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"I can practically feel your eyeballs on me," Gunther murmured with a smile as he stretched out luxuriously on the sun lounger. The gentle breeze from the movement of the Nile cruise ship beneath him took the edge off the sun that caressed his almost-naked body, and he gave a contented little sigh.

"Indeed?" came the equally amused response from the lounger beside him. He heard the clink of ice cubes in a glass as Valois took a sip from something cold and refreshing. "Can you blame me, mon cur? Those swimming briefs are very... brief."

Gunther's smile broadened. "I'd do the same for you..." He paused, then twisted his neck to glance at Valois, and winked. "But I might get blinded."

"Harsh!" Valois chuckled. "I cannot help the fact that I do not take so easily to a suntan as you do."

"I'm surprised you've not burned, actually." Gunther flung an arm across his forehead to shield his eyes from the sun as he squinted at Valois. "I guess you don't, huh?"

"My darling boy," Valois said with a gentle smile, "I have visited this country many times. I am quite accustomed not only to the heat but also to the sun. And it is a matter of a simple spell to protect myself from both."

Gunther hesitated, then trailed a fingertip down Valois's side, across skin so pale that it practically glowed in the sun. "I haven't burned either, and I usually go kind of pink for the first day or two out in the sun. You're protecting me, too... aren't you?"

"Of course." Valois took another sip of his drink, then put the glass down on the low table between their loungers. Someone dove into the pool behind them as he settled back and closed his eyes. "Sunburn is painful, and I do not wish you to endure that."

"Thank you," Gunther whispered, pursing his lips to blow a little kiss at his husband, who smiled and raised his hand, miming catching it and pressing it to his heart, without so much as cracking open one eye.

Gunther chuckled. "You're such a romantic, you know that?"

"Guilty as charged."

"I sort of wondered, though..." Gunther began, then hesitated and bit his lip. "Never mind."

"The other passengers do not stare at the blinding whiteness of my skin because they do not see it as you do," Valois murmured, so quietly that Gunther wished he'd kept his own mouth shut. For a moment, he'd forgotten how easy it was for Valois to dip into his mind and catch his thoughts.

"Sorry," he whispered. "I didn't mean to—"

Valois turned his head, his ruby-red gaze fixing on Gunther's face. Then his lips quirked in a flicker of a smile.

"Do not apologise. It is a natural thing to wonder. I am a freak of nature, mon cur; I have long known that. No no, do not shake your head and negate it. It is true. My skin is almost pure white, my eyes and my hair are a startling red. I am perfectly aware of what people think when they see me. Their most common assumption is that I am an albino who has dyed his hair to stand out even more than he already does."

"I only think of love and home."

Valois was silent for a moment until another smile graced his lips, coupled with a soft glisten of his eyes that spoke volumes about how much those words had affected him. Silently, he reached for Gunther's hand and held it.

"Can I ask you something?"

"Of course, mon cur."

"If our fellow passengers don't see your pale skin, then what do they see? Do they see your hair and eye colour, or are those changed, too?"

"I am an expert in illusion, but alas I cannot change my eye or hair colour. My skin, however..."

Valois glanced at Gunther, then gave a mischievous little smirk. And then, before Gunther's very eyes, his skin slowly took on the hue of a soft golden tan. It wasn't the kind of deep tan that Gunther was slowly acquiring, but for Valois? It was a tan.

"Woah..." was all Gunther could get out in response to that. "I... don't know quite what to say."

"You like it?"

"It's... different. It doesn't look like you, I'll admit that. I'm so used to looking for white and red wherever I am, but... yeah. That's... that's actually really fucking hot."

One red eyebrow arched elegantly. "Oh? Then I might remain this way for a while. It would, after all, be authentic to be somewhat suntanned when I return home, n'est ces pas?"

"You'll be the death of me," Gunther groaned. "That's so not fair!"

"Says the man lounging there like utter temptation itself, in the tightest, smallest pair of black swimming briefs I have ever seen."

With a small grumble, Gunther subsided, then grinned. "I had a feeling you'd like them. That's why I bought them."

"Tease." Valois squeezed his hand and then closed his eyes, huffing a faint sigh as he relaxed back against the lounger.

Gunther spent the next few hours not even noticing the beautiful landscape drifting past them on the banks of the Nile. His eyes were all for the beautiful landscape right beside him.

Five hours of sunbathing and one refreshing shower later, Gunther wandered—still scrubbing a towel over his wet hair—out into the stateroom he and Valois had booked on the ship. Spacious and luxurious, with a generous en-suite bathroom and a small kitchen, it was like a little floating piece of heaven, with floor-to-ceiling windows on one side and a small balcony in the middle. They were at water level, and each afternoon Gunther had spent several blissful hours sprawled on one of the balcony loungers, daydreaming and transfixed by the flow of the Nile as it curved out in an elegant wake near his feet.

This afternoon, though, the curtains were drawn across the glass and the lights were on. He pulled the towel away from his hair and looked around, smiling as he saw Valois comfortably ensconced on the bed with a book.

"I still can't get over the sight of you with a tan," he murmured, his gaze sweeping over his husband's body.

Valois looked up, then his lips twitched. "And I, my darling boy, cannot get over the sight of you with your hair looking like a bird's nest," he said, waving one hand vaguely in Gunther's direction.

Biting his lip, Gunther raised a hand to his head, realising that he'd been scrubbing his hair dry pretty hard with the towel and he must look an absolute fright. But what he felt there made him freeze on the spot. His hair was... rearranging itself into its usual style, and on top of that it was already dry.

"Is that"—he swallowed—"how you manage to get ready so quickly in the mornings?"

Valois shrugged one shoulder and smiled, turning a page of his book. "It helps. I am sorry, did I startle you?"

"A bit, yeah." Gunther dropped the towel on the floor and made to climb onto the bed, but a quiet command stopped him.

"Do you not tell Mortimer off for doing that very thing?" Valois asked gently. "Put it back where it belongs."

Momentarily puzzled, Gunther glanced behind himself. What the—? Oh! The towel!

Turning back toward Valois, he gave a sheepish grin and a "Sorry!" before standing upright again and taking the towel back into the bathroom. His attention caught by his tanned reflection, he gave himself a quick once-over in the mirror. Yes, his hair was bone dry and how he always styled it. That was a pretty handy trick actually, but still made him feel a bit odd. But what made him feel even more odd was the gentle command that had been in Valois's voice. Over the past week or so they had been too busy with wedding organisation, and then too relaxed on honeymoon to even touch on the D/s side of their relationship, so having it suddenly appear as if out of nowhere...

I can't be that out of practice, Gunther thought, staring at his reflection. Maybe... maybe it was because we weren't in a clearly delineated scene just now? It was just a command that came out in my everyday life.

The sun was bringing out the bright coppery tones in his hair, he noted idly as he looked himself up and down, still mulling over that command. Eventually he shook his head and sighed, told himself to stop being so weird, and hung the damp towel back on the rail.

"Come and lie down," he heard Valois call, and he left the bathroom, closing the door quietly behind himself.

Valois had closed his book and placed it on the nightstand. He moved aside, giving Gunther room to lie down beside him, but as Gunther reached the bed, Valois put one hand up to stay him.

"Take off the towel around your waist," he said, and Gunther obeyed, folding it before looking around and wondering if he should take that one back into the bathroom, too.

"A damp towel does not belong on the bedroom floor, mine."

Biting his lip, Gunther took the towel back into the bathroom, hanging it behind its neighbour. By the time he returned to the bedroom, he was fighting the urge to go to his knees.

"Come here," Valois murmured, holding out his arms.

Settling down against him, Gunther bit down on a soft sound of confusion. Was Valois being his master now... or not? This didn't feel like it usually did. Valois was being dominant, yes, but he was also being gentle; far more gentle than he usually was in this situation.

"You are shivering..."

"Sorry, Matre," Gunther whispered.

A lightly-tanned finger touched his lips, silencing any further apology.

"Non," Valois murmured. "I am not that. Not here, not today. Today I am your husband, not your master."

Gunther kissed that finger as it drew away. "Sorry," he said again. "It just feels that way. You're... different."

Valois tilted his head and regarded him for a moment. "How so?" he asked.

"You... you feel dominant."

A smile curved that beautiful mouth. "Mon cur, I am always dominant."

"Not so much that I feel it when we're not in a scene where I know I'm submissive to you." Gunther hesitated. "Did that make sense?"

"Ahh." Valois nodded. "You feel uncertain, and your uncertainty leads you to default to submission, hm?" His hand caressed Gunther's hair, one fingertip trailing along his jawline and gently scratching through his beard as Gunther nodded.

"But perhaps, mon cur, I am finally releasing my true self into your world. Perhaps it is I who feels so safe and secure and loved that I can at last relax utterly into my skin, and you are seeing and sensing me as I truly am."

Gunther stared at him, unsure quite how to take that. "You've never felt you could relax fully with me until now?"

"My darling, beautiful boy. Every man builds a wall between himself and the world, in response to hurts and failures. And a man who has lived a thousand years has many more bricks in his wall than other men." Valois kissed him. "Forgive me, mine, that it took longer for you to break down my wall than it took me to crumble yours."

"You and your metaphors," Gunther chuckled. "Yeah, I understand that now. It just felt weird, having you be dominant with me when we weren't clearly scening."

"We are moving into how I wish our relationship to be. It will be a fluid thing, where you do not need to know that we are in a role; we just are. Do you understand?"

"...sort of? Can you explain a bit more? Sorry, I just—"

"No need for apologies. What I wish for us is that it becomes as natural as breathing. I will gently shape and guide your behaviours with encouragements and also with gentle corrections such as the ones you just experienced, and you—in turn—will come to know what I need or desire without having to be told, which will increase the happiness that I know you receive from being of service. The key to this is in the manner with which I correct and guide you. I will not be stern unless your behaviour merits it, which has not yet happened thus far. You are a natural and you learn quickly, remembering and implementing what you have learned. My guidance will become a part of your everyday life, especially as your son finds his independence and you and I are alone together more often. And, eventually, service will become as natural to you as any other thing that you do without thinking. You will live it and breathe it. It will become the heartbeat of your life."

Something inside Gunther twisted itself into a joyful little knot at those words and he instinctively nuzzled closer, watching Valois smile at that subtle indication of his happiness.

"So I can expect those gentle commands to increase? And.... corrections, too?"

"Yes. My darling boy, I took you down hard and deep but I did tell you that was not what I wanted from you for all eternity. I wanted you to experience that, to get the urge for it out of your system, for there was an urge, was there not?"

His face heating up, Gunther nodded. "I needed it," he whispered.

"Indeed you did." Valois kissed his hot cheek, nuzzling it briefly. "But it is too intense for everyday life. That is not to say we won't sometimes scene like that again, because of course we will. However, in our everyday life together it is time for me to mould and shape and guide you into what I wish you to be."

"And what's that?"

Valois smiled at him. "There is not a word for it that you will understand. The only one I could give is imbued with so many other meanings—notably a possessive one—and you may think that I am suggesting you are not that already."

"Tell me anyway," Gunther urged, needing desperately to know what Valois wanted him to be.

For a long moment, Valois just looked at him, searching his face. Then, he bent his neck and kissed Gunther, before whispering "Completely and utterly, unequivocably... mine" into his mouth.

"I am yours, but if I can be yours even more, then I will be." Gunther wrapped his arms around Valois and clung to him, returning that kiss. "I'll be yours a million times over, and I wish I had the words to tell you that."

"There is no need for words, mon cur. Just let your body and your actions be your words, and let me guide and mould you into the perfection that will be the other half of me; the half that has been missing for a thousand years."

"Yes," Gunther whispered. "With all my heart, yes."

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