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“Body and Mind.”

The words were weightless in the air. They flowed from Kevin’s lips and were carried away by smoke from a lit candle. Every syllable he uttered was followed by a strange echo as if they were spoken by something unearthly, and not some young tanned blond. The words instantly surrounded Kevin and shook the small beach house from its foundation.

“I fold myself into you,” Kevin continued as he brutally clutched the ceremonial bowl in his lap. “Reveal yourself to me.”

Taking a deep breath, Kevin closed his eyes and waited for Tresum to work its magic. While he had no proof, he still believed that the tighter he squeezed his eyes shut, the quicker his visions would appear. If he had to, he would squeeze his eyes until they bled. He was only seconds away from finding out if his theory was true.

But suddenly Kevin felt his wrist pulled back and jerked high up in the air. As he was forced to stand, he lost his grip on the bowl.

“No!” Kevin willed and his eyes flew to the floor to make sure the bowl did not crack. Luckily, the vessel remained intact. It landed on its side with the smoke slowly fading into the air.

Kevin would have sighed in relief, but he briefly caught sight of Ambrosius’s angry face over his shoulder. However, he didn’t catch it soon enough because he was instantly hauled into the kitchen and bent over the counter.

“Bro!” Kevin tried to argue, but he was already pressed tight against the countertop. He couldn’t push free from beneath Ambrosius’s hold.

Kevin grunted at first. Ambrosius’s hand was too heavy on his back. Kevin’s backside was thrust forward in that familiar position that never failed to make his face redden. So, the blond continued his protests through short, jerky gasps of frustration.

Naturally, Ambrosius didn’t let another second pass by before he swatted the blond’s upturned backside.

Kevin’s body jerked at the sudden sting. His curse words were immediately cut off by the next swats. He quickly learned that his swim trunks were meager protection against the warlock’s determined swats. Each blow made him hop from foot to foot. The smacks were agonizing enough, but the next one sent him up on his toes with a shout.

Fortunately, that would be the last. Just ten burning swats and the spanking was done. It was enough to leave Kevin breathless, but as soon as he felt Ambrosius step aside, he simply stood up, rubbed at the sting, and wondered why he was let off so easy.

But Kevin got his answer as soon as he turned around and saw Ambrosius gripping the bowl. In his tight grasp, the bowl shattered in his hands.

“NO!” Kevin called out, but it was too late. The ceremonial bowl was now broken fragments that clattered when they hit the kitchen tiles.

Kevin slumped against the counter. The pain from his short spanking was momentarily forgotten, but he kept his eyes lowered to the floor. He didn’t see Ambrosius leave the room, but he could hear his footsteps become faint. Once he was sure the warlock was gone, he knelt down on the floor and began gathering the pieces.

In his desperation to collect every piece, Kevin didn’t hear when Ambrosius returned. A tube of cement glue was shoved at his face.

Kevin groaned. Defeated, he threw the ceramic pieces back to the floor. He wouldn’t accept Ambrosius’s challenge. If Bro was helping him glue the pieces together, it was only because he knew all the magic in it was already destroyed. Cement glue can hold the bowl together, but magic can never be fixed that easily.

“I didn’t think you’d be back so soon,” Kevin said casually as he stood up and brushed off some ceramic dust from his knees. When the dull pain in his backside suddenly pushed itself to the forefront of his mind, he started to rub again.

Ambrosius exhaled harshly. “Apparently.”

It was just one word, but it was weighted with steel. Bro knew Kevin could never offer an acceptable excuse.

“I’m sorry, alright!” the blond insisted.

“You know better than to attempt magic without me,” Ambrosius scolded. Then he turned away and muttered over his shoulder, “It puts me in a bad mood.”

Kevin raced before Ambrosius and gripped him by both his shoulders. “I’m sorry, okay? Completely and sincerely sorry! What more can I say?”

Ambrosius studied Kevin for a moment. His face was still flushed from the swift spanking. The boy was certainly sorry now, but only because he was caught. Kevin still thought there was a way to bring Toby back and Bro was beginning to realize how impossible it was to compete with a dead man.

So, Ambrosius just sighed. It seemed like a fact he was going to have to learn to live with if he wanted to keep Kevin.

“What am I going to do with you?” he whispered distractedly as he brushed back the blond’s hair.

It was a question Ambrosius pondered a lot. Kevin still wanted to harness the power of Tresum for his own use instead of honoring the dark magic of the island.

But Tresum was not a toy to be played with. It was a mysterious energy responsible for all the twists and turns in the universe.

Unfortunately, Kevin was always good at distracting him from the larger questions. The blond pressed his face against Bro’s neck and began kissing the place where his skin was most sensitive.

“You could always send me away,” Kevin murmured teasingly against Bro’s skin, “but I know you don’t want to do that.”

Ambrosius moaned as the hot wetness of Kevin’s mouth worked its way along his jaw. No – he absolutely could not send Kevin away. They were destined to share the dark spoils of Tresum together and he was determined to see that through. He just wished Kevin would be a more obedient aspirant until the time came.

While Ambrosius hated to push that warm, pink mouth away from his lips, now was as good a time as any to test his aspirant’s obedience.

“Clean up that mess,” Bro ordered as he shoved Kevin back a step. He was pleased with the shocked expression on the boy’s face.

“Are you kidding me?” Kevin shortly burst into laughter. He was in the middle of lathering Bro up with his tongue. As far as he was concerned, the mess could wait. Unfortunately, he took one look at Ambrosius’s eyes and realized that the warlock was serious. However, Kevin quickly decided that he could not yield to that smug look just yet.

“You created that mess!” Kevin pointed out as he continued to laugh. “That’s all you. I wanted to keep that bowl! I would have returned it all nice and snug on the mantel.”

“So you can continue to perform magic without me,” Ambrosius accused casually. He instantly noticed that Kevin’s soft laughter was having an effect on him. So much so that he could not scold the boy appropriately. Bro had to remind himself to remain stern, so he cleared his throat and demanded more forcefully, “You are the aspirant! Do. As. You’re. Told.”

Kevin stopped smiling so he could think it over for a moment. But as he did so, he reached up and wiped the moisture from Bro’s neck. His smile instantly returned because he enjoyed the way this big, bad warlock responded to his touch. Ambrosius could pretend that he was all evil, but he still had the same weaknesses as any mortal man.

“But then I have to lug out the broom and dust pan,” the blond pouted then smirked as he continued rubbing Bro's skin. “I like watching you work your magic. You’re so exceptional at it.”

Ambrosius moaned. The blond’s arm was wrapped around his neck now and shoving his face closer. He felt Kevin’s every breath on his skin. Bro finally conceded that he was the powerful warlock that Kevin admired. If the boy wanted to see a trick, then he shall have his wish.

“Alright, Kevin,” Ambrosius relented. “Watch and learn how a proper warlock cleans up a mess.”

Bro proudly slung his arm around Kevin’s shoulders. With a wave of his hand, the bits and pieces of the bowl slowly levitated from the ground. Soon, they were tossed into the air and landed inside the garbage bin.

Ambrosius was smirking, eager to earn Kevin’s praise, but the blond was distracted by something else.

“What’s that?”

Kevin had been watching the mess levitate from the floor, but he happened to notice something across from them. A letter had been slipped underneath the front door. It looked important.

Kevin retrieved the letter and held it out to Ambrosius. Bro recognized the wax seal, so he wasn’t as impressed.

“It’s from the Tresum Council,” Bro informed as he took the letter from Kevin’s hands.

“Council?”

“Organized magic. It’s of no use to us.” That’s all the explanation Bro would give. He quickly tore up the letter and scattered it on top of the counter.

“Wait!” Kevin shouted. “If there are more Tresum warlocks, we could—“

Kevin quickly bit his tongue. He thought Tresum was exclusive to Dante’s Cove. If there were more Sun warlocks out there, their power could only be stronger when combined. However, Kevin knew Ambrosius wasn’t interested in saving Toby. That was why he couldn’t finish his impulsive thought.

Of course, Ambrosius knew what he was thinking, so he scowled.

“An avatar’s power is only increased by his aspirant!” Ambrosius maintained fiercely. There was no need for Kevin to look for anyone else. Ever.

“I know!” Kevin insisted and threw his hands in the air. He would have just walked away from the conversation, but there was a knock at the door.

“Don’t!” Ambrosius instantly warned, but the stubborn blond opened it anyways.

There weren’t too many visitors at Sunset Point and Kevin didn’t have many friends left on the island, so he was always eager for whatever company came their way.

He was surprised to see Griffen. Sure, they met once when they battled the House of Shadows, but Kevin was knocked out cold and couldn’t remember all the details. He only knew what Ambrosius had told him.

“Good morning,” Griffen greeted. He didn’t wait for Kevin to reply. He just pushed passed him and headed for Ambrosius.

“Come on in…” Kevin muttered with a roll of his eyes and trailed after their unannounced guest.

“You remember Griffen,” Bro said to Kevin with a frown.

“Whatever,” Kevin mumbled and went to stand beside Ambrosius. He looked just as uninterested as his warlock lover.

“Ambrosius,” Griff acknowledged with a polite nod. “I see you’ve received my invitation,” he said as he eyed the torn pieces of paper in front of Bro. He then offered the other man a knowing grin.

The letter was obviously enhanced with Tresum magic. Griffen would have instantly known if it were read or destroyed.

“I haven’t had the pleasure of reading it yet,” Bro responded. He made a show of ripping the shards into smaller pieces, his eyes daring Griffen to react.

“Perhaps we can speak in private?” Griff asked pleasantly enough.

“Whatever you have to say to me you can say in front of Kevin.”

To prove his point, he wrapped his arm around Kevin’s neck and pulled him close. He then began caressing the young blond’s face in an oddly possessive manner. He wasn’t letting Kevin go anywhere.

Griffen wasn’t impressed by the scene. He just cleared his throat. “The only aspirants I deal with are my own. Unless, you’re offering a trade?”

“Kevin stays!” Bro demanded firmly.

Kevin fought the urge to roll his eyes, but eventually lost. He knew this was some sort of pissing match and he was stuck in the middle. Bro would never back down.

“You brought the Sun House back to the Cove,” Griffen reminded swiftly. “You are responsible for its survival.”

“I have my aspirant. There is nothing else to be said. Be gone.”

“You are supposed to initiate the age of the Sky House, not lollygagging with some blond twink.”

Ambrosius felt Kevin twist uncomfortably in his hold. He managed to restrain his own disapproving growl, but only because he knew it was awkward for Kevin to stand still and silent while they talked about him as if he wasn’t there.

However, he didn’t want Griffen to see even the slightest sign of defiance by his aspirant and he knew that Kevin could only curb his tongue for so long.

“You’ve had a rough morning,” Bro whispered hoarsely into Kevin’s ear. Then he ordered, “Go lie down.”

“Gladly,” Kevin sighed. He eyed Griffen guardedly before he leaned in and kissed Ambrosius. He squeezed the warlock’s shoulder for a moment then left.

Bro watched Kevin as he walked away and marveled at the unexpected kiss that still lingered on his lips. It wasn’t like Kevin to be affectionate and follow orders. If anything, he used affection to postpone the latter.

“Shouldn’t Kevin be an ascendant by now?”

Bro’s lips thinned. It was perfectly fitting for Griffen to interrupt his pleasant thoughts with a highly accusatory remark.

“We move at Kevin’s pace,” Bro explained through tightly gritted teeth. Their progress was slow but only because Kevin had a remarkable taste for power. Because of that, Bro would only feed Kevin so much information at a time.

Of course, he would never admit that to Griff, but there was very little that the master warlock did not know already.

“Uh, huh.”

Bro glowered. He knew exactly what the other man was implying and he regretted ever confiding in Griffen in the past. “Kevin hasn’t been draining my power again, if that’s what you think.”

“It’s a struggle to keep the world in balance,” Griff announced as he maintained full eye contact with Bro. “Tresum needs to return to a normal cycle or the entire universe will be in permanent disrepair. It’s bad enough we have to work around your and Grace’s rogue magic, but now we have a dimwitted aspirant running around and practicing irresponsible magic.”

Ambrosius’s face twisted into an offended scowl. He knew his aspirant’s behavior was a reflection upon himself, but Kevin was still flawless in his eyes and no self-proclaimed council was going to tell him otherwise.

“Kevin hasn’t been calling upon Tresum,” Bro swore. “You have my word on that.”

Griffen inhaled sharply. He was almost in disbelief that Bro would lie to him about something that was so painfully obvious. “You may think that you’re protecting Kevin, but you’re not.”

“Go!” Ambrosius growled. He still wanted to believe that he was fully capable of controlling and protecting his aspirant.

Griff considered Ambrosius for a moment. “You swore your life to serve Tresum,” he tried to remind the other warlock, but with the expression that Bro shot him, it was fair to say that he didn’t care. So, Griff made the difficult decision to back down.

“I will go,” Griff conceded. “But I will drop by from time to time.”

Ambrosius met Griffen’s dare with a stony stare. However, it had no effect on Griff because he just faded away and vacated the lone beach house.

“Fucking bureaucrats,” Ambrosius mumbled darkly. Then he went to go find Kevin. The day had barely begun and he was already exhausted. Keeping the boy close was the only thing that could lift his spirits.

Ambrosius found Kevin in the bedroom, lounging in a plush chair and listening to something Bro had once heard him refer to as an ipod. Bro stomped up to him and pulled the ear buds away.

“I thought I told you to lie down,” Ambrosius grumbled and eyed the still neatly made bed.

Kevin pulled a face. He didn’t think it was that big a deal. “Yeah, but I thought you and Griff could use some privacy.”

Ambrosius raised an eyebrow, but he supposed it was better that Kevin didn’t listen in on his conversation. It would have only made him more willful.

“Your consideration is noted,” Bro said because that was as close as he could get to saying thank you. “I am heading down to the club. I would like you to come.”

The boy shrugged off the invitation. “I’m cool here.”

Ambrosius frowned as Kevin returned to playing with his ipod. The blond was certainly making it difficult to spend any time with him.

“That wasn’t a request,” Ambrosius growled and then headed towards the dresser. He wanted Kevin to wear something more than just his swim shorts to the club, so he grabbed what he remembered was Kevin’s favorite pair of jeans. As he yanked the denim from the drawer, he felt something drop.

Ambrosius bent down to retrieve the item that fell to the floor. It looked like a wallet, but Kevin had no need to carry money around now that he was always with Bro.

Kevin watched Ambrosius carefully. “They’re family portraits,” he explained with some hesitation when he saw what the warlock was playing with.

Ambrosius’s eyes immediately narrowed in offense. Something about that explanation just didn’t ring true. The blond hated his family. Bro felt his pain and sadness whenever he tapped into his memories. Any memories Kevin had of his family were tainted with abuse and despair. Ambrosius didn’t want that energy around the boy, so he impatiently flipped through the wallet.

Surprisingly, the first photo raised a smug smile on the warlock’s face. Kevin didn’t mean family in the traditional sense. The boy chose to surround himself with photographs of his friends.

The first one was of Grace’s adorable little fledging. That’s why Ambrosius was smiling. Like the fool she was, Grace waited 200 years for a student to finally appear to her. Van was gone now and once again Grace was all alone. Ambrosius was almost tempted to give a little prayer of thanks to Tresum for playing such a perfectly cruel joke on his ex-fiancé.

The next photos were not as pleasing, but at least acceptable. Ambrosius’s scowl almost returned when he came to Adam because it was unsettling to think that Kevin could ever be friends with such a ne'er-do-well. However, the boy’s taste in friends had greatly improved since he became Bro’s aspirant. Kevin no longer had any time for such riffraff. He and Bro now spent all of their time together. There was room for no one else.

Ambrosius admired a few snapshots of Kevin alone. Whoever had taken those photos managed to capture a happiness in Kevin’s eyes that Bro had yet to elicit - not with any sincerity anyways.

However, he vowed he would make that happen.

The next photo was also all smiles, but it was of Toby and his grandfather. Then there were more photos of Toby and his family – so many faces of people Bro knew Kevin had never met. One look at Kevin’s dirty, ratty ex-boyfriend and Ambrosius’s fingers clenched around the photos until he formed a fist and all the pictures fell to the floor. The ground was tiled in a mess of bright white smiles that Ambrosius resented. He knew instantly that this wallet did not belong to Kevin.

It was Toby’s.

Ambrosius held back a growl before slowly facing Kevin. Dark and horrible accusations sat on the tip of his tongue, but he didn’t dare voice them for fear they might come true. Tresum could be vindictive like that. The only thing he could do was tense his lips to show his disapproval.

“Toby’s family is my family!” Kevin defended. He saw the look of anger and betrayal on Bro’s face. For a brief moment, he wanted to reach out and embrace him, but he knew Bro was a dangerous force whenever he felt threatened.

“I lost every person in that album!” Kevin said instead. “Let me keep it!”

Bro didn’t answer. He just tightened his jaw and turned away. Grace had been horribly correct when she said eliminating Toby would never transfer Kevin’s love to him.

Insufferable shrew! It was as if she had cursed him all over again. And if that wasn’t torture enough, Ambrosius found it hard to ignore such a simple request from Kevin, even when he didn’t deserve it…

“Please?” Kevin asked a couple moments later, but Bro still would not answer. A Tresum warlock was something to fear, but even Kevin knew that there were times Ambrosius used anger to cover up his hurt. The young blond’s face practically withered when he realized that Bro couldn’t even look at him.

So, Kevin sighed. Usually when Ambrosius did not answer, it was his dismissive way of saying - do as you please and just be done with it! Carefully, Kevin bent down and began to gather all the photographs back together, still keeping a cautious eye locked on Bro.

“I did make one addition of my own,” Kevin said thoughtfully as he finally stood. He shuffled the stack of photos in his hands.

Ambrosius noted a hint of pride in the young blond’s voice, so he slanted him an assessing glance over his shoulder.

But that would be all he would get! Ambrosius wouldn’t tolerate any more excuses that day.

“Here it is!” Kevin smiled as he held out an old daguerreotype of Bro.

The corners had curled and the image had faded, but Ambrosius Vallin still looked impossibly proud and noble in his top hat and scowl.

Momentarily distracted by his own image, Ambrosius accepted the photo from Kevin’s hands. Practically in a trance, he rubbed his face as if he was comparing himself to his old image. He noted how differently he looked today, but by no means any less handsome or authoritative. Bro had prided himself in being a paragon of gentlemanly comportment. The same still bode true today and always would, he decided proudly. He held the proof of that in his hands.

“Where did you get this?” Ambrosius asked. His voice was so low. He was still caught up in remembering and admiring.

“I stole it from the Historical Society,” Kevin boasted.

For a moment, the corner of Ambrosius’s lips twitched upward. There were times when he could admire Kevin’s mischief, so he chuckled along with him.

“I knew you associated with thieves,” he told the blond, “but I never suspected you were one.”

“Well, this technically didn’t belong to them,” Kevin argued with a smile. “This is mine. Or more specifically, ours.”

Kevin reached for the photo, but Ambrosius pulled it back.

Ours.

That time, Ambrosius fought to hide his smile. He couldn’t let Kevin know how easily defeated he was by a single word. For 165 years, he begged for Tresum to send him a young man to set him free. Finally, when Ambrosius called for Kevin, Tresum obeyed. Ambrosius put himself through amazing sufferings just to make Kevin officially his.

But now, Kevin said ours like they were partners, a duo, a team… Kevin may have been Tresum’s gift to Ambrosius, but this feeling that welled up inside Bro was far greater than possession.

Kevin raised an eyebrow when Ambrosius refused to let go of the photo, but instead of asking for an explanation, he just continued on with the conversation,

“They had your obituary, too,” the boy shrugged, “but I hate the thought of you dead.”

The sadness in Kevin’s voice was a slight diversion. Bro weakened his hold on the photo and Kevin managed to yank it back.

Ambrosius hardly realized that he was no longer holding the photograph.

“I won’t ever leave you,” Bro promised in a dark voice.

Kevin attempted a smile. Then a laugh. “Right…”

Ambrosius glowered and watched as the blond slid his photo back beneath Toby’s as if that were his rightful place – beneath some scruffy, insignificant mortal.

The warlock’s lips thinned at that thought. Ambrosius suddenly became aware of the tension in his shoulders and the agitated sharpness of his breath. He scowled at Kevin’s uncanny ability to build him up one moment then tear him down the next. How was that possible for such a young aspirant? Ambrosius was a Tresum warlock! Such insecurities weren’t supposed to affect him.

The familiar trap had been set. Ambrosius could feel himself walking into it, but Kevin was far too good at manipulating emotions for him to stop now. Before Bro even grasped what was happening, he started to wonder if Kevin ever made that unkempt boyfriend of his feel like this. Was Toby ever frustrated? Haunted by the thought that Kevin could just disappear? That Kevin even wanted to?

Instantly, a wave of violent energy coursed through Ambrosius when he realized that he was thinking of Toby. Of Toby and Kevin together. In a brief moment of weakness, he actually put himself in Toby’s shoes. How could Bro let himself get so powerless?

“We’re going to the club. Now!” Ambrosius growled and made his way to the door.

“Fine,” Kevin grumbled and stopped playing with the wallet, “but I’m going to need a uniform. I don’t want anyone to think I’m getting special treatment just because I’m sleeping with the boss.”

He offered Ambrosius a wink, but the warlock wasn’t amused.

“That’s exactly what I want!” Ambrosius’s insistence was shockingly ominous. “I want everyone to know that you’re mine!”

Kevin pulled his wrist back when Ambrosius reached for it. “I have a fucking idea! Why not get a uniform that says ‘Property of Bro’ on it?!”

“Kevin…” Ambrosius warned. He tried to compose himself, but he found it hard to take a complete breath. “You know I hate it when you’re difficult!”

Kevin snorted his outrage. “I know I promised to serve you, but you’re really pissing me off!”

Ambrosius came to a halt. Then he took a deep breath to push down some of his anger. Kevin had to yield to Bro in order to practice Tresum, but Bro tried to treat him as an equal in anything that didn’t concern magic. It was an adjustment that wasn’t coming easy to Ambrosius.

“Come down to the club with me and you can wear whatever you want,” Bro tried to compromise, but his tone still sounded like he was issuing orders.

“And if I want to stay here?” the blond demanded to know firmly.

Ambrosius could feel a growl working its way up his throat. Relationships were by far easier in 1840. Raymond would have never presented such difficulties.

“Then stay here and wear whatever you want!” Ambrosius barked out crossly.

Kevin crossed his arms, presenting another challenge to Bro. “Then I choose to stay.”

Ambrosius’s face was grim. He was now fully ensnared in Kevin’s trap. The blond knew Bro wasn’t used to having his orders brushed aside, but he would merely have to accept it.

“As you please,” Ambrosius gritted out tensely. “But I won’t be back until late. There’s an empty position at H2Eau and I intend to interview applicants until it’s filled.”

“W-what position?”

Ambrosius recognized that tremor in the blond’s voice. He felt like he was regaining control of the conversation and answered smugly, “Cook.”

Kevin’s eyes widened in shock and outrage. “You can’t just replace Toby like that!”

Anger flickered through Ambrosius, knowing that all their arguments will always be about that first boyfriend. Of course, he promised himself he would never act out his rage when he was around Kevin. He would always remain controlled.

“No,” Ambrosius promised darkly instead. “You will see just how easy Toby is to replace!”

That was Bro’s parting words. He stormed out of the beach house, leaving Kevin to ponder just how true that statement would be.

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Ambrosius was hunched over the bar, trying to prop himself up on one elbow. H2Eau was the most popular club, so he had a huge pile of applicants to go through. After the long day he had, all the chefs started to blend together. The island was hot, so Bro could forgive them for forgetting their shirts, but he quickly grew annoyed when each and every applicant failed to bring along a résumé.

Bro groaned and rubbed at his eyes when relentless boredom swept through him. He was surrounded by so much tanned and glistening skin, but he wasn’t interested in looking at other men while he had Kevin back at home. He couldn’t even appreciate the simple aesthetics of a toned chest anymore because there was only one person he wanted. He was completely dependent on his aspirant.

Bro instantly regretted letting Kevin stay home. He should have just dragged the boy along with him. Kevin would have stayed behind the bar as he fumed with sulky defiance, but a lucky charm didn’t have to be pleasant in order to be effective. Kevin would have pouted a good portion of the day away, but at least that was something they could do together.

Ambrosius was lost in his misery until he heard a light rapping against the bar. It was slow and consistent and rattled him away from his thoughts.

Bro looked up and he saw Griffen standing before him. His sharp claws were tapping away at the wood. Ambrosius looked him over with a tired eye and decided that he had nothing left to say to the other warlock.

“You’re overqualified,” Bro simply sighed and waved the next applicant over.

“That’s not why I’m here.”

Griff grabbed Bro’s whisky glass and inhaled the heavy, oaky fumes. Once he had Bro’s complete attention, he drank it all down. All the while, he emanated a sense of superior air. Bro always resented Griff’s natural authority, so he stubbornly sat upright on his stool. He felt beaten whenever he wasn’t with Kevin, but he wasn’t about to let Griff know that.

Of course, Griff only had to consider Bro’s appearance for a moment before he abandoned his superior edge. Instead, he laid a comforting hand over Bro’s and squeezed.

Ambrosius quickly whipped his hand away. Pity was far worse than superiority. Sadly, his move was far too late. Griff’s gentle gesture instantly reminded him how just a simple touch could be a source of outstanding energy. As much as Ambrosius resented a Tresum Council, Griffen still had many things to show him.

“I feel a tremor every time Tresum is called upon and I know you feel it, too,” Griff said. Although there was a hint of force in his voice, it was mostly said with kindness.

Ambrosius broke eye contact. Griffen was being far too courteous for his liking. He tried not to fidget under the other warlock’s dark eyes, but Bro franticly rubbed at his hand as if he were burnt. Once he stopped himself, he too could feel the forces of Tresum trembling through the earth. The pounding rhythm made his nostril flare. He couldn’t pretend it was Grace’s doing any longer. Someone else was calling upon Tresum.

While Bro already knew it was Kevin, he still awaited Griffen’s next words with painful anticipation.

“We’re lucky the tsunami only wiped out Dante’s Cove,” Griff said, “but the shifting ocean currents are affecting the rest of the world. It's no coincidence this started the day you made Kevin your aspirant.”

Bro was still confused. What concern was the rest of the world as long as he and Kevin were happy? They were already well on their way to fulfilling their destiny together.

“That cannot be possible,” Bro argued. “Tresum chose Kevin!”

“No. Tresum chose you to guide Kevin.”

Griff continued to watch Ambrosius, hoping that he finally penetrated that great big wall of denial Bro liked to hide behind. For the first time since Griff met Bro, Ambrosius Vallin started to resemble a true Tresum avatar.

Griff gave an encouraging nod, even though he knew it would be of no comfort just yet. He knew Ambrosius frowned upon organized magic, but Griffen only served Tresum’s best interest. In time, he believed that Bro would see that, too.

“You are Kevin’s avatar,” Griff reminded patiently. “You feel him at all times.” He then leaned across the bar and pinned Bro with his piercing brown eyes. “Tell me, can you feel him now?”

Ambrosius pulled back as a haunting awareness coursed through him. Something was decidedly wrong. Kevin had rekindled his eternal flame with endless flares of radiance, but in the past few months, he had felt the boy drifting further and further away. Bro knew that if he did not catch hold of him soon, Kevin would disintegrate into the darkness and become yet another casualty of Tresum.

And at that moment, Bro could not even feel the slightest sense of his aspirant. He shot Griff a look that was torn somewhere between horror and outrage.

“You know what to do,” Griffen assured. “Your actions have been nothing less than instantaneous and instinctive. You are a Tresum avatar, after all. Tresum will always show you the way.”

Ambrosius didn’t wait for the words to sink in before he turned away from Griff. The fierce sense of foreboding that gripped him earlier grew remarkably more intense. He found it difficult to breath. It was cruel of Tresum to send him an aspirant only to take him away, but if he had learned anything from Grace, that was a habit of the dark arts.

Usually, Bro would resent Griff for being so understanding, but at this moment he would take advantage of it. He couldn’t fight the overwhelming urge to flee. He just stood up and bolted without offering any excuses.

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Ambrosius saw Kevin’s body sprawl out on the floor long before he entered the beach house. Their home was mostly windows, so he could see his fallen body twitching a mile away. It strengthened Bro’s resolve and he burst through the beach house with crushing determination. He broke through the door and stomped over the broken glass until he reached his aspirant.

Bro grabbed onto Kevin’s neck and pulled him in for a bruising kiss. The boy’s body jerked and bucked beneath him. Ambrosius only hoped that he had enough power left inside him to save his aspirant.

Kevin’s body jumped against his lips as Bro sent a tiny burst of energy through him. When Bro finally released him from his kiss, Kevin’s body went limp in his arms.

Ambrosius closed his eyes and concentrated on Kevin’s heartbeat. Relief surged through him when he could hear it beating away at a normal pace. He pulled Kevin closer to him, eager to feel his weight in his arms again.

Ambrosius pushed back Kevin’s hair. He was sticky with sweat. Bro hated that he let it get this far. Had he been a better avatar, Kevin would not be the feeble, lifeless creature that went limp in his arms. Kevin was so young and headstrong. He needed guidance and restrictions. Bro continued to study him as he lay collapsed in his arms. The blond looked as pure and chaste as untouched sand. Unfortunately, there was nothing as deceiving as innocence…

Ambrosius looked away for a moment and that’s when he saw it. His Sun book was thrown to the ground. Bro’s shoulder drooped a little lower. It was so easy to take away the ceremonial bowl, but Kevin found the one object that could never be destroyed.

“Oh, Kevin,” Ambrosius sighed sadly. He lightly rubbed his fingertips across the boy’s face. “Kevin, Kevin, Kevin…” he continued to murmur against his forehead. He needed to make sure Kevin was still with him and not off on some astral plane.

Ambrosius finally started to breathe easy when he felt Kevin stir in his arms. Once he was fully awake, he tried to stand, but Bro was holding him down.

“Hey,” Kevin greeted breathlessly and attempted a weak smile. Before he knew it, Bro had grabbed his face and was pulling him in for another kiss.

“What happened?” Kevin murmured even before their lips separated.

Ambrosius drew in a refreshing breath. It meant the world to him to have Kevin safe in his arms, but before he could answer him, Bro saw another familiar object on the floor:

Toby’s wallet.

Ambrosius felt himself deflate again. He knew Kevin was trying to project himself to Toby. The wallet was no memento. Just a tool. Kevin needed a personal object to perform any magic that would unite him with Toby.

“That was Tresum’s way of protecting you and punishing you,” Ambrosius said somewhat shakily as he pushed down that feeling of betrayal. Tresum protected Kevin by keeping his physical body on earth and in the present. Tresum punished him by sending his mind somewhere else; very likely the Shadow lands where Toby was last known to be alive.

“Fuck,” Kevin groaned and grabbed at his head. He briefly remembered trying to contact Toby, but the images were all jumbled in his head.

Ambrosius loosened his hold on Kevin. He felt a surging sting in his right hand. He clenched and unclenched his fist to alleviate some of the pain, but the burning sensation was still there.

“I’m sorry,” Kevin whispered.

Ambrosius forgot about the pain in his hand and looked down at Kevin. He realized that the boy remembered just what he had been attempting. Bro severely underestimated the bond between two mortals. It seemed that it was even more powerful than the magical bond between aspirant and avatar.

Of course, Ambrosius would never admit that. He closed his eyes and pressed his lips against Kevin’s forehead. He couldn’t explain how Kevin loved him and a dead man at the same time. That was not part of their destiny; however, that was a fact he could no longer ignore.

Bro kept his lips tight against Kevin’s forehead for a long time. A kiss was something magical between them. It’s what set Ambrosius free and brought Kevin back to life.

Unfortunately, a kiss could not fix everything. Ambrosius immediately realized it sent the wrong message when the blond relaxed against him. While he was grateful that Tresum did not take Kevin away from him, his aspirant was not free from consequences yet.

“Kevin,” Bro said as he regrettably held the blond away from him. “There is a hairbrush in the trunk at the foot of the bed. Bring it to me.”

Kevin stilled in Bro’s arms. He shook his head, still adjusting to the sudden change in scenery. It took a moment to register that Bro requested the hairbrush and then another moment to understand what it was meant for.

“Bro…?” the blond started to plead, but his lips were silenced as soon as Ambrosius lifted his head. Despite sounding calm, Bro’s eyes were consumed with smoke and flame. Kevin instantly realized that he didn’t disappoint his lover - he angered a Tresum warlock.

“Y-yes, sir,” Kevin stammered, immediately assuming his role as aspirant.

Ambrosius waited patiently for Kevin to leave the room. Now that he was alone, he investigated the sting in his palm. Just as he had suspected, his hand was engulfed in a fiery glow. Apparently, he was not the only one angered by Kevin’s behavior. The Sun House wished to make its intention known and deliver a painful sentence to the wayward aspirant.

Of course, that was why Ambrosius sent Kevin away for the hairbrush. While the boy had never been punished by anything other than Ambrosius’s hand and was most likely overwhelmed by the thought of being paddled by a brush, it was a far greater alternative to what the Sun House had planned. With his hand engulfed in flames, Ambrosius would deliver a burning spanking unbearable to an aspirant as young as Kevin. Maybe that was what he deserved, but Ambrosius believed that he was the only one to decide his punishment.

Kevin shortly returned. His appearance was remarkably different than what it had been all day. His head was hung low and he held the requested object in his hand. Ambrosius flex his achy palm before he sat down in his chair and gestured for the brush.

Kevin wavered for a moment. His breaths were harsh. Unfortunately, he knew acceptance was the most important requirement of becoming a Tresum practitioner. If he ever wanted to become a great warlock, he would have to learn to become a tool of Tresum first.

Hating that fact but having no choice but to accept it, Kevin’s hand shot forward and shoved the hairbrush into Ambrosius’s hands before he could change his mind.

For a moment, Ambrosius admired the brush in his hand. It was sturdy and of significant weight. It was crafted from rosewood and embellished with metal initials on its handle.

“It was my mother’s,” Bro whispered when he made the foolish mistake to remember the past.

“What was her name?”

Ambrosius’s eyes snapped to Kevin. The blond seemed genuinely interested. His brown eyes sparkled with enthusiasm that couldn’t have been just a trick to postpone his painful fate.

But Ambrosius pushed that aside. He never spoke to Kevin about his past. Tresum wasn’t about families.

“Lower your jeans,” Ambrosius demanded suddenly.

Kevin cringed. Bro allowed the slight hesitation because he knew Kevin needed to resist. Kevin had been mortal for so long and all humans felt the need to fight for control. It was a bothersome habit, but Bro could overlook it until the winter solstice.

“Come on, Bro…” Kevin pleaded quietly. His face already stung with humiliation.

Usually, Kevin had to fight some inner battle before he could surrender to Tresum, but at times like this, he needed a bit more encouragement. Unfortunately, it came in the form of Ambrosius grabbing his upper arm, spinning him aside, and landing an unforgiving swat on his backside.

Kevin gasped. He felt the surging pain of Ambrosius’s right hand, but did not realize that it was fueled by the displeasure of the Sun House. All he knew was that it stung worse than a bare hand was supposed to. Hot tears immediately pressed against his closed eyelids. He knew he could not afford to make the situation any worse.

Sucking in another breath, Kevin willed his hands not to fly protectively to his backside, even though the burn was excruciating. He found his hand latched onto Bro’s shoulder in a desperate attempt to hold himself up.

Ambrosius paused and just studied Kevin. He found it remarkable that his aspirant could still look to him for comfort in moments like this. He gripped Kevin’s shoulder in turn and squeezed reassuringly. After a couple of minutes, he leaned forward and whispered in his ear,

“Kevin, you’ve done far more than disobey your avatar. Your frequent defiance has unfortunately jeopardized Tresum.” Ambrosius paused for a moment and sharply drew in a breath. He suddenly realized that he was echoing Griffen’s previous warning. He forced himself to continue, “As you well know, Tresum is a powerful force and it will do what it must in order to protect itself. You saw a glimpse of that tonight. The next time you call upon Tresum, it may take its chance to eradicate that problem. I don’t wish to see you slain, but I may not be able to overpower it if you persist on attempting magic without me.”

Bro waited to let his words sink in before he continued firmly, “However, I intend to put a stop to your insolence. Tonight.”

Ambrosius pulled away and awaited Kevin’s reply. He was relieved to finally hear Kevin sniff back a tear. It showed that he was at least remorseful.

“Bro, I’m sooo sorry,” he whispered.

Ambrosius sighed uneasily and tightened his burning hand around the brush. “It’s not just me you have to apologize to. You must make your amends with Tresum as well.”

Bro heard another sad sniff.

“How do I do that?”

Ambrosius gripped the blond by his shoulder and looked him firmly in the eyes. “I need you to pledge your allegiance to Tresum once more.”

“You’re fucking kidding me…” Kevin grumbled quietly, then shot apologetic eyes at Bro when he realized his response was too rash for his shameful situation. It wasn’t exactly hard to say the words, but he needed Tresum to accept his pledge. There was always the fear of Tresum rejecting him and who knew what the consequence of that would be.

“Now!” Bro encouraged.

Kevin shut his eyes and willed his body to relax. He needed to sound sincere when he said the words.

“I give myself to the power of Tresum,” he began in an unsteady voice. “I accept my place. Of my own free will, I commit my life to you.”

Kevin took another breath to stifle his worries and just anticipated Tresum’s next move.

Strangely, the world around him was quiet. The ground was still and the night sky was clear. This was far different from the last time he had offered his allegiance.

When Kevin had finished saying those words, Ambrosius reached out and grabbed his hand. The blond nearly jumped. He did not anticipate such a gentle motion at this stressful moment. It was reassuring, so when Bro squeezed his hand tighter, Kevin licked his lips and met his eyes.

“Kevin,” Bro started slowly, but firmly. “You must understand the words you’ve just spoken—”

“I do.”

“Don’t interrupt. You commit your life to me. You don’t fully understand what that means—”

“I do!”

“Kevin!” Bro warned again. “Let me speak! For over a hundred years, I trained under a Tresum master named Diana Childs. I didn’t even have the use of my hands and I spoke to no one else but her. I dedicated my whole life to serving Diana until it was time to become an avatar of my own.”

Kevin squirmed slightly in Ambrosius’s hold. He knew exactly where this conversation was heading. The situation was uncomfortable enough, with the impending spanking and all, but Ambrosius had a commanding voice that always reminded him of how fragile he really was. It was hard to listen to Bro and not shed a few tears, but Kevin was anxious to remain in control of his own emotions. After all, he knew he would be relinquishing all control shortly.

“Now the time has come for you to serve your avatar,” Ambrosius announced. “I know it’s been difficult for you and I accept most of the blame. I tried to treat you as an equal whenever magic wasn’t involved, but I was foolish to ever be so lenient. Magic is always involved. Tresum is the very air we breathe - we can’t ever escape it, nor would we want to.”

Kevin closed his eyes again, but it didn’t stop a few tears from spilling over. He understood what that meant. Once he let Tresum inside him, he knew he could never give it up. When Kevin felt the wetness race down his cheeks, he pulled his hand away from Bro just to put an end to the conversation.

However, Bro pulled back.

I failed you as an avatar.” Ambrosius’s voice was always firm, but this harsh edge had an effect on Kevin. He knew Bro was making a great effort to cover a tremor in voice, because Bro could never allow anyone to hear him tremble. All Kevin could think about was how this was all his fault. He made his lover feel like a failure.

“I forgot my place as much as you have forgotten yours,” Ambrosius finished.

Bro finally let go of Kevin’s hand so he could reach up and stroke the blond’s face. He had a responsibility to this young charge long before he ever introduced him to magic.

While his left hand was cupping Kevin’s face, he wiped away the hot tears with his thumb and admired the young man that Tresum had deemed worthy enough to be his aspirant. Kevin may have been rash, willful, competitive, and in love with a scruffy mortal, but he was ultimately perfect in Bro’s eyes. He saw all of Kevin’s flaws as mere obstacles. Each once he would gladly tackle because the blond would forever be worth it. It was a choice Bro could never regret.

Sniffling, Kevin reached up to place his hand over’s Ambrosius’s. He felt his strength and his determination radiating beneath his warm skin. Bro’s power was overwhelming at times and Kevin suddenly found himself gasping. It instantly brought him back to when he and Ambrosius first met. While he believed Bro’s initial approach may have been wrong, he never stopped fighting for him.

That was far more than he could say about Toby.

“Do not cry,” Ambrosius said as he watched Kevin’s eyes water again. “I hate when you cry over him. He isn’t worth it!”

The warlock’s words were harsher than intended. Everything he said always sounded like an order, but Kevin learned that was just Bro’s peculiar way of offering comfort.

And Bro was right. Toby stopped crying for him long ago. He shouldn’t be worth a single tear now.

So, Kevin tried to sniff back those tears. He found it astounding that Ambrosius could read him so well that he recognized that Kevin was recalling his time with Toby. It almost made him sick with shame.

“Ambrosius…” Kevin whispered just to say his name. It flowed fluidly from his lips. He rarely said Bro’s true name. He was so used to the modern persona Bro used in order to fit in, but at this moment Kevin knew he had to accept that everything about Bro was Tresum. He could never separate the two.

“I won’t ever leave you,” Ambrosius reminded sternly. “But you must make your choice. Either you serve me and respect Tresum, or you remain mortal without magic. Whatever you chose, I will be alongside you.”

Kevin exhaled sharply and shook his head. He could never go back to a mortal life and just let Ambrosius watch as he grew weak and died. That was never an option.

But it was so hard to give up control. Kevin was too eager to fight for power and Tresum dispensed it so sparingly. Bro had told him it wasn’t just about acquiring magic, but learning how to control it as well. He had tried to teach Kevin that when he had stolen too much in such a short time. Kevin didn’t listen, so now he had to learn Tresum from the beginning.

“I’m not any good at this!” Kevin choked out a sob when he couldn’t answer. He desperately wanted to be a part of Tresum, but knew he could never suppress his own impatience and desires. He just wanted to skip over being an aspirant, not caring that it was part of an important process. Why couldn’t that be an option?

“You don’t have to be,” Ambrosius reassured. He knew the choice Kevin wanted to make. He had known it all along. It was the same choice he had made all those years ago. “Accept my guidance and let me take over.”

Kevin held his breath for a moment. It seemed unfair to let Bro take on the entire burden. But of course, that was part of what being an avatar was. Bro would guide him, teach him, support him, and protect him. As much as Kevin craved power, he hated responsibility. Once he realized that, he understood that he was not responsible enough to be using magic. Especially without supervision from a trained warlock. That explained why all his attempts blew up in his face; that was why the world around them was crumbling.

Kevin slowly began to nod. If Toby was there he would have called him crazy, but Kevin actually trusted Bro. After all, Bro was Kevin’s avatar long before he understood what Tresum was. Every decision Bro ever made was in Kevin’s best interest.

“You accept your place?” Ambrosius asked.

Kevin swallowed back his tears. He couldn’t believe how badly he wanted this, even though he knew the punishment that was to come. “Yes.”

Bro didn’t smile, but there was a definite glimmer in his eyes. “You have no idea how much it pleases me to hear you say that.”

Kevin offered a halfhearted laugh. He had been Bro’s sole object of devotion for over a year now, so he could anticipate Bro’s emotions quite easily. “I have some idea.”

Ambrosius nodded. The blond’s small laughter took some of the pressure off the situation. He released his hold on Kevin and tightened his hand around the hairbrush once again. “Then we must discuss your latest actions. Remove your jeans and lower your briefs.”

Kevin winced just as he did the last time. It was so easy to pledge allegiance. Submitting to it was another thing. In the past, he always tried to overpower Bro, so he never actually felt like an aspirant. Now that he was facing his punishment and trusting Bro’s ability to guide him, he was honestly accepting his place in Tresum. All that was left for him to do was to move forward.

“Kevin,” Bro scolded lightly as a reminder when the blond hesitated. “You must obey me unconditionally.”

“Sorry,” Kevin quickly mumbled. He unbuttoned his jeans and slowly kicked them aside. He hooked his thumbs under the waistband of his briefs and paused momentarily. Finally, he pulled them down with an immediate blush.

So… Kevin was capable of following orders, Ambrosius thought. Of course, upon seeing his face flush, Bro decided that he had put the boy through enough grief for one night. So, he would do as promised and take over. Instead of ordering Kevin to stretch himself across his lap, Ambrosius reached for his elbow and guided him over.

Kevin’s body tightened at first, but eventually allowed himself to be pulled across Bro’s knees. His shoulders were tensed and his throat was painfully clenched. This shouldn’t have been different from the other times Bro had spanked him, but surprisingly it was.

Kevin felt the sudden press of wood against his backside and he instantly flinched. It was cold and heavy against his bare skin. Ambrosius gave him a couple of experimental taps. They were feather light, but Kevin still tensed and shuddered for each one. They barely touched him for now, but Kevin knew the weight behind Bro’s swing. It would only be moments before he felt its full force.

Now done with the experimental taps, Ambrosius rested the hairbrush against the quivering backside. “Kevin,” he ordered. “Give yourself over to me.”

Kevin squirmed against Bro’s thighs. He knew what that meant. He had thought it was difficult to give his pledge to Tresum before, but now in his vulnerable and exposed position, it felt nearly impossible.

“I give myself to the power of Tresum,” Kevin whispered. He couldn’t believe he had to swear his oath in this position. He was laying there bare and waiting. He instantly felt his blush spread over the rest of his body.

“Continue.”

Kevin tried to swallow the knot in his throat. “I accept my place. Of my own free will, I… commit my life… to you.”

The words were quiet and trembling, but Kevin felt that he had never been more sincere. No one had a knife held to their throat. No one’s life was at stake. This was the first time he offered himself to Tresum or Bro without worrying about the repercussions of refusing. Plus, this wasn’t just about being an aspirant. He committed himself to Bro because he never wanted to be apart from him. Bro was violently loyal and Kevin never had that stability in his life. He wanted to prove his commitment to Bro just as Bro had proven it to him.

As soon as Kevin said the words, he felt the ground below him rumble. The skies instantly became dark, except for the flicker of lighting. The thunderstorm was Tresum’s way of debating whether or not to accept his allegiance once more. This was a lot more promising than when Kevin had pledged his allegiance a few moments ago. This time, Tresum was actually reacting.

Kevin felt Ambrosius shift above him, so he grabbed the warlock’s ankle to prepare himself for the first blow. Surprisingly, Ambrosius just leaned forward and pressed his lips against the small of Kevin’s back.

“Powers of Tresum,” Ambrosius whispered into the kiss. “Grant me the gift of the aspirant’s faith.”

The quiet plea against his skin made Kevin shiver. Bro’s hushed words reverberated along his spine and shook his body.

Squeezing Bro’s ankle harder, Kevin felt the hairbrush start to move against his exposed backside. It made Kevin whimper. However, Ambrosius did not pull it back to initiate the spanking. He just rubbed light circles across the blond’s upturned backside. It was enough to make any aspirant squirm.

“Why do you deserve this spanking?” Ambrosius asked sternly.

Kevin sucked in a breath. “I disobeyed your orders.”

Ambrosius pulled the hairbrush back and it came snapping down on Kevin’s exposed cheeks. “Elaborate,” he ordered.

Kevin gasped out a few shaky breaths at the first blow. He was so shocked at the overwhelming pain of brush that he laid stock still. However, he soon realized that Bro was waiting for his response before he continued.

So, Kevin swallowed hard before willing himself to answer, “I used magic without you!”

The brush cracked down again. Soon, Bro was alternating the spanks from cheek to cheek, each one timed with perfect pause to deliver that appropriate sting and color. Once the heat built up, Kevin hissed and yelped for each thwack and felt his hot tears quickly returned.

As much as he was committed to submitting to Tresum, he still couldn’t stop his body from desperately trying to wiggle free from the warlock’s expert aim. The sting swelled up on his backside with rapid heat and Kevin’s instinct was to jump away from the burn. However, all his squirming went unnoticed. Bro simply held him in place with his powerful arm clamped tightly around his waist. The only thing Kevin could do was whimper in protest.

“From now on you only perform spells with two voices,” Ambrosius sentenced with several rapid swats. “That will ensure that we practice Tresum together as partners and that I’m aware of every spell you cast at all times.”

Kevin’s bottom lip was now tightly clenched between his teeth. It stopped most of his groans of protest, but it did not alleviate any of the scalding heat on his backside.

“Do you object?” Bro suddenly asked.

“Fuck…!” Kevin spat out harshly. How was he expected to answer questions while all he could think about was the stinging soreness of his backside? “Nooo!” he squealed when Ambrosius landed several swats in the same area. “I will f-follow your orderssss! I ssswear it!”

“You will learn how to produce effective spells,” Ambrosius continued, never breaking away from his unwavering rhythm of harsh spanks. “I will put an end to you sneaking behind my back to perform spells that are useless. You will not abuse Tresum in such a manner.”

“B-bro! I’m s-ssooooorrry!”

“You needed a personal object for your spells,” Bro spat like an accusation. He momentarily ceased the spanking, but judging by his tone, it appeared that he was not yet convinced by the blond’s apology.

The brief pause sent an ominous shiver down Kevin’s spine. Even though there were no more swats, the agonizing heat continued to radiate from his backside.

“Bro, don’t…” Kevin tearfully pleaded. “Just don’t…”

Ambrosius exhaled sharply, but managed to lighten his tone for Kevin. “Against my better judgment I trusted you.”

Kevin sobbed and tried to push himself away from Bro’s lap. Ambrosius just held on tighter, which caused Kevin to sob even harder.

It was easy to betray Ambrosius when Kevin saw him as just a warlock. But now that he was his boyfriend, Kevin was completely ashamed to have caused him any disappointment. Bro may have misled him in the past, but never once when Kevin finally reciprocated his love. While everything was initially fucked up, Bro changed. He proved himself to be a faithful companion and was even disturbingly honest with all his villainous activities. What did that say about Kevin if he was the deceitful one in the relationship?

Kevin howled when the brush started cracking down again. This time, Ambrosius focused on the most tender part of his bottom. Each smack landed painfully on his sit spots, making Kevin shriek and turn in an attempt to save his raw, burning butt cheeks.

Just when the pain was about to become too overwhelming, Ambrosius stopped again. However, Kevin felt too guilty to try and catch his breath. He didn’t believe he deserved to ease any of the pain. Of course, with the throbbing sting on his backside, he couldn’t concentrate on breathing anyways.

“I’m soooo s-ssoorrrry,” Kevin choked out fitfully. “It just happened!” Then in a burst of honesty, he pleaded, “Please… p-please don’t destroy my photos. I can’t… I just can’t…”

“Kevin!” Ambrosius admonished quickly. At this moment, the conversation was about following orders and respecting Tresum. Unfortunately, Bro looked down at the trembling, limp figure across his thighs and his heart softened.

Ambrosius saw Kevin’s backside quiver as he anticipated the next swats. His round cheeks were now red and shaky. But despite the discomfort, Kevin’s hand was still firmly gripping Bro’s leg. He never moved it. Kevin did not intend to fight the rest of the spanking; he would submit to it like any proper aspirant.

Ambrosius grumbled and gripped the hairbrush tighter. He fully intended to deliver a memorable punishment, but he quickly accepted that Kevin was very lucky that he had an avatar that didn’t care much for rules. While Bro did respect Tresum, he did not think highly of a Tresum Council. Ambrosius would always show mercy for Kevin no matter what the Council thought. He would guide Kevin only as he saw fit.

“The wallet will be destroyed,” Bro stated firmly. “But you may frame the photographs of the witch baby and the ne'er-do-well if it pleases you.”

Kevin sobbed. The pain still stung furiously on his backside, but he was relieved to know that he could keep the memories of his late friends.

But that still left Toby…

Against his better judgment, Kevin sucked in a breath and asked, “What about… T-Toby?”

Kevin felt Ambrosius stiffen beneath him, so he drew in his sob and trembled anxiously. He feared that Ambrosius would take out his hate for Toby on his sore backside.

Surprisingly, the next blow never came.

“I won’t destroy his photographs,” Ambrosius promised. “But they are mine. I shall keep them safe until you are ready to have them, but only I decide when that time comes.”

Ambrosius’s left hand was pinned against Kevin’s back. He could feel a sense of relief pour over the blond, but he was unsettled by Kevin’s obsession over a dirty mortal. He knew he was giving his aspirant too much leeway, but that was hard not to do when he saw Kevin as his lover.

Ambrosius let out a heavy sigh and snapped his eyes shut. The most difficult part was before him now. He hated to see Kevin suffer, but he knew he could put an end to all this trouble if he could just get Kevin to accept one simple truth. So, Ambrosius tightened his hold on Kevin and clenched the hairbrush fiercely in his hand.

“Kevin…” he tried to say softly, but didn’t quite make it. “Toby is dead!”

Ambrosius’s hand flexed around Kevin’s back. He fully anticipated complete resistance. Kevin’s denial about Toby had been remarkable thus far. Sadly, he felt the blond wither across his lap. The sobs he choked out now were hectic and painful.

The hairbrush instantly dropped from Bro’s hand. The sound it made when it crashed against the hardwood floor was louder than the thunder outside. The burn Bro had felt earlier in his right hand was now suddenly gone.

Kevin had trembled across his lap long enough. Instinctively, Ambrosius gathered Kevin up from his position and pulled him to sit in his lap. He rocked the boy’s shaking body as Kevin gripped him fiercely around the neck and cried into his shoulder.

“I love you, Kevin,” Bro insisted against Kevin’s ear.

He couldn’t be sure if the blond heard him. He just pressed his face as tight as he could to the back of the boy’s head, hoping he could get lost in his hair and his familiar scent. Usually, Ambrosius would savor comforting Kevin after a spanking and holding him close, but this was different. As tight as he gripped Kevin, he knew he was consoling him over the loss of another man.

However, Bro still allowed Kevin to sink into his embrace. He landed kisses along Kevin’s neck to remind him that he would never be alone. Still, they seemed to have gone unnoticed as well.

Eventually, the tears stopped, but Bro could still feel his aspirant shuddering within his arms.

Ambrosius untangled Kevin’s arms away from his neck. The boy still looked so distraught.

“You’ve cried far too much for one night,” Bro pointed out. “Go into the kitchen and get a glass of water.”

Kevin stared at Bro. His eyes glistened with more tears at the thought of being sent away so soon. But instead of protesting, he wiped his damp cheek and nodded. He stood away from Bro, pulled up his briefs, and headed for the kitchen alone.

Ambrosius fell back against the chair and looked up longingly at the ceiling. He needed a moment to think. He may have offered his condolences to Kevin after Toby and Adam were lost to the Shadows, but he thought nothing of it when the blond brushed his sympathies aside. He could see now that it was just wishful thinking on his part. His narcissistic mind fooled him into thinking that he had won. Kevin needed to grieve, but he had seen Bro as the bad guy for far too long. He was never able to properly mourn because Ambrosius was secretly celebrating his victory.

Needless to say, Ambrosius didn’t exactly understand just what Kevin had lost. Cursing at himself, Bro stood up and marched into the kitchen.

He leaned against the doorframe as he admired Kevin at the refrigerator. He was obediently gulping down a glass of water as he stood in the middle of the kitchen wearing nothing but his underwear and a tee shirt. His blond hair was disheveled. His face was still red. A touch of pink peeked out from beneath his underwear and covered the top half of his thighs. Along with his tear streaked face, he looked very much like a well-spanked aspirant.

“Her name was Emily,” Ambrosius suddenly announced.

Kevin jumped and turned around. He wiped his mouth and just stared expectantly at the warlock.

“My mother’s name was Emily,” Bro explained clearer.

Kevin sat his glass down. He wanted to hear more, so he watched intently as Ambrosius walked closer.

As he made his way to Kevin, Ambrosius realized that he had discovered a flaw in Tresum. Practitioners were always taught that Tresum was a lonely custom. Witches and warlocks had to sacrifice their friends and family in order to become empowered. They would live in seclusion and rarely interacted with others.

Fortunately, Kevin and Bro’s relationship was untraditional from the start, so Ambrosius felt entitled to ignore a few more of the rules.

Ambrosius Vallin fell in love with his aspirant. He had no desire to ever produce an heir or deliver a child into the Sky House, but he could certainly make Kevin feel that they were a family. The blond certainly deserved one. Bro would begin by telling Kevin about his past and his ancestors. That would also fix whatever misinformation Toby had spouted to him previously.

“She was a remarkable woman,” Bro assured as he stood before Kevin. “She killed my father.”

Kevin raised his eyebrows, efficiently stunned into silence. But then he shook his head. “I wish someone killed my stepfather,” he admitted quietly.

Ambrosius frowned. He lifted his hand to caress Kevin’s cheek. He could almost feel the blow that landed there when his stepfather struck him across the face for the last time.

“No one will ever hurt you again,” Bro swore.

Kevin almost smiled. He eventually nodded. He knew Bro knew all about his past, but now was his time to learn about Ambrosius. “Why don’t you head on over to the couch?” Kevin suggested. “I’ll grab you a beer and then we can talk about it.”

Ambrosius’s face brightened. “I would like that very much.” Then he realized that Kevin was the one issuing orders, so Bro quickly turned it around. “Get me beer and I’ll tell you all about it.”

Kevin offered a quick grin before he went back into the refrigerator.

Ambrosius headed over to the couch and lay down. It felt good to finally relax for the night and there was nothing he wanted more than some downtime with Kevin.

His aspirant shortly entered and placed a bottle of beer on the coffee table. Ambrosius noted that somewhere along the way Kevin had ditched his shirt. Bro completely approved. Kevin crawled on top of him and settled against his chest. Ambrosius sighed and welcomed the warm weight on top of him. Kevin was still hot and sticky from sweat, but nights at the Cove were always humid, so he looked forward to those hot nights they would spend pressed up against each other.

Bro’s hand idly slipped down to Kevin’s backside. It was still hot to the touch and Kevin sniffled briefly at the contact. The quiet whimper was still full of remorse, but that part of the night was over. So, Bro slid his hand back up and wrapped his arms completely around Kevin and savored the closeness that he had longed for all day.

Ambrosius sighed again. He realized that he had backed himself into another corner. However, the only obstacle before him now was finding something nice to say about Emily Vallin.

THE END.