Sunlight, Marble, and Glass


Five men and a single woman walked from the dusty ground of the courtyard and took their first steps on marble as they ascended the stairway to the Temple of Radiant Light.  Surrounding a single prisoner, the small party of guardsmen wore uniforms of pure white cloth trimmed with bright silver, identifying themselves as ranked soldiers within the Followers of Light.  Thin swords clattered against their sides with every fast step, the flimsy weapons appearing decorative in nature compared to the curve knives held by the two largest soldiers, twin knives that were held at the throat of their captive.

Hands secured behind his back with thick rope, the prisoner was a strong contrast to the soldiers in clean white.  He wore clothing of black leather that was torn and stained by blood in all areas, the gaps within the material revealing the equally damaged skin beneath.  His face and the back of his neck were concealed by a hooded mask that left only the eyes and the area around the mouth visible, even his ears covered by the dark leather.  Despite a slight limp, the prisoner kept pace with his unwanted escort, and by tiresome reflex alone, his muddy brown eyes scanned the immediate surroundings in search of refuge from the unforgiving sunlight that shone down through too many windows.  But even if a shadow was to be found in the corridor of white stone, the captured man had other plans than an easy escape.

Purring voices encouraged the rare display of patience, the words heard by the prisoner's ears alone.

Bruised muscles tensed at the implication that he would abandon his mission halfway through and he silently told the demons in his mind to limit their talk to something useful.  At the snickering replies joined by one sincere apology, the prisoner let loose a breath at the thought that he actually trusted those voices to consider every possibility within a battle and lead him in the right direction.  Five years had passed since their forced joining, a fateful night when 99 demons had been summoned into a single human body and the masked man had ultimately lost his name, his past, and nearly his life.  The only memory he retained was the face and name of the priest, a Follower of Light, who had masterminded the ritual and then too quickly demanded for the execution of the failed experiment.  An experiment that wasn't as much as a failure as the priest had thought.

Eventually the small party approached a tall archway covered by silk hanging from golden rings.  An unfelt breeze caused vague ripples across the expensive material, the bright silk serving as nothing more than an elaborate and worthless door.  One of the guards called out to the covered passageway and announced that the summoned prisoner had been brought.  His cry was immediately answered by the appearance of two golden-haired girls who tittered while fulfilling their role to pull aside the flowing fabric and reveal the altar room beyond.

At the sight of even more sunlight, white marble, and decorative glass, the prisoner fought against a smile that would be too eager, too revealing to anyone who would see it.  Instead, he settled with stroking his callused fingers along the twine of rope that secured his wrists.

Pushed by an unseen guard, the darkly dressed man continued forward into the altar room and spared little thought on the scattered holy men watching the procession with disgust and disguised fear.  Recognizing that he was a shadow surrounded by white and gold, the prisoner imagined that he appeared much like Death walking amongst the living, taunting them with nothing more than his mere existence in their sunlit world.  For a man prepared to sacrifice his life to shatter that world, it was satisfying thought.

"Excellent," a bald man exclaimed as he stepped forward from a sharply cut pillar.  His smile fierce and full of teeth, the high priest by the name of Henry Bendix motioned the prisoner close, a suggestion enforced by the heavy hand of a guardsman.  Stumbling off balance, the masked man didn't avoid the foot aimed for his injured leg.  Driven to his knees, the prisoner flinched when bony fingers grabbed his chin and lifted his gaze.  "That's right, devil scum, kneel down to your god."

After directing a frown to the high priest, the prisoner shifted his gaze to the pillar that wasn't a pillar, but a ridiculously high throne of simple design.  Seated upon the white stone was an icon of something more than a man, something the local people called 'God' with unquestioning respect and fear.  Hard brown eyes, however, showed none of that respect when glancing over the body that appeared human in form and design: there was no third eye, no beams of light shining from his body, no angels hovering over his shoulders... The so-called sun god seemed nothing more than a common man on a rather precarious pedestal.

"And why has this prisoner been brought here?" the white-haired god asked in a bored tone, not quite hiding an inflection of disgust toward the task of dealing with the less civilized humans under his rule.

"He has committed most grievous sins, Lord Apollo," Bendix replied in a loud voice, ensuring that everyone in the spacious altar room could hear him.  "This demon, a mercenary of the Dark One himself, has invaded our country and murdered many of our brothers and sisters.  At least two churches have been bathed in blood and burned to ash by this mockery of a man.  And now we bring him before you in search of justice."

Sitting up straighter with apparent interest, Apollo gazed down at the prisoner and questioned in disbelief, "Are you suggesting that this man, without aid of any other person, brought ruin to two churches and the people within?"

"Most certainly, Holiness," Bendix answered with a slight bow of his head.

"Who is this man?"

"He has not spoken since his capture, so we have not confirmed his identity, but there is word that the people call him 'The Midnighter'."

Pink lips parted in minute surprise, mouthing a single syllable of the name before the god sharply closed off his expression.  "And his mask has not been removed?"

"I thought you would find it more... satisfying if you were granted the privilege to unmask him before his execution," Bendix said gently despite the feral curl of his lips.

Apollo frowned with a furrow of dark eyebrows before lifting from his high throne.  The prisoner watched with slightly widened eyes as the white-haired man didn't fall from the height of nearly fifteen feet, but instead hovered in complete control before effortlessly floating to the ground below.  The masked man hadn't accounted for a god-like human who could fly, but once allowing the demons to review their plans for the hundredth time, Midnighter felt assured that little had changed as long as Apollo was within reach for a few choice moments.

Long white robes trimmed in gold touched the marbled ground before slipper-covered feet rested on polished stone.  Shrugging aside the fabric around his shoulders, Apollo revealed the golden symbol of a solid circle within an upside-down triangle, representing how the god had left the sun and heavens to rule and protect the people of Sangrar.  He walked the remaining distance between him and the prisoner, each step a display of inhuman grace as his movements were touched by his ability to defy gravity.

Unmoving from his kneeling position, Midnighter matched his brown eyes against the bitter chill of blue as the god neared.  He should have seen his death in the sapphire eyes, but there was no time to waste on emotions that would have only served to hinder his actions.  Instead, Midnighter focused on keeping his shoulders firm in place while his hands shifted within their rope bindings.

"Midnighter," Apollo murmured in a thoughtful tone as he stopped in front of the darkly dressed man, his hands reaching forward with the intention to remove the leather mask.  "I suppose that is to mean 'a man who uses the midnight' as much as a painter uses his paint?"

Scoffing at the attempt to rationalize the glorified name, the prisoner argued, "I doubt logic was involved when someone first decided to call me that."

The white-haired deity jerked back his hands, startled by the unexpected and disrespectful reply.  "Very well, then what is your true name?"

"It won't matter in another moment."

"You'll die nameless," Apollo warned with a slight shimmer to blue eyes.

"Oh, I don't know about that."

Before the god could process the comment, Midnighter felt the ropes loosen from his wrists and thanked the true gods for the creation of idiot guardsmen who didn't know when they were being manipulated into tying a worthless knot.  He held tight onto one end of the rope while lifting up from his knees and moved his arms forward.  Not yet fully standing, Midnighter whipped the rope around Apollo's throat and caught the other end in his free hand before twisting around the larger body.  Apollo deftly wrapped his hands around the rope to prevent strangulation, and despite Midnighter's prediction of the deity's reaction, the darkly dressed man was still surprised when they abruptly lifted into the air as Apollo took flight.

The nearby wall came a lot quicker than Midnighter anticipated, the impact driving the air from his lungs and almost forcing him to release his hold on the rope.  Clinging onto consciousness, Midnighter wrapped both ends of the rope in one hand, freeing his other hand to slip through a tear in his black shirt.  Ragged fingernails clawed at stitches located at his upper arm, and before he was slammed against stone for a second time, he successfully retrieved the dark spike hidden within his flesh, the 'weapon' no bigger than a common carpenter's nail.

After absorbing another blow against white marble, Midnighter fisted his hand around the end of the small spike and swung his arm in a hard downward arc, aiming for the pale skin visible between the wrapping of rope around the deity's neck.  But an unexpected sharp turn of the sun god changed the angle of his strike, Midnighter instead driving his weapon just below the collarbone.  The scream that sounded reminded the man of a wounded animal, the sharp cry echoing against marble in the moment before Apollo abruptly broke the thick rope.  Midnighter released his hold on the rope before it could be use against him and pushed off from the broad back of the white-haired deity.  Hardly a second passed in freefall before he came to a sudden halt, the grip on his wrist nearly dislocating the arm from its socket.  Midnighter ignored the burning pain and instead gritted out a smirk as he swung his body back slightly and used the momentum forward to launch a kick into the sun god's groin.  It was most disappointing when Apollo only released a quiet grunt.

Using his hold on the bruised arm, Apollo tossed the man up into the air and waited until the right moment to land an uppercut beneath Midnighter's exposed chin.  His head snapped back from the sheer force of the strike, Midnighter couldn't protect himself as he was reunited with the wall for a final time.  His vision started to spin from the blow to his head, something aggravated by his uncontrolled fall from an unknown height, and despite the warning calls from the demons in his mind, he was unable to prepare himself for the impact against the high throne of the sun god.  Bouncing off a sharply carved armrest, Midnighter heard the unnatural crunch of his ribs before feeling that pain.  Swallowing his groan, he braced himself for the final drop of his journey, his body eventually making a loud slapping noise against marble as he landed face first.

Unable to move as his body tried to remember how to breathe, Midnighter ignored the numerous pains of his body and attempted to focus his eyes on his surroundings, which amounted to little more than feet covered in soft slippers.

"Kill him!" Bendix bellowed to the nearby Followers of Light.  When there was no sound from the minor priests, he added more strongly, "Kill him for disrespecting our blessed sun god!"

At the cautious movement of the priests, Midnighter adjusted his position slightly, nothing noticeable to the untrained eye, but enough to give the grounded man better range of movement to enact the plans whispered in his mind, most involving the removal of weapons from the pathetic men who thought they could use something with an edge.  Eyes closed, he counted the steps of those that dared to approach, ready to act at the correct moment and not a moment sooner.

"Wait."  All approach halted at Apollo's soft call, proving his greater presence compared to the high priest.

There was no sound for several moments, but Midnighter could feel the deity come closer, drifting in the air.  The clang of metal against stone drew the focus of brown eyes and he stared at the bloodied spike spinning in a lazy circle on the polished ground.  Without warning, Apollo dropped from his hovering perch and landed on top of the prone man, a foot solid against his battered head and a knee digging into his badly bruised side, the act forcing out the minimal amount of air Midnighter was able to regain in such a short time.

"Most men would have died from that fall," Apollo said casually as he took the man's arms and placed them against his back, pinning them in a one-handed hold.  "And no man has ever hurt me like this."

"Get off me and I'll let you experience it a second time," Midnighter growled in a harsh breath.

The god chuckled.  "I'm certain you would."

"Holiness," Bendix interjected, managing to sound concerned despite the impatient edge of his voice.  "This man is too dangerous to leave alive.  I urge you to grant him the punishment he deserves."

"Oh, he will be punished," Apollo agreed, his hold on wrists tightening to a near painful level.  "But not with death.  Death is too easy for a man like this one."

Surprised and more than a little confused by the reply, Midnighter tested his position and found no easy escape, at least no escape that would give him a worthwhile situation when death was no longer on the table.  Even the demons were singing at the chance of more opportunities to cause mayhem and murder, the other worldly creatures offering nothing to suggest escape from the sun god.  And when a large hand rested on top of his head, Midnighter didn't resist when he was lifted backward into an uncomfortable arch.

Eyes opened to mere slits, Midnighter gazed at the polished stone beneath him and silently promised the deity that every ounce of pain he felt at that moment would be returned ten-fold.

~ > < ~

The sound of low groans irritated Midnighter's deep headache, the pain dulling his already slowed thoughts until he came to the bothersome realization that the pathetic noises were coming from his own mouth.  With a curse at the trouble of being knocked unconscious, he took in a deep breath to stifle the additional groans that wanted to sound, but the action proved counterproductive when the strain placed additional pressure against cracked ribs and instigated a sharper moan.  At the harsh sound, the demons whispered to Midnighter in a rapid flurry, warning him that he wasn't alone and caution was advised.  Resisting a smirk at being told the obvious, Midnighter kept his eyes closed as he moved subtlety and tested his limits.  His arms were bound above his head in sturdy shackles and the jingle of thick metal sounded to his ears.  At the other end, his feet were similarly secured, but there was the addition of a cold metal bar that spread his legs to shoulder width and prevented any sideways movement, a disconcerting realization given the feel of silken fabric against bare skin.  But despite the disappearance of his clothing, Midnighter was more surprised at the comforting feel of leather over his face, his mask still in its proper place.

"Whenever you're ready, you can stop pretending to be unconscious."

Unmoving at the oddly light tone, Midnighter hesitated with indecision before slowly opening his eyes.  His vision blurry for the first few moments, Midnighter eventually focused his muddy brown eyes on the broad figure seated in front of a large window.  Apollo flashed a smile at the awakened prisoner, the bright expression something of an enigma from the fearsome sun god.

"How's the head?" Apollo asks, skillfully managing to fake a concerned voice.  "It took three good hits before you finally went out."

Midnighter offered an unsurprised grunt while using the opportunity to examine his surroundings.  Much like the altar room from before, the apparent bed chamber was cut from white marble and illuminated by sunlight from windows in all places, few shadows allowed to exist in the sun god's presence.  Decorations of gold and bronze covered the walls of the spacious room and bright green plants with white flowers filled the empty spaces between the paintings and sculptures.  All in all, it was a luxurious room suitable for a god and Midnighter despised every polished inch.

"Aren't you at all curious about your situation here?"

"Not particularly.  It's rather obvious what you have planned," Midnighter commented with a rattle of his shackled legs.  "Though it's quite pitiful that you couldn't land something prettier in this bed to satisfy yourself."

With a quiet chuckle, Apollo replied, "Actually, the pretty ones tend to break, so I thought I would try something a little different this time."  The deity stood from his chair and stepped to the bedside, every movement one of grace mixed with restrained power.  His hand placed at the wall behind the headboard, Apollo leaned over the chained man.  "Why did you try to kill me?"

"You deserve to die," Midnighter replied as he gazed up at the face above him.  He found it ridiculously cliché that the sun god had eyes that matched the color of the sky, but Midnighter could only relate the blue eyes to painted glass, false in color and bearing a sharp edge that could cut deeply without sound.

"I deserve to die," Apollo repeated in a faint murmur.  "Well, that's truly unfortunate."  Pushing back from the wall with the flex of his fingertips, the god glanced to the bedside table and at the silver tray overflowing with fruits and cheese.  "Do you desire any food or drink?"

Midnighter chuckled hoarsely.  "You seem to be stalling, sunshine.  Something wrong with your holy cock?"

"It could be a long night and I'd hate for you to faint from hunger," Apollo commented with an amused smile.

"Your concern is overwhelming, but I'm not interested in tasting poison today.  Maybe another time," the chained man replied drearily, increasingly suspicious of the deity's casual tone.  Apollo was a god, a holy creature in human form who held incredible powers, most Midnighter had assumed to be folklore until witnessing the man's ability to fly with an amount of control that no bird could mimic.  Few questioned Apollo's right to rule Sangrar, the small country well known for its plentiful and high quality harvests.  The people held the absolute belief that their 'gracious lord' was responsible for every grain of golden wheat and each drop of wine from fat grapes.  Blinded by their faith, they accepted the dictatorship of the god-like creature and tolerated the abuse at the hands of his priests, the Followers of Light.

Unclasping the light chain that held his robes in place, Apollo shrugged off the silky material and promptly reminded Midnighter of the muscular form hidden within the deceptively loose robes.  Dark crimson stained the white clothing that hugged the god's body, and unable to help himself, Midnighter stared at the angry black wound that stood out from Apollo's upper chest.

"You will be pleased to know that this still hurts," the deity said before removing his shirt to give a better view of the injury.  Located below a sharp collarbone, the gaping hole appeared infected as dark veins trailed from the single point and crawled along the broad chest that bore no other scar.  "It's no wonder the people of Sangrar fear 'The Midnighter' when you can cause this amount of damage with nothing more than a nail."

"Not damaging enough," Midnighter grumbled under his breath, his dark brown eyes focused on the blackened veins that appeared much like spider webs.  Within his mind, the demons purred at the proof that the sun god was weak to the black metal forged from the ore of the northern volcanoes.

Apollo offered a slight smirk to prove that he had heard the comment, but choose not to punish the bound man.  His remaining clothing removed without hurry, Apollo moved closer to the bedside and placed his fingertips along the dark leather of the man's mask, making certain to avoid the proximity of sharp teeth.

"Don't worry, I won't remove it," Apollo said as his pale blue eyes traced the lines of the mask and drifted lower to the visible chin bearing rough stubble.

Midnighter scowled at the assumption that he was worried about his mask and hidden identity, as if either were necessary to kill a man or god.

"I'm certain that you are still quite fearsome without the mask, but..." Apollo glanced down into brown eyes before explaining, "Things will be far more interesting this way."

Staring back into piercing blue, Midnighter listened to the demons speaking to him with various hopeless suggestions of escape, most including the loss of important limbs.  But within that monotony, a single voice could be barely heard, a young demon that questioned the motives of the white-haired god.  The stronger souls snickered at the naivety of the 'pup' before commenting on a new plan that involved a broken finger and using the exposed bone as a lock pick.  Suppressing a wince at the imagery sent with the suggestion, Midnighter thought to prod the meek voice and discover what had gained its attention when it came to the powerful deity.  Sensing that consideration, the cautious demon shrank back into the deeper parts of his mind, irritating Midnighter as precious time was lost and a large hand slipped between his legs.

With a controlled grip and the clang of metal chains, Midnighter was flipped onto his stomach, the new position stretching sore muscles and injured ribs.  Sneering at that pain, he didn't fight against the exposed position that served one primary purpose.  In the end, the body was little more than a tool to the prisoner, to be used and abused to the limit of its endurance.  As long as the mind remained whole and he could still take breath, there would always be time for revenge in the future without wasting energy in the present.

"You're being surprisingly docile," Apollo commented while moving to the end table and retrieving a small glass vial from the single drawer.

Midnighter eyed the clear vial and mentally listed the various types of poison that could be contained within.  "Frankly, I've seen bigger dicks than yours, so I'm not too concerned."

Apollo chuckled as he moved onto the bed and straddled the prone man.  "You don't seem the type to be looking in the first place."

"Every man's downfall begins with basic assumptions," Midnighter replied, his attention turned to the shackles binding his wrists and the chains threaded through a metal loop pierced into the stone headboard.  There was no obvious point of weakness in the chains or loop, but Midnighter was a patient man, able to wait and watch for the proper opportunity that would free him of the heavy shackles.

"A-ah, but you and I, we are more than mere men, aren't we?" Apollo said as the scent of sweet oil filled the air.

Before given the chance to decide if the comment should be worrisome, Midnighter was pulled back as far as chains would allow, which didn't account for much except for a slight bending of knees.  He felt heat before the slickness of the oiled cock touched skin, and without a spoken word, Apollo pushed himself deep into the hole unaccustomed to the thick and very solid invasion.  Midnighter jerked at his body's innate refusal of something going the wrong way into his anal passage, but the pull against chains only succeeded in angering his injured side.

Apollo groaned within a harsh laugh as he wrapped a muscular arm around the prisoner's waist.  His other hand, wet with oil, slid across the prisoner's scarred and lightly furred chest, strong fingers eventually wrapping around Midnighter's throat.  Small testing thrusts enflamed every inch that the cock touched, causing the first beads of sweat to form beneath the leather mask.  Too soon the sounds of flesh against flesh echoed within the room of marble, each thrust hard and unforgiving out of either simple cruelty or the knowledge that the prisoner could handle the abuse.  The large hand at his throat squeezed tightly to the point of bruising, but oddly not constricting.  No, Midnighter could breathe every breath and maintain clarity of mind as he was soundly fucked by the sun god he had failed to assassinate. 

He counted each thrust to remember how many times he would have to return the favor with a suitably sharp object.

The arm at his waist tightened as Apollo lifted forward and spoke in a hoarse whisper, "Endure this."

Midnighter twisted in the attempt to glare at the deity for the apparent pep talk, but Apollo had already lifted back to increase the rhythm of his thrusts.

"That's right," Apollo encouraged in a different tone entirely, playful and crude compared to the soft whisper, "Fight as long as you can.  Exhaust your pride to the end and let me taste the sweetness of your final surrender."

His sharp teeth clenched at the increased force against his body, Midnighter glared into the mattress with a shielded gleam to his eyes.  Something was wrong, something vague and uncertain like the taste of spit in the beer served from an angered wench.  But in his mind, none of the demons seemed to place much credence on the human's feeling of wrongness.  None of the demons except perhaps the youngest imp still hidden within the darkest corners of his mind, out of reach, but still felt.

The session of rape lasted too long, Midnighter feeling the wetness of blood down his thighs long before the heat of the god's final release burned within his body.  Apollo simply breathed with his orgasm, and what should have been a sound of satisfaction was replaced by a groan of relief as if finishing a distasteful task.  The heated hand around Midnighter's throat tightened to the brief point of strangling, but then promptly pulled away with the light scratching of fingernails.  Released from strong arms, Midnighter dropped fully to the mattress and Apollo drew away from the sweaty and bruised body.

Without word or action toward the prisoner, Apollo moved hurriedly from the bed and reached for his discarded clothing, dressing in the torn and stained material despite his soiled state.  He nearly walked away once dressed, but gave into a second thought as something was grabbed from the bedside table.  Midnighter started when something fell onto his face and he retreated far enough to recognize the bunch of grapes resting on the pillow.

"Eat them when you're hungry enough to not care if they're poisoned," Apollo stated as he walked to the same window he had been seated next to when Midnighter had first wakened.  The glass pane moved aside, Apollo placed a foot on the windowsill and launched out into open air.

Staring at the open window, Midnighter frowned at the sunlight that had been given free passage inside.  He then shifted his irritated gaze to the deep purple grapes that rested innocently next to his face, taunting him with the sweetness he knew laid within.  Using his teeth, Midnighter grabbed the top branch of the bunch and tossed the fruit to the other side of the bed, out of reach for the chained man and a safe distance away from temptation.  Lying sore and burnt by the deity's touch, Midnighter watched the dance of sunlight along the fat grapes.  He wasn't hungry, a gift from the demons contained within his body, but it didn't dull his tongue's desire to taste.

Lost in those memories of the simple things sacrificed in his life, Midnighter almost missed the sound of a low grunt.


Muddy brown eyes didn't shift immediately, Midnighter instead glancing more casually around the unfamiliar room.  With the help of the demons accustomed to hiding in dark places, it wasn't difficult to locate one of many small rectangular vents in the wall that held the purpose to circulate air in the expansive room.  The vent hidden behind a potted tree, however, wouldn't perform its intended function with the obstruction of a hand that was barely visible behind the grate.  Fighting against a sneer, the prisoner made certain to not place too much attention on the observation point, though he did enjoy a brief fantasy about reaching through that wall to strangle the man who had dared to watch the violation of his body, and given the pitch of the grunt, most likely found enjoyment in the private viewing.

Once soothed by the imagery of murdering the faceless observer, Midnighter abruptly realized what it meant to be watched.  Apollo was a god, a holy creature beyond the necessity of protection, and even if Apollo were to find himself in trouble, there was a thick stone wall in place to prevent the observer from acting within a decent response time.  The stench of wrongness assaulted Midnighter for a second time.  With increased focus, he reached inside his mind and called to the youngest demon with the question of what it knew.  Without leaving the shadows, the imp replied with an emotion of uncertainty and a vague belief that the older demons immediately mocked once suggested:

Apollo wished for death.

Dark eyes snapped open at the impossible idea, but glancing to the open window and recalling the whispered words to 'endure this', Midnighter knew it wasn't a consideration that could be completely discarded.  It wasn't a rational choice to spare the life of an assassin.  Further more, it was perhaps proof of insanity that Apollo freely chose to bed the only man who had managed to mark the pale body which resembled the marble that surrounded the god at every step.

While a curious theory indeed, Midnighter had no desire to act without solid evidence about the god's state of mind.  Unfortunately, with the eyes of others upon them, Midnighter wasn't certain if direct communication with Apollo would be possible without interference.  At that realization, the prisoner smirked lightly into his pillow, interested at the thought that the chickens were watching their cock, fearful of his desertion, or worse, his opposition.  Feeling the sweat dry beneath his mask, Midnighter abruptly recalled the god's comment about why he was allowed to keep his disguise.

His smirk widening into something toothy, the prisoner silently promised to make things more interesting for Apollo, one way or another.

The days after that first day went by slowly with too much time to think and no single chance for action.  Midnighter found it particularly annoying when the demons in his mind had succumbed to boredom and decided to be even more creative with their impossible plans for escape.  The day previous, he had been at the brink of considering the broken finger trick, but sanity had come soon after the fleeting notion and he reluctantly chose the slow path to freedom.  Despite rough sessions of rape, Midnighter's body had started the healing process which was amplified by the power of the demons trapped within his human vessel.  Still, he faked the strain of pain when he flipped himself over as if searching for a comfortable position, and then returned to his stomach to complete the full circle.  The ring of metal squeaked vaguely, the first sound after nearly a day of twisting and turning on the bed.  It was a beautiful sound.

The sudden click of an undone lock reached Midnighter's ears and he went still at the familiar rhythm of soft footsteps.  Apollo soon appeared at the archway that separated the two rooms, but his face wasn't directly visible given his hand buried in his long white hair that curled at the very tips.  Midnighter gazed at the god-like creature, guardedly interested in the man who took his body every night and occasionally in the mornings.  Like the harsh words spoken by soft lips, the actions seemed forced and wrong and Midnighter had to know why.

A frustrated sound came from the sun god as his fingers clawed into silky hair and his hand reluctantly fell to his side before he directed clear blue eyes toward the prisoner.  Exhaustion was visible across pale skin, an expression that didn't suit a supposedly immortal being.  Midnighter felt the temptation to mock the deity, but before the words could form, sapphire eyes abruptly sharpened and pink lips curled into an amused smile.

"You've been busy," Apollo commented as he stepped to the bedside.

"I'm chained to your bed - I'd hardly call anything I could do as productive," Midnighter lashed back, irritated that his scheme to simply unscrew the metal loop had been caught before any real success.

Apollo gazed at the loop briefly before bending down and retrieving slices of apple from the ground.  "When will you believe me that there's no gain from poisoning you at this point?  You haven't eaten in days and I'm tired of cleaning your messes."

Thrown off guard by the question that had nothing to do with the damage to the metal loop, Midnighter stared into bright eyes.  "I'll believe you after you're dead."

His laughter light and pleased, Apollo tossed the discarded fruit onto the bedside table.  "Perhaps I should attempt to poison you, maybe with the aphrodisiacs that the slave-runners favor these days.  You don't seem to mind the abuse to your body, but if your body was to respond to my touch... that would be unacceptable, hmm?"

Midnighter shrugged, his indifference stealing some of the light from the sun god's gaze.

"Undefeated to the last breath," Apollo said softly as he reached out and placed a heated hand against the man's side covered in yellow bruises.  After prodding the ribs beneath discolored skin, he released a soft sigh that sounded a touch too much like, 'Stupid'.

"What do you want with me?" Midnighter asked abruptly, trying to add a pained edge to his voice given the reality that his injured side should not have been so far along with the healing process.

Pale eyes shifted toward the observation hole, but long white hair shielded the quick glance before Apollo closed his eyes and breathed deeply.  "I want to use you."

Midnighter growled, "And you've certainly been doing that."

"To a point, but not to the full extent of my desires," Apollo said as he moved his heated hand across the prisoner's torso, his fingertips trailing along the numerous scars with an examining touch.  "What would it take for you to dress in white and silver?"

"I'd sooner shit on the uniform before wearing it," Midnighter replied to the implied offer of becoming a soldier loyal to the sun god.

Pink lips quirked into an oddly pleased smile.  "We shall see if it comes to that."

With no verbal argument to offer, Midnighter focused a defiant glare at the deity, one that Apollo met with an easy shine to his azure eyes.  Without breaking that gaze, Apollo sat on the edge of the mattress next to legs stained with blood and placed a supporting hand next to the prisoner's bruised side.  Brown eyes darkened with a sharp edge as Midnighter watched the god bend down slowly with singular intent.  Denial first flashed in his mind, Midnighter certain that the deity was playing a new mind game, but when silken white hair brushed across his thighs, the prisoner drew his hands into tight fists and focused on the sensation of ragged fingernails biting into his palms.

With a flash of white teeth, Apollo nipped at the side of the flaccid penis, the sharp sensation of pain distracting Midnighter to the point that he didn't notice the movement of long fingers, the soft digits soon massaging behind his vulnerable sack.  The subtle caress of pleasure within the hurt wasn't expected, the god previously focused on his own satisfaction when it came to sex.  Occasionally there had been a stray hand that would stroke the prisoner's cock, but not with the proper amount of attention to make it responsive, and certainly not with the same amount of attention it was currently receiving from a heavy tongue and wandering fingers.

Apollo hummed lightly against the beginnings of arousal.  "So it does live."

Midnighter bit back his acrid words that any dog with a tongue could arouse a healthy man, not wanting to give the god any suggestions of future torment.  Instead, he watched Apollo work along his hardening cock and hated the way sunlight caressed the pale face with every movement.  A god wasn't allowed to lower himself to the level of men and certainly not to the level of a man's dick, but Apollo seemed unbothered by the taste of common flesh, sweat, and blood.  And when pink lips parted wide to accept the entirety of the prisoner's length, Midnighter relaxed the strength of his clenched fists and chose to stop fighting against the sensations that would reasonably stop at any moment to leave him high and dry.

With a smirk and a shameless jerk of his hips, Midnighter found it amusing that the sun god wasn't overly skillful in the art of sucking another man's cock.  Granted, Apollo could hold his breath for a long time, but Midnighter decided that the heavy tongue could have been more dexterous around his average girth.  Even so, after days of sex without pleasure and general frustration over his situation, Midnighter let himself fall away with the sensations, no longer listening to the demons nor his own critical thoughts.

It was supposed to be brief.  It was supposed to end with Apollo denying him release and leaving him without the proper means to find satisfaction while chained.  It was supposed to lead to nothing.

So it came as a mild surprise when Midnighter felt fingers slip deep into him and stroke the sensitive spot within his anal passage, Apollo coaxing the prisoner's release to the last.  In the end, it didn't take much encouragement.  As the burn of pleasure coursed through every vein of his body, Midnighter allowed himself a low groan that rumbled in his chest.  His dry lips eventually curled into a smug smirk, Midnighter feeling incredibly pleased with the god's foolhardiness to assume that he would be humiliated at the bodily release from the deity's ministrations.

But Apollo said nothing when he pulled back and wiped the corners of his flushed lips.  He glanced up at Midnighter, blue eyes having the appearance of shattered glass in the moment before Apollo stood from the mattress and turned his back to the prisoner.  In a common turn of events, Apollo then strode to the large window at the far end of the room and launched into open air, most likely not to be seen again until morning.

Still loose from the aftereffects of his orgasm, Midnighter reached inside his mind and immersed himself in the dark world of the demons trapped there.  They whispered to him, no longer so certain that the god-like creature was everything he seemed, but Midnighter hardly heard the words.  Instead his thoughts lingered on the image of bright sapphire that reflected the broken soul within the solid body.

For the blessed sun god to reveal that much, Midnighter felt something was on the horizon, something... interesting.

Resting in a light doze, the bound man almost missed the click of a door and the soft whisper of approaching feet.  Two days had passed since the sun god's last visit, and despite himself, Midnighter had felt anxious without the presence of the white-haired deity.  Apollo entered the bed chamber with a broad smile, a pristine uniform draped over his arm, and a drawstring bag swinging from his hand.  Dark eyes narrowed at the sight of utter cheerfulness that radiated from the man's face.

"Blessed Mete to you, mercenary of the Dark One," Apollo announced as he meticulously placed the uniform over the back of a chair.

Midnighter scowled at the mention of the yearly festival that took place on the longest day of the year.  It was an event to honor the sun god at his strongest, a rather hedonistic day filled with feasts from the first great harvest, sex to procreate children blessed by the sunlight, and other less 'wholesome' activities by the younger generations.

"Tonight we shall celebrate," Apollo said as he brushed imaginary lint from white cloth.  "And I will have you in this uniform before the night is out, but not as my follower."

His face passive beneath his mask, Midnighter didn't reflect the amount of commotion that had erupted in his mind, the demons excited at the prospect that the chains would have to be undone for the god to dress Midnighter in the uniform reserved for officers amongst the Followers of Light.

"Unfortunately, my presence is required at the main events.  Even you would be impressed with the amount of alcohol waiting in the courtyard, a gift from me to my loyal priests and soldiers.  Everyone within these walls have been requested to join me in celebration."

Muddy brown eyes watched the movement of the sun god, his thoughts moving too fast with every word spoken.  He resisted the urge to look at the observation hole, wanting to know if the man was there or if he had scurried away at the first mention of spirits from the sun god's precious collection.

"I have a present for you," Apollo practically purred while taking a seat at the edge of the mattress.  Opening the drawstring bag, he reached inside to reveal a large anal plug made of dark polished wood.  His hand wrapped around the handle of the toy, Apollo smiled sympathetically at his prisoner.  "I know you'll miss me and I want to make certain you're adequately prepared for tonight.  It's large, but I think you can handle it just fine."

While unafraid of the pain, Midnighter wasn't looking forward to having the object within him over several hours.  It was oddly shaped compared to the ones he had seen in whore houses, overly long at easily a foot in length including the handle.  But with thoughts focused on the chance of escaping his chains, the masked man wasn't about to become difficult.

Pale fingers placed sweet smelling oil along the smooth wood, Apollo covering every inch with a careful touch.  Without flipping over the prisoner, Apollo met the stern gaze of dark brown and lowered the wooden toy to the hole that had healed after two days of rest.  While slow, the plug was entered without pause until seated fully within the tight passage and the ring of muscles clenched around the long handle.  Midnighter forced deep breaths at the invasion, hating the beads of sweat that had formed beneath his leather mask.

"Good boy," Apollo whispered in a familiar tone, the same voice that had told him to 'endure this'.  "And now I must leave you."

The god placed a supportive hand next to Midnighter's side before he leaned forward.  Fine long hair caressed scarred skin as Apollo bent low to run a heavy tongue at the dip in the man's throat.  Midnighter reflexively jerked back, but chains gave him no room for movement as the deity's free hand grabbed his upper arm and rubbed something hard and sharp across his skin as the hand drifted upward.  The large hand soon tangled in his, forcing his fingers open to place that small object into his hold.

It wasn't difficult to recognize the feel of a key in his hand.

Teeth abruptly bit his throat, causing another clatter of chains as Midnighter arched against the unexpected attack.  The sharp hold didn't last long before Apollo pushed up from the mattress with a lick of his lips, a drop of bright blood highlighting the pink hue.  Eyes of shining blue gazed downward while his long fingers caressed the abused skin of Midnighter's neck, Apollo lingering for nearly a minute before speaking.

"Well then, until tonight."

Midnighter watched the god's back as he walked away, Apollo forgoing his typical exit by the window.  Shoulders firm and head high, the god had no appearance of someone who had just assured his own death by the hands of his assassin.  The demons warned of the chances that it was a trap, that there was no understandable reason for the sun god to destroy himself and his people.  Midnighter grinned at the obvious consideration, but he was more interested in the secrets behind the gaze of blue glass, obscured but still there with discreet radiance.  And he would have his answers.

Knowing better than to give into the excitement for the hunt, Midnighter listened carefully for the eventual sound of shuffling feet, his watcher finally bored with the chain-bound man when there were festivities to enjoy.  Once truly alone, he began work on his shackles, nearly losing his hold on the small key during his first attempt to reach for the keyhole.  With one shackle free and no sound of alarm ringing in his ears, Midnighter smiled with a show of a fanged tooth and promptly got to work on the rest of his restraints.

Once freed from chains, he bent carefully to grab the handle protruding from his body.  He winced at the first jerk of the wooden toy, and then released a sigh at the decreased pressure within his body.  After glowering at the object, he nearly tossed it aside before eyeing the long handle and deciding that it would be useful before he stumbled upon a real weapon.  Unscrewing the top portion, Midnighter pulled the handle free... and gawked at the dark blade that came with the wooden shaft.

Fingering the revealed five-inch blade, it didn't take long to identify the material as the same dark metal of his lost spike.  Metal that could injure and potentially kill the god-like creature.  Hidden within a sex toy.  A sex toy Apollo had gently forced into his body.  Midnighter nearly laughed at the idiocy of it all.

The blade held in a loose hand, Midnighter slipped off the mattress and stepped gingerly to the chair holding the white uniform.  He glared at the material as if it had personally offended him in some fashion, hating that he couldn't rely on his normal tactics when wearing the bright clothing.  But when shadows were constantly chased away from the sun god's presence, it was reasonable that other methods of camouflage were required.

Before dressing, Midnighter glanced back at the bed and considered taking the chains with him as well, but feared that it would draw too much attention both in sight and sound.  Dark eyes then settled on the sight of the discarded drawstring bag and the tip of the anal plug left on the mattress.

He smiled.

"Have you taken care of that murderer yet?"

One hand firm at the railing of the balcony and his other hand wrapped around the stem of a wine glass, Apollo ignored the question from his high priest and instead focused on the numerous priests and soldiers enjoying their wine and ale with true flourish.  The man of long white hair was dressed in a bright golden robe with his usual outfit beneath the loose material, appearing much like a god watching over his followers from afar: watching and searching for the wolf amongst the sheep, but doing nothing to prevent the disaster he knew was about to come.

"Holiness," Bendix growled before lowering his voice beneath the noise of the crowd.  "I allowed you to keep him as a toy, but enough is enough.  He knows of your weakness to the metals from the volcano, he proved that he can escape his restraints, and he will assassinate you when the time comes."

"Concerned for my life, Bendix?" Apollo asked with a smile, raising his glass to the latest toast that was ringing out amongst those celebrating.

His scowl transforming into a vicious grin, the high priest responded, "Indeed, but if your life was to be lost, then we have... other plans."

Apollo didn't react to the common threat from the bald man, his spirit comforted by the thought that those 'other plans' would never take form.  Not when the man named 'The Midnighter' was free and as healthy as could be expected given his previous injuries.  Closing his eyes while sipping pale wine, Apollo envisioned the dark brown eyes that would gaze beyond the mask of black leather, sharp and intelligent despite the hopelessness of his situation.

The first cries of murder rang out to an inebriated crowd who didn't understand the concept of death during a holy festival.  Then a familiar soldier stumbled out into the courtyard, his blade and right hand missing.  It took Apollo a moment to recognize the face, but a memory of the pushy guard eventually came to mind, a stupid man who had taken advantage of the bounded and injured Midnighter.  Apollo smirked at the mercenary's taste for revenge.

A hand pushed at his chest and Apollo abruptly realized that Bendix was calling for soldiers to lock down the altar room and protect their god no matter the cost.  There were yells that men were injured beyond the archway and needed help, but those calls were ignored as a heavy metal door dropped down from the ceiling behind the archway and closed off the room from outsiders.  Unfortunate for them, the remaining fifteen or so soldiers had no knowledge that the true outsider looked like one of them.

One man dropped with hardly a cry, but enough saw the swipe of a dark blade and the spurt of blood for them to identify the murderer in their midst - a man of reddish-brown hair and a wicked smile.  Apollo watched with rapt fascination as the uniformed man danced like death through the crowd of soldiers, reaping mortals with every slash of his small blade while dodging the far slower attacks against his own body.

The assassin's smile was beautiful.

"Kill him you fool!"

Azure eyes glanced at the red-faced priest at his side, Bendix rarely showing his rage in front of the common men who had no understanding of the real power behind the Followers of Light.

"He would kill us all!" the high priest insisted with a dark intensity in his eyes.

Apollo crossed his arms over his chest and smiled softly.  "I do hope not all of us."

Eyes wide in understanding, Bendix demanded, "Imbecile, you think that he'll let you live while the rest of us die?"

"Oh, I highly doubt that.  After all, his original intention was to assassinate me.  I don't see a reason for that to change."

Questions were visible in the priest's expression, but the intelligent man shook his head with the decision that the answers of how and why wouldn't matter in the end.  "You won't fight him?"


Bendix grinned a lopsided smile.  "I always knew you were more trouble than you were worth."

Despite the knowledge of what was to come, that Bendix was about to invoke his death, Apollo stood in place and let his eyes drift to the massacre of both men and a few women within the once sacred altar room.  He felt it a pity that he couldn't properly see the mercenary during his final moments, and with the first word of the curse spoken in Bendix's baritone voice, Apollo closed his eyes, the only display of the excruciating pain that lanced through his spine and body.

"Tradere e dis'licht -- mhft!"

At the muffled and undignified cry, azure eyes snapped open wide to find Bendix held at knife point and something jammed quite painfully into his mouth.  It took only a moment longer for Apollo to recognize the top piece of the wooden sex toy that he had left within the mercenary, and while noting the pained tears pooled at the corner of fearful eyes, Apollo felt great pride in his assassin to find another use for the damned thing.

"We meet again, Bendix," Midnighter said in a gravelly voice that seemed out of place when it came to the unmasked man.  Short reddish-brown hair was flat against his head from the discarded hood, the strands wet with sweat and blood.  Muddy brown eyes flashed with dark shadows and murderous intent, the deadly emotion reflected in the man's fanged smile.

A muffled word sounding much like 'who' came from the high priest before he was shoved against the nearest wall and given his first real view of the assassin.  By the look in his eyes, Bendix didn't like what he saw.

"Recognize me now, you piece of shit?" Midnighter asked as he leaned in close, the dark blade cutting into the priest's throat.  "Oh yes, I'm still alive.  Next time you tell your minions to kill a man, you may want to stick around and make certain they finish the job.  But wait, there isn't going to be a next time for you."

Angered muffles sounded, the man arguing something intensely despite the blade held against his throat.

Midnighter laughed loudly at the words only he seemed to understand.  "Actually, those demons are my close friends now.  They like it when I kill things."

Bendix tried to form more words around the plug jammed against his teeth, something that only served to irritate the man in front of him.

"Enough," Midnighter intoned before swiping his blade across the priest's throat, showering his white uniform with more fresh blood.  He turned away from the dying man without second glance and focused his dark eyes on the unmoving sun god.  "You planned this."

Reluctantly moving his eyes from Bendix and the bright blood flooding down the man's chest, Apollo met the assassin's hard gaze with a smile.  "I'm pleased you found the blade.  I was worried you wouldn't think to look inside the toy."

Midnighter narrowed his eyes at the casual reply.  "Why choose me?"

"Because bad things have been happening under my name, things out of my control.  A cleansing was necessary and I've heard the stories that you're a demon who can tell the difference between the guilty and innocent with only a glance."  Blue eyes drifted to the mass of slaughtered guardsmen, interested to find one young man who was groaning quietly without a visible mortal wound.

"Out of your control?" Midnighter sneered.  "You could've handled this shit yourself, or did you not want to dirty your pretty little hands?"

Unbothered by the question, Apollo lifted his hands slowly, careful to not startle the assassin with fast movements while he removed his golden robes.  As the silk fluttered to the ground, he continued to remove the shirt bearing the golden emblem that was nothing more than a pretty lie.  He felt the man's harsh gaze follow the lines of his revealed muscles and particularly settle on the dark scar that remained and would always remain from Midnighter's attack with a spike.  Smiling at the angered stare, Apollo turned to show his bare backside to the assassin, unbothered by the vulnerable position in front of the dangerous man.

From the base of his neck and down along his spine, black scripture stood out from the pale skin like charcoal on snow.

"I can be killed by anyone who invokes the curse, just as Bendix was about to do before you interrupted.  All of the higher priests know the words with the direction to kill me whenever necessary."  Uninvited, wet fingers brushed along part of the scripture, Apollo shivering at the touch of cooled blood against his skin before he added, "It also keeps me trapped here, unable to leave the gates surrounding this temple."

Rough fingers pulled away from soft skin.  "Why rape me?"

Apollo made to turn around for his reply, but the assassin quickly placed a hand at his bare shoulder, preventing the move.  Disappointed, but unresisting, Apollo told him, "I was... surprised by your attack on that first day and acted too strongly.  Injured as you were, I couldn't send you back to the prisons for the guards to worsen your condition.  'Punishing' you in my bed was the only way I could watch over you and help you heal.  But they watch me all of the time and I had to make it real."

Midnighter grunted in a fashion that suggested he knew about that observation, something that surprised the sun god, but not too much.  The assassin seemed to understand a lot more than what the common man could process.

The sound of a blade being wiped on fabric reached Apollo's ears, encouraging him to ask, "You won't let me face you when you take my life?"

There was nothing but silence for a long moment, and then Midnighter leaned in close to whisper, "Endure this."

Blue eyes wide at the words, Apollo had no opportunity to react further as the dark blade cut into the flesh of his back, his mind clouded by pain and poison before he fell, never feeling the strike of marble against his body.

Darkness covered Apollo, stealing his strength and seeping into his body such that he choked on the syrupy thickness.  He felt the breath of Death as the red-eyed creature hovered over him, waiting to take his soul from his dying body, but something kept the spirit at bay.  Something cold and equally as dark as the shadows that were slowly suffocating him.  Then warmth crept passed the darkness, rubbing his chest and throat with a rough edge that forced away those shadows that wanted to extinguish the light within his heart and soul.

As the darkness gradually receded to that greater power, Apollo found it distressing when numbness faded to be replaced by pain that raced throughout his body, increasing to levels never before experienced.  It quickly became tempting to make a deal with Death, anything to make it stop.  But even with that thought, he knew that there was one person more fearsome than Death and he didn't want to assume what punishment he would suffer for disappointing the Dark One's chosen mercenary.

Enduring the pain associated with his choice to live, Apollo eventually remembered how to open his eyes.  Sunlight immediately burned his weakened vision, but he welcomed it all the same.  Anything to chase away the darkness that had wanted to take his life.

Gradually growing accustomed to the light, Apollo studied his surroundings to recognize nothing more than dark rock.  A cavern of sorts, apparently, most likely located in the mountains west of the capital.  Lying on his stomach, Apollo had been placed a good distance from the wide entrance of the cave, but well within the healing light of the sun.  The smell of leather and dust teased his nose, his pillow a folded jacket that had seen better days.  Attempting to move, Apollo cried out at the severe pain across his back, it feeling much like daggers stabbing repeatedly into the vulnerable flesh.

"Idiot.  I hope that hurt."

Startled, Apollo looked in the direction of the voice, straining his injured back for a second time.

"For crying out loud," the voice grumbled as booted footstep came near, a man dressed in dark clothing soon kneeling in front of him.

"Midnighter," Apollo breathed at the sight of the assassin, the man's black mask back in place as dark eyes stared down.  "You... You didn't kill...?"

The man grinned at the half-formed question.  "Oh, but I did.  I murdered the sun god who reigned over those blind fools, just as I planned."

Feeling very much alive and rather confused, Apollo said, "I don't understand."

"Then listen closely.  For the sake of my mission, I allowed myself to become a prisoner to gain entrance into the Temple of Radiant Light.  You see, I decided to kill the sun god who had descended from the skies and placed this country under the rule of men with little dicks and the desire to kick around people who are just trying to survive in this damned world.  In front of the eyes of an innocent, I cut down that god within his own sacred shrine.  The god died, but I think I managed to save the man."

Apollo nearly shook his head, but then gave it better thought as his neck protested the movement.  "No.  While I'm no god, I'm also not a man."

"Then we have something in common," Midnighter said as he reached over and moved long hair to better see the injured backside.  "Good, you didn't rip out any of my handiwork.  I would've made you suffer if you had ruined such beautiful stitching."

"I still don't understand.  What did you do?"

"Destroyed your chains," the assassin stated with a proud inflection.  "Before we met in the altar room, I ran into one of the more ancient priests and had a really nice chat with him.  You'd think someone so old wouldn't be afraid of death, but the bastard was happy to tell me anything to avoid my blade.  In fact, he was talking so much that I had to shut him up by slicing his throat.  A bit ironic that one."

Blue eyes shifting in thought, Apollo asked in surprise, "Then you already knew about the curse?"

Midnighter replied with an affirmative hum.  "It was a bit of a shock that you chose to tell me yourself and let me see the words of the curse that I could have easily invoked to destroy you."

A small laugh sounded, echoing within the cavern.  "I expected to die by your hand.  The means didn't matter much."

"In any case, the old man told me that obscuring the physical writings of the curse would severely weakened its strength and its ability to keep you within the walls of the temple.  Knowing of how your body reacts to dark metal, I decided to split the writings down the middle with the blade you gifted to me, deep enough that the scarred flesh will never show the scripture again."

"But even weakened, the curse still exists within me," Apollo pointed out.  "And you know the words."

"Is there a problem with that?"

Pink lips eventually formed a small, tired smile.  "I can't think of any."

"Good," Midnighter replied as he stepped aside briefly, returning with a bunch of grapes resting in his gloved hand.  At the surprised look to blue eyes, the man commented, "You seem to have a fondness for fruit."

"I wasn't allowed much as a child, when they changed me into... whatever I am," Apollo said, pleased with the knowledge that the mercenary before him never saw him as a true god.  Just a man who could fly.  "Nothing has ever tasted as sweet as my first bite into a grape."

Midnighter hummed thoughtfully as he rolled a red grape between his thumb and finger.  "Well, then this may be a little disappointing for you."

As the piece of fruit was offered to him, Apollo thought to argue, but instead chose a more productive use of his mouth.  With a slight stretch of his neck, he used his tongue and lips to grab onto the small fruit and draw it into his mouth.  The first bite caused a squirt of juice to land on the open palm, a sweetness that he immediately lapped from the dark leather.

"Gods," Midnighter breathed in a partial laugh.  Turning his hand, he cupped the firm chin and brushed his thumb along pink lips.  "Are you trying to seduce me?  Do you think I'll make things easier on you if you offered yourself like this?"

Apollo said nothing while chewing slowly on the grape that tasted faintly of leather, interested in the unusual mixture.

"Two thousand and fifty-three."

His smile lost to confusion, Apollo gazed up at the masked face.

"That's how many times you jabbed your cock in and out of my ass," Midnighter stated as he removed his hand from pale skin and plucked a second grape from its branch.

Reluctantly taking the fruit into his mouth, the white-haired man said, "You deserve your revenge."

The assassin grunted in a wordless statement that he understood perfectly well what he deserved.  A third grape was plucked and offered before a grumbling murmur left the thin lips of the mercenary, completely incomprehensible except for the word "terrible" spoken with a questioning edge.

"What was that again?" Apollo asked, his bright sapphire gaze focused on the muddy brown eyes surrounded by black leather.

Noting that gaze, Midnighter moved sharply to his feet and stepped away from the prone man.  He stopped at the entrance of the cavern, pausing there before he finally spoke.  "You always flew off the moment after you were done with me, like I was a diseased whore you couldn't bare to touch.  I know your thoughts, so don't bother toying with me now."

Beyond stunned at the wholly... human emotion reflected in the gravelly voice, Apollo didn't have an immediate response as he stared at the broad back concealed in black cloth, hiding the bruised and scarred skin that lied beneath.  When able to react, the pale-haired man struggled onto his forearms despite the pain, needing to gain some height relative to the assassin.

"If you know my thoughts, then tell me why it was so damned easy to do what I did.  How could I know who you were, trust you to cleanse the darkness from the light, and still be able to rape you with a perfectly willing cock?  How was that possible?" Apollo demanded, hating the way his voice cracked ever so slightly, a crack the mercenary would easily notice.

"Because you did what was required," Midnighter replied in a dead tone.

"... No.  No, I'm not like you.  It's because I couldn't do what was necessary that I placed everything on your shoulders.  Everything..."

His frustrated voice ringing within the walls of the cavern, Apollo closed his eyes and tried to figure out what he even wanted from the dark mercenary.  The man owed him nothing, and yet something within him needed more from the assassin - sarcastic answers, reluctant protection, burning cold touch - things that he didn't deserve in any form.

Midnighter turned and approached the prone man, his slow steps grinding along the bits of gravel covering the cavern floor.  Apollo heard the creak of leather pants as the man knelt in front of him, but didn't open his eyes until a gloved hand caressed his cheek.  Staring up into dark eyes, the white-haired man couldn't discover anything of the man's intentions within the harsh depths.

"Sunlight, marble, and glass."

Apollo's gaze narrowed in confusion, the sight of which making Midnighter smirk.

"It's everything you are - a soul made of sunlight's radiance, a body built from the purest marble, and a heart as fragile as glass.  It's no wonder you made a shitty god."

The statement allowed for no reply, Apollo dumbfounded as he stared at the masked face that inspired fear from the wiser folk of the country.  Meanwhile, Apollo could only see muddy brown eyes that would flicker with inner darkness, a stubble-roughened cheek that spoke of days of neglect, and broad shoulders that lacked the protection of a leather jacket.

Midnighter pulled away, his hand lingering a fraction too long.  "You shouldn't strain yourself.  The sun shines in here for only another hour or so."

Reluctantly happy to obey the demand to rest, Apollo lowered gently from his perch on sore forearms and rested his head once again on the folded jacket that was his pillow.

"You won't see me for awhile," and with the simple announcement, Midnighter walked out from the cave without a glance backward.

Pale eyes closed and his body stiff, Apollo tried not to make any sound while cold salve was applied to his back with a clinical touch.  After a week beneath the summer sun, the deep slice along his spine had healed to the point that movement was possible without sharp agony, a pain that Apollo had once envisioned as tiny angry men with spears attacking his vulnerable back, though a high fever had been responsible for that particular hallucination.

"Stop twitching," Midnighter grumbled while moving lower.

After the final inch had been treated, strong hands lacking thick gloves remained on pale skin.  Though the only purpose of the chilled touch was to examine the mending wound, Apollo found himself energized by the firm press of fingers, the same fingers that would feed him grapes and occasionally the rare piece of white cheese.  It was difficult to not want more.

"Everything looks as good as can be expected," Midnighter stated as he pulled his hands away, much to the disappointment of his patient.  "You can move now."

Glancing back over his shoulder at the terse permission, Apollo wondered in surprise if the dark man thought his tense state was merely from the anxiousness of sitting in one place too long.  Unashamed at the easy excuse, he whispered his thanks while standing onto unsteady legs, his muscles unaccustomed to supporting his weight over the days of resting and healing.  Brushing a hand through his tangled hair, Apollo glanced in the direction of the cave entrance and noted the softer blue color of the sky, the thin clouds calling to him with their sweet song.

Despite his lacking shirt and his stained pants being made of thin material, Apollo made his way to the wide entrance, his feet already drifting from the hard ground with each step.

"It wouldn't be smart to do that."

Apollo smiled at the cautionary warning, pleased that Midnighter wasn't being more assertive with denying him the sky.  The light outside was young, the sun not yet visible above the far horizon.  Without consideration toward his weakened powers, Apollo stepped out from the cavern and walked the short distance to the ledge that dropped into a steep mountain slope, unafraid as he jumped from the edge.  A sharp breath escaped him when gravity grabbed his body, pulling him back to the ground, but with a second clumsy push of legs against the rocky slope, he slipped past the fingers of gravity and launched into the sky.

Laughing, Apollo twisted and turned in the air, enjoying the careless play that the priests would always frown upon when it came to their 'majestic god'.  The morning air chilled his bare chest and caused his loose pant to flutter as he flew higher than he was allowed in the past.  He felt reborn and free and he knew that everything was due to his dark assassin.

Apollo turned in the air and glanced down at the cavern entrance, surprised to find Midnighter standing in plain sight while leaning against the stone wall.  The man's irritated scowl, however, wasn't so startling.  Drifting back down to the earth, Apollo glanced toward the ground and saw the scattering of gravel that hadn't been there earlier, the foot patterns indicative of someone skidding on the loose dirt.

While a foreign thought to consider that the man had tried to catch him, Apollo managed to ask glibly, "Did you think I'd fall?"

Midnighter scoffed as he turned, muttering to himself about birdcages.

Not wanting to lose the man into the darkness of the cavern, Apollo acted before his wiser instincts had anything to say about grabbing a very dangerous man from behind.  Midnighter, however, was not so thoughtless and turned sharply with his dark blade held in front of him.  Initially startled as he jerked backward, Apollo caught himself from an embarrassing tilt in midair and hovered several inches from the ground while meeting stern brown eyes.

"Let me introduce you to the sky," Apollo said as he felt the first rays of sunlight caressing his back.

The black knife faltered before Midnighter lowered his hand.  "I'm perfectly happy standing on solid ground."

"That's because you've never tried flying."

"I flew once thanks to you and it wasn't a pleasant experience."

Despite memories of the fight that had gone terribly wrong, Apollo found himself smiling broader than before.  "Trust me.  Just this once."

The grinding of teeth could be heard before Midnighter sheathed his blade and wrapped his arms tightly across his chest as if to say, 'Fine, but I'm not going to make it easy on you'.  Not wanting to give the unpredictable man the opportunity to change his mind, Apollo swooped around Midnighter and wrapped his arms beneath the folded arms, from there launching directly into the air.  Somewhat startled, Midnighter spread his arms out wide as if to brace himself, but only found unsupportive air.  Apollo chuckled lightly at the move and adjusted his hold to have a better grip on the man who was quite a bit heavier than he appeared.

Cautious of his failing strength, Apollo didn't carry Midnighter far from the ground as he followed the rocky slope of the mountain and reached the highest point.  As they drifted back to earth, he inwardly laughed at the way Midnighter reached with a pointed foot for the comfort of solid rock.  Blue eyes shining, he held the shorter man closer to his bare chest such that they would land together on the mountain peak.

His arms pulled apart by strong hands, Apollo watched the dark man hurry away from his reach, but not much further as the edge of a small cliff kept him trapped on the flat mountain top.  Ignoring the displeased scowl of thin lips, Apollo stretched his weakened muscles before he dropped down to the ground and sat at the edge of the cliff, his legs swinging carelessly over rock.  Blue eyes settled on the city hidden beneath hazy clouds, his smile fading at the sight of dark smoke from the only building he really knew - the Temple of Radiant Light.

"The people finally figured it out," Midnighter commented from behind.  "They learned that you were nothing more than a man whose life could be taken by Death and people generally don't like being deceived by fake gods."

"They think I'm dead?" Apollo asked in a quiet voice, conflicted by the knowledge that he had wanted freedom for his people, but he had naively imagined something more peaceful for those involved.

"They saw Death take you away," Midnighter replied with a smug air.  "And it's for the better that they think you won't return."

Apollo heard the underlining words, that it would be better for them to survive without a 'god'.  He knew that Midnighter was right and understood that with fearful reverence soon followed people who would abuse that pure faith.  The holy temple was a physical testament to that reality, made of marble and glass while towering over a city built from mostly simple stone and mud.  It wasn't a poor city, but could have been richer and more beautiful without its sun god.

But Apollo still worried for his people.

"I didn't deserve their prayers," Apollo said with a soft gleam to his eyes.  "After I was changed, I was so young and naive that I believed the words that I had become a god.  For years I sat upon that throne and thought my mere presence had blessed this country... and then several years ago, someone tried to kill me with that knife I gave you."

Midnighter shifted with a quiet crunch of gravel.  "Hn, I was wondering where you got something like this, especially when you were supposedly being watched all of the time."

"They could watch all they wanted, but I'm pretty fast when I want to be and I knew exactly where Bendix had hidden the knife.  The hard part was finding something that would hide the blade until you could use it."

The man grunted at the comment, the inflection suggesting that he would have preferred more thought being placed into something besides a large anal toy.

Apollo leaned back onto his hands, his gaze moving to the sky that had gained a deeper blue color with the rising sun.  "It threw my world off balance to have someone who didn't love me, who wanted me dead despite my holy presence, and... worse of all, he was someone who was a 'loyal' priest.  It was the only way he could have known about my weakness to that type of metal."

"You didn't know who he was?"

"I never saw his face.  He wore a hood and tried to attack me from behind, but it was a poorly executed assassination attempt.  Some guards grabbed him before I knew what was happening and he was hauled away.  Bendix assured me that he was granted a death worthy of someone who disrespected the gods."  Old emotions stirred within the white-haired man when he said, "Because of that man, I started to actually see the suffering people around me and realized that everything was wrong, but Bendix immediately noticed that I had opened my eyes.

"Until that day, I never understood the purpose behind the scripture on my back.  Bendix happily explained to me what the symbols meant, that I would meet my end with my body erupting from the inside out.  And for the first time in my life, I tasted fear."

"I think I know the rest," Midnighter said in a low rumble, the voice unintentionally soothing to the former god.

"More or less," Apollo agreed as he continued to gaze at the sky that felt closer than ever before.  "I should thank you for killing Bendix."

"I didn't do it for you."

Apollo breathed a laugh.  "Of course I know that.  I saw your eyes when you slit his throat.  The way you reveled in his death, Bendix must have done something terrible to you."

Midnighter said nothing at the implied question, his silence prompting Apollo to glance over his shoulder at the man improperly dressed for a summer day.  Blue eyes saw past the dark clothing, remembering the pale body etched with scars of different shades and sizes, the predominant ones having the appearance of claw marks from hungry lions.  He wanted to know about each of those scars, to learn the stories both good and bad, and to understand the events that had led to the man's unstable personality.  He wanted to know, everything and anything...

"Will you tell me?" Apollo found himself asking out loud, trying not to regret the way his question made dark eyes narrow.  "A simple 'no' would be sufficient."

"... Telling you won't change anything."

"Perhaps, but isn't it lonely being the only one to know about your pain?"

Midnighter continued to glare at the white-haired man, the brown eyes flickering with black light.  "What is your scheme this time?"

His smile bright, Apollo tilted his head in manner that he hoped was somewhat innocent.  "No scheme.  Everything I want should be plain enough."

"Not particularly."

Unsurprised by the terse reply that was weighted by paranoia instead of emotion, Apollo moved his feet back to the hard earth and pushed himself up to stand on the very edge of the cliff.  Turning around, he crossed the distance between them in two strides, purposefully ignoring the way strong fingers twitched above the handle of the dark blade.  Apollo hesitated before lifting his hand, worried that it would be taken as an attack, but Midnighter permitted the touch of fingers that settled on the man's thick neck covered by dark material.  Blue eyes recalled the mark that had been placed there, most likely healed and gone after so many days.

"You don't want this."

Startled by the statement, Apollo met the mercenary's serious gaze, but didn't remove his hand.  "I know it's unusual for two men--"

"I don't care where you put that dick of yours," Midnighter interrupted with clear irritation.  "If I based a man's skill on whom he took to bed, I'd be dead by now."

"But if you don't care whom I bed," Apollo began with a suggestive arch of an eyebrow, "then why say that I don't want this?  That I don't want you?"

"Because you're acting like a blushing damsel in distress who falls in love with her knight, and you should know damned well that I'm no knight in shining armor."

Apollo smiled at the imagery of the disgruntled assassin forced into a confining suit of polished armor.  "At least the helmet would still hide your face."

Dark eyes narrowed to slits, Midnighter unimpressed by the comment.  "I'm going to make this very clear, sunshine, so listen close.  I kill things.  But before I kill things, I hurt things and I like hurting things.  It's fun coming up with new methods to make someone talk, or beg, or shit their pants in terror.  You may think I saved you for some noble reason, but truth be told, I just didn't want to give Bendix's ghost the satisfaction that I killed you instead of him.  I'll never give him that satisfaction."

Apollo smiled with a gentle curl of lips, knowing and unconcerned.  "I heard the legends about you long before you knelt before me and I saw your work during my last moments as a 'god'.  I've seen the monster in the guise of a man, but I've also seen the determined man who tried to assassinate a god for the arrogant purpose of changing the world.  Frankly, I was seduced the moment you placed the rope around my neck and inadvertently marked my body as yours for the rest of my days."

"You're wrong," Midnighter argued, his eyes shifting in rapid thought.  "You're trying to make things better than they are.  And I won't--"

When nothing more seemed to be coming, Apollo prodded, "And you won't...?"

With a hard blink, dark light disappeared from brown eyes.  "Nothing.  You need to leave and find a new life.  I suggest sooner than later."

"That's not what you were going to say," Apollo said as his hand tightened its hold on the junction between shoulder and neck.  "What is it that you won't do?"

Tense and unmoving, Midnighter showed no intention of replying, something that wasn't unexpected, but disappointing nonetheless.  Apollo grinned at the stubborn confidence of the man who should've been concerned about the long drop mere inches behind booted feet.  Fondness turning into something more, Apollo bent in quickly to place his lips against the tight mouth.  Midnighter initially recoiled, but with nowhere to go on the mountain top, he submitted to the impulsive whims of the pale-eyed man.

His tongue heavy along tight flesh, Apollo forced his way past resistant lips and stroked clenched teeth, interested in the vague taste of grapes when he had never seen the man eat anything, fruit or otherwise.  His tongue sliding upwards, he brushed against the fold of skin directly above sharp teeth, the unintentional contact causing a violent shiver of muscular shoulders and an irritated growl that sounded remarkably like, 'bastard'.

Before Apollo could appreciate the damage he had caused, Midnighter grabbed the man's bare waist with gloved hands and jerked him close such that hips slammed together with bruising strength.  Tongues intertwined with a determination that resembled a fierce spar more than any kiss Apollo could remember from the concubines delivered to his room, and judging by the rumbling deep in his throat, he preferred it that way.  A fanged incisor caught his lip, the splash of blood attracting Midnighter's tongue as he lapped at the warm fluid before he leaned back with an oddly grim expression.

"That shouldn't have happened," Midnighter said with his eyes focused on the dark circular scar located beneath the curve of a collarbone.

"And yet it did," Apollo pointed out with a blissful smile, "though I'm not complaining."

Hands tightened at the man's sides, but didn't push him away.  "Why are you so damned blind?  Aren't you concerned in the least that if... this becomes anything more, I'll abuse you and your powers?"

Apollo gazed at the eyes that refused to look up, intrigued by the apparent turmoil occurring within the man's thoughts.  "Is that what you refuse to do?  To control me?" he asked, letting the additional words 'like Bendix did' remain implied, but unspoken.

The twitch of thin lips confirmed his assumption, but Midnighter quickly amended, "I won't try to control you only if you keep away from me.  Otherwise..."  Dark eyes finally shifted upward, the brown depths hard as ancient wood.  "Otherwise, your powers are too tempting to leave untouched."

"Funny, I've been thinking the same about you."

At the mercenary's brief surprise, Apollo wrapped his arms around the man in a solid hold and twisted their bodies such that they fell off the edge of the mountain top and landed in air.  Controlling the fast drop into a lazy glide that would lead them back to the cavern, Apollo focused on the scowling man lying on top of him, Midnighter's hands at his waist threatening to injure his kidneys given an additional ounce of pressure.

"Shouldn't you watch where you're flying?" Midnighter asked in a low growl.

"That's why you're here."

"... I hate it when you smile like that."

Defying the disgruntled comment, Apollo smiled broader with a radiance worthy of his former status.

When reaching the safety and meager comforts of the cavern, the white-haired man kept his arms strong around Midnighter's upper body, not wanting to lose the tenuous connection he felt between them.  The mercenary didn't fight against the hold, but instead moved one of his hands to boldly cup the strained erection beneath thin cloth.  Apollo hissed at the contact, disappointed in himself for getting aroused from Midnighter shifting too many times to maintain his balance during their flight.

"I hope you weren't planning to use this today," Midnighter said in a low timber, and Apollo bemoaned his body's reaction to that voice, one that wasn't hidden by pants made of expensive tactile fabric.

"It's difficult to plan anything when you're involved," Apollo defended as best he could.  "Though perhaps I should start atoning for those two-thousand and fifty-three mistakes of mine."

"Two-thousand and fifty-one," Midnighter corrected.  "I'm giving you two credits: one for when I stabbed you in the chest, and the other for when I sliced your back."

"How magnanimous of you," Apollo commented with a fool's grin as he bent in and brushed his lips against the mercenary's, that being the extent of a kiss allowed by the other man.

"What were you thinking on the day you placed these lovely lips on my cock?"

Undeterred by the attempt of a distraction, Apollo fingered the ties of the man's clothing, slowly revealing the lightly furred chest.  "In truth, it should have been another game that wasn't supposed to lead to anything, but when you responded for the first time to my touches, I couldn't leave it there.  It wasn't until you came into my mouth that I realized how far I had fallen and I knew I had to initiate my plans before I decided to keep you in chains forever."

"I would've gotten free eventually," Midnighter insisted with a firm squeeze of his hand at the man's crotch.

Swallowing his groan at the rough touch, Apollo pulled apart the man's shirt to reveal the heavily scarred body beneath.  He placed a spread hand at the mercenary's side and let his fingers follow the lines of three particularly deep scars.  It was one of many similar sets of markings, some with three lines and others with four.  "What attacked you to give you such scars?"

"Another time," Midnighter said as he took the exploring hand in his and lifted it to his neck and mask.  "We have other things to do right now."

Blue eyes widening at the placement of his fingers, Apollo moved cautiously as his fingertips curled beneath the edges of the concealing mask.  When Midnighter did nothing but smirk at the wary touch, Apollo lifted his other hand to make the removal of black leather go more smoothly.  Before the hooded mask could fall to the ground, Apollo had his lips pressed hard against the smirking mouth and a hand deep into reddish-brown hair.  Though he was taller than the mercenary, Apollo found himself maneuvered very close to a wall, but not yet pressed against the rocky surface.

"Turn around."

Apollo leaned back to grin at Midnighter, letting his expression show that he knew what the man was up to.

Growling at the pleased smile, Midnighter argued, "I just don't want to ruin my stitch work.  I don't give a shit about whether or not you end up hurt and bleeding from this.  In fact, I think I'd prefer it that way."

Blue eyes bright with unspoken thoughts, Apollo winked before extracting himself from strong hands.  He turned to face the wall and searched for a relatively smooth spot to place his arms as he bent forward.  Midnighter took his sweet time, the sound of ceramic against stone making Apollo glance over his shoulder.  The front of dark pants opened and the heavy cock hanging in view, Apollo watched as a bare hand slathered the length with the salve that had been made to treat his injured back.  Eyes closed, Apollo pressed his forehead against cold stone and tried to ignore the thoughts of how that cock had felt in his mouth and the taste of the other man.

Without the warning of footsteps, chilled hands settled onto broad shoulders and kneaded slightly before rough fingertips trailed along both sides of Apollo's back and further to the waistline of his pants.  The only piece of clothing was yanked down to the ground, pooling around feet covered in slippers that had gained a brown tinge from dried blood and dirt.  Callused hands firm at his ass, Apollo shivered when a slick thumb entered him and maneuvered in interesting circles.

Hot breath against an ear hidden by white hair, Midnighter said, "You should be thankful that I know to prepare a man before shoving my dick inside of him."

Apollo recalled the blood that had streamed down bare thighs, and once allowed a free breath, he whispered, "I'm sorry..."

"Now, now, don't apologize, sunshine.  I'll lose my respect in you."

Groaning at the addition of a second thumb with a jagged fingernail, Apollo clawed at the stone wall while pressing backward to prove that he could handle whatever else the mercenary had planned.

Once bored with preparing the willing man, Midnighter pulled away his hands and replaced them at the tight waist that was beginning to show finger-shaped bruises from the mercenary's previous hold.  Apollo encouraged his body to relax, repeatedly reminding himself that Midnighter had endured worse.  The heated tip brushed against his stretched entrance, and with a soft 'good boy' as his only warning, Apollo inhaled long and deep at the slow entrance of the man's firm cock.  Midnighter echoed the breath as he pushed all the way in and paused for a long moment, his forehead pressed against a shoulder blade as he waited.

Interested in the amount of courtesy being given to him, Apollo shifted slightly and muttered, "Two-thousand and fifty left to go."

Sharp laughter erupted from the mercenary, the shake of his hard body causing the most unusual sensations for Apollo.  "That's right - you keep count and if you're wrong, we'll start all over again."

While having no intention to give Midnighter an answer, Apollo still found himself counting as the dark-eyed man began a steady string of thrusts.  It hurt, it burned, and Apollo couldn't understand why a sane man would purposefully subject his body to such abuse.  So he continued to count down with each thrust and mouthed an apology after every ten, appalled that Midnighter had suffered so many times while helpless in chains.

But that line of thought didn't last long.

His body eventually surrendered to the drive of the heavy cock, the unresisting muscles allowing the thrusts to come faster, smoother, and deeper.  A throaty moan escaped Apollo before he realized that it wasn't strictly pain that had caused the noise.  Bewildered, he stared down at the cavern floor and focused on his body, demanding for that sensation to happen a second time so that he could examine it and know it as something real.  It took several more thrusts by the absurdly even-paced man and Apollo groaned at the vicious mix of pleasure tainted by pain.

A breathed chuckle was more felt than heard as Midnighter leaned in closer, his rhythm slowing to accommodate the new position as he fisted his hand into long pale hair, revealing every inch of the former god's broad back.  Apollo shivered at the heavy tongue that lapped at his shoulder blade and moved in slowly toward broken skin.  A strong arm wrapped around his waist in the moment before teeth bit and pulled at a dark stitch that was holding skin together, the unexpected assault making Apollo arc sharply into the man's body and ruin Midnighter's pace.  Not that the mercenary seemed to mind.  He released the thick string and tongued the abused flesh in a vague expression of either an apology or thanks.

As the session continued with a mind-dampening mix of ecstasy and sharp pain, Apollo clawed at the cavern wall and felt the blood curl under his fingernails, unable to decided if he wanted it to end or if he needed Midnighter to give him something more.  The mercenary took that choice away, his hand not quite releasing fine hair before reaching for the deep circular scar that would never fade from pale skin.  Callused fingers stroked the scar with a rough touch before the hand slid upward to cup the man's chin and forced Apollo to glance back over his shoulder where the unmasked face was waiting.  Apollo ignored his body's complaint as he twisted as best he could to meet Midnighter in a kiss that reopened the split he barely recalled from their first kiss another lifetime ago.

Unable to breath, unable to think, Apollo succumbed to sensation alone and let his dark assassin guide him down the path of certain ruin, exquisite pain, and beautiful white light.  And with his consciousness blurring into darkness, Apollo's last thought was that he hoped Midnighter would be waiting for him at the end of that torturous road.

~ > < ~

With dreams of stars and golden light left behind, Apollo woke slowly to the steady rise and fall of his softly rumbling pillow.  Bruise lips curled into a satisfied smile when Apollo awoke fully and glanced up at the stubble-darkened chin that he recognized all too well.  The slumbering face... not so much.  Shifting his position to better view Midnighter's face, Apollo took in every detail that seemed important - the sharp wing-like arch of dark eyebrows, the fresh scar that cut too close to his left eye, the crooked nose that had seen a few too many breaks - and yet his eyes still drifted to the firm chest beneath him and the crisscross of dark scars over the man's heart.

Blood-smeared fingers brushed along the lines of scars, Apollo hoping his touch was light enough that the mercenary wouldn't wake.  In retrospect, he knew it was a foolish hope, but appreciated the gentle clasp of the powerful hand around his fingers instead of the bone-breaking grab he had briefly envision from the awakened man.

"Determined, aren't ya?" Midnighter commented in a drowsy murmur.

"When most of your body has these scars, can you really blame me?"

"Yes," the mercenary said as he opened brown eyes and gazed down at Apollo.  "But I suppose I'll let it go this once."

His smile amused, Apollo managed to slip his thumb free of thick fingers and resumed his caress of the set of dark scars.

"Nosy bastard," Midnighter grumbled as he rolled his head back and closed his eyes.  "You shouldn't be so impressed with Bendix's handiwork."

Shocked by the casual statement, Apollo tried to pull away his hand from the collection of scars, but the hold on his fingers remained strong and he was forced to relax or else cause more harm to his sore hand.  "I didn't know--"

"Of course you didn't, sunshine.  No one knows about the things Bendix did to me.  Well, no one still alive, that is."  Midnighter shifted with a sigh and reopened his eyes to meet bright sapphire.  "I'm not too certain I can let you leave if I tell you about it."

Apollo smiled at the words that were laced with the promise of death.  "You're assuming that I have somewhere else I'd rather be, which is quite strange for a man who doesn't resort to assumptions."

After a prolonged examining gaze by dark eyes, Midnighter scoffed in irritation before he began in a low, emotionless voice.  "I don't remember anything before five years ago.  My life started with pain so agonizing that I would try to stop breathing just to make it go away, but the body doesn't work like that.  No, I lived and endured as Bendix spent his nights using my body as a vessel to lure and capture demons of all types, both young and ancient, intelligent and murderous.  99 of them, to be exact, and trust me, none of those demons were happy about their prison of flesh."

Resisting to look down at the claw-like marks that covered too much of the mercenary's body, Apollo held onto the man's gaze and questioned simply, "Why...?"

"Why did Bendix do it?  Don't know, don't care.  Either way, after he finished playing with the demons, he challenged me in various ways: I faced half-starved animals without a weapon, I was chained and thrown into a pool infested with toothy fish, and eventually I learned to kill armed slaves quickly and efficiently before they could touch me with poisoned blades.  I had strength and agility that no human controlled and I was everything Bendix desired in a brand new shining weapon... until the demons started talking to me.

"I suddenly had thoughts of my own, many more thoughts than I had ever experienced before.  They overwhelmed me at first, making me useless and nearly dead in the face of Bendix's challenges, but I gradually figured out how to listen to them and absorb their words and..." Thin lips curled into a satisfied grin that gave Midnighter the appearance of a lion after making a hefty kill.  "It didn't take much to realize that the demons were bored and didn't want to obey Bendix anymore.  They taught me how to avoid his challenges and ruin his plans to make me into whatever he wanted.  I became my own person again, but Bendix had a sharp eye to recognize when pets were slipping out from their collars."

Apollo scowled at the observation that he had experienced first hand, briefly recalling the high priest's voice reciting the words that would have torn apart his body and perhaps his soul.  The 'sun god' had become a burden instead of an advantage and Bendix had no patience for liabilities that couldn't be controlled.

Midnighter smirked at the fair-haired man, an intelligent glint sharpening dark eyes that suggested the man knew very well what discussion had been taking place when he had interrupted Bendix's attempt to kill Apollo.  "The bastard poisoned me somehow and then set his minions upon me without sticking around to watch the fun.  They died and I lived, but just barely, and I bet my right arm that Bendix thought the poison would finish whatever was left of my life."

"A poor assumption on his part," Apollo said in a rough voice, feeling the first taste of disappointment at not killing the priest with his own hands.

Lifting his arm, Midnighter placed a heavy hand on top of the man's head and entwined his fingers into white hair.  "I've spent years perfecting my connection with the demons living within me, but none of that seemed to matter when dealing with you.  Out of all of the devils, only one saw you for what you were."

"Is that so bad?"

Midnighter didn't reply directly, his eyes moving to the ceiling in thought before he asked, "What do you want out of this situation?"

Apollo breathed a laugh at the question he had been asking himself over the days of inactivity while his body healed.  "I'm not certain, but... Whenever I ran away after abusing your body, I would sit on the rooftop and stare at the sky for hours, thinking that it would have been so much simpler if we could work together and made things... different and better for the people of Sangrar.  Maybe beyond..." Apollo's voice drifted at the hopeful dreams of changing the world, a world that his presence had tainted as a false god.  "But I suppose that doesn't really answer your question."

"Are you ashamed to desire a finer world?"

Lips stained with dried blood spread into an easy smile.  "A 'finer world'... I think I like the sound of that."

"Of course you would," Midnighter scoffed.  "It's going to take more than wishing on a star to make things change.  Are you prepared for something like that, sunshine?"

Meeting the brown eyes that were dark with an inhuman gleam, Apollo felt unafraid and unconcerned about what the demons were whispering to their master.  "I'm ready whenever you are."

After a moment of consideration, Midnighter allowed a slight smile toward his companion.  "It's adorable you think you're ready to go," the mercenary stated before he lowered his hand to Apollo's bare ass and slapped the abused flesh, "but how about we save changing the world for tomorrow?"

"Bastard," Apollo grumbled, both his body and pride feeling a bit sore.

"Much more than than a mere bastard, I'm afraid, and you had better get accustomed to it if you want to maintain a semblance of sanity around me."

Startled by the offhanded comment that meant more than the mercenary would ever admit vocally, Apollo stared at the rough face that reflected the man's harsh experiences in life.  No emotion showed in that face, Midnighter speaking from the straightforward logic that two men with the abilities of immortals could conquer the world if they so desired.  But in contradiction to that sensibility, a forgotten hand was still wrapped around Apollo's fingers, holding them in a firm hold and perfectly happy to keep its prisoners.  It wasn't trust, it wasn't love, but Apollo didn't want the impossible.  Not yet.  It was enough to be a part of Midnighter's future plans, plans that would require Apollo to get 'accustomed' to the mercenary's ways.

"Here's to a finer world," Apollo said as he leaned up and brushed his lips against the man's mouth, pleased when Midnighter reciprocated without hesitation of careful thought.

The kiss was soft and brief, ending when Midnighter breathed a forlorn sigh.  "A finer world... and I thought I was crazy before I met you."

Apollo flashed a smile at the dark-eyed man, a smile full of the sunlight that should have driven away the night.  Instead, Midnighter withstood the onslaught and offered his own half-smile in return before catching himself, his hand releasing Apollo's in order to literally wipe the expression from his face. 

Moving his fingers deep into reddish-brown hair, Midnighter complained, "I'm not... like this.  Not really."

"I know," Apollo said as he grabbed that hand and pulled aside the arm that was blocking his precious view of the man's unmasked face.  Azure eyes followed the lines of Midnighter's face - thin scars made by sharp blades, wrinkles at dark eyes caused by too much squinting, skin rubbed raw by the edges of his leather mask - and Apollo felt like he had discovered a map to the future.  A most frightening and rewarding future that he had never dared to imagine in his previous life.

"If you understand, then why is there still that look to your eyes?" Midnighter asked, his eyes narrowed with a distrustful gleam.

"Isn't it obvious?"

"... Not particularly."

Apollo held back a laugh at the same reply that, hours earlier, had inspired him to place a bold hand on Midnighter's body.  "Then what are the demons telling you?"

"That your aggressiveness is suspicious, that you've probably been hiding some of your powers from me, and that, if I so desired, my blade is exactly two seconds away from piercing your lower spine.  Does that help at all?" Midnighter said with a vindictive edge, as if he had proven himself a devil.

"It does," Apollo insisted while brushing his fingers through the short hair that resembled the color of dried blood.  "After all, I don't have a sharp metal object paralyzing me.  I find that quite promising."

Brown eyes filled with black energy stared at Apollo, paranoia succumbing to something softer before Midnighter closed his eyes.  "Finding hope in something that isn't real... You're worse than your naive followers."

"Perhaps, but I've learned that hope has a way of making things real."

His body still and cold for many seconds, Midnighter opened his eyes to mere slits and stared at the long-haired man.  "I'm not a lover.  You can't change that about me."

"Maybe you're thinking about the wrong type of 'lover'."

Dark eyebrows furrowed in irritated confusion, but nothing was spoken to reflect the uncertainty that glimmered in his eyes.

"One day you'll understand," Apollo said softly as he steadied his hand in stiff hair and leaned over the shorter man.  "Until then, let me hope, no matter how foolish it may be."

Soft lips caressed the curve of a frown, coaxing and pleading with Midnighter for the permission he desired.  The mercenary resisted for the length of several quick heartbeats, but inevitably returned the kiss such that Apollo felt his chest ache, his dark scar burning with a pain reminiscent of the day when Midnighter had tried to kill him, but instead had given him life.

"I'll make you suffer for this," Midnighter grumbled into the kiss.

Apollo's grin was filled with hope.




Author's Whining -- So yeah, I'm not responsible for any of this.  Aside from Vejiicakes and Dee being evil corrupting souls, Midnighter pretty much invaded my mind and Apollo decided to play along.  I can't say that I know the fandom that well.  Rather, I've read the comics, but these are the only western style comics I've read, so I feel like I've really missed some things.  The stories aren't as... comprehensive(?) as the manga series I prefer to read and relationships are more 'things that happen' instead of 'things that develop'.

That said, I did make some things intentional.  First, the 'finer world' bit is actually the title of the chapter in Stormwatch #4 where Midnighter and Apollo first appear.  Despite the things they have gone through and the people they've killed, they still want something better and normal despite them discussing this while huddling in the cold rain and fingering the holes in their superhero outfits.  That part of Midnighter and Apollo is probably my favorite in the comics since they don't seem to be hiding a damned thing.

The other part I stole from the comics is Midnighter saying 'I'm not a lover', something that completely pisses me off in the first of The Midnighter comics.  Yes, he is a living weapon and a complete bastard, but he is with Apollo for a reason and, after so many years, Apollo has a reason to be with him.  A lover doesn't have to be about flowers, candies, and spending every minute with a partner - it can be something beyond those easy and visible things.  They are two pieces of a very damaged soul, and when they are together, they don't feel as lost, as hopeless, as lonely.  To each other, they are normal and that's all they have ever wanted.  Rawr, now I know why Vejiicakes told me to be wary of The Midnighter series.