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Grit

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There’s a lot to unpack when it comes to Talon. Even after almost a year of knowing him Sett still finds him elusive and secretive. He’s certainly unravelled a little, but Sett wonders how many threads he’ll have to follow before he understands who he is.

 

His mother would definitely lecture him on the irony of bedding a Noxian, if she knew, but Sett finds himself here anyway. Assassins strike from the shadows. Maybe that’s why he got blindsided by this situation. Sett may talk with his fists but he ain’t dumb. He’s vastayan enough to acknowledge when he’s been caught out.

Originally he’d meant it to be a one time invitation. That night spent fooling around in the pit had been his prize for winning their hectic duel, and the morning after just an extension of that. If Talon had crossed his mind at all after that day then it was by accident. 

Until a few months later where he turns up again. Unannounced, as if he never disappeared to begin with. Hairs a little longer. A few new scrapes on his skin. Sett remembers standing there in the entrance hall of his fancy home and hearing his heart pound in his head. A crowd roaring inside his brain. 

It’s different this time. His body is as warm as Sett remembers and tonight he doesn’t hold back, looking to bite and mark and bruise. Punishment for returning, that’s his shallow justification. Talon deals it out just as sharply. When Sett holds him down he claws at his back and writhes. Bites his shoulder so hard that when he grins—lethal and odd—there’s red streaked on his teeth. The pain quickly fades into nothing but a buzz. Energy is all it is, zapping up Sett’s spine, and he makes sure Talon feels it too. All but consumes him. Fucks him so hard there’s tears in his eyes and he thinks he might make him cry, but he doesn’t. Instead, during the red tinted afterglow Talon’s fingers twist his ears and he says—tone even, eyes bright—

“You’re bad.” 

Sett props himself up on one elbow to look at him. Littered with purpling spots and red streaks and lazily sprawled out. No wind under his wings. “What’s that mean?” He scowls, not understanding. Bad at what? He pokes the Noxian in the side once and a smile flashes across the man’s face, faster than a shadow. A different look from the blood stained mouth earlier. This time it is—soaring high above Ionia, above the clouds even—

—better. 

 

Two nights, then gone. Sett wonders if he could have stayed longer or if he kept their meeting short on purpose. It’d really be better to forget about him. Should have told him not to come back before he left. Better off that way because Talon is tempered steel and they may have fallen into each other before but Sett doesn’t need this in his life when his fists are still good and ready. A Noxian too. Life’s already busy enough as it is to deal with that shit. 

But a month later Talon’s asleep in his arms and Sett’s thinking about every time he’s called his name. It sounds special when Talon says it. Makes his fur tingle. Gods, his momma would chew his ear off for sure if she knew but it ain’t his fault that the assassin is small and fits against him like a key fits in a lock. Feels like they’re meant to be.

With the moonlight leaking through his windows Sett devours the sight of him like a starving dog. When asleep the Noxian looks dead. Every hard edge has disappeared from his face, guard completely dropped. Sett hovers his fingers an inch over Talon’s eyes, his straight nose, his chapped lips, his narrow chin. Almost as if he’s tracing his features to ingrain them in his memory, for the next time Talon vanishes again.

He must trust me, Sett realizes. To let himself look like that. Gotta feel some level of safety to rest so carelessly. Does he trust Talon? He grapples with the question for a few minutes. He would say only skin deep, teeth biting into his collar, fingernails digging into his back. But it must be more, right? He’s seen the knives Talon carries. They all promise the same quick death. To bed an assassin like that certainly requires a decent level of confidence or recklessness or something. Sett knows he’s got the first two at least, but what else?

Talon’s cheek bumps against his bicep and Sett slowly curls his arms tighter around him. He could strangle him in grip and nothing would stop him. Chokeholds are easy. Sett’s wrung people out plenty of times because sometimes they’re too thick headed to stay down in the dirt. Anyone can pull those off, regardless of size or strength. There’s no doubt that he could snap Talon in two. Could probably finish killing him before he even wakes up but—

He buries his nose in Talon’s hair. If he stays awake then he’ll be able to see when he sneaks away again. Maybe Sett can convince him to stay longer.

 

But the morning light wakes him up. The bed is empty and Sett runs his tongue over his teeth, tasting early morning grit. Disappointment settles low in his stomach.

 

Before Talon he hadn’t known he was hungry. 

 

***

 

Almost eight months after their initial meeting Sett thinks he knows the pattern pretty well. Around once a month Talon will show up, unannounced as always. He’ll stay anywhere from a night to half a week but if he stays for only one day he’ll show up a few nights later for one extra evening. Sett’s thought about pummeling him with nagging questions. Are you here just for me? Where’d you go? Why do you keep coming back? Can’t you stay longer? But in reality he only interrogates him with his mouth and his fingers and their skin sticking together and maybe a few innocent inquiries before they sleep.

See, Sett’s gone about his whole life not giving a fuck, and that’s definitely worked out. He’s got a great house sequestered by the river, a thriving business, and plenty of coin to throw around. But Talon is from a different life. Deep in Noxus, that much he knows. It’s why his Noxian dialect is so clean and clear. He’s from another world and Sett finds himself caring enough to worry. How’d he end up caring so much?

He’s never been one to shy away from anything, but secretly he thinks a spell will be broken if he asks for more and Talon won’t come back at all. Cause maybe that’s why he does come back? Sett’s stopped asking important questions after their first night and Talon’s never talked much to begin with. 

 

If Talon doesn’t come back then Sett might just starve.

 

Is this how momma felt? Is this what it was like? History is more painful when it repeats itself.

 

“Hey, ma?” Birds are chirping outside, filling the small garden with pleasant sound. Sett runs his fingertip along the edge of his cup. If he doesn’t finish his tea soon it’ll grow cold. 

His mother hums. She’s patching a tear in one of Sett’s old pair of pants (on her insistence) and the needle moves skillfully through the fabric. Sett wouldn’t make her do it—would buy all new pants so she wouldn’t have to do a damn thing—but she’s always had an affinity for sewing. Makes her happy.

“What’d ya think when you first met dad?”

He watches her ears twitch, perk up just a little, and she sets her sewing down on her lap. “Settrigh, where is this coming from?”

Sett runs his tongue over his teeth. He glances around at the back of his momma’s house, a graceful little cottage set among the trees. “I was just—thinkin’.”

His ma laughs softly, musically. “That’s a surprise.” She twists the needle between her claws, silent for a moment. “I thought he was handsome.” 

Sett stares at her, looking for any extra information in her face. He’s so used to doing it with Talon to try and understand every single thought that he won’t voice. His mother looks serene, resigned.

“That’s it? Just handsome?” 

“Settrigh,” she sighs. “You don’t really know how things will end until you’ve gone too far to stop.”

 

***

 

Two nights later he presses his nose against the back of Talon’s neck, breathing in the smell of sex and midnight. 

“You should stay.” He whispers it in Ionian so that Talon wouldn’t be able to understand even if he was awake. “I want you to stay.” Saying it aloud, even if in secret, causes the fur on his ears to prickle with unease. He’s fought plenty of people, knocked ‘em dead with his knuckles, but Talon is different. Sett knows he’s full of fierce drive and conviction, which is why he finds it so satisfying when Talon unravels in his arms. When they fuck it’s like a fight all over again and Sett always wins and his reward is having Talon’s half lidded gaze and his secret smile. The smile that is flying. 

“You can spit knives all you want,” he’d told him once. “But here we both know I’m in charge.”

And he is. Talon gives it all to him. All his control ends up in Sett’s claws. Maybe it’s a relief for him to not have to think too hard. Maybe that’s why he keeps coming back. Damn, Sett’s thought about this more than he’d care to admit. He’s been thinking a lot lately. About all of it.

Cause the sex is great. Sett’s certain they’ve done it on every piece of furniture he owns at this point. Talon’s body feels like it was made to fit against his and Sett’s still not over the way the Noxian’s voice breaks when he really does something right. But nowadays Sett’s thinking about the stuff that happens afterwards, when he’s dismantled Talon’s defenses and left him wide open for all the sappy shit that Sett’s been busy dreaming about. Talon is, oddly enough, lost when it comes to that. He’ll know the perfect way to roll his hips and get him going with just his mouth but as soon as Sett initiates gentle contact, usually in the afterglow, he’ll go still and confused and hesitant. He’s got no experience with that, Sett understands.

For better or for worse he thinks he’s starting to like that more than the sex. It makes him grin when he holds Talon close and feels his hands fluttering awkwardly across his shoulders because he doesn’t know where to place them. Rubbing his stubbly chin against his cheek to hear his stuttering, breathy laugh. Pressing soft kisses across his face to watch him turn red and quiet. So quiet. Sett’s gotten him to open up, luring responses and even questions from him. He explains the pit to Talon, talks up loads about his momma and the night he took over the arena, details the most exciting fights he’s ever won.

Talon’s more talkative than the night they first met, and though he still doesn’t tell the vastayan very much, he’s learned a lot. From Noxus, no parents, travels all over doing things for his own boss. And Sett is the only one he goes to bed with. That might be all there is to some people, but you can read so much more by watching his face. That’s the reason he hides it, Sett’s realized a while back, when his guard is down his eyes talk more than his mouth does. It’s just getting to that point that takes the longest. 

 

For example, Sett knows from the way they sleep together, with Talon sandwiched between him and the wall, that for Talon, safety is hiding. A dark spot where no one can reach him. He dislikes the open, pale gaze always flickers towards the windows and doors when they’re inside, examining every possible escape route. 

He’s deadly sharp too, but brittle. Sett’s known this from their first night together. Talon tries so hard to be perfect. Obsessively so. That’s where all the scars on his hands came from. “Practice,” he’d revealed when asked, but Sett had seen haunting fixation written on the curve of his mouth and the corners of his brow. He assumes that with Talon, every single failure is followed by a meltdown. Maybe in the dark, in hiding, inside, where Talon is safe and no one can see. Certainly had a meltdown when they first met. He’s independent to the point of self-destruction.

 

Sett rubs his forehead and scratches behind one of his ears. The left one always itches the most. Gods, he’s been thinking too much lately. Gonna end up giving himself a headache. 

“Aren’t you hungry?” His momma asks, and Sett’s attention returns to her and the garden. He eyes the basket of sweetbreads laid out in front of him. He’s not hungry. Not for that. She’s watching him though so he takes one of the rolls and tears into it. Sweet and airy. Nothing beats her cooking.

“Thanks ma,” he says, mouth full.

She smiles gently. Today she’s not sewing anything, instead there’s a cup of tea in her hands as she basks in the spring sunshine. She reaches out to touch his arm. “Settrigh, what’s on your mind?”

For her it must be easy to tell something’s off. He’s not usually this quiet. Not one to leave food untouched either. Sett shrugs. “You don’t gotta worry bout it, ma.”

Momma’s fingers tighten around his wrist. Sett reaches for another roll. Fine then. He knows how she gets.

“Ma, how’d ya know you were in love?”

Her eyes widen. “Are you in love, son?” 

I don’t fuckin’ know. Maybe. “I—” he doesn’t have the heart to lie to her about this. “I dunno.” He rips the pastry apart with his claws. “I ain’t—” A pause while he tries to organize his thoughts. “I ain’t even afraid of being in love, ma. I’m just—worried about—” 

 

What if he asks him to stay, and tells him why— and Talon flies away and never flies back. What then?

 

“Rejection,” he finishes lamely. “I guess.”

Ma tilts her head. She leans back in her chair and takes a sip of tea. “I don’t know how I knew.” She looks up at the clouds. “Maybe it wasn’t even love.”

Sett leans forward, says nothing.

“It was sweet—” Ma plucks a roll from the basket, holds it up nimbly. “—while it lasted. That’s what I think about.” She presses the bread into his palm. “Ask yourself, Settrigh, are you happy with only a taste? Or do you crave more?”

She pinches his cheek fondly. Sett’s head hurts.

 

***

 

Maybe he wants more than what he’s been given. His whole life he’s done that, bruised his knuckles taking more than what he has. Over half a year into this mess he’s given up all pretenses of not caring. Without a doubt he’s stuck on Talon. His entire routine has been sacrificed for his visits. Sett knows the weeks when he can expect the Noxian to show up and his entire mood pivots around those days. 

He’s not one to tiptoe around decisions but with Talon he’s cautious. He really is like a bird and Sett—ain’t afraid of being in love but— 

 

Tonight something’s spooked him. Sett wakes up in a sweat, full moon shining and Talon is gone. What? He sits up, drowsy and confused. He never leaves this early. Always waits till the crack of dawn at least. Sett thinks he might like the dark too much to leave him during it. He stares dumbly at the spot on the bed next to him, pats it once. Still warm. He stumbles out of bed quickly, yawning.

Downstairs he finds him. Sitting in the dayroom by the entrance hall, (perhaps—nightroom, right now) curled up on one of Sett’s imported Piltover sofas. A knife flashes in his grip, repeating the same movement over and over again. Turning across his knuckles then flipping under his thumb to the other hand and back again. As Sett moves closer he sees the Noxian’s fingers are bloody.

“Hey.” He approaches from the front, like he would a frightened animal. Talon remains rigid except his hands and the knife glints in the moonlight. “What happened to you?”

Talon meets his eyes for a second. They’re glass and he’s got this weird, blankly anxious look in them. A thunderstorm mood where Talon is electricity, raw and sensitive. This is new. Everything new about Talon is a victory.

Sett shuffles even closer. When he sits next to him the man freezes completely, blade hidden in his grip. Sett watches a bead of dark blood well up on his thumb.

“What’s wrong?” He asks, voice still rough from sleep. He reaches out to take his free hand into his own and Talon shivers suddenly, violently. He looks up at Sett, wide eyed and miserable. 

“Tell me what’s wrong,” Sett repeats, this time an order. He smudges Talon’s blood against his skin with his fingers. “Practice,” he hears Talon echo in his head. It’s worrying to see him like this. During their first night together he’d thought Talon was perfect. Later Sett had realized he wasn’t perfect, but damned close. Perfect in the way a sharp knife is unrivaled at what it’s meant to do and nothing else.

The assassin ducks his head and shakes it, wordless. 

“C’mon,” Sett coaxes. He curls his arm around Talon’s shoulders and pulls him closer. The man sort of tips stiffly into his chest. “Don’t you trust me?”

Talon’s knuckles are white around his blade. 

 

He shakes his head, barely, against his chest. 

 

Sett’s blood runs cold. Huh? No? Suddenly he feels numb, like he’s just taken a beating. Like nothing else will get to him. The hair on his arms stands straight up.

“Why not?” His mouth is dry, so dry suddenly. He grabs Talon’s shoulders and pushes him away to look at his eyes but Talon won’t meet his gaze anymore. Almost eight months of sleeping in his bed without any trust? He has to be lying.

“I was your trophy—” Talon struggles with his words. “Our first time.”

“My trophy?” Sett snarls, furious at the mere idea, and Talon shivers once again, a tremor rolling up his entire body. “You’re not my— trophy.” The word’s an insult. “That’s not what you are to me and that ain’t why you keep coming back.”

Talon says nothing. He squeezes his eyes shut. Draws in a long, shaky breath.

“This ain’t some glorified surrender,” Sett snaps. “You can’t say you’ve felt nothin’ this entire time.”

When Talon doesn’t respond Sett shakes him. Angry. Desperate. “ Look at me.” He’s tired of this game they play where Talon won’t communicate and Sett’s always forced to figure out what he’s going through. He’s tired of being purposefully left in the dark.

 

Maybe that comes through in his tone. He sees the truth in Talon’s eyes when he opens them. Panic is written across his face, pale in the moonlight, and all the anger bleeds out of Sett’s posture. Even with all his knives Talon appears to be ill equipped to handle his own feelings. 

Right now he could say it. “Are you happy with only a taste?” His momma had asked. No. Not since the first time they met. It’s never enough for Sett. He always dreams bigger, wants more. None of that ‘love at first sight’ bullshit. Love at first fight. When Talon’s eyes are alive and his smile is the whole sky in a single second.

 

“Stay longer,” he tells him. Almost pleads except he’s The Boss and he doesn’t do that kind of thing. “Don’t leave so early tomorrow.”

Talon jerkily raises his free hand. He hesitantly touches Sett’s face, smears red across his jawline with his thumb. Sett holds his breath. In the moonlight he is glass.

Sett carries him upstairs and lays him out on the bed and kisses him and—tonight, at the earliest hours of morning, he mouths love against Talon’s body. Fucks him so gently that he might be dreaming. Always dreaming of more than what he has.

 

In the morning Sett is alone again, as he usually is.

 

Ironic for someone who’s pa disappeared to be in love with a ghost. 

 

***

 

His initial reaction is hurt. He’d really thought they’d made a breakthrough. Every thread he can pull from Talon’s emotions is revolutionary. And for nothing to change after all causes bitter pain to stab through his temples. But that quickly numbs into rotten anger. 

Frustration fouls his mood. What’s the point? He got all caught up caring about someone—who doesn’t even trust him. Almost a year wasted in bed with someone who won’t talk to him or rely on him or even bother trying to return the same comfort that he offers. So what’s the point? He feels as if he’s given everything to get back less than nothing. 

At the pits everyone can tell he’s on edge. They practically tiptoe around him as he seethes. Fucking Noxians. Making everything worse. Did Talon know what he was doing too? Did he know how much he was playing around? Did he know how much Sett cared? He must have. Maybe it was his plan all along.

 

Fuck him. If only he hadn’t given a damn. Then things never would have gone so far in the first place. He hopes Talon never comes back. There’s just no future in him. If his bed feels empty and colder than before then he’ll just get used to it. Was plenty fine before that Noxian came along in the first place. “Do you crave more?” His ma had asked. Yes. Course he did. Who wouldn’t when they’re faced with someone who looks like that.

Sett covers his eyes with his arm, scowls at the ceiling of his bedroom. It’s the middle of the afternoon and any other time he’d be at work, but he hasn’t slept well since that night, half a week ago. Exhaustion is a vulture picking at his bones. A single day off is fine. He runs the damn place he can take off whenever he wants.

 

A barely audible creak sounds downstairs and Sett immediately sits up. There’s a boiling in his stomach. Starving. He rushes downstairs to see—

 

Talon is in the middle of the entrance hall, a little hunched over and awkward. Paler than usual. He blinks, clearly wasn’t expecting him to be home, and when Sett stops at the bottom of the stairs his lips barely part, standing uncertainly. There’s a new bruise on his face and one of his sleeves is torn up at the bicep. Wounded. Sett pushes away any worry. No point to it. He’s tried being nice, but being nice ain’t working for him anymore. 

 

His hands slowly curl into fists. “You’re gettin’ blood on my floor.”

 

Talon stills, eyes suddenly unreadable. It’s like a switch is flipped and now Sett can’t tell what he’s feeling anymore. Then again, could he ever really tell in the first place? Maybe not.

 

He swings the first punch before his brain’s fully caught up, body practically acting it’s own. Talon dodges nimbly and the wall cracks under the weight of his fist. His eyes are wide but they tell him nothing.

 

Sett swings again, knuckles split and bleeding, and this time Talon ducks under his arm and hits him in the jaw and kicks his legs out from under him. He knows that he won’t win when it comes to raw strength. Must know from all the times Sett’s held him down and every fight story he’s told him afterwards. The only way to try and gain an upper hand would be through some crucial outplay. 

Of course, it won’t work. Sett falls to the ground but he grabs Talon’s sleeve and pulls him down with him. They roll, Sett trying to lock the assassin in place. First Talon is beneath him, then above him, sitting on his chest with both hands wrapped around his neck, knees pinning down his arms. Sett howls something fierce. He stares at Talon, brown bangs falling into his face, biting his lip so hard that red drips down his chin. His grip tightens and Sett can’t breathe and can’t believe—that someone he’s loved might be trying to kill him. Trying to kill him. He can almost hear the buzz of energy in his mind, vastayan magic rushing—pounding— roaring. 

He bucks his hips up and rocks his body, to try and unbalance him, but Talon moves seamlessly along with him, as if they’re still between the blankets. Might as well be fucking, not fighting. Black spots encroach on Sett’s vision. Even if Talon’s only trying to force him unconscious, what happens after that? They don’t trust each other. Not anymore. Maybe never to begin with. He jerks his hips up again and again, trying to get his legs underneath himself. The Noxian quickly switches his chokehold so that his forearms are crossed against his throat instead of his hands. He’s closer like this, and his bangs fall forward to tickle Sett’s skin. 

He can feel unconsciousness approaching. Not like this. His endless winning streak won’t be broken by some Noxian blade. Quick thinking usually involves his fists, but with those out of commission Sett’s mind works on overdrive. 

“Come on—” he forces the anger out of his voice as he struggles to talk. “At least—kiss me—”

He sees his opening when Talon’s face flashes with confusion. Hesitation. The minutes after sex where he doesn’t know what to do with his hands. It’s enough of a window for Sett to smash their foreheads together. Talon gasps in pain, loud, and Sett bucks once more and this time Talon is off balance and tips off of him. The vastayan sucks in precious mouthfuls of air and rolls to his feet. His head barely aches at all. That’ll arrive later. Talon however, holds one hand to his forehead and stumbles drunkenly upright. Sett lunges, pressing his lead. The man doesn’t manage to evade him this time. Sett grabs him by his collar and throws him completely into the kitchen. The narrow dining table cracks when his back slams heavily into it.

Oh he does not care anymore. Sett charges forward. He’s cornered now, and if there’s one thing he knows about Talon it’s that the only way to pin him down is to corner him. Silver shines in his grip and as Sett gets close a knife whispers through the air and buries itself in his shoulder. Sett doesn't care. Talon is panting, afraid. He’s afraid, it’s written on his face clear as day and Sett doesn’t care. Should never have cared to begin with. He catches Talon’s ankle as he tries to escape over the table and yanks him off his feet entirely. He yelps and Sett does not care. He crushes his ankle under his palm till he feels something give out and Talon screams, his other foot kicking wildly for Sett’s face. Another knife digs sharply into his leg and this time it’s so deep that it does hurt and his leg buckles. Talon drops to the ground while Sett yanks out the blade. It’s narrow and thin, perfect for that sort of thing. Perfect— 

He roars. “Get out!” 

Talon’s scrambles away, desperately limping towards the closest window. He looks back at Sett and all Sett sees is hurt and he thinks maybe Talon sees the same thing when he looks at him. 

He picks up one of the dining chairs and chucks it at the assassin. It misses and goes straight through the window instead. Sett swears, loud and furious. “Noxian bitch!” He’s never been more angry—never been this awful. “Get—out! I’ll kill you—I swear I’ll kill you!” 

 

Sett continues to shout long after Talon’s disappeared into the treeline. Yanks out the knife in his shoulder and swears and howls like an animal. A beast.

 

When the anger finally fades he is in pain again. This time it doesn’t go numb.