, “I suppose I am pleased to make your acquaintance. My name is Florian de Sernay.”

Gaillard gave a noncommittal grunt, disliking the stilted introduction. “I’m Gaillard,” he said simply.

“Ah, yes, I…” the beast — Florian — made an airy wave with his hand, as if trying to pluck words from the air. “I imagine the downstairs salon would be slightly more ideal for consorting.”

“I don’t think we have anything more to talk about,” Gaillard clipped. That was a lie, of course, as he had plenty of things he wanted to ask the strange creature. But he’d rather stay curious than have to deal with aristocracy.

“No!” The sudden exclamation made Gaillard raise an eyebrow, and Florian lowered his eyes before continuing, in a much meeker voice. “I mean… that is to say, I — it’s late, and you must’ve come from far away. Would you do me the honor of spending the night?”

Gaillard hesitated, and Florian hurried to encourage him. “You may have your pick of the guest rooms, and will of course be welcome to frequent any of the recreational areas.”

“Recreational areas? You make it sound like you have a bordel stashed away somewhere,” Gaillard snickered.

“Good God, no!” Florian actually blushed, making Gaillard burst into laughter. “I meant the library, or the w-wine cellar,” he clarified.

“I couldn’t care less about books,” Gaillard said, still chuckling. “But I wouldn’t mind taking a look at the latter. So yes, I’ll stay the night.”

“Really?!” Florian’s eyes lit up, sparkling in a manner that rivaled the jewel brooch pinned on his chest. It would’ve him look like an overeager child, had it not been for the impressive set of fangs that his wide smile revealed. “Wonderful! I’m so glad, you’re…” he faltered, clearing his throat before continuing. “Ah, pardon me. I did not intend to become overly familiar.”

Gaillard grit his teeth. “Look,” he slowly said, “I won’t be staying if you keep that up. Marquis or not — I wouldn’t give a damn if you were so a king, actually — I can’t stand people putting on an act. So speak your mind and act normal, or I’m leaving.”

Florian had progressively paled during Gaillard’s impromptu speech, and now seemed to be struggling for words. Gaillard cut him off before he could even begin, “Just nod if you understand me.”

He nodded.

“Good. Now then, since you’re so intent on having me as your guest; some food would be nice.” Hesitating briefly, Gaillard then added, “I don’t like drinking on an empty stomach.” That was completely untrue, but the repercussions of his last binge were still making themselves all too clear.

Gaillard hadn’t thought it possible, but Florian paled further. “I’d love to,” he finally said, “but I’m afraid I can’t offer very much. Getting supplies has proven… difficult.”

“Don’t you hunt?” Gaillard asked, incredulous.

“With what?” Florian snapped, a look of hatred surfacing in his eyes. “Those bastards took everything they could get their hands on, including weapons.”

“Wait, who did?”

Florian sighed. “The servants who used to work here. When I… changed, they more or less fled. But not fast enough to pass up a chance to steal, that is.”

“Ho, so you weren’t always like this. When did it happen?”

Florian picked up a golden candlestick, distractedly turning it over in his hands before putting it back on the bureau. “I’m not sure,” he finally said. “I’ve kind of lost track of time.”

Not one for maudlin stories, Gaillard decided to sidestep the issue for the moment. “Back to the subject of supper — I shot a grouse on the way here. It’s not much, especially not for two people, but it’s better than nothing.”

Florian’s head snapped up. “Actual meat? I haven’t had that in ages!” Gaillard half expected him to begin drooling, but no. Instead a sheepish look flitted over his features, and it almost seemed as if he’d apologize again. But, no doubt recalling Gaillard’s rebuke, he thought better of it and kept silent.

Gaillard resisted the urge of saying ‘good boy’ and petting Florian’s head. “I’ll go and get the grouse then, I left it with my horse. And speaking of that, is there a stable here?”

“Yes, of course. I haven’t used it at all though, so it’s probably really run-down.”

“That’s fine. Come with me then, you can lead my horse to the stable while I reap some grass.”

He’d thought Florian would protest, but the odd marquis just nodded. He followed Gaillard closely, a dichotomy of towering bulk and meek presence.

“So,” Gaillard said, mostly to break the silence, “I take it you live here alone?”

“Yes. There used to be servants here though, like I said.”

“No family?”

“Ah, no… My father passed away when I was a mere child, and my mother died a couple of years before everything changed.” Florian chuckled, but even Gaillard could hear that it was devoid of any real mirth. “Funny,” he continued, “I never thought I’d be grateful for her death — yet I’m glad she didn’t have to see this.”

They had reached the door leading outside, but Gaillard paused before opening it. “Aren’t you selling her short? I don’t presume to know what happened, but you clearly didn’t turn into some snarling monster — even now you act like a well-mannered scion.”

Florian raised his head, a look of surprise on his face.

Gaillard shrugged. “Eh, forget it. Let’s go get my horse.”

A fang bit into Florian’s bottom lip as he slowly shook his head. “Please don’t misunderstand — I truly appreciate your words just now, but… I think my appearance would scare your horse, at the very least.”

“No steed of mine knows fear,” Gaillard scoffed. “Now, come on!” He took hold of Florian’s arm — taking note of the muscle he felt beneath the clothes — and shoved him out the door.

Florian stumbled down the steps. Gaillard followed, eyes focused on his horse. He whistled, and the bay immediately trotted over to stand in front of them.

Slowly, very slowly, Florian reached out to place his hand on the animal’s neck. When the bay didn’t immediately bolt, Florian gave him a couple of awkward pats. When still not presented with an adverse reaction he grew bolder, letting his hand roam over to the muzzle. He was rewarded with a snort and a friendly nip of the is-there-possibly-an-apple-in-your-hand sort.

Florian turned to Gaillard, face-splitting grin showing off his teeth — it was probably a good thing he’d turned away from the bay before revealing those. “Your horse isn’t scared of me at all!”

“You’re really not that scary.”

“Yeah?” Florian’s smile softened as he tilted his head to the side. “Or maybe you — and, by association, your horse — are special. Seeing something that no one else could, or bothered to even try seeing-”

“Oh please,” Gaillard cut him off, rolling his eyes. “Aside from becoming hairy, did you also get turned into a woman?”

He’d expected the marquis to shrink back, perhaps even offer an apology, but to his surprise he saw Florian’s eyes narrow. “I was trying to thank you, you brute!” he snapped.

Amused — and pleased with the reaction — Gaillard went to reap grass.

—-

Dinner far exceeded Gaillard’s expectations. His side of it — the rouse coupled with the bread he’d put in his saddlebag that morning — was nothing special, but Florian really set out vow his guest with what he could offer. Wine aged to perfection, refreshing cider, cognac… Gaillard soon lost count, and utterly forgot he’d begun the day with a determination not to get drunk again anytime soon.

He was regaling Florian with an adventurous tale of his exploits, when the other man let out an undignified giggle — he’d drunk nowhere near as much as Gaillard, but what he had consumed was enough.

“What’s so funny?” Gaillard sniffed.

“This is the third time I hear this story.”

“Like hell it is-”

“You single-handedly killed the bear, dragged it back to the village, and bedded three women. Right?”

Gaillard grunted. “Did I tell you they were sisters?”

“Mhm. Each one more beautiful and enticing than the last, and so forth. I remember.”

Feeling somewhat vindictive, Gaillard decided to ask a question he already knew the answer to. “Then, what about you? When was the last time you knew a woman?”

Florian stiffened. “That’s hardly something a gentleman would inquire about.”

“In case you haven’t noticed,” Gaillard guffawed, “I’m not a gentleman.”

Florian muttered something under his breath, and started to get up from the couch. Gaillard’s hand shot out, dragging him back down. Overbalanced, he more or less landed in Gaillard’s lap — which only served to make him struggle harder.

“Hold still,” Gaillard said, despite enjoying the skirmish. “I’m not trying to hurt you.”

“No, you don’t understand!” Florian’s voice was muffled due to his face being pressed into Gaillard’s thigh, but the despair in it was evident nonetheless.

“Huh?” He eased up on his hold, but Florian didn’t move.

“…It has been a long time.”

Still not getting it, Gaillard found himself distracted by Florian’s ears. They had folded back against his head, pointing down in a dejected manner. Unable to resist, he reached out to stroke them. The fur was surprisingly soft, and the skin beneath gave off a pleasant warmth.

A guttural moan broke through his fascinated exploration, stilling his hand. Understanding finally dawned as Florian’s head lifted, revealing eyes glazed with lust.

It wasn’t as if Gaillard had no experience with men. There’d been times around the campfire, far away from any female companionship, where he’d been given release by a fellow hunter’s hand — and had given it in turn. But none of them had ever looked at him like Florian was. Hell, most women didn’t even look at him that way.

Acting on instinct he took hold of Florian, and — having to use quite a bit of strength — pulled him up so that he was sitting with his back against Gaillard’s chest.

For a second it seemed like Florian would fight it, but when Gaillard began untying the drawstrings of his breeches he relaxed, tilting his head back to rest on Gaillard’s shoulder.

It was with no small measure of curiosity that Gaillard looked at Florian’s cock. He wasn’t sure whether to be relieved or somewhat disappointed as to its appearance; aside from being larger than most men’s and having furred balls, it was perfectly normal.

By now Florian was panting. He raised his hips, silently begging. Smirking, Gaillard granted his request.

It quickly became evident that Florian hadn’t exaggerated when saying it had been a long time. A mere couple of pumps up and down his shaft, and then he was coming all over Gaillard’s hand.

As he came, he twisted his head to the side and growled into Gaillard’s neck. The feel of the sharp teeth, a predator’s in every way, pressed so close to such a vulnerable spot made Gaillard’s heart speed up — not to mention the faint response that stirred in his groin.

The fangs sunk into his skin for a brief moment, before withdrawing. A coarse tongue took their place, slowly licking his neck as if to apologize for drawing blood.

The faint response in his groin wasn’t all that faint, anymore.

Having ceased licking and grown quite still, Florian was now emitting another sound. Gaillard struggled to focus on it; unable at first to understand its nature. The answer turned out to be very simple (and very disappointing) — Florian was snoring.

Gaillard flung him aside with a snarl, anger not appeased in the slightest even when Florian landed on the floor with a thud.

A disgusting cooling sensation made him look down at his hand. Florian’s semen still coated it. He felt a slow grin grow on his face as an idea took root.

Reaching down, he meticulously wiped his hand on Florian’s fine shirt. Revenge thus complete, he lay back on the couch and dropped off to sleep himself.

—-

For the second day in a row, Gaillard woke up with a hangover and the feeling that he’d done something foolish. This time, however, the memory came to mind easily — and that made it all the worse.

Florian was nowhere to be seen. Which wasn’t all that surprising, really. Gaillard got up and stretched, idly looking around. There was nothing more for him here, now was there? Mind made up, he left the castle without a backward glance.

His horse was happy to see him, prancing eagerly as he mounted. They made good ground, but Gaillard found himself distracted by the abundant wildlife. Since the area wasn’t frequented by any hunters — least of all Florian — the animals were foolhardy. Even a boy still wet behind the ears would be able to lay down prey here. Not to mention it was the perfect place for trapping.

Before he knew it he’d turned the bay and urged him into a quick canter.

Florian sat on the castle steps when they burst through the underbrush. Gaillard had his hands full with controlling the stallion; angry at being reined in when he wanted nothing more than to stretch out into a full gallop. Still, Florian’s surprise was impossible to miss. He sat frozen on the steps, with the berries he’d apparently collected for breakfast rolling from his lap.

Horse under control, Gaillard dismounted and began rifling through the saddlebags. He hadn’t brought the tools needed for proper traps, but making a couple of simple snares wouldn’t be a problem.

“G-Gaillard?”

Looking up, he met Florian’s gaze. He’d gotten to his feet, and now stood red-faced and fidgeting. It was clear that he wasn’t sure how to act or what to say.

“Stop acting like a blushing virgin and get over here,” Gaillard snapped.

Florian started and grew pale. He finally lumbered forward, obeying the command with a lowered head. “Please allow me to apologize,” he hurriedly said as he reached Gaillard’s side. “My behavior last night was despicable and I-”

“Forget it,” Gaillard cut in, waving off the apology. “Just be sure to actually return the favor next time, and it’s fine.”

Florian stood still, head still bowed and obscured by his mane. “You mean…?” he whispered, voice breaking.

“What?” Gaillard said, trying to push down the annoyance he felt.

Finally, Florian lifted his head and revealed a pair of suspiciously wet eyes. They glistened in the sunlight, at odds with the overjoyed smile on his face.

“Now, this is very simple,” Gaillard slowly enunciated. “If you cry, I’m gone.”

Florian nodded vigorously, fishing out an ornate lace handkerchief to dab at his eyes. He even raised his pinky as he did so, which made Gaillard see red.

“Just… stop. Pay attention because I returned to show you the basics of trapping. Next time I come I’ll bring better equipment, but I still expect to be presented with at least one snared hare. Understood?”

Florian showed off every single fang in his mouth with his beaming grin. What a complete waste; they could’ve had a glorious battle, if only his personality had matched his looks.

—-

Gaillard smirked as the sword skittered across the ballroom floor. He’d actually had to work for it this time, even breaking into a sweat before managing to disarm his opponent. And Florian looked suitably frustrated at having lost.

“It was a good idea to train in here,” Gaillard said.

“It’s not like it’s ever going to be properly used again. So we might as well, eh?” Florian muttered as he stalked off to pick up his sword.

“Mm. I do hope the snowing lets up soon, though. Going back will be a hassle otherwise.”

The snow would be a hindrance to his horse, no matter how used he was to going back and forth. And the bay certainly was used to it, what with having traveled the distance a couple of times per week for the past month. He had taken to Florian; always eager to pet and offer treats, spoiling the animal in a way Gaillard never would.

Gaillard had rather taken to Florian as well — not that he’d ever admit that out loud, naturally.

He’d never been given the chance to teach before, so taking Florian on as his student had been a new experience. He’d expected it to be a chore, but it soon proved otherwise. It was fun to spar with the marquis, so proper and collected in his fencing before he grew frustrated; each strike becoming wilder and having more force behind it than the previous. Oh yes, it was fun to whittle away at the dandy and reveal the man underneath.

Florian had even grown bolder when it came to the other aspect of their relationship. Last time he’d even been the one to initiate the intimate contact. It was a situation of mutual benefit, equal in every way — yet Gaillard wanted to take things further. So far, the sex between them had only consisted of using their hands. It was time to change that.

Gaillard slowly advanced on Florian, who stood with his back turned. Leaning in, he made sure to whisper directly into Florian’s ear. “Let’s go to bed.”

The ear had twitched at his words, and to drive his point home he nipped it — getting a mouth full of fur for his efforts, but some sacrifices had to be made. He ran his hand down Florian’s spine, grabbing hold of his tail and yanking it slightly.

The reaction to having both his sensitive spots manhandled was immediate; Florian spun around, slamming Gaillard up against the wall with a growl of primitive lust.

“Not here,” Gaillard reminded as he swatted away the hand that’d been headed for his breeches.

“Why the hell not? I want it now,” Florian grumbled, hips jutting forward to press his hard cock into Gaillard’s groin.

Gaillard had to bite a back an answering moan at that. Indeed, there was no doubt that Florian was ready to take things to the next level. “Not here,” he grit out, “because I plan on fucking you.”

Florian grew very still. Even the humping stopped, and that was not a good sign. “What?” he said, voice toneless.

“Fuck you,” Gaillard repeated. For good measure he put his hand on Florian’s ass, making sure his words were as unambiguous as possible.

Florian flailed back. “No, I… I can’t.”

“What did you say?”

“Not if I’m the one in the woman’s role!”

Gaillard snorted at the unvoiced suggestion. “Well, I sure as hell won’t be.”

“I… I outrank you!”

“Yeah, well, I’m more of a man than you are,” Gaillard said, voice dangerously low.

Florian bared his teeth in a snarl. “How dare you?! You… you boorish beast!”

Gaillard had to laugh at that. Being called a beast by someone who truly was a beast — it was just too much. Despite being the only thing that held him back from starting a physical fight, the laughter held no humor.

What the hell was he doing, anyway? If he wanted to fuck a man, he could find someone a whole lot more attractive than the blue-blooded mutt he’d wasted so much time and energy on. If Florian was under a spell, perhaps he’d somehow been affected as well — the way he’d acted lately was nothing like him.

Snow be damned, he’d lead his horse if he had to. He stalked out of the castle after giving Florian one last glare.

—-

Gaillard took a deep breath of the ice-cold air, feeling it burn its way down his throat. He was glad he’d accepted the offer of going out on a group hunt. He normally turned such things down — hunting with a bunch of boisterous men (who just wanted an excuse to get away from their wives) didn’t tend to yield game. But he’d spent the last couple of weeks cooped up inside, feeling frustrated and restless but without having the slightest urge to hunt or do much of anything.

Clearly, Florian’s spell had rubbed off on him a lot worse than he’d initially thought.

His horse had also been glad to get out, but quickly made it clear that the group hunt wasn’t particularly interesting. The bay kept trying to grab the bit and pull towards the familiar path to the castle. Having his steed turn traitor was really the last thing Gaillard needed.

“Hey, get ready!”

Gaillard snapped to attention. They’d divided up into two groups; half of the men had taken off to round up prey and drive it towards the rest. Judging by the shout it was apparently time to make the kill.

He raised his bow and focused, ready for whatever creature would have the misfortune of running out in front of him.

A wolf came crashing out into the clearing, freezing for one fatal moment when finding itself face-to-face with a rider. Its ears flattened against its head, baring fangs in a futile snarl that was more about pride than self-preservation.

Gaillard froze as well, unable to release the arrow. No matter how he looked at the wolf, he saw Florian. And he just could not do it; he couldn’t make the kill.

The sound of approaching riders and the shouts from the others in his group returned him to reality. He angled the bow and let the arrow fly. Trajectory thus changed, the arrow burrowed into the snow next to the wolf.

“Run, you fool,” Gaillard hissed.

The wolf ran, and he calmly maneuvered his horse so that they blocked the path it’d taken. He wasn’t planning on letting anyone go after it.

Looking back, he saw that the two groups had converged. Every single one of them were looking at him as if he’d lost his mind.

They were probably right.

At first it seemed like no one had the guts to question him, but then a man whose name Gaillard couldn’t remember moved forward. “What do you think you’re doing?” he demanded.

Gaillard wasn’t able to remember the man’s name, but he did know he’d been in the round-up group — which made it easy enough to shoot the question back at him. “No, what are you doing; chasing wolves to us? I came here to get some good meat, and that overgrown dog hardly qualified.”

“It would’ve made for a nice trophy!”

“Oh,” Gaillard mocked, “so that’s why we’re here — to line your walls with trophies you wouldn’t be able to hunt down on your own.”

Bait taken, the man got off his horse. “What did you say?!”

Gaillard dismounted as well, accepting the challenge. “You heard me,” he said with a smirk.

Gaillard left himself wide open for the punch, letting his opponent draw first blood. The pain and the taste of blood was just what he needed. He felt the split in his lip widen as he smiled, reveling in the flash of fear he saw in the other’s eyes.

The dumb bastard didn’t stand a chance. He would’ve gone down after the first punch if Gaillard hadn’t backed him up against a tree.

“Come on, fight me!” Gaillard yelled, spreading his arms.

The man slipped to the ground with a pathetic little whimper. Furious at the lack of resistance, Gaillard dropped to his knees and continued the beating.

One second he was enjoying the sight of blood splattering on snow, and the next he was lying facedown in said snow.

He raised his aching head and looked behind him. A pale man stood there, a rock in his hand. “Forgive me! You would’ve killed him, I had to… Please don’t k-kill me.”

Truth be told, Gaillard wasn’t capable of killing anything at the moment. It took every bit of his willpower to simply stand up. He whistled sharply, relieved when his horse came trotting immediately.

He wasn’t even sure how he got into the saddle, but somehow he must’ve managed it. He gave the stallion free reins, and fought against the dizziness until he was certain he’d put some decent distance between himself and the others.

Gaillard dismounted, allowing himself a moment of respite as he leaned against the bay’s warm neck. Finally, he staggered over to the nearest tree and sat down with his back against it. He dimly realized that what he was doing was a bad idea, but the desire to get the world to stop spinning far outweighed everything else.

The last thing he was aware of was the stallion’s muzzle that kept pushing at him.

—-

Gaillard’s entire world was warm.

He was lying on the softest bed he’d ever known, with a silky pillow beneath his cheek. Behind him, radiating warmth, was a fur blanket.

Willing his arm to move was quite an effort (which further convinced him that it was good idea to just let his eyes remain shut), but he finally managed it. He grabbed the fur blanket where it was draped over his waist and yanked.

It didn’t budge.

Gaillard settled for simply burrowing back into it. No sooner had he done so than the blanket tightened, squeezing his torso in a way that wasn’t entirely uncomfortable.

“You awake?”

If he was awake, that meant he’d have to get up — and he really, really didn’t want to get up. But there was something familiar about the voice, if he could just remember…

“You don’t have to talk to me if you don’t want to, but please hear me out. I’m so sorry about what happened; I cannot even begin to apologize — I’ll prostrate myself before you if that’s what it takes to get you to forgive me, pride be damned! Just, please… wake up.”

Oh, right.

“Gaillard?”

“Shut up already,” Gaillard groaned as he twisted around, belying his words by opening his eyes and giving Florian a smile.

Florian responded by crushing Gaillard against his chest.

“Not that I really mind,” Gaillard said around a mouthful of fur, “but why are we naked?”

Florian eased up on the hold, blushing slightly. “You were so cold when I found you that I first feared you were dead. This was the best way to warm you up that I could think of.”

“Wait, how did you find me?”

“Your horse came here. I knew something must’ve happened, so I got on his back and he brought me right to you.”

“Huh. Guess I’ll have to buy him that little filly he’s been eyeing. He struts around like a rambunctious yearling every time we pass by that farmer’s place.”

Florian reached out, tucking a strand of hair behind Gaillard’s ear before gently touching the bump on the back of his head.

“It’s fine, doesn’t hurt anymore.” That wasn’t really true, but the dull ache he felt now was nothing compared to the initial dizziness.

“Who did that to you?” There was an uncharacteristic tone to Florian’s voice, matching the low growl that he seemed unable to quell. “Whoever he is, I…”

Gaillard swallowed. “Forget about it. It was my own fault anyway; I left my back wide open.”

There was a faraway look in Florian’s eyes. “I really thought you were dead,” he mumbled. “Your lips were blue from the cold, yet red with blood — and I thought…”

Finally, Gaillard realized what it was he’d been feeling ever since waking up. He felt safe. It wasn’t something he’d put any real thought into before; safety was just something he should provide to kin weaker than him, not something he should want for himself.

He’d never understood how good it felt to be protected.

Letting instinct and emotion drown out the voice of reason, Gaillard tipped his head forward to kiss Florian.

It was a first for them, and it felt even better than the fantasies he’d been denying had ever crossed his mind.

He felt his split lip open up again as the kiss deepened. Florian didn’t seem to mind, however, judging from the primal moan and the way his tongue lapped at the cut.

Feeling a bit lightheaded, Gaillard had to pull back. Florian stilled immediately. “Are you feeling ill? You should rest-”

“No,” Gaillard cut him off, “I’m fine. Do you have any oil?”

This time, Florian voiced no objections. He simply nodded before he got out of bed, and walked over to the armoire. Gaillard took the opportunity to study his naked body, something he enjoyed quite thoroughly. He took the most pleasure in Florian’s tail; every few seconds it’d wag ever so slightly, like a happy dog’s.

Florian brought an ornate little vial back to bed. There was a slight blush on his face as he handed it to Gaillard, but he still didn’t say anything.

Gaillard put a generous amount of it in his hand, hesitating briefly before coating Florian’s cock with it.

“W-what are you doing?”

“Don’t ask unless you want me to change my mind.”

Florian’s mouth closed with an audible smack.

Taking a deep breath, Gaillard flipped over. He lifted his ass a bit when Florian made no move of his own. “Well,” he finally snapped, “are we doing this or not?”

“But… I should prepare you, too.”

“Like hell you should! I’m not letting you stick those claws inside of me.”

“Oh. Then you should…”

Gaillard snorted. “You’d have to get me seriously drunk before I’d even consider that. Just go for it; I can take the pain.”

Silence. For a distressing moment Gaillard was certain that Florian had changed his mind, but then he was being straddled. Despite trying to relax, Gaillard nearly jumped when he felt a coarse wetness on his shoulder — he hadn’t been expecting that.

Florian moved on to lightly bite his neck, before licking his way down Gaillard’s spine. A moan escaped his throat as the rough tongue swept across the sensitive skin of his buttocks.

Florian responded with a throaty little chuckle that went straight to Gaillard’s groin. Before he had a chance to recompose himself, sharp claws were run over his ass — not hard enough to draw blood, but certainly hard enough to be felt in every fiber of his body.

“Get on with it,” he forced out, hating how needy his voice sounded.

He felt Florian’s hands spread him, and he tensed — certain of what would come.

But the only thing that entered him was Florian’s tongue; long, sharp, wet, and utterly amazing. His hips jerked involuntarily, and he didn’t even care about all the noise he was making.

Finally, he couldn’t take it anymore. “Florian, please,” he begged.

He felt horrible empty when the tongue left him, but the blunt press of Florian’s cock soon remedied that. There was pain, yes, but more than that there was pleasure. He felt filled, like any move on Florian’s part would burst him open.

Florian’s hands were braced on each side of his head, shaking as they tore long rips in the bed. With a roar he lowered his head to the juncture of Gaillard’s neck and shoulders, and sank his fangs into it.

Gaillard let out a yell of his own, feeling some droplets of blood run over his collarbone. Pain mingled with pleasure, indistinguishable. Florian moved back, almost pulling out, before ramming into Gaillard one last time. The sensation of the seed filling him sent Gaillard over the edge, barely aware of his own release before he blacked out.

—-

He awoke to snoring. Just opening his eyes hurt like hell, and he only just managed to suppress a groan. At least Florian had had the decency of cleaning him up before falling asleep. He was curled up against Gaillard, drooling slightly.

Gaillard lay still, content with simply watching. After a while, Florian’s eyelids twitched and he woke up.

“Hi,” he whispered, smiling sleepily before his memory apparently woke up as well. He shot up, hovering above Gaillard with a panicked expression on his face. “How are you feeling? I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean-”

Wanting to stop the stream of words, Gaillard reached up and grabbed hold of an ear. He pulled Florian down and kissed him soundly on the lips.

“Do you understand what I’m saying?” Gaillard gasped as he broke the kiss.

Florian nodded, eyes beaming.

“Good,” Gaillard muttered.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Mm. What is it?”

Florian moved down to rest his head against Gaillard’s chest. “You really don’t mind that I’m like this?”

Smiling, Gaillard put an arm around Florian’s shoulders. “Your cock is bigger this way.”

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