Now that Brother Tomaç has so helpfully brought himself into Vayne’s orbit, the fallen paladin sets a plan in motion that will corrupt the Order from the inside and bring him one step closer to reuniting with Azzagg.
Vayne opened the window to allow some fresh air into the room.
The early morning breeze was cool and refreshing. In the distance, the town of Light’s Refuge was slowly waking up and the grey of dawn had just broken the horizon.
He took a moment to consider Brother Tomaç. The man was in a bad way. He looked like he hadn’t had any sleep, and he had a gauntness about him that suggested he hadn’t had a good meal in days.
Vayne couldn’t have asked for better.
He was confident he had Tomaç wrapped around his little finger by now. Even so, he still had to check. There was no such thing as an overabundance of caution.
His time in Hell had changed him. More than just on a psychological level, but on a fundamental one.
He was still human, mostly, but frequent exposure to tainted hellborn cum meant he was so much more. Sadly, even if his Master, Azzagg, had told him everything his new physicality was capable of, he didn’t remember most of it.
Vayne was fairly sure, however, that his cum had addictive properties, not unlike incubus seed. If he was right, then Tomaç should have been just about ready to do anything for his next fix.
"Why do you want to know?" said Vayne. He sat on the edge of the table, looking down on Tomaç as the poor Brother anxiously traced the rim of his wooden bowl of slop with his index fingers.
"Because…" Tomaç took a deep, shuddering breath. He looked off into the distance, gaze sliding listlessly over the town. "Because I’ve never tasted anything so… So divine."
Vayne just raised an eyebrow, prompting Tomaç to continue.
"I took over this position for Brother Franklin," said Tomaç. His hands trembled, making the wooden bowl vibrate against the surface of Vayne’s desk. "Do you remember him?"
Vayne nodded. Brother Franklin had been a jovial man. Fat, somehow, even though the standard meals of the Order should never have allowed him to grow so big.
By the time Vayne became a full Brother of the order, Brother Franklin had grown to such a size that he was unfit for duty on the battlefield. He still happily tended to the bubbling pots and hissing pans of the kitchen, though.
Everyone suspected Brother Franklin had been a bit overzealous with his taste-testing but no one made a stink about it. He did his job well. Or at least, about as well as could be expected when he was charged with making unappetizing gruel day in and day out.
"Hard to forget a man that big," said Vayne.
Tomaç smiled ruefully at him. "He had an unmatched passion for his work. I was honored to follow in his footsteps. I was proud of what I did."
"That was never in any doubt, Brother."
"Thank you." Tomaç nodded, gratefully. "I thought I was doing a good job. I believed the Church was right, that good food was nutritious and filling, even if it didn’t stimulate the palate quite so much."
Vayne had strong opinions on that topic but he bit his tongue. Now wasn’t an appropriate moment to interject.
"I was pretty happy with what I did, you know?" said Tomaç. "I’ve been in charge of the Fort kitchens for what, a decade now? I’ve seen a dozen groups of novice squires march through those doors to deliver breakfast to their mentors and I was satisfied."
There was a quiet thump as Tomaç picked up the wooden bowl and banged it softly against the desktop. "And then here comes along a wide-eyed, innocent squire with a quarter-full bowl of porridge asking me to see if it tasted alright to me."
Vayne looked down. Tomaç was holding the edges of the bowl in a white-knuckled grip.
"I thought I knew good food and then suddenly, I take a bite of that fucking porridge and the most profoundly… I don’t even have the words to describe it! It was such a transcendental experience!"
Tomaç looked at Vayne. There was a wild and manic light in his eye. "So yeah. That’s why I want to know. Why I need to know. Because Light knows I won’t be able to rest until I know what the hell you put in that bowl of porridge your squire took to me!"
Vayne paused for effect. He wanted Tomaç to believe he was seriously considering things. Then, putting on an air of genuine reluctance, he said, "I’m not sure I should say."
"Why?!" Tomaç demanded. Spittle flew from his mouth. There was a fury in his eyes that promptly flickered out as he realized what he’d just done. "Apologies for my outburst."
"It’s alright, Brother," said Vayne. "It’s just… It’s quite a personal matter."
Tomaç deflated. "Oh," he said. "It’s a family recipe, then?"
Everyone knew cooks of Noble Houses exchanged recipes regularly for the benefit of their masters. However, there were certain dishes that were kept under strict lock and key. Meals that would be offered exclusively at that particular House’s social functions.
Those recipes were priceless. They were symbols of status, wealth, and influence.
Tomaç was aware of Vayne’s noble background. Having just tasted something he characterized as "divine," and "transcendental," it was no wonder he immediately concluded that Vayne’s secret was just such a recipe.
Vayne just shrugged noncommittally.
He didn’t bother to disabuse Tomaç of his mistaken notion. If anything, it would be useful to ensure that Tomaç would keep absolutely quiet about the secret ingredient Vayne had been adding to the porridge to make it more palatable.
Tomaç sighed longingly as he stared out the window. "My apologies for bothering you, then, Brother Vayne. I will take my leave now."
He made to leave but Vayne stopped him.
"Tell me, Brother, what are you willing to do to uncover the secret of my ‘divine’ porridge?"
Tomaç looked at Vayne with such wide-eyed hope, it was adorable. "Anything," he said. Then, after a moment’s consideration, he added, "Everything!"
Vayne slid off the desk and walked over to stand next to Tomaç. "In that case, Brother, I will have you swear to me to keep what you learn today in confidence."
Tomaç nodded. "Of course," he said. "My lips are sealed."
Vayne smiled. "I hope I won’t have to impress upon you the consequences if this gets out."
Tomaç shuddered. "I-I’m well aware, Brother." He was, no doubt, imagining the wrath of House Avenor.
It wasn’t that difficult to imagine, truth be told. The burnt-out husk of House Rovall’s estate, just outside the capital, yet stood as a testament to House Avenor’s power and ruthlessness.
Now that he considered it, Vayne had to wonder whether the leaders of House Rovall truly were heretical conspirators. His old, blindly loyal self would have thought it unthinkable to doubt the official story but it wasn’t completely unimaginable that House Avenor had just used its ties with the Mirellian Church to get rid of an up-and-coming rival.
Food for thought, but for another time, Vayne thought to himself.
He glanced down at Tomaç. Hell. Those bright green eyes were a distraction. "It’s good that you do," he said.
Tomaç fidgeted. "What’s the secret, Brother?" he said, unable to restrain himself after a scant few moments of deliberate silence on Vayne’s part.
Vayne chuckled. "Didn’t I tell you I’d show you, Brother?"
"Right. My apologies." Tomaç at least had the grace to look sheepish.
Vayne smirked. Tomaç failed to notice since he was looking quite intently at the bowl of porridge. It had cooled off somewhat during their conversation. It wasn’t quite steaming hot anymore.
He squeezed Tomaç’s shoulder.
"If you want to learn the secret, then you will have to do exactly as I say, understood?"
Tomaç nodded. "Of course."
He seemed eager to start. Not that Vayne could blame him. He was a junkie in need of a fix—one that only Vayne could provide.
To Tomaç’s credit, he obeyed promptly. A promising sign.
Vayne kicked the chair away. It slid noiselessly across the stone floor on felt-padded feet.
Tomaç glanced at the chair. The way his face scrunched up in confusion was adorable but he at least had the sense not to question things.
The true test of Vayne’s control had yet to come, though. "Lower your breeches," he said.
Any Brother in his right mind would have found the order objectionable, so it came as no surprise that Tomaç hesitated. His face contorted as the desire to learn the secret of Vayne’s "divine" porridge warred with his devotion to Church teachings on modesty.
"Come again, Brother?"
It seemed Tomaç was hoping he’d misheard.
Vayne was only too glad to disabuse him of that notion. "I said, drop your trousers, Tomaç. Underwear, too!" he repeated in the same firm voice he used when training new initiates to the Brighthand Regiment.
His tone had the desired effect.
Tomaç stiffened. He stood at attention, hands at his sides. The conflicted expression on his face was forcibly schooled into something more inscrutable and detached.
"Yes, sir!" he declared, stopping just short of a salute.
Vayne could scarcely believe how effective the right tone of voice could be. The response had been so quick as to be instinctual.
To think even a full-fledged Brother of the Order would react in such a way to an authoritative command. Although, perhaps it shouldn’t have been too surprising. Respect of and obedience to authority was a cornerstone of Church teaching, after all.
Tomaç took a deep breath. His fingers trembled at his sides, but only for a moment. Once he’d steeled himself, he untied his breeches’ laces with a practiced deftness.
Watching Tomaç, it was uncanny, to say the least. To see that the Brother would obey so unflinchingly under the right circumstances… Vayne had to wonder if the same learned submissiveness had somehow contributed to his own fall.
In all likelihood, it had. And come to think of it, every man within the walls of Fort Radiance had the same weakness.
They were all conditioned to obey authority. They were primed to—as long as they recognized the authority of the one giving the orders. The recognition needn’t even be willing—if Tomaç was any indication.
Hell, Vayne’s experience as one of Hell’s prisoners of war was proof positive. Once his will was beaten down and some small part of him recognized Azzagg’s authority as the prison warden, it had only taken a little push for his resistance to crumble altogether.
Suddenly, the prospect of bringing the entire Order under the thumb of Azzagg didn’t seem so daunting. The seeds had been there the whole time. All Vayne needed to do was see to it that they flourished and that all started with Tomaç.
Tomaç’s voice pulled Vayne back to reality. "I confess, Brother, I fail to see how this could be relevant."
Vayne smirked. Tomaç’s pale ass was quite pretty, actually. It wasn’t as toned as his own but it was nice and round. Nice and smooth, too.
He stood behind Tomaç to get a better look. "It’s not your place to say what is or isn’t relevant, Tomaç," he said, in that stern instructor voice of his.
"Y-yes, sir. S-sorry, sir!"
Vayne patted Tomaç’s asscheek. "Good," he said.
Tomaç flinched at the touch.
Vayne smirked. "Bend over. You can lean over the desk if you’d like."
Tomaç obeyed. He bent at the waist and propped his elbows on the desktop. "Y-yes, sir," he muttered.
"Good. Good. Now, don’t move unless I say so." said Vayne. He knelt behind Tomaç. The cold stone floor would have been harsher on his knees but he was so used to being on his knees by now that the dull pain barely registered.
He reached up between Tomaç’s legs and cradled the Brother’s balls in his fingers. They seemed nice and full. As expected of a Brother who took his vows of celibacy seriously.
He couldn’t help but chuckle. This was going to be easy.
Vayne reached higher and brushed his fingers over Tomaç’s cock. It was, unsurprisingly, quite soft. It was somewhat on the smaller side, too, but perhaps the cool breeze wafting through the window had something to do with that.
That wouldn’t do, but Vayne wasn’t too concerned. The problem would rectify itself soon enough.
He reached up, brushing his fingers along Tomaç’s ass cheeks. They were nice and soft. Pliable, even. The way they trembled at his touch was a surprising thrill.
Encouraged by Tomaç’s response, Vayne pushed further. He pressed his palms flat against Tomaç’s ass cheeks and squeezed, eliciting an undignified squeak.
Tomaç’s flesh was warm. Supple. His ass cheeks were amazing in Vayne’s hands and Vayne could scarcely contain himself as he rubbed and kneaded the soft muscles.
Vayne rubbed the inside of Tomaç’s crack with his thumbs. He pushed up and out with the heels of his palms to ease the thick cheeks apart.
In the cleft between, he got a good look at a smooth pink pucker. It twitched as it was exposed to the cool air, and twitched again when he leaned in and his warm breath wafted over it.
Tomaç gasped. "W-what are you doing, Brother?"
Vayne smirked. Tomaç was so scandalized it was funny. Leave it to a Brother of the Order to be ignorant of his own body.
"T-that’s a dirty place, Brother Vayne! You shouldn’t bring your face so close—"
"I didn’t tell you to speak, did I, Tomaç?" Vayne barked, squeezing the poor cook’s ass cheeks for emphasis.
Tomaç audibly swallowed his objections. "N-no, sir."
"Then shut your mouth and let me work!"
"Y-yes, sir." Tomaç hung his head and said nothing else.
Vayne would have liked to say he felt bad about bossing a fellow Brother around but all he really felt was a perverse sort of pleasure.
He hocked a gob of spit and was pretty proud of himself when it landed close to the mark. Tomaç flinched as the glob landed right in the cleft of his ass, just above his smooth pink cherry.
Vayne watched the spit drip down the crack of Tomaç’s ass. He rubbed it into the twitching pucker with his thumb and barked a laugh when Tomaç’s flinched again.
"Light, Tomaç. You’d think you were getting shot at from the walls!"
He didn’t want to be mean but Tomaç made it so easy. On second thought, that was a lie. Tomaç acted like such a docile puppy it was almost unfair how fun it was to bully him.
Vayne slapped Tomaç’s ass. The sharp sound seemed to echo off the stone walls in the silence of the early morning.
"Lighten up! You’d trust me to have your back in combat, wouldn’t you, Tomaç?"
Tomaç swallowed thickly. "Y-yes, sir. O-of course!"
Vayne chuckled. "So why won’t you trust me to take good care of you? I’m not stabbing you, am I? I’m just playing with your asshole."
Tomaç protested. "B-but it’s dirty, sir!"
It seemed Vayne’s stern instructor voice had firmly put Tomaç into a deferential headspace. Not that Vayne was complaining. It made things easier.
"Did you bathe this morning, Tomaç?"
"Did you bathe well?"
"Y-yes, sir! O-of course!"
Vayne leaned in. He made sure to brush his nose against the inside of one of Tomaç’s asscheeks. He took a whiff. There was a hint of musk there, but Tomaç otherwise smelled clean.
"Doesn’t seem dirty to me, Tomaç" he said, adding more spit to Tomaç’s hole for his thumb to rub in.
"E-even so, sir! Scripture says man must not lie with man!"
Vayne suppressed the flash of anger that surged through him. He didn’t succeed entirely.
Tomaç let out a pitiful whine.
Vayne loosened his grip on Tomaç’s ass. He’d squeezed too tight, in his anger. His fingers had dug quite deep into Tomaç’s flesh—he hadn’t meant to.
He took a deep breath to re-center himself, but even so, he couldn’t quite keep the venom out of his voice when he spoke. "Are you lying down right now, Tomaç?" he hissed.
Tomaç winced. "N-no, sir."
"No. You’re bent over my desk, right?"
From his vantage point on the floor, Vayne could just see the tips of Tomaç’s ears turning red.
"Am I lying down right now, Tomaç?"
"No. I’m kneeling on the floor, looking at your pretty pink asshole. That’s what I’m doing. Does it look like a man is lying with a man here, Tomaç?"
Vayne relished the way Tomaç trembled as he answered. "N-no, sir, but I don’t think that’s—"
Tomaç squeaked when Vayne swatted his ass.
"Shut your mouth, Tomaç. Do you want to know how to make that porridge or not?" said Vayne.
Tomaç opened his mouth to respond, thought better of it, and opted to nod instead.
Satisfied he’d worked enough spit into Tomaç’s smooth hole to make it glisten, Vayne leaned forward. He lingered for a moment, relishing the way Tomaç trembled as the warmth of his breath wafted over that sensitive, quivering pucker.
He didn’t tease Tomaç for too long. He buried his nose between those soft, smooth ass cheeks and traced a stripe from Tomaç’s taint to his hole.
A low, involuntary moan spilled out of Tomaç and Vayne knew then that he had him.
He swirled the tip of his tongue around Tomaç’s asshole. It had been too long. He couldn’t help but moan, himself, as he felt the ridges of the smooth muscle with his tongue.
It used to be the highlight of Vayne’s days in Hell when he would be allowed to rim Azzagg—especially right after a hard workout or some other sort of tough exertion. The incubus had always tasted so earthy and musky, with maybe a little hint of spicy smokiness in there, as well.
Tomaç was too clean. He tasted slightly musky, slightly earthy, but mostly his asshole was pretty much pristine.
Not entirely surprising. It took a fastidious person to keep the kitchens clean. Not to mention that the Church put a premium on personal hygiene.
Oh well. Tomaç’s stifled moans were music to Vayne’s ears all the same.
He saw, with a glance, that Tomaç was biting down on the knuckles of his hand. Poor, defenseless thing.
It reminded Vayne of himself. A noble Brother of the Radiant Order, proud of his unbroken vow of celibacy. If only he’d known that it would render him more vulnerable to sexual temptation, not less.
Vayne reached up between Tomaç’s legs. He rubbed his fingers over his balls, relishing the way they seemed to jump at his touch.
Tomaç’s sack was tight against his body, and, as Vayne discovered when his fingers wandered higher, Tomaç’s cock was straining, too.
Vayne lightly traced the side of Tomaç’s stiffness. It jumped at his touch and throbbed under his fingertips.
It was a respectable length, just about average if he had to judge, but more than enough to work with. It was certainly more substantial than the shrunken bean from earlier would have led him to believe.
Vayne moved his free hand up to Tomaç’s hips. He wrapped the fingers of his other hand around Tomaç’s cock and tugged at it. It twitched in his grasp, a bead of pre-cum sliding down the underside.
Satisfied that Tomaç was sufficiently aroused, Vayne continued. He pushed his face into Tomaç’s ass, rubbing his tongue back and forth over his sensitive entrance while slowly stroking his cock.
It must have felt too good as Tomaç let out a single full-throated moan before he managed to muffle it. that was a great sign.
He kept at it, slowly teasing Tomaç’s hole and cock until Tomaç gave in and moved his hips of his own accord.
Vayne rewarded it by tightening his grip on Tomaç’s cock, eliciting another moan. He didn’t even have to stroke, anymore. Tomaç was involuntarily thrusting away into his encircled fingers.
The more Vayne lapped at his hole, the more desperate Tomaç seemed to become. He bucked his hips, not just to fuck Vayne’s fingers, but also to rub his asshole over Vayne’s tongue.
"W-why does that feel so good?" Tomaç muttered, under his breath. "Fuck."
He must have thought Vayne couldn’t hear him. That was fine. If it loosened his tongue a bit, who was Vayne to complain?
"Oh, fuck," Tomaç groaned.
Vayne had just moved on from teasing his hole to stabbing his tongue into the quivering ring of muscle.
Tomaç bucked his hips, pushing his hole against the tip of Vayne’s tongue. "Please…" he begged, under his breath. "More… I need more…"
Vayne smirked. He pulled away from Tomaç’s ass, eliciting a disappointed, desperate whimper. "What was that, Tomaç?" he said.
Tomaç whined. Church teachings warred with base, carnal instincts as he mumbled an indistinct, "n-nothing, sir."
Vayne wasn’t about to be satisfied with that. He’d seen that war play out before. He’d experienced it. He knew what was going to win out, in the end, and all Tomaç needed was a little push.
"Did I tell you to mumble, Tomaç?" Vayne snapped.
Just as before, when he’d used that particular tone of voice, Tomaç stiffened. He even stopped thrusting his cock into Vayne’s hand, though his hips and legs trembled from the effort.
"N-no, sir!" said Tomaç.
"Then speak up and answer the goddamned question! What did you say?"
Tomaç whined. He let out a subdued, "I-I said I wanted more, sir…"
Vayne grinned. "I’ve heard more conviction from a spineless deserter, Tomaç! Talk like a fucking man! What do you want?!"
They were lucky the walls were made of stone. And even though the window was open and theoretically anyone nearby could hear them, in practice, it was pretty goddamned hard to hear a thing out through the window from his high up.
Tomaç stiffened as his training slammed into place. "More, sir!" he said. "I said I wanted more!"
Vayne laughed. "That’s what I want to hear!"
He dove back in and feasted like a starving man.
Tomaç was so shocked by the sudden return of stimulation he froze. Between Vayne’s tongue messily lapping at his hole, and Vayne’s fingers pumping, pumping, pumping over his erection, though, Tomaç didn’t remain still for long.
"Ohhh, fuuuck," Tomaç moaned as Vayne’s tongue finally breached his entrance and slid inside him. His back arched and the leather of his shoes creaked as his toes curled inside them.
The back of the desk thumped against the wall as Tomaç desperately bucked his ass and fucked his virgin hole on Vayne’s tongue. Any semblance of propriety or adherence to Church doctrine was abandoned as a string of desperate curses and prayers spilled from Tomaç’s lips.
Oh, the pleasure of it was exquisite. Vayne could live just off of those desperate little noises that bubbled uncontrollably up and out of Tomaç’s throat.
He didn’t slack, either. He moaned and grunted as he stabbed his tongue as deep into Tomaç’s delicious asshole as he could.
Light. The way that tight ring clamped around his tongue, as he swirled it around and savored the clean, slightly-musky taste, was heavenly.
"Oh fuck," Tomaç breathed.
"Ohhh fuuuck," he repeated, a hint of panic in his voice. "I-I think I’m gonna piss myself, sir!"
Vayne had to laugh at the absurdity of it. Tomaç’s hole trembled around his tongue. He could scarcely believe a grown man didn’t know what an orgasm felt like.
Then again, Tomaç had always struck him as quite devout and more than a little sheltered. Maybe it shouldn’t have been so much of a surprise.
Vayne pulled his tongue out of Tomaç’s ass and said, "That just means you’re about to cum."
"T-that’s how that feels like?" Tomaç stammered, in disbelief.
In his next breath, a prayer. "Oh, light help me!"
Vayne stifled a laugh. "You wanted to know what made my porridge taste so good, right?" he said.
Tomaç nodded. There was a truly desperate look in his eyes. He was chewing his lip, looking like he was about to cry.
"Grab the bowl," said Vayne.
Tomaç did as he was told.
"Hold it in front of your cock."
Tomaç hesitated, but he obeyed anyway. His mind, most likely, wasn’t in any state to do more than put up a token bit of resistance.
Vayne grinned. "And when you feel it coming, just let it out!"
"W-what do you mean s-si—Ohhh!"
Vayne tightened his grip on Tomaç’s hip and wriggled his face as deep between those soft round asscheeks as he could. He slid his tongue into that eager little asshole and tongue-fucked Tomaç like his life depended on it.
At the same time, he stroked Tomaç’s cock at a rapid, almost-frenzied pace until at last, he felt it swell and throb in his hand.
Tomaç tilted his head back and let out a low, keening moan as his body locked up and his asscheeks clenched.
Vayne could feel Tomaç’s orgasm through the tightening of his asshole on his tongue. It was an intense one, and powerfully so. He could almost hear the gurgle of each shot of cum as it splashed into Tomaç’s bowl of goop.
Once the orgasm had subsided, Tomaç stood there, dazedly staring at the bowl. Vayne released his cock and pulled away from his ass before standing up and taking the bowl out of Tomaç’s hands.
"W-what have we done, Brother?" Tomaç lamented, as the post-orgasm clarity hit.
Vayne smirked. He raised the bowl to Tomaç’s lips. "Something wonderful, Brother," he whispered. "Something right."
Tomaç hesitated. He looked at the bowl, with no small amount of disgust on his face.
"Go on, Brother. Taste what you’ve made," said Vayne.
Slowly, reluctantly, Tomaç parted his lips. Vayne tilted the bowl toward Tomaç’s mouth and allowed the dazed and confused Brother to take a bite as the slop slid toward the edge.
As soon as the porridge hit Tomaç’s tongue, his eyes widened. He reached up and grabbed the bowl from Vayne’s hands and practically drank the cold porridge within.
When he’d had his fill, Tomaç rounded on Vayne, a manic look in his eyes. It gave way, not to anger or disgust, but genuine relief and overflowing gratitude.
Tomaç threw his arms around Vayne’s shoulders. "Thank you, Brother," he whispered. His voice was trembling—as if he was about to weep for joy.
"I take it you liked the meal?" said Vayne, with a quiet laugh.
Tomaç nodded and sniffled, wiping his nose with the back of his hand. He laughed, too. "I did," he said. "It wasn’t as good as the one your squire had me taste but Light, it was still amazing."
"Do you want to know the secret for that porridge?" said Vayne.
Tomaç chuckled. "I can hazard a guess, Brother. Did you use yours?"
Vayne smirked, and that was the only answer Tomaç seemed to need.
Tomaç smiled. He looked down at the mostly-finished bowl of slop in his hands and seemed troubled, for a moment. Then, he glanced up at Vayne and said, "It wouldn’t be too much trouble if I asked you to—"
Vayne laughed. He’d expected as much. "Not at all, Brother," he said. He fished his cock out of his pants, wrapped his fingers around it, and grabbed the bowl with his other hand.
He held the bowl under his cock and jerked off. He was so turned already and so close to orgasm from eating Tomaç out that it only took him a few strokes to bring himself to completion.
Vayne groaned as he pumped a sizable load of cum into the porridge. "There," he said, stuffing his cock back in his pants. "Now, if you want me to help with preparing the porridge for the rest of the Order, just say the word."
Tomaç thought about it for a moment. He looked at Vayne and grinned. "I would like that, actually," he said. "Everyone needs to taste this, at least once!"
Vayne chuckled. "I agree, Brother," he said, with a small smirk tugging at the corner of his mouth. "I agree."