The Gold Room is Zan's personal favorite. Lighting is low and subdued to mimic candlelight. Every piece of furnishing is splendid and luxurious. A gigantic canopy bed dominates most of the room, the golden duvet rippling with a French lace pattern. A metal table and its two matching chairs take up the opposite wall, miniature versions of the kind downstairs. A large wardrobe faces the doorway. Zan knows it's the first thing Ryan sees as he enters. The boy stares around the room, obviously trying to take it all in. 

 

"What do you think, pet?" Zan asks, leading the boy inside.

 

"It's amazing," Ryan says honestly.

 

Amused by his human's reaction, Zan slips his arms around Ryan's hips, pulling him closer. He tips the boy's face down to kiss him. Zan's tongue is shockingly cold against Ryan's as it strokes inside. Even though Ryan is taller than Zan, there's no doubt who's in charge of the kiss. Zan decides the pace of it, how deep to thrust his tongue, when to let Ryan breathe.

 

When Zan pulls back the boy is gasping, eyes blown wide with lust. His erection had flagged during the blood draw, but the arousal has returned in full force.

 

"Good pet," Zan says, stroking Ryan's face. "Now, I want you to bend across the bed for me."

 

Ryan bites his lip, eyes flickering over to the four poster.

 

"Don't make me ask again." Zan's voice is still pleasant, but there's a hint of warning. 

 

Swallowing hard, the boy pulls away from Zan and walks slowly over to the bed. After a beat he kneels before it, bending at the waist to lay his chest against the covers. 

 

"Arms wide," Zan says from behind him.

 

When his pet's arms are obediently spread, Zan blurs into action. There's the sound of rattling metal, and then a cool cuff encircles each of Ryan's wrists. The boy startles, fear scent rising in the air.

 

"Give a tug," Zan says, dropping his top hat on the table.

 

Ryan tries, but the chains barely move. 

 

"You feel that, pet?" Zan asks. "Had them made special. I can even punish my fledges this way, so there's no hope of you getting out."

 

With clinical efficiency, Zan reaches for Ryan's fly, opens it, and tugs the skeletal pants down over pale ass cheeks. He strokes a finger down the crack, chuckling at the boy's shiver when he grazes the hole.

 

The tinkling sound of an unbuckling belt seems to echo around the room. Ryan is trembling. Though the boy can't see it, Zan grins as he watches.

 

"I'll be merciful, pet." He starts to pull the black leather free loop by loop. "You shouldn't have lied to me, but you didn't know you were mine yet. Ten should do it, I think."

 

Just to watch the boy flinch, Zan snaps the belt against itself. 

 

"T-ten?" Ryan asks.

 

"Yes, pet," Zan says. "Don't forget to count them."

 

"O-okay—ah!"

 

Zan brings the belt down with no warning. It falls hard against Ryan's upper ass cheeks, and almost immediately the skins starts to blush.

 

"O-one," Ryan gasps. 

 

"Good pet."

 

That's all the warning Ryan gets before the belt falls again, this time against his thighs.

 

"Two!" The boy shouts, already feeling the burn. 

 

Zan pauses, coming closer to stroke the red lines. Ryan makes a high noise at the contact. 

 

"Beautiful," Zan murmurs. "You're skin's so pale. I can see every flush."

 

He takes a step back and cracks the belt again. Harder.

 

Ryan stutters out, "Th-three!"

 

For a moment nothing happens. Then…

 

Snap! Snap!

 

"Ahh! Four—God! Five!" Ryan tries to keep up as they get faster and harder.

 

Snap! Against his lower back.

 

"Six!" The word is mostly a sob. 

 

Snap! The seventh draws blood, crossing back over the very first stripe. 

 

"Yes," Zan hisses as he scents it on the air, barely registering the boy's broken cry.

 

"S-s-seven!"

 

It's only a drop, but Zan leans in to gather it on his finger. The boy's taste explodes in his mouth, everything he's been waiting for and more. He moans, already craving another drop.

 

"I knew you were the one," he says, pulling the belt high over head.

 

It swishes through the air, and Ryan screams as it falls full against the swell of his ass.

 

"Keep counting," Zan demands. "Or I start over."

 

Ryan has to take a breath to force out, "Eight!"

 

"Niiiiiine!" is placed deliberately, falling where his skin has already split, coaxing more blood to drip.

 

But Zan doesn't stop to taste, bringing the last one down hardest of all.

 

"Ten," Ryan croaks, openly sobbing.

 

Zan jerks his fly open as he falls against the boy, sinking his cock straight down Ryan's hole. Zan's entrance is so abrupt the tissue tears, but the tang of yet more universal blood on the air just makes him thrust harder.

 

The boy throws his head back and tries to scream, but all he can do is breathlessly work his mouth. Zan doesn't care. The smell, the sensation, the days of endless freezing in his veins have all led to this moment and he can't stop. The only thing he knows is the orgasm building deep inside, and the sweet relief it promises. 

 

He snarls as it happens. Falling against the boy's neck, Zan sinks his teeth in the vein as he pumps his cold come straight up Ryan's body. His hips stutter as he swallows his first mouthful, the O-negative like balm to a wound. Heat floods his veins as the Seeking recedes. It hasn't broken, though. A wave always pulls back before it strikes the shore again, but it's the first peace of mind he's had in what feels like centuries.

 

Moments later he lifts his mouth, coming slowly back to himself. Ryan's eyes are closed as he quietly cries into the mattress, neck a bloody mess.

 

"Easy, pet," Zan murmurs, tousling the boy's braided hair. "I got you."

 

Ignoring the blood on his cock, he stuffs it back in his pants. He frees Ryan's hands, catches the boy when he starts to slide off the bed, and lifts him carefully up into his arms. Bridal style, he lays Ryan gently down against the pillows. 

 

The bite is still sluggishly pulsing.

 

"Open your eyes, pet," Zan commands. 

 

They flutter but don't open. Zan slaps his cheek, and Ryan's eyes snap open, gazing up at him without seeing. Biting down on his own wrist, he offers the wound to Ryan.

 

"Here, pet," he says softly. "This is what you need."

 

Ryan resists at first as Zan presses his wrist to the boy's mouth, but eventually gives in. He swallows down a mouthful of Zan's blood. The change is almost immediate. He gasps, hand flying up to his neck. Zan smiles at the boy's wide-eyed reaction, and reaches down to wipe some of the blood away.

 

"Come here, pet," he says, tugging Ryan out of bed.

 

On unsteady feet they walk over to the wardrobe. Zan swings the door open to reveal a long mirror on the inside.

 

Zan tilts the boy's head to the side. "Look."

 

Scars have already formed. The seal makes a white oval of teethmarks with two larger holes from Zan's canines. They're aren't perfectly round, they're a bit jagged. Starbursts.  

 

The boy tries to feel his back.

 

"The stripes are gone," Zan says, peeling off Ryan's elbow bandaid. "Only my marks remain. Your hole doesn't hurt anymore either, does it?"

 

Ryan blushes, but shakes his head. He leans back against Zan's chest. "Why?"

 

"Because you're sealed to me." Zan grins. "I feel better than I have in days, and it's all thanks to you. When the craving comes on, I'll have you again. Our bond will grow stronger as the Seeking wanes, and when it's over…"

 

"I'll be yours?" Ryan asks.

 

"Forever," Zan says, stroking the boy's chest. "Would you like that, pet? To be my boy for all time and measure?"

 

"Like Tyler?"

 

"No." Zan leans in to Ryan's ear, even though they're alone. "Just between us, I already like you better than Tyler."

 

Ryan grins, an oddly innocent expression while he's half naked with a seeker's crescent scarred into his flesh. 

 

"I gave blood, and you took a lot," Ryan says. "But I don't feel tired."

 

"You feel good don't you?" Zan asks. "Your blood makes me strong, but mine makes you feel better, as well." 

 

The boy nods, watching in the mirror as Zan's darker hands travel over his pale flesh. 

 

"We look good together," Ryan murmurs. 

 

"Naturally," Zan purrs. "Have you a kink for mirrors, my pet? Here." He pushes Ryan down, fishing out his bloody cock once the boy's kneeling. "You're job isn't quite over. I'm afraid you've got me all bloody. Humans can be so messy. Clean me up, pet."

 

Zan strokes his hands over Ryan's braids as he guides the boy's mouth to his cock. "No sucking, just use your tongue. This isn't playtime. This is one of your responsibilities as my boy."

 

Ryan does, kitten-licking at the mess his blood and Zan's come have left behind. Zan watches in the mirror as the pinkish smears disappear off his cock.

 

"You're right, pet." He smirks. "We do look good together. How does it taste, the combination of us?" He doesn't allow the boy to pull back enough to answer. "It's the same mess up your hole. Maybe later I'll have a taste, eh, pet?"

 

The boy whimpers at Zan's words.

 

"That's sufficient, I think." Zan pulls the boy up. "Shall we dress you for the party?"

 

Ryan frowns, face wrinkling. "Do we have to go back?"

 

Zan laughs. "Yes, pet. A host has duties."  

 

"I wanna stay here with you," the boy pouts.

 

"I know." Zan teases his fingers down the boy's bare chest. "But I want to show you off."

 

Ryan reaches up to catch the hand. "We could just stay here together. You could have me again."

 

"Oh, I will," Zan says, tone adamant. "Later. For now, let's find you something to wear."

 

He whips Ryan's jacket off his shoulders and tosses it aside.

 

"My phone!" Ryan protests.

 

"No sense worrying about it, pet." Zan's staring in thought at the clothes hanging in the wardrobe. "It won't work in here anyway. Now, get your kit off. Your skeleton costume is precious, but I want you to match me."

 

"Okay," Ryan says. 

 

Zan flicks the boy's nose. "Address me properly."

 

"…Yes, master."

 

"Much better." Zan nods in approval.

 

"I…I like calling you that, master," Ryan mumbles.

 

"I like it hearing it," Zan says. "But I believe someone should be naked by now. Put your things on the table. Folded."

 

Watching Zan with soft, fond eyes, Ryan strips off his boots and peels down his leather pants. He folds everything as instructed, then lays his gloves on top.  

 

Satisfied, Zan returns to the wardrobe. On the top shelf is a small wooden chest. He opens it and takes out a golden half-mask with a black ribbon tie, similar to the white ones the Columbines wear. 

 

"A white mask of any sort means you're one of the Dead," Zan says. "A red columbina, the half style, means the human is free game. A black one means they've been claimed for the evening. A gold one, like this, indicates exclusive ownership." He ties the mask around Ryan's face. "Only I can give out gold masks. What do you think, pet?"

 

"I like it, master," Ryan admits. 

 

"It's a good look for you, pet," Zan says. "Nothing but my mask and my marks. But I'm a bit too jealous to let them see you like this, I'm afraid."

 

He takes out a garment like a woman's waist binder, but flat along the top. It's lacy and gold, with long black spines every few inches.

 

"Is that a corset?" Ryan asks.

 

"It is." Zan grins. "A man's corset, that's why it isn't curved."

 

"Cuz I don't have boobs," Ryan says.

 

"Obviously."

 

Zan holds it out, and Ryan steps forward, arms up. Zan wraps it around the boy, cinching it tight, and lacing it up.

 

"Can you breathe, pet?"

 

"Yes, master," Ryan says. "Not as deep as usual, though."

 

"That's alright," Zan says. "I like leaving you breathless."

 

Ryan smiles, and ducks his head. "You don't need a corset for that, master."

 

Zan nips at his neck and returns to the drawers. He holds up a small pair of lacy black briefs.

 

"Panties?" Ryan asks.

 

"Manties," Zan says. "See how the lace is thicker here in front?"

 

Ryan reaches out a hand to finger the material. "I…I'll look like a girl."

 

"Pet, do you know why women wear lacy things?" Zan steps closer, his hand snaking down the boy's back.

 

"Not really, master." Ryan shivers at the touch. "To look sexy?"

 

"To look available," Zan corrects. "To show men their holes are available for fucking." His hand dips lower, finding the boy's hole, newly tight, but still smeared with come and blood. "And your holes are also available for fucking, aren't they?"

 

"Yes, master," the boy gasps.

 

"Good, pet." Zan bends down, and bunches up the lace so Ryan can step into them. Slowly he draws them up Ryan's legs. 

 

Ryan's cock is nestled by the fabric, the lace just thick enough. The back is already sheering, wet between his cheeks. 

 

"They're soft," Ryan says quietly. "I thought lace would be itchy."

 

"Only the best for my pets," Zan says, turning back to the wardrobe. "What size shoes do you wear?"

 

"Seven-and-a-half, usually," Ryan answers. 

 

"Rather small for one so tall," Zan muses, looking into the wardrobe again. 

 

"Master?" comes the tentative voice of the boy behind him.

 

He doesn't turn to look. "Yes, pet?"

 

"Are you gonna put that thing on my dick, like Selda's boy?"

 

"I will if I want to," says Zan. "But I usually like seeing how hard and desperate my pet is for me. Milking is Selda's game."

 

"I don't understand, master," Ryan says.

 

"Well, she likes to lock a man up, and then force him to orgasm," Zan says. 

 

"But…if his cock is all locked up…" Ryan trails off.

 

"He can't get hard, but can still make his seed," explains Zan. "It just weeps out. That's why it's called milking."

 

"Weird," Ryan says without thinking.

 

Suddenly, Zan's hands are in his hair, forcing his head sharply back.

 

"Ah!"

 

"It's not for you to judge the behavior of our kind," Zan hisses. "Selda would take your tongue for that."

 

Tears spill from the corners of Ryan's eyes. "Please, master, I'm sorry. I didn't mean it like that, I swear! I've just never heard of that before."

 

Zan eyes the boy. "All those scars, but you've never heard of milking? Even humans do that."

 

"I…I mostly just," Ryan's crying in earnest now. "They just like to hurt me."

 

Sighing, Zan releases his grip. He's surprised when Ryan falls to his knees and wraps his arms around Zan's waist.

 

"Please, I'm sorry," the boy sobs, burying his face in Zan's side. "Don't send me away! Please be my master."

 

Pleased with how fast the seal is working between them, Zan strokes his hand over Ryan's head. "It's all right, pet. You're still my boy."

 

Ryan looks up, hazel eyes wet and shining. "Y-you mean it?"

 

Zan nods. "I overreacted. Selda is…special to me."

 

"I'm sorry, master." Ryan kisses Zan's hip. "I really am."

 

"I forgive you, pet." Zan tips Ryan's head to the side, strokes his finger over the sealing scar on the boy's neck.

 

"Should I apologize to Selda?" Ryan asks.

 

Zan's lips twitch. "No, I think not, pet. This one should stay just between us."

 

Ryan smiles. Then he closes his eyes, takes a deep a breath, and looks up at Zan. "I'm ready, master."

 

Canting a brow at him, Zan asks, "Ready for what?"

 

"To be punished," the boys says. "I was bad."

 

"Not bad, my sweet boy." Zan puts his fingers beneath Ryan's chin and draws him to his feet. "Just careless. An honest mistake, not intentional misbehavior. I can be merciful to good pets who deserve it."

 

Bashfully, the boy asks, "Am I a good pet, master?"

 

Zan strokes his thumb across Ryan's bottom lip. "Yes, I think you will be."

 

Ryan smiles back, the panic gone from his face. Zan reaches out to rub the tear tracks from his cheeks where they've leaked below the mask.

 

"Now, then," Zan says. "Seven-and-a-half, you said?"

 

Zan pulls out a pair of sandals that lace up the boy's legs to just below the knee. They're metallic gold, just like the corset.

 

"Let me look at you."

 

Ryan spreads his arms and takes a step back so Zan can get the whole picture. Zan's smiling, hand on his chin. The black-and-gold corset goes well with the lacy briefs, and the sandals force the eye to follow the boy's legs all the way up. 

 

"Almost perfect," Zan says.

 

He takes a brush out of the top drawer and beckons Ryan over. Zan sits at the small table and directs Ryan to kneel before him. With nimble fingers, Zan unwinds every tiny braid from Ryan's hair, raking a brush through it when it's all done. Wavy from the braids, the boy's hair poofs back against his head. Zan chuckles and pets his fingers through the fluff.

 

"I think we'll leave this for now," he says, as they both rise. "We should go. You'd hate to miss Duncan's big show."

Act 0.2: I am the punishment of God

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