A Little Rough - 5ellaal5 (2024)

Chapter 1: Ch 1 Got Potions for That. (Book 1: A Private Meal)


Aloy looks for Kotallo but finds Hekarro.

Chapter Text

Hekarro - The Grove

Aloy was standing in Hekarro’s throne room, looking a bit lost, which was a strange look on her. He was in a rare moment of having no scheduled meetings or events for the next half an hour, and decided to see what his favorite cyclone was pondering before someone else intercepted her.

“Greetings, Just Aloy. What brings you to the Grove?”

She had smiled and turned to him when she noticed his approach, and he held out his hands and treasured her returning grip, before releasing her.

“Oh, I was looking for Kotallo.”

“Ah.” Just a bit disappointed. “He has—”

“He left for the Embassy in the Carja territory, yeah. I read.” She looked amused but also lost, again.

Hekarro had a private moment of frustration with the progress he was not making with reading, even with Kotallo’s nightly support. Being Chief meant a lack of time as well as a mind already full of other knowledge. But over and over he reaffirmed his opinion that reading and writing were truly useful skills that he hoped to bring to the Tenakth.

“Well, is there anything I can help you with, in the absence of our Marshal?”

“Actually, sure! I was mostly just looking to spend some time with someone I know, while I wait for someone else I know to join me. I just came back from taking out a Zenith who got away.”

Hekarro grimaced. “Got away? I was not aware of that happening. Thank you for intervening.”

“Yeah, we missed it too. It seems he fled pretty far but not far enough. It was a ways down the coast, at a place you all call the Burning Shores.”

“Ten Guided Your Path, out there. There’s a reason we don’t occupy it, but I see you survived it.” Hekarro glanced up at the light filtering through the leaves in the incomplete roof. “It’s still morning, and you said you were waiting for someone to arrive. Do you have a time when you need to leave?”

She shrugged. “Not really. I already tried seeing Alva on my way back North but they’re busy, and then I stopped in to see my friend Erend in Hidden Ember, but he wasn’t there. I think he’s also on his way to Meridian. I called ahead to my Utaru friend but she’s in meetings with the Chorus and can’t take my calls. Seems like Kotallo is busy, too, and I shouldn’t interrupt him.” Her lips pressed into a slant of disappointment for a moment, until she grinned at him. “But I’m happy to see you! You’re hard to find! Do you have time?”

He ducked his head to meet her eyes. “As a matter of fact, I am somewhat at leisure today, since all the preparation and delegation has departed with Marshal Kotallo. I do have a meeting with some of my remaining scout leaders in the afternoon, but I’m free all evening. I wasn’t sure what to do with myself, but now I see I’ll be entertaining our favorite Outlander.”

She bit her lip and raised her eyebrows before replying, hands on her hips. “What sorts of ‘entertaining’ are you proposing? Not another grand event, I hope?”

“How about a quiet dinner and conversation, just the two of us, and a trip to the baths since you’re transitioning from one challenge to the next… and… anything else diplomatic that might arise?”

“‘Arise,’ huh?” Her eyes flicked down his torso, and he smiled and nodded slightly. “Alright, that sounds pretty good. I do need to rebraid my hair. I’m worried my twists are going to get matted, and then I keep them so loose they’re falling in my face. Am I allowed to visit the baths by myself while you’re in meetings?”

“You would deprive me of washing your hair?”

“Well, Kotallo isn’t here…. That doesn’t seem fair, to leave him out, does it?”

“Hmm, you did say we needed to time our Embassies. This was clearly careless on our part. How about, I will yield the next iteration to him.”

“Oh, alright. Hmm, I guess I could run through the Arena a few times before dinner, if that won’t deplete your Machine stock.” She turned her head to look vaguely towards where sounds of cheering were almost always available as background noise and leaned towards it, longing.

He grinned at her enthusiasm. “Very well. I will stop by our central kitchens and request a meal for us. Anything you prefer?”

“I like trying a lot of things. Even the Desert clan lizards and scorpions have grown on me.”

“I’ll pick my favorites, then. Do you remember your way to my private quarters?”

She pointed to her Focus, smirking. He smiled and nodded.

“After sunset, then.”

“Looking forward to seeing what… arises,” she said, waving as she turned towards the Arena.

“Don’t wear yourself out. That’s my job.”

“I’ve got potions for that,” she said over her shoulder, hand brushing her belt.

He watched the belt accentuate her unconsciously swaggering hip sway as she departed, and thought if he sent a runner to the kitchens, he could watch her fight from the overlook, something he rarely got the chance to do. He recalled that most of what he knew of her had been gained second-hand: reports from Kotallo and his soldiers, and his scouts and spies, and now some interesting ‘archival footage’ of her through Kotallo’s Focus because, he said, he missed the daily ‘Aloy Show.’ They had both enjoyed re-watching her battle against Regalla’s Slitherfang a number of times, since they had been busy fighting Regalla and hadn’t seen. And then reliving how she’d turned back Regalla and saved them both, viewing themselves from her perspective. It triggered some interesting discussion of the events that had led to Kotallo pledging his life to her.

But now, Hekarro was very much looking forward to getting first-hand experience.

Thought made action, and menu request sent, he leaned against one of the pillars and took in the sight of her. He tried not to join in the cheering with his very identifiable voice lest his observation change her enjoyment, especially because he’d probably have to leave mid-fight, but he couldn’t stop himself from raising a fist into the air, or stomping a foot, or leaning in with concern.

He was getting the sense of her insistence on being ‘just Aloy.’

Kotallo spoke of her as something precious but had also admired her penchant for direct involvement. Her Machine hunting skill was, indeed, beyond compare, with her versatility and speed of deployment with all the weapons and tools at her disposal. Most of his soldiers specialized in two to three weapons and a small handful of traps or tripwires. She seemed expert in anything she laid a hand to.

Also, she didn’t look at all like the shimmery, untouchable Zeniths that levitated above the ground that Kotallo had shown him through his Focus, or like a Carja general in pressed silks staying out of the fray on high ground.

Her fighting was gritty, dusty, brutal. She took a lot of hits, went down, and recovered. And, yes, she heavily utilized potions and her medicinal berry pouch, even using cover to blend more mid-fight. Her audience, including him, was truly worried about the outcome, shown by their cheers and groans echoing across the Arena’s stands. For all her pale skin, unmarked by anything but the sun and mostly unscarred, she didn’t seem like a legendary hero as she fought. A mighty warrior, certainly, but very real.

She fit in well with the Tenakth. He hadn’t gotten a chance to see her late Nora companion —Varl was his name as he recalled— in action, to get a sense of whether it was she who felt so at home here or whether a Nora-Tenakth alliance might bear fruit.

He pulled himself back from groaning along with the crowd as she temporarily went flying head over heels only to roll and then catch herself in a lunge.

Watching her recovery from getting body slammed again by that Ravager was… giving him ideas.

He hoped she would also be amenable to diplomatic de-escalation if his ideas went farther than she liked.

He closed his eyes for a moment and exhaled, willing his body to calm because he’d heard the Scout’s Leader hailing him from another room.

Chapter 2: Ch. 2 Mcauvvhile… (Book 1: A Private Meal)


Kotallo notices his friend Erend's Focus settings.
And also notices his friend Erend.


Multiple inspirations. Can't link more than one
fit for a drinking song by Alysvolatile (ink and piercings in interesting places)
tied to the anvil by soft_witch (got me inspired for E/K in the first place)

Chapter Text

Kotallo - The Base

Kotallo had split off from the delegation after Scalding Spear, as they headed North by foot to cross into Utaru lands with some messages and supplies and a rendezvous site planned near Barren Light if he didn’t catch them before, and he took a Charger to the Base to check in. Aloy had sent an audio data file that she was close to wrapping up her work in Burning Shores. They’d tried talking by Focus a few times but, according to her guess, something about Londra’s activities, or his AI, or his choice of caves and volcano calderas for a base was interfering in the Focus network’s long distance ‘reception’ in this final stretch.

He was looking forward to learning whether she’d done anything about her crush on this rebellious Quen marine. It was so adorable, the way Aloy talked about her.

He’d left her a text data file back at The Grove. One could never tell with his Wandering Goddess, though, whether they would cross paths or miss each other.

Still, it was surprisingly good to have this quiet place that felt like home to retreat to for a time, even if she wasn’t in it. He breathed in the brisk mountain air as he climbed the last handholds and entered.

Even the contrast in air was welcoming. The familiar flatness of the purified air of the Base brushed his skin and ruffled the tufts of his pauldron as the outer bunker door slid open, but as he made his way to the inner door, he was greeted by Death Metal rather than silence.

Ah, Erend was here, instead of Las Vegas.

Before he stepped in fully, he touched his Focus with the comms microgesture. “Beta, I just arrived at the Base. Are you here?”

She answered, clearly hearing the music through Kotallo’s Focus’ recorder. “Yes. Sylens is still at the Zenith launch site by the way. I’m, uh, hiding in the server room with some headphones that Alva and I found in some ruins a while back and got working! Erend and I had been watching a sitcom, but then there were a couple episodes about starting a band in a garage, and he got excited and started practicing. Now I’m distracting myself from Erend’s music with a prestige holo-drama that was found in the Quen home region that Alva is from. Some genre called K-Drama? I’m in the last four episodes before a season finale, though, so I probably won’t come up unless you need something even if you get him to stop the music.”

“That is a sound plan. I wish you luck, and a satisfactory conclusion to the plot.”

“Oh, no, this is only the third season of eleven. I’m sure there will be a cliffhanger! Let me know if there’s dinner, though. Oh, and you might like this one. It’s a military dramatization. Their armor kind of looks like yours, sometimes! I’ll let you know if I ever want to watch it from the beginning, or I can send you the files for your free time. It requires reading subtitles though…”

“Hmm. I might pass, if there are subtitles, but I can come look over your shoulder for a scene or two, for the costumes. About dinner, I will let you know what is for dinner when I know myself.”

“Thanks!” she replied, and the Focus comms clicked off. He shook his head fondly. As awkward at goodbyes as her sister. He went into the common room.

It seemed that Erend had also learned about music videos and holos, either from Aloy or from GAIA, and he was doing the thing he called ‘air guitar’ and singing along to a projection in front of his face. He was surprisingly athletic, getting a foot up onto the couch into a lunge, then kicking the air with the drum’s rhythm during a solo, and then stomping and tossing his head for the chorus, always keeping his hands in place to ‘strum’ the rhythm. The partial profile of his face was very expressive as he mouthed the words.

Kotallo was able to approach him from behind without him even noticing. Good thing the Base was hard to find and needed a Focus to work the doors. He just stood there for a moment or two, trying to track the video beyond Erend’s occasionally tossing head (it was a very intense verse, apparently), until the music called for a dramatic spin.

Erend finally noticed him a mere couple of handbreadths away and almost fell over backwards onto the couch, but caught himself on the couch’s arm halfway down.

“Blast and Fire, can you not sneak up on a fella like that?” Erend exclaimed after closing the file. He dramatically clutched his heart.

Kotallo offered a forearm to help pull him back upright, and answered while assisting. “Why would I do that, when you give me yet another opportunity to display my superior strength and coordination? Stealth was not required.”

“You co*cky bastard.” Erend’s words had no malice though, and he changed their arm clasp into a manly hug with back slapping once upright. Then Erend said, “Ow. Is there any part of your armor that isn’t stabby?”

“That would defeat the purpose of the armor.”

He was met with only a dramatic eyebrow raise and a quirk of his full lips, highlighted by the bushy muttonchops. Then Erend held out his arms. “Look at my uniform. Sturdiness over stabby-ness.”

Kotallo leaned forward and passed his palm over the cuirass, shoulder to waist, assessing the sturdiness of the boiled leather layers and sewn down metal plates. He tugged on one, pulling Erend slightly forward. The big man shivered. Kotallo must have brought in some mountain chill when he arrived.

“Indeed,” he agreed, and then slapped the steel centerpiece and stepped back, then he shrugged and hooked a thumb into the sword belt over his own tassets beside the angular centerpiece. “I like mine ‘stabby.’”

Truth be told, early on he had occasionally jabbed himself in the solar plexus when standing up from the ground, but there was no need to mention that now. Not injuring yourself with your own armor was a fine Tenakth tradition demonstrating skill and finesse.

Erend’s eyes had followed Kotallo’s hand’s movement and then continued a bit below his waist for a moment, then had looked up again when Kotallo continued talking.


Perhaps it wasn’t mountain air, then.

Hmm. Nothing like having the affection and support from two people you respect to make you realize that not everyone hates to have you around, as you’d assumed before.

“What brings you to the Base, Oseram? I had thought you in the desert, still?”

“I peeled off from Morlund and some of the others. They’re heading South around the mountain. We’re going into the Claim to try to rally support for Aloy. Thought I’d stop in at Meridian first. See if Avad has any news, and fill him and Marad and the Vanguard Captains in about Nemesis in person.”

Kotallo blinked. This was good news! Perhaps they could travel together for a while, and Erend could provide him with some connections or tips for navigating the city or the nobles.

“I, too, am going to Meridian. Sun-king Avad has called for another Embassy but in his capital instead of the border to the Daunt. My party is traveling North around the mountains, offering some more aid to the Utaru on the way, and I’ll meet them in Barren Light.”

“No kidding!? You heading out right away, then?”

“No, I’m giving myself a day or so here, to settle my thoughts, and review some of Aloy’s Focus records with GAIA’s help and the larger display in her Control Room. And plan our path with the map in the game room. Perhaps you could give my searches some direction? Point me to likely allies or impediments?”

“Yeah, good idea. Happy to be useful for once. Oh, uh, Aloy’s not here, by the way.”

Kotallo nodded, looking down and away for a moment, feeling a pang of disappointment but not surprise, before meeting Erend’s gaze again. Aloy’s absence had almost distracted him from his younger friend’s perpetual self-deprecation. “You and Beta are also a welcome sight. And, do you still have ale here, or has it gone sour?”

“I brought some new ale up from Chainscrape a couple weeks ago, in case I’d be swinging back through! You want some?” Erend moved as if to pour him a mug right then.

Kotallo chuckled and held a hand up. “Later, my friend. With dinner. After I beat you at Strike.”

“Hey, I’ve been practicing!”

“I look forward to adjusting my strategy as I win.”

“Ha. Hey, uh, did you want to get right to your research, or could you spare some time helping me get dinner ingredients? Beta is holed up downstairs with that puffed grains and dried kelp powder she says is almost as good as popcorn. That gal needs a real meal, not just more Utaru soup.”

Kotallo shrugged. “I am not yet settled enough to study. If we go Northwest, or East, I’m happy to come along. Just, ah, no more ‘barbeque’ please.”

“Whatever you say, buddy,” as Erend reached out to slap him on the back, and then reconsidered. They were about to head out when Kotallo paused. Something about the Death Metal video had bothered him.

“Erend, would you bring up your music’s image once more. Uh, with the volume down. Just for a moment.”

“Uh, yeah, sure.”

Kotallo stepped beside and slightly behind him, looking over his shoulder. Erend glanced at him with his eyes only, holding his face still, seeming to hold his breath.

Kotallo pointed, reaching around him. “Are those… subtitles?”

“Yeah! It’s helpful to read the lyrics. I love the screaming, but I like to know what I’m screaming, ya know?”

Kotallo squinted.

“Why are they so small? And what is that font?”

“Small…? Font…? What are you talking about?”

Kotallo leaned in further, resting his chest against Erends shoulder to try to see, trying to avoid stabbing him with his neck spikes.

“Hmmm. Can you bring up a text file? Just something simple. Maybe a data point from around the Base or one of those messages people leave each other in ruins.”

“Uh, ok.” Erend manhandled some Focus gestures, and chose a text file at random.

Kotallo squinted again, leaning forward again. He looked at the file name, and then stepped to Erend’s side, opened his Focus’ display with the publicly-visible setting, and found the same file. The text was much larger, in a clear font, with ample line spacing.

Erend’s eyes looked back and forth between the two displays and then he abruptly shut his Focus display off so he could stare at Kotallo. “Hey, what? Is that the same file!? Why does yours look so different?!”

Kotallo closed his as well and stared back at his uncertain friend, who was so often putting down his own ability to read or make sense of things. How to offer help, delicately?


“That’s all you’ve got for me, you broody Tenakth? ‘Hmmm ?’”

Kotallo waved a hand for patience.

“When I first arrived, some of the Focus gestures needed two hands with normal settings. GAIA showed me how to adjust ‘Accessibility Settings’ so that I could use it with only one hand. She also directed me to particular ‘fonts’ because I would mix up the same glyphs because I was learning to read over and over. Something called, oh, what was it…?”

GAIA’s voice sounded between their Focuses’ speakers. “I believe the phrase you’re looking for is ‘dyslexia-friendly fonts.’”

“Yes! That was it! Thank you, GAIA. Here, Erend. Let me see if I can lead you to these settings. Open the main menu and then go to Focus settings… Further down. Oh, wait, your menu is shorter. Maybe… there?”

Erend followed Kotallo’s gestures, with some help since the menu lengths were so different between the two displays and Erend’s display text was so very small and in a strange font that looked like handwritten Carja glyphs made with a leaky pen.

With his metal hand on his shoulder, Kotallo helped him pick a font that was easy to read, and switched it a few times to make sure Erend’s choice worked in multiple contexts, and set it to default. Changed the screen’s view size and taught him how to temporarily zoom in on a text file. They even experimented with shifting the saturation of the text display light until Erend said it wasn’t hurting his eyes as much.

Erend looked delighted.

Kotallo felt a little ill.

He had overheard Erend talking to Aloy on many occasions about how much trouble he was having learning to read and understanding the content, and the glyphs causing headaches, and it had never occurred to him to not take the man’s own beliefs about his stupidity at face value and just look at the damn settings. What kind of a friend believed their friend’s self-criticism?

Varl was also Erend’s friend. And Zo? Aloy knew him the best; why didn’t she…? Oh, but at that point, she was relying on GAIA to train everyone because she was almost never there, and everyone else was learning the Focus from the very beginning. Aloy had to believe what her team reported to her, when she stopped in, and her team was all doing their best.

Kotallo had gotten help from GAIA and Beta with ‘accessibility,’ and had received Aloy’s special attention for making his metal arm, and rebuilding his trust in himself, because his main impediment was physical and obvious.

But during Kotallo’s first days here, he’d had trouble with swapping glyphs, confusing words, having them blur before his eyes or fade into the environment behind him, causing headaches, as Erend might have been having this whole time. GAIA had talked about ‘dyslexia’ but also about past head injuries affecting reading, and that was an injury they likely both shared.

But unlike Erend, Kotallo had been shown how to make adjustments right away, and then knew it was possible to ask for a change. It had only impeded him for a few days at most, and after that he hadn’t been taking it personally when new but similar challenges slowed him down.

He shook his head in dismay and also awe.

Once Erend had closed the menus, looking stunned at how easy it was now that he’d made the font size match his fingertips for better precision, Kotallo spoke.

“Erend, you are one of the smartest people I know.”

“What?! What in the Forge are you talking about?!”

Kotallo just kept shaking his head, amazed.

“You learned everything we all did. But it was if you were learning to fight swinging a warhammer the size of a cart, rather than a practice wooden one. And you did it —you learned it— all the same.”

Erend looked even more stunned. He blinked.

“I did?”

He looked down. Quirked a smile. Huffed a laugh.

“I did!”

Kotallo slapped him on the shoulder and gripped where his hand landed. “Truly, you walk in strength, Oseram.”

Erend looked back up at him, still apparently amazed, and a few other things besides. Then firmed up his expression.

“Hey, we should still go hunting. A couple of us battle-hardened ancient tech experts, forging into the wilds, should have no trouble bringing down a brace of pigeons. Otherwise I’m going to get all emotional.”

Kotallo smirked. It seemed none of Aloy’s friends particularly enjoyed having many feelings. “Agreed.”

Chapter 3: Ch. 3 Sufficiently Obvious for the Otherwise Oblivious (Book 1: A Private Meal)


Hekarro is a big guy and knows what he likes. Aloy is open to negotiation.


Winner by COTA (maybe they'd all like it a little rougher?)

Chapter Text

Aloy - The Grove

After sunset and after building up a decent appetite despite the number of potions she’d downed, Aloy was sitting at the corner of a table with only two chairs pulled forward, chatting about literal diplomatic developments between the various Tribes and Tenakth clans with Chief Hekarro. They were also chatting about their hopes for Kotallo in Meridian.

She was kind of curious to learn what Kotallo and Avad thought of each other, but she didn’t want to go too far from the Base in case Seyka and Alva got the Quen reunited more efficiently than anticipated, and she also wasn’t sure how Sunwings would behave too far from their home range. She knew Kotallo had met Talanah when she passed through the Base, but that had been early in Kotallo’s acquaintance with her and her friends. And Erend was going towards the Claim with Morlund, but maybe he could be reached by Focus…? Could he count on them as allies, through her? Did he have allies of his own?

She didn’t bring up those thoughts out loud. A little late now to offer that support.

In a pause in the conversation, Hekarro maneuvered the last bites of something she’d been enjoying onto her plate.

“What’s this one do?” she asked, interested. He’d already given her a basic run-down of the ingredients, but she hadn’t seen it at any of the cooks in settlements before. Something with crab meat that was dipped in the melted fat from peccary that had been mixed with spices.


“Yeah, you know. Boost? Improve?”

He tilted his head. “It’s delicious…?”

She tilted her head the other way. “It doesn’t have a perk, like helping me keep track of traps I’ve set, or aiming at a particularly vulnerable joint?”

He had a fondly amused smile as he answered. “Some of our dishes have the common perk of improving company and giving a sense of satisfaction.”

She pressed her lips together, a bit chagrined, and stared at the table.

“It occurs to me it’s been a while since I, er, ate a meal, instead of just cramming some leaf-wrapped food in my mouth days after it was cooked.”

He chuckled, grinning.

She added, around eating what he’d served her. “Did I say days? I might have meant weeks.”

He laughed deeper. “And how does it compare, hot from the kitchen and with a friend instead of with incoming fire?”

She looked up into his face, licking the spiced oil off her fingers. “Like your type of bathing, something I’m realizing I should probably do more often.”

“You are welcome back any time,” he replied, stacking the empty serving and eating dishes into a deep tray to the side of the table, but also flicking his gaze to her fingers.

She felt both relieved and like that might be too good to be true. She picked up a napkin, and then tilted her head and looked at him sidelong. “And I haven’t done anything weird like use the wrong napkin or drink from the wrong glass, have I?”

“No signs of a cyclone yet.”

“A ‘cyclone?’” she asked, cloth conveniently hiding half her face.

He looked down, possibly embarrassed? “You have a rather impactful and unpredictable presence when you visit.”

She shrugged, thinking of the Arena’s pillars and the crowd’s response to her support of High Marshal Ivvira. “Yeah, fair enough.”

“Don’t mistake me. Your visits are also very exciting.” He’d looked into her eyes again, and she felt a Something that she was beginning to realize was, possibly, signs that flirting that she was into was happening. She put the napkin back on the table and took a breath.

“I feel like the last time I tried this, I went a bit overkill. How, precisely, does one proposition a Tribe leader without giving offense?”

He smirked. “When it’s you? What you just said, works.”

He picked up one of her hands from the table, turned it over, kissed the center of her palm, and spoke into it. “How does one proposition a…” he looked into her eyes, weighing words, “…‘just Aloy?’”

She thought for a moment, considering options when she’d lost a bit of brain power to the warmth of his hands and his mouth. She wasn’t sure if her terribly awkward flirting would work as well with Hekarro as it did with Kotallo. She tried honestly instead.

“Mostly by being extremely obvious and then being fine with whatever answer comes to me.”

He nodded, and stood, drawing her to her feet with the hand he’d already captured. Led her to his bedside where he perched on the edge again, and pulled her to stand between his legs.

“Does this work?”

“Mmhmm. This is sufficiently obvious.” She leaned into his chest and slid her right knee along the bend of his thigh and waist. She’d shed her leggings and footwear before coming over, since the Tenakth largely went barefoot, and since she had fond memories of how he’d responded to her state of partial undress in their last engagement. They’d both taken their respective headwear off before eating.

Then she paused. “I think it’s sufficient. You would let me know if this was actually a preamble to, say, wrestling for control of the Lowland clans?”

His eyes gleamed with amusem*nt, his fingers easily finding and undoing the clasps that secured the cuirass of the Marshal armor he’d gifted her before the Kulrut, that she’d improved and worn to fight in the Arena today, and pulling the now-uncrossed sections down over her shoulders where he caught them on her vambraces, lightly trapping her arms at her side and lifting her chest. “I would. This is not officially wrestling, though it might involve some, unofficially. Like with the meal tonight, there’s no goal other than satisfaction.”

Her hands rested on his forearms since she was unable to move them to anywhere else interesting. “Glad we’re on the same page, here,” she said with a gasp at the end as he’d nipped at the curve of her breasts through her chest-wrap.

He looked thoughtful as he released her armor to the floor behind her and found and untucked the end of her wrap. “That phrase. Is that from reading?”

She blinked, having difficulty recalling what specific words she had said when he was purposefully grazing her nipples with each unwrapping pass. “Uh…. ‘same page?’ Yeah. Sorry, I forgot about context. Means we have the same intel.”

“I do know what it means, I had just realized, now, where it came from. It’s interesting how so many phrases are shared between cultures without the underlying history or practices.”

“Yeah, interesting.” He’d loosened and slid her vambraces off as well, and now his warm hands had come to cover her now unclothed breasts, applying the friction of his palms back and forth to her nipples and breasts underneath, and she’d finally gotten her hands back such that she could pull out the tie that held most of his hair away from his face, and was combing her fingers through it.

“How do you make complete sentences while doing this?” she asked sincerely.

His eyes were amused again. “Practice.”

“Mmm. Gotta get me some of that.”

“Right now, for example?” His hands were sliding down her waist towards her belt and tassets.

“I’m going easy on ability to sentences right now.” He laughed at that phrasing, and then grabbed her hip and other thigh to hoist her fully astride him, and then redirected one hand under her armor to her vulva from behind while his tongue found her breasts. She closed her eyes and wrapped her arms around his neck, holding on for dear life, as her body told her all sorts of interesting things he was doing with his hand and mouth.

His other hand seemed to be busy removing or pushing aside his own armor, and she was lost in sensations enough to be not paying attention to any of that, so she was surprised when he reached between them to bring the tip of his co*ck up to stroke along her slickness. But that reminded her…. She opened her eyes and forced some words into order.

“Hey, I don’t have the same casualness with pregnancy that the Tenakth do, what with saving the world and all. Can you not cum inside me, tonight?”

He continued to rub against her as he considered.

“Can I renegotiate that I won’t cum inside you where there’s a risk of pregnancy?”

She looked off to the side while she thought of other body parts, then looked back at him. “Yeah, that works, as long as you hold to your end of the agreement.”

He grinned. “Your conditions in no way impact my plans for tonight, so I am happy to comply.”

Her eyes opened wider. “I thought you were worried about my teeth.”

He grinned wider. “I am.”

She considered other body parts, but then got distracted. “HmmMmmOooh whoooaa,” she moaned as he pulled her hips down and pushed into her c*nt in a way that stretched her beyond what she’d experienced so far.

She’d had her mouth around him, with effort and concentration, especially after the gentle critique about guarding him from her teeth, but that was not at all the same here. Her c*nt was stretching to the point of almost burning, and her slickness blending with something slippery he’d put on himself that still didn’t stop their skin from dragging together. She felt like she could be turned inside out like a leather glove if he went too fast.

She was about to ask him to pause and let her relax into it, but he murmured, “You can take it, Aloy,” and ducked his head to suck hard on one nipple.

Her body seemed to reply, “yep, we can, this is all fine, get that in you!”

So her arms tightened around his neck further and her hands grabbed his hair tighter as he pulled back slightly and then guided her hips further onto him. She could feel his breath hot on her skin when her inner muscles tried an attempt at re-exerting control, but he’d already gone past their ability to stop him. She just let herself be maneuvered as he wished until their bodies sorted it out, her feet sliding off his thighs and down beside them on the bed, her own thighs spreading wider, to reduce the distance between them and to make more space.

“Hhhhhholy All-Mother Mountain,” she moaned, grabbing his traps on the side of his neck and tilting backwards, as the rest of her body went along with her c*nt in attempting to relax and reshape to this new configuration. He’d switched sides with his mouth, pulling hard on her other nipple, and his hands were still busy bringing them together.

In a moment, he’d moved his hands back to the crease of her thighs under her tassets, and pulled her steadily on and off of him like he’d done with Kotallo’s head, with her just as passive and compliant. She found herself gasping her breaths in time with his efforts.

He paused, hands running up and down her thighs, staying seated inside her. The intense pressure still giving her body something to clench against to drive her arousal upwards. Then he spoke.

“Need a potion?” She could see his smug smile even from her unfocused peripheral vision.

She corralled her gaze to his face, eyes narrowing. “I can take it.”

“I thought as much,” he grinned, extremely pleased. This time his hands drew up her thighs on the outside of her outfit, and undid her supply belt and unclasped the last of her armor. She’d leaned back to let him work, and suddenly she could see herself impaled on him, stretched around him. She couldn’t even take him fully inside her, this way, even though she felt him deep, deep, deep.

Her breath whooshed out, and her hand pulled away from his neck and came to trace the connection, heel of palm grinding against her cl*t, but unwilling to let her fingers fully obscure her view. Her hips shifted slightly, mirroring the movements he’d guided her into a moment ago, her own active involvement changing all the sensations yet again, watching in fascination the anatomical wonder of him disappearing into her. It felt like a magic trick, shards disappearing behind ears, even with all of her insides telling her about his fit.

Done with shucking her armor, his arms encircled her, one at her sacrum and one between her shoulder blades, and he resumed using her body to pleasure himself. His silken hair obscured her view as he went back to nipping and pulling at her breasts with his mouth, so she just arched backwards, resting her hands on his upper arms and feeling his strength, eyes unable to focus on the ceiling or walls as her head lolled.

She bit her lip, and looked down at him.

“Kiss me,” she insisted, bringing her hands to his jaws.

He glanced up at her, shaking his head slightly. “It is not my place.”

“Huhhh… What?” Was this something about first dibs, or being Chief, or…

But he’d tilted his head and was kissing and biting her neck. He murmured in between nips, “Later, Aloy. I’ll explain later.”

“Mmmmmmm,” she consented, because the hand not guiding her hips had taken over toying with her breasts since his mouth was elsewhere.

His thrusts into her were coming much easier, as she was getting closer and closer to cumming on his huge co*ck and was getting so wet that her inner thighs were slick, but suddenly he stopped. He pulled free of her, put his arm under her legs to lift her as he partially stood and moved them fully onto his bed. Then directed her to turn around, onto her hands and knees, and pushed back into her.

She’d really liked this when Kotallo had done it, but it was harder without a post or a wall to push against. Her hands were gripping the layers of linen sheets and light blankets but she didn’t have much leverage, especially because she wanted to bring her hand back to herself and finish coming. Her blood was singing with the need.

Her plans were thwarted, though, because as soon as he’d gotten back as deep as he wanted with this new position, his hands moved from her hips to her shoulders, and then slid down to take her upper arms firmly just above the elbow, pressing them into her ribcage, and lifting her whole torso up.

“Whoa!” she gasped again, as she realized that her previous sensation of him using her for her pleasure was just scratching the surface compared to how he was using her now. He’d firmed his thighs behind her, and was lifting and pulling her entire body like it was a toy. Her breasts almost ached from the bounce, her hair was swinging beside her face, and her knees were barely on the bed.

f*ck, yeah.

She focused on keeping her abdomen and back tense to align herself with his efforts, and let herself be used. He seemed to sense her shift in focus and intention.

“Can you take it, Aloy?” he grunted, his low voice pushing into her like his co*ck.

“I can, nnmmm, take whatever you give me. Haaaahhh, Hekarro,” she sighed.

“Yes, you can, ‘Just Aloy,’” he agreed, changing the angle of her torso to drive him down onto him instead of just back.

“Ffffff*ck.” She was enthralled in a drugging and hypnotizing rhythm, her arousal at a plateau at that pre-org*smic tension. She stayed there, breathing into the desire to cum that seemed to be glowing outward from her chest and from her cl*t, taking it. Taking it. Taking it.

Goddess, he seemed to be ready to go on for a while though.

She tried swiping her hands towards her middle, seeing if she could cup her own bouncing breasts, to at least brush a nipple, but the way he’d captured her arms impaired their ability to rotate. She tensed her thighs against his massive ones, but she was already stretched so wide around him, there was little she could add.

Glow was turning into frustrated fire.

“f*ck, Hekarro, I’ve got to cum. I’m so close. Let go so I can touch myself.”

“Not yet.”

Her mouth opened in outrage. “Aah—…. Excuse me?”

He sped up his thrusts in response. Felt amazing. Not enough to make her cum. After a minute of that, she tried moving her arms again. Goddess, she was right there. If she so much as grazed a nipple she’d probably tip over. To no avail.

“Hekarro. Come on. Be reasonable,” she tried again, trying to see him over her shoulder while wrestling her arms against his grip. She wasn’t super pleased with the whine in her voice. Not going to beg anything of any world leaders, no matter how good the sex was.

He just chuckled in amusem*nt, and this time his response was to slow way down. Still using her body, now he was sliding her centimeter by centimeter up and down, finishing each cycle with a tiny snapped thrust up into her.

Oh, heavens, that was mesmerizing. She allowed this change for several minutes, but her org*sm had receded further away, her arousal spreading and diffusing into her limbs. Curse it.

She snorted through her nose in frustration. Another tactic?

“You know,” she panted, using a lot of focus to get words in order, “Kotallo has usually made me come three times by this point.”

He switched to holding her still and circling his hips, intense pressure on the sides of her c*nt. She found her hips circling a counterpoint rhythm, but it still wasn’t enough.

“He’s not here, is he? I am. And I am not your Marshall, under your command. I am Chief of the Tenakth.”

“Hah. Implication being?” Still with his cursed complete sentences.

“Trade agreements, Aloy. Diplomacy.”

“OK. What do you want then? You’re already f*cking me.”

He laughed, low in his chest again.

“Do you remember the idea you described to us?”

She raised an eyebrow, not that he could see.

“I mean… Only once every few days. Twice a day, if I’m bored in the wilds.”

His grip tightened on her arms.

“I will let you touch yourself and cum, if you let me fill your ass. I wanted you to get a taste for what you were agreeing to, before asking.”

She laughed, weakly. “You Tenakth make the best deals. Everybody gets what they want. Yeah, I agree. Let go of my arms.”

He lowered her chest to the bed, and let go, gently massaging her arm muscles for a moment before fully releasing her.

Chapter 4: Ch. 4 Diplomatic Concessions and De-escalation (Book 1: A Private Meal)


There are certain things Aloy does not like, and they are fairly obvious, but folks occasionally need reminders.

Chapter Text

Hekarro - The Grove

Blood of the Ten, he’d almost spilled his seed in her when she spoke of how much she fantasized about him. Hekarro, though, did have experience in resisting impulses, and she’d asked him not to.

He slowed his strokes further, letting his own arousal step back even as she sorted out her newly released arms to chase her own pleasure. Her left arm was hitched up above her head to grab his bed linens again, and her right hand found its way between their legs. This new position had her back arched so that he couldn’t thrust quite as deeply, and he wanted to be fully hilted in her before their evening was through. Her fingertips were brushing against him, making his wish more challenging, so he hastened his next steps.

He reached to his bedside wall alcove and got the vial of slickweed oil that had a new permanent place, and used his left thumb to begin massaging her, fingers splayed in a grip on her butt. He timed his first push in with one of her own pushes back, and felt her hand’s movement increase. He needed to stretch her faster than he’d normally like for a partner, but… she could take it, he was pretty sure. He’d kept her supply belt nearby.

His thumb hooked and he pulled against the ring of her muscles to aid in his next thrusts into her, and he heard her shuddering moan.

She could take it.

He focused on getting oil on her, into her, and onto his dick whenever it wasn’t in her. Set the vial back down and added his other thumb, pulling and stretching her, hoisting her onto his dick with his thumbs instead of her hips. She’d tucked her face into the sheets, her flame hair pooled in curls all around her shoulders. Her left hand made a fist and slammed into the bed, but she was using her legs and hips to push back onto him.

Blood of the f*cking Ten.

Her thighs were quivering against his and her breathy moans were changing in volume. Seemed like a good moment.

He pulled his hands free, one returning to guide her hips and the other to slick oil from the base of his co*ck to the tip, and between one stroke and the next, he pulled out of her puss* and pushed into her ass.

“Oh, f*ck, Goddess, f*ck, yeah, sh*t,” he heard her voice muffled by the bed, increasing in tension, and then she came around his dick. Deep, slow breathing. He wanted to enjoy her for a while, yet. He timed pushing further into her with her pulsing contractions, one of his fists firmly encircling the base of his dick to keep from spending, until there wasn’t room.

Yes. There. Yes. His balls pressed against her puss* while she was still sensitive with aftershocks and he felt the jolt go through her. He’d impaled ‘Just Aloy’ on his dick and she was taking it like his Champion. His breath hissed through his teeth in satisfaction.

Luckily, her need to pause coincided with his, and they spent a moment just breathing together. He was still being slightly tortured towards release with the quivers and flutters still moving through her.

When he felt like he could withstand another several minutes of bliss, he pulled back and pushed her hips forward, not fully withdrawing, but close. His thumbs pulled at her cheeks, looking at her stretched around him.

“Can you take it, Aloy? Need a potion?”

He could feel her laughter pressing on him. “I can f*cking take it.”

“Then get on my dick.”

Her moan sounded like she’d bitten her lip again, but she obediently pressed her hips back and she f*cked herself on his shaft, getting him fully hilted balls deep, again.

He couldn’t stop his sigh of satisfaction, and he grabbed her hips and took over again, so it was her time to sigh.

He said out loud what he’d thought before.

“You’re taking my dick like a Champion. My Champion.”

“Hmmph.” He could see her shake her head from her hair’s movement around her shoulders.

“The Savior of Meridian, impaled by the Tenakth,” he murmured, gliding his thumb around their connection. This time she growled, low in her throat. He laughed at that.

He took a breath, about to tease her again, but as his mouth shaped the word, she hoisted herself up onto her arms, pulled off of him, flipped over onto her back and pushed him back by a foot on his hip bone.


She was gasping for breath as she looked at him, quite serious, held up by elbows beside her shoulders, her hair falling over her breasts and falling across her cheek, one of the rolls of her hair having come loose.

“No,” she said, enunciating very clearly.

He took a breath, calming his desire to tease.

“‘Just Aloy,’” he said, appeasing.

She narrowed her eyes, glaring. “I can see you thinking them.”

“You can’t stop me from thinking, Aloy.”

She was breathing heavily through her nose, her fingers taking a fist-strong grip on the sheets. Then she flicked her foot sideways, lightly kicking his dick.

“The ‘Savior of Meridian’ doesn’t give a sh*t about some Barbarian Tenakth Chief.”

She pulled her foot away from him entirely. “The ‘Anointed of the Nora,’ which is where I presume you were going next, hasn’t even heard of you, and is too busy avenging her father to take the time.”

She pointed at herself with a thumb. “‘Aloy’ is here with you now. Do you want to chase some stupid hero’s notice so you can feel like a ‘Big Man’ when you’re already who you are, or do you want to cum in my ass?”

She’d placed her foot back on the bed, her legs opening, showing him what he risked losing.

He nodded. “Aloy,” he repeated.

He brushed the back of a finger along her shin, and she allowed it. “Only Aloy.”

He leaned forward to stroke his palm against her inner thigh. “Entirely and completely Aloy.”

Her face relaxed, and her legs fell open further.

“Thank you,” she said, softly.

“Thank you for telling me what you want, Aloy,” he replied, also softly. He put his left hand on the bed beside her waist, leaning over her further. His right thumb brushed against her dusky, pebbled nipple, and he checked, “Do you still want me to cum in your ass, Aloy?”

She huffed out a sigh, eyes wide. “Yeah.”

Thank the Ten.

Well, this diplomatic mis-step had pulled him back from his imminent release. Happily he would get to enjoy her for some minutes yet, and the sight of her open before him had kept his desire from receding entirely.

He spent some time caressing her breasts as she enjoyed, diffusing her emotional tension and feeling her legs relax beside him, before dragging his hands down her body back to her hips and jerking her back under him. He watched her face, though.

She smiled with pleasure, and then wrapped her legs around his hips.

Diplomacy had worked, then. Wasn’t the limit crossing he’d predicted himself backing away from, but diplomatic de-escalation had worked.

He moved one hand to the bed to support himself and adjusted his position to re-enter her with the other. Once his tip was inside her tight heat, he scooped her thighs up over his biceps and slid his hands up to recapture her arms, pinning her forearms to the bed beside her shoulders, as he pushed all the way back in. Hilted again. Best not to even think about her various titles and achievements though, if she could ‘see him thinking them.’

Balls deep in Aloy . Still amazing. Especially when she rolled her body and tilted her hips like that, even as restrained as she was. Her eyes fluttered closed and her head fell to the side as he resumed ruining her ass.

But a minute later, she opened her eyes a crack, looking at him sidelong.

“You have something against my arms, Hekarro?” She gave some token resistance to where he’d pinned her.

He stroked his thumbs along the dips between her muscles and tendons. “More like, appropriate appreciation for your abilities. You seem to be able to pull ropes and weapons and other tools out of nowhere. I should not like to be surprised.”

“Ok but now it’s hard for me to cum again,” she playfully scowled at him, still sidelong, her hands making impotent grasping gestures towards herself.

He nodded. “You resemble a cyclone even more when you’re about to cum.”

She sighed, both with pleasure and frustration and pushed the back of her head into the bed, hips tilting to play with his angle of insertion. “So I guess you’re not open to negotiation where you hold onto my arms with one hand and play with my tit* with the other?”

He laughed silently. “Not at this juncture, but soon. Why not just attend to the feeling of your tit* moving as I f*ck you?”

She glared again, but closed her eyes. A moment later, she breathily and resentfully agreed, “I guess that will do for now.”

He spent some time watching them move as well, occasionally blowing a jet of air at her nipples and watching her arch her back for more. Her face took on a look of intensity, beyond focused awareness.

“Something wrong you haven’t mentioned yet?” he asked.

“I’m just plotting my revenge,” she whispered through her teeth.

“So long as it stays diplomatic, as we agreed before, I welcome your retribution.”

She squirmed slightly, hips twisting, and his arousal was building fast.

“You already mentioned I have a lot of rope,” she said with her eyes still closed. Oh, dear. What was he getting himself into? He grinned, and f*cked her harder.

“I think I overheard my sister talking about whips being used without doing real damage.”


“And Kotallo has some sort of hook up for interesting toys. And promised me a harness to leave my hands free. I’m thinking of you getting f*cked by a monster co*ck without being able to touch yourself.”

“Uh, oh!” he allowed himself to say, but was still uncontrollably grinning. She glanced at him, saw his face, and scowled further.

“You already have comfort with heat, and I remember hearing about some natural enmity between the Lowland Clan and the Sky Clan around Cliffwatch, so I’ll have to fly some ice in from a glacier.”

Ten Preserve Him, he was not going to last much longer with this talk.

“When you find something that actually sounds like a punishment, I’ll let you know. Also, your ability with sentences is improving rapidly. You just needed the right motivation!”

He let go of her arms and slid his hands inward to cup her breasts and tug on her nipples so that she would stop torturing him with anticipatory imagery that would probably distract him in meetings.

“Thank the Goddess!” she whimpered, arching her back to push into his hands, and getting one of her hands between the two of them. Apparently, plotting his torture had managed to get her close, too, because in almost no time she was jerking and flailing beneath him her idle hand flung out against the bed, legs pressing against his arms, and he let the pulsing pressure encircling his dick milk his own climax out of him.

The urge to collapse against her softness and strength was overwhelming, but he remembered her lack of ability to rest, and so withdrew from her by pulling himself back to kneeling. That did give him a glorious view of his effect on her, pink and bruised and disheveled and open, slick with her enjoyment and dripping with his satisfaction.

She experimented with moving her legs back to a normal angle, and then stretched into an interesting shape, limbs spreading across the bed, as if just waking up, and then wincing slightly.

“OK, maybe I need a potion,” she muttered through a yawn. “Just a Small one though.”

He reached to the floor and then set her utility belt near her hands, and then took inspiration from her to stretch his shoulders, and then lower back. And was pleased to see her watching him with a lewd smile, when he opened his eyes again.

“Shall we go to the baths?” he offered, and she grinned and practically bounced off the bed.

Blood of the Ten, he needed a potion to keep up with her. He still had her hair to enjoy. She seemed to see him thinking again, because she glanced back at him, still grinning, and then flicked a yellow potion at him from her belt. He caught it automatically. It was a Large one.

Chapter 5: Ch. 5 Measuring up (Book 1: A Private Meal)


Erend notices Kotallo, who seems to be hovering near his shoulder a lot

Chapter Text

Erend - The Base

Hunting had been an interesting adventure with the big guy on his team. To be honest, warhammers weren’t the best for hunting small game, and Erend had left his weighted throwing nets for birding back in the Daunt. Kotallo sometimes couldn’t use a bow, but he’d kept his metal arm on after traveling and so Erend played assistant to flush birds out of hiding and pick up what Kotallo shot down, like he used to do with Varl.

They had compromised on the final meal plan, because Zo had made up a lot of soup mixes out of dried vegetables and spices in jars and neither man was that fond of gathering plants. Erend had all been for doing some spit roasting outside where Kotallo didn’t have to smell it, but in the end they simply added their butchered catch to the pot with Zo’s mix once the water was boiling. Turns out leaves were pretty tasty to eat when combined with squab. Beta had even liked it, but then admitted she was a quarter of the way into her next holo-drama season when she could barely pay attention to their conversation. Kotallo had actually ruffled her hair before she scurried back downstairs with her second serving.

Erend was kicking himself for always sticking to Varl and being a bit scared of Kotallo, all those weeks leading up to the fight with the Zeniths. Despite the way he could stab a counter when pissed and absolutely gut a Specter drone, the guy was a total softie, a kid’s toy plump with sheep fur.



Kinda pretty.

Erend wasn’t quite sure what to think about where his thoughts had wandered on this day.

Possibly, some brainworm had gotten into him after hearing the big guy and Aloy right after GEMINI blew the Forge. From the noises, it was pretty clear that Kotallo was a good f*ck. Seemed like Aloy was too. For a few minutes, he’d been pretty jealous, but after it kept going, it just went into awe and fascination. And then for weeks he couldn’t quite look at the guy without wondering what they’d been doing where he’d make that broad a range of noises.

He even thought he’d heard poetry? Or something. Reminded him of Morlund’s crew, actually. Very dramatic.

So then, it had been odd enough when Kotallo had felt up his armor, his eyes appraising Erend’s body along with his hand. Erend’s weird thrill to that could be chalked up to animal responses and the tally of months away from the Vanguard without getting laid being overlaid with the memory of those noises.

But then, later, Kotallo ducked his chin and looked up at him with those dark eyes, all soft and big as a baby fox, and called him one of the smartest people he knew, and then added enough context to make Erend actually believe it…. His guts got all twisted up with his chest, all of a sudden.

He was shaft over hammerhead in love with Aloy, forever and ever, but she had never looked at him like that.

And she’d never thought to check his Focus settings.

Neither had Varl or Zo or Alva or Beta.

Part of him was wondering if these new thoughts were all, ‘Oh this is what she sees in him,’ but they didn’t feel like it. Of course that was there. Honestly everyone Aloy hung out with was pretty great. Erend guessed that maybe he counted among people who were great, when he really thought about it.

He’d just felt like such a dead weight, a lump of slag, all those weeks in the Base. Like Varl had snuck him in when Aloy wasn’t looking, and she was making up reasons to keep him around for old time’s sake.

It had been his proudest moment when he’d figured out how to search for the Sons of Prometheus by pinging their Focuses. And to help discover Beta and get her to safety. And then to take down Asera. He’d briefly felt some purpose and use. But then back to the eye-blinding, head-clanging grind.

So, then, for Kotallo to look over his shoulder once everything had calmed down and had seen the problem and then solved it in a minute flat?

Now he wasn’t sure what to think of himself.

What if he’d been friendly with Kotallo from the get-go and he hadn’t had weeks of literal headaches? He might have been coming up with ideas like pinging Focuses once every few days, if he’d been able to read the damn display.

He slurped down the last of the soup in his bowl, and stood to take it to the cleaning bucket.

“By the Forge, I could use a dunking. I’m gonna hit the showers,” he announced, stretching and rolling his shoulders. “The desert was like a blast furnace, getting out of Vegas, and then we went and climbed all over a mountain.”

“Mmm. Excellent idea. Mind if I follow you?” Kotallo stood also.

To be honest, that thought made his guts twirl around again, especially with the man’s first utterance being almost a growl, but he had no good reason to say no. “Sure! I’ve been known to have a useful idea once in a while. Might as well share it around.”

Kotallo peered at him over his shoulder, prepping his dishes to be cleaned later.

“Don’t talk yourself down like that. You have good ideas at least twice in a while.”

Erend snorted. “If I’m well fed, sometimes three times in a while!”

“Let’s keep you fed, then. Going to need all the ideas we can get for Nemesis.” Kotallo had turned and slapped Erend’s metal abdominal guard again.

Was Erend blushing? Fire and spit.

He pivoted and hustled to his room to strip off the armor that was suddenly way too hot and tight, and get under some cold water before the Marshal would be done changing.

To be honest, that didn’t solve much. He was suddenly aware of all the little sighs of relief and groans about sore muscles that the other man made in the shower stall next to his, and the sounds were doing things to him. It was so distracting that Kotallo ended up finishing his shower first.

Erend cranked the water even colder, and psyched himself up for the gauntlet of drying off where the big guy could see him.

Only to get another shock. One he should have predicted but had not.

The Tenakth’s shower had washed off most of his paint. Suddenly all his ink was blue and black instead of an obscured gray, and his face barely had any markings at all. He looked all soft and pale pink and vulnerable. A baby animal again, instead of a deadly warrior.

A baby animal who was shaving.


Erend snapped his eyes front to the mirror where he’d intended to touch up the edges of his sideburns and the fade leading into the crest of his hair. Just cut the damn hair. Just focus on cutting the damn hair. He started shaving, as well. His eyes flicked to the side regardless of his will. Kotallo didn’t seem to use any soap or lather. That was pretty badass. Erend managed to lather up and get halfway done before his eyes disobeyed again, and this time Kotallo was looking back at him.

“How do you get your fade like that? Razor or shears? It’s so even.”

Kotallo had a towel around his waist and was leaning a hip on the sink, watching him work. Erend might be blushing again.

“Uh, ideally I use shears. But mostly it’s carefully applied layers of laziness.”

Kotallo snorted a laugh once, and then turned back to his own work on his scalp with a small smile. f*ck, why were Erend’s insides all tickly now, just because he’d made the big scary Tenakth laugh when he was in tender pink mode?

“Why do you want to know, big guy? You seem to have your beauty routine down pat.”

Another snorted laugh. “Always looking for new techniques. Especially if they can be done one handed, like with shears.”

Kotallo brought his razor down to look at it in his hand, before starting again. “Can’t shave my scalp close enough for paint with shears, unfortunately.”

Erend glanced at him again. “I haven’t ever seen you without all your paint, before.”

“Have you not? We’ve been squadmates for a while.”

“Is that a thing, in the Tenakth? Your squadmates get to see you all fresh faced and squeaky clean?”

Kotallo glanced at him through the mirror. “Squadmates and lovers, yes.”

Oh, forgefire, he was blushing again. “Well, I guess thanks for the honor of seeing that I’m on your team, big guy.”

Kotallo finished shaving and rinsed his razor. But then he turned to look at Erend again.

“Why do you call me ‘big guy,’ when you are taller and have broader shoulders?”

“What? No way. You’re taller than me.”

Kotallo looked skeptical. “Noooo, I don’t think so.”

He drifted over to stand facing Erend’s side again, and held up his hand to measure from one head to another. Erend had to be careful that his elbow wasn’t brushing Kotallo’s fine abdominal hair, the stuff pointing down into his towel.

“Hmm. I think we are about the same height. But your hair is flat right now, and,” Oh, Forgefire, was he looking at Erend’s butt??! “…you’re not wearing boots.”

Oh, he was looking at his feet.

He watched Kotallo in the mirror.

No, he had been, but now he was definitely looking at his butt, until he stood straight again and leaned back, but only the amount to shift his weight, not a full step away.

“Anyway, I’m not bigger than you. Just older. Possibly stabby-er.”

Erend laughed all of a sudden. “You know what’s funny? Whether you’re bigger actually came up… Uh, never mind.”

Kotallo ducked his head again, looking up at him with those pretty eyes blinking right at his shoulder. “You can’t leave me hanging like that, Erend.”

“Ah, fire and spit, it’s kind of embarrassing.”

“I promise not to laugh out loud.”

“Well, alri— Hey. ‘Out loud?’”

Kotallo just opened his eyes slightly, like a shrug with his eyes, or like his eyebrows couldn’t bother getting involved. Maybe this was a secret tell for when he was joking. The big guy was so damned deadpan.

“Uh, well, uh, so like Alva was asking Aloy about you, after everyone figured out you two were, uh, you know.”

“Mmhmm. I did hear of their inquiries. Didn’t know you were involved.”

Now Kotallo did raise his eyebrows, indicating Erend should go on. Or that this was all hilarious. Hard to be sure.

“So, uh, yeah. Aloy had said, she didn’t really have any context, not having seen a lot of nakked peen in her wanderings.”

“Makes sense.” He nodded slightly and blinked, eyelashes dark against his unpainted skin.

Erend’s face burned.

“So, uh, so I had just finished a shower, like now, and I sort of offered for her to compare us. Just for educational purposes, ya know.”

“Indeed.” Kotallo looked away for a moment, then back. “How did she respond?”

Erend laughed, embarrassed, and imitated how she’d slapped her hand over her eyes.

Kotallo barked a laugh. “Oh, was that how you made your offer for comparison?”

“Hey, you said you wouldn’t laugh out loud!” Erend said, dropping his hands to look at the man next to him.

“I’m laughing at Aloy, not you,” he said, with a tiny smile that made his eyes even softer.

“Oh, yeah, ok, fair enough.”


“And what?”

“And what else did she say?” Those eyebrows again.

“Oh, you know her. She just refused to answer. Said anything she told me would just go to my head.”

Kotallo nodded, smirking. “Accurate?”

“You know she’s deadly accurate, with her bows or her assessments.”

“I do.”

Finally the man moved back to his sink, chuckling.

“I’m sad I missed it.”

“Well, good, because then I said you’d probably be game for us to line up for her inspection, one of these days, if she wanted, and it sounds like I was also accurate.”

Now the big guy grinned and nodded, mixing something in a bowl in the sink.

“Also accurate.”

Did Erend’s eyes betray him, or did Kotallo just meet his eyes for a moment in the mirror?

And then pull the towel off his hips to dry his face and shoulders off, letting Erend get a good, long, proportional-to-himself look of what Erend had offered to compare himself to. And then drop the towel to the floor, as he picked up a brush to start applying paint to his body, letting Erend keep looking.

Which he did, by the Forge.


“What?” Kotallo asked, making glancing eye contact through the mirror again, steadily applying white paint across his shoulders and then chest, line after line. It was a wide brush, and was going quickly. Not as quickly as Erend’s stare was affecting Kotallo’s quite functional…

“You have, whaddayacallit, ink there too?” It seemed to be preening, showing off all the contour lines and symbols for him, the way it was standing to attention.

“Rite of passage.”


“Doesn’t affect that, once it’s healed.”

“What? Oh.” Erend wanted to sink into a hole in the floor if one would kindly open up, but he’d only shaved half his face, and would look a damned sight if he didn’t finish. He had mirror-clear confirmation that he was red as coals in a bellow-blast, though.

Just focus on cutting the damn hair.

He managed to finish shaving his face and didn’t accidentally make his mutton chops uneven. Maybe he’d leave his scalp for later.

A good decision, because once he’d come up from splashing water from the sink onto his face to get the last of the soap and hairs off, Kotallo spoke again.


Erend glanced at him. He’d gotten to his abdomen with his painting, and some drops of the excess paint was trickling over his rippling abs, which were in stark relief as he bent forward slightly to track the movement of the brush. It was going over that interesting inked design with all the colorful bits. The diluted paint dribbles resembled…

“Well what?” Erend’s voice was a little wobbly, there.

“Well, one item on a list doesn’t make for useful comparisons. How will we report back our findings?” Kotallo’s voice had gotten lower. Was that because of how he was standing, or…?

Erend ripped his towel off, in mild frustration, and dropped it to the ground from shoulder height. “There. Ya happy?”

Kotallo glanced to the side with a smile, and then… Double take. He set his paintbrush down and leaned a hip on the sink to stare.

“Was that a rite of passage, too?”

Oh, he was staring at his piercing, not his embarrassing hard-on, that wasn’t behaving in quite as perky a manner as the big guy’s did.

“Nah, just a drunken lark. I usually forget I have it until someone asks.”

“Huh.” He scratched his chin, getting some of the diluted paint on his face. “How is that when f*cking?”

Erend chuckled. “Oh, no partners have complained yet.”

A flash of raised eyebrows, over eyes that were still staring. Or perhaps, lingering. “Interesting,” he said with gravel in his voice, and his lips stayed parted. By the Forge, it was hot in this room. He might need another cold shower.

Finally Kotallo took up his brush again, and stepped back. But he put a foot up on the edge of the sink to paint his leg. His leg that was farther from where Erend stood. Forge fires were melting him to slag right now.

Erend was done shaving, and could technically go back to his room and dress, but he couldn’t manage to move from where one hand was gripping the sink. The ink on that man’s skin!

Suddenly he realized Kotallo was laughing silently and grinning widely. Had he seen his molars before? They were as pearly as his paint!

“What’s that grin for?”

“You’re fun to flirt with.”

Erend stepped back, still gripping the sink.

“We’re… You’re… What? We’re flirting?”

Kotallo bent away from him to paint the outside of his leg, still giving Erend a show. “Are we not?”

“I… I dunno. I guess I’ve never flirted with another guy.”

“I’d be your first time then?” Kotallo had an interesting expression on his face, still staring at his own leg.

“What? No. For the sex part? No. Just… maybe for flirting.”

Kotallo looked at him, eyes narrowed, brush paused again. “How does that work? Is there anyone I should go kill that you or Aloy haven’t already?”

His eyebrows flew up his face. “No? No! Not like that! I was… I was into it, the times it happened.”

Kotallo looked closely at his face for another moment, and then nodded, and switched legs. Respite from the object of fascination! Maybe he could get his thoughts in order while Kotallo went over one of the inked designs in black paint, over his knees.

Nope, because his thoughts themselves weren’t in order.

Kotallo would go hunt down and kill anyone that had violated Erend? Why did that make him feel all cozy rather than affronted at the implications to his manhood?

“You Oseram are strange. How do you get to sex without flirting, or at least a relationship?”

“Oh, ya know, furtive scuffles in the dark before a battle, to relieve tension. Or after a battle. Or, I guess, between battles when we’re bored.”

Kotallo thought for a moment and then nodded. “I suppose that makes sense. I think that happens among squads without much discussion of it. I realize I played the long game for my first male partner. So much extremely subtle flirting.”

“Oh yeah? How long?”

“Five years, give or take.”

“Well, that takes the keg. That’s a long Long Game.”

“Might have been longer had Aloy not gotten involved.”

“Wait, what? No, wait, different question. Why are you flirting with me if you’re with Aloy?”

Kotallo looked at him, surprised. “You know she’s very busy and meets a lot of people. I wouldn’t dream of making her stay committed to only me.” And then he looked down, smiling and a little in awe. “And… she offers me the same freedom. Quite literally. Almost on a platter.” He glanced up at Erend. “To be clear, she didn’t offer me you . I’m flirting with you all on my own,” and then looked down at his painting again.

Erend just stared at him.


Eyeballs popping out of his head level of stared.

The Oseram were a free people but were also kind of rigid about gender roles and marital relationships. What this Tenakth was describing was kind of breaking his brain. But when he added Aloy to the equation, he supposed it made sense.

If she had ever responded positively to his flirting, would he have gotten jealous or controlling if she met more people and they threw themselves at her like he’d done to her. Like Varl and Avad had? People threw themselves at her all the time. He probably would have gotten all possessive, and she’d probably have dropped him. She didn’t have time for that nonsense, saving the world and all. Maybe she and Kotallo were a good match.

Kotallo had put down the brush and cleaned the bowl, and pulled several new types of paint out, this time using the edges of his fingers to rub it in a thicker layer on his face and neck and scalp, first the white, and then blue-gray for the serrations and the exaggerated widow’s peak angle across his brow and along his hair’s edges, and then an interesting design with royal blue lines and pale blue chevrons on one side. Erend watched, distracted from his other thoughts. That blue bit was new from the Kulran, he remembered, and wasn’t always there. Kotallo’s eyes were doing the soft, secret smile thing as he made it. But also, watching the last of the paint go on was like seeing his outwardly intimidating and inwardly sweet friend appear before him again, stroke by stroke. He was really fast at this. Well, he’d probably been doing it every few days or so for years.

Kotallo glanced at him again, with the subtle, “What?” question in his eyes.

Erend smiled.

“There you are!”

Kotallo smiled, too, but shook his head. “Been here the whole time.”

He turned back to the mirror, and laced the cords and combs to his face guard back through his hair. Damn, did he wear that to sleep?

Kotallo picked up his towel, used it to wipe down the sink of residual paint, and then flipped it to drape over his elbow. So Erend picked his and held it between his hands, still feeling awkward.

Then Kotallo seemed to glide towards him in slow motion, fresh white paint creating a sheen in the Base’s harsh lighting, looking at Erend from the side of his eyes.

“So… let me confirm this. If I wanted to flirt with you more effectively, I should turn out the lights?”

Erend swallowed.

And then dropped the towel, grabbed Kotallo’s face, and kissed him.

Kotallo pulled back.

Oh, f*ck. What had he done? He dropped his hands and held them out to the sides, trying to look harmless.

Kotallo leaned in again, touching his face, cupping his jaw. “No, no, cultural misunderstanding. We just don’t kiss casual partners on the mouth, only long-term ones.”

Erend blinked, stomach settling, hands relaxing.

“Oh! Oh. Well, what do you do with casual partners?”

Kotallo moved in closer, his paint-smudged palm gliding from Erend’s jaw, to his shoulder, down his pecs across his nipple, down his belly with his fingertips, before taking Erend’s bobbing, hard co*ck in his hand and bringing his own inked co*ck against it and clasping them together in his grip.

So pretty.

“Apparently, we compare sizes?” Kotallo murmured, as he was tilting his hips to slide against him.

Erend’s breath huffed out. He had been holding it, after Kotallo’s first reaction. His hand came over both of the heads, pressing them together, creating a cavern for them to thrust into, and wrapped his other arm around Kotallo’s waist pulling him even closer, risking getting painted himself.

“Mmm, I like your ‘drunken lark.’” The man’s voice was as low as the roar of a blast furnace and just as hot, and he tilted his hips dragging his co*ck against Erend’s again.

“Good lord, would you two get a room?” Beta’s laughing voice interrupted them from behind Erend’s back. Erend flinched, but luckily didn’t leap backwards, because then, repeat full frontal exposure to Beta.

Kotallo answered over Erend’s shoulder, sounding puzzled.

“We are in a room.”

“A room with a door?”

“It has a door way …?”

“One with a door that closes.”

“Neither of our quarters have doors that close.”

“Use Aloy’s then.”

“That… seems inappropriate when she’s not here to ask.”

“I’m here, and she gave me permission to use it, and I’m telling you to go there now. Or at least, I don’t know, put up a sign or something warning a person!”

Kotallo’s brows furrowed and he blinked.

“What would the sign say?”

She laughed. “Chippendales, I guess? Magic Mikes? Look, I’m going into the toilets and you have until I’m done to not be visible to passersby.”

Kotallo, seemingly regretfully, let go of Erend’s co*ck. “Well, you heard the woman. Let’s go borrow Aloy’s room. Or, maybe, the game room might have a door that closes. I just never bothered to find out.”

He wrapped his towel back around his waist by leaning one edge against the nearest sink, using the towel’s tightness to bind his hot, velvety, adorned co*ck to his belly. Then he grabbed his bag of supplies and moved to go. So Erend retrieved his towel from the floor once more and did the same. They walked quietly, by seeming mutual agreement, out into the common room. Kotallo turned on his Focus and was looking something up as they walked.

Erend was a bit envious that he could walk and research at the same time, but got distracted by his face. Kotallo’s eyes had narrowed to read closely, then widened, then he’d grinned, and now he was snickering behind his hand with tiny choking noises.

“What? What are you looking at?”

“I… By the Ten… I wanted to know what this ‘Chippendales’ was that Beta said should be on a sign.”

“Can I see?”

“Look it up yourself!” he smiled, more gently but with eyes still flashing with wicked amusem*nt.

“Ugh,” Erend responded.

Kotallo nudged him with his elbow. “Should be easier now.”

“Oh yeah!” Erend brightened, opening his Focus’ now legible display. “How do you spell it?”

Kotallo read the glyphs out loud for him and then closed his own Focus to watch Erend’s reaction. The search brought up information. Erend easily read the summary before skipping to the pictures, but then he played a holo to confirm what he’d just read.


And then doubled over laughing.

When he could breathe again, he shouted, “Sorry, Beta!”

“Just don’t do it again or I’ll think you’re making a habit! I’m studying ‘Theories and Best Practices of Consent,’ right now, and you’ve already told me you don’t enjoy me infodumping!” she shouted back, from the toilets.

Erend looked at the info on the display one more time and then closed his Focus. Kotallo was still grinning.

Erend shook his head, and said, “Well, slap my ass and call me Sally.”

Kotallo’s smile quirked. “If you want…Sally.”

“Wai—” smack

“Is that an Oseram thing?”

Erend put his forehead into his hand, and shook his head. “No, it’s something the Old Ones said when they’re surprised. I saw it in one of the holo-shows Beta and I watch together, and it got stuck in my head.”

“Oh! Uh, apologies.” He patted Erend’s butt gently.

Erend raised an eyebrow at him, and touched Aloy’s door controls, causing it to slide open with a hiss. “Well, we could try that again, but without the ‘Sally’ part. If that’s something Tenakth casual partners do.”

“Oh, it is. You just happened to find one of the few things that are reserved, straight away.”

“Huh.” The door closed behind them leaving the room in minimal candlelight and near-darkness. “Can I suck your pretty co*ck while you look at me with those pretty eyes?”

Kotallo blinked his soft brown eyes, pupils wide from the change in the light or the change in Erend’s voice. “Yes.”

“Good.” So Erend pushed him against the wall next to the door and pulled the member in question free of its binding.

“Mmmhhh,” the low sigh seemed to flow over Erend’s skin.

“I can’t kiss your mouth, but can I kiss—”

“You can kiss me anywhere except my mouth, and I want you to do so.”

“Hot damn.”

His insides got all twisty again, having gotten another laugh out of the scary Tenakth who was glowing in the candlelight like a night-blooming desert flower. He knelt, surrounding Kotallo’s feet, but got distracted from kissing by the vision of all the ink again. He started tracing the lines and patterns with his fingers, around his nipples, under his arm around his ribs, down his belly.

“Hey, wait a minute, this part looks Oseram. We don’t really do ink, though.”

“It should look it. That part is meant to honor you, Erend.”

He leaned back, looking up at his face.

“No way.” Kotallo had gotten some permanent ink for Erend??!

Kotallo nodded, and then his hand pointed to the other colors and designs. “Here is for Varl, and here also. And these two are for Zo, and for their potential child. This part is for Beta. And this is for—”

“Alva. Oh, I’m seeing it now! And this whole bottom part is for me?” He traced along it, which meant he also brushed against the head of Kotallo’s co*ck, causing him to gasp and then release his breath in a rush. Erend put his palm down against the design.

“Where’s the part for Aloy?”

Kotallo indicated the symbols framed by the other components, brushing across Erend’s hand with all his fingertips to do so. “All of this.”

Erend leaned in, squinting in the low light, and realized each one had some green color that probably matched her eyes in good lighting. He nodded. “Ok, that is an appropriate allocation of property for her.”

“Indeed.” Kotallo was smiling a little, and Erend felt his abdomen twitch a moment before the inked co*ck booped him on the cheek.

Erend laughed. “Don’t blow your Blaze, I’m getting to it. You’re just a fascinating guy, is all.”

“Mmm,” the gravely voice seemed to allow. But his fingers moved from his own abdomen to Erend’s still wet hair, ruffling through it until he gripped it tighter.

Erend took the hint and opened his mouth, sweeping his tongue under the head and sucking it in, and then sucking the rest of it down.

Kotallo’s sigh hissed through his teeth, and his head fell backwards against the wall, the beads in his hair making a rattling sound that felt like winning tokens at the games in Hidden Ember. Erend’s hands came to the powerful thighs on either side of where he was working, thumbs pushing into the sensitive inner area, and he worked his head back and forth, luxuriating in the subtle texture changes of where ink impregnated skin, tracing it with his tongue and then swirling over the head before diving back down.

Kotallo’s gaze came back to his face, mouth open and panting. “That f*ckable mouth…” he murmured in that deep voice, his eyes half-lidded and dark. The white paint and the toothy design and that hungry look reminded Erend of the intimidating warrior who had come to the Base at Aloy’s command, and then lurked in a dark room like a predator laying in wait.

The predator’s hand was gentle, though, seeming to follow along with Erend’s motions, occasionally caressing his hair or running fingernails through the shorter fade at the sides. He was more active with his hips, thrusting into Erend’s mouth, pulling back as he applied suction, amplifying everything that was happening. Still not too forceful but clearly enjoying the f*ck out of the process.

Kotallo’s head fell backwards again, with his eyes closed, and they seemed to be flicking back and forth like he was having a vivid dream. Erend was happy to be the subject of an amazing dream, and kept at it.

But then Kotallo’s voice found him again, causing a momentary drop in his stomach.

“Stop, stop, I want to ask you something.”

Erend pulled back. “Did I do anything—”

“No, nothing wrong. I just had an idea.” He blinked, and then looked to the bed in the corner and smiled a fond little smile. “Aloy says I have good ideas.” He looked back at Erend, his dark eyes questioning.

So he grinned and tried to remember what the big guy had said earlier with those big, soft eyes peering up at him. He batted his own eye lashes and said, “You can’t leave me hanging here, buddy. Lay it on me.”

He nodded jerkily, and pulled Erend to standing and then put a hand on his gut.

“Mmm. I’m thinking, I really want to feel your ‘drunken lark’ in my ass and see my cum glistening all over your powerful core while you’re f*cking me.” His eyes had been where his hand was, but they came back up to meet Erend’s eyes. “If you don’t like that idea, we could go back to what we were just doing.”

Erend paused while his brain exploded. In his…? Powerful core…? He swallowed. Opened his mouth to answer. Cleared his throat.

“See, Aloy’s assessments are always accurate. That’s not a bad idea at all.”

Kotallo’s eyes darted around the room after he nodded again.

“I think I might need to dash to the kitchen for some sort of oil, though. I left mine in the Grove.”

Erend sucked in a breath and let it out in a rush. Nodded. Put his hands on his hips. Considered going himself, but then thought of a fun thing.

“I am willing to wait. Go get it!”

And then as Kotallo reached down to get his towel once more, Erend smacked his ass.

And got another bunch of inside tickles for making the big, scary Tenakth laugh again.

Chapter 6: Ch. 6 The Corona of Sunny Good Cheer (Book 1: A Private Meal)


Erend is pretty great when he isn't being down on himself, Kotallo learns.


This is an Erend/Kotallo mini-story, but it's inside an Aloy/Kotallo story, let's be real.

I am aware that this chapter is a lot of telling rather than showing, but if I added more dialogue and moment-to-moment detail, I would never finish the book.
(Might add them later in retrospective vignettes.)

Chapter Text

Kotallo - Traveling, and Meridian

Before leaving the Base, Kotallo had reported via scout back to Hekarro, “Re-established contact with Champion’s ally Erend Vanguardsman, Captain of Sun-King’s Vanguard force, acquiring useful intel and contacts for Embassy” and hadn’t yet mentioned the other ‘contact’ he’d made with Erend. They’d discuss that when he returned.

Truthfully, it was all a bit of a whirlwind. He’d spent so many years feeling cautious about people’s regard, and then after losing his arm he felt unworthy of anyone’s regard. To suddenly have Aloy’s promise and Hekarro’s partnership and now Erend? He hadn’t even anticipated being desired by even more people than his Goddess and Chief, and hadn’t thought to talk about what to do if it happened.

And he wasn’t sure how Aloy would feel about it. He sensed her relationship with Erend was friendly but strained sometimes.

But, Ten Help Him, he couldn’t seem to stop. It was too fun.

Once he and Erend had gotten their initial flirting out of their system by getting into each other, Beta had been lured away from her holo-drama with a resumption of The Aloy Show: Meridian Highlight Reel, and Erend had given them a detailed analysis of not only Avad’s court and advisors, but also the marketplace, the local region, and information about how to read their clothing and face-paint styles for status. He’d also paused the show to point out his own troops in the Vanguard: his subordinate officers, which ones he trusted and who he limited assignments to, and who would be more or less likely to put aside prejudices about the Tenakth. When he wasn’t distracted by his own expertise, Erend even used a playful ‘sportscaster’ voice from his own personal research into the archives.

Kotallo kept finding himself gazing at Erend instead of the projection, almost leering with desire, seeing this confidence and comfort bloom that was almost never there before their fight with the Zeniths. Beta was making faces and suggestive hand gestures at him behind Erend’s back when it got too obvious. She sent a private text file to him the next morning. Something about a ‘title kink’ that Kotallo had to go look up, and then grudgingly admit was probably accurate.

So then he started calling Erend “Captain Sally” as a joke that would let him call him by his rank without making it too weird. The man’s wielding of authority, even apart from his troops, was ‘stoking Kotallo’s furnace’ to borrow terms from his new lover. He wished he could tease Captain Sally into giving him orders like he sometimes did with Aloy. He was used to seeing Erend inside the Base being chided for being too loud, and when they’d all been on mission, it was Aloy who was in command, but he bet Erend also had a good commanding voice in the field.

Then they traveled together by Charger along the Southern edge of Utaru lands, briefly separating to track their respective parties, and then managed to coordinate by Focus to bring them all together in No-Mans Land a day and a half later.

Kotallo had to have a few chats with the other Marshals and general contingent about it being a pre-Embassy exercise, but only a few chats, because Erend also turned out to be an excellent orator who was as skilled as Alva at reducing conflict and keeping spirits high. He seemed to know exactly the combination of sternness and ridicule to keep people in line.

Luckily many of the Tenakth had also been impressed by the showmanship of the Hidden Ember theatrics, and by the second or third day, the impromptu caravan was moving efficiently and even joyfully. Campfire-based meal recipes, friendly sparring challenges, Machine-hunting forays, and drinking songs were offered in both directions.

And, he had to admit that a title kink and appreciation for authority figures was definitely ‘a thing’ for him.

Kotallo kept finding excuses to invite Captain Sally for a little “evening leadership walk” or Charger-ride range hunting expedition to get the man’s piercing in his hand, on his tongue, or down his throat, after watching him throughout the day directing the group.

The piercing had felt just as delightful up his ass, at the Base, that first night.

Erend gave as good as he took. He seemed to like licking along Kotallo’s ink designs even though he’d rub the paint off his tongue later. Kotallo was glad he didn’t wear any red, based on what Aloy had told him. Tenakth paint wasn’t supposed to be eaten. But Erend kept at it. Said the taste was growing on him.

And kept calling him ‘pretty,’ which made Kotallo want to get that piercing in his mouth again lest he start grinning shyly like a youth picked for his first real mission on a squad.

He’d have to learn where Erend had gotten it and how because Kotallo was tempted to get one, himself. Hekarro would probably enjoy the novelty. Aloy would probably do her triple-inspection of eyes, hands and Focus. It probably required some particular healing interval, though, so maybe he’d wait until he was successfully not assassinated or imprisoned at this Embassy deep in the Sundom.

It was challenging to switch over to the ‘furtive scuffling’ Erend had described to find moments alone, but necessary. Neither Tenakth nor Oseram were entirely comfortable with same-gender relationships in public even though the Tenakth were more casual about sex in general. Kotallo was renown for his straight face and wouldn’t have had trouble on his own, but Erend was naturally playful and physical, instigating tiny wrestling matches or putting an arm around Kotallo’s waist because ‘it was the least spiky bit on his friend, here’ and then Kotallo’s arm would find its way around Erend’s shoulders with his hand ruffling the crest of his hair.

Either arm. Either hand. Which was also stoking Kotallo’s furnace.

The Captain, after that first arm wrestling match months ago, seemed to have no issues with his metal arm, which impressed Kotallo’s Tenakth colleagues quite a bit. They were all still intimidated and even shrank back when he gestured directions, respecting the might of this Marshal’s steel fist. The Carja at Barren Light had been awed as well. And the Oseram theatrical troupe, especially Morlund who was a bit of a tinker, were fascinated but also kept a respectful distance, especially after the caravan had accidentally walked into the patrol area of a pack of Scrappers and Kotallo led the Marshals in taking them down, with Erend joining. Kotallo was starting to actively practice ripping parts off of Machines with his arm, mid-battle, after he’d done it accidentally with Aloy, and it was adding to his reputation.

He asked about Erend’s ease with his arm once when they were alone, and Erend had said, “I know metal might not be flesh or leather, but it’s sturdy and strong. Nothing wrong with that. Machines do fine with it, after all.”

Well, Kotallo’s face had done something he couldn’t quite control, and then Erend had called him ‘pretty’ again which he apparently couldn’t resist, and so they spent an extra ten minutes on their ‘leadership walk’ that involved his left arm gripping Erend’s muscular ass as their co*cks strained against each other in the coordinated grip that had been so delightful that first time in the Base.

Blood of the Ten, that piercing was fun! Mmm, the combination of metal and flesh was definitely becoming more comfortable to Kotallo’s mind.

The Captain was also rough-and-tumble with the other Oseram and some of the Tenakth that he was getting to know. Not quite as intimate, but similarly physical, so the group didn’t seem to notice anything amiss. Kotallo hoped. He hoped and hoped and hoped because he wasn’t sure what he could do differently. He was not used to so much wrestling and touching and play in public and could not quite re-establish his glacier-cold expression with his friend around. Some of the older Tenakth contingent seemed to think it was funny to see Icy Maimed Marshal Kotallo so melted by this Oseram, but they verbally gave the responsibility to the Champion and her Outlander ways. He hoped that was what they thought in private. Hoped and hoped.

And he really wasn’t sure what Aloy was going to think of this development.

When they finally arrived at Meridian, Kotallo was suitably impressed by the architecture possible by a marauding empire until Erend pointed out that much of it had been destroyed by the self-same empire’s civil war and was being rebuilt by honest diplomacy and trade.

And then inside Meridian, Captain Erend Vanguardsman’s sunny good cheer smoothed the way and even reduced Kotallo’s own natural seriousness and reserve.

He asked the Oseram theatrical contingent to stick around for a few days so that he could personally introduce Kotallo and the other Marshals to every potential ally he’d pointed out in the Base, and because of the joking banter he and Kotallo had already gotten the whole party into, the fear and suspicion against blood-drinking barbarian Tenakth seemed to melt away.

After some initial bluster and bravado, the Marshals and Vanguardsmen were getting along splendidly, sharing battle stories, recounting Aloy’s deeds, or boasting about who had defeated more of the Mad Sun-king’s troops.

And also, Aloy’s Hawk friend Talanah Khane Padish was far more friendly this time than the first two times she’d breezed through the Base. Erend had murmured something in her ear that made her eyes get all predatory and suddenly she was Kotallo’s new best friend, making arrangements to do a Machine hunt with him in a few days when they could both get away from their duties. Also telling him that he’d probably see her at some party or official function before then and he could definitely approach her at those.

He was a bit worried about her intense interest, but Erend reminded him that Aloy trusted Talanah just like she trusted the GAIA-trained team, and that Talanah felt likewise about Aloy. Before they parted after the initial introduction, Talanah had leaned in and whispered that if any Carja nobles were giving him trouble, he or the other Tenakth should seek her out at the Lodge and she would make sure all the door guards knew to bring them straight to her. It was good to have allies. They did get a lot of stares as they walked through the Marketplace. He told the whole contingent to memorize the location of the Lodge, in case.

Erend’s sunny introductions also had his Radiance Avad, 14th in the Line of Luminance, cracking jokes with Kotallo by the end of the first meeting, much to the amusem*nt and slight concern of the spy-master Blameless Marad and the known master spy Vanasha.

She was an odd one, and seemed especially to appreciate the vibe.

By the second day, he’d been personally invited with Erend for a private dinner with Avad’s younger brother Itamen and the Queen-Mother Nasadi, which was a fun surprise.

Kotallo loved children even though they were sometimes put off by how quiet he was. Maybe being orphaned meant he wanted all children to have love and care? Not sure. He didn’t normally get to engage with the feeling.

This kid seemed to get when he was joking, though, and would have an adorable delayed bout of hilarious laughter, inspiring Kotallo to make even more deadpan observations for him about the food or his toys.

When he had described Aloy’s new ability of flying with Sunwings and, apparently, Waterwings, to Avad, and then talked about the Tenakth legend of Wings of the Ten, and then recounted Aloy’s halting of Regalla’s forces, Itamen started demanding his own Wings of the Ten. While Erend told Avad about his fight with Asera, Kotallo was helping Itamen to ‘fly’ around the terrace and dropping him from about a foot off the ground onto some of the stuffed dolls with a small stick to fight with.

He was a little surprised the Queen-Mother was smiling through the whole thing.

By the end of desert, Itamen had started climbing up Kotallo using all the spiky parts of his armor, and then requested a swinging session by way of his metal arm, and then another, until Queen-Mother Nasadi extracted him from their honored guest and took him with her aides to get him ready for bed.

Avad, though…. Avad. He had it bad for Aloy. He spent most of dinner asking for any scrap of her activities or thoughts from Erend and Kotallo.

Kotallo, on the other hand, was trying hard not to occasionally giggle about the message he and Chief Hekarro had not sent. Very much not sure what effect it would have had, diplomatically, but now he was leaning towards group sex being the likelier outcome.

On the way through the Daunt, Erend had reminded Kotallo about Avad’s regard, not that Kotallo could forget, and said maybe it was best if they didn’t make it public that he and Aloy were ‘a thing.’ But then, after Itamen was to bed and it was just Erend, Kotallo, and the Sun-king, with the bodyguards in the next room, Avad revealed that he’d learned of the kiss mark on his cheek and Aloy’s publicly bestowing it during the Kulran, and asked where it was on his face paint. He didn’t seem to know about Aloy’s addition for Hekarro, Thank the Ten.

Kotallo had only re-applied it at the Base for a bit while flirting with Erend, to give himself confidence, and hadn’t re-applied it for travels or for the Embassy. Were there Carja spies amidst the Tenakth? Had the Oseram light-show contingent mentioned it? Not sure how it had gotten to Avad’s ears. None of the other Carja nobles, advisors or religious leaders seemed to know about it from the meetings in the hours prior.

But the scholarly Sun-king didn’t seem overly upset. Just fascinated. Part of wanting to know everything about her. Every path her feet had taken and every thing her hands —or mouth, in this case— had touched. Including this Marshal. When Kotallo pointed to where it had been, Avad seemed to have to catch himself to stop from touching it as well.


Since Kotallo himself wasn’t sure how much Aloy knew about what playing around with a lover’s face paint meant, he wasn’t sure how much to make of it or how to explain it to Avad. Erend seemed to see his difficulty, and in his typical playful fashion, said, “You know Aloy and how impulsive she is! I wasn’t there to see it, but I heard it caused quite the ruckus! She never was one for playing by the rules.”

Kotallo had nodded thankfully at him, lips pressed together.

Erend winked and grinned.

Avad smiled and sighed.

Then, Blood of the Ten, the next day he got a message from Aloy herself, with a time-stamp link to her Focus record. The text said she’d done something she felt a bit odd about and wondered what Kotallo thought.

He’d almost opened the linked file in the middle of another meeting about negotiating restitution tribute, since everyone there would understand that a message from the Savior of Meridian and Chief Hekarro’s Champion would need to be attended to, but realized that the holo file was in the Need To Know Only category and caught himself in time. Hopefully they wouldn’t know to look at his ears rather than his face to see if he was blushing. He could only guess what she’d been up to that would get that privacy setting.

Had she connected with the Quen Petty-Officer Marine in Landfall? Brought her back to the Base?

It was hard to pay attention during the rest of the meeting but luckily the new Marshals were taking their duties very seriously. All of them had been briefed on the list of Must Haves, Would Be Nices, and Dealbreakers. Also, the other Tenakth were helpful in keeping up a unified front. These officials hadn’t all been smoothed over by Erend, and many of them were suitably intimidated.

Kotallo was proud of the group. Face and body paint lines were crisp and bright. Armor weaves were tight, hardplate gleamed, feather and fur tufts brushed out, and beads polished. Excellent battle faces among all of them.

All of the contingent had been chosen from among the first people to side with Chief Hekarro against Regalla, who could be trusted to be open-minded about the Carja, but who also had experienced the Red Raids and had personal or familial experience in the attack on Barren Light. Pivallo of his former Ram Squad was here, and they’d had some good fireside chats on the way. Kivva couldn’t make it, sadly, but she was well. They had even picked up a Veteran from the Utaru for the journey, who said he’d come along as a witness to report back to the Chorus how it all went.

He didn’t have time to open Aloy’s file after the meeting, either, because Sun-king Avad had arranged for him and any Tenakth interested to visit Fashav’s official grave. It turns out that a number of the contingent had been assisted by Marshal Fashav, and the others were interested in any stories of the Carja Marshal, and also to see the different burial customs, so they went en masse. A bittersweet remembrance ceremony was performed by another of Aloy’s allies, Mournful Namman, and the man pulled Kotallo aside afterwards to offer any support during the remainder of the Embassy or to stay in contact for any inter-cultural exchanges needed for Tenakth who had been lost to the Sun Ring or raids. This matched what he’d seen in the Aloy Show, and so he was inclined to trust it.

Truly, Aloy had touched so many lives.

Namman’s support turned out to be immediately required, though, because as they were saying farewell, a Carja pilgrim started a shouting match with one of the Scouts who had lingered at Fashav’s grave, screaming about a brother lost at Barren Light. He’d been removed by guards and the Tenakth had kept their weapons sheathed even as they reached for them, but it was a good reminder that the glow of protection from Aloy’s path and Erend’s friendship didn’t erase the bloody history between the two tribes.

Even so, it was still going so well!

He and Erend talked about it a short time later.

Though the Tenakth had official guest quarters and Erend had his own room in the Vanguardsman barracks, Avad had given them permission when they first arrived to use the quarters that were always reserved for Aloy, should she stop by Meridian, for any non-Embassy friends-of-Aloy type meetings, and Kotallo took advantage of the privacy for one more furtive-as-possible demonstration of his thanks for Captain Erend Vanguardsman’s help in making the Embassy as calm as it was. Erend was still hesitant to depart for the Claim, even relaxed with sexual satisfaction. Kotallo had to remind him that he hadn’t even expected Erend’s help when they’d set out and was fully prepared for hostilities.

The thanks and the discussion had, of course, distracted him from Aloy’s message once again.

Kotallo assured Erend he would be fine to get back to the guest quarters alone, especially through the Palace, and took a moment of quiet and privacy once Erend had left to finally look at what Aloy had directed him to.

And then use the quiet and privacy to relieve himself of the intense arousal of watching her get gloriously f*cked by Chief Hekarro in his absence. He was always surprised about how fast he’d get hard again after cumming when his Goddess was involved, but he really should stop. She was a miracle.

That recording had not been what he expected. Interestingly, the time stamp roughly matched when he and Erend had been flirting in the Base.

After cleaning his hands and sorting out clothing, he tried an audio call to her Focus, and finally reached her.

“Commander, hello. Are you well?”

“Heeeey, Marshal. I’m fine. How is Meridian? I presume that’s where you are.”

He laughed at how awkward her voice was, and sent her Focus the Current Location file from his. There was a pause for the data transfer and her reaction.

“You’re in my room ?!”

He laughed again at her shock. “Sun-king Avad let Erend and I use it for meetings that were related to you rather than the Embassy. Erend just left to get the Hidden Ember group ready for the next stage of travel to the Claim.”

“Oh! Good! Erend has been helping you?”

“Aloy, he’s a blessing sent by the Ten. Both being able to drop your name and having Captain Erend Vanguardsman with us has opened so many doors and created so many friends… I… I feel like Chief Hekarro should make him an honorary Marshal.”

He heard her give a giant sigh of relief. “Thank the Goddess! I was worried, when you left before I got back and I couldn’t help you myself! I would have flown over to catch up to you, but—”

“You’re busy with the Quen! Of course! I didn’t expect it. Navigating getting the two groups reunited must have been quite a challenge!”

“Eh, I’m not really a part of that. I’ve been mostly kicking around, hunting for parts, going shopping with Beta, and checking in with the Quen occasionally. The Great Waters are pretty rough sailing, apparently. I only heard that Seyka is released from duty this morning. Alva got back from exploring a ruin to give her the support for it to be an indefinite deployment as liaison to the Living Ancestor rather than her going fully AWOL. Now Alva is back in more ruins and hard to reach.”

“So your friend —Seyka?— is on her way? Are you going to go meet her? Zo’s not around to be a guide, now.”

“I was thinking about it. I, uh, wanted to check in with you, though. About her, and, um…. Did you get the Focus data?”

Ten Guide Him, she sounded so nervous.

His heart twisted. Two other partners mentioned.

Was she… was she rescinding her promise?

“I did. What are you worried about?” His own worry must have been audible.


He could almost hear her pacing.

He swallowed. She’d been happy to hear from him, at the start of the call, but….

“Are you ending our relationship?” he blurted out.

“What?!” she shrieked. “No! No, no, no! What? No.”

He slumped over sideways in the chair he was sitting in, happy she couldn’t see him.

“Oh, good,” he said from under his own elbow.

“Are… Are you?”

He sat upright. “Why would I do that?”

“Because… Because I saw your lover without you.”

He blinked.

“You’re worried about what I think about you seeing Hekarro without me?” he asked, clarifying.

“Yeah. It felt weird to see him without you there. And he wouldn’t kiss me because you do kiss me. And then he washed my hair… but he said you get to do it next time! I just… It just… It felt weird. And I don’t want to make you mad. Are you mad? You didn’t get back to me even though I saw your Focus had received and read the message hours ago.”

“Aloy, no. I’m not mad. I’m just busy. I read the message earlier today but could only look at the file a few minutes ago.” He called up the Focus’ time display. “Make that, an hour and twenty-five minutes ago.”

Her breath sighed out in a rush. “Thank the Goddess. I was kind of worried, all those hours.”

“I should have written back to you to let you know I’d be delayed. I’m sorry to worry you.”

“No! You’re so busy! I’m not more important than an Embassy between two formerly warring tribes!”

He paused for a moment, trying to hold it in, before laughing. “Tell that to all the people in this Embassy. It’s almost as if you’re in the next room, you are mentioned so often.”

“Oh, really? That’s, uh, uncomfortable.”

“It’s been working out well for us, honestly. Both sides. Lots of, ‘Aloy would want us to be at peace.’ And, truly, Erend has been amazing.”

“I’m so glad!”

They spent a few minutes with him telling her about what had happened so far. She was interested in visiting Fashav’s grave as well, and assured him that Mournful Namman was a good contact and was thrilled for him to become better friends with Talanah.

But then she circled back around to her worry.

“So, you’re really not mad that I saw Hekarro without you?”

“No, not at all. I, uh…. Actually, um, I have been having sex with someone you know….”

“Uh, what? Are you sleeping with Avad?”

Kotallo blinked. That wasn’t an unreasonable possibility, the way the Sun-king was fascinated with anything Aloy had touched.

She spoke excitedly into his silence. “You are, aren’t you?”

“No, not Avad .” (Yet?)

“…. Wait, so you are sleeping with someone I know but not… Who is it??!”

“Well, Erend and I incidentally met each other at the Base at the start of our respective journeys, and, um…”

“You and Erend ??!” He could hear the sound of something clattering to a concrete floor. She was probably in the Base, then, because she did not have this kind of 'good reception' in ruins. He waited to say more until he knew what she wanted him to say.

“Fascinating,” she continued, apparently having picked up whatever she’d dropped. “How is he taking it?”

“I think we’re both having fun.”

“Oh good! Fun is good!”

Another pause.

“I supposed it’s OK for me to send you a recording of Hekarro since you already know what he looks like with his O-face,” Kotallo laughed out loud at that description. “…But I probably shouldn’t ask for a recording of you and Erend, huh.”

“Probably not. He might feel off about that, what with you and he not being…”

“Right. Right. And we’re not.”


“But you are. Fascinating. I would not have expected that.”

“Truth be told, neither would I, but it’s been very good. And you’re not… upset about it?”

“No! Good for Erend. You’re a catch.”

Kotallo paused before admitting, “He calls me ‘pretty.’ I seem to find this irresistible.”

“Have I not told you you’re pretty? Because you are. Maybe I just think it very loudly.”

“Don’t you start. You are already irresistible. And you’re too far away for me to do anything about it.”

“True.” She sounded equally sad about that. “Hey, can you tell me how it started? You don’t have to send pictures or anything.”

“I think it was when I adjusted his Focus settings and realized how intelligent he is. He was very grateful.”

There was a pause. “Please explain that.”

“That he’s smart? I shouldn’t have to.”

“No, no. You don’t have to. He is. I’m sad he doesn’t think so but I don’t have the energy to fight his self-criticism all the time and not have him interpret it as flirting. Explain what you meant about the Focus.”

“Ah, yes. I felt quite terrible when I realized. Do you know, this whole time, he’s been studying the records with his default font size at 8 pixels and in a strange sort of novelty font meant for signs?”

A pause.

“He what?!”

“I saw some subtitles to a music holo over his shoulder and could barely read them, so I had him bring up a random text file and it was the same. I don’t know how his Focus got set to those settings, but I remembered that for months he’d been talking about—”

“Headaches and having trouble reading the glyphs! Oh, Goddess! Why didn’t I check!?”

“I thought about that. You were busy. And he is very self-critical. It would have sounded normal for him to talk about difficulties. You have to be able to trust what we report to you.”

“But still, I’m the one who understands how to use a Focus! I should have taken the time to explain some basics and actually looked at what you were all doing!”

“Well, you didn’t, but neither did GAIA, nor Varl or Zo or Alva. I don’t know if Erend ever talked to GAIA about his difficulties. She guided me to ‘Accessibility settings’ because of my arm, and early on Beta and I talked about head injuries, so I had a reason to look into challenges to reading. The others wouldn’t have had a reason to learn about them.”

Aloy was silent, but he could sense her agitated thinking.

“Poor Erend. And he probably thinks I think he’s stupid since I never…. I was in such a mood when he joined the Base because of how drunk he’d gotten in the Daunt and him getting mad at me for leaving Meridian…. Oh, Erend!” She sighed. “Do you think he likes Machine parts as presents? I don’t know how to make things better.”

Kotallo thought about this. “I think maybe just go on a mission with him. He seems to enjoy your company. And, you know, tell him how smart he is.”

“Right, right. Good idea. I’ll add it to my list. Well, did you two fix it? How is he doing now?”

“We did. He’s been growing more confident with it outside of hunting and exploration, on the trip, now that he can read the display easily. It’s been coming in handy to send messages.”

“Oh, good. That’s good. I’m so glad!”

Kotallo took a breath, feeling agreement.

“But wait, how did that lead to sex?”

“To be honest, I’m not sure. I told him he was smart, and he indicated I was pretty, and we talked about you, and there was a shower, and my paint, and then…. Beta said we should borrow your room because it has a door that closes.”

“Oh! Poor Beta!” Now she was amused.

“Your room, though. We made sure to clean it. Are you…?”

“No, that’s fine. It’s not like I use it.”

“Alright. I won’t make it a habit.”

“You should. We could move your things in there.”

He blinked. His chest felt light. “We could?”

She laughed. “I mean, you’ve gotten laid in there twice, whereas I’ve only done so once. Although, with Seyka arriving….”

“It’s definitely still your room, Commander, even if my belongings end up there.”

“Fine, fine. And, you’re really fine with me exploring this thing with Seyka? And the thing with Hekarro?”

He paused for a moment, wondering how graphic to get. “Your thing with Seyka remains adorable, and…. You really want to know how I responded to the recording of you and Hekarro?”

“I really do. Your voice goes all funny and low and it’s making me nervous.”

“Ah. Yes, well. I watched it twice and brought myself to completion with it.”

Silence for a moment.

“Oh, I’m sad I missed that. Send me the link to that Focus recording.”

He laughed self-consciously. “Yes, Commander, though I probably look funny, I was so surprised.”

“You’re pretty when you’re all flustered and aroused. Don’t be worried. Flowers. Sunrises. We keep going over this.”

“Alright, irresistible Goddess. I will send you the time stamp link and…”

“Share permissions.”

“Yes, that. But also…”

“Mmmhmm?” Her voice was much softer and throatier now that she realized he was into it.

“Seeing you like that, with the Chief, it was giving me… ideas.”

“I like your ideas,” she almost whispered.

His sigh was almost a moan. If this kept up, he could send her a fresh recording that he made purposefully for her viewing.

“I realized that I could probably be a bit rougher with you than I have been.”

“Oh, I would love that. Yes, please. Remember when you f*cked me into a post? Because I do. Often”

Oh, f*ck, I am too far away from you, my love.

Her voice poured into him through the Focus. “Mmm, say that again, exactly as you just did. I miss you.”

Oh, he had spoken out loud instead of in his mind. Seems their voices had a similar effect on each other.

“I am too far away from you. Aloy, I know you just sent me the recording with Hekarro, but maybe could you think about me being rougher with you and send me a Focus records link to that? Perhaps telling me what you liked with him, what you imagine I’m doing?”

“Mmhm, I could do that, in our room. What armor should I wear, the Skyclimber outfit, or something with feathers?”

He closed his eyes and groaned. “I’m going to be so late to the next meeting,” he added through his palm because he was dragging his hand down his face. He’d need to check his paint.

“Just blame the Savior of Meridian. But, you didn’t answer me Marshal. What will I be wearing?” She commanded his answer and he wanted more.

“Feathers. Keep talking to me about feathers. Where are they and what will they be touching, since I can’t touch you?” He slid down in the chair, moved his armor out of the way and got his turgid co*ck out of his pants for the third time in a couple hours.

A Little Rough - 5ellaal5 (2024)
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