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Seven-Foot-Something And Absolutely Fucking Clueless

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“Hey, Brad?”

He smiled. “Yes, Taako?”

The room was quiet, and the lights of the Candlenights bush seemed to infuse his pale hair with colour. Even his eyelashes, long as they were, swept through a wash of reds and purples and blues every time he blinked.

Elves were beautiful, he thought, but Taako was truly something singular to behold. It was a thought he had every time he saw him.

“Where are you sleeping tonight?”

It was a bizarre question, but a benign one, and Taako’s smile was a bit strange. “In… in my quarters. Why do you ask?”

Taako, for some reason, gestured to him with the pointer fingers of both hands and winked. “Well, my man,” he said, voice a little muddy with intoxication, “you could be sleeping with me.”

For the first time in a very long time, Brad “The Motivator” Bradson, third of his name, was utterly at a loss. He felt his face do something unfamiliar. That was all any part of him had time to do, because Taako saw and Taako reached into the box of bottles under his arm and Taako promptly vanished from their shared plane of reality, all within the space of maybe three to five seconds.

“Uh,” Brad said, because that was all there was to say, and then, “huh?”

He stood there, flummoxed, because it sure seemed an awful lot like Taako had just genuinely sexually propositioned him. In fact, the more he thought about it, the more he found himself drawing a blank on any other explanation.

He knew he was attractive. He wasn’t unaware of his charm. Knowing the possibilities and limits of one’s charisma was the foundation of successful barding.

But this was Taako.

Taako, who seemed to make an effort to forget who he was, no matter how many times they met.

Taako, who had, on at least one occasion, made eye contact with him and then made sure to comment on how he was “just the pits” to a mutual acquaintance loudly enough to ensure he heard it.

Taako, who had saved the universe and could probably destroy him with a cantrip. Taako, who could probably get away with it.

He was stressed. He was exhausted. He’d been sampling his own goods throughout the night. He’d misunderstood, surely.

He looked at the box under his arm.

Two bottles were missing.

His eyes swept the room, already knowing he wouldn’t find them tucked or forgotten in some nook or corner, and then returned to the conspicuous gap in his bottles.

Two.

Of course. Taako had taken two.

He’d taken two just before he’d disappeared. Just after he’d-

After he’d invited Brad to sleep with him in a way he really didn’t get the impression was intended to be platonic. Even if Taako was an alien, they were still speaking the same language, and he knew for a fact that Taako understood innuendo.

“Huh,” Brad said again, still standing in that same spot, rooted to the floor.

Brad had spent the evening assuming he was just playing nice with him because he was the one with the beer. It was an extremely mercenary behaviour for Taako to engage in. Not once had he questioned the potential authenticity of his assumption.

He’d just been enjoying experiencing a friendlier side of Taako’s personality for once, fully embracing the reality that it would vanish the second he no longer had something to offer. More than once, he’d even had the uncharitable thought that if he’d known bribing Taako with beer was all it took to make him behave as prettily as he looked, he might’ve done it before. Back at Camp Goodfriend, maybe.

The thought that Taako would smile at him not because he wanted something, but-

Except, well, he did want something from him, didn’t he? It was just that it was something different than he’d thought he wanted.

Huh,” Brad said a third time, sleepless brain finally coming to grips with what had just happened.

Taako had been drunk, of course. Unquestionably so. One of Brad’s beers was probably enough to sway a little creature like him.

He knew the idea that he’d have expressed a similar sentiment while sober was pure delusion.

Still, it was flattering.

If, well, a little physically improbable, all things considered.

***

He wasn’t entirely sure why he was doing this.

By ‘this’, he meant waiting in front of the elevator he knew Taako had to pass out of to leave the base.

He told himself he just wanted to clear up any misunderstandings.

When the doors open and he saw him, even as he was saying,

“Taako,”

he already knew it was more than that, but there was no time: Taako had disappeared again.

He cast Detect Magic almost without thinking.

***

He was furious. He looked like he wanted to kill someone.

He’d never looked more beautiful.

Taako was flushed. His face was a mottled patchwork of colour where the blood had come to the surface: all sorts of purples, some of them bruise-deep, particularly in his cheeks and over the bridge of his nose. His eyes were wild, panicked. His upper lip was lifting away from his teeth in a weird rictus of a snarl. He was out of his element, here, in this moment. He was vulnerable.

He was magnificent.

“Oh, look at you,” Brad murmured, and something that had been wound tight in Taako broke. His fingernails scratched the back of Brad’s hands as he slapped them away from his face.

“Are you in,” he seethed, “or are you out?” His knee was jumping. He kept driving his heel into the floor like he was trying to crack the tile with his boot. “I asked you a question, Brad mother-fucking Bradson.”

It was then he realized it: it wasn’t just opportunistic.

Taako wanted this. Wanted him. He was antsy, and he was angry because he wanted him and having been exposed as wanting something had him at a disadvantage.

It was a strangely breathtaking experience, that realization.

Brad couldn’t help it.

He laughed.

He laughed and he kissed him.

“I’m in.”

***

Gods, but he was more gorgeous than ever like this, pressing himself in close, eyes half-lidded, small and soft and cool. His pulse fluttered like a trapped bird under Brad’s tongue.

“-Or wherever, I don’t give a fuck-” he was gasping, hand slapping weakly at Brad’s shoulder like he was afraid he’d lost his full attention. As though that was even possible.

Brad shifted him in his arms, lifting his face from his throat as he carried him out of the hall and into the living room. “Where to?”

The period of time that elapsed between Taako pointing in a seemingly random direction and Taako burying his hands in his hair and his tongue in his mouth was so miniscule that it was a miracle he caught the gesture at all. The journey to the bedroom seemed infinite- he had to walk carefully, feeling out the path with each foot before moving forward, blinded by his armful and faceful of elf. He found and navigated through the doorframe by pure luck, grateful to find the door already open.

When he dropped Taako onto the bed, he half-expected him to disappear again.

He didn’t.

***

The moment Taako pressed down on him, the moment he breached that tight ring of muscle, also happened to be exact moment Brad realized that if Taako gave up halfway he was going to have a truly incomparable case of blue balls.

He was tight, but the good kind of tight- pliant, wet, and welcoming. The kind of tight that didn’t make him nervous that something was going to tear but still hugged every contour of his cock.

“You’re doing so well, Taako,” he reassured him. His own voice sounded like it was coming from another plane. “You’re doing so, so well.”

He didn’t dare put his hands anywhere but on Taako’s knees, didn’t dare stop and rest them on Taako’s thighs. He wanted to be deeper. His whole body wanted it. Every time Taako let out a little noise or a gasp, he felt it.

This was the stupidest thing he’d ever done- on several levels, at that- and he couldn’t imagine ever regretting it.

Taako let out a shaky little sigh and looked down as he bottomed out. For a second, Brad just stared at the point where Taako’s ass met his hips, uncomprehending, and then he slid his hands up him to cup his face, struck by an almost religious feeling of gratitude.

“Amazing,” he told him. “Taako, you’re amazing.”

“I’m honestly not sure where I put it all now that it’s inside me,” Taako answered. He looked a little unbelieving, as though even he wasn’t sure if this was really happening. “Did I just fucking die halfway through? No, my boyfriend would be here if I did.”

Brad laughed at that. He felt a jolt go through Taako’s body as he did, and grunted when he scrabbled at his chest for stability. “Oop, there it is, it’s definitely in there, no doubt about it,” Taako babbled.

Brad pulled him close and kissed him. He could feel his pulse in the tight, wet sheath encasing his cock. It was making it hard to think. “You’re fucking amazing,” he told Taako again, squeezing and rolling the soft flesh of Taako’s ass in his palms. “I… legitimately can’t believe you were able to do this. You’re incredible.”

Taako tossed his hair at that. He looked recovered enough to be attempting an imitation of his normal bravado, if a somewhat breathless one. “Uh, sorry, have you met me?” he said, seeming to roll all the words around in his mouth as he jabbed a finger at Brad’s chest, “I’m Taako-”

And that was when he felt her.

He had prayed more out of habit than anything else. He hadn’t really expected her to be listening.

All at once, he felt every single point of contact between them as though it was the only thing he was feeling, as though each one consumed the whole of his attention simultaneously: his thighs against his sides, his ass beneath his fingers, and of course, every ripple, every heartbeat, and every miniscule flex of tissue pressed tight around the length of his erection.

And he felt her, felt both her approval for his daring and felt her looking askance at him, amused but contemplative, questioning how he’d been quite so bold as to call for her favour in this of all things.

“Um,” Taako said.

“Um,” he responded, because there was nothing else to say.

***

If the perfect tightness of him wasn’t already enough, every thrust seemed drive Taako into a deeper stage of incoherent ecstasy, and it was driving Brad to the edge.

He wanted to come, but he didn’t want to come. He could feel exhaustion starting to catch up with him, but he also felt fairly strongly that if he could only stay here a little longer, fucking up into this incredible body, this responsive, enthusiastic, incredible person, he could die happy.

“-shit, you and your beautiful big dick-” Taako whined, voice almost worshipful, and the decision was made for him.

“Taako, do you think you can come for me?” he asked, desperate, breathless.

“Huh?” He was beautiful. He didn’t understand. Every single thrust was bringing Brad closer to the edge of no return.

“Come for me,” he repeated, barely able to speak. “Please, Taako, I need you to come for me.”

Taako was touching himself. That itself was nearly enough.

“Fucking wreck me, come on-” Taako begged him.

He couldn’t have refused him even if he’d wanted to. His restraint broke completely. Hands gripping Taako’s waist, he drove into him so hard that each thrust created a sharp slapping sound as his hips met Taako’s ass.

Taako was a masterpiece when he came, back arched, eyes half open, moaning so desperately it was barely even a sound a voice could choose to make anymore, and just looking at him was enough to make Brad choke out a,

“Look at you,”

before he came so hard he couldn’t speak at all.

As the first wave of it hit, he had the extremely distant realization that Taako was almost certainly not familiar with the intensity of an orc’s orgasm.

By the second, the thought had ceased to have meaning.

Taako asked him something. He thought maybe he said something back. Mostly he just remembered kissing him as he rode out the last of it.

The second it was over, he knew he had an extremely limited period of consciousness remaining. Darkness was eating at the edges of his vision.

He barely remembered cleaning Taako up or removing his condom.

He gathered Taako in his arms, meaning for it to be a momentary thing, an impulsive, selfish indulgence, holding this soft, amazing, powerful person in his arms one last time before he invariably vanished again, and then unconsciousness took him.

***

Waking up to find Taako still wound in his arms had been a pleasant shock, but he wasn’t sure he’d ever seen someone dress so quickly in his life.

“Uh,” Taako said awkwardly, “bye.”

That was the third time he vanished.

Brad sat on the edge of the bed for a long time, completely naked, looking at the mess they’d made of the sheets, looking at his clothes strewn across the floor, until he saw the bottles.

Both of them.

He hadn’t even opened them.

Well, he thought, that was the end of that.

***

The days bled together. He thought about Taako more frequently than he’d expected to, but always with a flavour of nostalgia he reserved for things he’d enjoyed immensely but didn’t expect he’d ever have the chance to repeat.

The Director had given him quite the look the day after it had happened, but neither of them brought it up, so it hung, unspoken, between them.

For the most part, more than anything, he found himself idly thinking on the way Taako had shivered under his hands as he had undressed him, on the sounds he’d made when he’d first started to press down on his cock, or the way his thighs had quaked as he’d fucked him, but sometimes it was something more abstract, like the way he smelled, or the softness of his lips.

He’d find himself zoning out of a particularly pointless consultation or meeting only to realize he’d been sitting with his fingers pressed against his mouth, staring through someone and meditating on the supple ass of one of the saviours of the universe when he was supposed to be pretending the debate over appropriate staple placement on reports in Accounting was a serious issue.

It was, all things considered, one of his less work-appropriate daydreams.

Well, at least they were no longer coworkers, he thought. He could think what he liked about Taako’s ass now and no one could file a complaint about it without admitting they’d invaded his privacy to find out.

***

That sound.

That little gasp he’d let out as Brad had breached his asshole. The way he could barely speak, at first. The incredible tightness and heat of him as he took his cock, slowly, inch by painstaking inch.

How would he have looked if they’d done it differently? If he’d had him on his back and pushed down into him, holding his thighs apart so he could watch his cock disappear into that tight, gorgeous ass?

If he’d had him on his knees?

His erection twitched in his hand as his balls tightened. His strokes quickened.

How would he have looked on his knees, he wondered. Would he have pressed his hands against the headboard, eager to meet Brad’s thrusts, not just to kneel and be fucked? Would he have babbled? Would he have demanded that Brad fuck him harder? Faster? Rougher?

Would he have begged for more?

There was a moment, then, where he could almost see it: Taako kneeling in front of him, back arched, his ass in the air and Brad’s cock buried right to the hilt in it, grabbing vainly at the sheets, begging him not to stop-

That was enough.

He came with a shudder and a groan, stroking himself through the long pulses of his orgasm until he was spent, and then he stared vacantly at the thick threads of semen coating his fingers and stomach.

It was a little empty, thinking about it afterwards. He’d never know what it was like, fucking Taako from behind like that. The realization bummed him out more than he knew it had any right to.

***

He hadn’t been particularly excited to go home. He was even less excited to discover what awaited him there.

“Enough foolishness, eldest. It is time to embrace your birthright,” his father snarled at him, standing too close and too tall for anyone to mistake his intention to tower and intimidate. It was what he always did when he wasn’t getting his way. “Your brothers are younger and stronger and fiercer than you, yet when challenged, you have always bested them. Why do you delay? And why have you not taken a wife? You are growing old. Will you leave this stronghold without a leader? Without an heir to follow you?”

Codera was silent as she buckled him into his armour, but he could almost feel the pity radiating off of her. Around them, some of his peers had stopped to watch. Some hadn’t, but he knew they were still listening.

He could smell smoke. They were burning his clothes. Maybe his father thought that would be enough to stop him from leaving, this time.

“Speak!” his father demanded, voice booming through the courtyard loudly enough to echo against the walls of the canyon. “Are you a whelp? Do you intend to stand in silence when challenged? To bathe in the blood of your brothers and simply return to your puerile work amongst humans and dwarves and elves-”

He barely even registered what his father was saying.

He was thinking about Taako again. He hadn’t realized elves could blush. It was something he found himself thinking about a lot, lately.

It had been beautiful. He wanted to see it again.

***

His father had snarled and raged at him right up until he’d closed the hatch in his sphere.

He spent the ride back from the stronghold feeling as disgusting and hollow as he was sure he looked. The scenery passing was incredible. He saw none of it. His scalp itched. His clothing felt stiff. He stank of sweat and blood and the Cave Mother’s iron springs.

He tried to think about something else, about paperwork or brewing or food or-

Not Taako. His other sexual liaisons weren’t recent or exciting enough to be mentally accessible in the same way, but his gut churned at the thought of using his experience with Taako as escapism just then. As nonsensical of a thought as it was, considering that he probably wouldn’t see him for at least another year, and certainly would never have the chance to fuck him again, thinking about him when he was like this felt too much like exposing this part of himself to Taako, like he’d somehow know everything if Brad dared to think about him.

He liked the idea of Taako thinking of him as who he was at work. Who he’d been at the party. Who he’d been when they were in bed together. Tidy. Careful. Pleasant.

Right now, he knew he wasn’t any of those things. 

If Avi’s reaction to him when he stepped out of the sphere was anything to go by, he agreed.

“Woah,” Avi said, eyebrows first shooting up and then knitting together. “Uh, do you-”

He shook his head and Avi clammed up. No one stopped him on his walk back to his quarters. People saw him, of course, in the halls and crossing the quad, but at this point, they all knew better than to ask. Where he went and what he did there had long since become one of the base’s many unspoken secrets. The Director had seen to that.

All he wanted to do was take a bath and collapse into bed for a full day. He hadn’t even gotten to see Ohm Mh’arakta while he was home. It had been nothing but blood and misery.

He didn’t think he even had the energy to masturbate before he passed out, even if he’d been at all in the mood to.

Maybe afterwards, though. When he felt cleaner and a little less aware of how screwed up his life was. He was sure Taako wouldn’t begrudge him using him as a distraction, even if he somehow did know. He seemed to like being distracting.

Though, Brad thought, he was probably giving himself too much credit.

He doubted Taako had spared him more than a thought since he’d left the base.

The thought was both sad and strangely comforting.

***

Someone was there.

He knew it the second he’d walked in the door.

There was a scent. It was familiar, but he couldn’t place it other than to recognize that it didn’t belong.

He stood in the gloom of his living room, peering carefully into it, trying to place what was amiss.

He wasn’t imagining it: one of his books had been moved. He always kept it with the author’s other works. It was on the shelf below now, beside his dwarven brewer’s guide. He could feel his pulse quickening.

“I know you’re here,” he said, careful to keep his voice even. “Come out. I’m not going to hurt you.”

He considered the possibilities as he peered first into the kitchen and then entered cautiously into the bedroom. The scent was stronger here. He still couldn’t place it.

It was possible that his father had finally gotten sick of waiting, but no: he’d just left, and his father was notoriously impulsive. If he’d wanted to kill him, he’d just have done it himself. Besides, that would have left him without an heir that was of age to succeed him.

The goblins, then? They were opportunistic at the best of times, and Ohm Mh’arakta was getting too old to parley with them. Killing his father in the midst of his people was near-impossible, but killing Brad wouldn’t be a terrible move if they wanted to destabilize the stronghold, all things considered.

But that left the larger question unanswered: how could they have possibly have gotten onto the base without being detected? It was only accessible by air, and goblin airships weren’t known for their subtlety.

He spotted something unfamiliar in his closet.

Clothing. Still damp. He touched it gingerly, trying to identify it. A tunic, it seemed like, as well as something else. And underwear. “What the…?” he muttered.

Hung to dry in his closet, like someone had broken in to do laundry.

A strange move for an assassin, but a strong one if they were hoping to distract him. He looked over his shoulder, scanning the room intently.

He walked back out into the living room, keeping his back to the front door, scrutinizing what he could see of his kitchen and bathroom from where he was standing.

Out of the corner of his eye, something dark. There was something on the floor of his bedroom, by the foot of his dresser.

A calling card? Something left as a threat? Or worse: an explosive?

He approached it cautiously.

A bag. He reached down and touched it, careful not to agitate the contents. Very suddenly, he realized he’d seen it before, and recently. For a long moment, he was dumbfounded.

“…Taako?” he wondered aloud, bewildered. It felt like he had to say it, if only so he could shake off this mad delusion he seemed to be having.

But even after he’d said it, the bag on the floor was still Taako’s bag, and the clothes in the closet could still very easily be Taako’s clothes.

An absurd impulse made him look under the bed, like Taako would somehow be hiding there, apparently nude.

He expected to see nothing but a little dust, and to look up and find everything had been an invention of his stress and exhaustion.

Instead, he saw Taako. Not naked, from what he could see, but still undeniably Taako.

“Hi,” Taako said. He sounded nervous. His face was flushed.

Brad stared at him for a second, trying to answer, contemplating deeply the likelihood that one of his brothers had finally gotten the drop on him and this was all a hallucination conjured up by his dying brain.

 “Hi,” he said finally. “Do you… want to come out from under there, Taako?”

“No,” Taako answered immediately, very emphatic.

It was then that, all at once, Brad realized he wasn’t imagining anything. Taako really was under his bed. No one was trying to kill him, not unless Taako himself intended to, but in that case, he could’ve done so easily without any need for stealth or secrecy. 

Taako had somehow gotten into his quarters and had then apparently decided to wash his clothes for some reason and was now just very casually hiding under his bed and he had absolutely no idea why.

He very nearly laughed. “Taako, please come out,” he coaxed.

“You do realize that as soon as I do I am going to actually throw myself off the fucking moon, yeah?” Taako told him, which honestly seemed a bit melodramatic for the circumstances to Brad.

“I hardly think that’s necessary,” he soothed, and clumsily reached a hand under the bed, inviting Taako to take it. “Taako, please.”

Taako made a weird yelping sound and shuffled sideways like he thought Brad intended to grab him.

Brad just looked at him for a moment, sighed, and then resigned himself to that necessity. When he lifted the frame, he almost wasn’t quick enough to catch Taako as he tried to bolt out of the room, scrambling on his hands and knees like a startled cat.

“Okay, easy does it, there we go,” Brad said soothingly, trying not to be too rough as he pulled Taako clear of the frame so he could set it back down. He suddenly realized why Taako wasn’t naked despite his clothes drying in the closet. “Is that my shirt?” he blurted out, knowing it wasn’t really a high-priority question but too startled not to ask.

Taako had gone very still in his hands. His ears were pulling back, something Brad had only seen them do when he was angry or agitated. “More pressing question, my man,” he said, voice oddly flat without his usual lilting cadence. “Why are you dressed like that, and is that blood?”

There was a brief, blessed second where Brad didn’t know what he meant, and then he glanced down at himself. With how strange this whole situation had been, he’d honestly forgotten. His stomach dropped. “I can explain this,” he said, knowing he couldn’t, not in a way that wouldn’t guarantee Taako spent the rest of his life making an effort to avoid him.

This wasn’t what he’d wanted.

“It’s blood, isn’t it? It’s blood,” Taako said, still staring wide-eyed at him, gaze flicking from his face to his armour to his hands where they were closed around his arms, “That’s blood.”

This wasn’t what he’d wanted at all.

“I can explain this,” he said again, feeling a little hollow.

Taako looked him in the eye, pupils narrowed to black pinpricks in a sea of green. “Can you, though?” he asked, voice pitchy with what sounded like either hysteria or fear.

Brad suddenly realized something: this was one of those rare moments where he was starting to lose his temper. He was tired. He was filthy. He hadn’t asked for this. He didn’t want this. He resented Taako for putting him in this position.

He’d just wanted to go home and have a fucking bath, and yet here he was, having to explain something he didn’t like to talk about it to the last person he wanted to talk about it with.

“Can you explain this?” he snapped, and Taako’s mouth snapped shut. “I didn’t think so. How about I go first while you decide what excuse you’re going to give me, Taako?”

And he did.

In frank, ugly terms, he told Taako, who may very well have come creeping around his quarters hoping for a round two Brad would have very happy to engage in, but who would certainly never entertain the idea again after this revelation, about his father. About the Cull of Sons. About killing his brothers.

He realized he was smiling only because he could see his face reflected in Taako’s eyes. “So yes, to answer your second question: this is blood,” he told him, light and conversational. He felt bitter in a way he hadn’t in a long time. His anger was shifting. He was angry at his father now, too, for ruining this as well. This was who he was to Taako now: someone who murdered members of his own family on a yearly basis. “Your turn.”

 “Oh. Woah. Wow.” Taako seemed lost.

Brad forced himself to unclench his jaw. “You were thinking of an excuse to give me,” he prompted. “I’d like to hear it.”

Taako’s shoulders rose, his arms sliding up in Brad’s grip as he shrugged. He’d raised his hands palms-up like he wanted to show that they were empty. “If you wanna wait for a good excuse from me, my man, we’re gonna be here all day,” he said flippantly.

Brad exhaled slowly through his nose, trying to control his irritation. “Why are you here, Taako?” He wanted to hear it. Wanted to know what bad luck had robbed him of or, equally likely, saved him from. Taako wasn’t known for his sweet temper or random acts of kindness.

Taako shrugged again.

Brad stifled a frown. “There must be a reason for this.”

“I don’t know.”

It was a bad lie. He could tell even Taako knew it was a bad lie.

The frown won. “Please don’t make me force you to tell me the truth-” he threatened, hating that it had come to this.

“I’m really bad at this,” Taako said, all in a rush, eyes wild.

Brad felt his eyebrows creeping up. “Bad at… what?”

Taako didn’t say anything. Instead, he made a vague, all-encompassing gesture that just grew in scope the longer it went on. He refused to meet his eyes.

Of course. Of course, out of all possible options, it really had been the one he’d both hoped for and dreaded the most. Of course Taako wasn’t here to indulge in some impulsive, mean-spirited urge to prank him. Of course Taako wasn’t here to threaten him not to tell anyone about what they’d done together.

Of course.

He couldn’t hold onto the anger. He wanted to be angry at Taako, wanted it to be Taako’s fault that this had all gone so awry, but it wasn’t. It wasn’t anyone’s fault: not Taako’s, not his, not even his father’s. He was just unlucky.

Very unlucky. It had robbed him of an opportunity which, if he was charming enough, might in some other reality have even become a recurring thing. He wasn’t stupid. He didn’t expect something serious, or permanent, but given the chance, he would’ve taken Taako up on an invitation to fuck him again in a heartbeat.

Even when he was exhausted, aching, and bruised.

Hell, maybe he would’ve even have gotten to find out what it really was like to fuck him from behind, something that had become a bit of an unexpected fixture in his fantasies.

He squatted down in front of him, too aware of how he was towering over him, and too aware of how that felt to be on that receiving end of. “If you wanted to see me, there were easier ways than breaking into my quarters,” he said gently. It was the harshest reprimand he could muster.

More than anything, now that his anger had given way, he was just spectacularly bummed out.

***

He wasn’t entirely sure what was happening.

He’d expected Taako to grab his things and bolt the second he let him go, just like he’d done the last time they’d seen each other.

Instead, Taako was following him. Out of arm’s reach, it was true, and making no attempt to approach, but for some reason he was still there, asking bizarre questions and making strange confessions that only served to further drive home the reality that, if this had gone differently, Brad might’ve already been fingering him, even fucking him, instead of trying to explain the nuances of a culture with no inherent concept of privacy to someone who seemed like he would object to having anyone watching him getting fucked unless they were paying him an outlandishly high premium.

Brad wondered, briefly, what it was like to feel that way. He still remembered the first time he’d had sex when no one had been around to notice. It had been a little disconcerting. The concept of personal privacy had been the thing he had the most difficulty acclimatizing to when he’d left the stronghold. He assumed it was just as difficult a concept to comprehend if the perspective was flipped.

He said something unkind to Taako then, half out of a desire to be honest and half out of insupportable pettiness, and Taako gawked at him as he continued to undress.

“I’m afraid those are my honest feelings on the matter, Taako,” he told him smoothly, resolutely pretending he wasn’t just bitter about how badly this had gone and how frustrating a reminder of how much better it could’ve gone having Taako lingering nearby was. “I’m very sorry if that offends you.” He rubbed two fingers full of a noxious-smelling oil onto his face, hoping the ochre hadn’t stained his skin too badly. He’d look diseased for days if it had.

Taako laughed. “No, it’s just… I didn’t even realize you could be that brutal,” he said.

Brad resented how well he was taking this. It made him want to hope when he knew there was nothing to hope for. He didn’t understand why he was still hanging around. “Everyone is capable of rudeness,” he said, looking over his shoulder at Taako with narrowed eyes. “Some of us just put in the effort not to be.”

Taako threw himself dramatically against the doorframe, and for a moment, Brad wondered which of them was the trained performer. “Are you a bard or a fucking rogue, my man? Because these are some deep fucking cuts you’re dealing me,” Taako complained.

It was hard not to smile at that. If it wasn’t for Taako’s admission that he’d come looking for him actively hoping for something sexual, he might’ve been able to pretend they were just friends casually ribbing each other. “I thought we were being honest with each other,” he commented, deciding to play into that narrative.

He’d be okay with being friends with Taako, he decided. He’d always regret missing out on the chance to be more than that, but Taako was more than interesting enough, even with clothes on.

Taako was quiet for so long that Brad found himself checking to see if he’d left after all. It would’ve made sense, in their new context: he was on the cusp of full nudity at this point, and he didn’t get the impression that most other cultures were as comfortable with casual social nudity as his own.

But no. Taako was still there.

Brad raised his eyebrows inquisitively as he let his underwear fall down around his ankles. Taako looked, of course, but it was brief, barely a flick of the eyes.

“Hi,” Taako said again. He seemed uncertain.

Brad watched him for a moment, trying to decide what it was that he wanted, and then moved closer. “May I?”

“…Sure?” Not uncertain. Nervous. Almost shy. Like he wasn’t sure what to do. Like he was afraid any move might be the wrong one.

As he asked Taako to lift his arms so he could undress him, Brad wondered what that meant, in this situation.

***

There was no mistaking it. He had seen a lot of genitals in his life, and he knew the difference between flaccid and erect when it came to the ones Taako was in possession of.

It could be symptomatic of anxiety, he thought. This was a strange and potentially stressful situation for Taako. It wasn’t unheard of for an orc to become noticeably physically aroused in the midst of battle or whilst in mortal peril, regardless of whether or not they were actively thinking about or even interested in doing anything sexual at the time, but he wasn’t sure if that was a trait shared by other races.

Besides, Taako’s behaviour didn’t seem typical of someone who was having an unexpected involuntary response to stress.

He was flushed, and trying to hide himself in the water. He kept glancing at Brad and then down into the water. He kept fidgeting and shifting like he wasn’t sure what to do or how to get comfortable.

Brad watched him curiously, unable to suppress a surprised chuckle.

“What?” Taako asked him, briefly emerging from the water.

Brad rested his cheek against his fist, studying him. He didn’t quite dare hope, but still, there was something suspiciously like it stirring in his guts. “Unless I’m misreading the situation,” he said carefully, “you’re still sexually interested in me.”

Taako narrowed his eyes and then pulled himself upright using the sides of the tub. His feet grazed Brad’s calves. “Uh? Yeah, I’m still here,” he said snidely, “that sure was a tough puzzle you had to solve, great job, Bradson, full marks-”

“Taako,” Brad interrupted, marveling at the situation, “only minutes ago I told you I used my leave of absence to murder my younger brothers at the behest of my father in the hopes that I will succeed him, which would involve also whelping a hundred sons by a hundred mothers and forcing them to compete for my approval by murdering each other. In my experience, this isn’t a revelation that normally leaves people unaffected.” And there it was: the real question.

Taako was a hero. Taako had options. Options that weren’t regular unwilling participants in familial blood sport.

What was it about him, then, that was outweighing that resounding mark against him?

He considered it as Taako babbled and made excuses for him and then said something morally dubious.

Brad knew he had a lot to offer, but what was he offering specifically that Taako wanted so badly that even he, in his seemingly infinite self-assurance, seemed afraid he’d miss out on if he said or did the wrong thing?

It was a wild idea, he thought, pulling the washcloth and soap from beside the tub. Even if he had destroyed half the furniture in his quarters, Brad would probably still have fucked him if he’d asked. Their sexual chemistry had been absolutely ludicrous.

“Anyway, if we’re doing this whole Who Should Be More Creeped Out Olympics thing,” Taako was babbling, “you know I gotta say it: I’m here. I came into your place and just fucking… hung out. I slept in your bed. I wore your clothes. You might have done the criming, my man, but your boy Taako did the creeping, so if anybody should be losing their boner here, it’s you.”

Brad continued to wash himself absentmindedly. “I seem to remember you saying you did more than sleep in my bed,” he pointed out, cautiously flirtatious. His own dick seemed to have gotten the hint that his prospects were improving, as well.

He laughed when Taako tried to hide again and ended up with a mouth full of suds. He offered Taako the cloth.

“You’re the one who said I needed a bath,” Taako said, turning up his nose, “I never committed to actually doing the bath thing, that’s on you.”

Brad smiled. “That’s on me, is it? Well then: may I?”

Taako made a challenging motion that seemed promisingly like an invitation.

He was, maybe, a little more eager than he wanted to appear, and a little less careful. Taako stumbled as he pulled him towards him. “Turn around, please,” he asked, careful to be polite, careful not to hurry him.

He was starting to feel dangerously hopeful.

***

He should’ve ignored her.

No. He couldn’t have. She was his superior. More than that, she cared about him. She was just worried about his wellbeing.

Then, if Taako had only stayed put-

Brad pressed the heels of his palms into his eyes, groaning with frustration.

He’d been so close. Just a little longer and things would have been completely different.

He’d managed to salvage the disaster that was that encounter, he’d had Taako melting in his hands, had him gasping and whimpering and demanding to be fucked, and then everything had gone all wrong again and now Taako was gone.

And he was still hard. His dick ached. He could still feel Taako grinding back on him, could feel the little eddies of water lapping against his skin every time he’d moved, could see how much Taako had wanted to be fucked every time he closed his eyes, and he was losing his mind just thinking about it.

“‘So this isn’t a new issue for you’,” he muttered, and then groaned again. “Why did I say that?” It’d been automatic- it had been drilled into him by his experiences in Humanoid Resources. An issue had been brought up, so he’d instinctively gone to address it. It didn’t matter. It had nothing to do with anything. He could’ve dealt with it later.

He swore quietly but very rudely in Orcish, reaching down to stroke himself.

It was both a blessing and a curse, how fresh the memory was. He could smell Taako in the air, could vividly recall the lush, soft flesh of his ass pressed against him, could feel him going loose and boneless with pleasure against his chest as he touched him.

The morning after the Candlenights party, he’d told Taako he’d never wanted fuck someone as badly as he wanted to fuck him then.

It was still true.

He couldn’t think of a single other person he’d ever met in his life that he wanted to pound into a babbling, incoherent mess as desperately as he wanted to do that to Taako. From behind. From the front. Lying down, standing up. Day, night, rain or shine.

And Taako had wanted it, had welcomed it.

He swore again, stroking himself faster, hating how much less satisfying his hand felt than what he’d been hoping for.

What if he’d just fucked him then and there, in the bathtub, he wondered. Under the water wouldn’t have worked, but he could’ve bent him over the edge and fingerfucked him until he screamed.

He pictured it and shuddered, fucking his hand now.

He could’ve ignored the Director, let her knock, and Taako would have had to try to stay quiet as he pushed into his tight, wet ass, even as he made it impossible for him to stop moaning, as he clung desperately to the edge of the tub, hand pressed over his mouth-

He swore incoherently as he came, wishing he’d made different choices, choices that didn’t end with him sitting on the edge of his bed with a fist full of his own come.

As soon as he came down from his orgasm, he felt guilty for making the Director party to his fantasy, however indirectly. It seemed disrespectful. He almost wanted to apologize to her for it.

He couldn’t, obviously.

That would require an uncomfortable amount of explanation to do.

For now, at least, he could sleep.

Sleep, he thought, was the universal blessing of all races: it was the one place they could all outrun the stupid shit they did.

***