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Gunther had no idea what time it was when wakefulness finally claimed him, only that he'd had the most wonderful night's sleep in his entire life. Simply resting in a comfortable bed with another warm, human body—someone who understood and who cared—God, he'd forgotten the difference it could make.

Or perhaps he'd never known it before. Not even with Cornelia. He delved into his memory, trying to recall moments when he'd woken up feeling this much alive and yet at peace with the world, and he couldn't come up with one. Not even with Lolita. He knew he should feel guilty about that, but it was beyond him to care this morning.

The bed beside him was empty, the covers neatly pulled up and made as best Valois could with Gunther still fast asleep. After getting up and doing the same for his side of the bed—My side... why does that sound so right?—Gunther looked around for his clothes. He found his pants neatly folded over the back of a chair, and tugged them on.

He'd woken up in empty beds in strange bedrooms many times in his younger days. Sometimes his bed partner had just got up to go to the bathroom, other—more humiliating—times they'd basely fled in the night. But he could hear sounds in the kitchen, so he knew that Valois was close by. He wasn't quite prepared, though, for the sight that met his eyes when he quietly opened the bedroom door.

Even though he'd only seen Valois twice, already Gunther was so accustomed to the stiff, all-covering, buttoned-up formality of his manner of dress that the wholly naked vision standing before him, intently stirring a bowlful of something in the corner of the kitchen damn near stole the breath from him.

He stared, unable to help himself. Valois's skin was so pale that he gleamed in the early morning light streaming in under the half-opened window blind. As he stirred, the muscles in his shoulders and back moved in a dance that held Gunther fascinated as he watched.

With breakfast finally prepared, Gunther knew he'd either have to make a move or be discovered standing there and staring like some kind of creepy peeping Tom. He strode across the tiled floor, his bare feet making no sound, and as Valois put the bowl down onto the counter Gunther reached out a hand, not even knowing what he planned to do with it yet.

"Baking in the nude?" he murmured, his voice low and hoarse. "Bit of a dangerous thing to do, isn't it?"

Valois turned, his face brightening with a smile. "Well, I assumed you would be hungry, since you slept for most of yesterday with no food. I just— ah!"

Okay, well you've got his attention. Now what?

"This is... a little unexpected," Valois said, and oh God, how Gunther enjoyed the little breathless catch he heard in that voice. He pressed his thigh between those pale legs just a little more and watched Valois's nostrils flare ever so slightly.

Yeah, he's into this. I'm not going to get slapped away.

"Your skin is like paper." Gunther trailed the tip of one finger down Valois's hip. "Makes me want to draw all over you."

A moment's silence, then the corner of Valois's mouth quirked. "And there was I, expecting some corny line about you being starving. You are a pleasant surprise, Mr Goth."

"You expected that of me?" Gunther's offended face was only slightly feigned. "I know I'm a little rusty in this area, but one thing I have never been is corny."

"Then should I fetch a pen, so you can fulfil your desire?"

Gunther's hand stilled on Valois's hip, palmed against it in a manner that was... yes, it was possessive. "A pen would mark." He leaned closer. "Maybe permanently."

"Is that not the point of drawing on skin? To make one's mark?"

Disarmed by those words, Gunther raised his other hand to cradle the back of Valois's head, feathering his fingers across the softness of his close-cropped hair. All his predatory instincts had suddenly faded as he stared into those ruby eyes.

"You'd let me do that," he whispered. "Wouldn't you?"

Again, Valois's mouth curved, drawing Gunther's attention down to it. "Well, why don't you ask and see?"

Gunther hesitated. If he was honest with himself, he had never—well, rarely—asked for anything in his previous romantic or sexual encounters. It had either been given without his needing to ask, or he had pushed the moment until his partner had willingly capitulated. If there was one thing you could call Gunther Goth, it was 'dominant'.

And here he was, about to open his mouth and beg.

"Please?" he whispered, gathering Valois that little bit closer. "I want... I want to put my mark on you. Will you let me?"

"Yes." Valois's finger traced the line of Gunther's beard. "There is a pen in the drawer behind you. What will your mark be?"

Gunther was close enough now that the warmth of Valois's breath bathed his face and the heat of his skin washed away the unsettled feeling caused by actually begging. His natural dominance reared its head again, now that he had the permission he wanted, and he turned his body, taking Valois with him. He twisted the pale, naked form around, wrapping one arm around Valois's torso and holding him firmly in front of him.

"I don't need a pen," he growled, as his mouth came down at the juncture of Valois's shoulder and neck. He heard a sharp intake of breath as his teeth sank into soft skin. He felt the sudden jerk of Valois's body as he bit down. And then he realised where the incense scent that permeated the entire house came from.

It's him. It's not being burned in the house. It's him. How is that even possible?

As he puzzled over this new confusion, he sucked gently on the skin that he'd drawn between his teeth. Valois was still in his arms, and Gunther could hear the hitch of his breath now and then as he sucked harder. God, this was going to look beautiful against that expanse of snowy skin...

He finally drew away and turned Valois in his arms again to face him. There was no reprobation in that pale face; only acceptance and an almost shy smile.

"Does it match my hair?" Valois whispered, and Gunther moaned softly, jerking Valois to him and kissing him hard.

"I don't know where you came from," he murmured into the mouth that was kissing him back just as eagerly, "but fucking hell, am I glad you showed up to save me."

"Stop talking." Valois effectively shut Gunther up with his tongue, and from that moment on the only thing Gunther could do was moan and, yes, maybe whimper.

"It's getting late," Valois said softly as he drew the tip of his finger down Gunther's sternum, coming to a maddening, frustrating halt right above his dick. He raised his head and smiled down at Gunther. "I hate to say it, but you have to work tomorrow, and you shouldn't be seen leaving this house at that hour of the morning."

Gunther's mock-rage at that tease faded in an instant. "I don't want to go home," he whispered. "It doesn't even feel like home to me."

"This house is always here for you, you know that." Valois rested his head back down on Gunther's chest. They were lying on the bed after a whole day of the simplest of pleasures: kissing and touching, licking and sucking. Nothing more, because Valois had demurred when Gunther had tried to push the issue, and Gunther was too scared of destroying this fragile safety he'd found to keep trying for more.

"I know." Gunther sighed, one hand holding Valois where he was as he shoved his other hand beneath his own head and stared up at the ceiling. "Duty, and all that bull." He closed his eyes and tried to will away the feeling of dread that was already beginning to knot itself up in his chest.

A warm hand settled right at that point of dread, and it eased almost immediately. "Will it not be easier now, though?" Valois asked. "Now that you know you can come here to escape?"

Gunther twisted to look down at him, and smiled as he saw Valois nestled so comfortably. He looked so right there, in a way that Cornelia and Lolita never had. "Yes," he murmured. "It will. But, God, I don't know what's going to sustain me when she's around and if she starts with the screaming and bitching."

He sank back and groaned. "Like when I go home from here," he said. "What the hell do I say to her when she demands to know where I've been for the past two days?"

"Tell her you slept at a motel. Or in your car." Valois chuckled. "Your clothes will look crumpled enough for either to be genuine reasons."

"My car," Gunther said, pointedly, "has been parked outside your house all this time. And, unless your neighbours are all on vacation or not of the nosy kind, which is unthinkable of any neighbour, then the whereabouts of that specific and well-known license plate has already been bandied about the town."

He heaved a sigh. "I suppose I should just brace myself for more accusations that I'm a lying, cheating—"

"Hush." Valois pressed a kiss to Gunther's chest. "Nobody saw the car. No words have been spoken of its whereabouts, save that it was seen parked outside the Sunset Motel all weekend."


Valois looked up. "Hm?"

"That's the second time you've done that to me and it's come true," Gunther murmured. "Last time you made the party stop. This time... that car's been invisible all weekend, or something. Am I right?"

Valois shrugged one shoulder. "People often recall things that are quite untrue."

"And somehow you've just told them this untruth?"

"Have you never locked your front door, even to the point of rattling the handle to make sure it's locked, then—halfway into your journey away from that home—had the feeling of fear settle that you didn't lock the door? To the point that you're convinced you didn't?" Valois's gaze was just a little bit too intent and unsettling. "Memory is not an infallible thing."

"I don't know whether to be scared of you or not," Gunther admitted.

That earned him a laugh, and Valois escaped his grip to settle over him, looking down at him fondly. "I am nobody to be scared of," he whispered, pecking little kisses to Gunther's lips. "I have merely studied human nature, because it is a thing that fascinates me. The mind is the greatest illusionist you will ever know."

"Could you maybe convince my wife to leave me alone?" Gunther asked, hopefully.

"I can weave illusions." Valois smiled. "I cannot work miracles."

Gunther watched him quietly, then he nodded. It was as close to an admission that there was something strange about Valois that he was going to get, for now.

"Well," he said with a sigh. "Much though it pains me to leave this bed, I suppose you're right, and I should get going." He arched an eyebrow. "One last memory, though, to see me through?"

Valois just smiled and slithered down Gunther's body, tracing a line with his tongue that promised to see Gunther's brains thoroughly fried for the drive home.

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