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Whet the Edge

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“Make way, make way, for Corvo Attano, Winner of the Blade Verbena!”

A heavy arm lands on Corvo's shoulders and he winces, grimacing at his inebriated friend. Not that he could blame Antonio for his current state of affairs; the teen had been all too excited for the upcoming Fugue Feast this year, and couldn't wait to spend it dead drunk and as loudly and as sloppily as possible. Corvo laughs and pushes against Antonio as his friend staggers and blearily shakes a finger at the man behind the bar counter.

“I'm his friend and it's Fugue, how about a drink for the two of us?”

“You need another drink like you need a hole in the head,” the barkeep says, chuckling at the swaying, punch-drunk Antonio. The tender keeps an eye on Corvo though; he's clearly of a sounder mind than his companion, with quick feet and light steps.

“But you, eh? You the kid who won the Blade Verbena?”

Corvo has never been the chatty type, and even with such a win under his belt he isn't about to start now. Instead, he flushes at the recognition; the competition had been months ago now, when the spring rains had made a murky mess of Karnaca, but people still knew his young and eager face. And why not? Corvo had been able to take down men twice his age and three times his size, earning him a sort of local celebrity status. Even the Duke himself noticed; Corvo's stomach flips, thinking of how he's to meet with the Grand Guard tomorrow, shipped off to the palace to transcend his street rat life.

He has just one last night to enjoy himself before his fate changes forever.

“Ah, yes, I suppose so,” he lamely supplies. But it's his friend who bolsters him, clapping a heavy, alcohol-warmed hand on Corvo's shoulder.

“You don't know who this is?” Antonio starts, incredulous. The bartender just raises an amused eyebrow at him but Antonio continues, voice growing with every word. “This is Corvo-Void-damned-Attano, and he's the greatest swordsman in all the Isles!”

He cheers loudly and the patrons of the bar join in, leaving Corvo embarrassed as the center of it all. The bartender catches his trepidation and winks, offering the briefest of smiles from under his beard. He fills a glass from the tap and pushes it across the bar to him. Corvo deftly grabs it before it has a chance to fall, eyebrow raised.

“Some spirits for your spirits,” the barkeep explains, amused. “I have a feeling you're going to need them this Fugue.” He nods and motions behind Corvo, where his friend has rallied the patrons of the small pub to line up and see him.

He catches the eye of the tender before taking a hearty swallow of whatever he pushed into Corvo's hands.

It's a bitter thing, the beer he’s been given, but it's laced with hints of fig and pomegranate, making it taste sweeter and sweeter with every swallow. It's not long until his tongue is loosened, the crowd enjoying his harrowing recount of the competition, how each competitor had been all too slow to beat even a teen such as himself.

Eventually Corvo and the crowd find themselves outside, cheering and jeering as patron after patron try crossing swords with Corvo in the back courtyard. It's not long before his eyes are bright, his grin cocky, body buzzing from excitement and spirits and the ease of beating drunken opponent after drunken opponent.

It's when he easily pushes back his fourth challenger that Corvo hears it: above the cheers, the crowds, and the far off Serkonan dance music, someone laughs.

Corvo turns from the faces, sheathing his blade, looking around. A sharp whistle, strong and clear, carries on the wind, prompting Corvo to look up.

There, on the outer wall, partially hidden in the shade of an unruly tree -- with its gnarled overgrown roots and wild spiraling branches -- is a person in a wolf mask. Corvo has time to catch the glint of their steely eyes before they're jumping down from the wall, forcing the crowd to part upon their arrival.

The wolf mask weaves through the bodies straight for Corvo, the ears the only thing visible among the sea of shoulders. Corvo straightens, hand on the hilt of his smallsword.

For his age, Corvo isn't small; he's impressively tall already, standing over most of his peers, but whoever was behind that mask still beat him by a few inches. The eyes behind the wolf face are blue -- but not in a way that is warm, or deep. It's a piercing color, as sharp as it is icy, a blue that judges instead of invites. Corvo's jaw tightens along with the grip on his weapon, but the Wolf just cocks it's head, staring him down.

“Oy!” Antonio calls, sitting on the edge of the crowd, his speech further slurred by at least two more drinks in his system. “If you wanna challenge the greatest swordsman in the Empire, you're gonna have to get in line like the rest of us!”

The crowd rouses, yelling out their agreement. Corvo just sighs, frowning at his drunken friend.

“The greatest, hmm?” The response comes from behind the mask and Corvo jerks back around to face them. The voice is low and smooth, young and masculine -- not weathered by age, and not ruined by the spirits of the holiday. The Wolf puts his hands in his pockets, eyeing Corvo carefully. “You're Corvo Attano, the Blade Verbena winner?”

“You're damned right he is!” the crowd supplies, drunkenly cheering. Corvo can feel his face heat in embarrassment, but the Wolf just looks around with a growl befitting his choice of mask.

“You don't have to answer for him!” The Wolf barks out. He rounds on Corvo again, those blue eyes searching, predatory. “Speak for yourself, of your own deeds. Own them! Did you win the Blade Verbena?”

Corvo frowns, swallowing. “Yes, I did. I won the Blade Verbena. Why, what's it to you?”

The Wolf cocks his head again and paces around Corvo. Corvo watches him carefully, noting his stance, the dirt on his pants, the weathered leather of his boots, the cutlass swinging casually at his side. Instinctively, Corvo follows his movements, and the crowd backs off as they circle each other like pit hounds.

“I watched those fights, you know. Here in Karnaca,” the Wolf says casually. He has an ease to his pace, one that speaks of confidence, of a readiness to strike at any time. “I watched you fight.”

The Wolf stops, losing all pretenses.

“And you are terrible.”

Corvo stiffens as the crowd sneers, offended. The Wolf sees this and just shrugs.

“It's true. Your stance is off, your technique unrefined and unpredictable. You're like a jagged edge that hasn't been honed -- honestly, it's a miracle you even came out on top.”

Corvo can feel the heat of anger rising in him, mirrored in the crowd around them. He is here, on the eve of joining the Duke's guard based on his skill alone. He doesn't need or want criticism over a tournament he won.

“If you know so much, why didn't you enter the Verbena?”

“I don't need pomp and circumstance to verify my own skill at the sword,” the Wolf responds, “And certainly not a gaggle of amatuer followers.”

“So what, did you come here to challenge me yourself then?” Corvo sneers back. “So much for not needing validation for your own mastery.”

“No,” the Wolf purrs softly. “I came to teach you what it means to wield a sword.”

Corvo's heart jumps as the Wolf pounces, his cutlass flashing out like fangs. If there was any remaining fog from his buzzed state earlier, it flees Corvo now, the sharp awareness of a fight overtaking all his senses.

His smallsword unsheathes to meet the opposing blade in the nick of time, the sound of the clash reverberating around the small square. The crowd hushes and backs off, surprised by the quick shift in the atmosphere. Corvo and the Wolf press against each other, testing strengths, searching for limit breaks.

“Kick his cocky ass, Corvo!” Antonio cries from somewhere behind him, and the crowd can't help but agree. Bolstered by the added energy, Corvo pushes the other boy off, adrenaline pumping through his veins as he readies a responding swing.

The strike is clean, fast, quick; Corvo knows it is. Yet even so, the Wolf simply sidesteps and blocks, his head tilting in an almost bored fashion. Corvo growls, hops back, and tries again.

The blow is blocked once more. Corvo goes aggressively offensive, his sword swinging and dancing and whistling through the air towards his goading challenger. But every swing is stopped, dodged, parried or pushed back. The crowd cheers each strike, hoping for a landing blow that never comes. Irritated, Corvo snarls, swinging his sword as fast as he can, hoping to catch the masked man off guard.

But the predator is far too awake and far too observant. His eyes flash and he strikes, as fast as a snake. Before Corvo can breathe, the wolf has ducked down, the cutlass grazing and slicing through his cottoned shirt. A terrified thrill runs through Corvo as he feels the breeze on his skin.

“Your stance is too wide,” the Wolf says, voice low. “Pull in your feet before I slice your tendon in two.”

Corvo doesn't need telling twice. His legs snap and spring, sending his feet spiraling over the arms of the Wolf, landing behind him. In an instant his sword is up, sparks flying as steel meets steel once again. Corvo grimaces and the crowd hushes.

None of them came so close to landing even a scratch to Corvo, yet the Wolf nearly managed it within the first three minutes.

“Try again,” the Wolf rasps out. “Watch. Focus. Listen. Learn.” The next swing comes like lightning, their clashing blades the responding thunder. Corvo’s arm shakes with the force of impact.

“Beat me, Corvo,” the Wolf snarls, voice a whisper meant just for him. “Or I'll kill you.”

Something deep curls in Corvo's stomach then, a primordial instinct that has nothing to do with adoring crowds or tournament glory. It is the feeling of survival, that deep-seated fear of losing his life, the one thing he’s ever been able to truly call his own.

In that instant, everything changes. Corvo unfurls; with the flow of water he fights with fire, striking and swinging and narrowing his focus on only his predator of an opponent. He presses his attack with the cold precision of a whaler’s harpoon, holding nothing back, striking for places he know will kill. He swings for the neck, the cheek, the tendons, the thighs; all his blows are blocked, parried away, but there's an intensity there that didn't exist before. Those cold blue eyes widen, alighting in the excitement of the battle, watching Corvo's every move. The Wolf makes each swing with purpose, just like every strike from Corvo now carries deadly intent.

“There he is,” the Wolf breathes out. “That swordsman I was searching for.”

Something in those words stokes at the fire already burning him, and he doubles his efforts, losing himself in the process. The crowd dissolves away as Corvo's senses hone in on his foe, memorizing stance and pose and swing. He barely registers the small cuts he accrues, only remembers the soft snarl of correction, the purr of encouragement. Each step makes him burn brighter and it isn't long until they are breathless, silent, pushing and pulling against each other.

Corvo has never, in his life, had such a deadly opponent. He's had people try to jump him in alleys on the way home, had men try and take advantage of his features, seen a worker push his father off of the lumber ramparts and call it an accident -- but those kills had all been swift, done out of fear and anger and adrenaline against men who knew no better, who did not realize the power Corvo's small steady hands possessed until he had already shoved his switchblade into their neck, their eye, their stomach….

He projects those old nightmares onto the mask of that Wolf now, pushes himself to best them all once again, his fear of death bubbling just under the surface, powering each swing. It consumes him, steadying his sword, measuring his blows.

And yet, time after time, his blows are turned against him.

He loses track of how long they go. He barely notices as the crowd thins, as Antonio yells to him, telling Corvo he's moving on. He doesn't look back and he doesn't care because all that matters now is that Wolf and those eyes and making sure he keeps his life because it's all he's ever called his own.

The Wolf meets his gaze. He swings and throws his arm too far. Corvo catches the mistake, finally finding his opening.

The song of steel crashing together rings out. The wolf mask flies off and a sword clatters to the ground, out of reach and out of use.

Corvo pants, holding the point of his smallsword under the chin of his foe. The unmasked wolf grimaces against the point of the weapon as Corvo hears his own breath catch.

His combatant, as it turns out, is barely older than he is. Perhaps he has a few years on Corvo, perhaps he's around the same age as Antonio, but he's much younger than Corvo anticipated. His challengers almost always leaned far older , as if beating a teen would make someone in their third or fourth decade feel better about themselves.

No, this boy had to be a teen, with those hard, ice-blue eyes, jet black hair cut short and slicked back, face clean and sharp and unweathered by time. Corvo stood there, studying his tanned, sweating skin for far too long, too stunned to act, his smallsword still resting just beneath his rival’s jaw.

“Well?” The Wolf-turned-boy finally asks. “Are you going to finish it, then?’

Corvo blinks, then lets his brow furrow. With a small laugh, he pulls his blade away, sheathing it, leaving his rival none the worse for wear.

“No, no,” Corvo pants out. “I wouldn't go that far.”

“I told you I would kill you, though.”

“If you won,” Corvo corrects, wiping his pants off. He checks a few cuts on his arm; small bites given by the Wolf's fangs. “But I don't think you really meant it. If you did, you wouldn't have told me how to beat you.”

“It was in your eyes, that intent.”

Corvo looks over; the Wolf is still standing there, watching him carefully.

“Up until I lost that mask, you wanted to kill me.”

Corvo lets his gaze break, looking away.

“It was nothing.”

“It’s what made you win,” the Wolf tells him. “Both now and in the tournament.”

Corvo watches as he turns, picking his cutlass up, checking it over before sheathing it.

“Everyone goes to that stupid Blade Verbena with thoughts of honor and glory, but not you. You fight like your life depends on it. I'm glad I got to see it for myself.”

“It's just how I fight,” Corvo argues, and he realizes he doesn't even know why. It's like he needs to prove this teen wrong, if only because we walked in on Corvo's fun and acted like he knew him so well. “You said so yourself, it lacks finesse.”

“Finesse doesn't matter if it gets you killed. But when you already fight like you're afraid to die, well, learning finesse can… help.”

The boy holds a hand out to Corvo, who stares at it, startled. For a moment, only the Serkonan Fugue music floats on the heavy air. Corvo’s brow furrows, looking from the hand to the teen’s face. The Wolf just rolls his blue eyes, flashing a toothy grin.

“Come on. It’s Fugue. Let's dance.”

Corvo swallows, looking around. The fight went so long the crowd has long since dispersed, gone off to enjoy the holiday elsewhere. Even Antonio had wandered off, and Corvo absently hopes his friend doesn't end up face down in a gutter. Again.

“I already know how to dance,” Corvo hears himself reply. He can't meet his rival’s eyes, but the hand never lowers.

“It'll help with your swordwork,” he encourages. “I promise.”

Corvo looks back to him, and really looks this time. His eyes trail up his outstretched arm, over his relaxed, loose, open stance, landing to waver too long on those blue eyes. Before, Corvo would have called them cold, piercing even. Now they are soft, the light of the alley shining off them in the most peculiar of ways.

Down in the streets the song shifts, taking on a different lilt. The boy's smile grows; Corvo looks away, feeling his face heat.

“Let me show you.”

Corvo huffs out a laugh, his eyes rolling, trying to shrug off the new feeling roiling in his gut. Because it's nothing -- it's just a dance during Fugue, and he needs to get over himself.

“Sure. Alright, let's dance.”

He reaches out and takes his hand. It's warm where it settles in his palm: Corvo steps in closer, allowing himself to be lead. In unison they both breathe in, listening for the beat, falling easily into the set rhythm.

It's an old Serkonan song, one Corvo recognizes as a Karnacan original. The steps are quick and precise: he's had them memorized practically from birth, learning from his mother and sister, from the kids around him, from the performers in the dusty streets. His partner clearly knows the dance as well; in tandem, they both count their steps, falling together and pulling apart as the song dictates. As natural as water down the Serkonan canals they flow together: before Corvo knows it, their faces are close, hands brushing hips and shoulders, gently pushing and pulling, guiding each other through the verses.

“Who would've guessed you're as good a dancer as a swordsman,” the Wolf whispers against Corvo's ear, and that feeling in his stomach coils tighter. He swallows, focusing on the steps instead of his voice.

“Likewise,” Corvo responds, immediately cursing how his words waver in his throat. His partner laughs and Corvo’s thoughts disengage long enough for his footing to be momentarily lost.

“Hmm, still not so good when distracted,” the boy purrs, correcting Corvo's steps smoothly. Corvo's face heats and he dares to glare at the other, his anger faltering at the smile he finds waiting for him. The boy's eyes go from Corvo's face to his feet as he guides them into the next step. Corvo follows, mouth contorting into a half-hearted smirk.

“You wanted to dance the whole time, didn't you?” Corvo asks, and the Wolf's mouth twitches. “You did, ever since you came in with that hideous mask on your face.”

“My mask isn't hideous,” the boy interjects, “But it is useless now, thanks to you.”

He and Corvo pull apart and come together before the Wolf says anything further.

“I just wanted to test you,” he confesses, “And I don't like an audience.”

“Neither do I,” Corvo agrees. His partner raises an eyebrow, pulling their bodies and faces close.

“Really?” He muses. “You seemed to enjoy the attention.”

Corvo huffs out a laugh, daring to lean closer. He swallows, choosing his words carefully.

“I guess it just depends on where the attention is coming from.”

The boy's eyes visibly darken and he smiles, thrumming with a deep sound of approval. Corvo’s grip tightens, trying to quash the growing lump of something in his throat. But he also can't help but notice how close they already are, how easy it would be to simply just…

Corvo's eyes flick to the Wolf's mouth, dangerously close and devilishly tempting. The action doesn't go unnoticed; the Wolf breathes in, lips parting.

Corvo tilts his head and closes the gap, capturing the boy’s mouth in his. It's a light thing, a tentative brush, but he's close enough now to smell the scent off the teen’s sunkissed and salt-licked skin, and he breathes deep, already drunk on the aroma of it.

The Wolf stiffens. Corvo wakes up.

His face heats and his eyes fly open and he moves to pull away, to respect the other's interests as quickly as possible. But a strong grip holds him in place and Corvo looks up, worry coloring his expression.

That fear flees as their eyes meet, and Corvo's brain stutters to a halt as his rival leans in, chasing after the air in his lungs.

The contact of their mouths is more complete this time; instead of a chaste touch, this kiss is full, eager, insistent. It sends a thrill through Corvo as his eyes slide shut, his lips responding to his partner’s enthusiasm.

Corvo was no stranger to courting; at least, of course, when it came to girls. Before and after the tournament, he had his fair share of admirers, of those willing to chase his quick feet, swooning over his long hair and fresh face and strong arms. He had indulged a few but found their fancies fleeting, more interested in the gossip created from a kiss than Corvo himself.

But this is different than girls wanting to sneak a kiss for bragging rights or a quick bit of fun. This is the thrill of competency, of equality in all its forms, someone to match him blow for blow. This was the first time someone was interested in Corvo for Corvo, not for the fame or the glory currently surrounding him. He can't stop himself from melting into it, soaking up the sudden and overwhelming sense of want from the other body.

The song stops. A crowd cheers.

Like a livewire, Corvo pulls himself away, heart hammering in his chest as he looks around. It takes him a moment to realize that the excitement is not towards him but down the street, a ways away from the tiny back alley behind a local tavern. The air is too hot, too close, and he takes a step back, clearing his throat.

He keeps his eyes down the alley, listening to the crowds of Fugue. His face burns and he's all to aware of himself. He can't even muster the courage to look back to the other teen.

“Sorry.”

The apology comes from both of them. Corvo glances sidelong at the Wolf; his hands are in his pockets, face sullen and hard and looking everywhere but at Corvo.

Corvo can't stop the laugh. He doubles over, a hands on his knees while another rakes nervously through his hair. The other boy raises an eyebrow at him.

“I'm sorry,” Corvo starts again. “I don't usually do stuff like…” his hand waves between them. “Like this. I don't even know your name or anything and I'm--”

“I'm a nobody. Name's not important.”

Corvo looks back up, pushing the hair out of his face. The Wolf looks away, rocking on his heels, hands still obstinately jammed deep into his pockets. Corvo's brow furrows, confused.

“Well clearly you're someone. You went toe to toe with me, better than anyone ever has, and you still taught me to be a better fighter.”

“Yeah well, I don't really wanna go into how or why I know all that stuff, okay? I'm a nobody, Attano.”

Corvo blinks, studying him. Where his rival was once open and casual, his whole body is now stiff, jagged, rough, closed off. Corvo can't help but wonder if this is who this person really is, a mask of a man that hides everything behind it, even his name. Corvo swallows, fingers flexing.

He straightens up, and offers his hand. The other boy, nameless and alone, looks at it warily.

“It's Fugue Feast,” he says, trying to catch his breath enough to form words. “And I don't need a name, or a sob story. But I would like to spend our time outside of time together. If that's okay with you, of course.”

The other teen doesn't move. Corvo's heart hammers in his ears and he does his best to push down the growing feeling of panic. He plays it cool as he shrugs, rolling his eyes.

“Besides, the kissing was nice,” he mutters out like an afterthought. “Don't get to do that with guys very often.”

Corvo watches as the Wolf's eyes widen, pink coloring his cheeks. His eyes dart nervously.

“You -- really?”

“No, I'm lying. It was terrible.”

The Wolf curls his lip.

“That's not particularly funny. I don't have a lot of practice.”

Corvo grins, taking a step closer. When his rival doesn't back away, he continues to close the gap between them.

“You're telling me you dance that well and you don't get many advances in response?”

The Wolf growls at him, his eyes hardening. “You said I didn't have to go to into--”

Corvo grabs his arm, gently stilling him.

“I enjoyed it,” Corvo finishes, mind set. “If you did too, I'm giving permission for you to--”

The words die in his throat as warm calloused hands grasp his face, pulling him in and kissing him quiet. But Corvo can't stay silent for long, not when the other teen is so close. A pleased moan rumbles up and Corvo can feel his face heat in embarrassment -- but his partner just laughs against his lips, chuckling between chaste pecks before leaning back in. His fingers card through Corvo's hair and tug at the tied-back strands as their faces tilt, pushing and pulling against one another.

When a soft tongue licks against his lips Corvo all but whines, opening his mouth up to the other’s wishes, pulling him in by the lapels of his shirt.

Spirits, Corvo never thought something so mundane and everyday could feel so perfect. He's had plenty of kisses, some better than others, but there is something lingering here, a feeling more than just nervous glances and forbidden romance. Instead it's a full body energy, one that feels powerful and cosmic, and Corvo can't help but wonder if fate knew they would be here, dancing and fighting and knowing one another as intimately as if they been running together their whole lives.

A yell, a shout, crashing glass. They break the kiss to look around, the commotion coming from somewhere behind them. An odd reality settles back down on them: even in a tight Karnacan back alley, they are still ridiculously open and exposed.

Corvo moves to pull away, eyes upward and searching, but a strong hand keeps him in place. He resigns himself, not moving too far away, but can't stop the blush as a nose buries itself into his shoulder, breathing deep and spreading kisses. Corvo coughs out a sound, an overwhelming feeling of arousal coiling in his stomach.

“You thinking we should go somewhere else?” The low voice mumbles against his skin, and Corvo can feel the vibration of it all the way down his spine. He turns to the other, flashing a toothy grin.

“Sure, but only if we get there by my route.”

His partner just furrows his brow, looking at Corvo quizzically, but it’s a look that turns to shock as Corvo pulls away and deftly climbs up the wall the Wolf had been sitting on earlier. He grabs for a branch before peering down, the other boy just watching him in a slight awe.

“You want us to climb?” He asks, skeptical.

Corvo just shrugs, laughing.

“Sure. I know this city like the back of my hand. Come on.” He holds a hand out to his partner who laughs, shaking his head before taking Corvo's offer. Corvo helps pull him up, immediately looking for the best route to scale up the apartments of the alley.

It isn't long before the tree becomes a pole, which becomes a balcony ledge, which becomes a lamp post and then a roof. Corvo leaps from one resting spot to the next, a laughing cat as he watches his new friend struggle and curse and try to follow after him. The chase continues on the roofs, where both boys have sure footing, the top of the city theirs while the festivities continue below. Corvo does his best to stay an infuriating few steps ahead, twisting out of the reach of grasping hands and shouted curses.

He should have known he would have gotten too cocky, running around up on his rooftop domain. Maybe then he would have seen the open skylight window, could have stopped himself before he slipped against the dusty glass, falling into the abandoned apartment below. He at least has the quickness of mind to grab for the ledge, listening to the glass shatter onto the old wood floorboards below.

“Corvo!” He hears the other teen call. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I'm fine,” he coughs out. “Give me a hand, help me up.”

His friend laughs, leisurely walking over to Corvo's hanging predicament, but that doesn't register to Corvo's ears as much as the low buzz from the back of the dark room, one that grows louder with every passing second. Something hard and sharp and circular brushes against his leg and he whips out his smallsword, slashing it against the intruder instinctively. The metal comes away with a splash of shining, angry red, and the buzzing quickly grows all the more agitated as a black swarm heads for him.

Bloodflies.

Corvo's throat catches and his legs kick out, scrambling for purchase. He manages to swing at another few flies but his thin sword isn't suited against a swarm the dangerous bugs. Soon Corvo is gasping against angry stings, the sound of their wings filling his ears.

Corvo hears a shout and then a deafening boom; the gunshot rings in his head and reverberates around the small apartment. The teen shouts again and then another round goes off; Corvo hears a splitting and splattering as the bloodfly nest falls apart and onto the ground. The remaining flies leave Corvo to go salvage their nest, and a firm, hot hand is there on Corvo's, finally pulling him up and to safety.

“Outsider's eyes, Attano, look before you leap!” His partner growls down at him, the anger laced with far too much worry. Corvo just laughs, sitting up where the boy managed to drag him, catching his breath. “I thought you knew these roofs like the back of your hand?”

“I do, I swear I do,” he grins out. “Forgot that old apartment was here. It's been empty for ages.” Corvo's words come out in heavy pants as he looks up, catching the hard stare of his friend before quizzically motioning at the gun in his hand.

“Where did you even get that?”

The teen looks at the pistol, turning it over in his hands. He shrugs.

“I nicked it,” he supplies. “From a-- a while back. Hardly use it, though.”

“Fair enough,” Corvo laughs. “Glad you used it to save my ass.”

“Well, it's a nice ass,” the teen shrugs. “Worth saving.”

Corvo flushes and laughs, fidgeting as he looks down and away. The other teen joins him, watching as a few of the bloodflies escape up into the heavy night air. They're both silent for a time, out of breath and out of energy, sitting shoulder to shoulder, watching the stars pass above, listening to the music and festivities below. The silence is comfortable between them, and they both absorb it like a sponge.

For the first time in Void knows how long, Corvo feels content, or at least, something close to it. It doesn't last long; immediately his stomach curls in on itself as he remembers what new life awaits him once time resumes. He was going to go from a low-born street urchin to a trained part of the Duke's own personal guard, a position usually reserved for the sons of nobles.

He chews his cheek, watching the clouds obscure the stars far above.

He sees movement out of his peripheral; next to him, the other teen lifts an arm to the sky, his hand making an L shape and his head tilting. He squints; after a while, he seems happy with what he sees and brings his hand back down, the fingers searching for a cigarette to light instead. Corvo watches him absently, the flame of the match lighting up his face, dancing across his features before it's flicked out, a curl of smoke replacing it.

“Got another one of those?” Corvo asks, knocking his knee against his partner's. The older teen just raises an eyebrow at him before offering the drag already at his lips.

“You smoke?”

“I do today,” Corvo says matter-of-factly, taking the cigarette from his fingers. He takes a drag before coughing and handing it back. The other boy laughs, rolling the stick between his lips, and Corvo can't help but track the action.

“What was that thing you did?” he asks, and the other boy raises an eyebrow at him. “With your hand. I'm curious.”

The Wolf shrugs. “My mother lived on the seas for a long time. She taught me how to use the stars to find my way home.” He pulls a long draw from the cigarette before blowing out the smoke and tossing the stick over the rooftop. “Not much good it's done me though. Haven't been home in a long while.”

“And where's home?” Corvo asks, shoulder brushing against his friend's. When the boy presses back, he considers it a win.

“Cullero. You?”

Corvo waves an arm over the city skyline, the alleys and rooftops and secret passages so well known he could probably draw the maps in his sleep. The other hums in acknowledgement, nodding.

“I don't know how much longer, though,” Corvo admits, his trepidation and self-doubt rising. “Once Fugue ends, I'm won't just be a street kid anymore. I'll be somebody.”

“You don't sound happy about that,” the older teen observes, and Corvo shrugs.

“It's just going to be different. Things will be expected of me. Life will change. I don't know if I'm ready for it.”

“I understand,” his friend responds, and Corvo looks at him. His gaze is somewhere far off, his head leaning towards Corvo as he turns another cigarette in his hands. “I'm leaving Serkonos, after this, for -- for work. I don't know if I'll ever come back.”

“You can't know that,” Corvo replies, incredulous. The warm shoulder shrugs against his.

“Nobody knows anything, Attano.”

“You know my name.”

The Wolf huffs out a laugh, a smile twitching on his lips.

“Yeah, I do. And what a dangerous thing that is to know.”

The boy leans into Corvo's space and Corvo is quick to meet him halfway, to bring their lips back together again. Despite the eagerness spreading in his veins, the kiss is lazier than their last, slow and deliberate. Fingers card through sweat slicked hair, trace along skin and muscle and bone.

Alone and secluded above a hot and heavy Fugue night, their breathing hitches and their pulses quicken, both doing their best to explore and memorize the other before time resumes and life calls to them again.

The next day, Corvo wakes up to the sound of the morning bell ringing in the court, signaling the new year. He breathes deep, watching the purple of the night sky flee from the rising sun still lost behind Shindaerey Peak.

He's alone. He's not surprised.

He rolls over, stiff from falling asleep on the hard stone of the roof under him. He sniffs his shirt and grimaces, smelling of smoke and  sweat and someone else, not just himself. He remembers his partner falling asleep on his chest, the two of them curled up together; an undeniably uncomfortable position, but neither of them had been particularly eager to move. Not when in just a few short hours they knew they would have to separate, going back to the uncertainty of what lay before them.

But then again, nobody knew anything. He didn't even know his Fugue stranger's name.

Perhaps it’s better this way, he tells himself, straightening his shirt and listening to the sounds of the morning around him. Life would still go on, regardless of if he knew a name or not.

Perhaps they'd never see hide or hair of each other again.

Corvo looks around, gathering anything he may have dropped from last night. He catches sight of it on the rooftop ledge; furred and eared and nearly sliced in two, the wolf mask rests there, watching him.

Corvo huffs out a laugh, picking up the mask, running a thumb along the cut his sword made in the fur. Then he tosses it off, watching it catch on the air before falling onto the streets below.

Perhaps his opponent didn't want to be remembered, didn't want to be known. But Corvo would remember, he already vowed to. Because how could he forget?

Even as life moves on, as he enters the Duke's employ and gets carted off to Dunwall. Even as he hands his precious life over to the Empress herself. Even as he falls in love all over again, with someone different and unexpected and so much better than he is. He doesn't forget, always gives himself time to remember.

A hot Serkonan Fugue. A cocky grin.

And an extended hand asking him for just one more dance.