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a kind of meadow

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Claude prides himself on his ability to scheme his way into or out of just about any situation. His schemes usually work out, thanks to his tactical thinking and his willingness to consider all options, but that doesn’t mean they are always smoothly executed or graceful in their conclusion.

Like now, a grand escape that will surely save both his and Dimitri’s lives, which in theory should be considered both bold and daring, but in actuality looks like this: himself, bound and gagged, and Dimitri, binds newly shredded away, throwing themselves from a carriage and rolling down a hill until they come to a stop.

It’s a success. They are alive, they are free, and they can flee their captors.

But it leaves them both scraped and aching. Dimitri has spent the better part of five years in rough conditions, with wounds left open and angry, so he takes the pain in stride. He stands immediately, glaring at the now-stopped carriage on the hill above.

Claude, on the other hand, needs a moment to remember how to breathe, the impact having knocked the air right out of his lungs. He also needs a moment to make sure he can think clearly, since he definitely bumped his head somewhere along the way.

By the time he sits up and moves his limbs to make sure nothing is broken, Dimitri has joined him, kneeling beside him to tear the rope from his hands and remove the gag from his mouth.

Both of them were relieved of most of their armor upon being captured. Dimitri is without his gauntlets and Claude has no gloves. Though they also stripped Claude of his tunic, they allowed Dimitri to keep his cloak. Claude assumes the goal was to keep him uncomfortably hot in that stuffy carriage. Regardless of the reasoning, Dimitri manages to look regal as he stands once more, the cloak swaying in the breeze.

“They were foolish to bind me with rope.” It’s the first sentence that Dimitri has uttered since their capture. He had been so quiet for so long, Claude had worried that Dimitri would fail to follow his mimed instructions — that he wouldn’t use his strength to free himself of his binds and break through the carriage door to free them, but rather would sit and accept his fate.

“Yes, they were,” Claude agrees, “but they probably figured that out by now, so we need to move before they find us.” Breaking out of a carriage is no quiet task, and judging by the voices that carry across the wind, their captors are already beginning their pursuit.

Dimitri begins walking. Claude remembers a time when he would extend his hand to him in a situation like this, but that was years ago. Dimitri has changed, and Claude — well, he has always been good at managing his expectations.

He pushes himself off the ground and quickly follows Dimitri, breaking into a run when he reaches him and silently urging him to do the same. Dimitri matches his stride effortlessly and the two of them do their best to put distance between themselves and their captors.

It isn’t enough. The time they lost getting their bearings may be their undoing, because he can hear them getting closer. At one point during the pursuit, he feels the crackle of magic in the air and assumes that they are warping each other to keep on their heels.

Thankfully, he and Dimitri reach a wooded area, which should allow them enough cover to lose their captors. Claude immediately bolts for the trees, but Dimitri stops short. Then, against all logic, he turns, as though he plans to go after their pursuers.

“What are you doing?” Claude whispers, stopping to loop back around.

“I will take care of them,” Dimitri tells him.

“You’re unarmed,” Claude points out. He has no doubt Dimitri can make quick work of a few of their captors with his bare hands, but not all of them. Without any armor, one ranged magic attack would be the end of him.

“I do not need my lance,” Dimitri argues, voice tight. His hands, Claude notices, are curled into fists.

“As much faith as I have in your strength, I’d rather not put it to the test right now.” Claude reaches like he wants to touch Dimitri, but stops short of actually invading his space. “Come with me.”

Dimitri stands still, watching their captors grow closer. For a wild moment, Claude thinks that he is going to be forced to leave Dimitri behind, and he really doesn’t want to do that, but he also doesn’t have Dimitri’s strength to give him a shred of hope at surviving. Fighting at his side in this situation would mean his death.

Then Dimitri turns back around, the moment thankfully ended. Together, they run once more.

Claude blames what happens next on the fact that he hit his head — he blames the adrenaline, his empty stomach, and the stark relief that floods his body when Dimitri finally follows him. Whatever the cause, he doesn’t see the small cliff until he and Dimitri are both falling down it.

This time, the slope allows them to somewhat recover. They slide their way downward instead of plunging into another rough impact with the ground. All things considered, he and Dimitri land relatively safely, with only a few more scrapes and bruises to add to their collection.

That luck doesn’t keep Claude from muttering, “Tumbling down cliffs and hills must be the theme of today.”

Dimitri’s mood, however, has plunged along with his elevation. Once he’s on his feet, he stalks off into the surrounding field of flowers. The sight is somewhat poetic, or would be if Claude were able to consider it without concern over their predicament: large, angry Dimitri, surrounded by such peaceful shades of blue, yellow, and pink, disrupting the petals with each steps he takes, the flowers almost pulsating as he brushes against them.

Claude is already in pursuit when the cloying scent wafts around him and makes him take a better look at the flowers. He’s already standing among them when he thinks wait and freezes in place.

“You do not trust me,” Dimitri says, his back to Claude, unaware of the danger.

This is an important conversation. It’s also one that Claude doesn’t necessarily want to have, certainly not now, but possibly not ever. For him, trust is a layered concept that involves a lot of compartmentalizing. So many of his relationships are formed on the basis of trusting to a point, or trusting certain aspects of a person, without giving it in full. Claude doesn’t trust unconditionally.

But he does trust Dimitri to some extent. He trusts him to continue to fight his personal demons and to help lead their troops through this war. He trusts him to rebuild Fódlan when the war is done, to grow into the King that he knows Dimitri can be. And he even trusts him to stand by his side, whether in battle or during a grand escape from the Imperial army.

As for the rest of it — the deeper, more complicated parts of trust — sometimes, Claude almost wants to consider more. In moments when Dimitri looks at him like he’s impressed with his scheming, or when he tries hard to face forward, toward healing, instead of back toward the past. Or when he makes a choice to trust in Claude, such as following him into a wooded area rather than stalking off to his death.

In those moments, Claude thinks that he could trust him a little more. It’s a concerning thought that requires a lot of late-night introspection when they aren’t knee-deep in strange magical flowers, attempting to hide from captors.

“Don’t move,” Claude attempts to tell him, but it’s too late. He and Dimitri have already disturbed the flowers. Even if they hadn’t, Dimitri turns as Claude says the words, and Claude can see the fine yellow dust release into the wind, into their faces, and into their lungs.

He doesn’t know what the flowers do. He doesn’t recognize them, which is hardly surprising, considering that this is a secret field hidden in the woods. It’s clear they were planted, not spontaneous, given how they are laid out in careful rows. Claude assumes they are experimental.

Whatever they are, they can’t be good.

He reaches that conclusion even before he sees Dimitri wrinkle his nose as the pollen settles on his skin.

He laments their carelessness even before he feels a tingle alight in his throat and slowly spread downward to his chest.

He decides they have to get away from the field even before he sneezes three times in rapid succession, his body attempting to reject the substance before it wreaks havoc.

Now also aware that something has gone wrong, Dimitri takes the initiative. He takes Claude by the shoulders and pulls from free of the field, while Claude attempts to recover his breath.

Dimitri essentially drags him forward, keeping Claude upright when he stumbles, and only releases him when they can no longer see the flowers through the trees. Claude leans against a tree, sniffling as he frowns at the way Dimitri’s cloak has a light yellow coating along the fabric.

“Are you alright?” Dimitri asks him, the concern evident in his tone, his earlier frustrations forgotten.

“I don’t say this lightly,” Claude replies, clearing his throat, “but we’re having a bad day.”

“Claude,” Dimitri chides.

Claude waves a hand, attempting to dismiss his concerns. “I’m fine.” He can breathe easily again, which is the most important improvement. “For now at least. We need to find someplace where we can wash this stuff off.” He looks down at his own clothing, which is also lightly dusted with the questionable pollen.

“What was that?” Dimitri asks. He brings his hand to his throat and cups it, grimacing.

“I don’t know.” Claude still feels the discomfort in his throat and chest as well, but it begins to give way to something warmer. “But I have a feeling we’ll find out soon enough.” It’s a grim thought — for all Claude knows, it could kill them.

There’s no point in waiting around for it to take effect. They begin walking once more. Their captors seem to have lost track of them, so they don’t have to rush off blindly anymore. The flip side of that is the fact that they are now a little lost, thanks to cliffs and strange flowers.

Initially, Claude pays close attention to the terrain around them. He makes mental notes of where they have been and takes care to remember specific trees and rocks so they don’t get lost. He also tries to put together a loose plan for what may end up being a night in the woods, considering that they will need to eat and rest at some point. Meanwhile, Dimitri looks for signs of running water, occasionally pausing to listen for any indication that they might be near a source.

Before long, however, Claude’s thoughts start to fray at the edges. The subtle warmth in his chest begins to swell and radiate outward, into his limbs, while a low hum slowly reverberates under his skin. It isn’t uncomfortable, necessarily, but it certainly isn’t normal.

In another time and place, he would be interested in picking apart the sensations and trying to understand them. If he were feeling particularly curious, he might even have gone back for a sample of a flower in the interest of learning more. Those days are long gone, however — trampled over by a war and five long years of trying to keep the Alliance afloat. Right now, he’s only interested in mind over body — trying to fight whatever it is that is happening to him.

It’s easier said than done, even with Claude’s always-present control keeping it at bay. Warmth becomes heat, and he finds himself tugging at his collar in an effort to feel more of the breeze.

Beside him, walking in sullen silence, Dimitri looks flushed but relatively in control. He doesn’t seem to notice that Claude is fidgeting more than usual, for which Claude is grateful.

“Feel anything strange yet?” Claude asks once he trusts himself to use his voice, carefully enunciating so he doesn’t betray the turmoil blooming within him.

“A little warm,” Dimitri replies, his one eye glancing at Claude. “You?”

“Just hot,” Claude replies flippantly. “But that could be all the walking.”

Dimitri grunts wordlessly in acknowledgement and turns his attention back to the trees ahead. Which is a relief, because Dimitri’s fleeting glance caused a tug in his abdomen, something familiar and yet so often quelled that the sudden pull almost distracts him.

He wants to —

— think about this logically.

Why, he forces himself to think as he tugs at his collar once again, is Dimitri handling this better than him?

Dimitri is:

  • Bigger. It’s possible that it takes more than a faceful of pollen for someone of his size to be affected by its properties. It’s entirely likely that Dimitri’s broad frame, his wide shoulders, his firm, well-honed muscles, and the ease with which he could envelope Claude and make him, a man of average height, feel small

    It’s entirely likely that his size has something to do with it.

  • Stronger. Dimitri's unusual strength could be the reason. He is, after all, much stronger than Claude, and if he wanted, he could easily hold Claude down, keep him still, prevent him from struggling, and yet despite his strength Dimitri is much more capable of gentle touch than he realizes. Claude remembers Dimitri handing him a bow, Dimitri applying pressure to one of his wounds, Dimitri’s fingers grazing the top of his hand —

    Strength. A possibility.

  • Familiar with loss of control. Dimitri lost himself for a while, but now that he is working toward a healthier place, maybe he has learned a trick or two for overcoming impulses. Maybe that’s why he has not yet removed his cloak, why despite looking a little tense and mildly uncomfortable, he isn’t taking off his shirt as Claude is now — why he isn’t looking at Claude even though Claude can’t stop looking at him, why he’s never really looked at Claude the way Claude has wanted him to, never desired Claude the way Claude —

    — has no idea where he was going with this.

What he does know is the longer he thinks about Dimitri, the stronger that hum builds beneath his skin, the harder that tug of arousal pulls, the more he wants to touch himself, right then and there, his cock twitching before he can fully form that thought.

“I —” he begins hoarsely, trying to find the words to temporarily excuse himself, but he drops the shirt he’s holding and when he bends to pick it back up, Dimitri reaches for it, too. Their hands briefly meet and Claude nearly gasps, the contact shocking him so thoroughly it takes every ounce of willpower he’s ever had not to tear off the rest of his clothes and beg Dimitri to touch him again.

Dimitri pulls back suddenly, eye wide, breathing quickly, erratically, and okay, maybe he isn’t as unaffected as Claude thought. Maybe Claude's judgement is too impaired to be able to see beyond his own desire, but he knows one thing and one thing only:

It’s time for a strategic retreat.

“Stay here!” he calls out to Dimitri as he jogs backwards. “I, uh, have some business to attend to!” he adds, not casually at all. He turns, then, and disappears into a cluster of trees.

As soon as he thinks he’s out of earshot, Claude finds himself facing a tree, his forehead pressing against the bark as he reaches into his pants, grasping his already-hard cock and running his hand over it with unfettered need. He closes his eyes and strokes himself, thinking only of Dimitri, mindlessly seeking release.

From beyond his hiding spot comes a frustrated, wordless growl and the sound of splintering wood.

It temporarily returns Claude to his senses. His hand pauses and his eyes open and he manages to remember Dimitri as a person, not as the object of his impaired affections. Dimitri, who is still fragile, who is afraid of losing control, who shouldn’t be alone in a situation like this.

Claude tries to hold that in his mind as he pulls back his hand, abandoning his attempt to find relief. He repeats those thoughts to himself as he retraces his footsteps.

He finds Dimitri kneeling on the ground in front of a damaged tree, his knuckles torn open from beating on the wood. He still wears his cloak, but he looks miserable within it — sweating, Claude sees as he approaches, and panting for air. His hair is plastered to his face, his cheeks are reddened, and he looks —

— desirable. Claude has never wanted to touch another person so much in his life. This is what he needs — he isn’t hard for himself, he’s hard for Dimitri and he’s going to —

— stop himself right there.

“Dimitri,” he says with difficulty, keeping himself from touching him. “It’s okay.”

“No,” Dimitri moans. As soon as the word leaves his lips, Dimitri is tackling Claude to the ground, his hands roaming over his bare chest. They feel so strong, calloused over, roughened from the wood of the tree. They feel so —

— right. Claude loses words. He arches into the touch, presses up into Dimitri, breath catching in his chest, though he’s slower to touch back because there’s still a small, logical part of his brain that attempts to hold out long enough to recall control.

Dimitri is looking down at him, his one eye frantically searching his face for something. “I don’t want to hurt you,” is the whispered confession, even as his touch turns demanding, one hand shoved against Claude's chest, holding him down, the other squeezing his nipple, eliciting a jolt of pleasure through which Claude quivers. Dimitri bucks his hips against Claude’s and Claude can feel his erection, he can feel —

— concerned, when Dimitri speaks again, when he repeats those same words like a mantra: “I don’t want to hurt you.” Dimitri clenches his teeth, slows his hands, his hips, his lust.

“Dimitri,” Claude moans, the name singeing his lips. Claude raises his hands from the ground to touch him: first his cloak, which he unclasps, then his neck, then his cheeks. He wants to do so much more, to touch every scar, to feel the heat of his skin against his own.

But first, he needs to make this clear: “I trust you.” If this has to happen — if he has to be completely overcome by need, if he must give himself to someone — better it be Dimitri than anyone else. He knows that Dimitri can control himself; he has already proven it.

Dimitri doesn’t answer verbally, but Claude knows what those three words do to him. He feels his cock respond, senses the shiver that cascades over his body.

With his very last ounce of willpower, Claude raises up to kiss Dimitri carefully, gently, to show him that he’s more than his strength and his ghosts, that even under the influence of magical pollen and lusting after each other like wild animals, he is worthy of care.

Dimitri holds himself back long enough to kiss Claude in turn, to part his lips and offer his tongue, to show Claude that he, too, is worthy of affection, of belonging. It —

— takes Claude’s breath away for one euphoric moment of clarity and wonder.

And then they give in. The kiss turns desperate. Claude fumbles with Dimitri’s clothes. He tries to free him of them, but he’s used up all his self-control and can only pull blindly, too far gone for patience and schemes. Dimitri must be feeling the same, because he pushes Claude’s hands away to hurry through kicking off his boots and ripping free of his clothing. Then he does the same to what’s left of Claude’s meager clothes, which tear in his grip.

He’ll regret that later, when he isn’t marveling at how amazing Dimitri’s skin feels against his own once Dimitri is straddling him again, once he is pressing their bodies together and causing that hum within Claude to surge.

“I want to feel you,” Claude admits, allowing his hands to feel the curve of Dimitri’s biceps, the rock-solid tightening of his muscles when Dimitri lowers himself to lick along Claude’s collarbone, nip at his neck. Claude runs his hands over the expanse of his back, the sharp curve of his shoulder blades.

“I will touch you,” Dimitri growls against his neck, a promise that causes a tremble to run through Claude’s body, any hope of resolve long forgotten. “Taste you,” he adds in a whisper, breath teasing against Claude's ear. “Claim you.”

“Please,” Claude begs as he moves his hips, the contact of Dimitri’s erection against his making him vie for friction, for Dimitri to take him in his hands, his mouth — anywhere.

Dimitri sinks his teeth into Claude’s shoulder and Claude’s mind blanks. He sees nothing, thinks nothing, and only knows fierce longing as the pain bursts and then gives way to something stronger, more intense, more demanding.

He whines as Dimitri pulls back to look at him, regarding Claude with a hunger that seems at once dangerous and alluring. Claude drops his arms on either side of himself, palms up, offering.

Dimitri maneuvers him effortlessly, propping him up up on his side. Claude reaches to pull him close once more, but Dimitri shifts before he can — lies on his side as well, placing his hips in front of Claude’s face and curving his body to position his head in front of Claude’s thighs.

It slips out unbidden — an expression of reverence leaves his lips as Dimitri urges his cock toward his mouth, precum glistening at the tip, waiting to be licked clean. Claude would marvel at how large and firm Dimitri is, if he had the presence of mind. Right now, all he wants to do is taste.

And so he does, running his tongue along the tip, sampling the tang of his precum, then down along his length. Even affected as he is, he wishes he could take his time, to really savor this, but that brief taste is all he can manage before his wish is outweighed by the desire to take Dimitri into his mouth.

He takes the length of him as best he can, but there’s so much to swallow that Claude initially gags around him — pulls back and has to try again, with better control this time, tightening his lips as he hooks his arm around Dimitri’s waist and urges him deeper.

Not that Dimitri needs to be urged. Once Claude's mouth has enveloped him, he moans against Claude’s thigh — the warmth of his breath sending new, reawakened yearning throughout Claude’s cock — and shoves his hips forward.

It’s a lot. It’s so much that Claude has to remind himself to breathe through his nose as Dimitri forcefully slides along the back of his throat, causing tears to blur Claude's vision. It’s also everything that he wants right now — Dimitri filling both his mouth and mind so completely, Claude can no longer form thoughts.

Then Dimitri’s lips press against his cock, tongue swirling over his crown as he slowly takes him in, and Claude is rendered absolutely immobile. He can’t move, can’t suck, can only register the wet warmth that surrounds him, the way that Dimitri’s mouth moves up and down, releasing him long enough to lick along his length, then taking all of him once more.

There are sounds — whines, pleads, moans — and Claude barely registers that he is the one making them, that his own mouth is vibrating with need around Dimitri’s cock. Dimitri registers it, though. He bucks, and the jolt against his throat brings Claude back into the present moment. He tries to swallow all of Dimitri again, sucking the air from his mouth to increase the tightness of his lips.

But it's hard to focus, because Dimitri’s mouth keeps easing back and then taking him completely, over and over again.

Claude may be out of his mind with pollen-induced desire, may be so desperate to come that he’s panting and groaning along Dimitri’s length, but he is still himself: he doesn't want to be fully vulnerable for anyone, not even Dimitri, not even now. He doesn't want to be the first to come, so far gone while Dimitri maintains more control than he should, captivated by Claude’s mouth but not enough to lose his focus on Claude’s cock.

So Claude introduces his hand. His movements may be a little uncoordinated, but he loops his fingers around Dimitri’s cock and guides them up and down along with his mouth, releasing only to run his finger along his taint, then back up along his balls to grasp him once again. He tries to stay determined — tries not to lose himself to the way Dimitri’s moans turn desperate, the way he responds by sucking Claude with greater fervor.

He feels Dimitri tensing, his hips going rigid, and for a moment, Claude thinks, blissfully, that he will succeed, that Dimitri will come before him, and then he can finally let go, can have the release he so desperately needs.

But then something slick presses against his hole, shocking him out of focus and into a place where all he can do is gasp, nearly choking on Dimitri as his body jerks forward in combined alarm and pleasure. Dimitri’s finger circles the rim, then slowly presses inward.

It’s too much. Claude can’t do anything except cry out around Dimitri’s cock and come into Dimitri’s mouth, wordless pleas tearing from his throat as he pulsates, body shaking.

Dimitri must enjoy all the sounds, because as he swallows and laps up the rest of Claude’s cum, he begins to thrust in earnest. Claude, feeling thoroughly spent and yet somehow still wanting, tries to collect himself long enough to suck in earnest once more, to give Dimitri what Dimitri gave to him. He’s clumsier now, he knows, but Dimitri is undeterred. He rolls his hips over and over, fucking Claude’s mouth until tears run down his cheeks.

Then Dimitri cries out and comes, bucking against Claude’s face, sending warm cum flowing down his throat. Claude swallows twice, but some still leaks out as Dimitri pulls away from his mouth.

Claude wipes his face with his hand, well beyond trying to find a more dignified way to clean himself, and shakily tries to sit up. He expects some clarity to settle upon them, to have the effects of the pollen lessened in the aftermath, but when Dimitri also sits up, hair mussed, skin decorated with dirt, face flush and lips swollen, Claude feels his body responding all over again.

Dimitri seems to have the same problem. He looks at Claude, eyes dipping to his cheeks, his lips, and then further downward — and he immediately looks away.

They keep their distance after that, quietly dressing. Claude’s pants are torn, but he ties them together in a way that will do for the time being. Once dressed, Dimitri spares enough of a glance at Claude to wordlessly hold out his cloak, which Claude gratefully accepts, feeling vulnerable and exposed.

Of course, once the cloak is around his shoulders, he is half-driven to madness once again by Dimitri’s scent, which clings to the fabric. He tries to put it out of his mind.

They walk quietly for a while, until the burning builds within them again, until they can’t take it anymore — then they pause to jerk each other off, or get on their knees, or do whatever they can to help each other return to themselves. The journey is painfully slow and entirely exhausting.

Dimitri's mind fully clears before Claude can get a grip on himself. He grows less intense, less demanding, until finally he shakes his head as Claude attempts to grasp him. “I will take care of you,” is what Dimitri murmurs to him when he finds himself capable of remaining flaccid despite Claude’s still-demanding erection.

“What a tiring day,” Claude mumbles after coming again, his orgasm dry and unsatisfying. Every part of him aches. Dimitri has to help him remain upright.

Eventually they find a stream. Cleaning himself helps. The water is cold against his skin and it washes away the remnants of what they’ve done. When he splashes some along his shoulder, he feels Dimitri’s bite mark sting.

“I’m sorry,” Dimitri mutters darkly when he sees Claude attempting to look at it.

“Don’t be,” Claude replies, trying to keep his tone light, but it comes out sounding tired and worn. “It’s a good look for me.”

Once cleaned, they resume walking. By now, the sun has nearly set. The trees have become sparse. Up ahead, there are troops waving familiar banners — a search party.

“Look,” Dimitri says, sounding better than he has all day, like he has found hope once more. “We made it.”

“Ah,” Claude replies, slowing his steps. “You go on ahead.”

Dimitri stops and turns around. “What do you mean?”

Claude tries to smile. He hopes it looks reassuring. “I need a little more time to recover.” As in, he doesn’t want to be seen like this, so thoroughly exhausted, with a still-present yearning beneath his skin, clothes torn beneath the cloak he will inevitably have to return to Dimitri.

Dimitri steps forward, extending his hand as though he wants to touch Claude. “Do you still trust me?” he asks.

Claude feels like laughing. Does he trust Dimitri? Was that just the pollen moving his lips, commanding his tongue? Will he place himself in Dimitri’s hands now that his mind is returning?

Dimitri frowns at him, but waits patiently.

“Yeah,” Claude finally replies. He isn’t sure if the words are completely honest, but he's too tired to try to over-analyze the truth. “I think I do.”

Dimitri accepts that as permission to take action. He pulls the cloak tighter around Claude’s body, covering the parts of himself he doesn’t want exposed. Then he wraps an arm around him protectively and helps him move forward.

When they meet the troops, Dimitri stands in front of him, keeping him from scrutiny. He tells them they fell ill during their escape and that they need a place to rest immediately. All the way to camp, Dimitri fields questions and keeps attention away from Claude.

When they reach camp, Dimitri whispers, “A little further,” and stays close as they head toward the tents, toward rest and recuperation, toward putting this behind them so they can return to thinking about the war.

Dimitri does not leave his side.

And whether or not Claude’s admission of trust was honest at first, it feels more like the truth with each step forward they take.