Saint Daniel was dead.
He might have first died four thousand years ago, but his particular brand of fucked up rarely had the good grace to stay dead. That was fine. He’d been killed once, and then again, and again, and it didn’t matter how many times he’d come back, he would never last. This time, he’d been killed by his own namesake, and Daniel caught himself wondering if this one would sting a little extra before remembering this was a dumb metaphor.
He shook his head, and then fixed his hair. Taking time now to get the details right would make everything easier, so that’s what Daniel did. He made himself perfect. No, that wasn’t right. He didn’t have to make himself anything. He was perfect. That’s what this was all about. So he sat back until his ass reached the stupid pillow, raised his elbows up and out, interlaced his fingers, and let his eyes meet the ones they’d been seeking out, not the reflections of his own but those of his statue.
Their dark colour was the one thing Reg couldn’t have possibly captured with his pale stone, which he’d had to explain to Theodore too many times. It really didn’t matter, when the journeyboy had gotten everything else so perfect. It captivated everyone who saw it, which was everyone Theodore invited to the manor, of course. And captivated was the right word; Daniel found himself working his way down the statue’s face, hunting for its small nose, tracing its upturned lips, taking in its slender neck. The collar hanging heavily there, and the gem at its center. That part, of course, Tiberius had matched exactly, because Daniel had insisted. Thinking of how well their projects complemented each other, Daniel tore his eyes away from the stone heart of the statue and back to his own reflection.
His own nose peeked out, his own lips smiled to match, and his own neck reddened as his thoughts returned to the day this gift had arrived. Daniel looked into the moss-green emerald, and he remembered the day Saint Daniel died last.
Theodore was cheating, and Daniel was going to catch him.
He’d already come twice tonight, to Theodore’s none. He’d never been so behind, not since they’d settled on the two-leaf handicap. Theodore must have swapped their tea, or used old leaves, or something, because Daniel was still out of breath, and Theodore was aiming for a perfect sweep. He redoubled his efforts, making sure his tongue was in time with his fingers, focusing on what he could do to Theodore’s whole body so that he didn’t have to consider what was happening to his own. It didn’t work, because Theodore was cheating, but he had to try. Theodore wasn’t even touching his dick right now, and Daniel was already thinking about when he would start again. When he would move up from Daniel’s balls and take the whole thing in his mouth again, when he would finally win their stupid game and claim his prize.
And that’s when Daniel realized he’d already lost. He gasped, and felt it start inside him. But unlike the first two times today, this one didn’t stop in his dick, and just kept pulsing again and again, not letting him go.
Neither did Theodore, who was now right-side up and wrapped around Daniel. “Take a deep breath, lad.”
Daniel did, gripping Theodore back hard to make sure he could feel what Daniel felt.
“You’re okay, Daniel.” Theodore was rubbing circles into his back, and it felt good, but Daniel couldn’t loosen up. He couldn’t return it. He felt his breath catch. “You’re perfect.”
Daniel let out a laugh, the heat inside definitely not fading, but at least settling on his face, which was something he could shove into a pillow, if Theodore had given him one. “Yeah. Zero-three. The perfect score.”
Theodore waited until Daniel looked him in the eyes and saw the smile there before letting it move to his voice. “I shouldn’t have to remind you that the punishment for sore losers is to be turned into honest ones. If you are recovered, now would be an appropriate time for you to cut your losses.”
Daniel sighed and brought his hands around to Theodore’s chest, pushing himself to his knees and not stopping, letting his momentum bring himself over the side of the bed and onto the floor, forever thankful that the bedroom had so many rugs.
He stuck the landing, bouncing on the balls of his feet. He always felt so loose after sticky orgasms like that last one. He’d had his first one three weeks ago, and they had quickly become Theodore’s new favourite project. Technically Daniel shouldn’t even think of that as the first, just as the first this time around. He’d been a little kid before, of course, and he’d probably done this before too, but he couldn’t quite remember. And he didn’t have to, with how great each of these had been. He almost wished he could keep forgetting what they felt like, just so he could experience them for the first time every time. That was silly though, it was something a little boy would want.
He resisted the urge to turn around by humming, waiting for Theodore to remember his part in the game. But instead of doing anything fun, Theodore touched his cheek. “You are such a remarkably beautiful boy, Daniel,” he said.
Daniel nodded, and opened his mouth to tell Theodore that sore winning wasn’t a great look either. Theodore pressed two fingers into his mouth. “Shh,” he said, preemptively. “Remember what is happening, Daniel. Being special means the rules bend for you, not that they don’t apply. You lost, and that means you need to practice. Come with me. Do not open your eyes.”
Daniel hadn’t expected that, but he did as he was told, or didn’t do as he was told, whatever. He stood up, keeping his eyes shut. He knew the layout of Theodore’s bedroom, it wasn’t like he ever moved anything.
Theodore took Daniel’s hand, guiding him to the door, which he opened. Daniel wasn’t dressed, and he didn’t think Theodore had put anything on either. People might see them. It wasn’t fair that he’d had three whole orgasms and he was still hard. It wasn’t fair that…
Daniel had lost, he reminded himself. He kept his eyes shut and walked, accepting his punishment. It was fair. The rules were fair. They’d come up with them together. Theodore had cheated. But Daniel hadn’t been able to figure out how, which meant he’d won fair and square.
The house was so big. It seemed to get bigger every time Daniel saw it. Nothing Theodore would want to go to was that far away compared to the rest of the house, so Daniel tried to count steps and turns to figure out where they were going, but then he got disoriented and had to squeeze Theodore’s hand to get his balance back. Was Theodore actually taking him somewhere, or just walking in circles to confuse Daniel?
Daniel’s punishment was just to walk around the house with his eyes closed, with no idea who’d seen him and hadn’t, wasn’t it? It was to spend the next week looking at everyone else in the house and wondering if they’d seen Theodore parading him around, holding his hand, showing him off like a pet.
Theodore had won, so he got to do that. Those were the rules. Daniel would win next time, and then he’d do…something. They were turning another corner and he didn’t know what he’d do but something.
He could open his eyes if he wanted to but with his luck recently, Theodore would catch him.
He was so busy listening for the footsteps of his brothers or the staff that he let out a little sound when he finally heard Theodore open a door, which was super embarrassing, but it couldn’t be helped. Theodore led him into another room with thick rugs on the floor, carefully walking him in a crescent, probably to avoid furniture. Then Theodore sat, having Daniel stand in front of him. He stood there a minute, his master’s hand lightly touching Daniel’s sides, sliding up to his face, tickling him by brushing hair out of his closed eyes. “Now you may kneel,” Theodore told him, so close that Daniel felt the words on his face.
Daniel knelt on the rug, aware that he was between Theodore’s legs. Theodore’s hands were on his head, gently pulling him forward. The familiar weight of Theodore’s cock rested on Daniel’s lips, and Daniel parted them to let Theodore in, and in and in. He was so much bigger than Daniel, even after the walk down the stairs. Or maybe because of that. Daniel started to suck. “No, not yet,” Theodore said softly. Daniel had to strain to hear the next instruction. “Hold still.”
Theodore used his feet to nudge Daniel’s legs into a different position, spread a little farther apart. Then he got Daniel to sit back a little, his butt resting on his feet. He pulled Daniel’s arms up so they were behind his head. “Like this,” Theodore whispered. “Do not move. You will hold this position exactly whilst I conduct some business.”
It was an uncomfortable position that was already making Daniel’s back cramp, but he accepted it, almost nodding before remembering that his dumb ass had just been told not to move. He tried to think of who Theodore could be seeing today. It had been months since Theodore had conducted business on rest day. Who would even…
Daniel heard the latch open and froze, and not because Theodore had told him to. He’d been listening. Daniel would have heard Ozzy approach the room, even with a dick in both ears. That meant he’d been standing outside whatever room this was the whole time. All morning, maybe. Theodore had known how their game would go all morning. Ozzy had stood perfectly still for hours, and watched as Daniel was led by the hand to be posed like this for him.
“Yes, master.” Ozzy’s voice was close, and he wasn’t laughing. Daniel couldn’t even tell if he was smiling. So many of Ozzy’s thoughts were on his face and Daniel couldn’t open his eyes. Ozzy was here, and Daniel wasn’t allowed to know what he was thinking.
Theodore rested his hand on Daniel’s head, and waited a beat. Then another. Daniel breathed in through his nose, swallowed, and breathed out. Theodore’s hand stayed still, and so did Daniel. “Please admit young Reginald.”
“He has something…”
“Ozzy, you promised me you didn’t need the gag today. Admit Reginald, and report to Benedict. You will tell him you fibbed, and then you will return to your station.”
“Yes, master.” This time Ozzy’s thoughts were audible to everyone, even more than Theodore’s were to Daniel. He had grown impossibly large in Daniel’s mouth when the Ozzy’s footsteps were replaced by Reginald’s even more timid ones. He came to stand a short distance from them, but he kept shifting his weight, a luxury Daniel wasn’t allowed.
“Come now, that won’t do. I believe you prefer Reg to Reginald.” Since when had Theodore considered the preferences of an apprentice? “I have been assured you are the only boy for this job, so let’s not dawdle. Come closer.” Reg’s steps were faster, if no more confident, as he pattered over to stand on Daniel’s right.
“Correct on both counts, Master Silver.” Since they’d last spoken, Reg’s voice had changed, but not quite as much as Daniel’s own had.
“Then, Reg, I believe you know your duty.” The satisfaction Theodore was radiating would have been annoying if he hadn’t earned it so thoroughly. “Please begin.”
Daniel swallowed his fear and tried to think that through. If they would just get on with whatever this was, Reg would leave, and Daniel’s punishment would end. The joke had been made, the clock had started, and Theodore was already trying to end this bit.
Then he felt Reg’s eyes land on his face, and he realized he was an idiot. Of course Theodore wouldn’t invite someone who would just treat him like a tacky ornament, to be graciously ignored. He had chosen someone who would revel in seeing him like this. Reg was a nice guy, but he was older than Daniel, and Tiberius’s other apprentice was younger by a few years; he was obviously jealous of Daniel, and Theodore was showing him that there was nothing to be jealous of. Two boys humbled with one prank. Daniel felt the heat in his face travel downward, and didn’t need to open his eyes to know Reg’s were following his blush. The feeling lingered there for another minute before flowing down his side, superheating one rib at a time before reaching his waist. He tried to think of anything else, but there wasn’t anything. The only thing he could be sure of was that Reg was capturing Daniel’s every detail in his mind.
But why, what he’d do with those details, that intimate knowledge of Daniel’s body, Daniel had no idea. At the rate he was going, Reg was going to know Daniel’s every curve better than Daniel himself.
Every scar, too, he realized. Just as Theodore did. “You must be sure to capture his front as well, my boy. It tells a story I’ll never tire of listening to.” There was no room for someone between them, not unless Daniel was allowed to move.
Reg made a sound and Daniel could hear him starting to vocalize the thought he’d just had, but Theodore spoke again. “Come. On your knees. You knew what this work would entail when I agreed to help you, and I’ve no doubt you can work proficiently from there.”
The noise of protest was gone, but there was no movement. Daniel strained so hard his ears were ringing, but whatever was passing between them wasn’t for him to know. He must have moved or something, because Theodore’s hand touched his head, just briefly, just to remind him to stay still. He was right. Theodore would win this game, too. He didn’t need Daniel’s help. He needed nothing from Daniel. He needed Daniel to be nothing.
Daniel took a deep breath and tried to be that for Theodore, to give his master what he was owed. Beside him, Reg got down on his knees. Theodore sat back in his chair, but so slowly and only slightly. He hadn’t told Daniel to follow his dick, so he didn’t. He did nothing, and he was rewarded. Theodore’s dick never left Daniel’s mouth, not completely. Theodore was right, again. There was just enough space that if Reg kept his head low, he could shuffle under Daniel’s arms, and kneel between Theodore’s feet, facing Daniel. From there, he could see everything. Not just Theodore’s hands on Daniel’s head, not just the scars on his tummy, but everything in between.
Daniel could picture the scene perfectly. Theodore had made Daniel look in the mirror so many times, he felt like he could see himself through Reg’s eyes as they roamed all over him. And he couldn’t just see where Reg’s eyes wandered. He could also see where they strayed. Theodore’s body was another sight Daniel had memorized, of course. Whatever Theodore was getting out of this must be so important for him to let someone not wearing one of his collars so close to him.
“Eyes forward, boy.” Not that close, then. Just something else for Reg to be jealous of. He could want this all he wanted, he’d never get it.
“Apologies, Master,” Reg whispered, his breath on Daniel’s cheek. But he hadn’t been listening, not to the words Theodore hadn’t spoken. He must not have been, because then he touched Daniel with more than his eyes. One fingertip right below his collar, the first thing Daniel had felt besides the heat since this had started. He flinched.
“That’s quite enough, both of you.” The steel in Theodore’s voice was nothing compared to the force of his other hand reaching the back of Daniel’s head. It wasn’t a slap, though it was fast. It was a knot, and it would not yield. It wasn’t a punishment, but a life rope.
And as long as he held onto it, it would not let Daniel lose again. So Daniel made sure it would save him. He let its pressure calm him, focused on feeling nothing but the presence of Theodore. On his head, and most of all in his mouth.
He didn’t ignore Reg because that would be wrong, because his presence was part of the message. But the other part was that Daniel’s focus should be entirely on Theodore now, so Reg was secondary for him. Let him watch Daniel, take every part of him in. Let him measure and weigh and assess and memorize Daniel’s body. It wasn’t Daniel’s body anyway.
It was Theodore’s, and the Master was just letting Daniel borrow it.
With that reminder, Daniel settled back down. Reg was a guest. He was the Master’s guest, and also his responsibility. For however long this took, Daniel’s only responsibility was to be observed. When he remembered that, it really was like looking in the mirror. He knew how blank his expression would be. How relaxed his face would look, even if other muscles were taut. This was Daniel at his best, most dedicated. He knew what that looked like, what it felt like.
It felt perfect. He felt perfect.
Daniel didn’t know how long he’d sat there. He’d stopped paying attention after a while, letting Theodore and Reg’s occasional conversation wash over him as he just sat there, content. He was only pulled out of it when Theodore pulled out of him, his cock suddenly popping out of Daniel’s mouth. “M-master?”
Theodore touched his face. “You may open your eyes, Daniel. Come up here.”
Daniel nodded, taking a second before he did open his eyes, blinking as the dining room came into focus. Knowing that Theodore meant his lap, Daniel climbed up into it. Theodore was sitting in front of the Saint Daniel statue. There was a small object under a sheet, but before he really saw it, Daniel noticed someone kneeling…it was Reg, right. He was kneeling at the foot of the table, dressed in a shirt with buttons on the collar striped pants with no tie, like he was six years old. It was weirdly nerve-wracking to see him, even if he was acting just as timid as he normally did.
Daniel guessed he didn’t know what he was normally like, they’d only met twice and never actually talked.
He didn’t matter, though, so Daniel looked up at Theodore. “What’s under the sheet?” He thought about making a guess, but that wasn’t today’s game; Theodore obviously wanted him to ask.
Theodore kissed his cheek. “A magical token that will teach you patience, Daniel.”
Oh, so he hadn’t been supposed to ask about it. Whatever. “I’m perfectly patient.”
“No, but you are perfect,” Theodore said, arm around Daniel’s middle to stop him squirming.
Daniel wasn’t supposed to disagree with his Master in front of people, but someone kneeling on the floor didn’t technically count as people. “I guess if your eyesight is bad enough to miss all the flaws, sure.”
Theodore poked him in the stomach. “You need to see this even more than I feared. Your only true flaw is that you cannot see your own perfection. That you feel you must hide your insecurity behind snark and cynicism.”
Daniel rolled his eyes. If the Master was going to make words up just to put him down, Daniel had won. “Your Benedict impression isn’t very good.”
Theodore kissed the top of his head, clearly having no retort. “Reg, show Daniel your work,” he ordered.
“Yes, Master Silver,” Reg said, eyes on the floor as he reached for the sheet without getting up. Or at least Daniel thought they were; he barely flicked his eyes in Reg’s direction, which was also the direction of the Saint Daniel statue. He found it easier to lean back and watch the sheet as it was pulled away from… another statue.
A statue of himself. That was what Reg had done, what Theodore had made him do. For however long Daniel hadn’t been paying attention, Reg had been sculpting a perfect likeness of Daniel out of a chunk of marble. Not even a likeness. An identical copy. It was like Daniel had seen one of the Deep Ones and turned to stone, except he hadn’t, because the real Daniel was still here, in Theodore’s lap where he belonged. Daniel hadn’t known Reg could do that, that anyone could. And he couldn’t stop himself asking, “How?”
Reg swallowed and looked at Theodore, who, after a long pause, nodded. “It’s a bit complicated, but basically there’s no reason magic can’t do what a sculptor does. I needed to complete a project as part of my journeyboy–I mean…”
“You meant what you said, lad,” Theodore interrupted.
Reg blushed red. “Right. Master Silver was kind enough to sponsor my examination. High quality marble is more expensive than all the tools I own in my dreams.”
“And nothing less would do, so it was an ideal match.”
“It was. You were the perfect subject, too. If you ever…”
“We know how to reach your master, Reg. ”
“He won’t technically be my master after I pass.”
“I will inform him you said as much when he comes to assess your project. That will be all.” Theodore’s attention shifted completely away from Reg to Daniel, who had only been watching this play out in the corners of his eyes. That was an even clearer dismissal than the words and when Reg finally saw that, he shuffled back and didn’t say anything else. Daniel hadn’t looked away from the statue in all that time, still in awe of its smooth perfection.
“Why did you do this, really?”
“Why does anyone make art, Daniel? To send a message. I hope this is a convincing one, because at this point it’s all I could conceive of. Go on, look closely at it. Are you finally ready to listen?” He picked Daniel up under his shoulders, and lowered him down. Daniel let himself be placed on his knees, just so he would be on the statue’s level.
He shuffled forward, marvelling at how…perfect the statue looked. At how perfect he looked. He moved closer again, shifting a little, then a little more, experimentally raising his hands to mirror the pose. His hair was wrong, he thought, fixing it. His expression was wrong. In the statue he looked so…
Daniel could look like that. He had looked like that, just a few minutes ago. He could do it again, right? He just had to…feel it. He just had to feel the way he’d felt just then. But how? He didn’t know how to make that happen, it was…
“You can do it, Daniel,” Theodore’s voice said behind him, knowing what Daniel was thinking. “I’m trying to help you see that you already are doing it. Just by staying still, you’ve done more than I ever could have asked of you. I made this to remind you that you’re still here, and you’re still young, and you’re still perfect.” And from the way Theodore wavered, Daniel knew he believed it. That he wanted Daniel to believe it. Daniel wanted that too. “I know that this place, this room, is one you frequent when you doubt yourself. I know I can’t stop the doubts from forming, and you would pick any lock I placed on this door. But if you must have them and you must take inspiration from a statue, I could not sit by and let you choose that one.”
Theodore’s fingers snapped, but Daniel didn’t so much as blink. Only when he heard the crash did he look away from his copy.
Theodore was standing a few feet away, clearly pleased with himself. Reg had a hand out and looked abashed. Saint Daniel was dead on the floor, smashed into a million pieces.
Daniel looked at the pieces, scattered all over the floor. Cleaning that would be… Someone else’s responsibility. He just looked up at his master, standing tall and watching him. And Daniel looked back to the new statue, and he smiled, starting to feel content once again.
Daniel looked up from his gemstone, over to the statue, back to his own face. Then he looked down. He shook his head and smiled, and then grinned at how silly his smile looked, and then giggled at how wide his grin was. Coming here had never failed to make him feel better, but that was new. He guessed today’s session was over. He wondered how long it had been, and whether Benedict would be able to save the pillow before it stained. Theodore was going to be so mad at him either way, but that’s what he got, after Daniel had told him padding was for babies.
The discomfort was part of this. But as Daniel rolled his shoulders and shook his hands out, he thought about that. Sometimes discomfort was good, like soreness after a workout. Or like melancholy, something to indulge in. But today hadn’t left him feeling sore, or worn out. Just lighter. And now that he was done, he didn’t want to look back. He walked away from the statue, knowing he was about to have a perfect day.