A/N: Sequel of sorts to "The Cat and the Canary", so, more Baisyl/Cale porn...ness. I don't think I like this one as much, but eh, it's done. May fix it up later, may not. Hope you enjoy anyway. :)

Taking It

Cale doubled over.

For the span of a few seconds, he either couldn't breathe or his body had forgotten how to, and as his world swam dizzyingly before his eyes, his vision blurring in and out and his feet taking two staggered steps backwards, he wondered blearily if maybe if he just retched up everything that had gone into his body ever, the rest of the world would right itself.

"That," came the snarled words of his attacker, "is what y'get for fuckin' with my girl…"

Cale blinked at the floor, his distracted mind taking longer than necessary to process the simple sentence, largely hung up on one word.

Girl?

When his back hit something solid – a wall? – he dropped his head back against it, welcoming the support as his body fought for balance, and he screwed his eyes hard shut once before dragging them open again to try and focus on the ceiling above.

There had to be some mistake, he rationalized silently. Cale didn't 'fuck' with girls at all.

Aloud, he managed to question, "What…girl?"

"Won't help ya none to play dumb with me, Tur-shit…" his attacker spat back, and Cale righted his head to level his gaze and get a better look at the man, sizing him up: short, matted dark hair to Cale's loose, unruly blonde; an inch or two shorter than Cale, maybe, but significantly heavier set – perhaps as much as half again his weight – and slightly red in the eyes. Drunk, maybe? "…I seen her with you when she's run off a'fore…now tha' I finally know who she's been gettin' busy with, you ain't gettin' off so easy as battin' innocent eyes at me…"

The slur to his words supported the 'drunk' theory, though it was an hour or more yet before dusk, the sun still bright and warm in the evening sky. A little early in Cale's mind to be drunk on one's feet. Still, while Cale wasn't small by any stretch, he certainly wasn't bulky, and though he had strength enough of his own to be sure, it was of the lean, whipcord variety, not the brawler type.

Honestly, drunk or not, if this man set his mind to it he could probably break Cale in half by sitting on him. Thus, Cale opted for a modest approach.

"Look," he started, holding a mediating hand up, "I don't know who-"

"'F I catch you lurkin' near Roanna 'gain…"

If there was more to that sentence, Cale didn't hear it.

As abruptly as that, everything made sense. His friend's bruises. Her refusal to talk to him about them. Her denial of any serious problem despite the fact that she'd shown up more than once just hours before the light of dawn shaking and in tears on his doorstep. Cale lifted his head, returning his attention to the man before him with a bitter smile of his own as he straightened himself.

"So you're the man Ro's been seein'," he said, cutting off whatever blather the man had been continuing on with. "I'm sorry, I see now I was mistaken…" He took a step up as he spoke. "I do owe you an apology after all."

The man look surprised, as if he didn't know quite what to make of Cale's abrupt turnaround. "Well…yeah, tha's…tha's more like i-"

"I should have found you and done this a long time ago."

Before the man had time to blink, Cale's fist connected hard with some messy combination of lips, teeth, and something else brittle that cracked and gave under his knuckles on impact, making him wonder – in the following half second – if he'd broken the man's nose. Another moment of wavering uncertainty followed immediately after as the other stumbled back, totally thrown. Unfortunately, just as it occurred to Cale that it might actually be a better tactical idea to run at that point instead of sticking around for a full on brawl for which he was clearly outmatched, his opponent came back full force. Not with a punch, but with an all out tackle.

Past the point where the weight of the other man's body sent him slamming back against the nearest wall with enough force to drive him to the brink of a concussion with the subsequent crack of the back of his head against the surface, Cale more or less lost track of what exactly went on. He took several painful hits to the gut and ribs and one slanting blow to the face with enough landing power to bust his lip. He managed to plant one or two more hits in himself, but found the majority of his attention devoted to remaining on his feet at the same time as making every effort to assure that he came away from the scene without any broken bones to show for his pride and brash behavior.

When his opponent lifted him up by his shirt front like a doll, completely off his feet, and slung him skidding to the ground several feet down the aisle between the corrals, Cale found – with brief panic – that he couldn't coordinate himself fast enough to right himself before the man reached him. His head was spinning too fast, as though a hive of bees had taken up primary residence in the working part of his skull, and his legs refused to cooperate. He was going to die.

It was over. The man was going to stomp on his ribs, break his bones and leave him to bleed to death, choking on his own blood, alone in a pile of dirt and straw with nothing but a few horses to witness it all because-

When the man's approach stilled a foot and a half from him, Cale's thought process teetered off, dizzy and confused. Managing to twist his head and force his eyes open to look, it became immediately apparent why.

An inch from his attacker's throat, the thin, gleaming silver blade of a rapier hovered, steady as the earth but near enough to slit a clean line through the man's neck with but a twitch of movement, and internally, Cale winced, not quite daring to turn and follow the blade back to its owner. A moment later, he didn't need to.

"Tell me," clipped the at once frigidly precise and painfully familiar voice of his unannounced 'rescuer,' "…are you or are you not a member of the personal staff employed here under legal contract at this estate?"

Cale's attacker sputtered. "I, b—uhh…'m…'m not, yer lordship."

"Are you, then, a member of local authority, here to level some form of legal charge on my employee for an egregious error in conduct for which he must answer?"

"I, ahh…no, yer lordship," the man answered, "but-"

"That being the case," Baisyl cut him off coolly, "I am forced to assume that you are not only trespassing on private property, but physically harassing my staff, preventing him from performing his duties on schedule and in so doing heeding my progress in following through to my evening ride. I would suggest, therefore, that if you put any value on your physical well being, you evacuate the premises immediately and pray to the divine mother that I never catch you setting foot on my father's land again."

The man's expression reminded Cale of beached and dying fish after they'd been netted and left trapped on the dockside to die. After a long moment of no response, the tip of the rapier flicked up, tapping just beneath the man's chin and earning a thick swallow.

"I did not stutter," Baisyl emphasized. "Did you catch my meaning, or need I repeat myself more slowly…using simpler language?"

After a second more of floundering and a startled step back, the man apparently decided against answering in any form, and fled. Cale couldn't quite blame him and as Baisyl's attention flicked downward, he sort of wanted to disappear into the ground himself.

"Aware as I am of your penchant for lying flat on your back with your legs spread," the nobleman remarked drily, "I'd rather prefer you restrict such practices to the bedroom and not your work environment."

Heat swam for Cale's cheeks. "He attacked me!" he blurted defensively, and the way in which Baisyl's eyebrow arched like a fine brushstroke was not helping matters. "I had to defend myself…" Cale mumbled, less assertively seeing as he pointedly left out the part where he'd clearly instigated the latter half of the scuffle.

"Yes, well," Baisyl responded primly, the tap of his boot not far from Cale's face reminding him that he had yet to right himself, and he pushed up onto his elbows before scrambling to stand – an easier feat than he might have expected, fortunately, "…it doesn't appear as though you were doing a particularly good job of that either, does it?"

Cale wished he wasn't so prone to blushing. "I was handling it…"

"So I saw."

"I had the situation under control," he insisted, "…sort of…" He dallied. "Well, I mean, I might have been in a bit of a spot when you came in-nn…"

His words came to a teetering halt when Baisyl reached out, silently stringing two gloved fingers into his hair and drawing back a second later with a clump of straw to show for it. "You look horrible," he asserted.

Blushing crimson to his ear tips, Cale shut his eyes. "Thank you, my lord."

"Mm."

After an awkward silence, Cale shuffled his feet, uneasy. "I-"

"I came here for my horse," Baisyl cut him off. "That is…if it's of no inconvenience to you?"

Wincing at the sarcasm, Cale hastened to nod. "Yes, my lord. That is, no my lord…or, rather-" Biting his lip and mentally kicking himself for his foolery, Cale assured himself that the faintly amused glint in his master's eye was indeed a trick of his imagination, and lead the noble down the line of stalls towards his mare. "Mischief, my lord?"

Baisyl answered with a nod.

"I can't see why, but," Cale talked as he stopped in front of the given stall and worked with the latch, "she does seem to have come down with something over the past week or so…"

"She's sick?" The noble sounded surprised.

"She's been sleeping more than normal, and…well, even when she's up and let out with the others for a morning run she doesn't do much like she used to. Often she'll just eat and then rest in the sun until we round them back up."

The stall door creaked, and inside, Mischief – a young mare with a sleek, red gold coat, unbroken but for a pristine white blaze along her muzzle – shifted her weight, her ears pricking up and flicking forward. As promised, she'd clearly been resting, her body laid out lethargically over the scattered straw bedding lining the stall, but at the appearance of visitors, she lifted her head, and Baisyl surprised Cale by stepping unhesitatingly past him into the stall.

"I keep expecting her to perk back up, but so far…nothing." He watched in silence as the noble knelt. Without a word, Baisyl tugged off his gloves, offering up a palm – which the mare promptly sniffed, nuzzled, and then huffed into – before running his hand up in a stroke along her muzzle.

"How are her eating habits?" Baisyl asked. "Has she not been getting enough food?"

"The opposite, actually," Cale said, frowning. "It's odd. Usually when they're sick they eat less, but…I could swear it seems she'll eat anything in sight and would eat all day if we let her, which also doesn't add up seeing as she hasn't been getting the exercise she used to…"

Without commenting on Cale's observations, Baisyl stood, repositioned himself to stand at his horse's side and then crouched again. As Cale watched, he reached out, cautiously, and laid a gentle hand on her belly. This earned him Mischief's full attention and perhaps a spike of wariness, but no direct objection.

Unsure of what to say, Cale continued, eager to fill the silence, "For a bit some of us thought maybe she'd come down with a case of-"

"She's pregnant," Baisyl deduced flatly.

Cale blinked. "Oh. Ahh…well, that…" He frowned. "How did you—?"

"She's not far along. It's not entirely surprising that no one noticed, but it will become much more apparent in the coming weeks." With a last, comforting stroke down her side and a pat to her neck, Baisyl stood, facing Cale directly. "See to it that she's lead about next time they're let out. She ought to still get exercise, just not excessively much, naturally. I'll have someone more suited to the task appointed to watch over her progress in the following months."

Cale stepped to the side as the noble moved past him, still caught up in his surprise, and his eyes trailed after Baisyl in his wake. "Of course, my lord," he responded, and noted in an off-handed manner that the man's pants were tailored quite fittingly to his legs. They clung snuggly from his hips down to the lip of his boots without looking uncomfortably tight, rather emphasizing the lines of his body like the rough shape of an artist's sketch.

"They're a Roustisein make," Baisyl commented idly. "The tailor came in from one of the far Northern provinces, but the boots were a local commodity."

Cale blinked and shook his head, jerking his eyes up as the other man turned to face him. "Pardon, my lord?"

Baisyl met his gaze, rock steady. "My pants," he clarified. "I assumed you were curious, given that you took the time inspect them so meticulously…" He tilted his head as Cale's cheeks heated, drawing his eyes down Cale's front with an assessing gaze a sliver too concentrated to be entirely casual, "…or was your attention more akin to the interest a child takes in wrapping paper? Planning the best method to make rid of it as soon as possible?"

Cale cleared his throat, shifting his weight awkwardly and dipping his head under the heat of the noble's inspection. "I…it, ah…it's just that…" He swallowed. "You look well in them, my lord," he insisted finally. "That's all…"

"Hn." A pause ensued. Seconds before Cale succumbed to the need to fill it, Baisyl spoke up. "I find myself in a predicament. Perhaps you can help me…"

Cale made himself look up, surprised. "A predicament of what variety, my lord?"

"I came here with the intention of partaking in an evening ride…" Baisyl's boots made a soft, padded sound on the packed dirt floor as approached him, this time leisurely. "I enjoy the light exercise, as well as the opportunity to dedicate some time to leisure after a long day. Now, however…" He stilled his advance with a foot left between them, and Cale had to sternly remind his pulse that there was really nothing of interest going on yet and honestly it ought to calm down, "…I find myself left with an idle block of time, and nothing forthcoming with which to…entertain myself."

Cale swallowed. "Oh, ahh…well…you could…" '…fuck me, seeing how you did such a nice job of it last time I wouldn't mind, really…' He bit hard on his lip, and it wasn't until Baisyl's palm settled just to the side of his head that Cale realized he'd backed himself up against the wall of the horse pen. Nowhere to go, should he ever decide he actually wanted to escape. "You could…read, my lord."

"Read?" Baisyl parroted, surprise evident in the upwards twitch of his eyebrows as much as his voice. Before Cale fit a word in, the noble countered, "Can you read?" and it threw Cale for a loop.

"I…err…not very well, my lord," he answered, bent on keeping his voice steady despite the fact that Baisyl was again picking gently through his hair, sifting his fingers through and weeding out the occasion snippets of straw or dirt. In the process, the pads of his fingers would intermittently brush along Cale's scalp or neck or the back of his ear, and Cale's skin tingled in the wake of each point of contact.

He'd never more ardently wished that he was cleaner.

"Do you write?" came the next question, coupled with a careless caress of the backs of the noble's fingers along the bare skin of Cale's throat, and he suppressed a shiver.

"My…name, given and surname," he answered, "…and my numbers, my lord. I'm afraid I'm…not actually very intelligent."

Baisyl snorted. "Knowing one's letters and numbers has nothing to do with intelligence," he asserted. "It's a matter of schooling. The most brilliant man ever to be born could look at a book and have no way to make sense of its contents if he'd never been taught how. That aside…I find I'm rather more interested in a slightly more…interactive…" He emphasized the word by sliding his knee between Cale's thighs, "…form of entertainment."

The action earned him a bright, tomato-red blush and a stifled mewl of a sound that Cale was fully ready to deny having ever made. It took a more excessive show of willpower than he was inclined to admit to keep from rocking his hips forward into the advance, and even so it didn't save him from the noble's self satisfied smirk.

"Well, well," Baisyl remarked smoothly, the upward curve of his lips at once wicked and teasing, "I'm flattered…" Cale and his traitorous dick were going to have a serious conversation later in regards to when it was and was not appropriate to make a complete fool of himself when greeting company – regardless of how stupidly attractive said company happened to be. "Just to make perfectly certain that there's no miscommunication between us," Baisyl continued, "…I'm propositioning you. Are you accepting?"

Fully hard and pink in the face, Cale nodded. Then, realizing that that might not be quite enough, he blurted aloud, "Yes please. I-I—that is…" He swallowed. "Yes, my lord, I am…accepting."

"Splendid." Baisyl startled him by moving a half foot back and his eyes flit over Cale up and down in a quick, efficient once over. After which, he said, "We'll start with what you offered me last time."

Cale blinked. "With wha-ahh…here?" he reiterated, and Baisyl's head tilted a quarter inch to the side.

"You're concerned about dirtying your knees?"

After an automated, cursory glance to said area – which highlighted the fact that Cale's clothes were, in fact, quite littered with dirt stains already, knees included – he bit his lip, cheeks hot, and shoved down his concerns about possible unwarranted 'visitors' in favor of dropping to said knees.

A second before he reached out, Baisyl stalled him, catching beneath his chin with two fingertips and a thumb and tilting his head up. "The rules of our previous encounter apply…if ever you feel the need to object, it is within your rights to do so."

Cale drew a breath, and then nodded. "I understand, my lord. It shouldn't be an issue as I'm…fairly familiar with this position." Without waiting for a response to that, Cale quickly dropped his eyes again, returning to the task at hand and feeling his pulse stutter as he reached up, palming the shape of Baisyl's clothed erection. He swallowed as it swelled under the touch, and gave up on teasing, making quick work instead of freeing the other from the immediate confines of his clothes.

Drawing confidence from Baisyl's silent shiver when his palm met naked skin, Cale curled his fingers around the shaft, his tongue flicking out once absently – not quite nervous – over his own lip before he leaned in. Fingers laced into his hair when he took the noble in his mouth. His eyes flit shut with a muted groan, but Baisyl graciously kept his hold loose, allowing Cale all the freedom of movement he needed.

So he obliged.

Curling his tongue to either side of his mouthful, Cale bobbed his head and worked himself down, progressing until he could feel the tap of the man's cock at the back of his throat and then swallowing. His cheeks felt hot as he took up a rhythm, staggered it, added his own hand to the mix to get at what his mouth couldn't quite reach. Then, Baisyl gave a gentle, but meaningful tug at the back of his head, urging him to look up.

When their eyes locked, Baisyl held him still for a moment, rocking himself into Cale's mouth: asking permission. His blush stoking up twofold and his heart giving an anxious thud in his chest, Cale gave a minute nod around his mouthful, and his own cock twitched wantonly at the flick of a smirk Baisyl shot him in response.

Why did it turn him on so to be used like this?

"Relax," Baisyl advised complacently, his voice somehow all at once husky, breathless, and aloof, and Cale's pulse stuttered, alive in his throat as Baisyl's grip when tighter still. He held him in place, solidly, and then started to fuck – at his own pace – into Cale's mouth.

Not roughly – never enough to make him choke or hurt – but the rush of it, the thought that he could have at any moment should he have wished, made Cale whimper, so hard himself that it hurt but he didn't dare attend to it. Why it aroused him so much to be violated – to have another man using his mouth as an instrument for release and be made powerless himself – he couldn't begin to guess, but Baisyl, it seemed, read him like a book.

"Good boy…" He tugged, abruptly urging Cale off. "Up," he ordered, and Cale scrambled to stand, finding his legs wobbly and his knees sore but not caring. "Here," Baisyl presented him with a small, corked vile, "…turn to face that stall, strip, and prep yourself."

Cale's cheeks went cherry blossom pink. "My…self?"

Baisyl's smirk threatened to set fire to his insides. "You told me you'd tried it once before…I'd like to watch. Now…" Making a lazy, twirling motion with his finger, he repeated, the words halfway between breezy and smug as a cat, "…turn."

Cale, quite certain there was never – and probably would never be – anyone in his life to make him blush so heartily as this man, obeyed.

There came an embarrassed fumbling with his own pants, a startled jerk when Baisyl's fingers brushed appraisingly over the curve of his ass when he bared it, and then pure bite-the-lip determination was all that spurred him into oiling his fingers. He shivered as he slid his hand down and back, hyper-aware of the eyes tracing his every move: of the occasional ghost of warm breath at the back of his neck, the warm cup and trace of Baisyl's fingers on him – mapping him, almost – as he shuddered and pressed into himself.

"You look quite fetching like this, you know…" Baisyl observed casually, all relaxed composure as Cale fell apart on himself. "It does help to breathe, though," he advised, smug as he leaned in, nipping teasingly at the edge of Cale's ear as he added a second finger and spurring a whimper that immediately preceded a sharp intake of breath.

"I am…breathing," Cale insisted, though probably not enough, he figured, since his head felt dizzy as though to protest a shortage of oxygen.

"Mm…add another," Baisyl instructed without further comment on the issue, and Cale again obliged, biting hard once more on his lip and leaning more of his weight against the stall before him as his knees quivered, threatening to betray him. It felt strange enough – slotting his own fingers up into his body, stretching himself in this awkward place – and stranger still to know that Baisyl's attention tracked every detail of the show. "Rock onto them…" came the next order, soft and heated against the curve of his neck. "Fuck yourself."

The hand – Baisyl's – circled him the next moment, caught Cale by surprise, dragging a broken, needing whimper from his lips as his hips jerked up to fuck into the grip. "Gods…"

"I'd almost forgotten how responsive you are," the noble noted, curiously as though making scientific notes on a rigorous experiment as Cale's knees shook and the sounds falling from his lips were anything but dignified. A thumb circled the head of his cock, spreading the pre-cum gathered there down the rest of his shaft and Cale's toes curled as he arched into the touch.

"Please…"

"Mm? 'Please' what?" Baisyl queried, all business.

"Please, my lord, I want…" Cale swallowed. "Please, fuck me."

A satisfied hum. Then: "Brace your hands to the wall of the stall in front of you."

Cale shivered, withdrawing his fingers carefully and biting back the simper of a sound that followed before submitting to the noble's instructions. The hand on his cock pulled back, leaving him – for a moment – bereft: stripped from the waist down with his clothes pooled at his feet, legs spread, rock hard and wanting. To his great relief, Baisyl forewent the opportunity for further teasing, and it was a matter of moments before a hand came to rest on his waist, steadying him as the noble aligned himself with his entrance.

He shut his eyes as the other pressed, fighting the instinct to tense, willing himself to allow the breech. By the time Baisyl made it in to the hilt, Cale's hands were fists against the stable wall, white-knuckled and barely noticeably trembling. Baisyl, whether he noticed those particular clues or not, mercifully gave him a moment's rest to draw a breath. Only when Cale eventually shifted, giving a tiny, impatient rock back to encourage movement, did the noble proceed.

Cale's world shrunk to include only pinpoints of information.

The wood under his fingers. Coarse. Dry. Supporting his weight as his breath, rational thought, and sanity as a whole abandoned him.

The sleek slip and drive of the other body penetrating him – the cloth of the noble's vest, which he hadn't bothered to shed, brushing occasionally along his back – the softer, humid heat of breath on his neck like a hot wind.

The fingers on his hips, Cale thought dizzily and belatedly, would leave bruises at this rate. Not that he could be bothered to care.

Finally, finally – after what felt like an eternity of teetering, teasing madness – Baisyl reached around, taking Cale's painfully attentive arousal in hand and stroking, twisting like a corkscrew or a carousel that never ended, merely wound in a tight, tireless circle. Like the good, responsive whore that he seemed intent on proving himself to be, Cale mewled – a pathetically wanton, desperate sound that he barely had time to regret before Baisyl dragged another out of him.

"Close?" Baisyl asked, and Cale nodded helplessly, seconds away from pleading in gibberish. "Good. Spill yourself for me."

A twitch of the noble's hand, another strike of his cock to Cale's prostate, and teeth on his neck biting hard enough to leave visible marks for days to come, and-

Cale came with choked cry, finishing in Baisyl's hand, over the wall of the stable, everywhere. His legs quivered threateningly, his head spinning groggily with the after-rush and his arms feeling almost as gelatinous as his knees. He barely felt Baisyl finish, but knew vaguely that it happened a matter of seconds after his own, and only gave a brief, flicker of a wince when the noble withdrew, sinking weakly into his hands against the wall in front of him.

He never wanted to move. Except perhaps to curl up and sleep. Forever.

A splash of water sounded – Baisyl washing himself? – and then the clink and shuffle of belts and clothes being rearranged. Cale pouted into his folded arms, reluctant; he didn't want to re-dress. He didn't want to do anything. He felt embarrassed – more embarrassed, somehow, than the last time.

"You'll need to clean that spot before any of the other stable hands come through," Baisyl noted off-handedly. "It would make for some awkward explanations, I would think, if you don't…"

Unrushed, Cale resituated himself slowly, turning to rest his back against the wall – avoiding, obviously, his own 'mark' on it – and tugging his clothes back into place. When he finished, he found Baisyl had yet to leave, and was, instead, eyeing him, thoughtfully, as if he'd recently come upon a new, curious fragment of information. Cale dropped his eyes, frowning, and feeling suddenly shy and discomfited.

"Something the matter?" the noble questioned at last, to which Cale shook his head without looking up.

"Nothing, my lord." 'Leave,' a part of him begged silently. 'Please, just go…you've had your fun, haven't you? What more could you want of me…'

But Baisyl, in predictable defiance of Cale's mental mantra, stepped forward instead, causing Cale's heart to sink guiltily. He felt backed into a corner. Nowhere to scurry away. No way to-

"Cale."

Cale blinked, surprised to hear his name on the nobleman's lips, and looked up to find a degree of honest concern in Baisyl's gaze that all but floored him.

"Did I hurt you?"

Swallowing, Cale shook his head. "No…no, milord. I'm…fine."

"Did you feel pressured to consent to my proposition?" Baisyl asked. "Because if it makes you uncomfortable, by all means-"

"It's not-" Cale's cheeks flushed brightly upon realizing he'd interrupted his social better, but Baisyl made no move to strike, critique him, or even frown upon the action, so eventually Cale continued, if nervously. "It's not that either, my lord…I was very eage-mm…willing. I was…am…willi—it was consensual, my lord."

"Yet you're troubled," Baisyl pointed out matter-of-factly, as though there were no question about whether or not he was reading into Cale's emotions accurately.

Cale curbed the urge to pout. "It's…" The words 'Don't you have anything more important to be doing right now?' tempted him, lingering close to the tip of his tongue, but he stifled them, dubbing them too rude. Finally, when Baisyl made no move to back down on his own, Cale gave in. "Despite…my comment last time that I am…" He cleared his throat, feeling suddenly intensely awkward, "…'always a slut'…I don't…make a habit of sleeping with…many people. I'm…not a slut…"

Baisyl's eyebrows arched neatly, and Cale's face burned.

"I'm not," he blurted, insistent. "I don't—I haven't—I've never-"

Baisyl's chuckle – genuinely amused, thankfully, as opposed to snide or mocking – drew Cale's tumble of words to a close, and when Cale did pout, thoroughly put out by the noble finding humor in the things it took him a great deal of embarrassing effort to even bring up, Baisyl offered him a smirk, mirth dancing readily in his eyes.

"You are," he said with pointed emphasis, "very cute, I will give you that."

"But that's not-"

"Honestly, I never fully understood the concept of a derogatory term for someone who enjoys sharing their body with a number of persons. Sex," Baisyl said, "…is quite natural, and enjoyable, no less, for however many parties are involved, presuming it's executed properly. Why should engaging in it give rise to such disparaging titles?"

"I-"

"On the other hand," Baisyl continued, barreling over Cale without pause, "…if we are going to be making use of such terms…" Cale opened his mouth, and Baisyl lifted a finger to the bottom of his chin, tapping it promptly shut again, "I…am all but without question a 'slut' myself." Cale's cheeks, again, pinked warmly. "So whether or not you are…I am in no position to judge."

Cale blinked up at his…companion, coming to the gradual realization that they had drifted – or rather, Baisyl had drifted – progressively closer again, and the noble was now eyeing him with an unnervingly critical stare. Finally, Cale could bear it no longer, blurting, "What-"

"I kissed you," Baisyl pointed out, out of the blue, throwing Cale completely for a loop, "…last time."

It wasn't a question, but Cale felt obliged to answer. "Y…ahh…er…yes, you…at the beginning…before we…umm…at the beginning, yes, once, you did…"

"But not this time," Baisyl went on.

"No," Cale agreed, "not yet."

Baisyl's eyebrows quirked upwards, the corner of his lip twitching in amusement. "Yet?" he parroted.

Cale's face lit up. "That—that is," he hastened to correct himself, "…you haven't…hadn't…didn't…I didn't mean you had t-" A finger touched his lips, and Cale's heart gave a thud loud enough he felt half sure Baisyl must have heard it, too.

"Relax…" the noble advised gently. "Allow yourself to take a full breath every now and then…it might do you some good."

"Bu…"

Whatever might have become of that sentence was lost. Cale felt torn – too dirty, beaten, insufficient somehow, compared to the pristine, soft mouth catching his own in an elegant caress – but it didn't stop his breath from catching in his throat, though. Netted like the sea of butterflies that was his pulse. It didn't stop his hand from reaching up instinctively, wavering, uncertain where to land, and then settling, nervous as a young bird coming to perch, on Baisyl's chest.

Baisyl fed a tongue into the kiss, and Cale's lips parted hungrily, as though starving for this contact, and he wouldn't whine, he wouldn't cling, he wouldn't swoon, for heaven's sake; what was wrong with his body? But Baisyl had seemed set, from the instant he'd first dragged his calculating gaze over Cale from tip to toe, on breaking down each and every one of his reservations piece by piece.

When Baisyl drew back, Cale felt like he'd lost something. Or had something taken from him.

Only when a finger tapped lightly to the underside of his chin did his lashes flick reluctantly upwards to meet his lord's gaze. "If you would like to see a healer about any injuries caused you by that man," Baisyl's thumb drew a quick, gentle stroke over the split in Cale's lip from his earlier scuffle, "you are welcome to, as before. Should he bother you again, inform me and I'll have him hanged. Do I make myself clear?"

Cale flushed, embarrassed. "I…don't think what he did deserves-" At Baisyl's look, Cale switched tracks. "Yes, m'lord."

"Good." Baisyl took a step back, his eyes flicking once about the stables assessingly before he came to an apparent conclusion and nodded. "Very well, that will be all for this evening. Do have a pleasant night…Cale."

"And you, my lord."

In the quiet that replaced Baisyl's presence – long, red and orange shadows of sunset filling the stable now like rich swathes of paint – Cale felt a bizarre impulse to chase after the man. Seek company, not this loneliness. But he realized the desire's foolishness even as a fleeting sentiment, and turned from the mouth of the stables instead, making quick work of cleaning up the 'evidence' of their encounter as suggested before going to lean against the side of Mischief's stall, eyeing the now-sleeping mare with a sort of distracted curiosity.

"You have such a strange master," he confided in her quietly, her tail twitching once and ears briefly flicking but otherwise not acknowledging him. "He's a good man, I think…not like so many of the nobles I've dealt with. But complicated, like I can't quite make sense of him. He treats me…like a human, though, you know? And I like that…quite a lot, actually. I wonder…if I don't already like him too much…" Cale hesitated, frowning, before admitting, quieter still, "It makes me feel foolish…for I know I don't know him, and he has no reason to ever see anything in me…"

Mischief huffed into the hay of her stall, not so much as opening an eye at him, and Cale sighed, pursing his lips.

"Yes, well, what do you know anyway? You're a horse. Perhaps…I will talk to Roanna about it."


A/N: Took me many hours to write this. Only takes a minute or two to review. :)