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Budding Pleasures

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Jon clutched the book to his chest on his way to Elias’s office, greeting Rosie with a terse nod as he walked past her. He wished nobody bothered to look all too closely at him at all, but if they had to, he preferred they focused on the book. Basira had already given him a curious look when he’d passed her on his way upstairs, but he hoped that it was only because he’d kept the title obscured.

He didn’t bother knocking. Why should he, when Elias was already looking at him like he’d been expecting him, like Jon was late, when Jon had just opened the door?

Jon marched over to the desk and slammed the book on it. “You knew,” he pressed out through gritted teeth. The rose emblazoned onto the cover of the book shone under the light of the lamp, drawing the eye to the title above it. Budding Pleasures. As if that alone wasn’t bad enough already.

“Why don’t you have a seat first, Jon?” Elias simply said. Jon didn’t sit down.

“You knew that this was a Leitner.”

Elias smiled at him mildly. “Of course it is. Do you think I’d bother you with this task otherwise? If it were a matter of simply acquiring books for the library, I would have asked the librarian.”

“I can’t rule it out, can I now?” Jon snapped. “Just a few weeks ago, you sent me to an abandoned warehouse for a letter you could have given me yourself, for no reason at all.”

“I’m not responsible for the assumptions you make, Jon.” Elias leaned back in his chair. “ Though I will admit I made some of my own. I didn’t think the books posed any danger. Jonah Magnus’s diary did not mention any ill effects.”

“Good for him,” Jon said darkly. “He could enjoy his tasteless, overwritten erotica just on the merit of the writing.”

“Though of course, he did mention that he always took care never to touch any books that might be dangerous with his bare hands.” Elias placed his hands on the desk. “Did you wear gloves, Jon? I notice you’re not wearing any now. Then again, I doubt simple touch would have been enough for the book to take effect.”

Heat crawled up Jon’s face. He hated that his silence was answer enough. That he’d been so foolish. That his curiosity had once again got the better of him. “You should have warned me,” he finally said, and he despised the vulnerability in his voice.

“That was my mistake, yes,” Elias said.

“You don’t seem particularly sorry.” The words tasted bitter on his tongue.

“I have no reason to be. Yet.” Elias leaned forward, not reacting to the scowl on Jon’s face. “How has the book affected you?”

“It… it’s purely physical as far as I can tell,” Jon said hesitantly, swaying back half a step. “It’s cursed jewelry. There’s hardly more to say about it.”

“I suppose there isn’t.” Elias stood. Jon’s cue to leave. But he found himself trapped in Elias’s gaze as he rounded the desk.

“You didn’t just come here to deliver a book, did you?” Elias said. He stopped in front of Jon, no more than an arm’s length away.

“I did not come here to ask for your help, if that’s what you’re implying,” Jon said, putting a hand onto the desk to keep his equilibrium.

“I know you won’t ask for help,” Elias said, looking carefully at Jon. “That’s why I’m offering it to you.”

“That would be a first,” Jon muttered. “I thought you’d prefer waiting a month.”

“Consider it an attempt to right previous wrongs, then,” Elias said and brushed a hand down Jon’s arm. Jon could barely feel the touch through the thick material of his jumper, and yet it burned along his skin. “Will you show me?”

For a few moments, Jon’s fingers toyed at the hem of his jumper. Then he let out a resigned sigh. Pushing away the thought that it might have been a sigh of relief. He tooks off his jumper, flinching a little as his knuckles brushed across his chest. He’d meant to put the jumper on the back of the chair, but now he held onto it nervously. The ticking of the clock urged him to continue, but he remained frozen in inaction, all previous bravado and anger diluted with insecurity. With a longing he didn’t want to place.

“Actually, I think I’ll maybe ask—”

“Jon.” Elias put a hand on his. “It’s alright. Let me see.”

Slowly, Elias pulled the jumper from Jon’s grasp, leaving him only in his shirt. Vulnerable and already on display, the piercings clearly visible under the thin fabric. He forced himself to keep his eyes focused on Elias’s face and ignore his hands. Hands that were already pulling at his tie before he asked, “May I?”

Jon could only nod in response. He tilted his chin up when Elias opened the first button on his shirt, swallowing as he felt Elias’s fingers brush against the faded scar on his neck. A fleeting touch that sent a rush of old fear through Jon’s veins, mingled with a sensation that was all too familiar and yet hard to place. More than being watched.

Elias opened the buttons at a lenient pace. Being considerate, perhaps, leaving room for Jon to withdraw his permission. Or else it was an indulgence for him.

Jon drew in a sharp breath at the thought. It should have been repulsive, but he couldn’t take his eyes off Elias. His reactions were subtle, not betrayed through unnecessary lingering of touch or gaze. But his lips parted ever so slightly when the shirt fell open, his eyes widening with curiosity.

“Rather unexpected,” Elias said quietly, awed almost.

“Yes,” Jon replied, not as sourly as he’d intended.

“I assume you tried opening them?”

“Obviously. It’s the first thing I did when I saw them.” He’d almost been desperate enough to try the pliers.

“I would like to take a closer look. Sit on the desk, please.”

Jon followed the request, not quite appreciating the loss of the supporting ground beneath his feet. And Elias asking him to lean back on his arms did not help matters. It only made him feel defenseless, so starkly illuminated beneath the lamp above Elias’s desk.

His elbows nearly gave out when Elias touched him. Nothing but a brief contact of skin on skin, but it felt electric. It had been rather long since he’d felt the touch of another person. A real person.

“I thought you just wanted to look,” Jon complained, wishing he could hide the breathlessness in his voice.

“I had more of an examination in mind,” Elias said nonchalantly. “Do try to hold still.”

Jon wished he could. But much as he tried, he could not hide the heaving of his chest as Elias touched him again. He wasn’t even actually touching him, simply raising one of the thin chains that dangled from each bar, minimally weighed down by a pendant in the shape of a rose.

“A gardenia,” Elias murmured as he examined the pendant, gently jostling it in the process. Even the tiniest movement sent small shivers of pleasure down his spine. Making him all too aware of his position, his thighs parted slightly, one of Elias’s legs already insinuated between them. Innocuously. Just for better access. Jon turned his head to the side, screwing his eyes shut.

“But the beads here do appear to be roses. Quite a bouquet of surprises.”

“Yes, what a delight,” Jon muttered under his breath, relaxing for a moment. Only to gasp out Elias’s name when he pulled at the bar. He opened his eyes to watch as Elias held the little beads between his fingers, trying to twist them this way and that, his nails scratching against the hard nub.

He only stopped when Jon’s thighs squeezed around his own. Jon’s nipple was pulsing with sensation, and each pulse was mirrored by the feeling of his cock. His panting seemed to echo through the office, making Jon shrink onto himself.

“That’s… that’s quite enough for today.” Jon sat up again. He didn’t dare look Elias in the eyes.

But Elias didn’t move. “I’m afraid it isn’t, Jon. You realize you cannot simply ignore a Leitner’s effects. No, what we need to do is to figure out how it operates. Tell me, what was the part you read about?”

Jon’s face flushed with a far less comfortable kind of heat. “I never said I—” He sighed. “The protagonist is picking out flowers for his new greenhouse. Though with how much time he spends describing every single flower he sees, I assume they’re going to be wilted by the time he actually takes them home.”

Elias chuckled briefly, then his expression turned serious again. “I assume he mentioned roses?”

“Oh, he very much did,” Jon grouched. “But no gardenias, I don’t think.”

“Seems like the content isn’t tailored to the reader then.” Elias smiled. “While the effects very much are.”

Jon wanted to ask what exactly he meant by that, but Elias had already continued.

“I think this means we must follow the story to its conclusion and figure out how to divert from it.”

“I’m not reading another chapter of this book.”

“You don’t have to, and you shouldn’t before we know more. The key is in the title.”

Jon looked at the book sitting on the desk next to him, wishing he were misremembering the title. He wasn’t. Budding Pleasures. Well. That could be achieved.

“I—That shouldn’t be a problem. I will take care of the matter at home.”

“Good.” Elias stepped aside to let Jon slip off the table. His knees felt wobbly, his trousers too tight. “That should nip any unwanted developments in the bud.”

“You really aren’t worried at all, are you?” Jon asked with no small amount of bitterness as he started buttoning his shirt.

His hands tightened around the fabric when Elias cupped his face. He was rather tempted to spitefully look away.

“It’s not because I don’t care, Jon.” Elias brushed his thumb across Jon’s cheekbone, a tenderness in the gesture that ached.

“Right,” Jon murmured. He put on his jumper over his half-buttoned shirt and hurried out of the room.

Jon was lying on top of his covers, still wrapped in his bathrobe after stepping out of the shower several minutes ago. His hand had wandered between his legs, pulling unenthusiastically at his soft cock. It had seemed a little more effective in his mind, when he’d thought about it under the shower. Perhaps if he’d simply gotten it over with there…

But there was a reason he hadn’t, and thinking about that reason right now was not going to help things either. Because he was determined not to think about Elias.

Perhaps it had been a mistake to go to him. Now he couldn’t even feel the brush of the rough material of the bathrobe against his chest without thinking about Elias’s touch, when just that morning, Elias’s connection to the curse had been tenuous at best. He’d only tasked Jon with retrieving the book. Nothing more.

But Elias had always been the first person Jon would have approached with any supernatural issues. Even though he’d recently been made painfully aware of the fact that Elias didn’t know quite as much as Jon had assumed. At least not about the Unknowing.

But he knew about Leitners. Jon remembered it all too well, Elias calling him to the restricted part of the library. Jon had always assumed another cramped storage room was hidden behind the door, and had been quite surprised to find a room that could have rivaled the entire library itself in size. But it differed from it in that there were only a few shelves, and some of them didn’t even contain more than a single book. Or a lockbox that presumably contained a book.

He’d hung onto every word Elias had said, and remembered them just as well. But more than that, he remembered all the little touches Elias had accorded him then. Nothing untoward, no different from the friendly pats on the shoulder Tim had given him occasionally.

And yet. The moment when Elias had touched his shoulder, the tip of his thumb just barely brushing against the side of Jon’s neck. It hadn’t registered like that at the time, but that day, when he’d gone to bed, he’d remembered it all too well. There was something about Elias’s touches, no matter how featherlight, that lingered in the recesses of Jon’s mind, coming to the forefront just before he fell asleep, like a glimpse of a secret he couldn’t grasp in a lucid state.

He slipped a hand under his robe to trace the touch, like he’d done so many times before. But this time, all he felt was the scar on his neck.

Frustrated, he pulled his hand away and gripped the sheet instead. His cock rested against his thigh, half-hard, its throbbing a call for attention Jon wanted to ignore. The extent of Elias’s callousness was written all across his skin.

But there had been none of it in his eyes when he’d looked at Jon today. And Jon still struggled to puzzle out what exactly he’d seen in his gaze.

Reluctantly, he slipped a hand under the bathrobe to brush across his nipple. His mind drifted back to their encounter earlier. But this time, Jon didn’t make Elias stop, didn’t all but flee from his office.

He ran a hand along his chest, down to his cock, tracing the paths he wanted Elias to follow. He bit his lip to stifle his little gasp.

The Elias in his mind laid Jon down onto the desk, caressing Jon’s body with his gaze. Pushing the shirt open as Jon did with his bathrobe, to see all of him.

Unbidden, the thought came to him that Elias might be watching him right now. What would he think about him now? Seeing him in such a state, sprawled across his bed, more afflicted than adorned as he was with this cursed jewelry, pulling at his cock with increasing desperation.

He turned his face to the side, trying to muffle the little moans that started escaping him. The notion of stopping seemed so distant all of a sudden.

Instead, he pictured Elias drawing him closer by his hips, letting him grind against his thigh as he ran his hands across Jon’s chest, never taking his eyes of him.

The fantasy escalated from there. He rolled onto his stomach, to reflect the new position he pictured himself in, bent over the desk one hand curled firmly around Jon’s hip. Jon was helpless to do anything but rut into his hand in a frenzy as he pictured Elias brushing a teasing finger across his hole, his nipples rubbing against the rough cloth with every movement. Jon pushed back, needy, desperate for more.

Elias let out a small chuckle behind him. Fond, with a hint of wickedness Jon didn’t fully grasp until Elias raised a hand and let brought it down roughly against his arse.

The orgasm jolted through Jon, leaving his nerves raw, almost unbearably sensitive to every touch. And then the feeling scattered into nothing, leaving bone-deep dissatisfaction and longing in its wake.

Rosie wasn’t at her desk when Jon went to Elias’s office. It was a bit of a relief. The fewer people he encountered today, the better. Martin had already offered him peppermint tea with honey in the morning, misled by the scarf Jon was wearing when it was already too warm for that. All because Jon felt like the jumper wasn’t hiding the chain he’d discovered in the morning reliably enough. All because it hadn’t worked.

Of course it hadn’t, and Jon was annoyed at himself for believing it might. Of course, it had gotten worse.

He pushed open the door a little too roughly, surprised when he didn’t find Elias inside. But perhaps it was just as well; all he needed was the book, after all. And that was still lying on Elias’s desk, though the title was now obscured by the tape recorder lying on top.

Indecisiveness rooted Jon to the spot. If Elias had been here, he would have at least been able to suggest a course of action. If he returned to the Archives with the book, Basira might see it again, and this time, she would probably get suspicious if he again tried to sneak past her with the title of the book conspicuously obscured.

In the end, he pulled up one of the chairs in front of Elias’s desk and sat before he reached for the book. He’d barely opened it when the door behind him creaked. Jon let the book fall shut again as he craned his neck anxiously.

“Ah, Jon. I’ve been expecting you,” Elias said as he entered, sounding rather pleased. Though Jon wasn’t quite sure if he was pleased to see him or pleased about his misfortune.

“Your idea didn’t work,” Jon snarled. “In fact, it made it worse.”

Elias took a seat in his own chair. “How so?”

Jon scrutinized his expression. Did he already know? He would hardly put it past Elias that he did. And he was not in the mood to play any games.

Jon unraveled the scarf and set it down on the chair next to him. He discarded his jumper and his tie just as quickly. But his stubborn resolve threatened to falter when he unbuttoned the top-button of his shirt. Elias had reclined in his seat, watching him with unwavering interest. Jon could feel his heart beat faster as he basked in Elias’s undivided attention.

His hands were trembling a little when he pulled his shirt open. Elias’s exhaled a deep breath. But he remained seated, and Jon felt an odd pang of disappointment.

“Fascinating.” He took out a notebook that already seemed to contain some musings about Jon's situation, though Jon couldn’t hope to read the tiny writing from his position. “You said you believe this development was caused by your actions?”

“How am I supposed to know?” Jon snapped, pulling his shirt together. He didn’t bother buttoning it just yet. His hands had already shaken a little while he’d unbuttoned it, and he wanted to spare himself the undignified display. “You said ignoring it would make it worse!”

“I suppose that is the natural progression of the story then,” Elias said calmly. “Only one way to find out. I was hoping it wouldn’t have to come to that.” His eyes dropped to the book on the desk. “Would you continue reading?”

Jon let out heavy sigh, and nodded. It was what he’d come here for, after all. He’d just found the right page again when he heard Elias turn on the tape recorder.

Jon blinked. “Out loud? But what if—”

“Yes, if you would be so kind,” Elias said indulgently.

Jon cleared his throat. “Author Unknown. Budding Pleasures. Published in 1841 in London. Chapter 2.

The nameless rose bore the burden of uniqueness quite well. I must confess, I was not in the slightest disappointed to leave all the widely celebrated specimen behind. The beauty of its potential alone would only have shamed the surrounding flora. And I couldn’t bear stifling its promise by surrounding it with mediocrity. Why, it would have been a crime, a sin!

“And I would not have appreciated being in any way distracted from this most wondrous sight. Clear as crystal dew drops pearled at the gate of its closed crimson petals. Had it not been for the thorns whose tips glistened with sharpness, I might have been tempted to touch it.”

Jon wanted to swallow, but he couldn’t disrupt the flow of the text. All he could do was take in a slightly sharper breath as he tried to adjust his position.

The intensity of my passion took even me by surprise. Yet I dared not succumb to my urges.

The rose grew magnificently under my watchful eye, my most attentive care. Soon, its ranks started spilling over the edge of its pot. I dared not cut them back, but I felt quite justified in my decision to dedicate the entirety of the greenhouse to its beauty.”

The click of the tape recorder rang through the room, the snap of fingers that lifted hypnosis.

“Why did you stop it?” Jon asked breathlessly, looking up at Elias. A wave of heat washed over him when he saw the hunger in Elias’s eyes.

“Come here, Jon,” Elias said, pushing his chair back a little and turning it to the side. “Do bring the book,” he added when Jon set it down on the desk. “We are not done yet.”

Jon forced himself to hold in a gasp when he stood. His trousers had gotten rather tight. But he didn’t hesitate to approach, to let Elias’s gaze draw him closer. Once Jon was within reach, Elias hooked a finger under the fine chain that connected the piercings to each other. He gave just the lightest pull, more a suggestion than an order. And Jon followed along willingly.

Elias let his hands slide down to Jon’s hips. drawing him closer until Jon had no choice but to straddle him. He nearly dropped the book when he felt Elias’s erection pressed against his own, just barely managing to muffle the moan against Elias’s shoulder.


“Continue,” Elias said, and turned on the recorder.

Jon rested his arms on Elias’s shoulders, shivering as his bare chest brushed against Elias’s smooth suit jacket. He inhaled deeply, trying to ignore the movement of the chain, the inescapable stimulation with every further breath he took.

My patience was bound to be tested quite soon, and I’m afraid I failed miserably. My rose’s ranks wove themselves into my dreams. Yet even in that realm, I was not allowed to lay my gaze on the glory of its flourishing. My heart was seized with fear. I don’t think I would have been able to bear missing a single moment of it.”

Elias’s breath was hot on the nape of Jon’s neck. His lips brushed softly against his skin, and Jon could do nothing but press himself closer.

That night, I let the moonlight be my guide as I walked through the greenhouse. The harsh light of the sun could not rival the gentle glow of the moon in bringing forth my rose’s allure. The drops of dew seemed like pure silver, capturing the essence of the moon here on earth. And in that moment, I was helpless to reach out.”

Jon started when Elias’s hands dipped under the waistband of his trousers, his pants. Elias’s hands were warm, and he pulled Jon closer against himself, nails digging into Jon’s skin. But he remained utterly silent, save for the occasional quiet sharp inhalation.

I didn’t dare do more than cradle the bud on the tip of my finger, touching petals that were softer than the finest silks could ever be. Softer even than a true love’s kiss. I could feel the bud quiver against my skin, though perhaps it was simply responding to my own shivering.

“It did not open then, no. But it graced me in a different way. Its ranks slipped beneath my night clothes. They thorns tore my clothes, but they spared my skin. And in my rose’s embrace, I felt more than loved. More than cherished. I felt… whole. And still, my soul cried out for more.

“E-end of chapter two.”

Elias turned off the recorder again, and the book nearly slipped from Jon’s grasp; he practically threw it onto the desk with shaking hands, but Elias didn’t seem to care. His lips burned hot against Jon’s throat, and Jon could do little but crane his neck to the side and wrap his arms around him, a hand tangling itself shyly in Elias’s hair.

“I— I need…” He didn’t know what he needed, his mind trapped in the flurry of sensation as he helplessly rutted against Eliias.

He let out a dismayed groan when Elias grasped his hips firmly. Under different circumstances, it might have helped him reattain some clarity, but he couldn’t, all his nerves were sparking with sensation, and holding still only made it unbearable.

“Take off your clothes, Jon,” Elias said, “and bend over the desk.”


“Be good, and I might give you what you need.”

Jon had enough sense left in him to scowl at that comment. And still, he followed the guidance of Elias’s hands as he slipped off his lap, and started taking off his clothes, all under Elias’s intense gaze.

But he hesitated a little to turn around. To break that contact between them.

“Lean on your elbows,” Elias said, not impatiently. But he was waiting. And Jon didn’t want to let him wait for too long.

He quickly realized he needn’t have worried. Even with his back turned, he could feel Elias’s gaze on his skin. Sharp and piercing, it should have been a violation. But to Jon, it felt like a tender caress.

“Now, open the book,” Elias ordered, “and continue reading.”

Jon found the page where he’d stopped. “And more I shall have.”

He could not turn away in time to hide the moan Elias drew from him as he let slick fingers glide across his hole. Jon’s voice quivered with anticipation as he read on.

The sensations started mingling with the story. His arms were trapped in place, by his own will or by the rose’s tendrils that were roaming across willing flesh? His voice trembled as the rose curled its ranks around quivering thighs, as Elias pushed two fingers into him.

Was it a hand of flesh and blood that curled around his aching cock, or one of cellulose and chlorophyll? He could no longer tell. He could hardly tell if what he was saying still made any sense at all. If it was Elias who had plunged into the depths of his heart or the roots of a flower.

And cradled between leaves and thorns, I shall rise to new heights of pleasure.”

“End of chapter three.” Words felt heavy on Jon’s tongue, sinking beneath the sounds he couldn’t hold back.

“Very good,” Elias said, running a hand along Jon’s side. “Close it. We don’t need it anymore.”

Just as Jon had done as told, Elias crooked his fingers inside him, and Jon moaned against his arm. Only for the sound to stutter in throat when Elias wrapped the chain around his fingers and pulled. Almost painfully. Almost too much. Not nearly enough.

Elias trapped him between these two points of sensation. Pushing and pulling, curling and twisting, until all Jon could do was beg, turning Elias’s name into a plea.

Another press of his fingers, another yank at the chain, and Jon lost himself in waves of bliss.

The clank of the chain against the desktop when his elbows gave in drew his awareness back to his surroundings. A whirl of panic formed in his mind. Elias’s office. What if someone had walked by, what if they’d heard? Had Elias even locked the—

A moan tore from him when Elias slapped a hand against his thigh before he could even think to silence it. A flush of shame rolled over him when Elias wrapped his hand around Jon’s spent cock, now twitching in his loose grip.

“Insatiable as always,” Elias said fondly, but in a low voice that sends a chill of pleasure down Jon’s spine.

“What are you—” He yelped when Elias brings down his hand again, firmly against his buttocks. It stayed there, massaging the aching spot.

“I haven’t told you to change your position, have I? We’re not finished yet.”

Jon bit down a sarcastic remark, took a deep breath. He raised himself up on his elbows again, making sure the chain did not come in contact with the surface. The third blow was just as unanticipated as the first two, worse in that it landed just between his buttocks, where Elias’s touch had left him raw and sensitive, sending a thrill of excitement through him.

“What was that for?” he snapped, breathless, all too aware of how empty he was, how his cock started filling again.

“A reward for being good for me,” Elias simply said, squeezing his hip affectionately, and Jon’s eyes fluttered shut. He tried to use the moment to center himself again, but Elias stepped back, and the loss of his touch sent a rush of altered excitement through him, of anticipation.

A zipper was opened.

“Come here,” Elias said. Jon pushed himself up, taking a moment roll his shoulders, run a hand across his aching neck. He was about to turn towards Elias when he felt his hands at his sides. Gently, he guided Jon towards him, pulled him just close enough to press the head of his cock against Jon’s aching hole.

Jon willed himself to relax. The torturously slow pace was bliss and agony in equal measures, and by the time Elias was sheathed inside him, he felt both overwhelmingly full and utterly desperate for more.

“Please,” he begged, shifting his hips a little, the position not offering quite enough leverage for any movement that could slake his need.

Elias moaned, his breath hot against Jon’s shoulder. His hands trailed up Jon’s torso, drawing him flush against him. His fingers moved across the chain, just briefly, but Jon felt it so keenly, tightening around Elias in response.

Jon’s nipples were already stiff when Elias’s fingers found them. The slightest touch made him gasp, made him squirm, made him twitch in his indecision between flinching away and moving towards Elias. Not that he had much of a choice either way.

It didn’t take long for precome to pearl at the tip of Jon’s cock, and Elias had hardly even moved. Jon let his hand drop down and curled his fingers around his cock just when Elias’s hand reached down too. For a moment, Jon thought Elias was going to push him away. But instead, he guided Jon’s touch. Slow at first, challenging him to thrust into their shared grip. Faster when Jon got used to the pace, leaving him panting and writhing atop his lap.

Elias’s other hand reached for the chain again, twisting it around his finger, once, twice, until Jon moaned, until Jon cried out, until he spilled over both their hands.

Elias thrusted into him in response, leniently, luxuriously, and still, he filled Jon with his seed before the fire that had swirled over his nerves was fully extinguished.

Their harsh panting filled the room, slowly receding to the sound of the ticking clock.

“Do you think this… worked?” he asked, letting his head droop against Elias’s shoulder.

Elias rested a hand on Jon’s thigh- “I suppose we’ll find out tomorrow. If not, you know where to find me. There are still some pages left.”

Jon gave a lazy nod and let his eyes fall shut.

Jon got off the taxi two streets before Elias’s house, unable to sit still and quiet for much longer. The chill of the night did little to cool the heat that tingled across his skin, that flowed through his veins.

Elias was already waiting at the door. Jon had to stop himself from running towards him, though his pace did speed up. It was unlikely anyone would see at such a time. But if they did, they would certainly draw conclusions just from seeing him visit Elias at such an hour. Jon tried not to think about that. He tried to focus on what he’d planned to tell Elias. Thanking him. Apologizing for calling at such a late hour, but it was an emergency.

He threw himself in Elias’s arms, pressing his lips desperately against Elias’s before the door had safely closed behind them.

“I’m sorry,” he managed to get out between fervent kisses that didn’t breach the barrier of Elias’s lips, one hand pulling Elias closer while the slipped between them to fumble with the zipper of his jacket.

A hand tightened in his hair, and Jon relaxed against Elias. Making it all the easier for him to pull Jon back and hold him in place. Jon flushed at the sound of his heavy breathing, filling the space between them with this unfamiliar wantonness that had him in his grip.

A small smile played around Elias’s now reddened lips, and Jon gasped as he strained against Elias’s hand in his hair, yearning to kiss him again.

“It got worse,” Jon said, trying for a modicum of control, “and I don’t think I have much time.” He forced himself to hold still as he looked into Elias’s serious face, but it was so hard when every fiber of him yearned for his touch.

“I think reading made it worse. Or maybe the last chapter has the answer. Whatever it is, I think we need to get the book. Or is it the book that makes me believe I should?”

“The book isn’t here, Jon,” Elias said softly. “I left it at the Institute.”

“Then we need to go.” Jon’s scalp was throbbing where Elias held him firmly in his grasp. The sensation traveled down along the new chains that had formed in Jon’s sleep, throbbing between his legs. “We have to see—”

Elias surged forward and kissed Jon, and Jon melted against him. When Elias drew back, he was smiling again. “I’ve been thinking about your situation, and I believe I found the answer. The key was in the title, after all.” He used his free hand to push Jon’s jacket off his shoulders.

“I think we’ve quite thoroughly established that it’s not.” Jon took off his shoes, not bothering with the laces.

“Jon, do you trust me?”

It was a question Jon should only ever answer with a bitter laugh.

“Yes,” he said, feeling his chest tighten in response.


With a hand at the small of his back, Elias led Jon to the bedroom. Pushing more firmly whenever Jon tried to turn his head towards him.

They stopped in front of a mirror, and this time, Jon wanted nothing more than to look away. But Elias wouldn’t let him, holding him still with an arm wrapped around him, a hand at his chin. Forcing Jon to take in the sight of his flushed cheeks, the messily buttoned up shirt, still creased from yesterday.

“Patience,” Elias whispered. Jon made himself stand still. Only then did Elias let go. And start undressing him.

The first button he opened already revealed part of the newly grown chain, glittering in the light, low around his neck. Accentuating his collar bones, close enough to his throat to serve as a warning.

Slowly, Elias unveiled more of the image Jon had tried to run from less than an hour ago. The chain that had wound itself around one of his arms, his torso, down beneath the waistband of his trousers, splitting into two or more across his body. It wasn’t so much flexible as it simply grew to accommodate his movements, adding and removing links as it saw fit.

Elias slipped the shirt off Jon’s shoulders and rested his hands on Jon’s shoulders. The chain glinted in the dim light with the heavy breaths Jon was taking as he struggled to face himself in the mirror. He shifted his focus away from Elias’s hands and inhaled sharply when he saw the intensity in Elias’s eyes, unabashedly fixated upon his reflection, his lips pressed together.

He trailed a finger along one of the chains, down towards Jon’s hips. A quiet hiss escaped him when he encountered a thorn that Jon was sure hadn’t been there before, and Jon flinched back against him at the sight of the blood. All he could feel was how hard Elias was against him.

“An interesting development, don’t you think?” Jon didn’t agree. And yet he didn’t find it in him to disagree. So he simply watched with bated breath as Elias continued following the chain downwards, leaving a smear of blood on Jon’s skin in its wake. He unfastened the button of Jon’s trousers, unhurried, and pushed them down his thighs along with his boxers. Jon let out a sigh as Elias freed his erection from its confinement.

Every movement jostled the chains when he stepped out of the trousers, and when Jon straightened up again, he could see a flush spreading across his chest. The chains were undulating now, so gently that Jon wanted to tell himself it was simply a trick of the light. But it was more than just his imagination when the chain slowly started winding itself around his cock.

His hand twitched into movement, an instinct to free himself from the tendril that seemed to weld itself firmly into place around the head of his twitching cock. Elias caught his wrist.

“It’s alright,” Elias whispered in his ear, stroking a gentle thumb over the inside of Jon’s wrist, where his pulse must be racing. “Just watch.”

Jon held his arm still when Elias let go. Watched his hands settle on his hips, fingers digging into his skin with just enough pressure to ground him. To hold him in place as he pressed his cock against Jon’s backside.

Jon couldn’t help a moan, couldn’t help pressing back against him, frustrated by the layers between them. But Elias made no motion to undress himself, apparently content to just grind against Jon. To watch as Jon’s cock filled, straining ever so slightly against its filigree cage. He wished he could ignore how hard he was. He wished Elias wouldn’t.

But the suggestion of what Elias could do to him was enough to make his heart race. He wanted to feel more of Elias. All of Elias.

He was so transfixed that he hadn’t even noticed the chains creeping up Elias’s hands. Reflexively, Jon slapped his hands away. The chains released him, but sharp thorns where Elias had touched him remained in place as a warning.

“I’m sorry,” he breathed. “I just… I didn’t want you to—"

“Don’t worry,” Elias said and pressed a kiss to his temple. Jon let his eyes flutter shut, only to open them again with a sharp intake of breath when Elias pinched his nipple. The care he took to avoid the chain did nothing to impede the smoothness of his movements. Jon watched him roll it between his forefinger and his thumb, the sensation sparking along his nerves, along the chains, down to his eager cock, his body trembling against Elias’s with need.

All Elias did was take that as a cue to step back. “Come here,” he said before Jon could have objected, guiding him towards the bed. “Lie down.”

Jon took a deep breath. Fighting the desire to simply press himself against Elias. His cock ached for Elias’s touch with every movement.

Elias settled next to him pushing a knee between Jon’s legs. To hold him in place, Jon soon realized, when he tried to move closer, and Elias only pressed his leg down to keep him still instead of meeting him.

“You’re enjoying this too much,” Jon complained, voice heavy with arousal.

“And you need to learn the joys of delayed gratification,” Elias said, and Jon wished he could laugh. But it was hard when he could feel the chain wind itself around his other thigh. He wondered how long they would be able to delay gratification. Before… before…

“It’s awful not to know, isn’t it?” Elias asked quietly, looking deep into his eyes, and Jon could only let out a quiet “yes”.

“Elias, do you know—” He voice trailed into a moan when Elias’s fingers found one of his nipples again, circling the hard tip gently, almost playfully. Then his touch grew rougher, pinching the sensitive flesh, and Jon cried out, hips rising off the mattress, just as much as Elias’s leg between his thighs allowed.

“All we can do is try to find out.”

Elias draped more of his weight across Jon’s, closing his lips around the nipple he had neglected before. His movements were so endlessly tender, all sweet torment trapped in a kiss. And when he felt the bite of his teeth, Jon could do nothing but gasp and arch his back in response, his body guided by sensation alone.

With the tip of his tongue, Elias circled the hard nub, pushing against the pull of the metal, leaving Jon to writhe underneath him. His hand came up to Jon’s other side and found his nipple, pinching it roughly while he brushed nothing but his lips against the other. Ghosting the soft pad of his fingers across him while his lips closed around the metal of the other and sucked. His cock twitched helplessly against the chains, but they rested still against his throbbing flesh, not constricting but not providing any pleasure of their own either.

The world melted away around Jon, reducing all sensation to this triangle of tension. Leaving enough room for him to walk up to the edge, only to pull him back in an endless dance.

Jon let out a desperate little whimper when Elias released him again, removing his knee from between Jon’s thighs.

“Elias,” he begged breathlessly, “please, I need…” He trailed off when Elias straddled his chest, the soft material of his slacks brushing against his shoulders. Jon stared at him, uncomprehending for a moment, until Elias pulled out his cock.

His eyes lidded when Jon raises his head tentatively, stretching out his tongue. Elias’s free hand buried itself in Jon’s hair, guiding him as he let his cock slide into Jon’s mouth, no more than the tip. But it was enough for Jon to feel how achingly hard he was, the vein on the underside of his cock pulsing against his lower lip.

The position didn’t allow him to draw him in too deeply, tantalizing him with a taste of what could be, Elias’s moans a prelude of what Jon could make him feel.

A disappointed little noise escaped Jon when Elias drew back again, shifting back a bit. Grasping his cock, he let the wet head slide across one of Jon’s hard nipple, leaving Jon utterly breathless. Elias wound the length of chain connecting the piercings to each other around his index finger and gave it a pull, sharp enough for a jolt of pained arousal to leave Jon gasping for breath, his hands flying up to grasp Elias’s hips. To hold him back or to pull him closer again, Jon could hardly tell.

The chains started winding themselves along Elias’s thighs, and this time, Jon let it happen. Trusting that Elias knew what he was doing, even as he watched the thorns pierce the fabric. But he couldn’t deny the shameful appeal of being connected so closely to Elias. So visibly. Eternally.

He shut his eyes to let the guilt pass, but another yank at the chain drew him out of his thoughts.

“Look at me,” Elias said. Jon opened opens his eyes, focused on Elias’s face. The gaze that consumed him, held him captive whenever it settled on him. He was starved for it.

“You truly are a sight to behold,” Elias said, thrusting his cock into his grip, letting it glide across Jon’s nipple, every movement a spark of sensation. He pressed the head of his cock against Jon’s nipple, and, with one last snap of his hips, spilled warm across Jon’s chest, face flushed with pleasure.

Bliss overtook Jon, undid him, just as the chain tightened against his neck. And just as quickly, it released him again. Jon watched in wonder as the chains fell off Elias. Silver turned spring green for a moment, before wilting into greyness. The piercings opened and vanished in a wisp before Jon could even reach up to them.

Steam curled around them in sweet scents of bergamot and rosemary. Jon stroked a hand along Elias’s thigh beneath the water, feeling the already healed spots where the thorns had pierced his skin beneath his fingers, lost in a haze of tranquility. Only drawn from it when Elias’s hips shifted, just a lazy thrust deep into Jon. Just enough for a pleasant flare of sensation. Until Elias ran a hand across his chest, and awakened something inside Jon.

“He thought the rose belonged to him,” Jon murmured lazily, letting his eyes fall shut.


Jon leaned deeper into Elias’s embrace. “The book. I know how it ends now.”

Elias let a hand slide down down Jon’s torso and pressed his lips to Jon’s neck. “Do tell.”

“He believed the rose was his, when he was the rose’s all along.” Jon shivered when he felt Elias’s teeth graze against his skin. “All he wanted was to see the rose bloom, not realizing that it would destroy him in the process. But he relished every moment of it.”

Elias made a thoughtful noise, straightening up again. “A cautionary tale, in a way.”

“Yes, just on par with Aesop’s fables.” Jon rolled his eyes.

Elias laughed. “Don’t you think you did learn something?” he asked, circling a finger around one of Jon’s nipples.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Jon said, swatting lightly at Elias’s hand. Elias caught it instead, entwining their fingers. Fondness swelled in Jon's chest. He let Elias drag his hand gently downward.