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Rus shivered; the sheer robe he wore was too thin to protect him from the chill of the ballroom, but that wasn’t the cause of his shivering. There were so many people staring at him—at his fragile bones and at his exposed soul, glimmering from behind his ribcage. 

The monster ahead of him tugged his leash, pulling him along. Across the hall, the king spotted him, smirking and leaning forward as he was brought to the center of the ballroom, to a raised dias that looked distressingly like a stage. “Now what do we have here?” he purred. “What a pretty little sweet-piece~.”

Rus’ knees shook, and he looked at the ground. “please, y-your majesty—“

He laughed, the sound low and rich. “No need for formalities. This is a party, pretty one.” He gestured to the room around them and the gathered monsters in all their finery. “And you’re our entertainment for the evening.”

Rus shuddered. “please—“

Ignoring him, the king turned to his aid and said, “Is my pet ready?”

“Yes, your majesty.”

“Excellent. Bring him out.”

The king’s smile was not reassuring. Rus shook, watching as a pair of guards brought a struggling skeleton monster from a set of rooms behind the throne. His socket was cracked and his eyelights blazed a deep crimson. He was also completely naked. Smirking, the king reached for him, laughing when the skeleton—nearly as tall as Rus himself—snapped at him. 

Looking to Rus, the king said, “Don’t worry. It’s been ages since he’s dusted anyone. Well. Unintentionally, that is.”

Rus’ soul dropped, and he instinctively pulled away, only to be brought up short by the chain around his neck. The watching monsters laughed raucously. The guard yanked on his lead and attached it to a closed hook set in the floor, then he walk away, laughing as Rus scrambled to the end of his lead. He watched with wide sockets as the two guards muscled the other skeleton monster over. One shoved him to the knees while the other attached his leash to the hook. On his signal, they rushed away, trying to get clear of his reach. He lunged for them anyway, choking when he he was brought up short by the leash. It took him to his knees, and he growled, staring out at the gathered monsters with bright red eyelights. 

The chain kept Rus from fleeing, kept him within reach of the rabid monster. Worse still, now that he was closer, Rus started to take note of the red magic that lit his bones from within, that gathered at his magic nodes and pooled in his pelvic cavity. He was breathing hard, and his eyelights were hazed.

He’d been drugged, Rus realized. 

He swallowed hard, trying to calm his racing soul. They’d done something to Rus as well, something that left his soul exposed—he shouldn’t have been surprised that they’d drug him as well. From his feral demeanor, Rus wondered if they meant for the other monster to kill him. 

He looked to the king, noting his gleeful expression, his excitement.

Rus swallowed, and all at once, something inside of him, a small spark of anger, caught fire. He inhaled sharply, then clenched his fists. “h-hey!” His voice cracked, but it caught the other skeleton’s attention. “are you? are you okay?”

The king laughed, and the red-eyed skeleton turned to glare at him, but Rus took an unsteady step forward. “hey, don’t.” He swallowed. “don’t look at him. look at me.” A set of red eyelights focused on him. “there you go.” He exhaled shakily, his throat tight. “come.” His soul clenched. “come here. i can.” He glanced at the king. “i can help you.”

His breathing like a rattling growl, the red-eyed skeleton stalked toward him. “How?” he demanded, his voice a low rasp. 

“ want?” He swallowed. “me?”

The other skeleton shook his head, as if he was trying to clear it. He squeezed his sockets shut, and when he opened them, he was glaring. “I want out!” He snarled the last syllable, yanking on the chain fruitlessly. The king laughed, and Rus could hear the party-goers tittering in amusement. 

Rus took another step forward. “w-what’s your name?” The other skeleton was breathing hard and still trying to break the chain. Rus asked again.

He focused on Rus, sweat beading on his forehead and chest. “E-edge,” he breathed, shaking his head again. He slowly sank to the floor. He looked up at Rus, eyelights dilated and sockets wide. “It’s so hot,” he groaned. “I feel. Like I’m. Burning.”

“yeah. yeah, i know.” Rus edged forward, still shaking. “i can help.”

The king laughed aloud. “Ha! Brave little sweet-piece. Trying to tame my pet. What are his odds, do you think?”

Rus ignored the numbers being called out, the bets being laid. He kept his focus on Edge. “look at me,” he whispered. “don’t look at them. it’s just you and me here. edge?”

He blinked and focused on Rus, his bones losing their tension. “Hurts,” he croaked, wrapping his arms around himself. 

“i know, buddy. i know.” He was an arm’s length away now, and he knelt down slowly. “can i touch you?”

Edge shook his head violently. “No!” 

Rus flinched. He glanced at the king, then scooted closer. “listen,” he whispered, keeping his voice down, “if we don’t put on a show for them, it’s just going to get worse.” He swallowed. “i. i know we don’t really have a choice here. but. we can. we can make the best of-of a bad situation. especially s-since that drug they pumped into you is probably messing with you pretty bad right about now. let me help, edge.”

The red-eyed skeleton shook his head, pulling in on himself. After Rus had decided he wasn’t going to reply, he rasped, “I don’t want to hurt you.”

Rus almost said, ‘it doesn’t matter if you do.’ He knew he wouldn’t be going home ever again. Even if he lived through this, they’d probably cull him for EXP. Instead, he said, “you won’t.”

Edge studied him, then slowly reached out and took hold of Rus’ hand. His bones were hot and magic sparked up Rus’ arm when they touched. He pulled Rus in and leaned into him. There was a pungent scent that clung to him, like musk and unused magic. It wasn’t an unpleasant scent, but it was definitely intense. Edge nosed along his cervical vertebrae, sighing softly. He was shaking lightly, a result of the fever burning through him. Rus trailed a hand down his spine, trying to block out the jeering of the gathered nobles. 

“d-does that feel good?” Rus squeezed his lumbar spine, massaging the cartilage between each vertebrae.

Edge nodded wordlessly, pressing into Rus’ hands. His breath was hot on Rus’ neck, and he started licking the vertebrae, mana sparking between them. Rus made a sound low in his throat, his soul jumping. “oh. oh. okay.” He gripped Edge’s ilia. “that. that’s good,” he whispered, shutting his sockets when he caught the king’s eye. He was staring at them, leaning forward with a hungry look on his face.

don’t think about it, Rus told himself. 

Edge started nibbling along his jawbone, leaving a trail of warmth in his wake. Mana rushed to the surface of his bones, and his soul swelled with it. Mana beaded on the surface and started to drip from it, slicking his sacrum. Edge’s hands tore at the sheer cloth, and his claws scraped across Rus’ ribcage. His back arched and he pulled Edge’s hips against his own, wrapping his legs around them. Panting open-mouthed, Rus clutched at him, one hand clawing at his ribcage, the other sinking down to massage his coccyx and his sacrum. 

“edge!” he cried out when Edge’s teeth sank into his collarbone. Fire spread outward from the bite, and a surge of fresh mana spurted from his soul.

Breathing unsteadily, Edge caught his eyelights. “I need you. I-I’m—“ His sockets squeezed shut. “I’m sorry.” His magic had coalesced into a heavy cock, rubbing insistently at Rus’ pelvic inlet. “I need you.”

Rus’ soul leapt again, hammering when he thought about all those eyes staring at him. He clutched at Edge, shutting his sockets tight. “y-yeah. okay. okay. i’ll just—“ But his magic wouldn’t form. He tried to force it, but he was too anxious. His sockets went wide and he shook his head. “i-i can’t!” he gasped. 

Edge’s eyelights dilated. “You can,” he growled, pushing Rus onto his back. His head fell back, and he saw all the people staring at them, saw them snickering and gossiping.

“—look at his magic—“

“—such a nice cock—“

“—poor thing! Look at his soul—!”

Rus squeezed his sockets shut, wanting to fold in on himself, but Edge was between his thighs, lapping at his pubic symphysis. It felt so good, but he could hear their voyeurs watching, tittering over Edge’s technique and Rus’ rising blush. His magic still refused to manifest, regardless of the heat Edge’s tongue brought to his fragile bones. 

A hand yanked on the chain around his neck, and his chin tilted down to focus on Edge. Their gazes met. “Don’t look at them,” Edge rasped, shifting to lie on top of him. One femur rubbed insistently at his pelvic inlet. “Focus on me.”

“i’m. i’m trying,” he panted, “but. it’s. it’s hard.”

“Let me help.” He reached into Rus’ chest and gripped his soul, earning a cry. A sharp phalange thrust into the crease of Rus’ soul, and his hips jerked. The intent to pleasure bled into Rus’ soul, flooding him with warmth. His eyelights dilated and a haze of magic gathered in his pelvic cavity. 

“o-oh. i.” 

Edge brought his soul to his mouth and lapped at the crease, igniting the mana within. Rus cried out, wrapping his legs around his hips. Edge’s cock thrust into his pelvic inlet, stirring up the unformed magic. Rus’ claws scratched at the back of his ribcage, but Edge didn’t seem to mind. His hips thrust again, and he nipped at Rus’ soul. 

“Give me something,” Edge growled. “Give me—“ He thrust again. His eyelights blazed bright, and mana dripped down his face. Whatever drug they’d given him was riding him hard now. “I need it. Need you.”

He bit his soul then, and Rus cried out, all his focus drawn to Edge.

His pussy snapped into existence around Edge’s cock. It was too much—his walls stretched around it, dry and unprepared. He felt too hot, too full. Tears flooded his sockets, and he could hear the spectators—forgotten about for only a moment—laughing at his discomfort.

Edge wasn’t moving, though. His fingers rubbed at the surface of Rus’ soul, and he kissed his tears away as they spilled down his cheekbones. He whispered words of praise directly into Rus’ acoustic meatus—words for him alone. “So good. So pretty. Perfect. Just for me. So good, beautiful. So good.”

Rus turned his head, burying his face in the crook of Edge’s neck. “please,” he said, voice hoarse, “don’t try to make it good. just make it fast.”

He had no idea if Edge heard him or not. He was thrusting shallowly, gently working Rus open. It was still too much, too intense. But Rus took shelter in that; he focused on the glide of Edge’s cock against his walls, on his whispered words, his hand clenched around his soul. Mana started to slick his inner walls, easing his way. 

Rus shut his sockets, letting himself imagine that he was somewhere else. Somewhere safe. It was easier than it should have been. Despite what Rus had asked, Edge was making him feel good, and his litany of praise hadn’t stopped. It was easy enough to pretend that they were lovers rather than prisoners. He buried his face in Edge’s neck, smelling the richness of his magic.

The fantasy ended too soon. He opened his sockets and saw the king, staring at them with hungry eyes. He was leaning forward and smirking, pleased with the evening’s entertainment. Turning to an advisor, he said, “It looks like my pet finally found a toy he likes.” He looked back at the pair. “Make sure to prepare a room for him. I’ll be keeping this one.”

Rus’ soul shriveled, even as Edge came inside him, leaving him feeling hollow and used. A hand wrapped around his, lacing their fingers together. Rus met Edge’s sockets and found his own feelings of emptiness and defeat reflected back at him. Moved by his fellow prisoner’s pain, Rus kissed him gently.

At least he wouldn’t be alone.