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“It's not that important, but if you can pull this off I'll be very impressed," Lady Zethris had said, amusement twinkling in her eyes.

Beau, of course, had taken exception to the word ‘if’ and instantly agreed to the job.

*****

And now here they are.

The darkened hall shimmers with an almost otherworldly light, flecks of gold and silver shining up from the deep blue marble of the floor, reflecting the candlelight like distant stars. People mill about, a gentle buzz of conversation filling the air above the soft strains of harp music.

From his—thankfully invisible—position by the stairs, Caduceus can see Caleb swallow, adjusting his collar for the sixth time in as many minutes. He holds a twist of wire at the ready in his hand, pressed to the rim of his wine glass in an effort to disguise his whispered instructions to Nott—also invisible and hopefully unobserved in the off-limits upstairs rooms. Jester seems to be deep in conversation with a mixed array of guests but her glances around show that she is well aware of the rest of the group. Fjord and Yasha hover awkwardly by the dancefloor, Fjord obviously as uncomfortable as Caleb in the formal clothes. Yasha, on the other hand, seems fascinated by the clothes Lady Zethris has provided for them, running her fingers through the silky layers of her skirt and twisting her hips ever so slightly to see it swish with the movement. This seems to distract Beau from her position at the buffet, cramming as much food as possible into the pockets of her immaculately tailored tailcoat.

Caduceus smiles to himself, glad once more for his ability to become invisible. He feels vulnerable without the protective chitin of his breastplate—although the tunic he has been given is very nice, floaty. He is supposed to be on lookout but it is far too easy to become distracted in this place.

Zethris’ sister, R'yalla, circles the room making small talk. She greeted the Nein earlier, she seems nice, Caduceus thinks. She hasn't let Zethris out of her sight for an instant, though, eyes narrowed in suspicion, something that makes it easier for the Nein to accomplish their mission, odd as it may be.

*****

“I just need you to take this, find her bedroom, and plant it on her bed.” Zethris had said, holding up a small, quite ugly, doll.

“What does it do? Is it cursed?” Jester's eyes had widened in curiosity, whilst fear shone in Fjord's.

“This ain't some haunted doll shit, is it? Because I am not on board with that.”

Zethris shook her head, lips curving in a smirk. “Let's just say it's a family thing.”

Now, Caduceus may not know many things; most of the political machinations the Nein have found themselves within have gone mostly over his head, but he is intimately familiar with the interactions of siblings, and the gleam in Zethris’ eyes told him everything he needed to know.

“You're messing with her, aren't you?”

“Got it in one.” Zethris had said with a grin, her icy public facade melting away as she laughed, holding the doll up. “We've been passing him back and forth for lifetimes now. Our younger sister, Azzaer, was stuck with him for almost forty years.” A look of fondness passed over her face as she stroked at one of the doll's mismatched, bulging eyes. “We call him Creepy Jek, and it's R'yalla's turn to have him.”

Turning to the group, she shrugged. “Like I said, it's not that important, but she won't suspect you, and you get to enjoy a party.”

“Will there be food?” Nott and Beau had asked, almost simultaneously.

And that had decided it.

*****

Now they are here, trying to fit in while Nott sneaks around trying to plant the doll. Keeping wary, Caduceus shuffles a little closer to the stairs, scanning the room.

No matter how hard he tries, his gaze keeps returning to Caleb.

His hair gleams copper in the floating lights, clean and shining, pulled back from the nape of his neck in a loose knot that exposes a strip of pale skin above his collar. It is that single point that Caduceus can't keep his eyes off of. Warmth stirs within him at the thought of running his tongue over it, feeling Caleb shiver in his arms. He shifts, blood creeping up, warming him to the very tops of his ears, which twitch as footsteps come closer.

“Your wizard cleans up very well,” Lady Zethris says, amethyst eyes shimmering with the magic of True Seeing. She smirks up at him, something in her expression telling Caduceus she knows exactly the direction his thoughts have turned. “My sister wants me to introduce them to each other; she has always been fascinated by humans.”

“Oh,” Caduceus says, something unpleasant squirming in his stomach. “Well, Mr. Caleb is very good at magic. If she wants to talk about that, then I'm sure he'll be interested.”

“I don't think that's where her interest lies,” Zethris says, gaze trailing from the bottom of the stairs to one of the pillars by Caleb where Nott suddenly pops into visibility, fangs bared in a wide grin. “It looks like our little plan is complete, you should relax.” Zethris arches an eyebrow and smirks. “Let your hair down.”

Slightly confused, Caduceus raises a hand to where a tie holds his hair back in a long ponytail and Zethris gives a small sigh, shaking her head.

“I'm telling you to go enjoy yourself.” She tilts her head in Caleb's direction. “I'll keep R'yalla occupied.”

“I...okay.” Caduceus still isn't entirely sure what Zethris is getting at, but if he can stop keeping watch and spend time with Caleb then he isn't going to argue.

Dropping his invisibility, Caduceus sees Jester give him a small wave from where she has managed to drag a rather nervous-looking Drow gentleman onto the dance floor. He waves back, noting the sudden stiffness in Fjord's posture where he glares over the pair—Jester trying and failing to have the Drow put his arms around her waist. Caduceus shakes his head to himself and turns back to the shadowed columns where Caleb stands, still scanning the room, a faint glow about his cheeks as he downs the last of his wine, a soft smile dancing over his lips.

Caduceus feels his breath catch, warmth simmering low in his stomach as he approaches. Caleb leans back against the pillar, smile growing wider. He reaches out to run his fingers down Caduceus’ sleeve, taking his hand.

“There you are mein Käferchen, I had hoped you would reappear soon.”

“Well, here I am.” Caduceus says, moving to wrap his arms around Caleb from behind and taking a deep breath. “Are you having a nice time?”

The scent of Caleb's skin lingers in Caduceus’ nostrils and he presses closer, eyes not leaving the stripe of freckled skin above the stiff, formal, shirt collar, exposed where Caleb's hair has been pulled up.

“It's fine,” Caleb says, sounding bored. He trails his fingers through the silky fabric of Caduceus’ sleeves. “The wine is nice, although I suspect that now Nott is back, it won't last much longer.”

“Mm,” Caduceus hums in agreement, bending to nuzzle at the back of Caleb's neck and feeling him jolt slightly at the unexpected sensation. “I can get you more, if you want.”

Nein,” Caleb breathes, fingers tracing circles on Caduceus’ arm. “I've had enough wine. I’d much rather you stay right where you are.” He leans against Caduceus, tilting his head and exposing even more of his neck.

A wave of syrupy warmth rolls through Caduceus’ body as he inhales Caleb’s scent once more; charcoal and warm earth. He can practically taste it, and, unable to resist any longer, leans down to press an open-mouthed kiss just below Caleb’s ear, a few loose strands of hair tickling at his nose. Caduceus can feel something thrumming beneath his own skin, a warm energy that centres in his chest, spreading through him at every point he and Caleb touch.

Swiping his tongue over Caleb's pulse, Caduceus is rewarded with a low, breathy groan, the fingers on his arm tightening their grip as Caleb shivers. He turns in Caduceus’ arms, glancing around quickly before pressing him back into the deeper shadows between the pillars. Caleb’s hands slip up Caduceus’ chest, teasing the edges of the tunic apart to expose a patch of pink hair that he immediately buries his nose in.

Caduceus’ breath catches when Caleb's hands find his hips, pulling them flush together. He groans again, pressing himself to Caduceus’ thigh, stretching up to graze Caduceus’ collarbone with his teeth.

“This really isn't the place for this,” he murmurs, breath ghosting over Caduceus’ skin and making him gasp. He can feel his pulse speeding, blood thrumming inside him in a rush of heat. It curls in his gut, pooling lower and lower with every rough scrape of Caleb’s neatly trimmed beard against his skin. Something close to a whimper escapes Caduceus’ lips and he finds himself thankful for the long hem of his tunic, hiding the fact that he is suddenly, achingly, hard.

“Caleb…” Caduceus murmurs, hands landing on slim shoulders and gripping tight, feeling more than hearing Caleb’s soft chuckle against his chest. Heat burns through him, the sensation of pure want rolling like a wave through his body, to the point of overwhelming his senses. All he can hear is his Caleb’s breath, steadily speeding. All he can see is the copper blur of his hair. All he can smell, all he can taste, the only thing he can feel, is Caleb.

Roughly dragging his fingers through his hair and loosening it from its tie, Caduceus urges Caleb to tilt his head, dipping down to meet him in a deep kiss, the lingering flavour of wine quickly disappearing as their tongues slide together. His breath is warm when he sighs into Caduceus’ mouth, hands still firm on his hips, holding them still. Caduceus pushes back, chasing sensation, feeling the slightest friction where he is pressed against Caleb's side. He pulls away for a moment, taking in Caleb's eyes; dark in the dim light and slightly glazed over.

Caduceus doesn't think he has ever wanted anything as much as he wants Caleb right now.

His voice is rough when he speaks, and Caleb seems to shiver at the sound. “Caleb. I want…” he pauses, unsure exactly how to phrase exactly what it is he wants, “we should go somewhere else.”

Nodding, Caleb pulls back. He raises an eyebrow, a sly smile curling up kiss-reddened lips. “Well, there are rooms upstairs.” He shifts and Caduceus feels a burst of relief as something hard brushes over his thigh; he's not the only one affected here.

Toying with the silky strands of hair that fall loose over Caleb's face, Caduceus scrunches his nose. “I don't think I feel comfortable with sneaking into someone else's rooms. Maybe we just wait until we get back to our own rooms at the Inn?”

Caleb sighs, trailing his fingers over Caduceus’ chest. “You're right mein Knuddelkälbchen, besides,” he raises up on his tiptoes to steal another soft kiss,” I'd rather we take our time, ja?”

Caduceus swallows, feeling a flush creep up his face under the intensity of Caleb's gaze. It's almost overwhelming, but when a warm hand slips into his own the faint fear lessens; it's Caleb, and Caduceus trusts him more than anything.

“Now, I think we take few minutes,” Caleb says, squeezing Caduceus’ hand, “and then see where everyone else is.” He meets Caduceus’ eye and winks, the action sending a swarm of butterflies fluttering in Caduceus’ stomach. “We'll continue this later.”

Nodding slowly, Caduceus peers around the pillar to take a glance around. No one seems to be looking for them, at least. The party is still in full swing. He breathes deep, inhaling the scent of Caleb's hair and holding him close, nuzzling the soft skin behind his ear once more, calming himself with the familiar aroma of earth and charcoal.

Caleb clears his throat, subtly adjusting the front of his trousers. “That isn't helping, you know.” His voice is filled with warmth, though, and his eyes sparkle with amusement. “I wonder how soon we can leave?”

“I'm sure Lady Zethris will let us know,” Caduceus says, straightening the front of his tunic and hearing Caleb let out a little noise of disappointment as he pulls it closed over his chest. “C'mon, let's find the others.”

The room is crowded but eventually they spot Nott and Jester sitting on some low couches, giggling to each other.

“Oh come on, I'll tell you what to say. You've done it so many times before!”

“I'm not drunk-dialling Yeza for you, Nott,” Jester's expression softens and she pats Nott on her hand, “but if you want to call him in the morning, we can.”

“Hmm,” Nott says, deftly snatching a glass of wine from a passing silver tray, “okay, deal. He and Luke are probably in bed by now. What time is it anyway?”

“Just after eleven-thirty,” Caleb says as they approach. “I don't know about everyone else, but I'm tired, maybe we should head back soon?”

“Mm,” Jester says, nodding in agreement, “I told Fjord we were going shopping tomorrow, so we need to be up early.”

“I can look for him, if you like,” Caduceus offers. Though he is loathe to part with Caleb for long, the sooner the group gets together, the sooner they can get going, and while patience is something that Caduceus usually excels at, tonight it is certainly an afterthought. He can still feel the heat of Caleb against him, sending an electric thrill racing beneath his skin. He wants to get back to the Inn and see just how far that sensation can go.

Pacing faster, he scans over the crowd, finally spotting Fjord, Beau, and Yasha outside in a small courtyard, lit by the blue glow of a fountain. His ears prick up as he approaches, hearing Beau’s voice filled with exasperation.

“Well if it bothered you so much why didn’t you ask her to dance?” Beau paces back and forth, watched by Yasha as Fjord rubs at the back of his head, sounding almost sheepish.

“I...can't dance.”

Beau snorts. “You think that matters? Did you see the way Jester was dragging that elf guy about? I think he's still hiding behind the bar.” She pinches the bridge of her nose. “Anyway, the point is, make your intentions clear, it'll make things easier for all of us.” Noticing Caduceus approaching, she tilts her head up. “What about you, Cad, any relationship advice for Fjord here? Something besides standing around and getting jealous.”

“Um,” Caduceus considers for a moment, a slow smile spreading across his lips as he thinks of his first kiss with Caleb—his first kiss ever, in fact. “Just…go for it, I suppose. You don't know what’ll happen unless you give it a shot.”

Fjord rolls his eyes. “That simple, huh?” He seems unconvinced but Beau raises her eyebrows, nodding to herself. She folds her arms and leans back against the fountain.

“Yasha, wanna come get a drink with me?”

“Oh, uh, sure. Let's go.” Yasha gives Fjord a pat on the shoulder as she stands.” You should listen to Caduceus, it doesn't have to be complicated.”

Caduceus grins again. “The others were thinking about leaving soon, but if you wanna stay I'll let them know.”

“Nah, I'm just about good to go,” Beau says, shoving a hand into her pocket, pulling out some sort of shrimp and shoving it into her mouth. “I already cleared the buffet. Just need one more drink for the road.” She offers her arm to Yasha. “Shall we?”

They head over to the bar, arm in arm, leaving Caduceus and Fjord outside. Fjord’s brows are still deeply furrowed, his arms crossed over his chest. He glances up at Caduceus.

“No offence, Deucey, but when did you become a relationship expert?” He shoves himself roughly to his feet.

“Well, I would say I'm pretty far from an expert, but—”

“Y’know, forget it.” Fjord raises a hand and brushes past Caduceus before he can even finish answering. His skin is flushed a darker green than usual as he presses through the crowd of guests and Caduceus sighs. He makes his way back to the couches, finding Zethris and R’yalla sitting alongside the rest of the group.

Caduceus bows his head in greeting and places a hand on Caleb's shoulder. “Beau and Yasha are getting road drinks but I'm not sure where Fjord is, he's kinda grumpy.”

“Ah, the half-orc gentleman, yes?” R'yalla smiles at her sister. “I feel I've barely had time to speak to my guests, Zethris, I've been so busy keeping an eye on you.” She is shorter than Zethris, her figure fuller, silver-gold hair piled on her head and bound by strings of jet black beads.

“I told you there was no need for the constant supervision,” Zethris says, a faint smile on her lips. “I hope I haven't monopolised your time.”

“Not at all, my dear, the night is still young.” R'yalla pauses for a moment, looking over each member of the group in turn, violet eyes lingering slightly longer on Caleb. Unconsciously, Caduceus feels his fingers tighten their grip. He gives a thin smile as R'yalla's gaze finds him and feels one ear twitch in annoyance.

“Well,” R'yalla says, “I just need to go upstairs for a moment, but I look forward to talking to you all properly when I return. Zethris has told me so many stories.”

Zethris nods, standing as her sister does. “We'll be right here.” Her placid smile doesn’t waver for an instant until R’yalla is out of sight and then she turns, excitement written all over her face. “Okay, get the rest of your friends, we need to go.”

“Ready when you are,” Beau says, appearing almost from nowhere, downing her drink and slamming the glass down. Behind her, Yasha sips daintily at a brightly coloured cocktail. “Where’s Fjord?”

Nott pulls out a coil of wire and sighs. “I’ll get him,” she says, rolling her eyes and turning towards the crowd. “Fjord! We need to leave. Meet us at the doors as soon as you can...you can reply to this message.” She tilts her head, obviously waiting for an answer only she can hear before jumping up and clapping her hands together. “He’s on his way, let’s go.”

They have just reached the door when Caduceus hears the screech of anger and R’yalla appears at the top of the stairs, the doll clutched in one hand, its oversized head flopping as she shakes her fist. “Zethris!”

Zethris turns, grinning, holding the door open and ushering Caduceus and the rest of the Nein through. “Lovely to see you again, R’yalla, dear, but we really must be going. Enjoy!”

The door slams and Caduceus hears a snort of laughter as Zethris dashes down the path ahead of them, her fingers trailing smoky grey. The air seems to slide around them with the now-familiar touch of dunamancy and after what feels like only a few steps, they are in front of the inn that has been serving as their home for this visit.

Turning to the group, her eyes sparkling with laughter, Lady Zethris claps her hands together. “Thank you, Mighty Nein. I know this wasn’t the most serious of tasks, especially for heroes such as yourselves, but your help was very much appreciated.” She gives a small bow of the head, her hair falling in a shimmering curtain. “As always, should you need anything during your visit, you need only ask.” With another wave of her hands, she is gone, leaving the Nein blinking in the soft glow of the inn’s windows.

“Wow, she really gets into messing with her sisters, huh?” Beau says, shoving the door to the main common room open. “Cad, you’ve got a lot of siblings, is that like, normal?”

“Oh yeah, totally,” Caduceus nods, “I remember this one time, my sister Clover found a hornet’s nest and planted it in Clarabelle’s bed…” He smiles at the memory, feeling a pang of sadness for the family he hasn’t seen in so long. “Of course, given that they shared a room, it probably wasn’t the brightest of ideas.” Beau snorts with laughter while Fjord hisses in a breath, wincing.

With a quick glance in Caduceus’ direction, Nott pipes up, “Speaking of sharing a room, Jester, is it okay if I stay with you since we’ll be calling Yeza in the morning?”

Jester grins. “Of course, Nott. We can think of all the things you’re going to say to him, like how much you miss him, and you love him, all that stuff.”

“Yeah,” Nott says, a note of wistfulness in her voice, “all that stuff.”

“Well, I’m not ready to call it a night just yet,” Beau says, “I’ve got two pockets full of shrimp and a bar stool with my name on it. Anyone wanna join me?”

Yasha and Fjord both nod and Beau looks to Caduceus, who shakes his head. Anticipation is already bubbling through him, and as Caleb loosens the high collar of his shirt, exposing his throat, the heat of arousal rises in him once more.

“I'll pass,” Caleb says softly, catching Caduceus’ eye, his lips quirking up in a knowing smile. “I'm just going to go to my room. Goodnight, everyone.”

“Me, too,” Caduceus says, following Caleb towards the stairs. He hears Fjord clear his throat and turns to see him looking confused, one eyebrow raised.

“Hey, ‘Duceus, our room is down that hall.”

“I know, but I'm staying with Caleb tonight. Goodnight.” Caduceus smiles widely, giving a small wave as he heads up the stairs. His ears twitch as he does, overhearing the last strains of conversation.

“Did I— Is he mad at me or something?”

A snort. “You really don't— Y'know what, forget it, first round's on me.”

As Caduceus reaches the top of the stairs he sees Caleb in front of the door to his room. He smiles when Caduceus approaches, opening the door and waving him in.

The instant the door clicks closed, Caduceus feels slim arms wrap around him. Caleb's face is pressed to his back and he breathes deep, tension seeming to leave his tight grip as he exhales, breath warm on Caduceus skin, even through the fabric of his tunic. The sensation sends shivers up Caduceus’ neck and he turns, dipping down to press their lips together.

Caleb practically melts into the kiss, his arms immediately winding around Caduceus’ waist. He tilts his head up, tongue swiping over Caduceus’ lower lip and making him groan. The flavour of wine is long gone now, replaced by something far more intoxicating: Caleb himself.

Stroking over Caleb's back, Caduceus can feel the book holster beneath his coat, sending an odd prickle of irritation through him; there are far too many layers, he needs to feel Caleb's skin and he needs to feel it now. He pulls away, breaking the kiss to reach for Caleb's coat—deep burgundy velvet—and push it back from his shoulders.

Huffing out a small laugh, Caleb lets the coat fall to the ground and reaches for the catches of his book holster, slipping it off and setting the books by the bed. “I'm glad we're finally alone,” he says, stepping forward again and taking Caduceus’ chin in his hands. He strokes over his beard with one thumb before gently urging him down into another soft kiss.

Caduceus hums in agreement, spreading his hands over Caleb’s shoulders before running them down his chest to fiddle with the buttons of his shirt. His fingers feel almost too large for the task and Caduceus can feel a faint frustration rising once more. Thankfully, Caleb reaches up as well, and between them, he is soon divested of both his shirt and undershirt.

“Much better,” Caduceus sighs, hands skimming up Caleb’s sides, tracing patterns over the soft skin. He breathes deep, pressing his nose to the juncture of Caleb’s neck and running his tongue over the soft valley of his collarbones. The faint salt tang of sweat is starting to rise on Caleb’s skin, his breath picking up pace with every swipe of Caduceus’ tongue. He grips tight on Caduceus’ hips and pushes forwards just a little, urging Caduceus backwards towards the bed.

“Sit just a moment, please,” Caleb murmurs, “I need to do one thing before I get too carried away.” He pulls his component pouch from his belt—the coat he’d been given for the party not having nearly enough pockets—and retrieves a spool of silver thread.

Caduceus watches, a warm fondness filling him from head to toe, as Caleb sets his spell. The low candlelight highlights every dip and curve of his spine, each ridge casting its own slight shadow. Strips of silver scars shine on his skin and Caduceus can feel a slight ache as he takes them in. He wants to soothe them away, along with the memories of what caused them, but there is only so much he can heal.

It only takes a few minutes before Caleb is done, and he turns towards Caduceus with a slow, easy smile. “There. Now we won’t be disturbed.”

“Good,” Caduceus says, nodding, his gaze fixed on the sharp lines of Caleb’s hips, the faint curve of his stomach, and the trail of fiery hair that leads down from his navel. There is a sense of anticipation in the air, making him shiver with unexpected want as Caleb approaches, reaching out to run his fingers up one ear.

Caduceus hisses in a breath, leaning into the touch as a jolt of electric sensation shoots straight through him. He wraps his arms around Caleb’s middle, nosing at the patches of hair that cover his chest, smiling to himself as Caleb murmurs something in Zemnian that he doesn’t understand. He can feel Caleb’s hands smoothing over his ears, up and down, every stroke making his breathing more ragged.

He is hard again, arousal bubbling higher and higher with every touch. Delicate fingers trail over the sensitive tips of his ears, reverent and gentle, slowly stoking the fire that burns in Caduceus’ chest. Caleb’s skin is warm against his own and he pulls back, hands hovering on Caleb’s hips.

“Is everything okay?” Caleb asks, his gaze soft. “This isn’t too much?”

Caduceus shakes his head, fingers clenching unconsciously. “It’s, um, it’s not enough actually.” He can feel heat rising up his cheeks and drops his gaze to his knees, embarrassed.

“Tell me what you want, then,” Caleb murmurs, taking Caduceus’ chin and tilting it up, kissing him softly.

“Well,” Caduceus tugs at the sleeves of his tunic, “I want to take this off, to start.”

Caleb nods, helping to tug the silky green fabric over Caduceus’ head, wetting his lips as he drops it to the floor behind him. He runs his fingers over Caduceus’ front, combing through the hair of his chest. “Anything else?”

“I...um…” Caduceus flexes his fingers, squeezing at Caleb’s hips, self-consciousness not quite leaving him despite Caleb’s reassurance. He swallows before admitting, “I wanna touch your butt.”

“Oh,” Caleb huffs out a small laugh, “ja okay, I’d like that.” He leans down, bringing their foreheads together, the long line of his nose pressing into Caduceus’ broader one. “I promise, if there is something I dislike, I’ll tell you. Will you do the same?”

“Of course,” Caduceus says, breath catching as Caleb kisses him, mouth open, breath hot. Their tongues slide against one another and Caduceus lets out a groan, finally allowing his hands to slip around to Caleb’s ass, squeezing tight, one cheek in each hand.

Caduceus can feel Caleb's deep, muffled, moan vibrating against his chest where they are pressed together and squeezes once more for good measure. He pulls Caleb closer, accidentally catching him off-balance and they fall to the mattress, tangled together, lips not parting for an instant. Caleb's hands are still on his chest and as one thumb brushes over Caduceus’ nipple he arches his back, hissing in a breath. His fingers find Caleb’s hair, combing through it while his other hand stays on his ass. Blood thrums through Caduceus, his heart speeding with every touch. Excitement and anticipation swirl together in the pit of his stomach, filling him to the brim with desire. The only way he can let it out is to keep kissing Caleb, to keep touching Caleb.

Pulling back for breath, Caleb pushes his hair back from his face, most of it now pulled loose from its tie by Caduceus’ eager fingers. He shifts up to lean against the pillows of the bed, patting the spot next to him.

As Caduceus moves to join him, Caleb props himself up on one elbow, trailing his fingers over the line of Caduceus’ jaw, thumb rushing over the swell of his lower lip. “Mein Knuddelkälbchen,” he sighs and dips down for a kiss that is almost chaste compared to the rest they have shared this evening.

Caduceus doesn't understand most of the Zemnian words Caleb uses when they're together like this, but he knows the affection in his voice, he knows the warmth in those blue eyes, and ‘mein’, he knows that. He likes it.

Lying down, the difference in their heights is much more manageable and, as Caleb's hand finds Caduceus’ hip, pulling them flush, he can feel a familiar hardness pressing against his stomach. Caleb’s breath huffs out against Caduceus’ lips and he breathes it in, resting his forehead against Caleb’s and closing his eyes. The room is warm, Caleb’s skin warmer, a faint sheen of sweat just starting to rise, freckled white blooming pink when Caduceus runs his hand down Caleb’s side.

Tentatively, teeth scraping over his lower lip, Caduceus rocks his hips, swallowing a moan as Caleb slides a knee between his thighs to provide much-needed friction. He can hear Caleb’s breath catch before his lips find Caduceus’ neck, teeth scraping over his pulse, tongue following seconds later to soothe the mark. He matches Caduceus’ movements, arching into him, fingers gripping tight on his hip every time their clothed erections brush together.

Heat coils through Caduceus, a pressure slowly building inside him, spiking with every breathy moan against his neck. He buries his nose in Caleb’s hair, breathing in the rich, earthy, human scent and feeling a burst of affection so intense it makes his heart clench. “Caleb,” he murmurs, threading his fingers into the sweat-dampened strands of his hair, accidentally tugging when another thrust of Caleb’s hips has him groaning out.

The action only seems to spur Caleb on, the movements of his hips increasing. He swears under his breath, faltering when the fastenings of his trousers catch against the fabric of Caduceus’ own. Glancing up, he meets Caduceus’ gaze, a flush colouring his cheeks, and Caduceus almost chuckles.

Wetting his lips, he closes in for a kiss, desire spreading through him, too strong to be ignored. He presses a hand to Caleb’s chest, dragging his fingers through the patches of red hair. Sliding lower, Caleb’s stomach is soft beneath his fingertips and Caduceus’ circles his navel, noting the way Caleb squirms at the touch. He pauses just a second before reaching down, cupping over the bulge in Caleb’s trousers and squeezing. Caleb’s cock is a hot, hard, line, even beneath the restrictive fabric, and the moan that slips from his lips is enough to have Caduceus own erection twitching, letting out a spurt of wetness.

“Maybe, ah— Maybe we should…” Caduceus glances down, breath catching, “take these off?” His confidence is growing, seeing Caleb as affected as he is, the sight of his hand stroking the length of Caleb’s clothed cock emboldening him. His warm, human, scent is thick in Caduceus’ nostrils, filling him with a desire more powerful than anything he has felt before. He has touched himself in the past, of course—if only a handful of times—and the coursing heat that burns inside him now is almost too much, but, as Caleb’s hand finds his own erection, he still wants more.

Goosebumps ripple over Caduceus skin when Caleb nods in agreement and their hands fumble together, unfastening buttons and ties. He draws in a much needed breath as the pressure on his cock is lessened and hears Caleb do the same. Their eyes meet, amusement shining in Caleb’s eyes and Caduceus can’t help but grin, pulling Caleb close to kiss him softly. He can feel Caleb’s hand sliding over the jut of his hip, reaching under his smallclothes and back to squeeze briefly at his ass before pushing his trousers lower.

“I want to see you,” Caleb says, his voice rough when they part again.

“Yeah, that sounds good,” Caduceus agrees, stripping the rest of his clothes and throwing them to the floor. Caleb’s eyes widen when he does, his mouth falling open in surprise. Caduceus raises an eyebrow teasingly, pleased to have caught Caleb off-guard. “Is this okay?”

Nodding slowly, Caleb looks him over, gaze lingering just a second longer on his cock, pink tip peeking from grey sheath, thick and hard against Caduceus’ stomach. Caleb’s eyes are bright, his face flushed, hair in glorious, fiery, disarray as he trails his fingers reverently over Caduceus’ chest. “Du bist so schön,” he whispers. Caleb pulls back, divesting himself of trousers and smallclothes as well, laying himself completely bare, glancing at Caduceus, as if for approval.

Raising his head, Caduceus drinks in the sight, his ears twitching. He has seen Caleb naked before, in the baths and in the ocean, but never like this. His cock juts out from the copper tangle of his pubic hair in a delicate arch, slender, like the rest of him. The head is flushed almost red, the bead of moisture pearling there making Caduceus’ mouth run dry.

“Wow,” he breathes out.

Ja, wow.” Caleb says, nodding, his cheeks delightfully flushed. He smiles at Caduceus, raising a hand to stroke down one ear and watching in fascination as his cock twitches in response. Pressing in close, he drags his fingers through Caduceus’ beard, bringing him in for an open-mouthed kiss that is all heat.

Their cocks slide together, making them both gasp into each other’s mouths and Caleb reaches down, brushing over Caduceus’ length before taking him firmly in hand and giving an experimental stroke.

Pleasure shoots through Caduceus and he pulls away from Caleb’s lips to cry out. His back arches, toes curling with every confident pump of Caleb’s fist. He starts slow, squeezing around the base of Caduceus’ cock, hand sliding up the shaft before circling the head, his breath speeding alongside Caduceus’ own as he watches his own movements.

Thrusting into the circle of Caleb’s fist, Caduceus holds tight around his shoulders, waves of sensation rising within him, already so close to cresting. He reaches down, wrapping his hand around Caleb’s cock, trying to mimic his motions, sliding the soft foreskin over the head and back. It is hard to concentrate though, and with every movement of Caleb’s hand, Caduceus’ finds himself faltering in his rhythm. He presses his face to Caleb’s shoulder, squeezing as close as he possibly can, mouthing against his skin to muffle his moans.

Not pausing in his movements, Caleb ruts against Caduceus’ hand, soft grunts breaking the still air, mingling with Caduceus groans as Caleb brings him closer and closer to the edge.

“Caleb,” he whimpers, pleasure coiling tight within him, moving his hips to meet each stroke of Caleb’s fist. “I think I’m gonna—”

“Ah! Good, let me see.” Caleb kisses over Caduceus’ forehead, pumping at his cock with steady, quick, strokes, wringing louder and louder moans from Caduceus’ lips with every flick of his wrist.

Caduceus tenses, electric white-hot heat rushing through him and he wraps himself around Caleb, coming hard on his own stomach in several long spurts that leave him trembling. He shudders as Caleb continues to stroke him through the aftershocks, his breath ragged, his own hips still moving in erratic thrusts, cock sliding against Caduceus’ still palm..

Smearing his fingers through the pool of come in Caduceus’ navel, Caleb takes himself in hand, slicking himself. He groans, throwing his head back and exposing his throat, which Caduceus immediately nuzzles into.

Enclosing Caleb’s hand within his own, Caduceus moves in time, feeling the vibration of Caleb’s moans where his lips brush against his throat. He laps at the faint sheen of sweat, a burst of triumph bubbling in his chest when, after only a few more strokes, Caleb chokes out his name, the fingers of his free hand gripping tight in Caduceus’ hair. Warm wetness hits Caduceus’ stomach, the stripes of Caleb’s come mingling with his own as he moans out his release.

Finally, after letting out a shuddering breath, Caleb pulls back, meeting Caduceus eyes. His lips curve into a slow, sated smile as Caduceus threads their fingers together, pulling him close enough to press the length of their bodies together. He kisses Caleb softly before slumping back onto the pillow, his skin prickling in the cooling air.

Rolling over, Caleb picks his discarded shirt from the floor, using it to mop over Caduceus’ stomach, as well as his own, cleaning them both up before tossing it behind him.

“That was a gift, you know,” Caduceus teases, “I don’t think Lady Zethris would be pleased.”

Caleb just shrugs, his expression soft with contentment. “It will wash.”

We should wash,” Caduceus says. He runs two fingers over Caleb’s softening cock, and raises them to his mouth, lapping over them to taste. It is salty, and a little bitter, but the gasp that Caleb draws in at the sight is more than worth it. He strokes down Caduceus’ cheek, pulling him into his arms and holding tight.

“The inn has baths, we can do that tomorrow,” Caleb says. His grip loosens and he pulls back to meet Caduceus’ gaze. “Was that...did you enjoy that?” he asks, the smallest of tremors in his voice, his teeth worrying at his lower lip.

Caduceus presses his forehead to Caleb’s, hands stroking idle circles on his back. “It was pretty great,” he says, “we should do it again sometime.”

Caleb smiles, his breath leaving him in a relieved sigh. He reaches down to pull the blanket over them both. “You’re right, we should.” He smoothes over Caduceus’ hair, kissing the broad tip of his nose before curling into the crook of his shoulder, the rough hair of his beard scraping at Caduceus’ chest and making him shiver. “Maybe in the morning.”

Caduceus settles back, frowning as his feet hit the bottom of the bed. He curls his legs up, wrapping himself around Caleb, breathing in the scent of his hair, tinged with pheromones now. Caleb’s skin is warm as he cuddles in, pressing a gentle kiss above Caduceus heart. Caduceus feels something clench in his chest, and his fingers twitch on Caleb’s back. The sensation is wonderful, terrifying, and he can’t quite put words to it. It makes his hair stand on end, butterflies swooping in his stomach in a frantic flutter. Caduceus doesn’t know what this means, but, as he glances down at Caleb, his face smooth and peaceful, he realises it doesn’t matter. This is something he can figure out in time.

Maybe in the morning.