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Despite the clamor of the crowds packed into the stands, Sett can tell something is off. His ears twitch almost as if they’re trying to shake away the strange feeling. What is that? He’s not an animal—only fights like one—but sometimes instinct rises up to annoy him more than any cheap gladiator ever could. Sett can’t explain it. It’s an inescapable itch buried beneath his skin. Must be the vastayan blood in him. 

He shoots one of his lieutenants The Look (the one that says keep the blood pumping and the money rolling) before turning away from the duel happening on the arena floor below. He’s seen enough fights to know how this one’s going to end anyway. 

Back down the stairs into the arena’s south foyer. His footsteps are quiet compared to the roar behind him and the large hall is almost empty except for a few broad-shouldered guards. They stand a bit straighter when they see him. Nothing out of the ordinary there. Sett then heads down the hall towards the northern foyer. All the bets are struck there. If anything’s wrong then the problem would probably be where the money is.

Halfway there sound suddenly erupts from the arena as a winner is declared and Sett abruptly stops walking. His ears. They prickle uncomfortably. To his immediate right is the loser’s room. The dead man’s house. Everyone who dies in the ring is brought here before they’re dumped. Jewelry is picked clean, every pocket is searched, weapons are scrapped. It really ain’t easy managing a pit. The fights may be glamorous but cleanup is messy. 

 

Sett steps inside. The room smells like blood, always does. Just one quick look, he thinks. Then he’ll check the betting boxes down the hall and head back to the balconies. Could be a false alarm, maybe there’s dust in his ears.

He walks past a few fresh bodies set out on pallets. Those sorry corpses are from earlier today and still need to be searched. Normally they’d already be done with and thrown out but the turnout today has been especially large and every hand is on deck keeping the evening running smoothly. Has this room always been so dark? Sett squints at the back of the large chamber. His ears twitch again. There are a few shuttered windows high up on the wall that leak dusky light but the effect is minimal. Boxes and barrels of scrap metal and other trinkets are now nothing but smears of shadow. Sett frowns and moves closer, that burrowing itch drives him further into the room. Something doesn’t feel right. He stares into the darkness—should really find a light—breath caught in his throat. 

 

After almost a minute he exhales softly. I could be wrong about this room, he thinks as he turns away. Could be something up at the betting boxes. His ears flick and this time Sett reaches up to scratch them, annoyed. As he lifts his arm the hair on the back of his neck stands straight up.

Vastayan magic. He doesn’t understand it. It’s intuition. Different from mages who can point and make fire on a whim. It’s all instinct for him. Something woven deeper than blood that he can only hope to comprehend.

 

So when Sett unexpectedly shoots his fist out into the blackness and it actually connects with something—someone alive—he’s startled.

 

The someone is surprised too because a rack of weapons clatters loudly as it knocks against the wall. Even the audience’s howling can’t mask that. Sett twists, automatically falling into his dueling stance and a dagger slices across his shoulder where his chest was a moment ago. He snarls. Mess be damned he won’t be the one cleaning this up.

He spies the sharp glint of metal in the dark and strikes, blindly smacking against the person’s arm and knocking the blade to the floor. A leg collides with his hip and forces him off balance, sending him crashing into a stack of boxes. His attacker darts past him while he gets up and in the light Sett sees the hooded figure— a Noxian— pull another thin dagger off his belt. It flips twice across his fingers before whistling through the air and only Sett’s reflexes prevent his throat from being cut open. 

 

“You—” Sett shouts. A battle cry that goes unfinished as he grabs the lip of a nearby box with one hand and pitches it at the assassin. It explodes against the wall in a shower of scrap and he catches the man’s stare, sees his wide amber eyes narrow into something viciously cold. The figure turns and instead of exiting the room hops nimbly across the pallets and over the bodies to the opposite wall. Out of the rough-hewn stone he finds secret footholds and Sett blinks, almost impressed, as his opponent scales the wall effortlessly to end up on top of the rafters.

He’s far more agile than Sett is. And faster, but behind these arena’s walls Sett’s never lost a fight and today will be no exception. He tosses another box at him and the crowd yells, almost as if they’re watching his duel instead of the one outside. The man’s balance doesn’t waver however. He scurries towards him on the beam, just out of reach, and throws two more daggers at him. It’s harder to see him on the dim side of the room so this time Sett only narrowly manages to avoid them, one blade still scraping across his forearm. 

 

The pain stings, but only for a second as his body goes numb. Anger or something else. His eyes alight on the windows. The windows. Dim light seeps out between the shutters. He’s looking to leave another way.

“Get down!” He shouts, tipping one of the wooden cabinets on the wall and propelling himself off the back of it like a ramp as it crashes down. With the added height he manages to blindly snatch the end of the assassin's cloak and yank him back to the floor. The man falls flat on his back onto what is now an absolute disaster of a storage area. Sett tackles him and they grapple. Something sharp stings his cheek, pokes into his side, but he barely feels it. He may not be quick or graceful but once he has someone down, they’re down. 

 

Finally, once Sett wrestles him to the ground and gets his hand around his throat, the Noxian goes limp under him. It’s a sudden change and it’s really not one that Sett is used to. In the pit everyone goes out swinging cause who would give up in front of a crowd? The man’s pulse flutters against his grip as he awaits death. Beneath Sett’s fingers he seems fragile, like a hollow boned bird, flighty and small. 

“Why are you here?” Sett growls, breathing heavy. There’s iron on his tongue. 

One of the arena security, Eiyo rushes in, broad shouldered and awkward. She must have finally heard the cacophony over the crowds. Her eyes widen as she takes in the scene. The room is in complete disarray. Trinkets and broken weapons are littered everywhere. Sett’s holding the Noxian facedown—cheek pressed—against the floor, both his wrists trapped behind his back. 

“Boss—” she starts, clearly caught off guard. 

“Get rope!” Sett orders. She stumbles past him to dig through the mess and he squeezes the man’s throat once. Can almost wrap his big hand ‘round the whole thing. 

“Why are you here?” 

When his only answer is silence Sett carefully applies pressure until the man’s body grows tense and then after a minute—limp again. He gets up slowly, bones suddenly aching, wounds stinging miserably. Plenty of new bruises will color his skin today. A good fight. Certainly more interesting than most of the shit that’s happened in the arena this month.

He lashes the unconscious man’s arms tightly behind his back, then he ties his ankles together and turns to Eiyo. 

“Take him and follow me.” 

 

***

 

The fights are starting to wind down in the pit for the night so by the time they’ve hauled the prisoner into Sett’s office—high up by the balconies—he already has to go manage the payouts. It’s what he does every night to make sure everything runs smoothly. People get all showy, drunk on blood and a good audience. Sometimes they end up wanting more money than they should. 

“Fuck,” he mutters under his breath as he quickly searches the intruder for weapons. He finds many. All knives, wickedly sharp. Definitely an assassin then. The man’s eyes flutter open as he pats down his clothes. He says nothing as Sett removes another knife and adds it to the growing collection on his desk. His hood has tipped and brown hair that has previously been tied back now falls messily across his forehead. Sett almost marvels at how expressionless his eyes are as he finds another knife strapped against his arm. This one is narrow and the hilt is wrapped in thin fabric. Sett notices the tiniest jerk in the man’s shoulders when he dumps it callously on his desk. 

“Like that one?” He asks, goads really, but the Noxian is still silent. 

Sett sighs. “Gonna be that way, huh?” He stands up, leaving the man on the floor. 

“Watch him,” he tells Eiyo. “I’ll be right back.” 

 

***

 

Thankfully there’s no problems with paying out. Sett gets everyone what they’re due and hustles back upstairs to his office. 

“You can leave.” He tosses her share and she nods.

“Sure thing boss.” 

The Noxian is still on the floor, curled on his side. His gaze follows Sett as he moves around the room, putting his coin away and checking his wounds in the mirror. Finally Sett crouches in front of him. He rips away the cloth covering the man’s mouth and his whole face is somehow not what he imagined. His eyes are so empty but everything else curves narrow and pleasant.

“What’s your name?” He asks. 

No answer. Sett’s not the most patient. He'll give it one more honest attempt.

“Your name?” He tries again, in Noxian this time. He receives his biggest response yet, a flicker of movement as the man looks away and then back at him. Right, he must not be able to speak Ionian.

“If you don’t tell me your name I’m gonna give you one.” Sett grabs the guy’s chin, tilting his face up towards him. “Something harmless.”

The assassin pulls away from his fingers. “Why not just kill me?” He speaks finally, a faint rasp in his voice, probably from being choked to the point of unconsciousness. His dialect is clear and clean, one that Sett doesn’t recognize. Where is he from?

“Don’t worry, I’m still planning on it.” He curves his hand across his throat again and although the man’s expression doesn’t change, his pulse quickens against his palm at the threat of suffocation. “Why’re you here?”

No answer. Sett leans back onto his heels and sighs. He looks at the window up on the back wall. Moonlight shines across his desk, aiding the low-burning candles in their quest for light.

“Your voice is deeper than I expected. I was imagining it sounding more—dainty.” He settles on that word specifically. A poke to get a response.

The Noxian’s lips part slightly but no sound escapes. Sett finds himself staring at them. Chapped and pink.

“Still quiet?” His thumb rubs against the man’s throat. “Use your words, Sunshine. How about that for a name?”

“I’m Talon,” he bites out tersely, in that weird dialect of his.

Sett laughs. “Talon?” he repeats mockingly. “That ain’t much better.” 

For a moment Talon’s face betrays his emotions. Something a little bewildered, a little wild. A look that’s shared by new fighters who have nothing except the clothes on their back and a hankering for violence.

“So were you sent to kill me?”

“No.” Short. To the point. Sett likes shit when it’s to the point. He grabs the man’s collar and effortlessly drags him upright, tired of crouching. He’s small, really. Barely taller than his shoulder. Then again, Sett’s not short by any means. He sweeps the pile of knives to the floor with his free hand and notices the way Talon shifts at the noise as he leans against the edge of the desk.

 

“Those matter to you?” He kicks a knife with his boot and it skitters across the room. 

His eyes don’t match his face. They really don’t. They’re as blank as stone but the rest of him is—

“Why haven’t you just killed me?” 

—fragile? That thought again. Sett doesn’t want to bother overthinking things. He could easily snap this man’s neck like a bird wing. One handed probably. 

“You really wanna die, huh.” He frowns.

Talon jerks his head slightly. “No.”

The vastayan crosses his arms. Gods, if his momma knew what he was thinking about right now. He sits down on the chair behind him. More of a throne, he likes to think. Got the fancy high back that shows you’re someone worth talking to.

“I should already be dead,” Talon speaks again and his voice is chillingly bitter. “Don’t know why you’re fucking around.”

Sett rubs his bandaged shoulder, grimacing at the ache. “You’re nice to look at.”

There it is again. A little life in his gaze as his mask breaks. Surprise, confusion. Talon turns his head away and Sett wonders if he knows how revealing his eyes can be. If that’s why he was hidden in shadow and masks. 

There’s no use beating around the bush anymore. Sett prefers to be direct and hit things head on. Could be considered a bad idea, but if he’s never lost a duel how bad could it really be? “You into men?”

Talon’s shoulders hunch and Sett spies the way his lips part again, still looking away. Although he doesn’t answer, the resulting silence that settles awkwardly over the room speaks for him. Sett cracks his knuckles.

“Look I’ll kill you.” He stands up and sidles closer. “You set foot in my arena and got caught.” He tips Talon’s chin up and his pale eyes are almost shining. “So I have you. You’re fucked—” He says the last word with some emphasis. “How bout seeing it all the way through?”

A tremble travels up Talon’s spine. His shoulders shake once and his tongue darts over his lips. Pink, like his cheeks. Sett knows that look. A man at the end of his rope can’t fall any lower.

 

He leans down and heat curls through him when Talon cranes his head up to meet him halfway, lips hesitant and warm against his own. Sett’s hand quickly slides to cup his jaw. Soft. His lips feel exactly how he thought they would. He catches Talon’s bottom lip between his teeth and the answering hiss makes him smile.

When he pulls away Talon chases his mouth back but Sett ducks down to suck a mark below his jawline. The Noxian’s shaky breath tickles his ears.

“I want you on my cock.” Sett growls.

Talon’s eyes are back to being indiscernible but they’re half lidded and his face is red. “Untie me.” 

“Not yet.” Sett pulls him forward as he drops back onto his chair and Talon falls onto his knees with a thump, colliding with Sett’s legs. The assassin’s head rests on his thigh and when he looks up something about his loveless gaze rouses an inexplicable instinct in him. Sett wants to see his eyes when they are open again. Like how the moonlight filtered over his face earlier and Sett had seen how defenseless he really was. He wants to fuck some life into that empty stare. 

“Don’t bite me,” he mutters as he unbuckles his belt and tugs his pants down. “I promise I’ll kill you.”

Talon doesn't say anything. So quiet. Sett wonders what he can do to coax some noise out. He slides his hand over the back of his head and pulls out the tie that had barely been holding the man’s hair back. Messy brown bangs are silky under his touch. Talon looks up at him again, and then at his cock, now inches away from his face. 

“Know what you’re doing?” Sett asks. 

As if accepting a challenge, Talon leans forward. His lips are warm around Sett. A wet burning as he mouths the side of his cock. A groan or a growl—he doesn’t know which—escapes Sett’s throat. His ears twitch as Talon licks a long stripe up his shaft. Gods, it’s been a while, hasn’t it? He’s no stranger to admiring looks and fooling around in moonlit corners. But it's certainly been a long time.

“Do you know what you’re doing?” He repeats when Talon takes him into his mouth. “Know what you’re doin’ to me?” He wants more words. Wants this man to say more in that clean dialect of his.

Talon jerks his head up, tossing some hair out of his face and catching Sett’s eye for only a moment. Then he doubles down on his cock, letting him into his mouth—into his throat. Sett’s nails scrape the arms of his chair at the immediate sensation. 

“F-Fuck,” he mumbles. Oh it’s hard to breathe, as if Talon’s draining his air and leaving red heat behind. He does know what he’s doing. He must. Might as well be magic with that mouth. His hips roll once on their own and Talon moves with him, bobbing his head, sucking him off like his survival depends on it. It doesn’t. Sett’s made up his mind already about that. 

“Hang on.” He tugs on the back of the man’s head. When Talon doesn’t stop he pulls him off completely. “Hang on I wanna fuck you.” That’s how he always talks, fists forward. Exactly what he wants. Talon looks up at him, sniffling and breathing heavily as he catches his breath.

“Untie me,” he says hoarsely, like an order. Normally Sett doesn’t take orders. He’s The Boss after all. Everyone in the pit listens to him or his fists. But right now he’ll consider a compromise if it means tonight won’t stop. He gets up quickly, leans down to taste himself on Talon’s lips, and reaches past to tug apart the rope tying his ankles together. The knot comes apart easily if you know where to pull. Talon immediately wobbles to his feet and Sett helps him strip, practically ripping his clothes off, tearing away straps and buckles. Still achingly hard.

“Untie me,” Talon hisses, more impatient this time. His arms flex as he tests out his bonds. 

Sett chuckles. There’s no good way to get Talon’s shirt off so he resorts to destroying it, exposing pale skin little by little. “Not yet.” He’s definitely fit, a nice body for an assassin. Faint white scars are scattered across his body, marks of confidence. The vastayan knows what it’s like to look in the mirror and count scars, understanding every wound is a testament to his resilience. Sett rubs the pad of his thumb over one of his nipples and Talon flinches.

With a grunt he sits back down and pats his lap, still achingly hard. “Come ‘ere.” 

The Noxian’s clearly frustrated at being bound. He glances around the room, standing stock still. Maybe he’s thinking about an escape. 

 

“Come on sunshine—” the nickname sure gets his attention. “ Don’t you still want me?” He knows the answer, can see between his legs. Talon draws in a stuttering breath. His eyes. They’re alive again, unsteady and bright. 

Sett guides him to straddle his lap, kneeling with his legs tightly wedged between him and the chair. He smooths his hand across the curve of his ass.

“You’re small.” On the end table next to them he finds the jar of oil, commonly used to ease the stings won while fighting. He pops the lid with his thumb and makes a show of dipping his fingers in. “Think you can handle me?” 

Talon raises his hips. He gasps silently when Sett’s finger slips inside of him. A sigh as he carefully pushes it deeper. Sett knows he’s big. It takes time to prepare someone for that kind of size. Talon presses his forehead to his shoulder as he works him open. His hips wiggle when Sett finally adds another finger a few minutes later, slowly pushing back against his movements.

“What’s your name?” Sett asks, to break the silence. “Your real name.”

The assassin pants softly, face flushed. “Talon,” he insists. He sees it again, the vulnerability in his body. 

“The name my momma gave me was Settrigh—” Sett offers, fingers digging deeper, hunting for that certain spot.

“It’s Talon.” Loud. Sett likes that. He crooks his fingers and Talon’s back arches, a choked noise escaping him. 

“Fine. Talon. You’re not easy to crack.” He sweeps the Noxian’s hair away from his face. This close he can see the bruises forming around his pale neck. “Why were you here?” He slides another finger in. “If you didn't come to kill me.” He sucks a mark onto Talon’s collarbone, speeding up his thrusts. A little impatient perhaps but he’s aching for this. His cock feels impossibly hard. 

Talon bites his lip, eyes fluttering closed. His eyelashes are full and dark and Sett doesn’t know why that stands out to him so much. Maybe because Talon is just so nice to look at. And when he fights you’d think he’d be nothing but sharp until you see his face and he’s soft. Sett reaches down with his free hand to find the other’s cock, gently thumbing over the tip. 

“S-Someone else—” Talon shudders. “Thought they might be—dead.” His body jerks, almost of its own accord. “Untie me.”

Sett spreads his fingers, adds one more. “Why did you give up when I caught you?”

“Untie me—” Talon snaps loudly. He ducks his head miserably against Sett’s shoulder again, breathing ragged. His hips are still rocking against him unconsciously. Sett knows that if he saw his eyes they would be alive. The room is silent again but not the comfortable, sticky quiet that had enveloped them earlier. 

He pulls his fingers loose and cages Talon in his arms while he picks apart the knots restraining him. A bad idea? Probably, but Sett has already followed through with plenty of bad ideas. Another won’t hurt.

As soon as his hands are free Talon slaps him away. He shakes the excess shreds of cloth off his arms and sits up straighter. Sett watches him silently. He doesn’t meet his eyes. Instead, he fumbles for the jar of oil and dips his fingers in. With rigid movement he reaches behind himself and quickly slicks up Sett’s cock. You probably need more time, Sett thinks, as the Noxian lines him up. You’re small. But he doesn’t stop him.

 

Talon groans, low and breathy, when the first couple inches enter him. His thighs tremble as he drops slowly, inch by inch, deeper and deeper until he sits flush against Sett’s legs. His mouth opens and closes a couple times, hands scrambling to find purchase on Sett’s broad chest, kneading against his skin. Sett stares transfixed at the way his breath escapes. The way his eyes are glass, amber reflecting in the lowlight. 

Shakily, Talon lifts himself up and Sett immediately rushes to help him, gripping around his hips to guide him up and then—he exhales sharply, tight—back down. He eases him through the motion again, and again, eagerness taking over. Sett’s lifted plenty heavier than this Noxian. With every grind of their hips Talon’s body bleeds noise. He whines and whimpers, hands everywhere at once. Sett’s arms, his abs, his shoulders. Sett notices how his hands are criss-crossed with scars. Countless compared to the rest of his body.

“Kill me,” Talon finally begs, voice cracking under the weight of Sett’s thrusts. “I lost—I lost. So kill me.”

Sett thinks he might understand. He’s really not one to ponder long and hard about shit. But maybe Talon comes from a world where it’s ‘eat or be eaten.’ A pit of his own. He knows a thing or two about that. Starting from the dirt and fighting and— fighting. Having to ride the back of every victory for one more minute of survival.

“No.” Broken promises be damned. Sett’s not a stranger to lying. From the moment he’d felt Talon’s flickering heartbeat he’d known that he wasn’t going to kill him.

Talon’s arms wind around his neck. He buries his face under Sett’s chin. “I lost.” He sounds almost heartbroken. Confused and strange. 

He laughs quietly. “I never lose.”

Talon’s arms tighten. “Three times.” A whispered admission. Three times? Three times that he’s been defeated? Maybe he’s not used to this. An act of mercy. Sett gets the feeling that there had been steeper prices to pay in the past. He’s glad that Talon can’t see his worried glance as he hunches over, guarding the assassin in his arms while he picks up the pace. Sett fucks like he fights. An animal. Talon bounces on his cock gracefully, matching every thrust flawlessly, gasping and crying—though Sett doesn’t know if the tears are because the sex is too good or because some sort of emotional dam has finally broken along with his silence.

 

Talon comes first. He throws his head back and sobs— loud, and when he does Sett is mesmerized by the lines of his back and the way his hair sticks clammily to his forehead. He ain’t done yet though so he kisses him and continues. Talon is sharp, bites at his mouth and pulls his hair while Sett wrecks his oversensitive nerves. With a few more final thrusts he comes, a low moan tearing its way through his body. For a few minutes they remain together, panting in unison, resting in the fresh heat. Talon’s fingers rub over the tips of his ears curiously.

“I think you might be perfect,” Sett decides in the afterglow. Sweat coats his back. When did this room grow so warm?

“I lost,” Talon reminds softly.

“Yeah well I haven’t lost yet and I’m not perfect so I don’t think that’s what decides it.”

Talon doesn’t respond to that. He climbs off of him and when his feet touch the floor he immediately staggers, legs almost giving out. He leans against the desk, wincing, and Sett admires the way he looks. Like a bird, he observes. Really lives up to his name. Elusive and fragile. Gorgeous when he actually sings.

My clothes,” Talon laments, nudging through the torn up remains with his toe. His shirt is practically in two. 

Sett stands, rolling the tension out of his shoulders and pulling his pants up. “We can figure that out at my place.” An offer.

Talon looks back at him. Bruises stand out purple on his neck and collarbone. Sett would love the time to add more. Not handprints. Love bites. 

“You’re sore. My bed’s damn soft.”

He can see Talon considering it. It’s easy to tell what’s on his mind when his eyes aren’t completely stone. How many people have seen through his defenses?

“Come on,” he adds. “I can kill you tomorrow, if you want.”

Talon’s smile is sharp and fleeting. Sett wants to see it again. He wants to hear him again, and hold him again, and spit a hundred merciful lies to keep him pressed against his skin. 

Instinctively, he knows that Talon won’t be here for long, but he’s won all his fights today and Sett will gladly take a single night as his prize.