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This section contains moderately mature content.
Before they fully realized what they were doing, Webb leaned in, tilting their head slightly to the side, lips parted. They saw Lore’s dark lashes flutter slightly with surprise, but they responded in kind, their own mouth opening on a soft oh.
“I—” Webb stammered, inches from Lore’s mouth, so close that they could feel the smoke drifting off of Lore, caressing Webb’s lips. “Oh—fuck. You were so… you were asking me for permission so nicely, and I just—may I. Kiss you? I’d like to kiss you. I’d like… I want you to do whatever it is you need to do. I trust you. Can I—”
Lore laughed softly, leaning in to close the slight distance between them.
Kissing Lore was different from anything Webb had ever experienced, yet in some ways deeply familiar. Lore’s lips were soft and pliant, and when Webb immediately deepened the kiss with an impulsive, relieved eagerness, they found that Lore’s mouth was surprisingly hot and wet, their tongue meeting Webb’s with startled shyness but no less eagerness.
Then Webb inhaled, catching a breath after the first desperate press of lips, and felt themself breathe Lore in, swallow them, and they nearly lost their mind at the devastating intimacy of the sensation. Smoke and shadow rolled over their tongue, filling their nose and mouth until all they could taste and feel and smell was Lore, like old books and incongruously fragrant bubble bath and sweet cakes and none of those things at all—
They were close and everywhere and everything all at once, and Webb, who had been keeping people at arm’s length for so long they no longer remember what it felt like to be properly embraced, fell into it like a person desperate to drown.
Letting out a husky moan they hardly recognized as their own voice, Webb gathered Lore tightly into their arms and hauled them helplessly closer. They ran their fingers through Lore’s silky hair, feeling it effortlessly unravel like spun silk pouring over their palms. Lore’s body in their arms had weight and heat and pressure, but in a way that didn’t seem to stop at the gap between them. There was no gap between them anymore, no chill, and no emptiness—just the feeling of Lore enveloping Webb entirely.
It was intoxicating—and terrifying. Webb drew in a sharp breath, almost a whimper, closing their eyes and tilting their head back. They still felt Lore in their mouth, shadow coiling out and pouring out of their mouth like smoke, oozing down their jaw as they gasped for breath and drew Lore further in.
Are you alright? The voice reached Webb’s ears, but they were very sure they weren’t hearing it out loud. It reverberated up through them, gentle and so concerned, and fuck, what was Webb supposed to do with that?
“I’m fine,” Webb croaked out, finding their voice rough and hoarse and breathless, probably because there was somebody in their throat, pouring down it like water. They didn’t know if they even needed to speak out loud or not, or if Lore could just feel the response, taste it, understand it. They wondered if Lore could sense the way that Webb’s heart was hammering, or feel the heat already building to an ache between their legs.
Should I stop? Lore didn’t seem like they wanted to stop, but they did sound (feel?) relieved at Webb’s answer, stroking Webb’s hair reassuringly. At the same time, Webb felt hands running up their arms—then, more emboldened, over their chest, down their thighs. Hands might be a strong word for it, Webb thought wildly as they let out another honestly embarrassing noise—it was a thousand touches, tendrils and pressure, and oh, oh wow—
“S-stop, stop stop, oh fuck we have to stop—” Webb burst out with a delirious laugh, steeling themself for the dizzying, sucking sensation of regret that came a moment later as Lore, of course, withdrew immediately. Webb kept their eyes closed until they no longer felt Lore clinging to their skin, though they still felt the ghost of it, an echo that wasn’t likely to soon fade.
“… Webb,” Lore said, aloud again this time, in their soft and tentative tone, touching a hand—a hand again—to Webb’s cheek. “I’m so sorry, was that…”
Webb opened their eyes and was startled to find them stinging slightly, their lashes damp. They cleared their throat, scrubbing their sleeve against their face, and shook their head stubbornly. “That was fine. That was… uh. That was… a lot. But I liked it,” they added hastily, trying to chase away that worried look on Lore’s face before it had a chance to settle in. “I liked it maybe a little too much and we have, like, zero time, exactly negative time to, you know, explore any of that! In any way whatsoever.”
“Oh. That’s right,” Lore said, a little flustered. “I… forgot.”
“You forgot the fact that we’re in Veracity Yun’s secret bedroom in a vampire den of villainy and there’s a pack of Inquisitors hunting me down and you were tasting my brain so you could go pretend to be me so we can escape?” Webb paused. “Yeah, actually me too, the kissing was really good.”
Lore’s expression shifted through several different emotions before landing on helpless, fond laughter. They leaned in and gave Webb one more kiss, dry and lingering and gentle this time. “Let’s get going,” they said. “We can… continue this later.”
There was a note of promise in that tone that sent Webb’s heart racing, and they let out an aborted little noise, turning quickly to fumble for the door. “I. Yes. Sure. Oh, wait, fuck, weren’t you going to—” they began, turning back around again, then froze.
An eerie, perfect, and entirely unnerving identical copy of themself gazed back at them.
“I’m ready,” Lore said in Webb’s voice, making every hair on the back of Webb’s neck stand up. They pulled out a pair of sunglasses, sliding them on, then reached out and unhooked Webb’s from their collar, sliding them gently back onto Webb’s nose while Webb stood there, shocked and numb.
“Oh,” Webb said weakly. “That’s great.”
They had a very strange sensation in their chest. On the one hand, shy, sweet Lore was far and beyond the closest thing to a real friend that Webb had, with a very palpable and enticing promise to be more. The kiss had been disorientingly, exceptionally good, and had instantly unlocked fantasies and fetishes that Webb didn’t even know they had, or could have any reasonable expectation of getting to actually experience.
But Lore was also shadow and enigma, the monster’s monster, alien and powerful and uncanny and unknown, and the dissonance was strangely chilling.
Lore’s brows were creasing, their expression of concern somewhat jarring on Webb’s face, so Webb hastily reached out to squeeze Lore’s hand. Webb’s hand. Hand in apparently loveable hand.
“It’s fine,” they said hastily. “Let’s go back out before Pax starts a riot. I’m not altogether convinced that there won’t have been bloodshed. Ariadne might have eaten someone.”
She hadn’t. The atmosphere in the room was awkward and expectant, and Ariadne and Faraday looked up with palpable relief—then mild alarm—as Webb and their double walked into the room.
“Oh wow—” Ariadne gasped.
“Don’t get too excited,” Lore said immediately in an uncanny impression of Webb’s tone. “I don’t think Lore’s interested in fulfilling anyone’s lewd fantasies.”
Webb’s jaw dropped a little. “Fuck, you’re a better me than I am.”
Lore laughed. Ariadne was looking back and forth like it was a tennis match. Faraday looked like he had a headache.
Pax also seemed to be strangely intrigued, his eyes sharp and bright, but his tail was still buzzing like an agitated snake’s. “Great,” he exclaimed. “Perfect, you nailed it. Now, are we ready to get you the hell out of here?” He glanced back to where Veracity had been exchanging words with two of her attendants, and was making her way back over to the group.
“We’ll take it from here with the… fake,” Veracity said, her gaze moving between the two of them, seemingly nonplussed. “Pax, I’ll entrust the others to you, of course.”
“Of course,” Pax said easily. “I’ll make sure it’s taken care of.”
“What about the rest of it?” Webb asked, shifting a little closer to Lore, anxious again and already feeling Lore’s impending absence strongly. “What were you going to tell us?”
“Oh, yes,” Veracity said with an air of casual nonchalance. “I’d almost forgotten. But I suppose it’s relevant.” Her gaze travelled to Ariadne. “My sources suggest that the original Grimm, this one’s sire, is no longer the Grimm that we’re currently dealing with. The one that’s in power right now, and has been for at least five or six years—ever since this political maneuvering started—is either some kind of usurper, or his successor.”
Silence fell in the room. Webb saw the shock they felt reflected on everyone else’s face—even Pax’s. Ariadne looked the most shocked of all, uncomprehending and almost faint.
“That—but. What? No… how can that…?” Ariadne stammered.
Veracity shrugged. “I thought you’d be pleased,” she said. “Trying to go up against one’s own sire would be madness. You’d be his puppet again in seconds. Surely you knew that.”
“I… was going to figure something out,” Ariadne said faintly, shaking her head to clear it. “But… what? How? Why?”
“That is what you’re going to need to find out,” Veracity told her with an edge of impatience. “I need to know who this upstart is, how he managed what he’s done, and where Grimm has gotten off to. If he still lives.”
Veracity’s specific personal interest and request suddenly made much more sense to Webb. They were willing to believe and accept that she had been simply concerned about a rise in power and aggression from a nearby vampire lord. But knowing that he’d somehow pulled the reins of power away from an existing lord…
That was a big and real and present threat.
In some way, Webb felt strangely reassured. They now knew that there was something that Veracity actively feared—something that, if they played their cards right, they could use as actual valuable leverage to trade to her later.
On the other hand, the level of bullshit they were having to deal with was starting to become sincerely unreal.
“Well,” Webb declared, leaning an arm on Lore’s shoulder. “I suppose that might as well fucking happen. We good to go, Pax? Ariadne, you good?”
“I’ve been ready to go for so long, you have no idea, I’m dying, I hate you,” Pax said brightly, steepling his fingers together.
“I’m… ready,” Ariadne agreed. She was clutching Faraday’s hand tightly, but her expression grew more serious after a moment, and she released him to haul on her helmet.
Webb turned to Lore, unsure of what to say, or do, or how to say goodbye, but Lore just gave Webb’s hand a firm squeeze, their expression calm, stepping away to join Veracity.
“Stay safe,” Lore instructed in a no-nonsense tone, so unlike their usual quiet lilt. “I’ll catch up with you before you even have a chance to miss me.”
“I already miss you,” Webb shot back, instantly embarrassed by having said that, but feeling somewhat vindicated when Lore got flustered as well, hands fluttering.
Webb turned to Pax to avoid having to confront that feeling any further. “Where are we going?”
Pax raised his eyebrow, but turned, beckoning with one elegant hand, fingers curling. “This way, my contraband cupcakes. I hope you’re ready for a ride.” A look of concentration crossed his face as he sauntered over to the far wall, tracing a wide circle with the tip of one nail in one smooth, easy arc.
For a moment, nothing happened. Then, with a rush of sound like a thousand whispers building up into a scream, the area inside the circle turned hazy, uneasy, licked with flame and shadow.
Pax dropped into a deep bow, sweeping an arm out. “After you,” he said with a wide, wicked smile.
[Please suggest or +1 an action in the comments.
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