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it's not so bad, doing what i say

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'Beatrice will lead the first team into this building here, setting the charges.' Ava tapped her finger against the blueprint. The other sisters were clustered around the same table, examining it for anything she might have missed. Her Council, Ava liked to joke, and the name had stuck. 'Clare will take the second team here and wait for my signal.'

There was a moment of hush and then Clare said, 'Me, Ava?'

'Yes.'

'Not - ' Clare's eyes cut sideways to Lilith, who had gone pale, tense.

'Is that a problem?' Ava asked, voice cool. She lifted her attention from the map to Clare. Not once did her eyes shift to Lilith.

Clare swallowed hard. 'No, Halo-Bearer.'

'Good. In that case - we've been over this plan a billion times. There's no more time for planning. Go make sure you're ready, rest. Take a nap.' Ava grinned. 'Steal some ice-cream from the kitchens.'

'Don't do that,' Beatrice denied instantly.

The rest of the Council laughed and relaxed into the ease of Ava's smile and the way light and confidence seemed to drift from her. Emboldening them all. They left, amidst chatter and a few pairs of serious discussion - Beatrice and Camila, going over the inventory yet again - Lilith leading the pack.

'Lilith,' Ava called. The Council split, moving silently past the woman who stood frozen in the doorway. 'A word, please?'

Lilith's head twitched. Ava knew what she was going to do before she did it, and she darted forward, threw out a hand to snare her sleeve but Lilith turned on her heel and, with a look of quiet fury, disappeared, stepping back into the there-and-then-gone ripple of a portal. 'God dammit Lilith.'

There weren't many places she could go for privacy within Cat's Cradle. Lilith had the rest of the world, technically, but Ava knew she wouldn't leave the grounds. Part of her was too noble, never the type to abandon her team before a mission even if she had all intentions of returning. Part of her, Ava knew but would not say, was too afraid. Which left a few rooms dotted across the grounds and - Ava snatched up her notebook, stuffing it into her pocket, and jogged out of the Council chambers. Made her way down into the crypts. With a thrum of focus, of power, her feet left the floor by a mere millimetre, just enough to make her movement absolutely silent.

She hated this place. It was cold. Dry. Quiet. Absolutely quiet. And bad luck, in Ava's mind, to visit before a mission. It wasn't the full truth - the full truth being that the part of Ava that had feared being alone, once calmed of that fear had turned its hungry gnawing attention on this fear instead. Of the dead, of dying. Of being the one to leave her family. Lilith knew that. Which was why Ava was absolutely certain she would be hiding down here.

Ava let her power go with the same thrill as always, the brilliant note of satisfaction of having mastered something. A brief spark of warmth against the chill that was already setting into her bones. She shivered. Wrapped her arms around herself as she stood in the doorway, watching Lilith pace.

The room was too small for pacing but Lilith managed, like a tiger in a cage. Brisk, powerful strides. Shoulders hunched. Fists clenched at her side.

'It should be me!' Lilith snapped. She didn't need to hear Ava to know that she had arrived. 'I should be leading the second team, it should be me.'

Ava leaned against the wall. Crossed her arms and did not speak. Just watched as Lilith tossed her head with a silent snarl and continued her pacing.

'I'm faster than Clare, stronger, a better fighter. You know that, everyone knows that.'

'She will do fine.'

'Fine isn't good enough. Not with a mission of this much importance, you know that.' Lilith stopped. Chest heaved as she sucked in a breath. 'You know that,' she repeated, and turned a suspicious look on Ava. 'You're not stupid.'

'Gee. Thanks.'

'Hardly a brilliant mind but not stupid.'

'You say the sweetest things.'

Lilith narrowed her eyes. 'Where am I in this plan of yours?'

'A billion versions of this plan - '

'Fourteen.'

' - and you're only just now asking that.'

'I had assumed,'

'You know what they say about making assumptions,' Ava teased, and watched as Lilith shook with the effort it took not to snap at her.

'Where am I?’ she asked again, biting off each word between cutting teeth. ‘In this plan of yours?'

'Clare's team. Wherever she puts you.'

Lilith's frown cut deep between her brows. 'But why?'

It was a question Ava knew she would have. It was a question Beatrice had had too, and she had been difficult to appease. Ava hadn't expected much resistance from Lilith at all, which was her own damn fault. She had forgotten about Lilith's pride.

'Because I said so.'

'But - '

'Are you going to disobey me, Lilith? Are you going to shame yourself like that?'

Lilith's eyes flashed wide. She gaped for a second before, 'No! No! I just - '

'Since when is an order not enough?'

Lilith visibly struggled with that for a moment. Ava watched it twist, anger flipping for a moment into intense vulnerability. She sighed. Stepped into the room, finally, with a last look over her shoulder to make certain that they were alone.

'Lilith,' she said softly, pulling dark eyes to her. 'This is not about your abilities. This is not because I don't trust you.' Ava could see Lilith didn't believe her, not fully. She continued to walk forward and, when Lilith took a step back, Ava stopped. Cursed herself for having done this so badly, for not realising what it would mean for Lilith. Or, really, for having known entirely well what it would mean for Lilith and having decided to do it anyway.

'It's not so bad, doing what I say,' Ava blurted out. She shook her head immediately, exasperated with herself. It had been a long time since she had felt so off kilter, since she had made such a big mistake. She closed her eyes, searched for a better way to explain to Lilith. There wasn't one, there was too much she couldn't tell her, she just needed Lilith to trust her—

'Prove it.'

Ava's eyes flashed open. Searched out Lilith's, directly before her. Surely she must have misheard - not the words, innocuous as they were - but the tone. 'What?'

'Prove it,' Lilith said again.

'That it's not about your abilities?' Ava hedged. Lilith glared at her. 'Or that it's not so bad to do what I say?' She heard her voice change as she said it. An answer to the faint suggestion that had been buried in Lilith's words. 'I don't have to explain myself to you. And I shouldn't have to prove myself to you for you to do as you're told,' Ava continued, voice quiet. Plenty loud in the silent room. There was nothing here aside from the two of them, just the sound of their breathing. She watched Lilith look to the stone floor, the distance between them. 'But I will. For you. If that's what you need.'

Ava regarded her for a moment. The tense set of her shoulder. Her hands curled into fists. The proud, straight line of her spine.

'Is that what you need, Lilith? You need a reward to do as you're told?'

Two spots of colour burned hot on Lilith's cheeks at the implication. 'No,' she said through gritted teeth. 'No, I don't.’

'But that's what you want, isn't it?'

Lilith opened her mouth. Closed it again. She seemed to be bewildered that they had made it to this topic, to this point. Her eyes shifted in minuscule fractions across Ava's face - from the arch of her brow, to the flat line of her lips, absent of a smile - as she replayed it, plotted it out in her head, and kept coming to the same moment. Looking at Ava and telling her to prove it. It had been her who said it. Lilith knew it. Ava knew it.

'I don't mean to,' Lilith said.

Ava nodded. She didn't move. 'It won't change my mind,' Ava warned her. Her mind, which swam with the knowledge of what they were discussing. 'Tomorrow is going ahead as I have planned it.' Lilith still seemed to be making mental calculations. This time, her attention dropped from Ava's lips to her shirt, down her body. 'Say it.'

Lilith wrenched her eyes up. 'What?'

'Say you'll do as I tell you.'

Lilith's lips pulled back slightly, almost baring her teeth. 'You are the Halo Bearer, whom I am sworn to follow.'

Ava waited. When it was apparent that was all Lilith was willing to say, she waited a moment longer, considering how she wanted to do this. Keeping her voice mild, Ava said,

'Say it properly.'

'You are -'

'No.'

'I want -'

'No.'

'I should - '

'Are you deliberately not doing what I told you?' Ava asked, curious. 'Or are you just not sure how to do it?' Lilith stayed quiet. 'I am going to be very clear now. I'm giving you one last chance to say what I want to hear. If you don't say it, I'm taking it as a sign that this isn't what you want,' she said, not unkindly, but firm. 'And I'm walking out of this room. Tomorrow, the mission continues as I said it will. That will happen, regardless of what happens between us now. Do you understand?'

'Yes,' Lilith said.

'So. Tell me.' Time seemed to stretch on and on. Ava waited for her, she would wait for as long as it took, for Lilith to say what she wanted to hear or for Lilith to end this.

Lilith licked her lips. 'I,' she said, voice tense, body tense, 'will do as you say.'

Ava had been prepared to end it. To leave the room. She had already begun to file this away as a very pleasant little fantasy. She'd been about ninety percent sure that Lilith wouldn't bend her rigid pride enough to say the words, and the ten percent that had considered the possibility had only been thinking about Lilith's part in it. About how it might feel to her to say the words. Exactly no part of Ava had been prepared to hear them, and so she was woefully unprepared for her own reaction to the words. Molten heat poured through her, an instant powerful rush of satisfaction that was followed by a second rising crest of anticipation. Ava waited, breathless and trying not to seem like she was, as she considered Lilith. She was still braced as though the words had been a challenge rather than surrender. Ava flung that word as far from her mind as possible, unable to squash the shudder that moved through her, the images that flashed through her mind—Lilith beneath her, Lilith in her arms, Lilith soft, yielding, begging

‘Good,’ Ava said, finally.

She took a purposeful step forward. Lilith tensed but didn’t move back. There were, Ava calculated, four steps remaining between them. Five, if she shortened her pace.

‘Let’s test that,’ Ava suggested. Lilith lifted her eyes to Ava’s, met them squarely. She’s always been good at tests. ‘Stay where you are. Take something off.’

‘My shirt?’

‘Whatever you want.’

Lilith narrowed her eyes. The test was merely whether she would obey but Ava suspected she was looking for something more. Ava kept her expression as it was—not blank because she had never been good at that, but attentive. Unhelpful for Lilith to read any extra information from. Lilith tilted her head. Reached for her knife belt. Her hand hovered over it. Ava smiled but made no comment. Lilith’s hand skated down to the hem of her shirt, touched it, went so far as to grip it in her hand before she returned to the knife belt, unclipped it with a practised motion. The leather slid with a hiss from around her shoulders, fell loose into her hand.

‘Where do you want it?’

‘Throw it onto the table,’ Ava told her. It was a few paces from either of them but not so far that Lilith couldn’t retrieve it—and, more importantly, anything that followed it—in a moment.

Lilith threw it. The leather and metal scraped over stone, slithered off the edge of the table to pool beside it. She started to take a step toward it, to fix it; Ava stopped her with a raised hand.

‘It’s not important,’ Ava told her.

Lilith looked from the belt to Ava. ‘You said you wanted it on the table.’

‘It hit the table. Half marks,’ Ava teased. ‘You can make it up to me.’

‘...How?’

Ava took another, smaller step forward. ‘Take off something else.’

Still with a look of challenge in her eyes, Lilith avoided a major item. Bent, removed knife and belt from around her shin. Threw it to join the other. Ava waited.

‘I did what you said.’

‘To the letter of the law,’ Ava agreed. Lilith smirked. ‘I’m just trying to decide if that’s the kind of thing I like.’ Lilith’s smirk fell, just a little. Ava took another, very small step forward, hardly a step at all.

‘Seems like you do.’

‘Luckily for you, I’ve always found it kinda hot when you’re a bitch.’

‘Always, then.’

Ava grinned. ‘Always,’ she agreed, tone softening, sweetening. Lilith’s eyes widened. She didn’t seem to know what to do with that; looked like she wanted to move to Ava, or perhaps the doorway beyond. But she remained.

‘Another,’ Ava ordered, returning to cool command.

Lilith took stock of what remained. It had been a briefing, so she hadn’t brought much with her, and she seemed to be torn between wishing she had more items and struggling to stop from stripping off her shirt. Ava gave her no help. Stooping again, Lilith made short work of her boots. Kicked both of them toward the table. Ava rewarded her with another step forward.

‘Socks too.’

‘They’re each an item.’

‘They’re each an item when I say they are,’ Ava disagreed. ‘I’m not fucking you with your socks on.’

Lilith sucked in a sharp breath at the frank words. Silently, she bent and pulled them off as well. Somehow, she managed to do so gracefully. None of the jumping around and tugging at them and swearing that Ava was so prone to. Just neatly rolled them down and off. Balled them up, tossed them to join the rest of her things.

‘Happy?’ she drawled.

Ava ignored the question. ‘Good,’ was all she said. ‘Another.’

There were two steps remaining. Lilith had well and truly caught onto the game by this point and it was with little hesitation and plenty of challenge in her eyes that she reached for the buttons of her pants. She was testing Ava, trying to surprise her. It would have worked if she hadn’t made it so obvious; something in Ava delighted in the challenge, burned hotter, burned away the part of her that wanted to fall to her knees and worship every inch of the skin revealed as Lilith hooked her thumbs into the waistband of her pants and pulled them down. There was a purpose to this and she wouldn’t allow herself - or Lilith - to ruin it.

Far from taking it as a challenge, which would give Lilith some upper hand, Ava took the gesture as a gift. Took her time with it as it unwrapped itself. Dragged her eyes over bronzed thighs. Took her time to enjoy the sight of so much skin, the tight line of muscles beneath skin at turns smooth and scarred. Found herself quite suddenly enamoured by the sharp jut of Lilith’s knees; Ava wanted to touch them, run her fingers into the crook behind them. She wondered if Lilith were ticklish. She wondered, as Lilith pushed her pants down her shins to her ankles, what it was like to be a warrior like Lilith was, and what it felt like to strip out of her armour, strip down to her skin. Ava had never had that problem before; she had never been a fighter like Lilith is and was. Her life hadn’t been about the sword and shield since she could walk. Well. Not the first time, anyway. She wondered if Lilith would laugh if she knew Ava thought of golden Achilles when she saw Lilith’s knees. If Achilles’s lovers had felt half-god themselves when he took off his armour. If he had ever been brave enough to do so.

Lilith stepped out of her pants. Picked them up. Folded them. Threw them to the side. She stood like she was ready to throw Ava, ready to fight.

Ava took a step forward. ‘Beautiful,’ she whispered. She could touch Lilith from here, if she wanted to. She could wait, take another step forward.

She wanted to know something. She wanted to talk. That would have the added benefit of really annoying Lilith.

‘Why your pants?’

‘What?’

‘Why’d you take your pants off?’ Lilith stared. ‘Tell me,’ Ava demanded.

‘I was -‘ she said instantly, like the commanding words jumpstarted something in her. Her brain followed her body by a second, and she said, ‘I was under the impression you were going to fuck me.’

‘I am. But I’m confused.’

‘Hardly new.’

‘Careful, Lilith,’ Ava warned. She fixed her with a displeased look for a second before continuing. ‘You went from knife belt one and two to taking off your pants. I don’t get it.’

‘Maybe I decided to get this over and done with,’ Lilith returned haughtily.

Ava paused. Folded her arms, brows arched. ‘If you’re gonna be a brat about this, I’m happy to stop. Is that what you want?’

Lilith pressed her lips flat. Then, ‘No.’

‘And?’ Lilith thought carefully for a moment. She licked her lips. ‘I apologise.’

‘For what?’

Lilith hesitated a moment too long and Ava knew she needed something. Carrot or stick, though? Why not a little of each. Ava let the power of the Halo build. Felt the charge in the air, that electric pulse, force gathering around her, air growing heavier. Ava let the light gather around her shoulders. She could almost see the way it spilled across each shoulder like wings of light, though as the centre of that light it was difficult to make out the detail; she could definitely see the way Lilith’s hesitation bled away to awe.

‘You’re struggling with this,’ Ava told her, and poured as much confidence into the words as she could. More than enough to slip into arrogance. ‘You think you’re fighting back but you’re not fighting me. You can’t do anything to me. You couldn’t hurt me if you tried.’

‘I don’t want to,’ Lilith said. ‘Hurt you.’

Ava cocked her head to the side. ‘You couldn’t.’

‘I could-‘

‘You couldn’t,’ Ava interrupted, and a not-gentle push of that force burst from her. Lilith rocked from the wave, back onto her heels. Unharmed, but shocked. ‘I’m going to let you try again,’ Ava said. ‘Say thank you.’

‘Thank you,’ Lilith rasped without pause. Her pupils had swallowed all the dark colour of her eyes.

‘Why did you take your pants off?’

‘Because of the scar.’

Ava blinked. That had not been the answer she’d expected. ‘The scar—oh. Does it still hurt?’ she asked, suddenly worried that she had hurt Lilith, that Lilith might have been hurting for as long as she has had the scar.

‘No. It’s,’ Lilith wrenched her gaze from Ava, shut her eyes. ‘It’s ugly,’ she bit out. ‘It’s not like yours.’

Ava considered that for a moment, and considered the last step between them before she would be right up against Lilith. The air thrummed with the power of the Halo.

‘Take off your shirt,’ Ava commanded. Lilith hesitated. A hand slipping under her shirt to press over the mark. ‘Lilith, look at me.’ Ava waited for dark eyes to meet hers. ‘Take off your shirt. Trust me.’

Ava drank in the sight of her. Shoulders shifting, fingers curling into the hem of her shirt, the shirt falling to the floor like a curtain from an exquisite statue. A reveal, a revelation. She drank in the sight of Lilith's trust; it was a more difficult thing to find than her beauty, at first, but it was in everything. Her easy stance. Arms loose at her sides, not trying to cover herself. The slow, calm breath. Ava's eyes dipped. She might have a Halo but she was no angel. Pure, red-blooded human. Blood that drummed at the thin points of her skin, beneath her jaw, at her wrists, between her legs, burned red-hot. Her eyes dragged down from muscled shoulders to her breasts, held tight in a neat sports bra. Down the centre line of her abs, which hid beneath soft skin until she tensed slightly under Ava's inspection and then they emerged, hard bunches of muscle Ava wanted to press up against, touch, taste. She left them reluctantly, continued the slow drag of her attention down over dark underwear, down Lilith’s legs again. And finally, when she had drunk her fill, Ava lifted her eyes to the scar.

It had faded over the years to a small puckered scar. What had once been the size of Ava's palm was half that, though the surrounding skin hadn't quite returned to the bronze of the skin that surrounded it, remaining dark. The much-reduced scar was pink like a burn and when Lilith breathed in again, a little more sharply, Ava could see that the area was tight, pulled at the area around it. If it didn't hurt Lilith, it at least looked like it was felt.

Ava stepped forward - the owed reward for obedience, for removing her shirt - and Lilith remained. Still. One hand lifted to Ava's shoulder when she knelt to pick up the discarded shirt. Fingers trailed over her shoulder and fell quickly away. Ava said nothing about it, just folded Lilith's shirt and threw it to join the rest.

'Not so bad, is it? Doing what I say?' Ava asked, and as she looked up into Lilith's eyes, she lifted herself. Let the world move around her, forced the world to move around her. Rose up into the air until she was level with Lilith (then perhaps very slightly above her) and, at Lilith's sharp intake of air, no doubt preparing to scold her for the misuse of divine power, Ava kissed her.

Cradling Lilith's face with one hand, the other falling to her shoulder, Ava drifted her lips across Lilith's. A tease of a kiss, little more. Then another, fingers hooking into the strap of her bra, tugging her gently forward. Another kiss, and Lilith finally found herself, lifted her hands to Ava's waist - and cried out when Ava pulled away.

'Hands at your side.'

Lilith trembled. Thought about disobeying, Ava could basically see the thought as it crossed her mind. And then she licked her lips. Felt the ghost of Ava's kiss on them and subsided. Dropped her hands to her side.

'Good girl,' Ava breathed, barely loud enough to hear, and surged forward.

She pulled herself close with the fingers on Lilith's shoulder, let Lilith feel her own bare skin against Ava's clothes. Swallowed Lilith's groan when Ava stopped levitating - when she hooked her legs around Lilith's waist, hooked arms around her shoulders, sinking her fingers into the base of Lilith's braid, and set herself there. For the foreseeable future, Ava was pretty sure, because in the instant that she kissed Lilith she became reluctant to ever stop. She kissed her without reservation, without hesitation, without pause. Perhaps there were better ways to do it, ways that made more sense with this scenario. Perhaps teasing or doling out kisses as rewards, but Ava was more of the overwhelm them to her way of thinking kind of a girl. She kissed her, swept her tongue between Lilith's lips, kissed her hard until Lilith was panting against her, until she shook with the effort of holding Ava's weight and with keeping from touching her.

And then, merciless, Ava kissed her slow and sweet. Let Lilith get her bearings, a little of her mind back. Just enough to consider disobeying. Lilith groaned as Ava bestowed feather-light kisses across her cheek, tugged her head back and scraped her teeth against the underside of her jaw, the sensitive skin there.

'How much longer can you hold me?' Ava asked, nipped at her pulse. Soothed it a moment later, dragging her lip across the same point.

Lilith shook. 'As long as you want.'

'Are you sure about that?' Ava tightened her hold. Ground herself against Lilith's stomach, moaned hot into Lilith's ear as tense muscle and the seam of her jeans pressed exactly right, exactly where she needed it. 'Can you stay - oh - nice and still for me until I come?'

Ava laughed when, as soon as she asked, Lilith became still as a statue, save for the single heaving breath she sucked in. She let out it slow, deliberate, as Ava dragged her tongue up the tight line of tendons that drew up the length of Lilith's neck as she fought so hard to stay steady, chin tilted up at the angle where Ava had set it.

'Perfect,' she said. 'Perfect.'

She set a slow rhythm. No need to make it easy on Lilith. No need to rush herself. Let the sensation of Lilith so perfectly following her instruction linger, let herself enjoy it for achingly long moments as she rocked in tiny motions. Inching higher and higher, treating herself to the tiny jolts of pleasure as the fabric slipped over, pressed against her clit. Lilith was hot under her lips and Ava rewarded her for each of those jolts with kisses along her shoulder, sucked a harsh mark against her throat when Lilith nearly lost her footing, lifted a hand to Ava's thigh to keep her in place.

'Sorry,' Lilith breathed, dropped her hand back down.

'That's alright. You're - ah,' Ava tucked her head into Lilith's shoulder, groaned, as she found the perfect angle to drag against Lilith's abs. 'You're doing so - oh god - so fucking good. Looking after me, aren't you?'

Lilith's yes was more whine than word.

'I want you to do something for me,' Ava said, stilling for a moment to clear her mind. 'Will you?'

'Yes.'

Ava unwound her arms from Lilith's shoulder enough to lean back, run her eyes over her face. 'You like saying that. Yes. Has its benefits, doesn't it?'

'Yes.'

'Mm.' Ava pulled against Lilith's shoulder, kissed her again, and again. Her hand settled on Lilith's throat, thumb directly beneath her chin, and each time she adjusted Lilith, each time she pressed her hand to kiss her deeper, harder, she felt the thud of her pulse against her palm and the rising moan. 'I'm going to ask you to do something for me now,' she told Lilith. 'And you're going to do it exactly like I tell you. Clear?'

'Yes.'

'I'm going to let you go - shh,' she soothed, grinning into the kiss she planted against Lilith's jaw. 'Listen. Listen, my good girl. I'm going to let you go and you get to take my pants off. I'll even give you a second to stretch, shake out your legs if you want, because once my pants are off, you're going right. Back. Like. This,' she said, punctuating each word with a nip of her teeth. 'Gonna stand still for me as I get off against you. I won't need much more,' Ava confessed. 'But I'll take my time. Just because I can. Just because I want to. And you won't stop me, will you?'

Lilith's jaw dropped the tiniest bit. She seemed to be struggling, and Ava wondered if it wasn't because she had really, really been enjoying saying yes. 'No,' she breathed.

'You'll just stand there and take it, won't you?'

'Yes.'

'Because you want this too, don't you?'

Yes.'

'Mm.' Ava ground her hips one last time. 'Say please.'

'Please,' Lilith spat, quickly, no hesitation.

Ava groaned. 'Again.'

'Please, please,'

'Please what?'

'Please - let me take off your pants. Please use me.'

Ava's hips twitched, jolted with a spark that came not at all from movement but from Lilith's words. 'Oh yes,' it was Ava's turn to say. 'Use you. Yeah. That's exactly what I'm doing, isn't it?' She dragged a flat palm over Lilith's back, all that she could reach. The skin hot and smooth under her fingers. 'And you know,' she said, almost conversational, 'I only use the best. I only want the best. That's you, isn't it?' Lilith shuddered. Her mouth fell open but no answer came. 'I'm going to let you go now. Lilith. Pay attention.' Dark eyes flashed open, locked onto her. 'You don't get to touch me. Clothes only. Understood?'

It took a moment for the instruction to be heard but Ava knew when it was because Lilith frowned, opened her mouth as if to argue, before thinking better of it. She nodded.

Ava unwound her legs from Lilith's waist and let herself drop.

Lilith moved her hands. Slow at first, with an eye to Ava to see what she would do. When Ava nodded, Lilith reached for her. Gripped Ava by the waist. Beautiful, long-fingered, burning hot hands splayed across her hips. Falling to her knees, Lilith looked up from beneath long lashes and she smirked. Ava had no time at all to prepare before Lilith had one of Ava’s legs thrown over her shoulder, holding her off-balance and open, and pressed an open-mouthed kiss to her cunt. She dragged her teeth across the seam, the thread not giving but tapping against her teeth as she did it, and Ava cried out, curled over Lilith’s head, fingers sinking into her hair, her braid, to wrench her away. Lilith resisted for a moment, let Ava feel it, the tension in her and the way she nipped at her thigh as she was dragged away.

‘You said,’ Lilith told her. ‘You said I could touch your clothes.’

Ava burned. With one deliberate act of disobedience, she was burning to put Lilith in her place. And with that same purposeful, eager disobedience, she was soaked.

Ava stroked her hand down over Lilith's braid. Sunk her fingers into it, feeling the strands between her fingers. She pulled her leg from Lilith's shoulder, stood in front of her, down at her, kneeling. Far from supplicant.

'You're absolutely right,' Ava agreed pleasantly. 'I did say that.'

'I only,' Lilith's words hitched when Ava tightened her grip, an unspoken warning. 'I only did what you told me.'

'Oh really?' Lilith nodded against her grip.

Ava gentled it after a second. She wanted it to sting, not hurt. As she stroked over Lilith's scalp, she continued, 'I kinda remember telling you to take my pants off, not try get me off. Don't. Talk.,' she hissed when Lilith opened her mouth again. 'I have to think about what to do with you.'

'Use me,' Lilith suggested with a shrug.

Ava stared down at her. Then crouched, so they were level once more. 'Lilith, I thought you understood. I said it to you. I only use the best. I only want the best. And you disobeyed me. You tried to trick me. So now you've put me into the position where I have to wonder,' she tapped her fingers against the side of Lilith's head, 'Is this worth it? Are you worth this? Why am I going to the effort of doing all this for you,' she continued, voice low and steady, 'if it's wasted on you?'

Ava said it carefully, each word dropped onto Lilith not because she wanted to see their effect. Or, rather, that was part of it. But largely it was because she wanted to be able to pull back the moment it seemed too much. She was stepping into dangerous territory, beyond Lilith's pride and into her sensitive worth. What she wanted, more than anything, was for Lilith to take this as the challenge. The right kind of challenge. Not acting out against her orders but rising to the goddamn occasion.

'I want you to think about this for a second. How sure are you that I won't leave you here? How sure are you that I need this as much as you do?' Ava trailed her fingers down the side of Lilith's face, down between her breasts, down to the waist of her underwear and slipped her hand in. 'Do not move,' Ava said, voice harsh, when Lilith opened her legs a little wider.

Ava waited until she was sure Lilith would hold her place and moved her hand, dragged two fingers through Lilith's folds. She was soaking wet. Ava wanted to be sure and thorough. Lilith didn't look soaking wet, after all. A little tense. Eyes dark. But she wasn't desperate with it. So Ava had to be sure. She eased a finger into Lilith, nice and slow. Stroked into her very gently. She was definitely soaked, dripping around Ava's finger.

'Don't move,' Ava reminded her when Lilith shook at a quick, teasing stroke of her finger.

'I'm - not,' Lilith denied.

'Maybe you can't help it. That's a pity.' Ava began to remove her hand and Lilith's breath hitched, hand coming up to grip Ava's arm. Ava stilled. 'Let me go.'

Lilith licked her lips. 'Please,'

'Let me go. Now.'

Her hand dropped. Ava rewarded her with a pump of her fingers. Let herself grin, because Lilith's eyes fluttered closed at the sensation.

'How sure are you,' Ava asked her again, 'that I need this as much as you do?' She thrust gently into Lilith, dragged her finger out and returned with two. One pump of her fingers, which had Lilith sighing with relief, with the pleasant sensation of being full, and then both were gone as Ava pulled entirely away.

Lilith kept her eyes closed for a second, trying to gather herself.

Ava let her, was content to wait. She enjoyed seeing the semblance of control in those dark eyes - and the way that scattered as soon as Lilith saw that Ava had one finger in her mouth, breath escaping in a hot rush as Ava dragged the finger from her mouth, let it tug down her lower lip.

'What do you want?' Lilith asked her, attention fixed on Ava's mouth.

'What I want is for you to do as I tell you, like you promised you would.' Lilith's eyes closed, brow pinching into what could almost have been apology. 'What I want is for you to take my pants off so I can come at some point. Do not move,' Ava hissed, hand coming down to wrap around Lilith's wrist when she raised her hand toward Ava’s pants. Her fingers were wet against her skin and Lilith moaned. 'That is what I want. But you've put me in a shitty position where now I have to think about what to do with you.' Ava dropped Lilith's hand. Lifted her middle finger to Lilith's mouth. 'Suck.'

Lilith took the finger into her mouth. Sucked. dragged her teeth down the length of it, stroked the underside of her finger with her tongue. Ava watched, all her focus reduced to lips and hot warmth wrapped around her finger.

'Jesus Christ,' she murmured. Prayed, basically. For strength. For focus. For the willpower to resist just throwing Lilith down and fucking her when she had done exactly nothing to deserve it.

'Here's what's going to happen - pay attention, Lilith. Are you paying attention?' A moan. 'Good girl. I'm giving you a second chance. Because I'm nice like that,' Ava told her, and thrust her finger gently into Lilith's mouth. Another moan. Her tongue slid to the webbing of Ava's fingers, between her first and second finger. Ava obliged, slid the other finger into Lilith's mouth. 'You're going to take my pants off. You're not going to try anything - just take them off. And you're going to stay so, so still as I fuck myself, aren't you?'

A moan.

'Good girl. Go ahead.'

Ava stood for her, fitted her thumb under Lilith's chin, keeping her fingers precisely where they were buried into her mouth. She didn't make it easy on Lilith, tilting her head back so she couldn't quite see what she was doing. Her fingers moved over Ava's pants, fumbled with the buttons before she managed to open them, tug them down her thighs to her knees. Ava stepped out of them, kicked them messily to the side.

'And underwear. Remember, don't touch my skin.' Lilith groaned, frustrated. She lifted her hands with intent but hesitated. 'Do you need help?' Ava asked, tone sweet. Lilith bit her fingers, closed her teeth around them and pressed. Ava laughed. 'I'll take that as a no.'

After a moment of thought, Lilith moved a hand up between Ava's legs. Brushed the back of her knuckles very lightly against her before plucking at the fabric. She made a victorious sound that Ava enjoyed so much she removed her thumb and dragged Lilith's mouth open, let the sound spill out into the air.

'Nicely done,' Ava complimented, and she stepped out of her underwear as well. 'But I never doubted that you were clever. Just whether you were good.' Lilith made a small, broken sound. 'I think you are,' Ava said, gently. 'But you have to prove it. Don't you?' She made Lilith nod with the fingers in her mouth before finally slipping them out. Wiping them carelessly against her shoulder. 'Can you even stand?'

'I - yes.'

'Go on. Prove it.'

Lilith stood smoothly, pushed up onto her feet. There was hardly an effort to it and if that didn't drive Ava mad thinking about her strength. And no doubt a large portion of spite fuelling her. Ava laughed at the thought, delighted.

'God, you're beautiful,' she praised. And if that wasn't the thing to make Lilith quake. Ava got to watch as she rocked back on her heels, the muscles clench and hold in her thighs, her stomach, as she tried to hold herself in place against the instant thrill of those words. 'Remember. Don't touch.'

Wrapping her arms around Lilith's neck, Ava didn't bother to levitate this time. She jumped, returned to how she had been, legs around Lilith's waist, ankles locked behind her. Groaned instantly at the feeling of Lilith's taut muscles against her, at the feeling and sight of her wetness smeared against her belly. At the way Lilith broke.

'Oh fuck,' she swore, the instant Ava dragged herself over her skin. 'Ava,'

'What?'

'Please,'

'What do you want?' The question was surprisingly lucid, given that Ava felt like her brain was made entirely of pop-rocks or, more romantically, fireworks, the entirety of her spine lighting up with sparks of pleasure as she ground against firm muscle slick with her own want.

'Please,'

'You want to touch me?'

'Yes, yes,'

'You want to fuck me?'

'Yes, please,'

Ava laughed, the sound hitching, melting into a sigh. 'You haven't earned it.'

'I can help,' Lilith hissed. 'I can help. Make you feel so good, please, Ava,'

'You think so?'

'Yes!'

Ava hummed into her ear, nipped at the lobe. Drank in Lilith's quiet cry, and her next and next as Ava adjusted herself, held herself shivering in place, hips moving in tiny twitching motions, as she dropped one hand to pinch and tug and play with Lilith's nipple, hand slipping beneath her bra.

'I've barely touched you and you're soaked. Barely have to do anything and you're nearly crying. No wonder you need someone to tell you what to do.'

Lilith trembled. She was on the edge of something - not coming, not quite, Ava thought, but either disobeying again or doing something and Ava really didn't want to stop again and figure out what to do with her.

'Hands. On my back.'

Barely a heartbeat later, she felt them. Both hands, stroking up her spine, dragging up the hem of her shirt, sliding up beneath it as far as she could with it caught between them. Hardly daring to settle for a moment, like Lilith wasn't sure that in the next second Ava wouldn't tell her to stop.

'Good girl, perfect, beautiful,' Ava panted, mouthed against the mark she had made on Lilith's neck. 'So good, my perfect girl, doing exact - oh god, yes, Lilith,' she broke off as Lilith finally pressed her palms flat against her back, helped press Ava harder against herself, helped guide the shift and rock of her hips, lift a little of Ava's weight to help her. 'So good, so good.'

Lilith trembled again. Ava felt it, lifted her mouth from Lilith's neck with a scrape of her teeth.

'Take a step back,' she told her. Hands pressed more firmly against Ava's back and she didn't move. Ava pulled her hand from Lilith's bra. Step back, don't make me say it again.'

'I can't see where,'

'You don't need to see. Just trust me.'

A moment, and then Lilith nodded. Began to walk slowly backwards as Ava directed her. She jolted when her thighs hit the low rise of the stone table, and she stopped.

'Hold on,' Ava murmured, and concentrated. Summoned all the energy that climbed up the column of her spine, all the heat that drifted out from them both, all the supreme reckless self-absorbed arrogance that Lilith had long hated in her to lift them both. To command the world to move around them, to use her power for the divine purpose of fucking Lilith. They rose a foot into the air - Lilith's breath catching in her throat as she felt what it was to be weightless, to be the entity around whom the world turned - and Ava lowered them both onto the table, sat herself into Lilith's lap. Pulled her legs from where they were locked around her waist so that she was straddling Lilith instead, a knee on either side of those perfect fucking thighs. She didn't let her power fade, kept it close around them both, felt Lilith pressed beneath it and shuddering already, mouth dropped open but no sound escaping her as she held Ava tight against her.

'You feel that.'

Lilith jerked a nod.

'This is me. This is a fraction of me.' She let the sensation build, drew on more and more of it as she rolled her hips. Shoved Lilith to lay flat against the stone. Watched her back arch into the sensation of heat and pressure pushed against her, felt nails dig into her hips and split skin as Lilith cried out. They could both hear the ringing of the Halo, of whatever echo of it existed in Lilith. Ava moved her hands back to take both of Lilith's. Pressed them down against unyielding stone as she slid, set herself at the crook of hip and thigh, movements growing uneven as she started to come.

'I'm - god - I'm going to come,' Ava told her, fought to concentrate through the mounting pleasure. 'When I do, you can touch me.'

'Please,' Lilith managed to say through her own haze, the press of power and Ava over her.

'Two fingers,' Ava panted. 'Until all I can say is your name or God's. Got that?'

'Yes,' Lilith hissed. 'Now come already.'

Ava laughed. Allowed her perfect, beautiful, glorious girl that one command. She came, leaning back into it, into the weight of the air around her, head tilted back as she shuddered her way through it, dizzy with it, all the spiralling rising coiling tension unravelling fast. The ringing, singing of the Halo filled her ears along with her own cry as Lilith shifted, knocked Ava's legs wider, and with the fervour of desperate obedience, slipped two fingers inside of her before she could fully finish. Ava's cry cut off as she felt it, the utterly strange glory of having someone else inside of her. The hot dizzying pleasure of feeling herself around Lilith's fingers, and not knowing, never knowing when she would move or how fast or hard. Not knowing, except that Lilith was good, so good, and after the first time Ava came around her fingers, she turned them over, laid Ava out onto the cold stone table and continued, the drag and drive of her fingers unrelenting as Ava babbled about how good she was, how perfect.

She slowed at some point, Ava wasn't sure when, only that there was a single word on her tongue and it wasn't god. Ava shook, legs trembling. Lilith sat against her leg, hips moving in tiny motions.

'Did you come?' Ava asked her, voice quiet. Her throat should have been raw, she suspected, but it was just warm. Already healed.

Lilith, head buried into Ava's neck, fingers still stroking between her legs, groaned shakily.

'No,' Ava surmised. Lilith shook. 'Good, that's good,' she said, voice gaining strength as she came back to herself. She eased up to half-sitting. Rocked her hips down onto Lilith's still-moving hand. 'That's - yes,' she hissed. Had had every intention of telling Lilith to stop, that she had done enough, but the slow movement felt molten, sent aftershocks through her limbs, and the vision of it all had her quickly climbing again - Lilith's near naked body over her, her hand disappearing between her legs, the haze of light she felt but couldn't dismiss as it burned from her back. It was gentler, slower, longer; Ava felt almost numb with it, dragged her hands up and into her hair as she let wave after wave wash over her, pushed through her with Lilith's clever, perfect fingers. She twisted her fingers into her own hair, arched into the feeling. Drowned in the whispers that dripped from Lilith's lips, a constant stream of praise, of thanks, and then nothing but please, please, please, as Ava came one more time, spilled hot and wet over Lilith's fingers.

'Enough,' Ava gasped, reached numb, useless fingers down to stop Lilith, to tap against her wrist. She stopped her motions but remained inside of her and god, it didn't help, didn't let Ava think. 'So good, Lilith, so good to me.'

Lilith shuddered.

'Tell me,' Ava said, half out of interest and half to buy a little time to recover, 'what do you want? I'm gonna let you come, Lilith, you've been so good. You just have to tell me what you want.'

She slipped her hand up from Lilith's neck into her head, drew her upwards. Kissed her, slow and intent, with all the lazy, messy warmth of three plus orgasms under her belt. Lilith, who seemed to have slipped into a state of perpetual wanting patience, groaned hot into her mouth. Kissed her back with scattered attention, gasping as Ava shifted against her, and moaning, melting down onto her as Ava gripped her tight, forced her focus.

'Anything, anything,' Lilith told her when Ava pressed. 'Anything you want, I'll do anything you want.'

Ava shouldn't have anything left in her, not after her last release, but apparently Lilith begging really did it for her. She felt another exhausted spark deep in her gut and forced it aside. It was time to prove to Lilith that it really was nice to do what Ava told her to do.

'On your back,' Ava told her. Lilith rolled sideways - Ava had to catch her before she dropped off the side of the table, laughed into her ribs, scraped her teeth against the skin there, dragged her tongue between the place where two of them made the faintest impression. 'Careful,' she told Lilith, soothed the nip and bite and scrape of her passage with a hot tongue swirling over Lilith's skin. She rolled them both over. Took a moment to slide her underwear off before laying back, settling herself into the cradle of Lilith's hips.

'You can move,' she said, and Lilith obeyed, lifted her knees, a leg around Ava's waist. Slid against her nice and slow, as if she didn't quite dare believe she could. As if she thought Ava would stop her in a moment. The thought was intoxicating, dripped down the column of her spine like whiskey. Ava felt drunk on it, deliriously, deliciously thrilled by it, felt horny and hot as a devil when she lifted off Lilith. Held Lilith's hips still with a flat palm.

'Stop,' Ava commanded. Sucked marks across Lilith's chest with every disobedient shift of her hips. Played with the hem of her bra and only began to lift it when Lilith held herself painfully still, head thrown back, fingers clawing into the stone.

'Arms up.' Ava's commands were all short, only half a brain left to say them. Lilith, left with less than that to comprehend, could only obey. She pulled the bra off and let herself fall forward into Lilith's chest, cupping her breasts, pressing them together to trade quick kisses from left to right.

'Let me, let me,' Lilith begged, and Ava looked up from her work, found Lilith's hands hovering over her. Ava couldn't bear to pull fully away from her but she lifted one hand, guided it into her hair. Lilith gripped her gentle, slid Ava to her nipple, cried out as she closed her mouth around it and sucked hard. Her hips jolted up and Ava acted instinctually, wrapped her arm around Lilith's waist. Kept her where she was, weight pressed back onto her shoulders as she fought to keep herself up, legs wrapped around Ava's waist.

Ava drove forward with tiny thrusts, nothing to the movement but friction. Swirled her tongue around Lilith's nipple, pulling from it with a wet pop that made Lilith cry out. She gave the other nipple the same treatment - and then the other again, fearing it had become uneven. She traded between them, biting and sucking, one hand helping to stroke a gentle thumb over the unattended nipple as she worked the other, until Lilith was shaking beneath her.

When she finally moved a hand into Lilith's underwear, stroked two fingers gently over her, Lilith came almost immediately. Fell to pieces, legs falling open, hands tightening to an almost painful pressure in Ava's hair. There was no loosening of tension to it at all; Ava knew she had come because of the way Lilith gripped her, walls fluttering around her, when she slipped a finger into her, and the way her moan caught in her throat, strangled into something akin to a whine.

'You're incredible, you know that?' Ava murmured, poured kisses over Lilith's chest, leaned her weight forward, nudged her finger deeper into Lilith and felt the cry that pulled from her as she licked up Lilith's throat. 'You were so good, waiting for me, fucking me. The best, the best,' she said, stroking her finger out and returning with two, which she twisted inside of Lilith, pressed and stroked and dragged her fingers until she found the place that made Lilith cry out. 'It's good, isn't it? Feels so fucking good to be good, to do what I tell you to do.'

'Yes,' Lilith gasped. 'Yes, please, yes,'

Ava fucked her, fluttered her fingers, pressed them hard against that same spot until Lilith was twisting underneath her, begging until her words didn't sound like begging anymore, just sound, want and pleading singing out of her, ringing in Ava’s ears.

'I'm not stopping you,' Ava told her, no clue whether Lilith could hear or not. 'Come on, Lilith, as many times as you want. As many times as you want, I want you to.'

'Please, please, please, please,'

'However you want, as much as you want,' Ava assured her. Slid a hand down Lilith's belly, pressed down as she pressed up with her fingers, catching Lilith in place. Nails sliced into Ava's shoulder, lines of blinding white-hot pain, and she couldn't help but cant her hips forward, empty a groan against Lilith's throat, bite blunt teeth down in retaliation.

'Perfect, perfect girl, I could do this for days,' Ava told her. 'We could just not go tomorrow, not cancel it, let them find us down here still going. Would you like that? Let Sister Clare see she's not my favourite? Let her see you wrecked like this. Maybe I should make you count how many times you come so you can tell her later. That's what you wanted, wasn't it? You wanted her to know,' Ava said, head burning with the knowledge that her hand was inside of Lilith, that she was making her come and come and come, that the sounds she was making were entirely thanks to her. The words she was saying she couldn't have stopped if she wanted to and she didn't, she really didn't, not when every single one made Lilith drip, made her gasp and twist herself, fuck herself down onto Ava's fingers. 'You wanted her to know that you're the best, that you're the one I trust. What better way to show her? Let her see what being the best gets you, let her see what being the Halo-Bearer's favourite gets you, let her see you fucked stupid on my fingers. Is that what you want, Lilith?'

'No, no, no,'

'No?' Ava slid her fingers from Lilith, swiped them against her stomach. 'Seems to make you plenty wet. But fine.' She dragged her fingers over Lilith's folds, over her clit, played with her as she continued. 'Maybe you want her to see all of them are wrong. They don't have a clue, do they? Maybe they think I don't trust you. Maybe they think I think you can't be trusted to do it right. Maybe, if they saw you now, they'd see how fucking perfect you are.'

'No,' Lilith snarled. 'Just you.'

Ava stilled. Fingers on Lilith's clit. 'Oh,' she sighed, and Lilith's eyes - wide and wild - came to meet hers.

'Ava,'

'Oh that's a good fucking answer,' Ava told her. The words hit like a bolt of lightning, everything in her but make Lilith come evaporated, turned to so much steam, dust, inconsequential compared to the single commandment ringing in her head. Make Lilith come.

She slid back, scrambled off the table and dragged Lilith to the edge of it. Hung her legs over her shoulders, didn't care for a second if they crushed her, closed around her head. Braced her forearms against the table, hands pinning Lilith's hips to the table, Ava slid her tongue through Lilith, impossibly wet, impossibly hot. 'Mine,' she groaned, burying the word as deep as she could, fucking it into Lilith on her tongue.

She lost count herself, not quite sure after a while of when Lilith started and stopped coming. All she knew was that by the time she was beyond certain her point had been made, a surprising ache had settled into her jaw and back from how long she had worshipped here, drawing prayer and blasphemy alike from Lilith. All she knew was that Lilith trembled as she drew her tongue slowly, oh so gently over her, still shivered as she rolled her tongue against Lilith's clit. Drew it between her lips, careful not to be too harsh, never too harsh, not teeth this last time, nothing but a soft, careful tongue, so so gentle this last time, murmuring praise into Lilith until she shook, gasped out Ava's name.

Ava dressed Lilith carefully. Tugged her clothes back into place, whispered apologies when she brushed against still-sensitive skin. Never went too far, not wanting to leave her alone, and when she was re-dressed herself she lifted back up onto the table herself. Moved Lilith's head and shoulders into her lap, braced against her leg, and stroked her hair back off her face. Found herself thumbing fondly at the heavy streak of grey.

Lilith grumbled when she came back to herself, an almost grumpy sound. Ava grinned.

' – look pleased with yourself,' Lilith muttered.

'I kind of am. Not to brag but that was awesome.'

Lilith scoffed. 'It was fine.'

'Can you even feel your legs right now?' Lilith didn't reply and Ava made a satisfied sound. 'That's what I thought.'

Lilith was quiet a little longer and then she laughed, a little helplessly. Lifted a hand to her face and pinched the bridge of her nose. 'How - ' She laughed, shoulders shaking. 'How am I supposed to take orders from you now?' she laughed.

Ava's grin melted into something much softer, much warmer. Lilith's eyes were still closed, so the smile was all Ava's for now. Something to give her later.

'I would hope with -'

'If this is a pun,' Lilith interrupted, 'I don't want to hear it.'

'...Noted. Maybe later.'

'Maybe.'