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Thage is waiting, naked, in his room at the Twilight's Rest after their battle. "You left without taking your spoils."

Rondemion blinks at her. She's perched on the foot of his bed, one knee drawn up to her chest, and she looks so young, like the woman he first met, not the queen he remembers when he left to fight Morpheus. Her skin is pale, and -- it must be Besek's influence on him -- he has the sudden desire to mark her, to see the bruise of his fingers on her hips, the imprint of his teeth on her shoulder, her neck, her breasts.

He clears his throat. "Actually, you were the first to leave."

She holds his gaze for a moment. It's almost the expression he remembers. The heat is there, and the strength, but his Thage had been playful. Not coy, but close. She rarely smiled, but she could, and occasionally, she laughed, genuine and open.

He's the one who looks away.

"So you say." She rises and bends to retrieve her dress.

It has to be Besek's influence on him. He's crossing the room before he can think, rips the dress from her hands and tosses it behind him. "You left." The growl in his voice, the need, has to be Besek's influence, too. "Before I could take my spoils."

She laughs, and it's not his Thage's genuine and open laughter. It's cruel, taunting, a good match for her words. "If we were who we used to be, it would be so fitting. A queen for a hero." Her smile slices through him as she works loose his pants. "But we're not who we used to be, are we, Rondemion?"

He forces her to turn around, roughly, because he can't handle such cruelty on the face he remembers too well.

"You left," she says, "to kill Morpheus. How successful were you, hero?" She bends over, offering herself.

He grabs her hips, lines up. "I wasn't."

"You left me." She gasps when he pushes in but recovers quickly. "And he came back. Everything that happened --"

He squeezes her hips hard enough to make her cry out, and he leans over her, bits at the back of her neck. She's tight and slick and makes wounded noises on each of his thrusts, and he knows this isn't him. He shouldn't like this so much, wouldn't like rutting with his Thage, but, as she said, they are not who they used to be.

And Besek is influencing them.

He doesn't withdraw immediately. Thage is sweat-slicked beneath him, her breath heavy. He's left marks on her neck, red welts from his lips and teeth, and he's familiar enough with the feel of blood to know the tackiness on his fingers isn't just sweat.

"I can't change what happened," he says, letting her up. "But I'll stop what's happening now."

She chuckles. "And should I thank you? Oh please, brave hero." She pushes herself up and turns to face him, taking one of his hands in hers. "Save my precious daughter." She raises his hand, licks her blood from his fingers. Her expression is still cruel, but now he can bear it.

He shudders. "No. You're not that Thage anymore." He'll reach the final stratum and end this before the princess -- the girl who should have been his daughter -- changes like her mother.