by Hiwaru Kibi (火悪 木美)
illustrated by The Winter Cynic
As he opened his eyes, John felt the serpent’s tail already coiled around his throat. Something had gone terribly wrong.
He had gone to sleep in his own bed, alone, as was his lifelong habit; he’d fallen asleep easily enough and dreamed of nothing in particular he could remember. But this was not his bed, nor was the place unfamiliar to him — it was the basement of the manor, the room where servants were forbidden to enter on penalty of death or worse. No one who worked for John Chisholm Villiers doubted he knew exactly what “or worse” entailed.
His basement workshop was dark and lined along all walls with objects that would make a lesser man go mad even to know they existed. But John was not a lesser man. He was a magus, from a long line of the same; greater things were in his blood.
That blood, however, was at present racing through his veins. Knowing what he’d see when he lifted his gaze, he did so anyway.
The Lesser Key of Solomon could only be trusted so far when it came to pertinent information on the lords of the infernal realms. After all, it had been compiled not by the legendary King Solomon, but by individuals who, lacking much firsthand experience, therefore had tended to exaggerate or even wholly fabricate many of its descriptions. But oh, it had not been wrong about Bathym’s shape and frame. The serpent tail that stretched out from its lower back was a deep copper and long enough now that even as most of Bathym’s body kept its distance from John, that tail held him fast.
John tried to speak, but found the constriction around his throat too much for him to make more than a vague squeak. He lifted his hands to peel it from his neck, but he might as well have been trying to undo iron; its cold reptilian surface held him fast. “Hello, John,” said the Duke of Hell, ruler of thirty legions, expert in the magical properties of stones and plants alike, and — at least until very recently — John Villiers’ thrall. “Ordinarily I’d say it’s rather rude not to greet a guest, but I suppose under these circumstances, an exception can be made.”
John’s only response was a choking sound as he tried to clear his throat. The pressure was unpleasant, to be sure, but not yet outright dangerous. The fact that John’s neck hadn’t been snapped already gave him hope that he might yet have time to turn the tables. The first step, of course, would be determining just what the hell had gone wrong in the first place.
Bathym laughed as though John had spoken aloud. “You have a new maid in your service, though I doubt tremendously if you’ve even noticed her,” Bathym said. His voice was lighter than his bulky frame might suggest, more cedar than mahogany. “She received all the appropriate instructions and warnings, of course, and shook with all due fright on hearing them, like a good girl. What a pity your Housekeeper doesn’t know a cambion even to look one in the eye.”
John hissed through his teeth. All of the senior servants in his employ had at least rudimentary instruction in the ways of demonic creatures — but their half-human offspring were rare enough that John had never regarded them as worth mention. The more fool, he.
“Who could have imagined,” Bathym continued with a wicked smirk, “that she might misplace her candle and accidentally find herself down in your cellar, or that with one careless step, her foot might slip…”
With growing horror, John looked down at the stone floor. Its surface was still emblazoned with John’s complicated, elaborate sigils, written in everything from chalk to indigo to blood. He was at the center of one of the latter, the largest of them all and most meticulously constructed. And yet, as John’s eyes scanned its circumference, he found a scuff among its lines. Certainly nothing done with any expertise, and not even on a particularly important part — but enough to break the whole. Which explained why Bathym was outside of it, and John was now contained within.
“Oh, John, my dear John.” Bathym stepped closer, into the lamplight. He was dressed in a smart suit, done with a high collar and black kid gloves so that not an inch of skin below his jawline peeked through. As he stood and John knelt before him, Bathym looked as tall and imposing as a colossus. “Did you think fettering me would pass Hell’s notice?”
To tell the truth, John had. Demons were craven, vile creatures, and the ones of the upper echelons even more so. John had suspected that more than a few of them would have been pleased to have a rival as powerful as Bathym off the board, leaving John to use of those powers instead. In fact, he had wondered more than once if the others wouldn’t be downright grateful to John, perhaps presenting him with some token of their appreciation he might use to further his magical studies.
He had, it seemed, miscalculated. John opened his mouth to try again to speak, but he never got the chance. The second his lips were parted again, Bathym was on him, moving faster than the time it took John to blink. This time, it was not the force around his neck that kept him from making words; those kid gloves were in his mouth now, two fingers pressing down, pinning John’s tongue to his jaw.
Bathym smiled, looming with a powerful stance. He held his hand right at the level of his hip, making the implications of the gesture quite clear. Alarm, John gasped and managed to choke himself a bit, but Bathym’s fingers remained in place, defying any attempt on John’s part to reject the intrusion..
“Good,” Bathym said, in a tone that made John think of the way he himself spoke to his horses. John wasn’t so sure he cared for the implication. “Tell me, how many times have you done this yourself, your own fingers, wishing it was another man’s prick?”
John felt his spine turn to ice. Of course Hell would have a record of such improprieties. John himself did not go much in for traditional ideas of morality — after all, he was a man of the occult, which often demanded its devotees transcend the petty categories of “right” and “wrong”. But he was not a sexual invert, and he resented the implication. Such occasional thoughts were natural, in that man was a beast and beastliness was in his nature. That was the whole of it, and John would not have his character maligned any further.
None of which, of course, went far to explain why he had closed his lips around Bathym’s fingers, or why his tongue was absently running over the soft leather that gloved him tight. God’s wounds, what was wrong with him? It must have been the demonic aura around Bathym, chasing him toward debaucheries that would otherwise have been far beneath him. Yes, that was clearly the explanation.
Bathym outright laughed in John’s face. “You think I know so little of desire that I’d believe that?” As Bathym’s fingers held his head in place, John felt the serpent tail uncoil itself from his throat — and then horribly, in a flash, grab and bind his wrists behind his back at a painful angle. John cried out in surprise, but the sound was muffled by the intrusion between his lips. “My kind can’t make you want anything, my dear John. Did you know that? Of course, I doubt a single one of us has ever even tried. We’ve never needed to. All we need to do is find the seed you’ve planted yourself, and make it grow.”
At that last word, John became aware of something he hadn’t consciously registered earlier: He was completely erect. Beneath the light cotton drape of his nightshirt, his cock stood straight like an imperial soldier, its tip leaking precome so copiously that it wetted the material where it pushed forth. By his reckoning, the horror of the situation alone should make such a thing impossible! And yet, the deeper Bathym’s fingers advanced into his mouth, the more insistent the throbbing in his loins became. He refused to believe the two sensations were connected, even though he knew such an insistence was fooling no one, least of all himself.
At forty-seven, John Villiers had never been married. He had once approached the institution, as he had transitioned into adulthood, at the insistence of his parents. But then the consumption had taken them, and there’d been no more spoken of that. He’d satisfied himself with being wed to his work, with servants to maintain his household’s needs, and full dedication to his craft to distract him from any carnal urgings.
The prehensile tip of Bathym’s tail snaked beneath the hem of John’s nightshirt and lifted it up, baring John’s backside to the air. John clothed his teeth over Bathym’s fingers, but it did no good; the fine leather of his gloves kept the sensation from being anything more than mild pressure. “My dear John, how uncouth of you,” Bathym chided him, clucking his tongue like a schoolmarm. “I’d be downright offended … if I didn’t enjoy a good bite.”
Startled, John opened his jaw again, which just made Bathym laugh and withdraw his fingers entirely from John’s mouth. John only had a second to react, though, before he felt the serpent’s tail around his wrists push him forward until his cheek was touching the cold stone floor. He could smell the dried blood of the sigil only inches from his face. Despite the chill of the basement, sweat had broken out all over John’s body, soaking his nightshirt through. He could only kneel in forced prostration, his head on the ground and his rump in the air.
Then came an even greater indignity, one John had not dared think was possible. Those were Bathym’s hands on his backside now; John could even feel the slight damp where his mouth had been only seconds before. Those soft-gloved fingers spread the cheeks of John’s ass, exposing him in a way that no sane or decent man could countenance. “No,” John moaned, “no, stop…”
“Stop?” Bathym echoed, his voice dripping with skepticism. “Dear John, sweet John, I will gladly stop. All you have to do is actually want me to stop.”
Of course John wanted him to stop. Wasn’t that plainly obvious? He had been raptured from his bed, stripped and humiliated, forced into submission, treated like a mongrel animal — how could John not want him to stop? Was it the state of his prick that had convinced Bathym otherwise? Oh, but pricks were liars; everyone knew so. They were the most capricious pieces of a man’s already-capricious flesh, prone to inappropriate behavior even at the best of times. And this was not the best of times. This was the state of being at the mercy of a creature created in the absence of God’s mercy.
And then John had no other clear thoughts on the matter for a minute, for he was being penetrated. The invading force was cold and wriggling — the tail! He was being buggered by Bathym’s tail! This was the lowest and most humiliated he’d ever felt in his life, being taken by such a wretched and inhuman force. He wanted Bathym to stop right this instant, to stop it all right now!
Alas, his case was made more complicated by the orgasm that crashed through him. The simple act of intrusion had brought him to the brink of pleasure and tossed him straight over the edge. He felt his cock spurt again and again, soaking the inside of his nightshirt with his seed. John cried out loud enough that the sound echoed off the stone walls and ceiling, bringing his own shameful noises back to his own ears. His flesh had betrayed him, selling him to the demon who more rightly belonged to him! John should be the one mounting his captive, not shivering like some wanton whore at such foul touch!
Yet as the force of John’s climax finally let him go, Bathym did not withdraw. Instead the cold scales turned slowly inside of him, making him gasp and shudder every time the tail brushed up against a sensitive spot. “What if they could see you now, your friends?” teased Bathym. “It’s what you were going to do to me, isn’t it? Parade me before them like some carnival prize, perhaps a pelt you brought back from safari? Were you going to compel me to sing for them? To do tricks? To share my knowledge? Were you hoping they might think you some big man indeed, clever enough to bind a Duke of Hell and make him dance for you like some organ-grinder’s monkey?”
“No,” John lied. With his arms still bound behind his back, he had no leverage to get himself out of this position.
“I’ll send out the invitations. Your presence is requested for an evening to remember, I’ll say, signed from you, telling them to come view your newest acquisition. Except when they arrive, they find that I’m in your chair, while you are kneeling between my legs, naked and bound, sucking my cock.”
John’s cheeks were turning scarlet at the thought of being subjected such a mortifying ordeal — while at the same time his prick, that terrible Judas, was achingly erect again.
“Do you think they’d want to fuck you?” Bathym hummed thoughtfully, as though truly considering this for the first time. “You’re well nigh handsome, by human standards, and rather pleasing from behind. I’m sure if one or two of them had to, they could close their eyes and imagine a woman. But the others, I don’t suppose they’d need that pretense. You magicians all tend to be a queer lot. Would you like me to tell them which ones you’ve fantasized about sucking off?”
Unbidden, Alain Fletcher’s face came to mind. He was the real beauty of their ranks, a young-faced man of thirty-two, with auburn hair and perfect dimples in each cheek. How many of John’s secret imaginings had drifted to Alain, their aftermath filling him with terrible shame even before his seed had dried in his hand? Could he even survive the disgust such a revelation would surely warrant? Could he ever bear to look sweet Alain in the eye again?
That terrifying train of self-pitying thoughts was cut off entirely, however, by a sharp smack across his buttocks. John cried out wordlessly in surprise and pain, feeling the warmth of the sting spread throughout his skin. Before he’d even caught his breath, there came a second blow, and then a third, each of them a torment to his increasingly sensitive flesh. Oh, John Villiers had always been such a good boy in school, a model student, never prone to misbehavior or any troublemaking. If they had only known that such laudable behavior had been not because of any virtuous nature, but because the single solitary time in his adolescence he’d been subjected to the headmaster’s paddle, he’d come in his pants at the first blow.
Tears were rolling down from the corner of John’s eyes now. Not since that time, bent over before the headmaster’s desk and trembling with shame, had he felt so completely out of control.
A hot, wet touch traveled its way up John’s spine from just above his bound hands to the nape of his neck. John shuddered in horror to realize it must have been the villain’s tongue. Where the trail of slick saliva was left, John’s skin grew chilled beneath it. The pressure inside of his ass had grown steadily harder to ignore, swelling and stretching him in ways that made him spout forth unholy and obscene noises.
“In fact…” Bathym said, with a thoughtful tone that made John’s stomach turn to ice. “I am the master of this space now, after all. And as much as I will enjoy having you — and I will have you, my sweet and delicious John, that much is certain — I have to confess that your impulse to display me has made a very good point. What good is a triumph without an audience?”
John became aware of a presence in front of him: a chair, placed just outside the circle, and a man sitting in it. John closed his eyes tight. It couldn’t be. He wouldn’t let it be. Not here. Not like this.
“What are…?” A voice stammered in drowsy confusion, a voice that John couldn’t even begin to pretend wasn’t Alain’s. “What’s this?”
“A dream,” Bathym promised him. “That’s all. And you’ve had dreams like this before, haven’t you, Alain?”
Though John wasn’t looking, he could somehow hear the sound of Alain’s nod. He wanted to shout at Alain, to warn him that this was no dream — that he was, in fact, quite with the waking world, and in serious danger for it. Yet every time John opened his mouth, the only sounds that came forth were vulgar groans of pleasure as his nethers were spread wide. Had Alain had nightmares like this before, watching his colleagues brutalized at the hands of the very beings they sought to control? Were his nights tortured by these sinister fears, shaking him awake to wait for blessed dawn?
“Yes,” Alain said. He didn’t sound frightened at all.
Bathym chuckled at that, yanking John’s arms back so that John’s torso lifted from the ground. John had no choice but to look now at the sight in front of him. There was Alain, sat before John in his nightshirt, his eyelids half-closed with a sleepwalker’s gaze. He sprawled in the seat Bathym had prepared for him, his knees spread wide so that there was no mistaking the state of his prick. John’s eyes went wide as he saw it tent Alain’s nightshirt upright, flushed red enough that John could see it blush through the light fabric.
“He’s never been fucked before,” Bathym told Alain. “A virgin back there, and in most other ways as well. Can you believe it?”
“A virgin,” Alain echoed dreamily. His tongue darted out to lick his lower lip. “My John, untouched?”
“Hard to believe, is it not? And nonetheless true.” Bathym drew his tail out of John in a quick jerk, making John cry out first for surprise at the sudden movement, then with longing for the great emptiness left gnawing inside him. “Which is a terrible shame, given what a natural whore he is for it.”
Being called such a crass thing made John flush with shame, while beneath him his prick grew only harder for it. “A virgin whore.” Alain chuckled softly at the contradiction. As though heedless of the eyes on him, Alain brought his hand to rub across the clothed knob of his prick. He sighed a little at the contact, working his fingers slowly up the shaft, with only the lightest barrier of fabric between skin and skin.
“Say, I have an idea.” Bathym pulled John back a little more, until John was resting back against Bathym’s broad chest. Bathym leaned forward so that he could drag his elongated tongue along the curve of John’s jaw, taking a good taste. “As this is a dream, and thus of no consequence to the waking world, why don’t you take the reins of this whore?”
Pinned by Alain’s gaze, John could only watch as his friend’s eyes regarded the depths of his depraved condition. What he did not expect, though, was that the sweet bow of Alain’s lips would twist darkly at such an offer. “A whore,” murmured Alain, pushing his palm against his own erection. “An eager, willing whore.”
“Let me show you just how eager,” said Bathym. He curled the knuckle of his first finger until it grew until a terrible claw, which he hooked into the throat of John’s nightshirt. With a sharp yank, he tore it downward, ripping the semen-stained fabric apart and revealing John’s own shameful state. Bathym took that same claw and stroked it along the underside of John’s erection, making John’s prick jerk at the touch. A steady stream of precome was weeping from the tip, a counterpart to the tears in John’s eyes. “What do you think?”
Alain drew in a heavy breath, then let it out slowly as he nodded. “If he’s a whore, give him what he wants,” Alain said, in the same tone he might have used when selecting a bottle of wine. “Fuck him.”
John let out a moan, born half of fear and half of desire. Panic drummed in his ears as his heart raced. No, he wasn’t like this, he wasn’t like this at all, he needed Alain to understand, he needed Alain to–
Then what he needed was immaterial, because he had it already, in the form of Bathym’s cock buried to the hilt inside him in one brutal thrust. If Bathym’s tail had felt like a single finger before, this felt like an entire fist within him, filling him so completely that there was barely any of John himself left. He was no longer a nobleman, a master of the arcane, a magus at the peak of his craft — he was a sheath for a monstrous prick, a body made to house demon cock, the most craven kind of whore imaginable.
And of course, that humiliating knowledge only made him come again. Without his nightgown to stop it, John’s prick shot forth another gush, splattering across the floor and corrupting the blood sigil entirely. It didn’t matter. What mattered was that his whole body was writhing beyond his control now. Rope after rope of his seed splattered from him, far past the point John would have expected his balls to be drained dry. The pleasure only kept coming, beating at him like the sea against the side of a storm-tossed boat, as mighty as it was relentless.
Even when his prick had no more to give, John was not allowed to relax. If Bathym had not held him up, John would have collapsed right there on the ground, heedless of the filth. But with his arms drawn back behind him and Bathym’s cock buried deep in his ass, John had no choice but to kneel in submission as Alain looked down at him from the chair with a wicked grin. Alain glanced at the mess of come John had left spattered across the floor. “You are eager, aren’t you?” Alain remarked as he continued to stroke his cock.
John groaned senselessly. He could barely summon the strength to hold his own head upright. Every nerve in his body felt as sensitive as skin after a sunburn, where even the slightest cooling touch was both bliss and agony at once.
Behind him, Bathym curled a hand around John’s throat. All his fingers were clawed now, and John could feel their dagger-like tips tease against his neck without breaking the skin. John could barely breathe for the monstrous intrusion in his ass. And yet he was still hard! How was it even possible? His flesh had not rallied like this in decades, if indeed it ever had. Yet as he looked down, John could see his still-engorged prick sticking straight out from his body. He had become the god Priapus, the eternal erection. It might have been funny, had John ever, for a minute of his life, been possessed of the ability to laugh at himself.
Alain leaned forward, regarding John’s sorry state. “I said, fuck him,” Alain repeated in a much more commanding tone.
Bathym, however, hesitated at the order. “He’s not a virgin anymore, our dear John. He’s got a taste now for the demonic. But it’s still just a taste. If he gets more now, he’ll never go back.”
“I don’t care,” Alain said as he pulled up the hem of his nightshirt. As his prick was exposed, flushed and needy, Alain wrapped his hand fully around its shaft. “Let’s make a proper whore out of him. Fuck him. Make him suck me. Give him what every whore needs.”
In a flash, Alain was no longer sitting outside the circle. His chair was now inches from where John was kneeling, and his exposed cock was right in John’s face. John wanted to resist. He wanted to want to resist. He wanted so badly not to desire, with every fiber of his being, to know the taste of Alain’s prick on his tongue. But there was no purpose in denying his nature any longer, if there ever had been in the first place. What protestations could he have made, impaled as he was on Bathym’s inhuman rod? Tears rolled freely down his cheeks as he parted his lips and took Alain’s cock between them.
Alain wasted no time in grabbing roughly for John’s hair — and why should he? To him, this was but a dream, with all the freedom and sovereignty that went along with being untethered to the waking world. Alain’s fingers tugged hard enough to bring another moan to John’s lips, but the sound was muffled entirely by the way Alain’s prick stuffed John’s mouth nearly back to his throat. His knees spread wide, Alain thrust his cock roughly into John’s face.
Behind him, Bathym began to move in time as well, thrusting forward so that John’s body jolted and took even more of Alain’s cock every time. John could feel the slaps of Bathym’s massive balls knocking against the backs of his thighs. The force of it was brutal. John’s knees ached against the stone floor. But he couldn’t move. He was trapped between the two of them, the man he’d so long desired and the demon he’d foolishly sought to control.
“Tell him what you think of him, Alain,” Bathym purred as he fucked relentlessly in and out of John’s pinkened ass. “I’m sure he’d love to know.”
Alain laughed lazily, sounding almost drugged. “What a bastard you are, John,” he half-mumbled as he yanked John’s hair. “Smug bastard. Always having to sound like you’re better than everyone else. Like you’re cleverer, braver, even downright smarter than the rest of us. Everyone groans when you open your mouth to speak. This is a much better use of it. Your handsome mouth needs a cock in it. We’ve known it all along.”
Perversely, the abuse only made John’s cock ache as it bobbed — impossibly, still erect! — up and down as his body was jerked in all directions. The humiliating assessment of his status in their eyes should have given him over to despair. Instead, he could not stop thinking about servicing them all orally, just as he was doing to Alain now. Had Bathym told the truth? Would they all take him like this, given the opportunity? Would they shove him to his knees and brutalize him, one after another, until he was not a colleague but a set of wanton holes?
And would John beg for it every time?
Alain tightened his grip in John’s hair, making John’s scalp feel as though it were aflame. “I thought it the first time I met you, it’s a shame such a handsome man is such a bastard. If you weren’t a bastard, maybe I’d have let you take me before this.” Alain held down John on his cock for several seconds before releasing him, laughing at the way John gasped with spit and precome trailing from his lips. “But you know, I think I like you better this way. You look good on your knees, John. I think I’d like to keep you there.”
“Yes,” John gasped, horrified to hear himself speak. His voice was barely a whisper slipping forth from his raw throat.
“Yes?” Alain laughed again. “Yes what, John?”
“Let me suck you,” John pleaded. All good sense and propriety were gone out the window. Stripped of all his gentlemanly pretense, this was what was left of John Villiers. “Let me suck you, Alain, please. Please. I want you so much. I want it all. I’ll be so good. Just take my mouth.”
There was no hesitation from Alain there. He grabbed John’s head now with both hands and shoved his cock back into John’s face, all but straight down his throat. John’s eyes went wide as he was choked entirely, first by the girth of Alain’s prick, and then by the waves of come as Alain spent himself inside of John’s mouth. Alain groaned and bent forward as he fucked John’s face deeply. At last, Alain’s grip went slack and John could come up again for air.
He barely had time to catch his breath, though, before it was Bathym’s turn. Alain had taken John’s face roughly, but it was nothing compared to the savage fucking John was taking from behind. He had no idea how his body endured it, much less craved it. Come-smeared and tear-stained, John could do nothing but submit. He was done. He had become what he truly was — not a master of demonic powers, but their willing, wanton servant.
Bathym laughed as his grip tightened around John’s throat. “Where shall I spill my seed?” he growled in John’s ear.
“Inside!” John gasped. “Inside me, inside me.”
“If I do, they’ll all know,” Bathym warned with a wicked grin. “They’ll all smell it on you. They’ll know you whored yourself out to the very demon you sought to enslave.”
John shook his head senselessly. “I don’t care. I don’t care, just please.”
As hard as the cock inside John felt, Bathym himself seemed to be in no rush. “I could make it so you’ll never feel release again unless you’re with one of my kind. Bind you to your demonic urges, so that no human flesh would ever satisfy your cravings again. Wouldn’t that be a fine state of affairs?”
Helpless, John moaned. He didn’t want that at all, and yet he knew already that he would comply. He’d search every book he owned, call upon every name he could find, submit himself to whatever humiliations they asked of him, just for a taste of the pleasure he felt here. He would never be the same.
But Bathym just chuckled. “No, I have a better idea. I’ll let him decide.”
John looked up to see Alain, still sitting over him like a king on a throne. Even with his nightshirt rumpled and his cock spent, Alain held a commanding presence as he stared down at John. Perhaps Alain had always known about these dominant inclinations within himself, or perhaps he was only discovering them tonight. The look of wicked satisfaction in his eyes, though, told John that whichever it was, Alain would never go back.
As he met Alain’s gaze, John nodded. Yes, he would submit. He would accept his true nature. He would give himself over entirely into Alain’s hands, whatever it entailed. He would know his place.
“Present your man with your first order, master,” Bathym said with a sly chuckle.
“Come for me, John,” Alain said, his voice soft yet commanding.
There was no way John could have refused, not before pledging himself and certainly not after. He let his head fall back and shouted to heavens that could not hear him, not this deep inside of the earth. His body shook as he ejaculated for an impossible third time, as all the while Bathym filled him up in kind. It was almost as though Bathym were spilling himself through John, rendering John’s body nothing more than a conduit through which Bathym’s seed might enter the world. That was all John was now, just a hole to be fucked and filled and emptied and fucked again.
At last, John felt his whole body released, and he crumpled to the floor. His arms, held back for so long, were all but numb. His knees were rubbed raw and aching. His tender flesh shook as he lay there on the cold stone ground, battered and overwhelmed by everything.
There was left for him only the strange, almost gentle touch of Bathym’s fingers up and down John’s bared back. After such abuse, it seemed almost unthinkable that the same hands could be capable of such tenderness. “Oh, John,” Bathym sighed, the tone nearly affectionate, if a demon could be considered capable of such an emotion. “John, John, dearest John. What am I to do with you?”
John couldn’t even begin to think of an answer to that question, much less speak one. “Because you do have a taste for it now,” Bathym continued with a chuckle. His touch skimmed over the tormented flesh of John’s backside, making John shiver. “And I know you. You’ll be down here again the first chance you get, calling upon the name of every demon in your books who might possess at least one cock, commanding or begging us to attend to your needs. And frankly, that’s more of a nuisance than I can in good conscience unleash upon my kind. Let’s see if I can’t find you a more sustainable solution. I believe the idiom is, killing two birds with one stone, yes?”
John had no idea what the idiom was. He was exhausted to the point of barely knowing what an idiom was. He closed his eyes and half-prayed for sleep, so that he might somehow awaken to find it had all been nothing more than a nightmare.
He knew in his bones it had been nothing of the sort. When he dared lift his head again after a long moment of silence, John looked up to the chair at the edge of the circle, only to find that it was empty. It seemed Bathym, taking his leave, had also transported Alain back to his own bed. It was a thoughtful gesture, and one that surely headed off many questions before they could be asked. With any luck, Alain would wake up snug and secure in his own home, certain the whole thing had been but a strange dream, never to mention it to John or anyone ever again.
With the greatest effort, John gathered his weary flesh to his feet. His nightshirt was beyond fouled and unwearable, so he used it to mop himself as well as he could before tossing it into a far corner. He would burn it later. His ritual cloak would have to do. He bundled himself inside its black velvet folds and pulled it around his naked body before he staggered up the stairs and out of the basement.
Fortunately, the late hour meant that no one was up and about to question John’s walking the halls. Working with only the moon’s light for guidance, he took his time climbing the stairs to his second-story bedroom, praying each footfall to make as little noise as possible. More than once, he had to bite his lip to keep from grunting as sore parts of his body shifted. He was in far better condition than he should have been, given the abuse he had just received, but his aching frame still told the tale.
At last, he made it to his bedroom and slipped inside, shutting the door behind him. He stood there for a moment, leaning on the other side of it and catching his breath. What was to become of him now? What did any of this mean? And how long would it be before he gave in to his inner yearnings and did it again?
“John?” called a soft voice from beneath the covers of the room’s only bed.
John held his breath.
“John?” said the voice again. In the near-total darkness, John could still see a figure that should not have been there pull itself upright. With a little more light, John knew he would have recognized that sleep-tossed auburn hair. “What were you doing up?”
It was known among practitioners of their arts that demons were not by necessity evil. Many were cruel and capricious at times, yes, but they were not without their charms or gifts. Those of the lesser echelons did thrill in destruction and chaos, it was true. Many of the more learned texts, however, claimed that among the higher ranks, sometimes the greater satisfaction came from teaching a foolhardy human a lesson.
“John, is everything all right?” asked Alain.
“It’s … it’s nothing,” said John, surprised to hear how sturdy his voice sounded. “I thought — I was afraid I’d left a candle burning in the basement.”
Alain let out a soft laugh. “And had you?”
“No.” John shook his head. “I hadn’t.”
“You fret too much, darling.” There was a rustling in the dark as Alain pulled back the covers. “Come back to bed.”
John didn’t want to go to bed, not right away. He was still filthy and sore, and had at least wanted to run a wet rag over himself before subjecting his clean sheets to his filthy frame. Yet he dropped his cloak where he stood and climbed straight in beside Alain. As he lay down, Alain pulled the covers over them both and rested his head against John’s shoulder. His soft fingers curled just beneath John’s chin, playing affectionately at the curve of John’s jaw.
“Go to sleep, my love,” Alain said, and John closed his eyes and did precisely that.