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This Unspeakable Pursuit

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Wilde manages, “I had no idea the paladins of Artemis Parthenos were skilled at sodomizing men.”

It earns him a soft laugh from Grizzop. No edge to it, either because he’s tired or because the afterglow has tempered his high-strung energy somewhat. Wilde notes this down in case it’s ever of any need. “Yeah, well.” He wrings out the handkerchief he’s using to clean Wilde, gives it a final shake before going back to dabbing at Wilde’s injuries. “You’re not the first one to make eyes at me after I show ‘em my teeth.”

“Gods above. You absolute rake.”

“That’s me, alright. Nothing to do with you lot and your poor sense of self-preservation.” He nudges at Wilde’s knee. “Here, open your thighs a bit more.”

“You insatiable rake,” Wilde corrects himself. Grizzop flicks his kneecap and Wilde laughs and acquiesces, opening his legs with a wince. Grizzop pats at the puncture wounds there, cleaning them off. What begins as warmth sharpens into a sting, and Wilde sucks in a sharp breath through his teeth.

“Wouldn’t it be more efficient to just heal me?” Not quite acidic enough for his usual sarcasm, but, well. He’s recovering from a rather energetic buggering, and it’s not as though he’s young anymore.

Grizzop raises an eyebrow. “It’d be more efficient to not have given you what you wanted in the first place. Is this really the time for- for philosophy?”

Wilde laughs, less because it’s funny and more because there’s an odd abrasion on his hip from the carpet, and whatever salve Grizzop’s rubbing on it makes his skin feel like it’s burning. “If not now, when?”

“Alright, fair enough.” Grizzop soothes Wilde with a soft shush, pats the side of his hip. “So it’s not about doing things fast, then, right? It’s about doing them well and making good choices about what deserves your time and effort.”

“To think I warranted your effort. I’m flattered,” Wilde says. It’s not even sarcastic.

Grizzop doesn’t reply. No eyeroll, no words, nothing. He keeps cleaning Wilde and brings the dish of water closer, dips the cloth in it and wrings it out again.

And Wilde doesn’t feel entirely human or entirely within his wits, enough that the fear overwhelms him again. Different, this time. Less an arrow fired in the dark and more a stone sinking deep into his guts.

He asks a question he’s asked others before. “Do you regret it?” He thinks he manages to sound nonchalant, indifferent. Purely a scientific inquiry. “What we just did?”

Grizzop snorts. “Not much point to regret, is there? You make a mistake, you do better next time.”

“Look at you, equivocating.” Wilde masks any hurt with a smile, and if it’s more of a baring of teeth, so be it. He sits up with a grunt. There’s a tenderness in his midsection, a bruise that hasn’t arrived quite yet but will blossom tomorrow. “I’m learning a lot about you this evening, aren’t I.” Not quite a threat, but certainly a display that he is not entirely unarmed.

Grizzop doesn’t rise to it. He tilts Wilde’s shoulder so the bloody water sluices across his body and off into the small dishpan. “Look, if we’re - if we’re going to do this, again, in any capacity--”

Wilde stares into the rust-colored water. Blood in water never looks as dramatic as it ought to, honestly.

And then there’s a hand gripping Wilde’s chin, jerking him down and forcing eye contact. Wilde snarls and tries to jerk back, tests the strength of it because he can, but Grizzop’s ready. His fingers find the right spot to dig in and send pain shooting through Wilde’s nerves.

“Oy. This is important.” The room is dim enough that Grizzop’s eyes are a deep, drowning black. “Settle down.”

The pain in his jaw fades until it’s nothing but firm, unrelenting pressure. Wilde takes a breath and.

Settles.

Feels the tension slip from his bones and down, spilling from his veins. Grizzop shifts from forcing Wilde down to stroking his face. “There y’go. Look at you, good boy.” He tucks a stray strand of hair behind Wilde’s ear, and it’s too unexpectedly tender.

Oh no.

His only weakness: sincerity.

Wilde tries to breathe but even that doesn’t work. His breath catches in a mortifying hiccup and for god’s sake, he’s taken countless spankings, a few consensual beatings even, before. He’s not exactly certain why this has reduced him to slumping forward, clutching Grizzop like he’s the only real thing in the room.

“This is very embarrassing,” Wilde manages. Grizzop’s chest had patches of drying, flaking blood – red, Wilde’s – and now it’s smeared with tears, as well. Wilde laughs shakily, aware how unwell he sounds. “How are you so strong but so small?"

“Manufacturing error,” Grizzop answers solemnly. His fingers keep stroking Wilde’s hair; the scent of the herbal salve that Grizzop’s been using on the various injuries is strong, enough for Wilde to focus on and draw himself back from the state he’s in.

“Let’s get some water in you.” Grizzop gently peels him away, shushing the faint protests and holding a cup of water to Wilde’s mouth. “Drink slowly, there’s a love.”

The water is cool and sweet, and Grizzop dabs at Wilde’s mouth and murmurs faint praise that doesn’t register fully. It’s all rather absurd, really. Wilde, twice Grizzop’s size, is being cradled and soothed like a child who’s skinned his knees. Worst of all is the way Grizzop keeps looking at him, worried and gentle and Wilde –

Wilde doesn’t deserve this kindness.

Grizzop blinks.

Ah, of course he said it out loud. Wilde sighs and shuts his eyes, smashes his face against Grizzop’s stomach. If the man has any scrap of pity in him, he’ll let Wilde keep his dignity and not acknowledge the far, far too vulnerable thing he just said.

For a few moments, there’s just the comforting feeling of Grizzop’s fingers combing through Wilde’s hair. He smooths down Wilde’s eyebrows, traces the bridge of his nose and his jawline, and worst of all, leans over to pepper small kisses on Wilde’s forehead. The indignity of it. Wilde tries to protest.

“If you really want me to stop, I can heal you up quick.”

Wilde opens an eye.

Grizzop’s expression hasn’t changed. He rubs slow circles over Wilde’s temples. “But you should know… I’m doing this for my benefit, too.”

“So you can feel good about having destroyed me.” It comes out flatter than Wilde means it to, but that’s the problem with having his curiosity at war with affected nonchalance.

So I can feel like a person.” Grizzop sighs. “Right. Work with me. I’m, I’m having a bit of a religious crisis here.”

“Oh?” Wilde blinks and lifts himself up on his elbows so that they’re face to face.

Grizzop frowns. “Ah, so. There’s this thing that happens– if you're part of the Artemis lot, you’re bound to be drawn to hunting in one way or another, yeah?”

Wilde nods assent. What’s especially fascinating about this isn’t so much the fact that Grizzop is dancing around Artemisian mysteries as the fact that Grizzop wants to, finds it necessary to explain some of this.

“Right,” Grizzop goes on. “There’s – when you’re deep in the hunt, some parts of your brain go to sleep. Other parts come awake, like. Like when you’re learning a new language and suddenly one day you hear someone say something in it and you know it.” His shoulders slump a bit and he exhales, falls back into a sitting position. “I’m mucking up the explanation,” he says, tail flicking ruefully.

It occurs to Wilde that Grizzop is occasionally, unfortunately, quite wonderful.

“You’re doing fine.” Wilde props himself up on his elbows, thinks about what it’s like when the magic wraps around his windpipe. “Your brain uses different words because you know different words, yes?”

Grizzop nods. “Yeah. You’re you, but you’re… you’re speaking a different language at the time. And if you keep listening to the blood--” He catches himself and cuts the sentence off, and Wilde tries his best not to look as though this small detail (listen to the blood) isn’t as delicious and rare as it is.

After a few moments, Grizzop starts over. “You went to Oxford. History’s required there, likely.” He looks at Wilde out of the corner of his eyes. “Don’t know if you’d remember reading the name Ankaios, though.”

Wilde smiles pleasantly. “A crime of hubris, wasn’t it? Claiming his skills surpassed Hers?” He doesn’t have to say Artemis’ name, nor does he have to draw attention to having researched historic stories directly related to her worshippers in recent weeks.

The switch is subtle, and Wilde feels a pleased curl of pride when Grizzop’s mouth twitches, the barest hint of approval. “Close, but still a miss. Specifically, he declared he would not be stopped. Not by anything, not by anyone – not even Her.”

“Ah. That’s the danger of it, then.”

“Yeh. You lose yourself in it, you don’t come back, and even She can’t bring you out of it if you’ve forsaken Her hand on your bow.” Grizzop stretches out – those strangely jointed legs that make Wilde think equally of a deer and of a cat, but on close inspection, aren’t quite like either. His cock has sheathed back inside his body, leaving only a tidy slit between his legs. “You end up a monster who won’t stop, and that’s when She’s got to take you down. Turn you into a beast and send the rest of us after you.” His long, thin tail flicks lazily, and he watches Wilde for a long moment before pulling him in close.

Wilde thinks of resisting. Doesn’t. Instead shuts his eyes and rests against Grizzop’s chest, inhales the odd, musky sex smell on him, and thinks about how often Grizzop has likely been called a monster.

“There’ve been others,” Grizzop says quietly. “From my lot, I mean. Artemis blesses us, we learn what it is to hunt in her name, under her light, and we make the choice to do good with it. Be responsible and all that.”

In spite of himself, Wilde sees where this is going. “And what we just did was blasphemy to your god.” Not quite a pointed emphasis on the your; he’s too tired still, too languid from earlier. Too sore. He begins to pull away from Grizzop.

Grizzop doesn’t permit it. He curls around Wilde, arms wrapped around Wilde’s head, one leg thrown over his shoulders. “Oscar. Stop.” No anger, no fire, just a fond exasperation. “Look, I’m going somewhere with this. Keep up, all right?”

Wilde mumbles something, and it’s mostly drowned out against Grizzop’s skin.

“If we’re going to do this again, we’ve got to – we’ve got to talk about it, you can’t just bait me into it. ‘s not healthy for you or for me. And this—” Grizzop pulls back, motions around the room. “—this is a part of it, you and me after. You letting me take care of you, come back to myself like that, yeah?” He exhales. “Part and parcel, Wilde.”

“You’ll tear me limb from limb, but you want to stitch me back together.”

“Yes.”

The silence between them hangs thick and sluggish and surprisingly sweet, honey dripping off the comb.

“I want to,” Grizzop says, eventually. “I like you like this.” He’s started stroking Wilde’s hair again. “Might even get you to sleep.”

Wilde laughs, a sound far too light and happy to have come from him. “Aim high, archer.”

He’s surprised by a kiss to his throat, gentle and chaste. “You’re a tall bastard. Leave me no choice.”

Many hours later, certainly more than eight, Wilde is pleased to discover that Grizzop also enjoys the luxury of sleeping in.