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lips like poison

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Aegis understood the basic principles of attraction. He remembered the fickle tugs upon his heart that pulled him through long days at the knight academy, distracting sensations that could only have been described as adolescent crushes. He remembered how his gaze used to catch on his comrades in the height of training sessions, stuck on their gallant motions and toned physique, ever unsure if he wanted to be them or be with them. He even remembered all the brief encounters with handsome young nobles he’d served in his time that had made his heart race, a futile flutter that tinged his cheeks with rose. He knew what it felt like to have his heart struck by the presence of another, but it had never been enough for him to entertain such foolish emotions.

On the same token, he had always been well aware of the way women tended to look at him as he passed them by. He had heard plenty of the noble ladies who idealized him while he was captain of the knights, championing him above the rest not based on the justice he delivered but instead upon appearance alone. What a cruel joke that was, to think so many could hold him in such high regard solely over a body that had always betrayed the truth within his heart. He almost envied them for it, oftentimes wishing that he could look at himself in the mirror and see the same appeal they did. Still he evaded their watchful eyes, paying them no mind.

The only stare he couldn’t avoid had been the one rested right under his nose. He saw the way that the late Queen Rebecca had looked at him, and he felt the way mauve eyes seared into him through the corners of her night-shrouded chambers. They looked on at him with something different from that wilted stare she always possessed, something that made Aegis shrink in his skin and cling to the shadowed walls of her quarters through the endless twilight spent together.

It was her tragic, weighted gaze that would become the very catalyst which wrought his flesh with the brand of sin. He always turned a blind eye to the affections he could never reciprocate, silently voicing a fool’s prayer that they would simply fade away as long as he paid them no mind. How wrong had he been as her ghost still hung over him, porcelain fingers wound taut around his neck.

Attraction had always been but a basic science to him, one that had served against him for as long as he drew breath. He spared it no more than a second’s thought through all his years, knowing well that he had no time to waste on idle pursuits of the heart.

What he didn’t understand was the kind of attraction that burned in his throat, a fire raging in his chest that snuffed out his wavering voice and rational thought. It was shameful and frustrating, a deadly fascination pointed towards the most utterly reprehensible man that ever dared to walk upon their earth. It was a feeling that stole the breath from Aegis’s lungs, more and more the harder he fought against it.

No matter how he tried, he couldn’t get the image of that man out of his head. He swung between fire and ice, between hatred and longing, a bittersweet confliction that scorched him from the inside out. It was a flame that not even the salvation of distance could extinguish, and one that roared hotter every time he faltered, every time he let himself be pulled into that bottomless violet gaze.

The more time they spent together as allies, the more Aegis couldn’t help but watch Vicious. He watched him fight, glued to his wild tactics— or lack thereof— carried fluidly by agility and skill that not even he could match. He watched the cruel grins that split his mouth with all-too white teeth, his eyes stuck on the chapped lips that framed them longer than he should ever allow. He even watched as an emotion that resembled caring too much for Aegis’s liking would sometimes flicker in the harsh depths of his eyes. That was one of the things he didn’t care to see in him, and he did his best to forget it each time it showed.

The more he watched Vicious, the more he saw how much he enjoyed being the center of his attention. Even though he spoke only repugnant words towards Aegis, it had become evident that he lived for the thrill of getting under his skin. He pushed him further each time they stood side-by-side with his unruly advances, until a spearhead as crimson as Aegis’s burning face was pressed against bare skin to drive him away. Though it never kept him at bay for long.

Vicious liked to torment him with his secrets the most, he had learned. He offered only half-answers to the whole questions that spun circles in his mind, as cruel laughter dripped off sneering lips. He dangled the truth so close Aegis could nearly sink his teeth into it, but each time he grazed against its flesh Vicious would tug it just out of his reach. It was infuriating, how effortlessly he had him strung along by the mere taste of his mysteries.

No matter how he swore he hated the man, he was enraptured by him, drawn like a moth to the flame that made him melt.

It all came to a boiling point before long.

The monster loomed before them, great white teeth like daggers lit by the flame that curled over its maw. It craned its neck and howled, an ugly sound that reverberated through Aegis’s entire body. No matter how many attacks it sustained it stood tall and fierce, chipping away at his stamina until there was nothing left to put up a fight.

Aegis’s breath heaved in exhaustion, his spear far too heavy in his hands as sweat beaded upon his brow. His weary eyes slid to Vicious at his side, only to be mocked by the excitement that still gleamed unhindered within his gaze. Much like the beast Vicious’s strength seemed endless, but Aegis was nearing his limit. The battle had gone on for too long, neither side ready to surrender to the other’s prowess, but he couldn’t go on for much longer.

If only Kanata and Misella were here, we would have finished this ages ago. The thought slogged through his mind as he fought to catch his breath, his attention fixed on Vicious. He watched and watched, waiting for the other shoe to drop, for the tide of battle to turn as the man ran wild without Aegis at his back to reel him in.

The shoe dropped much harder than he could have anticipated.

Just as he always watched him, Aegis watched as Vicious dove into the monster’s lurching claw without a second thought. A word of warning tore from Aegis’s raw throat, but the sound of his cry was drowned by a roar that could pierce the very heavens above. Razor claws each roughly as large as his skull swung down and sliced Vicious’s bare abdomen, and blood sprayed before his eyes in a wide scarlet arc. Stray tears of red splattered over his pristine form and he only watched, paralyzed.

Gunshots rang out as the Great Transgressor fell, and Aegis could have sworn he caught that devil-may-care grin still slashed across his face in light of it all. Bullets tore into the monster’s jugular and the den was filled with the sound of its wails. It shuddered and reared back its long neck, then fell limp in one unceremonious motion. Dark mana flared to life and enveloped the withering form of the great beast, and all at once it vanished before the last of its death keens could sing their echoes against the damp cavern walls. Vicious’s body hit the ground with a thud.

As easy as that, the Great Transgressor that had evaded his lance for so long was taken down. It was far less grand of a spectacle than Aegis had once dreamed it would be. There was no battalion of knights at his flank to sing their praises, nor a swarm of enforcers arriving to pass long-awaited judgement upon his sins. There would be no cheer from the people of Medagal to follow as they celebrated the demise of humanity’s greatest threat, for it did not happen in any righteous event in the name of justice like it should. All it took was a single blow from a stray beast, buried deep within a nameless cavern that stood just beyond the countryside.

Aegis should have felt some sort of relief, he should have felt the heavy weight that hung in his chest be lifted at last, but all he felt was cold. Wide eyes like glassy amber were affixed to the body lying still on the ground, his heart caught in his throat and pounding like a wild drum inside his skull as the world around him crawled to an agonizing halt. It was too familiar a sight, too familiar a memory that washed over him. Before he even realized that he had begun to move, his legs were already carrying him towards the bloodied man in a panic.


Why was he so worried about him? Why did his name catch in his throat and strangle the breath from him as he ran through the wake of crushing dread? There was no way, simply no way an attack as frivolous as that could strike Vicious down, yet— yet why did he lay motionless, those scorching eyes sunken shut to the world? He should have been grinning that despicable grin of his as Aegis approached, cruel mockeries of his humiliating concern spilling from curled lips, and yet…

The former knight dropped to his knees beside Vicious, the coattails of his uniform fanned out over the cold stone floor. On instinct his hand pressed over Vicious’s chest, just above the blood-soaked gashes that marred his bare torso. Aegis released a shaking sigh of relief when he felt the shallow rise and fall underneath his palm. The disgraced man still drew breath yet.

Why did he care? He turned the frantic question over and over again through his racing thoughts, without an answer in sight. With lips drawn into a thin line he leaned in to get a closer look at the wounds seeped with blood, most certainly grave in how deeply they cut through his abdomen. Aegis should have stood right then and there and left the man to bleed out all his atrocious sins, but he was rooted beside him. The pounding heart thudding from his chest all the way to his ears drowned out his doubt, and he knew he had to do something to save him.

“Kanata! Misella!!” His cry echoed through the hollow chamber, pleading to no one but the empty space between.

It was no use; the pair were likely on the opposite end of the cave by now, far out of his voice’s reach. Aegis knew, he just knew that they never should have split up into two groups in their pursuit for the beast. If the monster was as formidable as the townspeople had claimed, and it was, they had no chance standing against it divided. Someone was bound to get hurt, someone like the idiot who decided to take the brunt of the monster’s attack all to score a cheap shot. How in the world had he evaded capture for so long with tactics as moronic as that?

Aegis was alone, with the Great Transgressor bleeding out at his knees. No one would come to help him, and no god above would ever grant him mercy for aiding the devil that lay broken. But still, still he would try.

“I swear, you’re going to drive me insane...” he grumbled under his breath, just low enough so that not even a ghost could hear his pathetic admittance. 

Though the extent of his medical training only taught him how to keep the wounded from losing too much blood while awaiting a medic, it was as good a start as any. Aegis scanned over Vicious’s body, searching for fabric amid the startling lack of, until his eyes landed on the tattered and charred ends of his coat. He gathered up a generous section of it in his hand and tore, the cloth ripping apart with little resistance. With one last apprehensive breath he laid the fabric over the wound and applied pressure, pushing hard until the blood soaked through to stain his white gloves red.

Vicious cringed under his touch, and he heaved a fit of coughs. “Ggck— jeez, take it easy wouldja?! Yer killin’ me here!” As though nothing at all had happened, as though he wasn’t lying bleeding out at his comrade's knees, crude words came spilling from Vicious’s mouth. His sunken eyes flashed wide, glaring sharp and accusing straight into Aegis. “Have ya ever even done this shit before?”

“Wha— What?!” Aegis sputtered and jolted upright, stiffness shooting up his spine like a swift bolt of lightning. “Y-You’re... you’re still conscious? How are you—” He could hardly get a full sentence out, his eyes darting back and forth from Vicious’s grinning face to the grave wound stretched across his abdomen. The dread that crashed over him like waves upon the shore turned frigid, dousing him in the chilling realization that Vicious had been awake the entire time. No matter the gravity of the situation, he felt heat spread over his cheeks in a bright flush.

A cruel laugh rumbled under his palms, Vicious wholly satisfied with his show of embarrassment. “Heh, ‘course I am! Y’think a little scratch like that could take me out?” he jeered, his expression too insufferable to look at. Aegis’s eyes instead traveled back to the slash wound, trying to comprehend how such a thing could possibly be considered a ‘scratch’. He hardly had a chance to register the sight of it before Vicious’s hand shot out and caught his chin. He gripped him hard between thumb and forefinger and yanked their faces closer together. "You should've seen the look on yer face. It was almost as priceless as the one ya got on now."

Aegis’s face turned to red hot lava, and a shameful feeling stirred in the pit of his stomach. He tried desperately to collect his thoughts and decide if he wanted to scream his rage or cry in relief, but he was reeling, every last emotion he’d swung between gone numb under the buzzing pressure of that toothy grin. He could only gape at him, caught within the violet eyes that seared his own, every word he wanted to say dying on his tongue.

“What’s wrong? Cat got your tongue?” Vicious’s voice was like venom.

He swallowed hard against the lump stuck in his throat. All he could manage to do was jerk away from Vicious, retreating from those jagged words. But he was too fast, too desperate to get away from those eyes and he stumbled over his own feet as he tried to stand. He faltered, much as he always despised how he did, and fell tumbling onto the Great Transgressor.

There was a sharp intake of breath beneath him, and he felt wet hot blood smear against his once immaculate uniform. “Oi, oi—! Get offa me, that hurts!” Vicious’s hands connected with Aegis’s gut and pushed, throwing the shamed knight off to lay curled around his broken pride. 

He laid there a moment, left red and dazed in a mix of confusion and embarrassment with the chill of stone upon his cheek his only comfort against his burning face. His senses would catch up to him before long, and he sprung into a sitting position with a start. “What in the world was that for?! I— I was trying to help you, I’ll have you know!” he retaliated, dirtied fists clenched white-knuckled at his side.

“Yeah, yeah, and you were real cute about it, too,” Vicious said, his languid voice far too nonchalant for a man so gravely injured. In a motion that held just about as much care as his tone, he hopped to his feet with ease. The blood still ran down his abdomen, spilling over every curve of his chest and pooling at his golden-trimmed pantline, catching Aegis’s gaze. “But a stuffy ol’ knight tryin’ to nurse me to health is ‘bout as much of the pity act as I can stomach. Gotta draw the line somewhere, ya feel?”

Aegis blinked once, twice, fixed on the now standing Vicious. Act? He hung on the word, ringing harsh but true in tandem with his carefree movements, yet unbelievable all the same.

The confusion written clean on Aegis’s face made the smirk Vicious wore pull tighter, baring sharp teeth in a pearly grin. He pointed his finger at Aegis and a crack of red mana sparked to life. His brows raised as he watched it, expecting that vile power to be shot at him like a bullet from his guns, but it never came. Vicious instead turned it towards himself, and dragged his fingertip slow and steady through the length of the gaping slash that marred his torso. Crimson met with crimson, and the mana mingled in gruesome harmony with the bloodied gash. Aegis couldn’t tear his eyes away.

“What are you…?” he ventured, his practiced and steady voice wavering with a note of terror. 

The mana crackled wildly along the wound, stark red lightning racing over torn flesh. Its fury drew forth smoke, and a sizzling black mist that reeked of ash and rust encompassed Vicious’s chest. It was the same power Aegis had seen once before, that same rotten power that had held him skewered in midair, tearing all his sin and guilt to the surface for the world to see. It terrified him, and worse yet perplexed him in the most maddening of ways.

What Aegis saw when the mist parted made his pounding heart stop dead. The streak of the monster’s claws had sealed, clean and pretty without even a trace of a scar left in its place. Dried blood was caked where it once was, framing a silhouette of slashes within picture-perfect flesh. It was unlike any healing arte Aegis had ever seen; it was something monstrous and inhumane, and for a moment it made him want to run.

Vicious caught the fear in his eyes and his grin spread. It was cheeky and despicable, sickening pride slashed wide across his face. “Pretty fuckin’ cool, eh?”

Something turned in his stomach, and Aegis felt sick. He knew that Vicious was full of untold power, but what he saw was far beyond his imagination. He had seen that wound, how deep it cut and how much blood poured from it. Not even the strongest of healing artes could have patched it without leaving behind a scar, yet there he stood, unscathed and drenched in his own blood. It was unlike anything Aegis had ever seen or heard of, frightening and mystifying all in the same breath. Even now when he should have run far away from the man and never turned back, he sat there dumbfounded, chained to the mysteries that held him captive. 

He was the villain of every bedtime tale his mother once told him, every monster that went bump in the dead of night. Still, Aegis wondered. He wondered and wondered, needing to taste the tantalizing answers upon his tongue, the truth that was just out of reach. Was he a monster dressed in human skin worming his way closer to sinners like him, or was that dark power a beast raging within that wore Vicious like a twisted mannequin? Was he really an ally to be used, or a ticking time bomb racing towards his demise?

He was the devil for sure, but the devil had him caught by the throat and he didn’t dare pull away.

“What the hell was that?!” Aegis finally cried out. He shook his head as if to clear the burning questions from his mind and rose from the ground, glaring daggers through Vicious. “Since when can you do that? No, how can you do that at all?! That… That is not normal!”

That shit-eating grin faltered, flattening into a line thinned with annoyance. “No shit it ain’t,” he groaned and rolled his eyes. “C’mon, you tellin’ me Misella never told ya about the time she stabbed me through the heart and I came back kickin’? Get with it, knighty boy. You’re supposed ta be a know-it-all, ain’t ya?”

Vicious’s mockeries stirred Aegis’s memory, bringing to mind the image of him and Misella sitting across from each other before a campfire. It had been a late-night conversation between the two, one easily shrugged off as no more than a fantasy heralded by approaching dreams. “Yes, she… did, I suppose,” he admitted slowly, “but I thought it must have been some sort of joke! Because it was insane, and in no way should ever be possible! Why is it possible?!”

The Great Transgressor, feared by all across the land, withered at that. He looked much like a distraught child for an instant, in spite of the horrific power he had just displayed. “A joke?” His words carried the same hurt his expression did, as though cut deep by the rational conclusion Aegis had come to. “I know kids can have a helluva imagination, but ya really gotta have some faith in me here!”

“You’re avoiding the question!!” Aegis nearly whined, his desperation reaching its peak. That man would drive him insane, he knew that for certain now.

Vicious raised his hands in mock-defeat, his hurt facade melting fast under the heat of Aegis’s pointed gaze. A laugh tickled in his throat, his lips curling again with the sound. “Alright, alright, I can tell ya have a lot on your mind, and I’m feelin’ a little generous. Fire away all them questions ya got about me and maybe I’ll give you some answers. Sound good?”

Fire away. It was like music to his ears, a sweet song he’d never expected the man to sing. It was an opportunity he had longed for through the weeks they’d spent together, one he pushed to provoke time and time again. He had so many questions, hundreds upon hundreds to fill entire essays worth, from grievances to curiosities to all the things about Vicious that drove Aegis wild. It was the opportunity of a lifetime, a chance to free himself from the shackles of Vicious’s secrets.

Aegis had prepared for this moment, but still his words felt like lead in his throat. He began with the most relevant concern in his mind, “Why can you heal yourself like that?”

The bait was taken, hook line and sinker. Another laugh rumbled in Vicious’s throat, and he shrugged his shoulders in an exaggerated motion. “I’m the Great Transgressor, I can do a ton of cool shit,” he answered, simply. 

It was all too simple, and all too dismissive. Aegis grit his teeth in frustration. Typical, he was a fool to think Vicious would be anything but avoidant until the end. But he wouldn’t let his hopes be dashed. “So that’s the game you want to play... Fine, be that way. How are you able to create blood sins, then?”

Vicious’s eyes seared into him, sly satisfaction lurking in their depths. “It’s the transgressors that decide to own their sin, I just help ‘em out a little. Nothin’ special.”

Half-answer after half-answer was all he was known for. He had played this game many times before, and now he toyed with Aegis again through the faintest taste of the truth. Vicious knew exactly what Aegis wanted out of him, and he was clearly hellbent on grinding him down to his very last nerve before he would ever satisfy that desire.

He balled his fists tight and pressed on. “What are you? There’s so much about you that doesn’t add up, and the rumors against you only make matters worse… Are you even human? How is any of what you do possible?”

Vicious stepped closer then, creeping into the space stretched between them. “Wanna get t’know me, huh?” He spoke in measured cadence, a smooth sound that made Aegis’s stomach flutter. “Why don’t ya come find out yerself?”

They stood face to face, the hungry maw of the Great Transgressor looming over the wide-eyed knight. All the blood in Aegis’s body rushed to his face, heart pounding maddeningly in his head as he stared down Vicious, breath held by the moment. His clenched fists trembled, and the rest of his stiff body followed suit. 

“You…! You’re impossible!” he shouted, for it was all he could manage to do.

“Damn straight.” More poison slipped into his veins with ease. It was that light in devious eyes, that voice of cruel satisfaction that curled around Aegis’s mind and made itself home. A vicious mouth full of sharp grinning teeth devoured him, caught in his trap over and over again. He forgot how to breathe. “I’m gettin’ bored of this, though. It’s your turn to answer my question.”

Air rushed back to his lungs in a sharp gasp, dragged back to reality by another infuriating absurdity. “Question?” Aegis echoed, baffled and flustered all in one word. His gaze hardened, just enough pride remaining in it to hold his ground. “You hardly answered my questions, and now you expect me to answer yours?”

“Yeah, that’s kinda how that goes.” Vicious gave a slight shrug of his shoulders, but that sneer never wavered. He jammed his finger into Aegis’s sternum, dragging it slow and deliberate up the length of his neck to tip his chin, then drawled, “You wanna kiss me, don’t ya?”

His heart stopped. Aegis’s secrets were laid bare, stomped and ground between dirt and heel. The heat was all-encompassing.

What?” He meant to scream, to yell and pound his fist into Vicious’s chest and push him away, but it took all he was just to croak. It would have been so easy to deny it and stifle the heated emotions that sweltered upon his tongue, submerging them again in the depths of the boiling pot they came from. He could have turned away, sought out Kanata and Misella and left the confrontation behind to forever rot within the dismal cavern, but Vicious had him right where he wanted. He knew just how to push his buttons, to put him on edge, to make him unravel.

The fire that raged in his chest was teased by an expert touch, the flames stoked until they were all he could feel. It was the attraction that burned in his throat, snuffed out his voice, painted him red, all held within the Great Transgressor’s eyes. Aegis swallowed hard against the poison bubbling inside of him.

“I ain’t no dumbass, y’know,” Vicious pressed, leaning closer until their foreheads nearly touched and his face swallowed Aegis’s vision. “I’ve seen the way you’ve been starin’ at me lately. You can’t keep yer eyes offa me! Not that I can blame ya, I’m a sight to drink up.”

He had noticed. Of course the damnable man had noticed, why wouldn’t he? All the glances Aegis snuck, all the times his eyes stuck on him in the height of battle, all the times he lost himself in the savage depths of violet, Vicious had seen it all. He had sworn there was nothing to it beyond his fascination with Great Transgressor’s mysteries, relentlessly drilling in the delusion until he had convinced himself. But Vicious had seen the truth, long before Aegis could ever accept it.

Vicious drank the shame that spilled from Aegis’s lungs. He curled his finger, digging into the hollow of his chin. “All this secret admirer shit’s really gettin’ on my nerves, though. It’s ‘bout time you came clean and admit it. You’ve been dyin’ to make out with me, right?”

It hurt. His touch, his words, his eyes all biting into him, driving fangs deep into every inch of his body. He was right, but he was wrong; so wrong, Aegis couldn’t stand how right he was. Vicious was everything he hated, everything he had vowed to fight against. There was no justice to his attraction, and every second spent in his thrall was another disgrace to everything he stood for. It was a feeling so sinister, but was it really? Or did he condemn itsolely  because it was easier to pin the blame of an emotion he couldn’t control upon another, so that he wouldn’t have to face it himself?

What was right anymore, really?  In the end, all the morals he upheld had turned out to be nothing more than pretty little lies that strung him like a puppet, dancing him to his king's twisted tune. So what did it matter? Should he still believe in the lies he had always held like a torch to guide him to the light, or could he lose himself to the truth of dark fingers that dug cruel into his chin, sending sweet pain radiating through his jaw? He didn't know, and the only thing he hated more than Vicious was how lost Aegis felt in that moment, trapped in those burning eyes.

He couldn’t stand to give Vicious the pleasure of being right, but a knight’s honor held his silence like a vice. He could lie to himself as much as he wanted, swearing there was nothing to that treacherous feeling that coiled in his gut, but to tell a lie to the face of another would be one more trespass against the code he lived by.

His hand moved, hesitant fingers weaving around the wrist at his neck. Perhaps, just this once, he could indulge the idle pursuits of a fool’s attraction. Alone with the devil in the cave’s dark depths, no one would have to know the secrets that spilled from pursed lips. No one would know the truth he was too cowardly to deny.

He would regret it later, he knew that much. How awful it was that he could admit his desire for the Great Transgressor when he couldn’t even manage to tell a single lie to a dying woman, to grant her a final smile as she breathed her last. Aegis wondered briefly, fleeting like a petal upon the wind, if he was looking at Vicious the same way Queen Rebecca had once looked at him. If his amber eyes seared into Vicious under hooded lashes, alight with the flames of unchecked desire while darkness clung to the corners of his vision. He wondered if he held that same shadow of doubt he had seen when she laid broken at his feet, the shame of a foul love that could never be true.

The regret would come for sure, but it would come much later into the night, when all was already said and done. Aegis’s grip on Vicious tightened, desperate to ground himself against the heart that would always betray him.

Yes,” he finally breathed, voice low and eyes dark with guilt. His head fell downcast, the shadow cast by his sunken bangs hiding how his lips trembled as he spoke. “I have been.”

The smile that split Vicious’s cheeks was deadlier than any beast Aegis had ever faced. “That’s what I wanted ta hear.”

He moved on him quicker than Aegis could comprehend. The grip on his chin yanked his vision back into his eyes and fingers snaked around his hips, pulling them chest-to-chest. Aegis’s heart leapt into his throat, pounding, pounding, pounding until the drum driving him to the devil’s beat was all he heard. Vicious’s face was so close, then closer still, his breath hot on his lips and only a heartbeat away from his. He tensed against sacrilege proximity, held only by a thread that was one tug away from snapping.

Smiling lips brushed against his, and his face broke into a scalding blush. Shivers ran down his spine like electricity, but they were hardly a chill against the flaring heat that felt as though it would fry his brain. It was too much at once, Vicious’s breath against him slow and teasing and just waiting for him to meet. The thread began to fray.

“W-wait, wait!” Aegis blurted, and he jerked his beet red face away from the mouth so close to capturing his. The lips that traced his cheek and grazed his ear as he turned was almost more than he could take. “I have… o-one more question for you, Great Transgressor.”

The exasperated groan that tore from Vicious helped to ground him. The man pointed a confounded glare at him and the hands that had held Aegis moved to plant themselves indignantly on his hips. “The hell’s your problem?! I already told ya, I’m sick of that shi—”

He wouldn’t allow him to finish. Aegis’s eyes burned as hot as his body when he turned them back upon Vicious, contempt and confliction and all that damned maddening desire swirling in chaotic harmony within him. Stained gloves fisted the edges of Vicious’s coat, fingertips digging desperately into the pitch black fabric. He yelled with the last of his resolve, wavering more and more with each fading syllable that left him.

Why is it I can’t get you out of my head?!”

Vicious gawked at him, watching as that thread holding Aegis together strained until hardly a hair remained. Then, he laughed. The sound echoed in his ears, drowning out even the heart that fought so hard to break free from the confines of his chest.

“Now that’s an easy answer,” his voice was full of that vile grin he always wore. He grabbed Aegis by his tie, yanking him back into the closeness that set him alight. “It’s ‘cause an uptight, repressed lil goody-two shoes knight got his whole world flipped on its ass, and now he’s dyin’ for somethin’ wild t’spice up his sad little life.” He got closer, lip against lip and whispering right into his lungs, “And I’m every piece of wild you’re lookin’ for, baby.”

Aegis couldn’t stand him. He couldn’t stand his logic, so twisted and wrong yet he read him like an open book all the same, but what he couldn’t stand most was to be apart from him a second longer. He didn’t wait for Vicious to close the gap between them. His fist wound tighter into the jacket between his fingers and he pressed his lips harsh and greedy against that insufferable grin. The thread snapped.

They met in a hellish dance, wrath and fire crashing against each other as two pairs of starved lips locked at last. Vicious tasted strong of liquor and rust, of hatred and sin, pungent on his tongue yet Aegis wanted more, more, more. He opened his mouth to the Great Transgressor, dying to taste more of the regrets Vicious was eager to provide. Teeth and tongue moved rough against his own, and he squeezed his eyes shut and lost himself to the feeling.

Sickly sweet passion ran down his lips, and biting fingertips moved over the curve of his hips. Vicious was a monster for sure, a monster who dredged up the very depths of his filthy soul and devoured him down to every last detail. His lips were infernal, searing him like the blazing embers of hell, but his kiss was rapture. For that moment locked in time eternal, he couldn't care less if the devil swallowed him whole.

The hand that had clung so tight to Vicious loosened, falling away from fabric to roam the chest pressed against him. He traced over every curve of his toned abdomen, frantically grasping at the man that consumed all that he was as the fire in his chest raged out of control. Aegis could feel the crusted blood that still framed the imprint of once gaping wounds as he explored him, but the vision of Vicious broken and bloodied had been chased from his mind by the scorching release of skin on skin.

His chest burned unbearably, but still he kissed him, deep and hard through throes of longing he had kept behind lock and key. Vicious was all he felt, all he knew. His touch, his breath, his tongue, his taste, all a spiraling addiction that sent an never-ending ache shooting through his entire body. It centered over his chest, ebbing within the awful mark that branded him a transgressor, a sinner no different than Vicious. It was pain, maddening and dizzying and he never wanted it to stop.

As greedy lips moved against Vicious his Stain of Guilt throbbed, harder and harder until it felt as though his chest would cave in at any moment. The layers of his uniform were the only barrier left between his Stain and the bare skin of the Great Transgressor, and he could swear Vicious must have been able to feel the fire that poured from it. It pounded like a drum beating deafeningly in his ribcage, an infatuating siren’s song calling him home to the man who had morphed it into raw power. Aegis groaned into Vicious’s mouth, and the pain swallowed him.

It was irresistible, but it was more than he could handle. He broke away, gasping for air to fill his emptied lungs. His hand shot to his chest and he clutched the marred skin that was intent on driving him insane. The pain still rampaged within, but with only the tempting trail of saliva still connecting him to Vicious, it eased ever so slightly.

He could feel Vicious’s eyes on him. “Haah? What, ya had enough of me already?”

Aegis dragged his attention back to him, his expression hardened as he took in the sneer plain on his lips. His senses were slow to come back to him, still fighting to catch his breath with fingers sunken deep in the folds of his quilted lapel.

“Y-you…” he started, his voice dripping heavy off his tongue. Vicious looked on at him with satisfaction, that infuriating bastard. This was all a game to him, wasn’t it? Aegis grit his teeth and with one palm kept tight against his chest, he slammed his other hand over the Stain worn proud on Vicious’s pelvis. 

“Hey hey, slow down there! Awfully forward, arentcha? If ya want me that bad, all ya gotta do is ask, y'know.” He was laughing at him again, hardly phased by his abrasiveness. Aegis’s eyes widened a fraction, a blush blooming again on his cheeks as he sluggishly realized just where he grabbed, but he stifled his humiliation under the anger that boiled in his chest.

“If… if you’re the Great Transgressor, then… why does your Stain of Guilt look nothing like ours?” He clawed harder into the flesh beneath his fingertips, and his head swam. Both his hands palming their Stains at once drew an overwhelming connection between them that should never have been established, and it nearly knocked Aegis off his feet. His knees grew weak, shaking as vicious butterflies roared to life in his stomach, but he wouldn’t relent. He had to know, he had to understand the wretched adrenaline that pumped ceaseless through his veins. “Th-this vile brand you flaunt with such pride… What power does it give you over us— no... no, over me?

The smirk Vicious wore was absolutely devilish. “You ask way too many damn questions, kid.” Aegis could have sworn he saw Vicious’s eyes shine crimson in the low light of the cave, an awful gleam that was gone in a flash. He yanked Aegis’s wrist away from his Stain and maneuvered him to instead grip his hips, then pressed his hand hard over the one at Aegis’s chest. His breath caught in his throat. “How ‘bout I teach ya to shut up and behave like a good lil knight?”

Vicious was upon him before he could react, unloving fingers fisted into silver curls. The retort died in Aegis’s throat as Vicious devoured his heated words, his mouth moving hungrily against him. Aegis’s fury boiled for a second longer before he faltered, his eyes fluttering shut and he kissed him back as hard as he could. He dug his nails into Vicious’s hip, his only lifeline in a world of fire.

Alone in the darkened cavern, they were connected in a way Aegis never thought possible. His tongue fought against Vicious’s, drinking in his taste as though he depended on it. He flinched when Vicious bit his lip with teeth sharper than they should be, and blood mingled with the drunken flavor. He didn’t care, he didn’t know how to anymore.

Vicious was a poison he couldn’t get rid of, perhaps even one he no longer wanted to be rid of. His Stain of Guilt burned, flaring hot underneath the pressure of their entangled fingers, but despite the pain it was a feeling he hated to love. Just this once, for all the years spent under expectant gazes he could never entertain, Aegis would indulge in sensation and lose himself.

It was an attraction he would never understand, overwhelming euphoria dragging him though a kiss that felt eternal. It drowned his thoughts, every last question he had spilling off his tongue and into Vicious’s mouth. He had fallen so far from glory but the devil was there to catch him, his fingers hooked through his stitches and pulling loose all the secrets they held tight. He spilled over him, his fouled soul bare before the maw of the beast he so craved.

“I hate you,” Aegis gasped against his lips, a wilted sound that just barely reached the other man’s ears.

“Wouldn’t want it any other way, babe,” Vicious sang, and he could feel that cheeky grin form against his mouth.

By the time they parted, Aegis could hardly remember the question that got him trapped again in Vicious’s grasp. He gaped at him, dazed and drunk off the feeling, and stumbled backwards just out of reach. Even apart, his heart wouldn’t stop racing.

What was Vicious? The question crawled over his brain, rolling lazily over him as he came down from the high. What was that feeling, that overwhelming way his Stain of Guilt reacted to his touch? Even as the pain in his chest dulled to a mild ache, it was still unlike anything Aegis had ever felt. It was like death and rebirth, rapture and damnation all wrapped into one burst of feeling that dragged him deeper into Vicious’s web, into that all-consuming power he never wanted to escape.

He swallowed, the taste of Vicious still thick on bruised lips. He’d hardly even noticed the sting of violet, glued to his every movement.

“Well this was fun,” Vicious’s voice broke him from his thoughts, insouciant as though all the time spent breathing Aegis’s breath had meant nothing to him, “but I think it’s about time I go round up the runts. You just keep standin’ there lookin’ all pretty-like, alright?”

Aegis blinked once, twice, not quite comprehending the words that rang in his head. His confusion only served to stroke Vicious’s godforsaken ego further, and a harsh laugh echoed against stone. The damnable man was moving before he caught up to the sight of tattered coattails disappearing down the stretched shadows of cavern walls.

“Wait—! Vicious!!”

He didn’t understand, and as Vicious slipped away with his secrets tucked tight, he knew that he never would. Still, he would chase him, running after those bewildering mysteries and the enticing touch that guarded them so well. He was a mess, hair tousled, tie loose, and a thin line of saliva he’d forgotten to wipe away stuck down the length of his cheek. The clacking footfalls beneath his boots distracted him from the utter humiliation he would face following the path ahead, until his shame was the last thing he cared about.

Like a moth Aegis chased his flame, no longer afraid to melt in his touch. Strung by half-answers and the taste that lingered on lips, perhaps one day he would find his truth.